Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hiccups Inside

Spring is here. It’s not just the position of the sun now. It’s the reddish-tinted leaves on the Boston Ivy outside our front door and the glossy green shoots on the Crape Myrtle that we planted less than a month ago. Our squatty Naval Orange is blooming, and the Loropetalum's firework flowers are making a pink show. There’s still some light in the sky when Phil calls to say he’s on his way home, and I don’t have to close the living room shades all the way to keep the sun out of my eyes. Yes, spring, come, come, come! Let the Jacarandas turn yellow and lose their leaves so that they can bloom purple in June. Let the lawn look its worst so that it can come back in full force. And let that sun rise higher and higher so that our new citrus trees aren’t in the shade all day.

And yes… let February pass. Let it go like the end of a vacation or saying goodbye to a good friend. Let it go and let the real spring equinox arrive on March 20th, when the daylight hours are equal to the sunless hours, and the house will be ready for a spring bean…I hope.

Plant your tomatoes alongside the house, fasten stair treads to the spiral staircase, and put the nightstand in the garage. Say goodbye to your students, hand the classes over to Megan Hotz, ask Phil to help tie your shoes, and pack away another load of clothes that don’t fit. March is coming, and I cannot slow its coming.

February 11th is my Valentine’s decorating gathering. February 23rd is past the premature months. March 3rd is shower 3 of 5. March 5th is my last staff meeting. March 8th is my final teaching day. March 10th is my final hurrah to the Montage. And March 25th is Jacob’s birthday.

Let me live this day now and not those days: this blustery day of sunshine, this day in our studio that suits our every need, this day of work or rest, cleaning or organizing, writing or listening. This is the day my God has given to me and I will be glad in it, rejoicing for the new growth on our plants, the Ginger marinate on the chicken, the peach tea with Ashley Emerson, and the hiccups. Yes the hiccups once or twice a day. They make me feel like I am hiccupping too. Just last night there was such movement that Philip and I watched the show together. He looked at me wide-eyed. “That’s crazy, dood!”

It helps. It helps to see it and feel it: 5am, 8:30am, 11:45pm, 3:30pm, and 9pm, with little jabs all throughout, sometimes at my side, sometimes straight out. The cashier workers at Trader Joe’s frequently ask me if I’d like help out to my car. The first time I gave them a blank stare, but now I know why, and I politely say, no thank you.  I wasn’t as gracious when our front house renters asked if I wanted help lifting a pot and I snapped, “I’m not handicapped, James!” 

I also haven’t figured out how to be gracious to the church crowd who must make comments like, “You’re getting bigger,” “When’s your due date?” “Oh isn’t it wonderful!” “When’s the baby coming?” “It’s coming soon,” “When are you due?” “Aren’t you excited?” “When’s the birth?” “Enjoy these days.”

Just shut up! Everyone shut up! I’m considering wearing a sticker that says, March 22. IT’S MARCH 22ND! STOP ASKING!

The one that really irks me is when another mom holds up her baby and says, “Take a sneak peak at what’s coming.” I want to respond with a finger on my chin and an enlightened look in my eyes. “Oh, is that what I get out of all of this? Good thing you told me, cause I thought it was going to be a hippopotamus.”

God gave all the grace to Phil in this marriage. When we’re together, I just shut up and let him do the responding. He’s a natural. Me…well…I have to spend my Sunday morning’s praying for a miraculous change in my attitude, and even still I get people like Doug Francis asking me if I’m mad at him. Oh dear! I thought after 4 months of this, I would have gotten a little better, but I think I’m getting worse.

I find interacting with my Junior High students easier.

“Mrs. Stevens can I have a candy?”
“But your baby wants me to have a candy.”
“Oh really? Let me ask him… nope, he said no candy for you.”
“Mrs. Stevens are we going to get to see your baby?”
“Sure, I’ll bring him or her one day.”

Their eyes get big at that. Then I pick up my tablet and scribble up another Algebra problem for them to try. My Mimio tablet allows me free range in the classroom while I’m teaching so I can check that their desks are ready for class, that they’re doing the problems correctly, or that they’ve written in their organizers. One particular student thinks it’s the time to poke me in the arm, wave his paper in front of my face, and ask, “Is this right?”

My philosophy with teaching is to ask questions. “Let me see. Okay, so tell me what you did here and why.” Between my asking and their explaining, they often find their own errors or realize that they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. The trick is to burden them with the responsibility of learning instead of feeling burdened to get it into their heads. I’ll run through the regular list of teaching aids when introducing a new concept—say it, show it, have them repeat it, draw a picture, give real life examples—but after that it’s up to them. If after all my songs and dances, they still ask me questions that I’ve already answered, I give the lesson over to the class and let them teach each other. I figure that if they won’t listen to me, perhaps they’ll listen to their peers.

I’m just finishing up a lesson on fractions in two-step equations with my eight graders, and they’ve dragged their feet every bit of the way. These problems are long and complex. If they mess up at the start, the whole thing is wrong. I tried to help by putting all the homework answers and work online, which took me an extra hour each time I did it, but they were so lazy that only 3 or 4 went online to check their answers. I tried assigning corrections as a regular homework assignment, but I still had the same 3 or 4 students going online while most everyone else was satisfied with doing all his or her problems wrong twice. It was time to get clever. I covered the next online assignment with pictures of sharks, and then threw a pop quiz asking them what animal was online last night’s slides. Only four got the answer right. The rest earned a painful zero on a quiz. The next day we tried again. I told them that during roll I was going to ask them if they’d checked their answers online, and if they hadn’t check, I wasn’t going to accept their homework. And it worked! All but one student had checked his or her answers online. Finally! Sometimes this job makes me feel like Thomas Edison testing light bulbs. I try and try again until something works.

I hope I can pass that on to Megan Hotz. I hope she can learn how to keep control of herself instead of demanding control of the class. I hope she can find the humor in these little monsters. I hope she can learn how to communicate with the fewest words possible. I hope she speaks slowly. I hope she finds out how saying instructions once while everyone is listening is better than saying it five times when no one is listening. I hope she can keep her emotions out of tense situations. I hope she can lay down the laws and uphold them. I hope she’s willing to sit for an extra half-hour dreaming up manipulatives or real life situations to drive the lessons home. I hope her patience grows so that she can wait for them to do it on their own, instead of doing things for them. I hope she loves them, like I’ve learned to love them.