#WorthRevisit: Booties and Diplomas

The story of a pregnant high-school senior who wasn’t allowed at her own graduation ceremony has been all over the news.

For many years I was a homebound tutor for several local school districts. I have plenty of experience with pregnant and postpartum high-school students.

I do enjoy the one-on-one work with a student who is too ill/injured/postpartum/pregnant/anxious/depressed to attend school. (Yes, I’ve had students in each of these categories–as well as a few discipline cases and a couple of malingerers.) There are students I’ve only taught for 2 weeks or so before they return to school. Most of them, I never hear about again.

Every once in a while I run into one of my students, who lived here in town and had a baby girl during her senior year of high school. I was paid to be her English tutor, but I also did a good bit of informal encouragement; this young mom was breastfeeding her daughter, keeping up with her classes, and handling quite a bit of the housework. She later married the father of her baby and they have another child as well; now she’s a stay-at-home mom, although she did work quite hard when her little girl was young, managing a Domino’s Pizza. Her resilience, determination and dedication served her and her family well, and it touches my heart that every so often, SHE recognizes ME. She is eager to tell me how things went for her family and I love to hear how well they are all doing.

I remember that student so well. I held her 10-day-old baby while this student took a test on Shakespeare. My student was mortified when the baby threw up all over my sweater; as I’d had several years of motherhood under my belt (and was wearing layers), I just shrugged off the sweater and went on with the test. She was from the same Catholic high school that all 3 of my kids attended (my youngest is a student there now).

There’s nothing magic about a faith-based high school that will make it immune from problems like drinking or drugs or bullying or teen pregnancy.

What is different about a faith-based high school is the way it should be supporting a teen in any of those situations. Support does not mean condoning their actions but it certainly means helping them accept the results of their actions with grace.

Audrey Assad observed on Twitter, “How many teen girls at that school will quietly get abortions because they watch how maddie’s being treated and talked about by the school?”

Moms who give birth and then go on to finish high school do not have it easy. Many times they have it even tougher at home than your average student, and the fact that they rise to the challenge of their circumstances is not grounds for punishment.

If we claim to be prolife, what do we do for high-school students like this one? Banning her from graduation is not the answer.

Not even close.
worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Advertisements

#WorthRevisit: Library Fun

Yesterday I was the Substitute Librarian, and substitute teaching is always an adventure, especially when you’ll be dealing with little kids.

After my stint in Morning Car Line I headed upstairs to discover that the librarian had filled the bookmark basket with an assortment of holy cards mixed with publishers’ postcards advertising children’s books. The overwhelming majority of the kids chose holy cards for their bookmarks, and there was much comparing of the pictures on those cards.

One first-grader displayed the Pope Benedict card he’d chosen and asked me to pronounce the name under the picture. Since these kids are only 6 or 7 and wouldn’t remember any pope besides Pope Francis, I explained that Pope Benedict was the pope before Pope Francis.

“I have a Pope Francis card!” another little boy bragged, waving a picture of Pope Benedict in the air.

“No, that’s Pope Benedict. Both of these pictures are Pope Benedict.”

“But this one is wearing red! He’s not the same one!”

Image sources: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr – Agência Brasil [1], CC BY 3.0 br, Link and [1]Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

It’s all about the random when you’re teaching. A few years ago, during Catholic Schools Week, I received a lovely packet of homemade cards thanking me for volunteering in the library.  Sentiments included:

“We are all very grateful for you donating your time for the school. You’re a very thoughtful person. As they say in Spanish, gracias!”

“It is a massive responsibility for you to go to the library every single Friday.”

“Every time you come on a Friday it makes me feel happy inside.”

“When you are supporting us we are supporting you.”

“I hope you are proud of yourself!”

“I am thankful because you could be doing something other than helping.”

“You are the greatest book stamper ever!”

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit: Parenting in Public

In two days, Tech Week starts at the high school. TheKid is playing Lord Farquaad in the school’s production of “Shrek,” his fourth time participating in the high-school musical–but his first time as an actual high-school student.

Tech Week at this school features Tech Week dinners, coordinated by a group of parents with themes and fun and a good (not fast-food) meal for the entire cast, crew, orchestra and directorial staff. This will be my 6th year helping out with these dinners.

Five years ago, I found myself parenting very publicly at one of these dinners. Cue soundtrack: “Walking on Broken Glass.”

