Monday’s Child

I was sitting quietly Sunday eve, thinking about the school week about to begin. Thinking about my class, that wild bunch of personalities. And thinking about how different they are on Mondays, each day actually. This old old nursery rhyme popped in my head. So I reconstructed it!

Monday's child is fair of face,
Worn out from their weekend,
Feeling calm, in their place.

Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Not really, they're wild,
Into trouble they race.

Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Taken down a peg,
After Tuesday's wild show.

Thursday's child has far to go,
Sit still, pay attention,
There's a test tomorrow.

Friday's child is loving and giving,
They beseech tired teachers,
We're so sweet, are we forgiven?

Saturday's child works hard for its living,
Running round at top speed,
When they crash, it's relieving.

But the child who goes out on the Sabbath day,
Is bonny and bright and good and gay,
They'll rest when it all begins again Monday.


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And The Band Played On

Yesterday, Saturday, was supposed to be a rainy wash out of a day here in central Jersey. But when I got up it was cloudy and mild. So I decided to take advantage of the not-wash out time I had to tackle something in my garden, cutting down my giant grasses. I have a big garden in my back yard with trees and paths and garden beds and grasses of varying sizes. Grasses take care of themselves all year, until March when they need to be cut back in preparation for the new growing season.

A couple of years ago my husband, Rich, expressed a concern that I would not be able to keep up with the demands of our home alone. He had cancer and although he was doing really well, there was still that reality. And he was, to be honest, the hardest working member of our family when it came to our home. Not only did he pretty much build our house but he also took care of the lawn, the snow, the garden, the structures, the vehicles, the appliances… Well you get the picture. He was Superman. And he loved it all. I understood what he was thinking, but I was kind of put off by his comment.

This past January my Superman lost his battle with cancer. It broke my heart to lose him. But I also felt something in me grow stronger; my resolve. I decided I can manage the demands of our home. And the reason I can do it is because of all I learned from him. You see, I was right there by his side, watching and listening and absorbing all he did to keep our home humming. I didn’t often need to help because he was so good at EVERYTHING that there was little left for me to do. But I know what needs to be done. And I know how to get things done.

I’ll need more help than before, a lawn maintenance company, someone to get rid of the mice that take up residence in the attic now and then, repair people for this and that (I used to just say, “Rich, I think the ________ needs to be looked at”) and the support of our children, neighbors and friends. And, of course, I have an entire house, shed, and garage full of tools! Tools I kind of even know how to use!

So, back to this morning, when I tackled the giant grasses in our beloved garden that have to be cut down every March. I dragged out the electric hedge trimmer Rich bought me (yup, he loved buying tools “for me”), found an extension cord, unraveled everything, got it plugged in and I took down the giant grasses! I leveled off the bottom of them as best I could, raked up the debris and stood back to admire my work.

As I stood back a song popped in my head, it was the old song, “And the Band Played On”. It cracked me up that of all songs that is the one I was thinking of. I don’t know where it came from but then it occurred to me. The band will play on. I will go on. I can and I will carry all of Rich’s and my dreams forward. One household chore at a time. Love you, Superman!

Funny Friday

We do Morning Meeting every day in our school and the one constant in my room (probably in most) is the Morning Message. I usually give the kids something to jot about and then they bring their jots to morning circle. This has worked well because it gives them time to think about the morning’s discussion topic and it provides a focus for homeroom time.

Last week I decided to make my life a bit simpler and instituted “Threes Day” on Thursdays and “Funny Friday” on Fridays. Threes Day simply asks them to make a list of three things, I provide a theme each week. For example this week it was St. Patrick’s Day so they wrote three things they like that are green. Simple!

Fridays are “Funny Fridays” and you guessed it, everyone writes a joke! Circle Time then becomes joke time. It’s great! We have only done it twice but they got so much better at it this week. And we laugh and sometimes we have to explain the jokes and often a parent has lent a hand at providing the joke. Some of the kids even make up the joke, and they are pretty good at it! It’s fun to listen to their delivery and their willingness to laugh at themselves if they mess up the joke (so easy to do!).

