Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kinley Apologizes

my Mother's Day 2012 card from Kinley

Faithful readers, even though I have already posted about the last day of the school year, I still have lots more to post.  I went through a kind of a writing slump for a couple of months during the year (due in part to an injured thumb), so I have a backlog that I intend to post this summer.

Did you read the note in the picture above?  Isn't it precious?  It meant so much to me that she would write those last two lines.  For her to acknowledge that she'd been mean to me was a pretty big deal, and notice the TRIPLE underlines under the greats?  That must be good, right?

This doesn't exactly undo all the exasperated sighs, rolled eyes, and stomping exits, but it certainly helps.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The End of Our Adventure

A proud Kinley displays her President's Award on the last day of school.

I had been dreading and looking forward to this day, all at the same time. The last day of school meant the end of my time as Kinley's classroom teacher, and it meant the end of feeling torn about my job as a teacher and my role as a mom.  It meant the end of Kinley's time in elementary school and the end of my waiting to award her the Principal's Award.  But dread it or not, there it was.

I had come up with a rather idyllic idea of what the day would be like.  I had thought we would spend the entire day smiling at each other, giving hugs and knowing glances, relishing our last day as daughter-student and mommy-teacher.  We would shed a few tears when I made my speech about her during the awards program.  We would take some pictures together.  We would walk down the hallway one last time together during the traditional 5th grade walk, trying to hold it together as the entire student body looked on.

My vision did not include a fight before we ever got to school that morning.  But alas.  Since she didn't know she was getting any awards, she didn't know that my vision included her dressed in a cute little award-getting outfit.  When I told her at breakfast that I thought she should change out of her jean shorts and T-shirt, she got mad and stormed out of the room, muttering under her breath.

Her snit continued for the rest of the morning, including the drive to school (which in my vision was supposed to be a time for mutual quiet reflection on two years of a mostly wonderful experience, preferably with a few, I-love-you-Mommys and I'm-going-to-miss-you-so-much-next-year-Mommys thrown in for good measure). 

So much for my vision.

I met with my colleagues before school and whined about my broken dream, and in the meantime, Kinley must have decided to get over it.  By the time school started at 9:15, all was well again.

At Mayflower Mill we give out Principal's Awards each term to students who exhibit respect and responsibility, and Kinley had received this award in the past from other teachers.  But I had been hesitant to give her this award for fear that others would think I was showing favoritism to my daughter.  During her first year with me I had come up with a solution.  I would give her this most-coveted award on the last day of her 5th grade year.  I would make a speech explaining why I had waited so long, and we'd both cry and hug each other and the whole room would erupt in spontaneous applause and think, "How sweet!  Poor Kinley survived and so did Gina.  Hasn't this been lovely after all?  Wasn't this truly the best choice?"  It would be perfect.

And actually, it went pretty much that way.  There were a few moments of trepidation when my principal declared to the teachers that speeches before awards should be cut so that our awards convocation wouldn't go over the allotted time.  But I decided that she would probably look the other way if I made my little speech, and besides, I had my dream to think about.  The audience was supposed to be applauding and smiling and thinking about how sweet it all was, not being mad at me for disobeying my principal's orders.

You can see for yourself how it went here.
As it turned out, BOTH kids were awarded the Principal's Award on the last day!  Knox got his for growing the most in reading.
And the Principal's Award wasn't all!  Kinley also received the President's Award for scoring at least one Pass+ in ISTEP+ and maintaining a 3.5 GPA in 4th and 5th grade.  Another total surprise to all of us was the PE Award from Mr. Z!  I was so proud of her.
Kinley walks up to get her President's Award from Mrs. Higgins.

At the end of the day, just before the 5th grade walk, I snapped a picture of Kinley and all of her 5th grade classmates.  What a great group of kids.  
Just before the 5th graders took their last walk down the hallway to the bus, Kinley stood in the middle of her classmates, most of whom will be with her next year at Southwestern Middle School.

Then came the 5th grade walk.  Each year all the 5th grade teachers walk down the hallway with their students, so I huddled up with mine as usual.  But this time, one of those kids was my own.

I led my 5th graders down the hallway with Kinley close behind.