"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Those windows at left rear? The broken glass in question. Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Little Brother’s not in the play this year, but he’s at Tech Week Dinners with me because there’s no one else at home to watch him at that time. This year, he’s the only grade-school kid there. He eats with the kids, his old buddies from his Munchkin days during Wizard of Oz last spring. He’s even made a few new friends among the students, including one young man who was kicking a soccer ball around with him outside the cafeteria after dinner tonight.

I was helping to put away the drink coolers when we heard a crash. Sure enough, that soccer ball had sailed through one of the cafeteria windows. And all the other parents were watching as I ran to the door, spied my son, and ordered, “Get in here.”

“Get in here,” I heard someone chuckle behind me. (Seriously? You’re going to laugh at me now?) Clearly I was on the stage, with an audience of more than 20 parents and grandparents who were clearly glad not to be in my shoes. So I took it outside, where my little boy and his soccer-playing buddy both assured me that my son wasn’t the guilty party. The young man who’d been playing soccer with him showed me his own feet, trying to convince me that Little Brother’s legs aren’t powerful enough to have kicked the ball through the window. After sending Little Brother to the car to put away the soccer ball, I took off my apron and started picking up the few shards of glass that had fallen outside the building. Did you know that aprons are good for picking up–and holding–broken glass, so you don’t cut your hands while you do that job?

The vice principal is also in charge of stage crew, so before long he was in the cafeteria talking to my son and the high-school boy. Again, lots of parents were watching as I told the vice principal that whether or not Little Brother had kicked it, he had been the one to bring the ball to the dinner, so he should share in the damages. The other student was trying to take all the blame upon himself, and I insisted (and will follow up) that we divide the bill for the glass replacement. Little Brother insisted that he would pay for it with his own money. While a custodian taped cardboard over the broken window, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. The parents wanted to know if I was OK.

Aside from a few bonus blood-pressure points, I was fine. Actually, I was impressed with the student who tried to deflect the blame from my child, willing to take all of it (including a financial penalty) on himself. I was more annoyed with the parents who said, “You shouldn’t have to pay for that. It’s a cost of doing business.” No. It’s not. My kid was playing soccer against the side of a building–in an area where there were windows. It was an accident waiting to happen and we’re all very lucky that no one got hurt. I was annoyed with myself for not stopping him sooner. I was annoyed with the parents who laughed at my initial reaction, which I found remarkably restrained, considering.

The soccer ball won’t be coming back to Tech Week Dinners. We will pay our half of the glass bill and Little Brother will have to contribute to that. And I can’t help but wish that the parents who seemed to think that Little Brother and I should let a teenage boy shoulder all the blame for this–and the ones who seemed to think that neither soccer player was at fault at all–had taken a page from that teenager’s script.

We parents have our work on display at all times, every time our child leaves the house for the day at school. “By their fruits you shall know them,” after all. I hope that Little Brother learned a lesson or two tonight. I don’t know if the Play Parents did. And if I ever get to meet the parents of a certain teenager, I’ll be sure to tell them that they can be very proud of their son, who politely and immediately claimed and accepted responsibility for his role (and more than his role) in the breaking of that window.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

For the One in this Room Who Needs It Most

I learned the Morning Offering my sophomore year in high school. (It was only my 5th year in a Catholic school, so I still had a long way to go to catch up on things like that.)

The room was quiet. Heads were bowed, eyes were closed and hands were folded as we sat at our desks for morning prayers before beginning class.

My homeroom teacher, Sr. Lucille Marie, would add at the end of the prayer, “And for the one in this room who needs it most today.”

Sometimes, the silence would be broken as a student (or several) whispered, “Me.”

All these years later, I still remember those whispers.

I remember those girls who projected all the confidence in the world every other minute of the day, but who let down their shields for that one moment when they could anonymously admit that they were in need of prayer.

You don’t have to be in a classroom to pray this prayer. You can pray it for the people in your home. You can pray it for the people standing in line with you at the supermarket. You can pray it for people driving ahead of you and behind you on the highway.

Where two or three are gathered, you can pray this prayer:

For the one in this room who needs it most, I pray.

God knows what they need. He can take it from there.

"For the one in this room who needs it most" at Franciscanmom.com
Image via Pixabay (2016), CCO Public Domain. Text added in PicMonkey.

###

This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

"Write 31 Days" logo from write31days.com. (@franciscanmom)
Logo via Write31Days.com. All rights reserved.

