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Posts Tagged ‘education’

I love being home with Lotte. Love it, and I feel really fortunate that I’m able to be around for every adorable moment. Even the freak-out, face-down tantrums: those just make me laugh. I do miss the hell out of teaching, though. Being an art teacher is quite possibly the greatest job in the universe. Everything about it is the absolute best: from unpacking new supplies at the beginning of the year and setting up your classroom, to the joy in seeing kids look at their work with pride. This morning I came across a folder of some of the elementary student artwork that I had photographed a few years ago and I thought I’d share some of the awesomeness (from K to 5th grade).


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Last week we had a few days where NYC was just unbearably steamy, especially for the beginning of June, so we headed to my favorite weekday time-suck: The Brooklyn Museum. The weekday mornings are always ridiculously empty, almost in a deserted, slasher flick way, so I don’t feel bad when LJ starts shouting “LOOK MOMMY!! LOOK AT HER BOOBIES!!! THAT LADY’S NAKED!! HAHA!!”. Before we left our apartment we made a scavenger hunt list of all the things we wanted to find in the artwork: a dog, a train, a princess, a river, a circle, a tiger, a mommy, some kids and a red square. We found them all because my kid is a super intellectual tiny genius. (NOT AT ALL because I bribed her, and told her if she helped me find everything on the list I’d buy her something from the store. Not at ALL.)

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Dear coach of my kid’s future soccer team, Principal of her future elementary school and fellow parents:

If I show up to LJ’s first real soccer game and there are FOUR GOALS instead of two so the kids can “score easier”: I will go fucking bananas. If every kid wears the same color on field day at her school, to ensure that nobody has to actually TRY, and every precious little child wins: I will go fucking bananas. To the 85% of parents polled by the NY Daily News who said that Wiffle Ball, kickball, freeze tag and Red Rover are DANGEROUS and should be BANNED FROM SUMMER CAMPS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: You. Are. Pathetic. I feel sorry for your kids, because you are setting them up for a lifetime of frustration and mediocrity.

In the 7 years that I played soccer as a kid, I don’t remember anyone crying if we lost. Ever. In fact, getting our asses kicked 6-0 by the purple team (or by Rockville Centre’s ridiculous soccer prodigies) made us try HARDER during the next game. We ran a little bit faster. We cheered each other on, and learned how to be gracious winners AND losers. The truth of the matter is, and I’m going to sound like an asshole here: sports are not JUST about having fun. They’re about working well with others; learning how to have patience; gaining problem-solving skills; and improving confidence. They teach the importance of perseverance. If the scoreboard is taken away, and your kid is never allowed to experience the joy of winning or the frustration of defeat: they won’t even try. Can you blame them? The POINT of playing lacrosse is to work with your team to score goals. The POINT of baseball is to score runs. If you’re trying to teach them the game, well, quite frankly, that’s just how it’s played. There aren’t FOUR FUCKING GOALS (unless they’re toddlers, and spend  most of the time staring at the clouds anyway).

While out on Long Island for a day last spring, I happened to drive past my old elementary school during field day, one of my favorite childhood memories. It took me a while to realize it was field day, though, because the kids were all wearing the same exact shirt. There were no teams. The three things I remember being awesome about field day were: finding out what color team you were on, hoping it wasn’t something lame, like maroon; the tug-of-war at the end; and the fun competition. Now there are no colors, no tug-of-war (deemed too dangerous, of course), and no competition. There are no ribbons given out at the end. Now I realize that every kid is not athletic. At this point my 3-year-old seems to have 5 left-feet and prefers bubbles to her mini-kick scooter.  That’s fine. The thought of relay races might fill some kid’s bellies with anxious butterflies, but really, is anyone THAT amazing at hopping in a potato sack?

Throughout life we ALL encounter experiences that make us feel nervous and uncomfortable; moments of disappointment; and times where even busting our ass resulted in failure. We picked ourselves up and kept trying. Your kid probably won’t get into every college on their list, or get every job after graduation. They WILL experience epic failure, and won’t always be “smartest”, “fastest”, or “the best”. If you don’t stop coddling them, and don’t start teaching them the values of tenacity and determination at a young age, they will turn into self-entitled brats. Mark my words. I’m a teacher, I’ve seen it. We all need to stop praising our kids for every miniscule thing they do, and stop telling them they’re “so smart” for every line they scribble and simple instruction they follow. I’m guilty of it, also. I shouted “GREAT JOB!” when my daughter took off her sneakers the other day. It really wasn’t that much of an amazing accomplishment. She took off her fucking shoes. Big woop. Instead, we should praise them for… you got it, TRYING HARD. I know I sound all Tiger Mother-y, but so be it. We are raising a nation of wussies. It’s a problem. Let’s fix it.

