Subliminal Messages: What we really are telling kids.

Jenn & John 108

Why do we adults avoid telling kids the truth?

I’m not talking about the “birds and the bees” at an inappropriate age. I’m thinking more about just telling them why things, that they don’t like, are good for them. I do it too. The little song and dance for vegetables. The demand that homework be done first, before play….”because I said so.”

Well, I have started telling the kids the “whys” and “why nots” more often. If they don’t, at first, understand my reasons…I’m going to keep at it until they do. Like eating vegetables, the plain truth can taste bad but we keep offering the vegetables, why not keep explaining?

My daughter, Ellen, surprised and pleased me yesterday. (BTW-She does it often.) Her daughter, Katherine, came home, from her first grade class, with valentines. One large red heart from the teacher was a “get-out-of 1 homework assignment” coupon.

Ellen grimaced. “I don’t like this.”

She was, in my opinion, exactly correct. What that coupon did was counteract the message that we’d worked to convey to Katherine. Homework is necessary. It helps you practice and remember your lessons and is the perfect gauge that measures if you really understood what is going on.

Instead, the message of homework as an optional drudgery, rang “clear as a bell”.

Ellen’s, advice to her daughter, was,”Let’s save this. You may be sick one day but I think, not using it , will bring you a reward. We’ll talk about the reward.”

We adults convey subliminal messages to kids with our reactions. I catch myself frequently and attempt not to do this.

I had remembered advice given by a dentist, who’d seen very many frightened kids coming for their first visits. He advised parents to never treat the dentist visit as “evil” with phrases like, “Sorry, but you have to go.” or “If you are very brave, we’ll get a treat after.” That stuck with me and I use that advice when I talk to kids about any subject. I listen to myself from the viewpoint of a child. Takes practice, and isn’t fool-proof, but advice worthy of sharing with all of you.


Kids are people too!

Katherine (age 6) was bewildered and frightened when asked not to get on her bus,as usual, yesterday. My daughter called her school and told them that Kat’s dad was going to pick her up for a change. Ellen specifically asked them to inform Katherine that her Daddy was coming.

The school office called Kat’s classroom and told her teacher to send Kat to the “walkers” exit. She was not to get on the bus. NO ONE TOLD KAT WHY. She was whimpering to herself until she saw her Dad. The change of plans without an explanation had her bewildered. THAT makes me angry!

It reminded me of my own experience the day President Kennedy was shot. I was just a little older than Katherine when I saw teachers congregating in our school hallway. They were crying. A voice came over the school intercom saying that we were all to go home immediately. This was almost an hour before ordinary dismissal. I ran home with my heart pounding and my eyes filled with tears. WHAT could be going on?

We had been schooled in the threat of nuclear attacks during the sixties and you can only imagine the possible scenarios that filled my head!

This is a post with a big message attached. Kids are people too! They are not mindless amoebas that litter a room. Tell them what’s going on you arrogant educators!

Whew…I feel better now. Have a nice day. 🙂

Big Kid Power

Not so long ago

I was just like you.

A little bit nervous

About what to do?

All was so different,

Kids everywhere.

I’d heard about bullies,

I hoped they weren’t there.

Some kids were shouting,

All of them tall,

I kept to myself

And walked down the hall.

One Big Kid stopped

And gave me a grin,

He walked me to class

And helped me get in.

Now on the first day

Of school ever year,

I look for a small one

With eyes full of fear.

I remember my moment

Now  I’m the Big Kid.

And pass on the kindness

That my Big Kid did.

Insides Out

You can’t listen without your ears ON.

The switch is under your chin.

It closes your mouth and opens your mind

And lets all the smarts come right in.

You can’t see if your eyes are closed.

I know, I tried this before.

There’s more to seeing than “meets the eye”

So look ’till those peepers are sore!

Your lips may move. Your breath comes out.

Talking is much more than sound.

Try not to mumble and wait for your turn

Or your thoughts may go “splat” on the ground.

Turn on those ears and open your eyes

And speak up but never shout.

 The whole you is awesome and deserves to be shared

Do let all your insides come out!

…walking home from school…

As I have mentioned previously, I grew up at the top of a hill. Only recently have I realized how cool that was. I can thank my location for strong legs and a fine appreciation for “catching a ride” once in a while.

