Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ten Things I Hate About You (still thinking)*

I love it when my students write.

I teach English at an alternative high school. We cover a semester every six weeks. REALLY. It was an adjustment for me, let me tell ya. I also teach every level of core English and an elective every six weeks. So, for those of you who are teachers, that's 14 preps including 8 core (each high school year, semester 1 and semester 2) and 6 elective preps per academic year. I stay busy and I love it.

I require writing for each and every class. Each and every student, pretty much, says to me, "Miss, I can't write," or "Marta (we teach young adults and want to form relationships with them, so it's "Marta" not "Ms. Poling"), I hate English." Codswallop! Poppycock! Rubbish! I tell them to use their speech to text feature on their beloved phones or to write as if they were speaking to me. I tell them I'll help fix any of the things they'd see red-lined on their previous work like grammar issues, misspelling, punctuation errors, and the like. I really don't care about all those conventions because I want them to write from here (I place my hand on my head) and here (I place my hand on my heart).

They're afraid. They've been told over and over and over again that their writing is wrong, somehow. It breaks my heart. Then magic happens...they learn to trust me. I tell them, in a well-rehearsed voice, "It's strictly between you and me unless I see something that might lead me to think you might hurt yourself or others. If I did, I would have to let our administrator or counselor read it, there might be some follow up, because I'm an adult in a position of authority and trust." They all get that and somehow still write from their hearts.

It makes me smile when a student writes cleverly and with dry wit. There's a student who never speaks in class and has an intense look to him, but is amazingly funny when he can write only to me. It's his movie review title that I chose for the title of this post. The theme I chose for Film Study in the fall was "Movies about musicians." He managed to tie all of his reviews together with hysterically linked titles. I told him how much I enjoyed his reviews and why, so he's letting me know he'll try again for Film Study II when we analyze Shakespeare adaptations. I.CAN'T.WAIT!

To look at this student, you might think he's a bit of a thug and maybe a little intimidating. He's not at all. He's smart and funny and I feel a bit protective of him. Once I read his writing, I felt I knew him better and started observing him. Not staring him down or interrupting his activities or anything stalkerish like that, just paying attention. I'd see him sitting in the corner of the lab, hunched over, with almost silent shuddering shoulders. I walked up behind him quietly. He was watching a video on his phone with earbuds in, laughing. LAUGHING! Hiding his laughter the best he could. In our school, before you go all "controlly teachery" on me, if you need a little break, it's okay - watch the video then get back to work.

I hope the day comes when he can laugh out loud. I hope I hear about that and continue to read his writing.

* He turned in his review and it was just as fabulous as I expected. The title he decided on was The Guitar That Solved All Problems. See? Isn't it great?!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Charity, it warms the heart

Here's the story...

I wanted to do more, whatever that might mean. I didn't have a clue what that "more" might be. Knitting is a huge part of my life. It's my zen, my creativity, and my day is a lost one without knitting in it. I spin, too, but it's more of a guilty pleasure. It's the thing I'd like to get better at while knitting is really my thang, my jam, my outlet. When I see people like Mandi Guadian and her family, or Dottie Moyer and her group go to such altruistic lengths to try to help people, I want to help them help others.

It became a more urgent cause when Mandi's mom, Debbie, had a stroke. We all thought she would pull through - she was always so incredibly strong about everything. I started a love blanket in her special colors. However, she passed not too long after her stroke. I asked Mandi if she wanted the blanket or if I should do something else in Debbie's name. She liked the idea of making things for babies out of that yarn. I made a butt-ton of sleep sacks, hats, and added many, many preemie hats from left over yarn. Then I was lost. What do I do with all of this? I called my local hospitals and none of them seemed interested. That really surprised me. Why wouldn't my local NICU want my beautiful things?

There are a lot of reasons why some NICUs might accept all kinds of items and others don't want any. It comes down to this: Do they have time to sort through what you give them? Some will have a very specific list of requirements. I like that and will make sure I only donate what they want. Some say "no" to everything because they're just too busy to manage it. That's okay, too. I'd rather hear "no" than for someone to just take my adorable little things and toss them.

