Tales of a Couple of Fourth Graders

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My fourth-grade school picture

My son is a fourth-grader this year.  He went back to school yesterday.  We had an incredible summer, full of adventures, and laughter, and silliness, and learning.  Because I don’t believe those things are mutually exclusive.

I’m feeling a range of emotions about Ryan being a fourth-grader.  For one, he’s a fourth-grader!  As in, look how fast this is happening!  And secondly, he’s a fourth-grader, and six of my twelve years as a teacher were spent teaching fourth grade.

I didn’t like my fourth grade teacher.  She scared me.  She made me think that making mistakes was bad.  She would hold up my papers and show the class the errors I had made.  She used to have me wait in line at lunch time, to buy her a lunch at the student rate.  (Even though I always brought a lunch from home).  She gave me her home phone number and often asked me to call her and remind her of things to bring to class.  And I never said no.

When I became a fourth grade teacher, I was nervous about the change in curriculum, the larger class size.  But mostly I was scared of doing it wrong.  And that’s what Mrs. E. did teach me — what not to do as a teacher.

But now it’s Ryan’s turn.  And after a summer spent exploring a presidential library and walking onboard Air Force One, after a summer of reading, and bike riding, after a summer of questions and wonderings, I wish for him a school year of adventures, and laughter, and silliness, and learning.

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More publication news! My personal essay, “My Son Is Already Becoming My Caretaker – And It’s Both Heartbreaking and Inspiring,” has recently been published at Mother.ly.  You can click here to read it.

The All-American Transcontinental Total Solar Eclipse

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We’ve got some big days coming up this month.  Los Angeles Unified School District starts the new school year on August 15th!

And the week after that, on August 21st, our whole country will be looking to the sky to witness the All-American Transcontinental Total Solar Eclipse.  Here in Los Angeles, we won’t be able to view the total eclipse, but we’re still fortunate to catch a partial eclipse.  Click here to read my post “Everything You Need to Know About the Total Solar Eclipse” at MomsLA.com.

A Love Letter to Teaching

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My fourth grade classroom, September 2010

The stores are in the middle of their back-to-school sales.  My son is getting ready too; he’s selected a new lunch box and pencil pouch for the new school year.  In two weeks, he’s returning to school as a fourth grader.  And for six years, I was a fourth grade teacher.  (I also spent five years teaching kindergarten and one year teaching fifth grade).

And I miss it.  I miss teaching.  I miss being in a classroom with “my kids” and teaching them.  Encouraging them.  Loving them.

If you click here, you can read my “love letter to teaching” at RoleReboot.org.

Get Lucky

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I’m a fan of Katherine Center’s novels.  And I felt incredibly guilty that several years ago I had bought and read her novel Get Lucky, but now could remember very little of it.  (In my defense, the book was published in 2010). 

So I re-read the charming story of Sarah.  And this week would like to share with you some passages that really resonated with me. 

Sarah speaks of how she feels since she’s not working at her advertising job (she was fired), and I couldn’t help but feel the same way in relation to me no longer teaching.

In truth, I missed my job, and the passion I’d brought to it, and the drive I’d felt every morning.  I missed feeling in charge of my life, feeling like I was heading somewhere, …  I missed being good at something.” 

At the end of the book, Sarah has learned some important lessons:

“Life is always a struggle between who you are and who you’d like to be.  It’s always a negotiation between how you want it and how it is.  There’s no changing that.”

“Here’s what I tell myself now:  That it’s vital to learn how to make the best of things.  That there is no tenderness without bravery.  That if things hadn’t been so bad, they could never have gotten so good.”

 

Brave Enough to Explore

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Ryan outside the Santa Barbara Mission

Last week our family spent a few days in Santa Barbara.  We took advantage of the “Downtown Shuttle” that, for 50 cents each, took us down State Street to Stearns Wharf.  For another 50 cents, we rode the shuttle north, back to our original starting point.

It was on our return trip that I observed two different groups of riders and found myself eavesdropping on their conversation with each other.  Three young adults made up one group; they were visiting from Brazil.  Four ladies, all seniors who live together at Leisure World in Seal Beach, chatted with them.  I watched and listened to these two groups of travelers and found myself proud and envious of both of them.

Since my son was five, we’ve taken at least one yearly family trip (usually one during spring break and one during the summer).  So far, all of our trips have been road trips within the state of California.  We’ve explored LEGOLAND, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Sea World, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and the town of Cambria

But it is my hope that we instill in Ryan a curiosity to travel even further; a wonder, appreciation, and yearning to visit places that are different.  And beyond this curiosity and inclination to travel, I hope Ryan is also brave.  Brave enough to leave the comfort and security that comes with the familiar to venture to somewhere new. 

It Started 7 Years Ago

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March 1, 2013 — My last day of teaching. Room 7 at Rosewood Avenue Elementary School. Photo taken by my husband.

This is a week of very mixed emotions for me. 

Seven years ago I woke up with a swollen left calf.  So swollen that I couldn’t stand up.  So swollen that my husband sat me in my rolling desk chair, wheeled me out to our car, and took me to the emergency room.

The swelling eventually went down and after four days in the hospital, I went home.  But I didn’t know then that my legs would never be the same.  I didn’t know then that my life would never be the same.  I didn’t know then that three years after that fateful Sunday morning, I’d have to retire from the profession I loved.

Often I think of my students, the kids I taught and the kids I’ll never teach.  And then recently I discovered something about me at www.ratemyteachers.com.  (You can read it by clicking here).

I can’t even completely describe how it touched my heart to read these incredibly kind words left by an anonymous student. 

Living by the Rules of My Son’s Playground Game

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In the picture above, my nine-year-old son and I are playing handball.  It’s not the handball that athletes play in the Olympics.  It’s the handball kids like Ryan love to play on elementary school playgrounds.  It’s the handball game Ryan likes playing with me.

For us though, it’s not just a game. 

Click here to read my personal essay “Living by the Rules of My Son’s Playground Game” that was recently published at Parent.co.

And, for those of you who use social media, I would really appreciate it if you could spread the word about my essay!