We kids had a shortcut path that we chose to tread upon on our journey “to and from” school . Once we had more than 5″ of snow we were forced to take the “long way”. This trade-off for the shorter time revolved around a wooded path that a mountain goat might well avoid. Much of it was more than 45 degrees steep and had to be navigated by clinging onto young trees. On a few muddy days, I literally climbed it on hands and knees. The worst thing that could happen would be a notebook coming loose and sliding many yards back to the bottom! This brought tears to my eyes on a few occasions. I didn’t HAVE to struggle. There was no way to avoid a climb but following the roadway would have been many times easier and take easily 1/2 an hour longer.  Precious playtime was ticking away, after all. Besides, the shortcut challenge made “a man” out of me 🙂

Once I navigated the first, longest, steep course, there was a resting tree that afforded a seat. Even in my prime of 6 years old, I would be winded a bit. Now the cool part was where my house was located. My house was next to last on an upper level. From my house, I could easily see the lower “flat”. In between, was a gradual upgraded u-turn circling the road back parallel to itself.. Like I said, I lived on a hilltop.

An elderly couple lived on the level just below my house. One way to expedite my last leg was to cut through their yard and navigate one more steep climb. The only “fee” was to stop and accept a cookie and a brief friendly chat. Worked for me!

This final shortcut required hanging on to things also. It was no more than 50 feet but this one could separate the “men from the boys”, my friend. The gravel road side would have been insurmountable if it hadn’t been for one well placed telephone pole guide wire. The wire was necessary to keep that pole anchored against the grade of the terrain. The last few steps were similar to ascending the mast of a tall ship which happened to be made from loose marbles.

Made it! Whew!

Who needed gym class to stay fit. I just walked home along shortcuts 🙂

walking to school…

I woke up this morning revisiting my walks to school as a child. “Ahhh” I mused, this would make a beautiful blog post…BUT as my thoughts rolled along, they didn’t lay out in a tidy way but began to overlap. Soon, my mind became a busy train station of flash backs and I felt I had lost the single thread I wanted to talk about. So…here I am starting over with the images I woke up to and we’ll both discover where it takes me…

I grew up in a small mill town in Massachusetts. I still live there today. It is what locals call a “hill town”. It is nestled in the most beautiful place on earth known as the Berkshires. In the Berkshires, one lives on a hill or in the valley, that’s it. I lived on a dead-end street at the top of a “hill”.

I’ll talk about the tortuous uphill climb home from school  another time…for now it is all about the downhill walk to school.

The scene is exceptionally like that from To Kill a Mockingbird, except in colors bright. My favorite part of the 1/2 mile stroll was along Marion Avenue. I didn’t realize it at the time but that was where the rich folks lived. Ancient maple trees formed a tunnel as they held hands above the avenue. The side walks were familiar and riddled with frost heaves. Those heaves greeted me like old friends along the route. I felt I could have walked it with my eyes closed and never stub my toes.

You must ,by now, realize I have a romantic view of things in my memories. I kid you not,the next description it as accurate as I can muster without a photograph…

Trees held everything in place along my path. Even within a “stone’s throw” of the 3 story brick Brayton School, I was still in the forest. As I passed the final house (which had a white picket fence) I skipped downward toward a brook. Of course Autumn was the time for school so in my “mind’s eye” leaves danced along keeping pace with me. Their rustle a whisper to stop and play awhile.

A small wooden bridge, not easily visible from the street, kept the feet of school children dry across the brook. Then up a steep grade and under the most perfectly shaped maple tree of ALL. I remember it in full Autumn dress. It remained there, the first nature that  I touched on the way home and the last one who saw me right to the door in the morning.

There’s so much more to tell…another time…

School age kids and their dilemma…

The hard truth is the world is not made up of a fan club for each person. Kids learn that very early.

Yes, Mom and Dad think ALL their firsts are special but then they go off to school.

Lesson one:

Everything you do is not cute anymore.

Lesson two:

Most people you need to deal with do not love you.

Lesson three:

There’s nothing you can do to change lessons one and two.

The BIG question is: How can we prepare kids for the world?