Small Success: Summer’s End

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

At long last, summer is over and everyone is back in school. TheKid had his high-school orientation day yesterday. They toured the school, got their school-issued tablet PCs, learned about their options for extracurricular activities, had a picnic lunch, went to Mass and had pictures taken.

luke-underwhelmed-first-day-hs-09072016
“Mom, do you REALLY have to take my picture?”

He was out of bed before Barry Gibb got to the part in “Tragedy” where he sounds like he’s being tased (this song is the current musical torture device I’m using to wake him up.)

And he made the bus.

luke-ignores-me-at-bus-stop-09072016
He’s too old to acknowledge my presence at the bus stop.

This is only the second time in 9 years that the bus (provided by the local public-school district) has actually showed up on the first day of school. I didn’t have to call the transportation office and pester them about why there was no bus.

Tuesday he had a soccer game, and I drove 45 minutes to the hosting school only to discover when I got there that their athletic fields are 2 miles away from the school. That wasn’t fun. I have a plan in place now to double-check all soccer-game directions by visiting the host school’s website. And scrolling all the way to the bottom of the very long home page, because that’s where they hide this information.

I don’t know what most parents do about going to their kids’ games. I never made it to too many games or track meets for the older kids, because TheKid was in grade school that dismissed at 3 and he wasn’t home until at least 3:35. We went to the local games and home games, but that was it. They’ll probably complain that it’s not fair that I go to all his games now. Honestly, driving an hour each way to a game (like I’ll do today) and sitting outside for over an hour in 95-degree weather (like I’ll do today) isn’t super high on my list of fun things to do.

But I’m worried (maybe needlessly, but I worry) that TheKid will have a blood-sugar issue during a game, and the coach might not be ready to handle that. The parents’ meeting the other night didn’t help reassure me on this matter–the varsity coach told parents that if our child is injured at a game or practice, he should see the trainer before we take him to a doctor. Well, that’s fine if it’s a home game, but if the game is an hour away (like today’s game) and the trainer is gone by the time the team bus returns to school, I’m not going to wait until after school tomorrow to get the trainer’s opinion on whether my injured child needs medical attention–just because the trainer will “make sure the players get back on the field quickly and doctors make them wait weeks to return.” I feel like we were being told that the athletes’ health is less of a priority than a winning record. Maybe that’s not the case, but that’s how I interpreted it.

So I struggled about deciding to make it a priority to attend the games. Right now, for my own peace of mind, I’ll drive the hour and sit in the heat and be there, checking that glucose-monitor app and just keeping an eye on my kid. Once the game is over and I know that all is well, I’ll leave in my car, because he has to stay and watch the end of the varsity game and then ride the team bus home.

In other news, I have a couple of articles up at CatholicMom this week that you might like:

seven riddles to nowhere

Book Notes Goes to Middle School: 7 Riddles to Nowhere

Intercessory Prayer gets behind the wheel.png

Intercessory Prayer Gets Behind the Wheel
Small Success dark blue outline 800x800
Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

#WorthRevisit: What I Like about His School

Yesterday I vented on Facebook because I had to print (again) and sign (again) the technology-use agreement and tablet PC contract for TheKid’s school. I say “again” because I know I printed and signed those and hand-delivered them to school on registration day.

9 years ago the school went “paperless,” so the irony here does not escape me.

But as the conversation turned toward how long it takes me to write my last name on all these forms, I remembered an episode during Big Brother’s senior year that exemplifies the best about this school and the people who study and work there.

I wish this were still the school's slogan.
I wish this were still the school’s slogan.

Big Brother traveled to Mississippi with a cold and came back with airplane ear. So today I made a doctor appointment for him; this way he won’t have to suffer through the weekend. The plan was, I’d pick him up at school to sign him out at 11:30. He wouldn’t miss much class time that way.

The phone rang at 10:45; it was one of Big Brother’s former teachers. She wanted to let me know that Big Brother had fainted during Mass, and that an ambulance had been called.

YIKES!

We only live 5 minutes away from the school, and I explained that I was taking Big Brother to the doctor today anyway. Did he have to go to the ER? The teacher passed the phone to the principal, who promised to hold the ambulance until I got there.

Let me tell you, it’s pretty freaky to run out your front door and hear sirens that you know are responding to your child’s medical emergency–and that will get there before you do. Naturally, I hit both red lights on the way to the school, but once I was in the school’s long, narrow, winding back driveway, I set a new land-speed record (42 MPH in a 15-MPH zone, in the van. Usually my top speed is 37 in TheDad’s zippy little sedan.) Let’s just say it was a good thing that the police officers were already inside the school and not following me up that back driveway.

