December 29, 2009

What Gifts Can Reveal

Yesterday, I received an email from one of my students detailing the contents of her stocking and other Christmas gifts. Among her list were a Coach purse, Tiffany necklace, iPod touch and a completely redecorated bedroom. I found it somewhat amusing that I was feeling jealous of a 12 year-old, so I shared this with my Facebook friends.

As anticipated, many of my friends were right there with me... drooling over the outrageous gifts we only wish we had received. Some wondered what was left for this girl to receive in the future (A good question. Where does one go from there?). One comment, though, both surprised and irritated me...

"I'm not jealous. She'll be pregnant and spoiled at 16 too!" retorted one reader.

Wow! There's a leap! Someone clearly has some built up aggression. Maybe this is bringing back memories of her own childhood when she was jealous of her own peers for having more than her family can afford (I'm not making assumptions here... her comment reminded me of one such conversation we had in middle school).

Being the mama hen that I am, my immediate instinct was to protect and defend my student. Really? Do all privileged children end up spoiled and pregnant at 16? I think not! And certainly I haven't seen evidence to suggest this could be the future of the child in question.

"Maybe your 12 year old should be donating to all the children living in cars right now. The economy sucks! [Parents] should share their wealth, not spoil their children," she demanded.

Okay... as a collective whole, I would say that these are probably some of the most privileged children I've ever encountered, but that doesn't make them all spoiled brats. I firmly believe that you can give your children everything under the sun (not that I advocate this) without them developing a sense of entitlement.

And the assumption that my children are not giving back to those that are less fortunate is completely invalid. My students participate in charity work all year long and this month alone purchased more than 90 gifts to fulfill letters to Santa for an underprivileged school in a neighboring town.

We say all the time that children cannot help what they were born into. And I don't think it's fair for people to judge anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status (or race, religion, creed, etc.), including those that are more fortunate than most. Let us not be so quick to believe that those who have, do so with no regard to those that go without.

December 23, 2009

True Friends

I had lunch with my best friend from high school yesterday. For various reasons, our friendship sort of dissipated a couple of years ago, but with one phone call, it was completely rekindled as if nothing ever changed.

How is that possible?

Because she needed me. Because she was going through something terrible and needed a shoulder to cry on. Her dad has been diagnosed with ALS. And certainly, when you've cared for someone as deeply as we've cared for each other (we were best friends since we were 15), all of the petty arguments are thrown out the window when you hear this type of news.

But this post isn't about ALS and how devastating a disease it is. This isn't about how her family is coping with this life-altering diagnosis. This post is about the disappointment I feel for her when her "friends" can't pick up the phone or send her an email to ask her how things are going. It frustrates me that at a time when she needs the support of her friends probably more than most any other time in her life, people aren't there for her.

And then... I'm glad that she knew I'd be there for her. Because that, to me, is the definition of a true friend. Someone who, despite everything, is there for you when times are tough.

It seems like the older I get, the more people I care about are facing these tough times (Life must have just been simpler back in high school). And it's when you face these things that you discover who your true friends are.

I used to be the kind of person who had a million "friends" and that the key to happiness was to be liked by everyone. I'm starting to understand, though, that I'd rather have a couple of really close, dependable friends than a whole bunch of acquaintances. I'd rather know who will be there for me when I need it most.

December 16, 2009

What's Going On Here?

Tonight, I came home from work feeling more exhausted than usual. There are only two days left until winter break, and the kids are out of control with excitement. Coupled with the fact that I am coming down with some sort of cold, I literally hit my wall somewhere around sixth period today (and we have nine periods in our day). It made for a very interesting afternoon.

I was hanging out in the basement talking on the phone when my brother, Scott, completely out of the blue, walks down the stairs and hands me a full box of pizza. If you knew my brother, you'd understand why this seemingly innocent action was completely mind-boggling for me.

"What's this?" I inquired.

"A peperoni pizza," he explained, "I got myself a cheese one and that one for you."

"Why?" I asked, skeptical of his good deed.

"Just because," he retorted.

"Are you sick? Is someone dying? Did you hit my car (again)?" I questioned.

"No!" he assured me. It was just a nice gesture for no reason at all.

"Uh.... thanks?" I responded, still not quite believing it was true.

Something is going on here, and I'm determined to get to the bottom of it! But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy some yummy pizza from my baby brother!

December 15, 2009

In Memory of Shannon Sperando-Sales

Shannon Sperando was the captain of my high school cheerleading squad. She had the biggest, bluest eyes you've ever seen and beautiful brown ringlets that hung down her back. She certainly made a statement when she walked down the hallway, but it wasn't just for her beauty. She was also incredibly nice to everyone she met. She was exactly the kind of girl you wanted to call your friend, and through years of laughing together during cheerleading practices and whining together through our torturous math classes, I was fortunate enough to be able to call her just that.

Just over two years ago, Shannon was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I know I speak for many when I say how inspired we've been by her strength through it all. When the prognosis was more than grim this past November, she surprised us all by waking on Thanksgiving Day to give her loved ones one more blessed holiday with her. She amazed her doctors by fighting a fatal infection that raged through her already-weak body to hold on for just a little longer. Finally, on December 12, after receiving a beautiful blessing from her husband, Shannon went to be with the Lord.

Through all the grieving, I can't help but admit that my heart smiles just a bit to know how much Shannon was loved. John, her wonderful husband both proposed and married her in the midst her diagnosis and treatment. Nothing was going to stop him from dedicating himself to the love of his life, and he supported her every step of the way. If that's not an amazing testimony of his character, I don't know what is. We should all be so lucky to have people in our lives that are so dedicated to loving us so completely. Thank you, John, for loving Shannon so fully!

December 3, 2009

Learning Responsiblity

I'm curious... at what age should it become the students' responsibility to submit their homework rather than the teachers' responsibility to chase it down?

I had a parent track me down after school today and try to bully me into changing his daughter's grade from last trimester because he was unhappy with her grade. This student is very bright and produces high-quality work in class, but she had five missing assignments in the last two weeks of the trimester (which ended November 11), causing her grade to drop from an A to a C.

I understand that this would be a frustrating situation for parents, especially when they know their child is capable of better, but forgive me for thinking that the frustration should be taken out on the child, not the teacher.

How is it my fault that your child didn't submit her work even after I extended the deadlines for her? And why do you think it's okay to come into my classroom unannounced and question my procedures (which, by the way, have already been explained to said child's mother via email three times earlier this week)?

No, your daughter cannot still submit these assignments that were due over a month ago! I think this has been a very important lesson for your daughter, and I am confident that she will be more diligent about turning in her work in the future.

I believe that middle school is the perfect time to learn these lessons, rather than waiting to high school where more is at stake. This is exactly why we more responsibility on our students at this age. We expect that there will be bumps along the way, but that's part of the learning process.

I'm just glad I was able to remain calm and professional while still holding my ground!