Seems to me, some kids are naturally better at accepting the lessons. It is a horrid nightmare for parents of kids that refuse to “get it”. Parents are inclined to blame themselves. “She was overprotected!” “He was encouraged to think “outside of the box” too much.” She should have had some preschool preparation.”

Wish I had the answer. After observing kids for many years, I wish I could offer a solution. It is the luck of the draw when it comes to teachers. Parents can, and should, ask other parents about the teachers and make a decision. But, like in politics, sometimes we have to choose the lesser of two evils. I’ve met some exceptional teachers. Wish they all could line up for my kids and grand kids. That would make life easier BUT that does not train kids to adapt to difficult times and to rise above them.

I know enough about teachers to realize the happy face during parent conferences is not necessarily the one the kids see. The only recourse parents have is to be a presence in their teacher’s year. Sometimes a parent needs to be a total pain to ensure the teacher stays on his/her toes.

Most teachers are truly great…the awful ones can leave scars and listening to your kids is all you can do. By the way, “It’s all the teacher’s fault.” does not pass the stink test. Kid’s will say that if they think the parents want to hear it.

On the other hand, I feel sorry for teachers today. Classroom control went out the window with lawsuits. Often the teachers get no help from parents. It is the “marriage” of teachers and parents that make the learning experience work.

It stinks to have a teacher that you feel is inadequate! Second grade is a “one time” deal for your kid!

I was a great supporter of home schooling (at least for kids up to eight or nine years of age.) Now, I am not so sure. Better to learn lessons one,two and three early?

Anyway, I’ll keep puzzling over this and you keep an eye on the schools.

If the money followed each kid and the positive reports from parents, then it seems schools would have to compete to get their needs. Success should be rewarded and poor schools should fail and go unfunded. Bad teachers would be a liability the school could not afford to overlook.

If My Life Were a Movie

Only a few real friends and imagination.

This movie is my childhood in a nut shell.

(without the tragedy)

I always loved the outdoors and played endless pretend games…more often alone, on my grandparents’ farm and in the forest behind my childhood home. We built tree houses.

My favorite pretending place was the old west and my favorite character to “become” was Annie Oakley.

I did have a pony and spent hours racing and shooting a pop gun at imaginary enemies, my heart pounding with excitement going somewhere where most could not follow.

I still can detach from the moment and live in my mind.

Books are the perfect stairway but solitude in the forest has much the same affect.

No…I never wished to “fit in” but finding a friend,kindred spirit,

validates me and is so rewarding.

Even the “crushes” I would have on people who I felt inspired by, who understood just a bit more, was brought to mind by the relationship with the teacher AND art in that film.

The whole philosophy of this tale of love,loss and imagination is MY story too.

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What I Lost and Want Back

Go get ’em girls!

rachel # 10 fielding

Back in the day, I was a pretty good athlete. That was a time when women’s sports was in its infancy.

My particular talents were inspired by the “girls needed to be better than boys in order to play with them” concept. I was.

In sixth grade,the boys were short a “man” on the basketball court one day. I was asked to play. With my heart in my throat, I knew I needed to shine for the good of all girls. I kept up very nicely. The new found respect I received was intoxicating.

The male teachers must has been talking, after the fact,because I received quite a few thumbs-up in the hallway the next day.

By the time I was in 7 th grade, I had a bit of a reputation as a “girl jock”. The teachers were planning a teacher/boy football scrimmage and we were discussing it in Math class. Our Math teacher was also a boys coach. The question of the dimensions of a football field came up.Our own famed quarterback offered the answer of 100 yards X 53 yards. Oh boy! What a moment followed when I interjected the correct dimensions of 100 yards X 53 and one third yards.The Math teacher threw his chalk in the air while muttering,”Unbelievable.”

I went on to enjoy a High School career in field hockey, soccer and softball. We did not have uniforms or manicured playing fields but we were the first girls team to get one bus trip for a local scrimmage with the Williams College women’s team. It was a start.

Nowadays, women are respected in athletics.

I like to think it is ,in part, because of young women like myself from the 60s.

I do miss that thrill of victory and the physical agility that I once had. My hands are very arthritic now. I’d really love to shine once again!

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