Running into the building, I was met by the principal, vice principal, several teachers and other staff members, some police officers and a paramedic–and a very pale Big Brother in a wheelchair. His worried-looking girlfriend was also in the hallway. I explained to the paramedic that Big Brother had a medical appointment in an hour, and signed the release form. Big Brother’s girlfriend headed to his locker to get the books he needed for the weekend. His English teacher teased him about going to great lengths to avoid the vocabulary test scheduled in her class later that morning. The priest exited the auditorium and spoke with Big Brother, making sure that he hadn’t scared him when he anointed him after his fainting spell.

I’m thankful that the doctor thinks Big Brother will be just fine; he was a bit dehydrated and has bronchitis. A Z-pack and plenty of fluids will get him past that. I’m thankful for the priest who took the time to anoint Big Brother and to stop by and see him after Mass. I’m thankful for the vice-principal who walked us to the van, just to make sure Big Brother was steady on his feet. I’m thankful for the teacher who called the house just after we got home, because students in her homeroom were worried, and for the teacher who told me to send her a text message after the doctor visit, because she was worried. I’m thankful for all the kids who texted Big Brother throughout the afternoon, checking up on him.

What I didn’t mention in that post was that when the ambulance crew got to school, they asked my son his name as part of their routine evaluation. A teacher told me after I arrived that my son’s response had the EMTs thinking they had a concussion victim on their hands; she had to assure them that this really is how our last name is spelled.

TheKid had his first soccer scrimmage yesterday, as a freshman at the same school. His coach was trying to get his attention while he was on the field and mispronouncing his last name badly; TheKid wasn’t ignoring the coach–he just didn’t think he was the one the coach was yelling at.

TheKid and his crazy-long last name are just beginning to make their way in this school. Mispronunciations and lost paperwork aside, I know it’s a good place. I know, even though they don’t use this slogan anymore, that he belongs there.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit: An Act of Will

From deep in the archives–ten years ago:

Last week I read on Happy Catholic that “sorrow is an act of the will, not of feeling.”

I was chewing on that all week long, it seems.

Last night I had a very odd dream. At the end, I was sitting at a picnic table with a priest who was my pastor until 4 1/2 years ago, when we changed parishes after a series of events that left us angry, confused and heartbroken. And we felt that the pastor was doing nothing about it, and didn’t care.

In my dream last night I told this priest, “I’m still angry.” And he answered, “I know.” And THEN I said, “I wonder if anger is like sorrow–an act of the will?”

After 4 1/2 years, I think it is. We’re back at that parish now, with a different pastor, and that has been very healing to us. But there’s still some anger there, obviously. Why do I still hang on to that?

Ten years later, I have to admit I’m still hanging on to some of that anger, that feeling of betrayal.

Holding on to a grudge? Clearly, it’s my superpower–and not just in this situation. It’s not a good superpower to have, either. I have yet to find a way to use my ability to hold a grudge for good.

If holding on to anger is an act of the will, so is letting go. That’s what I need to focus on.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit: Kindergarten, Harvard and the Arts

As my youngest child graduates from 8th grade tomorrow, I was looking back in the archives for mentions of kindergarten. I thought about sharing some funny stories from TheKid’s kindergarten days–but then I caught sight of this, which brings to mind how grateful I am that TheKid has had more than his share of opportunities to participate in the arts right along with academics. From April 2014:

There’s outrage all over the Internet right now over the cancellation of a kindergarten student performance because it would take away instructional time needed for the kids to become “college- and career-ready.”

I’d like to join my voice to the disagreement with the school administration; I’m all about encouraging students to participate in the arts. But I take issue with what a lot of people are saying:

“KINDERGARTNERS ARE GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE?”

Well, yes. Yes, they are. That’s why the arts, and recess, and physical education are so important. College is not all about performance on the SAT or ACT. It’s about using your knowledge, skills, abilities and interests to learn even more.

I had a school principal tell me once that kindergarten students are not preparing for college. That was in response to my concern that my daughter and her classmates were not being taught at all for an entire month while the kindergarten teacher was caring for a terminally-ill parent and the school failed to provide substitute teachers. Instead, whatever grownup (or, in some cases, eighth-grade girl) was available for the next half-hour would babysit the kids. They watched movies and played all day for a month.

