Homeroom Teacher Knows Best!

While I pride myself in running an efficient and persistent Mommy School, I have also made peace with the notion that, “Homeroom Teacher Knows Best,” in Child of Mine’s word. No, he has not said that to me directly; he has made me aware, just about each time I labor to teach and work with him on academic learning.

I understand that Child of Mine [who I prefer to call COM] is not unique in his thinking.

My mother says, “What goes around, comes around.”

OR, as I would say, “The apple” and “the tree,” are geographical neighbors.”

Put more crudely, Every dog has its own day!

Karma is, indeed, a female dog!

Very often, while helping out with school assignments, it is not uncommon for COM to tell me, “But my teacher said….” OR “My teacher does…” I have learned not to fight it outright, but try to influence and expand his thinking and conceptualization beyond what and how he learned from his homeroom teacher.

It does not help that I did not obtain my early schooling here in the United States, but in a totally different education system in far-flung places across the big pond. Uganda, my country of origin and a former colony of Her Majesty, imitated the British education system. The formalized national education system was initiated by European missionaries, predominantly British missionaries, later supported by the British colonial government in pre-independence Uganda. Everything, including phonics and phonetics, mathematical problems and sounds, are taught and conceptualized differently from the American education system.

So, I signed up to become a Substitute Teacher in the K-12 school system, to gain a deeper practical insight into the US education system. Hitherto, my teaching experience in the US was limited to college and graduate schools. I had vehemently sworn off teaching “children,” from Pre-K to 12. I was comfortable to appear in such classrooms as a guest parent or guest instructor, but not command an entire classroom as the sole teacher.

That all changed, when COM became of school-going age, and returned to America, after three years living and studying abroad. Well, he still went to school in all three locations we lived: Norway, South Africa and Uganda, and I enthusiastically participated in his learning and academic schooling.

Perhaps not too actively, but I participated in “guest parent programs,” to read to his classmates, fundraised for donation of books and medical instruments, and never missed a parent-teacher conference, or an opportunity to share my opinions on the school curriculum or learning environment.

And just in case he forgets, “All your other teachers come and go, but mommy will always be your main teacher,” so I tell him. Yes, COM has heard me telling him a couple of times, that I was his first teacher, and will always be his most consistent teacher. Evidentially, since we part ways with teachers, whenever he moves geographically, or up another grade.

Moreover, I would like him to accept my engagement in his learning, and understand that schooling does not only belong to “structured classroom buildings”. He now knows that, Mommy School does not close, even on snow days, when there are security concerns in the school district, or on national holidays. Most importantly, Mommy School exists to reinforce what he learns at his general school, and because mommy went through elementary school.

Fortunately, signing up as a Substitute Teacher in the school district has proven strategically empowering to myself, and reassuring to COM. He realizes now that, perhaps mommy knows something about my classroom activities and assignments.

“My mom is a teacher, too,” he often boasts to his homeroom teachers.

I am cautioned, by fellow moms and friends that, he is still at that age, where he is not ashamed of his mommy teaching at his school, hugging mommy in the school lobbies or kissing mommy as he gets on and off the school bus. And I am loving it! Until the day it unravels!

Still, mommy is yet to win the battle of Who is Smarter than the Homeroom Teacher? Not that we are actively fighting to overtake the ‘super-know-it-all’ homeroom teacher(s); I am in full support and enhance the homeroom teacher(s), in true PTO spirit – Parent Teachers Organizations.

Teachers appreciate parents who are supportive, participate in their classroom activities, and engaged with their children’s homework. Not so sure whether COM feels me like his homeroom teacher(s); sometime — maybe; all the time — mommy don’t know it all!

Take for instance yesterday, when COM was doing his ELA assignment on  “Vowel Team”. The instructions required to, “Write words: sweet, sleep, meet, sheep and more — breaking them up into syllables, then underlining the phonic pattern.” COM on First in Math

He said he had to “syllable loop,” by breaking the sounds independently. I explained that the assignment required him to break words into syllables….and to me…they were all single syllable words. He got frustrated that I was using the word “break,” not “loop”,his choice word. I told him, I was reading the words, per teacher’s written instructions. Him and I went back and forth, asking him to say out the words and hear the syllables. He insisted there were more than one syllable, three in some cases!