As the buses departed and the crowds dispersed, I had a brainstorm!  I wanted a picture of Kinley with all of her teachers from her years at Mayflower Mill.  And lucky for me, they were all standing nearby!
(From left to right)  Mrs. Metzger (K), Mrs. Rooze (2nd grade), me (4th and 5th grades), Mrs Higgins (principal), Mrs. Harshbarger (3rd grade), Mr. Zinselmeier (PE), Kinley, Mrs. Garrett (1st grade), Mrs. Perry (art), and Mrs. Baber (computer lab)

And that's it.  The day may not have started as I had planned, but it ended up even better with Kinley surrounded by the people who shaped her into the person she is today.  Dedicated teachers who guided her and advised her and comforted her and disciplined her and loved her.  Dear friends who helped to keep me sane throughout these two years.

And I'm so very grateful.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Am I, Chopped Liver?

Kinley sobbed all the way to school this morning, after her bedside prayer for her brother to be fever-free today was evidently denied by God. Poor Knox had developed a high fever four days ago and just couldn't seem to shake it.  You may be thinking, "How sweet for her to be so concerned about her little brother that she would actually weep on his behalf!".

Well, you can stop thinking that, because she wasn't concerned about Knox. She was just mad because now her daddy was going to have to stay home with her sick brother instead of going on a field trip to the Indianapolis Symphony today with her.

From the size of the fit she threw, you would have thought that she was one of those poor children whose hard-working parents aren't ever able to get off work to go on class trips.  But she's not one of those kids.  Instead, of course, she's the ONE kid in the class who's had a parent with her on EVERY SINGLE TRIP OF THE YEAR!!!!

And that parent would be ME!!! Her mother/teacher. But to her, I don't count.  Somehow only Josh's presence counted today.

And to make it even worse, Josh DID go on a field trip with her...... LAST WEEK!  Yes, you read that right.  A mere five days ago, Josh put aside all of his other obligations and went with our class to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which offers free tours to Indiana's fourth grade classes during April and May each year.  That means she had not one, but TWO parents on her last field trip, a privilege no other child in her class has had all year.

Kinley is far from deprived.  But she would beg to differ.

Kinley and Josh were together in front of one of the garages during the Indianapolis Motor Speedway trip just five days ago.

Kinley's hystrionics this morning (and also yesterday, in anticipation of this problem) really got under my skin.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not heartless.  I did feel sorry for her at first.  But I had only about a 10-minute window during which I was willing to overlook her pouting, moping, and whining.  She grabbed onto that window and clearly wasn't planning on letting it go any time soon, so I got irritated.

"Do you even remember that just a few days ago your dad went with you?" I shrieked as she sobbed on our ride to school.  "Oh, and let's not forget that I'M going to be with you today! But clearly that makes no difference to you!"

Sniff sniff blubber blubber from the backseat.  Between sobs she managed to squeak, "But Daddy NEVER goes with me!"

Really?  Did she really just say that?  Clearly her grief has clouded her memory.  So let the pictures below serve as proof that Josh does, in fact, go on field trips with this child.

Mrs. Boyd's class poses for a group picture at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Josh took the picture, so I guess this isn't proof after all.
 During the talk about the history of the Speedway, Kinley (seated on the left in a white headband) answered the question about why the winner of the Indianapolis 500 drinks a jug of milk.  (Notice Josh standing on the right, clearly present.)
The students learn that each flag communicates a different message to the drivers.  Again, not a good "Josh" example.
 The kids hear a talk about the physics of Indycars.
The kids got to stand on the winners' podium.

Given Kinley's clearly fragile state in the car this morning, coupled with the fact that preparing for field trips stresses me out, I decided to let her sulk in the back seat without further conversation.  Once at school, I went about my business and left her alone in my room to pull herself together.  By the time I returned and other kids started to arrive, she was out of her funk.  I took attendance, organized parent chaperones, and then we loaded the bus.

On the bus, she first sat in a seat with me.  But after a few minutes, she decided to sit with a friend.  I chose to take this as a good sign that she had recovered completely.

Once she got to sit by her friend on the bus, Kinley perked up a bit.

A few miles down the road, our bus started having trouble, so we had to pull over and wait for another bus.  In all the excitement, Kinley seemed to forget all about the apparent injustuice she'd suffered just an hour before.  Things were looking up!

Our new bus has arrived! 
We disembarked bus 206 on I-65 after it began leaking antifreeze into the passenger area.

The bus change brought about a seat shuffle that meant that I was no longer seated near Kinley, so we ended up not sitting together once we arrived at the concert hall in Indianapolis either.  She didn't seem to care in the least.

Having a little time away from her during the concert and the bus ride allowed me to get over my anger and gave her enough time to forget that she was crushed.  We ended up enjoying the trip and even sitting together during our picnic lunch. 