It’s amazing how many really old jokes are still around. And still funny. You know, like, “Knock Knock, who’s there, banana…” They like to play around with that one. And of course there are variations on “Why did the chicken…” Sometimes they totally crack up at a joke and the adults in the room are left wondering, “Did I miss something?” I delivered the old, “What’s black and white and (red) all over?” They had a few responses but when I shared “A newspaper!” they had fun figuring out the ins and outs of the wordplay.

So, I’m looking for some great jokes! Anyone got any?

The Resilience of Dogs

It was a little misty in the morning yesterday, nearly rainy. I opened the door to let my dog, Harry, out. Normally he does not like to go out in the rain but I made my voice all cheery, “Good boy, Harry, go potty!” (We can get pretty goofy with our pets.) Truthfully, I was just hoping he would actually go out without me, he kept looking back but my cheery encouragement worked and he “did his business” without me accompanying him.

Harry has gotten used to me going out in the morning with him. I started doing this during the winter. Harry has had a tough couple of years. First of all, he is getting up there in age. He will be 14 on Sunday. Two years ago my mom passed away and he and his buddy, Ace, missed her terribly (as we all did). With dogs, you are not sure exactly what they are going through since, well, you can’t explain things to them. Then last August we lost Ace.

Ace and Harry grew up together. They were best buds. Ace was the issue laden trouble maker and Harry was the care giver. Harry’s need to take care of Ace was so strong that I would have to get someone to stay home with Harry when I took Ace to the vet because he would FREAK OUT. So when it became apparent that Ace was not going to make it after a severe decline in his health we all looked at Harry and wondered, how will Harry manage?

But he managed. He seemed sad but my husband was around and that really helped. My husband was in his fifth year of battling bladder cancer at the time and the cancer was finally slowing him down. He had stopped working the spring before and spent a lot of time resting. So when I went back to school and Ace passed away, Harry just adopted Rich. They became best buds.

Sadly, we lost my husband in January. The week before he passed away Harry would not leave his side. I wondered if Harry knew something the rest of us didn’t (we honestly did not realize we were so close to losing Rich) because of the way he just watched him. Turns out he probably did. And this was the loss that really seemed to rattle my old boy. He began leaving his food in his dish and not getting up when someone came in the room. The weight of loss seemed to have finally beaten him.

I began going out with him in the morning and of course he became my go to conversationalist. With a big old empty house it was sure nice to have him around. And you know what? Harry rallied. He perked up. He began trotting and running a bit just for the fun of it when I took him out. He began looking for his meals again. He even began picking up his “babies” and bringing them to people when they came in. A sure sign that he was “back”.

Dogs, you see, are resilient. And we can learn from them. We can get a spring back in our step even after a loss. And food can be fun again. And if we begin to do things for others and with others, they will help to carry us through our sadness. I’ve learned a lot from Harry, and I’m so grateful to still have him!

Harry and his babies.

Harry on duty.

Can We Blame It On the Moon?

OMG, the moon looks full again. Geez, didn’t this happen just last month? And now it is happening again? My class is going crazy and we are in the midst of an insane week. Pajama Day on Monday, Teacher Crazy Hair Day on Tuesday, Game Day on Wednesday, students dress in their wackiest, wildest, greenest style from head to toe on Thursday, and Friday we have a Hoops for Heart event and a race between the Cat in the Hat and our Bengal Tiger. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is all happening this week.

I think I miss the quiet.

Teaching during Covid was quiet. Each teaching day was the same. There were no crazy days. There were no assemblies. There were no events. We taught each day for the couple of hours that we were in school (it was a shortened day) and then we went home. Teaching periods were left intact. Granted, not all of the kids were in school every day. But each day was the same. The schedule did not erupt on a regular basis.

I used to think it was the full moon that acted so harshly on the behavioral capabilities of our children. But I think they would handle the tug of the tides (or whatever it is that the moon does) a little better if their learning days remained a bit more intact and focused.