Oh, and let them play KICKBALL, for christ’s sake. You seriously think your kid will get mortally wounded from a game of freeze tag? Really? Fine. Then let them play video games all day and contribute to the astronomical childhood obesity epidemic. Nice move. It’s your call.

Love,

Tracy

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The other day LJ and I were leaving her preschool when we hopped into the elevator with Ronnie, a boy from her class, and his nanny. My inane chitchat about the gloomy weather was suddenly loudly interrupted by my daughter who, while staring at her classmate, asked,

Mommy? What color is Ronnie? Maybe brown like chocolate?

Sure, she’s not even 3 yet. Yes, I fully expect her to make innocent observations as she discovers the world around her. Still… I wanted to f*cking DIE. Spontaneously imploding would have been preferable to my red-faced stammering, “Whaaaaat?” as I pretended I didn’t clearly hear what she said (Mistake #1). Saved by the elevator doors sliding open, we said our quick goodbyes and I bolted out of the building and down 7th Avenue. As we walked the sixteen blocks to our apartment, I cursed myself just a little. In my overzealous need to be urban, liberal, multiculturally-sophisticated supermom, I had f*cked up.

The book, “NurtureShock” (which craps on everything ever published about parenting, and is subsequently AWESOME), has an entire chapter on the importance of talking to your kids about race. I gobbled it up, and promptly marched to the bookstore to get some sort of picture book on race that would prompt our deep discussions. Surely, I was the parent of the year! The cover of the book I chose, Karen Katz’s “The Colors of Us”, instantly caught my eye with its brightly-colored painting of a group of young girls. I didn’t actually READ the story until snuggled up with LJ at bedtime that very night. (Mistake #2. Note to self: from now on, pre-read all books before purchasing.) The book follows Lena and her mother, an artist, as they take a stroll through their neighborhood. Here’s some of what they see:

…Mom and I see Mr. Pellegrino flipping a pizza high in the air. He is the color of pizza crust, a golden brown.

…Mr. Kashmir sells many different spices. He’s the color of ginger and chili powder.

Isabella is chocolate brown, like the cupcakes we had for her birthday.

Wait, wait… the Italian guy is the color of PIZZA CRUST?!? Mr. KASHMIR, with his turban, runs a spice store? There’s nothing else to say about Isabella other than the fact that she looks like cupcakes? Seriously? WTF? Is she kidding me with the stereotyping and food references? Parenting fail! Parenting fail! I shelved the book the next morning and with it, I pretty much shelved any formal discussion of race and multiculturalism until I find a better resource (Any suggestions?). For now, I’m using NYC as her guide, and hoping that all the different faces she sees and languages she hears during each neighborhood outing will instill in her a curiosity and appreciation that can’t be found in a stupid book.

Thanks for nothing, Karen Katz.

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I might be reconsidering. That’s P.S. 107, the school that is half a block from our apt: the school LJ will be attending in 2 years, assuming we don’t move. Many parents were horrified this week to receive notice that their kindergarteners were WAITLISTED for the upcoming school year. Not only were they waitlisted, but the list is 47 students strong. Scorned parents, who didn’t “apply” to other schools because they assumed that their kids would attend the school ACROSS THE STREET from their zillion dollar brownstones, called the neighboring elementary schools only to be turned away.  Some families are considering homeschooling.

AYFKMWTS?!?

I know that we’re only lowly renters, but come ON! We senselessly toss thousands down the drain every month to live here BECAUSE of the schools (and Park Slope’s general awesomeness).  I don’t want to home school LJ for an entire year, nor do I want to schlep a 5-year-old on the subway at the crack of dawn every morning to attend some faraway school.  Smashing my head through the front window seems more enjoyable than that prospect.

Here’s to hoping that there is a mass exodus to the burbs in the next year: maybe people will just cave to their yard envy.

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