After waiting on the side of the road for our new bus, we arrived at the symphony with not a moment to spare.  The 45-minute symphony performance was lovely even if it was short.
After the performance, we waited in the concert hall to be dimissed in the order we arrived (which, of course, meant we went last).
Kinley and I eat lunch together after the Indianapolis Symphony performance.

While we ate we talked about the concert and bemoaned the fact that we had to eat on the ground in dresses.  Everything between us seemed to be set to rights again.

Until we got home.  As soon as Kinley walked into the kitchen and saw Josh, she had to remind him about how wronged she was.  She started in again on her whining and moaning.  She even dared to use the word never again. 

But this time, I decided to let Josh listen to her.  I no longer had to be her teacher or her chaperone.  I wasn't trapped in a car or in a classroom or on a school bus with her.  I could escape and let HIM deal with her!  So that's just what I did.  I turned around and walked away, smiling to myself with satisfaction.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Best Part

My class poses for a shot at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

One of the best things about being a mom and a teacher to my daughter at the same time is that I get to go on every field trip with her for two years. And my favorite field trip of the two year cycle is our overnight Winter Survival program at the Dunes Learning Center (DLC) within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  We visited in February, and the staff at DLC didn't disappoint.

Afterward as the bus rambled south, I listened to the conversations of 9-and-10-year-olds who were trying desperately not to fall asleep.  The two days with 45 kids had left me exhausted, too.  Kinley sat next to me on the seat reading quietly, and I was trying to conquer the mountain of grading I'd hauled with me.
Kinley reads her book on the return bus trip.

In our family we have a tradition.  After each family trip or special day, we debrief with some reflective conversation.  It usually starts with Josh asking, "So what was your favorite part of the trip?"  Whether we've just returned from spying leopards and elephants on safari in Sri Lanka or from a morning at the circus, we always take the time to share what we loved about the experience.  And this day was no different.  Only this time, it was Kinley who started the conversation.

"Mommy, what was your favorite part of the field trip?"  I looked up from the paper I was grading.  I really wasn't ready for this conversation; I was in the middle of grading writing, and I needed to focus.  Lafayette was drawing ever closer, and my three-hour block of time for grading was slipping away. But I capped my blue marker and put the papers on the seat beside me, choosing to give Kinley my attention.

"Well," I answered, buying myself some time to switch gears, "let me think."  There were so many wonderful things to choose from - singing campfire songs and making s'mores, watching the intense conversation as the kids were trying to make sparks with a flint and steel, flapping my arms with my class as we imitated the mating ritual of the sandhill crane during the Migration Game.  Finally, I replied, "I really enjoyed the three-hour hike in the snow.  I always learn something on those from the staff, and this year we got to learn more about the historic homesteads located inside of the park.  I was also really proud of our class for earning a gold in the food waste challenge."
Making sparks with a flint and steel is hard!

Kinley serves up pasta for lunch.

Kinley and her friends tried to be less wasteful at meals.  For some, that meant barely eating anything.

The food waste challenge really is one of my favorite parts of camp.  Students are served meals family-style at camp, so they have more control over their portion sizes than they do at school.  I make a big deal about taking only what you'll actually consume - a concept that most kids don't have to adhere to at home or at school.  Don't like to drink the milk out of your cereal bowl?  Then eat it dry because milk left in the bowl is food waste.  Not sure if you'll like black bean soup?  Then take only a spoonful at first to try it and get more if you like it.  Never tried sweet potato fries?  Take one and split it with a friend to sample it.  For four meals, we try to focus on not wasting food.  You'd be shocked at what a new and challenging concept this is for kids.  So our gold medal for zero food waste is truly a treasure to me.

Kinley listened intently as I gave my answer and looked at me expectantly as I finished.  But my ungraded papers sitting on the seat beside me looked at me expectantly, too.  I knew that Proper Boyd Procedure (and common courtesy) meant that it was now my turn to ask her what her favorite part had been, but Lafayette loomed ever nearer while my time to grade grew ever shorter.

So I sighed and reluctantly asked, "What was your favorite part, honey?" 

I expected her to say that she loved playing in the deep, wet snow with her friends, making snow balls as big as boulders. 

I expected her to say that her favorite part was hanging out in the cabin, laughing with her friends. 

I expected her to say that getting chosen to play Demeter in the mythology play was the highlight of the trip.

I did NOT expect her to say this.  "My favorite part was being with you, Mommy."

Wow.  My eyes filled with tears as I reached over the stack of now-forgotten papers on the seat and wrapped my arms around her.  My little girl.  My student.