I suggested to him, to write his way, then hand in his homework, and wait for the teacher’s feedback tomorrow. I told [bribed] him that, if I had to do his assignment, I would ‘loop’ each words into a single syllable! He became more frustrated. I suggested that we consult the online syllable dictionary. Each word had “one syllable”. Still, not fully convinced!

Thankfully, he and I come from families of teachers; both his grandmothers — my mom and his dad’s mom are teachers. Thankfully, daddy-grandma was listening in. She suggested, similar to what I had read online, “Clap the word and make out the syllable(s).” That he did, and it was “one syllable.” I asked him to clap the word “Purple”; that was two syllables. Phew!

At last, mommy seems to be getting somewhere! Maybe she knows something about homeroom teacher’s assignments; and can be respected and trusted to help out! We still working on it. Until then, surely the Homeroom Teacher Knows Best!

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We All Have Prejudices, We just Don’t Admit or Know It!

Recently during my son’s Tae-Kwon-Do class, I had a conversation with the other Tae-Kwon mom. Only my son and his kid showed up for class. As is usually the case on Friday, most kids/parents take off the day. I loved Friday Tae-Kwon-Do classes because we get full monopoly of the teacher, when only a few of us show up! My son gets to sharpen up more on our skills. Hopefully, I too, can start Tae-Kwon-Do classes next year, Ensh’allah!
N’way, the Tae-Kwon-Do mom has a three-month old brand new baby. Gorgeous! Of course, we wandered into “baby talk”; what else is expected of mommies smitten with new babies! She told me, baby does not latch on the boobie, so she expresses most of the time and put her on the bottle, while still trying to get her some “boobie time”.
Which reminded me of the “New Moms Classes” I attended at the hospital where I had my baby. All we did was hangout in a room with other new mommies, and exchange “joys and nightmares” our new little humans were bringing unto us. It was a great way to get out of the house, expand your social network, while getting useful tips on parenting, child care and new baby deals. Sometimes, we invited each other out to potlucks in our homes or for a group stroll in the park with our babies.
Personally, I got much more than dinner and a stroll in the park. It was my first face to face with babies who could not latch onto boobies, and mothers who honestly need help with breastfeeding their babies. I must admit, hitherto, I had my prejudices toward women who said they had trouble breastfeeding their new ones. I assumed those were “white people problems” or “lazy mothers excuses” or mothers trying to find excuses not to breastfeed their babies. True, I had heard some expectant mothers in my prenatal classes say that they were not planning to breastfeed because they did not want their breasts to sag. Or that their breasts were for their men!
Don’t we all have prejudices, anyway? Many we hate to admit or are not aware of, as my case illustrates! Think about Charlie Hebdo Cartoons, Race in America, Abilities, Disabilities and Satire, which are all heated debates within the global public.
Back to breastfeeding, that was never a concern I personally encountered growing up or as a new mother. I was breastfed, and all of my siblings. Growing up as the youngest girl in my family, all my sisters [except one] had children before me. All breastfeed their children, except my eldest sister, who barely breastfed her first child, as she had to return to college to sit her examinations. I do not recall any any of my sisters complaining about “difficulty breastfeeding” or “baby latching on”, including my sister who had her first child at fifteen. It all appeared simple and natural! When my turn came around as a new mother, at no point did I experience difficult, pain nor baby failing to latch on. In fact my child latched on soon as he was handed to me to breastfeed in the delivery room. He never at anyone time failed to find that boobie, in darkness or sunlight, sleepy or awake, tired or relaxed! He was an “A+ trooper” at breastfeeding!
But not all my new mom friends had the same fortune with their little ones. Some had nipple issues, others complained about babies bitting them or disinterested. My Tae-Kwon-Do mom friend said her daughter latched on early postpartum, subsequently sliding off and showing disinterest in the breast. Not a fan of substituting with formula, she is expressing her milk and bottle-feeding, while continuing to keep her interested in “boobie time”. Bless her heart!
Similarly, if you grow up around people who look like you, it could be hard not to take life for granted. If every child in you know of found the breast even in the dark and breasted till s/he weaned self off, learned to sit, crawl, walk and talk and hit all other development milestones on time, walked on two legs, had no stutter, eat, played and slept just fine, that is your truth. It is easy to take those abilities for granted, without recognizing, as I increasingly learn, that many kids are born with autism, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell Anaemia, epilepsy, and many other developmental delays. If these kids are raised outside “mainstream society”, denied a chance into formal schooling, or segregated into own classrooms, it is easy not to acknowledge their existence or special needs. Though, my experience working in Special Needs classrooms has opened me to the advantages of providing “specialized spaces”, where they can freely express themselves without the encumbrances imposed by ‘normal’ societal expectations, demands and humiliation!
And, bless the hearts of those who do not see race as a problem in America! While there are outright racists, some are simply blind to their racist actions, reactions, thoughts or tendencies, until it hits close to heart. Recent wave of police killing of unarmed black men have further highlighted the divide in understanding and acknowledging racism in America. There is a section of folks who argue that such incidences would not have happened, if #MichaelBrown did not rob a convenience store or confront the police, #EricGarner was not illegally selling cigarettes on the streets or that 12-year old TamirRice was not wielding a toy gun in a public park.
Yet, Eric Garner was not resisting arrest when the NYPD chocked him to death on July 17, 2014 on Staten Island. Let’s talk about 17-year old ’skitties-weilding’ #TrayvonMartin, shot and killed by Michael Zimmerman or #JordanDavis killed by Michael Dunn over loud rap music, both killers self-appointed vigilantes exercising their Florida state-given right to #standyourground.
Haven’t we heard white folks bearing arms openly, then arguing with the police, walk away without being hit to the grown, detained or shot at? While, #MarcusJeter did not resist arrest, when New Jersey cops swerved into his SUV, causing him to hit his head on the steering wheel, assaulted him physically and verbally, lied about him trying to steal their gun, then turned around to charge him with eluding police, resisting arrest and aggravated assault on an officer.  No!
 