I don’t miss the extreme days of Covid. Hybrid teaching and six feet apart and masks. I know we are still struggling but I don’t miss the two years of extremes. Not one little bit. But I wish we had paid attention to what worked. I wish we had learned.

Oh well, St Pat’s Day today. Get ready to go crazy!

Just Say It!

Yesterday at lunch one of my colleagues was bemoaning the fact that our principal hadn’t approved her request for a personal day yet. There was a time element at hand that concerned her. “You don’t have to wait for her approval,” I said. “Personal days can’t be denied. Just make your plans.”

“Really?” my colleague asked.

“Yup, don’t worry about it. Just say, “Suzanne said…” if anyone questions you.”

We all laughed. But then I explained that I am usually right. “It’s not that I know everything, because I don’t, but when I know something I am right about it!” We all pondered this concept for a bit. Then I told them one of my stories:

Our family traveled to the Grand Canyon when the kids were young. While there, we were discussing what time to get up so we could see the sunrise. I said aloud that it would probably be different if we were sleeping in the canyon than on top. My husband joked, “Why, because it’s a big pit?”

“Well, yes,” I said. Everyone laughed. They thought I was crazy. Well I wasn’t. I was right. We proved that when my son found the evidence on a sign that provided sunrise and sunset times both on the rim and in the canyon.

And so it began. I would prove over and over that, though at times dubious sounding, I was usually right. But still my family would often doubt me.

“There she goes again with her fuzzy science!” Then I would be proven right and I would just look at them and say, “Come on, just say it…”

“You were right,” the glum response.

I knew I was right of course because I only say things when I know what I’m talking about. Or when I’ve thought them through (like the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.)

After school that same day I had to stop at Walgreens. While waiting I overheard the young man behind the counter worrying because he had gotten his ring stuck on his finger. “Go run it under cold water,” I said. He looked at me questioningly and I explained why.

“But how will it help get it over my knuckle?” (He was obviously doubting me.)

“Use a little soap too, it will help it slip off. But close the drain if you can, just in case!” Then he disappeared.

Right before I paid for my purchase (I had been there a while because I was waiting for photos) he came dashing up from behind me. “Whoever that woman was that told me how to get my ring off was a genius!” he said. “It worked!”

“That was me!” I said, laughing inside my head. Of course it worked I thought, because…

“Come on, just say it!” I was right!

By the way, today, March 16 is “National Everything You Do Is Right Day”. Pretty coincidental, right?

Empathy

“Mrs. Scannell, can I talk to you?”

You never know where this is going to lead. A student tentatively pulls you aside and this is their request. You set time aside to speak with them, never knowing what is coming your way.

“At recess today, I asked if I could play with someone and they said no. It made me sad.”

Yup, that would have made me sad too. So I made a quick decision to have…

THE TALK.

Hahaha, which one, you say. Because there are so many TALKS we have with these small humans we are helping to raise up. But this is a really important one. This is the talk about empathy.

Kids need to become aware of empathy and practice it. I teach third grade. The 8, 9 and 10 year olds I am charged with guiding know that they need to practice empathy. They know they need to put themselves in another’s shoes once in a while. But they also need to learn to begin putting it to the forefront of their thinking. It’s hard. It’s hard to put aside what you want for what another wants. It’s hard to sacrifice what you are doing to make someone else feel good. Heck, these are hard skills for adults, yet we ask kids to do it all the time.

So we had a closing circle meeting today all about empathy. I shared a story from my youth when I was heartbroken by a friend who told me I couldn’t play. I went over the meaning of the word and the concept with the class. We discussed its importance. I let them share stories. They began to see the give and take that empathy requires. It was such a good meeting.

Do I think it will change everything? No. It won’t. It might only last a short while. But it is worth pursuing because we need a world where humans practice empathy!

What’s Your Story?

I read a book a few years ago called “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay. It tells the life story (loosely based on the author’s life experiences) of a boy born in South Africa in the 1930’s. I loved the book’s structure, each chapter and part describing the changing story of Peekay’s life. Some parts were wonderful, some horrible. Some parts coming to a resolution that you, the reader, hoped for and others not so much. After reading the book I began to picture my life as a story with chapters.