And I realized that, of course, she was my favorite part of the trip, too.  It wasn't the hiking or the campfire or the food waste challenge that mattered.  It was this extraordinary gift that I've been given - to see my daughter learn, grow, and change at school for two solid years.  To be an active, daily part of that.  To BE with her.  That's the best part.  No contest.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kinley Speaks (Sort Of)

Many of you have asked me what Kinley thinks of my blog.  Frankly, I've kind of wondered the same thing.  She knows it exists and has sometimes said, "You're not going to blog about that, are you?"  But otherwise, she hasn't said diddly squat.  I have toyed with the idea of having her be a guest blogger someday, but I was thinking that maybe I'd do that at the end.  Sort of a big finish/blog farewell/wrap up kind of thing.

Well, recently as I was working on an upcoming blog draft, I had to leave my computer to go and help Knox.  While I was gone, Kinley hijacked my draft.  Here are her revealing, perceptive, well-thought-out, and grammatically flawless comments. 
Kinley Abigail Boyd is the best student in the world, she always gets good grades and she is VERY responsible!!!!!!!!!!She is a great friend! She always does her job as class president, I am thinking about rehiring her next semester. She is an outstanding student! I would love to have her in my class again. She would be my pride and joy!!! I am sad that I have to let her go this year!! She is the best student I have ever had!! She deserves to be banker next semester. Maybe even homework checker! She should get an extra $100.00 every day.(maybe even $1,000.00)She still is my pride and joy!!! She is the only student in the class that I can trust and also know that she will always be silent. Kinley Abigail Boyd Kinley Abigail Boyd Kinley Abigail Boyd Kinley Abigail Boyd She is awesome! She should be advanced to 12th grade.
OK.  So maybe, "revealing, perceptive, well-thought-out, and grammatically flawless" is a tad sarcastic.   

I think it’s funny that she chose to write from my perspective (as if you'd all be fooled into thinking her writing was mine - I NEVER use capitalization for emphasis or employ excessive exclamation points!!!!!).  And the part about being able to trust her to always be silent?  Where in the world did that come from?  I also think it’s funny that she didn’t choose to write about any of the gazillion perceived injustices that she's unabashedly pointed out to me in person over the last 17 months. 

But I’ll take that as a good sign.  And a reminder that she's still a 10 year old.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mrs. Boyd's Class Joins the Democratic Process

When I first came to Mayflower Mill in 2000, I was surprised to learn that this elementary school had a student council.  Of course, I knew that high schools and many middle schools have student councils so that students feel that they have some control in the decision making at their school.  But I’d never heard of an elementary school that elected a student council.

Mayflower’s student council sponsors philanthropic efforts and school spirit days.  Spirit days are themed and allow students to come to school wearing pajamas, sporting a favorite team’s jersey, or even coiffed with crazy hair.  The student council collects food for Food Finders Food Bank and raises money for Riley Children’s Hospital, and each 4th and 5th grade class has two representatives.  Since my class is a combination 4th/5th, I have one 4th grade representative and one 5th grade rep.
Last fall, Kinley decided to run for student council.  Each candidate was required to make a poster and give a speech, and Kinley’s daddy helped her with both since I didn’t think it was fair for the teacher to endorse a specific candidate. 
Incidentally, these two years would have been SO DIFFERENT if I were a single parent or if I had a husband who was not so involved in our children’s day-to-day activities.  If I hadn’t had the option to be uninvolved in Kinley’s homework and other school-related projects, I can’t imagine how these years would have gone.  Either Kinley would have been at a severe disadvantage because I don’t think it’s fair to help her with her homework when none of my other students has the teacher at home.  Or the other students would be at a disadvantage because I’d be forced to help her.  Since neither of these options is ideal, I am so very grateful for Josh.  Here’s the poster they made together.

Kinley worked on her speech with help from Josh and enthusiastically practiced giving it.  When the day came for speeches and elections, she had quite a bit of competition.  Here are some of the other kids’ posters.

Some of Kinley's classmates even went all out and made campaign goodies to pass out - necklaces, candy bars, and even cookies!

With all of this campaigning, having a really strong speech was going to be important.  Here is what she wrote.
You should vote for me because I want to try and make the school a better place.  I’ll try and make people do more recycling, and I’ll try and make a Hawaiian Day.  I’ll also try and make there be plastic recycling and Wear Your Sunglasses to School Day.
I’m qualified because I’ve been First Mate in 3rd grade and I’ve been Class President in 5th grade.  I also help give food to hungry people at my church food pantry.   I also help teach English to people in other countries.  So I have experience in serving people.
I think that if I’m the student council representative I will serve you!  So if you vote for me, you won’t be disappointed.
Kinley makes her speech to her classmates.
Kinley uses visual aids - a grass skirt for Hawaiian Day and a can
of food to represent her work at the church food pantry.