So, No! #Blacklivesdontmatter! Nor does Satire speak one universal language! Manufacturing concern about the wellbeing of the most vulnerable, marginalized and underrepresented in our society, from everybody will always be an uphill battle and insurmountable, because we as a people will never be offended by the same thing at the same time. Hate speech is as relative as freedom of expression or freedom of speech. Not everyone is or will ever be CharlieHebdo or AmedyCoulibaly at the same time. In fact, some will never be either, because both feet are not in the same place at the same time. So, whereas the Swedes interviewed on the streets for their reaction to Charlie Hebdo cartoons may excuse the caricature of other people’s eminent personalities as part of life’s opportunities to laugh off, I suspect they may not LOL [Laugh Out Loud] when the subject of caricature is their mother, father, other loved one of themselves.
Perhaps if we acknowledged our prejudices, recognized that we do not know it all, and opened ourselves to learn, reflect and internalize beyond our comfort zone, the world might start to become a better place.

Re-testing my Mental Stamina

I am re-experimenting with my mental stamina. I am sure you are surprised that I say, “I am re-testing my mental stamina!” Especially if you know me, since I am always testing oneself. After all, my running routines are always a mental test; going out for five miles, and coming back 20 miles later! Running in single digit temperatures, after a snowstorm and the hottest of summer. Even my family balancing acts are a mental test with the relations involved, the activities I engaged in, the people I am around and my commitment to super-excellence for my son [who, bless his soul!] sometimes I think I am demanding too much of him😘).

