Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Teaching Log Etc.: Reflection


Yesterday we had after school meetings. Each grade met with either the next grade up or the one before to compare notes on curriculum.

At one point during our meeting we were discussing how to get parents involved with reading to their children more... for the purpose of enjoying reading more than ratcheting up skills. I proposed that before conferences we send home a reflection questionnaire, or during conferences we "help" parents figure out the best times in their busy schedules to do this in order to emphasize the importance.

I made the statement: "We all need more opportunities for reflection: Teachers, students and parents."

Everyone had a good laugh. I'm friends with them so I didn't feel humiliated, just let-down. "Oh, Evenewra, they said (with my real name) their just isn't time for that." Same as they might say about the fact that I try to eat a big breakfast each morning, do yoga etc. All those things I really work at doing.

My inner voice used to say, "Oh, you'll have to give that up once you're a mom." So far I've had to plan more carefully, but haven't had to give up anything.

It's true that limited time is a very big issue, but how that time is spent is flexible. Another teacher on my team did remember that before conferences I had my students do a self-reflection which we then showed the parents and was a jumping-off point for conferences. For some it was like, "Oh, isn't that cute?" For others we said, "Wow, under 'When I need help I go to...' he wrote 'no on.'" Is that true? Does he never ask for help? How can we help him learn to get help?

I told myself last night that I would get up early to get all of my important work done this morning like cleaning etc., but I'm taking a few minutes here because I feel agitated about the idea of not taking time to process all the information we work at so hard everyday. How can we NOT make time to reflect? Why waste hours in our lives and work, teaching and learning bits and pieces that will never go below the surface?

Today is my "schmooze" at school. The most important thing here is to discuss what position I want next year. But I'm tempted to bring up professional development too. Our last professional development day provided a list of 3 workshops we could attend. The two I went to were both technology based. One was about using a technology that the school can't afford to put in my classroom. (Useless). The other was about using power point. The best I can figure out to use it for is to spice of my lectures... if I gave lectures! The night was useless to me.

What if instead it had been like the old grad school days where we would sit and reflect and write in journals about our own memories from school, or we would be asked pointed questions that helped us reveal hidden prejudices towards our kids etc. I miss using writing to get to deep and meaningful revelations. (I had a reputation in my cohort for doing this to excess. In my time there I filled two composition books with notes from the classroom.)

Anyway, time IS limited. So off to my day. Thank G-d I took these 15 minutes to write here. I could have been doing youtube instead!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Meditation For Moms

Quick follow-up on that last post:

Why do I want to teach meditation for moms?

1. Because I think moms learn that if they aren't split in at least two directions at once then they aren't working hard enough.

2. Because I think moms need help staying present and open with their children without giving up themselves or without feeling too pressured by work, TV, external chatter in general.

3. Because I think meditation is thought of as an ascetic practice that you do ALONE with LOTS of time to practice it and the final goal of mastery.In fact, it's a tool that everyday people need to do live their everyday lives in awareness of the beauty and gifts that are already here from G-d. It's a tool.

4. Because it brings so much goodness to the world.

5. Because Jewish moms in particular have meditation practices right in front of us in the form of mitzvot (brachot are the best example) but we don't know how or remember to utilize them in order to make them meaningful.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Claiming Faith

I have a havruta (Torah study partner) on Tuesday nights. Tonight we had the BEST talk. We only even got through two pasukim but talked for over 45 minutes.

Parsha Tetzaveh is about the mishkan. We talked about how boring it is to read about it, and then we talked about what it was like to have it, what it was like to make sacrifices etc.

We were thinking it would be easy to really live in fear under those conditions and to really believe quite easily and intensely in a G-d who could affect you easily and profoundly by taking away life the way your sacrifices are taken.

We compared that to how hard people have to work today to feel anything spiritually. I said that on Yom Kippur I sometimes feel like I'm play-acting and that whatever I feel isn't enough because I have to force it from an internal place and that there is not enough getting me there from an external place.

But then she said that in a community such as a chassidic community it would be easy to have all of th external stimulation, but harder to have your own path, your own thoughts and feelings. (We both agree that we are each too stubborn to live under those circumstances.)

Interestingly, she was raised frum and in a frum community. I was not. I followed my heart. She doesn't think she'd be frum if she hadn't been raised in it and then later claimed it as her own. I don't think I would have stayed with it if it had been so easily accessible. Both of us agree how beautiful it is to reclaim it voluntarily each day.

I don't really have a conclusion here. I've just been thinking about how lonely I sometimes feel in my desire to be spirituality stimulated, and yet when I'm in communities that look spiritually stimulating, I find things I don't like too. I think that loneliness and a desire to be close to G-d actually depend on each other somewhat, or else you're doing spirituality for the social high. On the other hand, I don't know if my feelings of "yearning" are for G-d or for other spiritually-inclined people.

We also said we think most people start out very spiritual but then unlearn it. That makes me so sad, and I think it 's true. That's why I want to teach meditation to children and moms.

It's late. And for the record, I have a minor cold again.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Teaching Log: Flat Stanley and Super Tuesday

This year we did the Flat Stanley Project. We created and sent Stanleys out before our Winter break a few weeks ago.

Here is one of our Stanleys voting in LA.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Teaching Log: MLK


Quick follow-up on my multiculturalism and Clearness Committee entries.

In the Clearness Committee meeting I wrote about a student I'm having trouble helping. Well, leading up to MLK day, his reading group read a biography of MLK. Just a short picture book. This child, who I constantly have to practically wrestle to get him to do anything we ask except read, took a pencil, paper and clipboard to recess and wrote a poem about Blacks and Whites. I wrote a note to his mom saying what a great day he'd had. She wrote back and said he's always been interested in the Civil Rights movement and even called up his grandmother to ask her questions.

I'm so touched by this, and a little baffled. What is the inspiring thing in it for him? He's a very unique kid. Does he feel like he needs to start a movement to help him be treated more equally by his peers? Is he aware of others around him being treated unfairly? I'm very curious to see what this will look like for him when he's a teenager or even an adult.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Distance

My assistant is wonderful. She emailed me yesterday and said I shouldn't worry about coming in today. "It's only Friday," she said. I was planning to go to work anyway, because it's only Friday and that means a shorter day. But she's right. I'm not ready yet.

I'm pleased with how I spent the day yesterday. What CAN you do this far from your family when your family is mourning? I realized there isn't much, so I just had a quiet day. I wrote in ND's journal about her great-grandfather and I wrote condolence cards. I worked on (nearly finished) a project I started awhile ago for ND in honor of her birthday. I gave her my full attention when she wanted it instead of multi-tasking on the computer. We walked to the grocery store to buy food for Shabbat and we walked to the library to return books. We didn't talk to people much except for one good friend who called. I have a volunteer job at my shul for arranging meals for families when they have a baby. I did that for two people yesterday. I cleaned a little. It was a slow, quiet, family day.

I wrote to my rabbi about the situation and he's offered to learn something with my family in memory of my grandfather. I've asked if in addition to that he and I could just learn something on the phone today for a few minutes around the time of the funeral.

Yesterday I didn't feel terribly sad. In fact, I laughed a lot with my friend on the phone. I guess that also felt like bringing kavod (honor) to the situation. But today I feel a little sadder. It's the day of the funeral. So we're further from the initial blow and closer to wondering how my family will be feeling from here on out with my grandfather gone. It's also stormy outside with dark gray clouds and noisy wind that seeps in through the windows. Yesterday was sunny at least.

In the past I've written about my angel cards. I don't bother with them that much lately, but this week I have. Today my "Arwen card" said, "Give yourself the same compassion you would give others."

In other words, stay home.

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