At the bottom of the page, she wrote, “Make more connections,” since her Daddy suggested that she ad lib a bit to connect her life experiences to student council. Personally, I think it's hilarious that Hawaiian Day and Sunglasses Day were major parts of her platform, and her speech also makes me think that we must spend a lot of time in our family emphasizing recycling.  I mean, I'm all about recycling.  Josh hauls heaps of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard to the recycling facility every month.  But I just didn't realize that Kinley thought recycling was so important.  And, from her speech at least, recycling is the biggest school issue she can think of.  Who knew?

She did a great job of delivering her speech, but so did many of her classmates.  One of them evoked some serious pathos by referring to a child in Riley hospital (wish Josh had thought of that), and one ended in true political advertisement style by saying, “I’m Josh Persin and I approved this message.”  Those gifted kids.  They think of everything. 
In the end it was a close race, and the fourth grade contest even came down to a run-off. Kinley lost the fifth grade race, but I was so proud of her for being a good loser.  

And, of course, for bringing some apparently much-needed attention to the important issues of hula skirts, protective eyewear, and recycling in our elementary school.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Beware! The Behavior Modifying Teacher Is On The Prowl

Fourteen.  One ten and four ones. 2 x 7.  14.  That's how many times Kinley came up to my desk to talk to me on Wednesday. FOURTEEN!  I know because I made a little tally mark in my lesson plan book each time.

Ever since we came back to school from Christmas break, I had noticed that Kinley was spending an unreasonable amount of time getting out of her seat and crossing the room to tell me in hushed tones about the most recent development in her book or the way so-and-so was not really reading during reading time or how this little spot back here in her throat was kind of hurting. 

It was driving me nutso.  And something had to be done.

Now, if this had been a problem with a regular student, I would have immediately gone into Behavior Modifying Teacher Mode.  I would have taken careful notes about the subject of each conversation with the child and then tallied the number of times in a day the child came up to my desk unbidden. Then, I would have gone to the supply closet and gotten out my little tub of green Bingo chips.  I would have called the clearly-desperate-for-attention-and-obviously-not-getting-it-at-home student up to my desk and would have spoken with him or her about the need to stay on task.  I would have shown the child my tally marks and then I would have told the child that fourteen trips to my desk was really too much. I would have given the child 5 Bingo chips to use the next day to spend for 5 (and only 5) private audiences with the Queen (that would be me).  Each private conversation would cost a chip, hopefully resulting in nine fewer one-on-one meetings with this child.

I would have informed the child that he or she could earn 20 Boyd Bucks the next day if fewer than the 5 Bingo chips were cashed in.  Then I would have sat back and patted myself on the back for having implemented yet another successful behavior modification intervention.

But this wasn't just any child.  It was MY child.  My child who gets plenty of attention at home, thank you very much.  And from her teacher, no less!

So instead, I called Kinley up to my desk at the end of the day (private conversation number 15 of the day)and showed her the fourteen little marks.  As I told her what the marks represented, I could see her cheeks begin to flush.  She shrank back from me a little as I asked her to multiply 14 by 27(the number of student in my class).  As I asked her what she thought it would be like for me to have 14 x 27 individual conversations with students in a single day, I could see her eyes start to fill with tears.

Did this stop me?  No.  I soldiered on in Behavior Modifying Mommy/Teacher Mode.  (Note:  If she had told me what 14 x 27 was after doing it in her head with mental math, I might have been more sympathetic and given up.)

But as it was, I laid out for her all the things that are a part of my job that I can't accomplish while listening to Kinley's Daily List of Observations, Injustices, Ailments, and General Miscellany.  I told her that (without the help of green Bingo chips) I expected her to reduce her number of trips to my desk the next day by at least half, and then I sent her on her way.  Back to her desk.  Away from my much-needed personal space.

I looked up a few minutes later to see her sitting on the floor under her desk sobbing, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around herself, rocking back and forth in a stupor.  It was pitiful.  And it almost made me regret my words.  Almost.

Mostly it just made me roll my eyes at her melodrama and look forward to the next day when surely she would take my words to heart.  Which she did. 

She only came up five times on Thursday.  And five is a huge improvement over fourteen.  Especially without the aid Bingo chips.  Which just goes to show....something, I'm sure. I'll let you know when I figure it out.