Anyway, this experiment, which is now a day old, going on two today is not exactly new in my life. Though it has been a while since I did and kept to it with perfection. That was when my child was a toddler, and I had more flexibility, and more support managing and caring for him. I did not have the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, bathing and caring for me. I had family to support (that time I lived in Uganda). I had people who really cared and supported me, and I could genuinely count on!

Right now, I am the father and mother and grandma and cousin. I am the unassisted and overwhelmed jack-of-all-trade! At a time when my geographical, economic and social spaces are completely weighing down my emotional, mental and physical stability. I am very good at shrugging off visible pains and agony in the public, trying not to hang personal linen out in the public.

For my own sanity, and to spare my son and my family’s name. I use mental health to dissuade myself from going crazy, bitter or tumble into a permanent wreck. I will go on a run to recover from a slump, to clear my mind and break anew. To remove myself from a situation or from peoples causing sadness and grief to me, and to feel good about myself. In sum, I run for fun, to feel wild, free, young, liberated and centered. I consciously avoid self-labeling as “depressed”, to avoid getting trapped into any such a situation. Yet, I cannot stop myself from self-labeling as, “flabby and nasty looking”, if that is how I feel, increasingly more and more.

I went through a]nother] life transformation last year, to live a life [again] for my son. Of course change is not always desirable or positive. Certain change is painful!, extremely painful! Particularly, one that causes loss of all safety-nets, and increases chances of dependence, vulnerability and shame. Story of my life. So, for the last year, I have transfigured, stuck in the mud and tasted lots of bitter tomatoes. All that packaged in a “nutty professor suit”, and increasingly weighing me down and under! I am trying to get myself out of the ditch, using my very best adornment – mental willpower. Hopefully, I will succeed in fighting off all the temptations.

Yesterday, Tuesday, October 28 was the first full day of the beginning of a re-experimenting on myself. Mission accomplished! I did not feel any special cravings or uncontrollable desires, surprisingly! And yes, I had to run my childcare shift: pick up from school bus, to Taekwon-do/Taekwondo class, then back home. I felt quite weak and tired throughout the day, but did not have the opportunity to take a nap. Yes! I also dosed off while typing up these notes, and fell asleep again in Taekwondo class. Good thing, I woke up in time to drive back home. Did good on that.

Homework had to be done, and dinner prepared. Too low on sugar, but mission accomplished. I literally could not stand anything or anyone. But drank water and stayed the course. Hopefully, this is doable for many more days! I wanna try 20, couple of many days. We’ll see how it goes. Otherwise, Day Two (Wednesday, October 29) is going  much better. I am still going on #Teamu20days challenge. 

In Defense of the “Word Value of Time”: From a Soccer Mom

Big BenFotorMy friend Simon Kaheru (http://skaheru.wordpress.com) recently blogged about “the real value of time vs. the word value of time” following his business trip to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. In Amsterdam, Simon fell in love with the abundance of “the real value of time”, where business meetings start on scheduled time, phone calls happen on time, and trains also run on schedule. A two-minutes train delay would be announced by the rail station attendant! He contrasted that with “the word value of time”, typical within Ugandan society, which largely swears by “Ugandan Time”. He argues that appointments are verbally agree to, with never the intention of honoring them because time is relative, no apologies for tardiness, as one is “better later than never”, is the popular saying!

I feel for all the sentiments Simon expressed! Though my comment to Simon was, come to America….with plenty of versions of Uganda, especially with public transportation..which is now creeping into some people’s time management skills!

I have had my share of fights with “Ugandan time”: tardiness makes me mad; time keeping makes my heart jump with happiness! I strongly believe that anyone who fails to show up per schedule appointment shows a lack of respect for their party. It is simply rude! I have walked away from meetings venues, when the other party did not show up on time. I once left my sister in the bank without notifying her, after waiting over two hours for my mother to show up to open a family bank account. I refused to return when they called me back.