I wound up sending all my things to Greg of the Unraveling Podcast, KnittingDaddy on Ravelry. Here's what he said about preemie donations (and he's SUPER smart about it - go read his story on his do it!):
The best way to support my preemie hat efforts is to donate hats to their local NICUs. Requirements vary by hospital, so everyone will have to do a little research for it.
The second best way to support it is to buy my Scrappy Sock Yarn Preemie Hat pattern. 100% of the pattern sales generated by that pattern are donated to the Family Support Network of Central Carolina, which is the organization that was so helpful for our family when Blueberry was born. (Not-so-)Coincidentally, I have been on the Board since a year after Blueberry was born and currently serve as Board Chair for the organization.
Awesome, right? So, here's the deal - please message me with any great information on charities. It doesn't have to be charities that accept handmade things. I'm going to turn this page into a big bouncing off point to all these great people and organizations. As soon as y'all get some info to me, I'll just make this whole story a link, too. I have a big problem with endless verbage on webpages. Seriously, it gives me a tick. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

New Directions

In the last few months, I've been thinking about what I really want to do. I'm so very fortunate - good friends, family, few troubles, a job I love, several passions, enough to live comfortably, a supportive and loving husband, and so, so much more.
I'm past mid-life and it's time to step up the return. Yea, there have been bumps but, with the help of those around me, I've bumped right on over them. There are going to be some changes as I look forward to the next stage in life. There are some questions I'm going to work on -
What fills my heart?
How can I truly help for others (not just for myself)?
How can I build some work that isn't in a location but anywhere and that fills my heart and puts a little in the bank?

In the last few years I'm gettin' it - It's not about me. I just need to listen to and follow THE plan, and not so much my plan.

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Tribe


I remember asking my mom about knitting when I was very young. She knit my sisters sweaters and they were beautiful. I wanted to learn. She explained that it was a chore I wouldn't have to do and showed me a book on knitting saying if I was truly interested, she would give me needles and wool, After watching her and reading that book a few times, I asked for needles and wool.  I was on my way.
As I grew, I would knit when the urge struck. Typically, I'd find some time during summer break to pick those needles up again.  It wasn't until high school when I began to make a serious effort.  I still had a lot to learn but could knit one-color mittens and raglan sweaters. I continued to knit but was slow and, I now know, lacked the specific techniques to take my work to a higher level.
I was working as a medical editor when a co-worker saw me knitting in the break room over my lunch hour. She mentioned she was also a knitter and started bringing her work in so we could knit together. 
My tribe was born. Linda took me under her wing. She showed me how to knit with two colors, one in each hand. I was a "thrower" and knit English style, like my mother. She showed me how to hold another yarn in my left hand and knit "Continental" which was FAST. I made my first two color, Fair Isle, pair of mittens. I still have those mittens 25 years later and they still look new. 
By the time I left that position, the internet was up and running. I found a knitting group and the rest is history. The last 15 years has brought knitting podcasts of all kinds by people around the world, virtual knitting groups, local knitting groups, a community that is tightKNIT (yes, I went there) and supportive.
There are conventions, professional/master level classes, and camaraderie for every knitter. I've made friends around the world and have traveled to group together. When we've been connected via the internet and meet, it's as if we've been living in the same town for years and meeting at our own knitting group. 
As I grew in my tribe and community, I learned my own family history had a fiber arts connection. My dad handed me a box of old photos and notes from his aunt about our own family history. I found a photo (see below) where three of the women are clearly members of my family. The resemblance is undeniable and one is tatting and one is knitting. I started a book about our history and it turned into a collection of knitting designs. 

​See? It's in my blood.

I Scare Myself

Teachers are scrutinized and under a microscope. That's nothing new and we, as parents, should feel we can trust the adults who spend most of the day with our children. However, teachers are people and also deserve a normal, acceptable for adults, personal life. 
Recently, I came across an article about a teacher who was told to resign or face administrative charges because she posted a photo of herself on vacation with a glass of wine at a special dinner. Her Facebook account was private with all the strictest security measures in place available. 
I've also heard of a case about a person who has allegedly impersonated a teacher and then hired as a classroom teacher. This person had all the documentation for the innocent teacher's past and credentials through the internet. Identity theft is common now and can happen anywhere.
Another important privacy consideration for teachers is the privacy of students. FERPA guarantees students and their families privacy. Teachers are often required to have an internet presence and a website for their students. Photos and classroom activity descriptions can unknowingly breech the conditions within FERPA. 
Well, no wonder I'm scared and a little paranoid! ​I decided to investigate a bit and found these articles.

 Protecting Student Privacy Legislation

 Protecting Student Privacy on Social Media

What do you think? Should teachers accept a life that is solitary and excludes social media, normal adult interaction, or legal adult activities? Is it okay to have classroom websites with photos and descriptions?