Last year I read “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles. Towles masterfully relates the stories of eight main characters! Again, the structure of the book captivated me. The story plays out over the course of ten days. The author manages to tell each character’s story, delivering the joy and sadness that brought them to the moment when we meet them. Some stories develop the way we hope they will, others go a different way. And once again, after reading the book, I thought of my life and the parts that went along just fine and the others, well, not so much.

Our life is our story. It is our book. The book of us. There are big parts and those big parts are broken down into smaller chapters. Some of the parts go along just fine and some, not so much. Tucked in the pages of your book are things to rejoice in, things to cringe at, things you will need to catch your breath after reading because you have laughed so hard and for so long. You will sing along with your story and cry. You will say, “No, stop, don’t do it that way!” and you will applaud. There will be parts you completely forget so you will be lucky if you have someone by your side reminding you as you go along.

I hope you take a moment to look at this story of your life. What chapter are you in? How is this particular chapter going? If it isn’t going well, fear not, things get better, or at least change, with time. Like the novels that we fall into and fall in love with, a story progresses, a life progresses. Embrace the wonder and learn from the pain. Look forward to the resolutions and brace yourself for the struggles.

It’s your life, what’s your story?

S-no Surprise

Ok! It snowed. It’s nearly spring and New Jersey just got a surprise visit from Father Winter. But was it really a surprise, or more accurately, should it have been a surprise? No, not really.

It snows in March. Here in NJ we just seem to forget that fact over and over and over again! We hear the forecasters, “The East Coast is going to get pummeled again folks! A cyclone snow bomb is heading across the Great Plains and it won’t rest until it has buried New Jersey. Heh heh heh, and you thought you were heading down the shore this weekend.”

Ok, I kind of made that one up, but the hype usually sounds like that to disbelieving ears. Or prompts an overnight emptying of the grocery store shelves. Gotta be able to make that French Toast, right? Why else does everyone buy bread, milk, and eggs?

It snows in March. I’ll say it again. It snows in March. It really does. And it’s not really that remarkable. Last night I was at a friend’s house. She was lamenting the fact that she would need to go out during the “snow cyclone bomb” to go to her work at her part time job. I reassured her that even if it snowed it would not be bad. We could handle it. Then, for some reason, we began scrolling through my Day One journal entries. I came upon an entry from Monday, March 12, 2018. It was titled, “Snow Day Stories”. Seems we had snow that year on Wednesday, March 7th. The day had been called in anticipation of the storm but then we ended up having no school on Thursday and Friday as well! A five day weekend in March due to snow! Who knew?

So the moral of the story here is, snow predictions in March should be

S-NO SURPRISE!

Everybody Calm Down

Do you spend a good part of your life calming people down? Putting out little fires. Diverting disagreements before they get out of hand.

Have you ever observed a big time argument in the making? A conversation half spoken. A train wreck occurring in real time.

Are you the person who finds the middle ground? Calmly bringing people to a place where they can see each other’s perspective. Respect each other for having a thought worth hearing.

Welcome to Switzerland. Yup! Hello Switzerland. I was nicknamed Switzerland many years ago by a friend during a heated discussion. The “heat” I mention stemmed from the subject of the discussion, a business that hadn’t lived up to the expectations of my friend. She was pretty furious about the perceived misstep on the handling of something, I can’t even remember exactly what it was. But what I do remember was pointing out possible reasons for the problem. You know, like “Maybe they were short handed” or “Supplies may have been limited due to the season”. Well, my friend turned to me and snapped, “OK, Switzerland, cut it out. They were wrong and I don’t want to forgive them.” We all laughed and the nickname stuck, Switzerland.

I think we all need to be a little more Switzerland. We need to remember that not everyone is the same and sometimes things just don’t work out. We need to remember that some days are just not good days. We need to remember that everyone is dealing with things. And those things cause people to make odd decisions.

It’s not so bad to take that neutral stance. And sometimes it can even help.