I'm guessing many of you read last week's hugely popular Momastery post which relayed the inspiring tale of a middle school math teacher who, every Friday, asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down who'd they like to sit with the following week in class. Her intention, though, is not to appease the "I want to sit with my best friend" masses. Instead, she uses the ritual as an ingenious way to find out which students in her class are falling through the "social" cracks.
The teacher is brilliant. And I love how the post's author Glennon Doyle Melton thanks those at the helm of classrooms with these words, "TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we've got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching -- it's our best hope."
But I don't fully agree. Of course teachers are an incredibly important part of solving the social isolation epidemic among our youth. But they are not the "ONLY" hope we have.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Buchko, mom to fifth-grader Julia, who is on the autism spectrum, wrote the following newsletter piece (reprinted, with permission, below) as a reminder to all parents that it's not just the schools and teachers who can help create a kinder, more welcoming environment for all kids. Mothers, fathers and other caregivers, she beautifully urges, need to take responsibility, too. She reminded me that I have an obligation to go a step further than to ask, "How did the math test go?" or "What did you have for a snack?" during my daily dinnertime debriefings.
As I have learned from Suzanne, and Julia, I need to start asking my kids, daily, the most revealing question of all.
What did you do that was kind today?comments powered by Disqus
Imagine that every parent in our Franklin-Randall community asked his or her child this question at the end of the school day or at the supper table or before turning out the child's bedroom light. What did you do that was kind today?
Our schools do all they can to teach and encourage kindness and to discourage bullying. My daughter's teachers at Franklin and Randall have gone far beyond their job descriptions to instill the ideals of inclusion and open-heartedness among their students. And I have often pondered what more can parents do? How can I reinforce the character-building that she is learning at school?
What did you do that was kind today?
This morning I observed once again that the kids on the school bus went to great lengths to avoid sitting with my daughter.
My daughter is one of those kids who will always be picked on and excluded. Someone will be mean to her perhaps every day for the rest of her life, and she is not the only one. My heart hurts for her and it also hurts for all the others. I can't stop other kids from excluding, segregating and being mean. As a parent, I've felt powerless in the face of mean girls and cool boys. But I can teach my daughter about kindness. I can teach her how to create the world that will include, nourish and cherish all people. I want to build on what she is learning at school. I want her to help bring an inclusive, loving community into existence.
And so, I will begin asking her every day when we sit down to talk about her school day, "What did you do that was kind today?" I will ask her if she saw anyone who needed kindness, and I will suggest how she might be kind tomorrow. Further, I will intentionally model kind behavior and I will talk about that behavior with her.
Will you join me?
What did you do that was kind today?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.