Monthly Archives: May 2017

A (flashback) slice of “bullying”

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

A flashback slice! 

What do you remember about 7th and 8th grade? I’m closing my eyes and I can see the hallways of my Junior High School. I can glimpse a classroom or two. I remember my Social Studies teacher giving detentions to people who said “Shut up.” I remember that Latin was all the way down the hall, on the second floor, I think. I remember my math teacher slamming a ruler on a desk and screaming “Divided BY!” I vaguely remember display cases across from a water fountain. I remember the cafeteria, and the “lunch ladies” getting so mad if you went to the bathroom instead of outside for recess.  And I remember just a few of the kids.

I don’t remember all of their names, and I barely remember their faces. But, there were these girls who decided they didn’t like me. I mean, there were plenty of people who weren’t especially nice to me… but these girls seemed to have it in for me! Snide remarks, sarcasm, a constant stream of jokes at my expense, and (maybe worst of all) a fake friendliness in between every insult.

 

There was that time I accidentally put my chair leg on the sleeve of a leather jacket. That girl looked at me, lips curled up, eyebrows furrowed. I don’t remember her name, I don’t remember her face, but I remember that expression. I remember how mad she was.

There was that time they made fun of me for not wearing a bra. I think I went shopping for one that weekend.

There was that time they cornered me, accusing me of stealing a tube of bubble gum and a dollar from their gym locker. I had no idea what they were talking about. Somehow we were in the stairwell, 3 of them, blocking the door, in front of 1 of me.

This was 1990. Was that really almost 30 years ago? I don’t remember much, if anything, academic from 7th or 8th grade, but I do remember how mean these girls were!

So, this was bullying, right? I’m supposed to tell you that I was targeted, a victim. I’m supposed to call these girls bullies. My parents were supposed to have demanded consequences.

Fine, I was targeted. They were mean. I don’t know what happened to them at school. I don’t know what happened to them in life. I don’t know if they still think I stole that tube of gum, that dollar. I don’t know what they remember: the stairwell, or what they learned in Social Studies class?

I won’t call them bullies though. I will hope that they are all doing fine in life, happy and healthy.

I’m doing a lot of thinking about bullying… This piece in Teaching Tolerance has a powerful perspective. 

 

 

 

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Celebrating the Mess

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

It’s “Muppet” time in my classroom. Several years ago, my intern and I came up with this project as a way to honor Jim Henson, who she researched for one of her classes. I’ve done the project with each of my classes since then, even though I always try to convince myself to skip a year. The mess! The time! The money! The begging parents to send in supplies and help! The mess! The research! The script-writing and revising! The performance! The microphone technical difficulties! The mess! 

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Just part of the mess. . . 

Yesterday, I walked around helping students thread needles, pin pieces, and attach arms. And, I listened. I tried to collect the reasons why I do this project. There they were, the gems that came from my students’ mouths. Some of them were easy to spot, the students who exclaimed, unbidden, “This is the best project ever!”  Then there were the quieter students. I asked one girl how she thought the project was going. She kept sewing, eyes on her careful stitches and said, “Great. I think this is my favorite project of the whole year.”

Other gems are hidden, hard to capture: the kid looking at his puppet’s face for the first time, after turning it rightside out;  the boys helping each other stitch the mouthplate on; the girls teaching each other hot gluing techniques; the classmates holding each others’ pieces to help with placement; the students who finish a step and then help others;  the students persevering through resewing pieces that were placed incorrectly, and the thread that gets cut too short… There are too many of these moments to count. But, the magic is there during our “Muppet Madness.” The parent volunteers see it too, through the crazy loud mess. They smile and shake their heads with wonder as these 6th graders work through the challenges of creating and they say, “What a great project!”

At the end of the day, I finally sat down. There were just 10 students in my room, not in choir or other activities: 7 boys, 3 girls. They had chosen to work on their muppets, and I watched and listened, and started typing what they were saying. As I listened, I heard students engaged in their project, and having fun with their peers. It sounded like learning, and it felt like camaraderie:

“I wish making puppets was more like photoshop.”
“This is the best project ever!” 
“Wait. I know how to do this. Don’t question me. “
“Who has the scissors that really help cut?”  
“This is going to have giant eyebrows. Giant blue eyebrows.” 
“I need some glitter.” 