I get enervated being the first to show up for meetings, or parties or other events, waiting around for thirty-minutes, one hour, three hours, five hours before more people show up and the event to ultimately start. Which is why I loathe formal events, particularly (no offense) organized by peoples of Ugandans, Africans, Blacks or colored! I remember one time while visiting my sister in Atlanta with my ex, she invited us to attend a  dinner party with her at a Ugandan friend’s house. The dinner was scheduled to start at eight O’clock in the evening, but by eight, we were still at her house, an hour’s drive to destination. Ten, still at my sister’s house, as she kept picking out what to wear. She assured us that that the party had not began, so at eleven o’clock we set off. True to her word, we arrived past midnight, right about when the party had just started!

Poor time management is beyond “Ugandan time”, it is ‘conveniently’ embedded in several African countries as “African time”, among Blacks people in America as “Black People’s Time” and people of color as “Colored People’s Time” or CPT.  Yes, it has even invaded our public service system here in America, where services in some public offices start sluggishly, and buses and trains in many big cities never run on time, including in the fast-and-furious “Big Apple”. Yet, we do not always get a courtesy apology or  “announcement of a delay”!

On my part, I must confess that, “the real value of time” keeper was me, some six years ago, a luxury I do not seem capable of affording since becoming a soccer mother. No! I am not going to blame it on my son, but it has a lot to do with him and the society in which I live, into which I am sometimes co-opted.

So, how did I cross to “the word value of time” people? While I not permanent there, I find myself cornered in by friends or my household. Those who know me will tell you that I pretty much run my son’s life on schedule. Dinner is served at six o’clock, then comes bathroom time with reading and brushing, child off to bed at seven o’clock, latest seven-thirty after sharing a bedtime. I would like him to have as much sleep as possible!

Not anymore! My time management skills have changed since I had my child. All his birthday parties have started later than my scheduled time, with guests showing up earlier than the hostess! Until child turned one year, I arrived late at literally every scheduled appointment because he would start popping just as we were getting ready to head out of the house. He had constipation, which meant another fifteen to thirty minutes of helping him push! From the one who always left for the airport two-and-a-half hours in advance, to avoid any mishap, I missed my first flight in life on a trip to South Africa in 2009 with my then fifteen month old child. We got to the airport check-in desk shortly after the baggage desk had closed because I was packing till the last minute; six suitcases, only one of which was mine!

Lately, Simon’s detestation for “the word value of time” comes glaring at me surreal, as I go about my “soccer mom” lifestyle. Child is now six and in first grade with more activities. Going to bed at seven in the evening is increasingly a luxury, with the changing school and after-school demands. I have enrolled him in both Karate class with a three days per week commitment, and in Cub Scout five days a month. Plus, now he has homework to return to school every morning and other class projects. And he still wants to have a snack, when he comes home from school, before he sits down to do his homework, with spare playtime before dinner is served. With our new routine, after-school is: snack in the car, Karate class, dinner in the car, daily homework to be submitted the next day, dinner, bathroom time, bedtime story and goodnight!:(
Amidst all of this, adhering to my sworn commitment to “the real value of time” is a luxury I seem incapable of affording, anymore. I wish I could! Now, I plan on leaving the house not at the hour but between time periods – between 6:00p and 6:30p, leaving a margin of error so that I do not go crazy over myself. A couple of times when I am running late, I have had to call up people I am meeting to apologize and ask for extra time or reschedule. Sometimes even when it seems we are doing great with time, with a projected extra fifteen minutes before our usual time to catch the school bus, we find ourselves running out of the house three minutes to the bus arrival. Thankfully, my son loves running, helping me warm up for my morning run. Sometimes we miss the bus, like happened today, and I have to keep breathing in, to avoid berating child or mourning about missing the bus.

With all the activities lined up each week, I worry that child will get overwhelmed and won’t get enough sleep in the night. Perhaps my consolation is, yes! I still make it on time to most official appointments, to our doctor’s appointments before time, child has not been late to school, and I am getting just about the entire “to-do” list accomplished. Still I think “the real value of time”, as “standard time” for social and business etiquette was created by a man, clueless about “The Surreal Life of a Soccer Mom”.