“Hashtag glitter!”
“We should all do our own little muppet show.” 

“That is what we are doing.”
“No, I mean,  a muppet movie. Each of us.”
“Who took my scissors?” 
“You shall not pass!” 
“Pins. I need pins.” 
“Is this a sharpener?
“I’ve got glue.” 
“So, how do you control arms with no hinges?”
“You don’t. You use little sticks like this.” 
“There you go. This looks nice. A nice little fabulous shirt!” 
“I laugh when I’m nervous.” 
“I bite my nails when I’m nervous.” 
“Is there glitter anywhere?”
“I sewed one side of my pirate hat. It is going to be beautiful.” 
“Ms. Feinberg? do you like it?”
“Ms. Feinberg, where can I find glitter? My shirt is pretty. “
“Huh!!!! No Glitter?”
“See these stitches on the side of my body?? Those are battle scars!”
“You have to sew through all 4 layers.” 
“Ms. Feinberg, I never realized how hard it would be to cut out fabric letters.”
“Here’s ‘Tinkerbell’ fabric.”
“Ms. Feinberg, this was so cool — I mean watching it go from fabric to a muppet!”

 

A slice (or 2) of that crazy puppy, Finn

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Sunday evening, I was sure I had a slice for this week. A puppy slice! That day, we had finally decided enough was enough with our couch. Sure, Finn loved to sleep on the couch. He loved to snuggle on the side, sometimes propped with pillows. It was adorable to watch him nest himself in for a long cozy puppy nap.

But, a few months ago, he spent a good deal of effort destroying parts of the couch. And even though he seems to have stopped that craziness, the couch did not heal.

So, we took the couch to the curb this weekend, much to Finn’s disappointment.IMG_6640

Then, we continued to try to teach Finn to sleep on his soft (and expensive) doggy bed. It’s the one he tried to eat 6 months ago, but will sometimes rest on for short amounts of time, when given a lot of praise.  Sometimes.

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At last, a little before Mother’s Day dinner, Finn did rest on his bed, after we covered it with his favorite blanket. (It used to be my favorite blanket, just saying.) But, then we got a wee bit distracted by dinner with my parents, and we might have left the dog in the family room with his bed a little bit too long.

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After watching us rake the family room (and sweep, and vacuum…Thanks, Mr. Thought), Finnegan decided he didn’t need any couches or beds, because he had our Ikea chair, and he had me to put a pillow under his head.

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So, I thought I had my slice about Finnegan, the crazy Puppy. Oh that puppy!

But then we took Finn to check out a doggy day care out in the country this afternoon. It was beautiful. A classic rolling hills farm:  green grass, blue sky, wonderful people. He ran around with a few dogs while we talked to the owner. The kids ran off with the owner’s kids to look at the kittens in the barn. Finn wasn’t annoyingly interested in the kittens — he just licked them hello and went on his merry way. Bucolic. Peaceful. Perfect.

And then he caught a rooster.

I watched in horror as he chased, then caught it in his mouth. “Oh, it’s just a rooster,” the woman said, highlighting the differences between my vegetarian family and her farm family. “He can kill the rooster.”

We tried to catch Finn, and the rooster did get a way, a few times. And then someone caught Finn, and the rooster walked slowly into the pasture. A pile of feathers was left behind.

“I’m so sorry!” I kept saying. My kids were wide eyed and her kids were smiling, “Oh, it’s okay. it happens all the time.”

“Does this get us kicked out of doggy daycare?” I asked.

She laughed and said, “No! When can he start?”

We met her husband and when I told him we were all vegetarian, he remarked, “Well Finn’s not!”

True. He’s not.

They thought the rooster would probably go off into the woods and die pretty soon.  I think the image of my sweet puppy running with a giant rooster in his mouth will not die soon enough.

Please, Finnegan, stick to killing couches and doggy beds.