Because the principal would not take calls from kindergarten parents and the situation was never addressed, we removed our daughter from that school. Suddenly the principal had time for a meeting with me, in the form of an exit interview. She defended her decision not to provide the class with a substitute teacher by telling me, “It’s kindergarten. It’s not like we’re getting them ready for Harvard.”

Not surprisingly, that school only lasted two more years before closing due to lack of enrollment. Here’s what the school looked like the last time I saw it.

wpid-0112141301b.jpg

Schools do need to find a good balance between instructional time, play time, physical activity and the arts–on every level of education. Emphasizing one of these at the expense of the others is disastrous for the students and does no service to society.

Yes; kindergarten students are preparing for college–maybe even Harvard. They do this by learning reading-readiness skills, counting and doing simple math, looking at the clouds in the sky, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk on the playground, practicing music for a show, and perfecting their kickball skills. It’s all important, and good teachers and principals are needed to keep it all going and support that learning. Like the building blocks the kindergartners use to make towers and castles, the skills the children practice as five-year-olds lay the foundation of the work they’ll do later.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Exception to the Rule

I’m a Rule-Follower from way back. And nothing drives me crazier than people who think that the rules apply to everyone but them.

It would make me nuts when I was substitute-teaching: parents who’d send in notes asking for their children to be excused from homework because they had baseball practice, or who couldn’t be bothered following the car-line procedures (those are Safety Rules, people…), or kids who who’d mow others down in order to be first in line–as if being first to get to an assigned seat in the cafeteria makes any difference at all. I’m not a fan of the Entitled Generation.

Breaking the rules doesn’t come easy to me, so it was a hard pill to swallow this morning when I sent an email to TheKid’s teachers asking for an exception to a school policy.

Diabetes technology is ever-changing, and the newest incarnation of the continuous glucose monitor TheKid is using sends data straight to a smartphone. That means he’d need to be checking his phone several times during the school day: before lunch or snack, and any time there was an alert of an out-of-range blood sugar level.

TheKid’s school has a very strict policy regarding personal technology, including cell phones, for students: you can’t use it in school. I’ve always supported this policy, as a parent and as a substitute teacher. And today I had to explain to TheKid’s teachers why he’ll be using his iPhone in school.

This is the whole reason TheKid even has an iPhone. It gives him freedom–and it gives him data that helps him (and us) make decisions about how much insulin to take for a meal or snack or to correct a high blood sugar.

Having diabetes has required TheKid to exercise a huge amount of self-control. He can’t just grab a handful of potato chips out of a bag at a party. He has to consider how many carbs are in those chips and what his blood sugar is right now. He has to pause and dose insulin through his pump.

Now he’ll be required to exercise self-control in a new way. He’ll be bringing his iPhone to classes in his pocket, and he’ll need to check it. We’ll have to trust that he’ll only be using his iPhone to check his blood sugar.

Because kids are kids, and kids test limits, and I get that, I sent TheKid’s teachers a graphic that shows the app he’ll be using:

Courtesy of Dexcom.com
Courtesy of Dexcom.com

If a teacher sees him using his phone for other purposes, I’ve asked them to contact me. The usual school policy is to confiscate a phone immediately and return it only to a parent. That’s not going to work here, because TheKid’s phone is actually medical equipment. But if he’s caught using his phone for non-diabetic reasons, Hubs and I will need to deal with that at home, and in cooperation with the teacher.

I received gracious responses from TheKid’s teachers and the school principal, and I’m ever grateful for the support and concern we’ve experienced from the school ever since TheKid’s diagnosis. I am trusting TheKid to resist temptation as he’s done in so many other ways. We’re not breaking or bending the school’s technology rules for our own convenience or vanity or for some other self-serving purpose. I just keep having to tell that to the rule-follower in me.

It’s just a sneeze: hold the trigger warning

Last night as I was getting dinner ready to serve, I turned around and sneezed (away from the food. You’re welcome.)

“GOD bless you,” TheKid said to me. Then he continued, “Some of my friends have this teacher who’s an atheist, and they’re not allowed to say ‘God bless you’ in class when someone sneezes.”

Apparently any mention of the word “God” in this classroom makes the teacher upset.

“Are there consequences?” I wondered.

“Well, I know the teacher yells at them. So they say the ‘God’ part really loud. Like this: GOD bless you,” TheKid told me.It's just a sneeze

If the only thing that’s happening when the students mention God in class is that the teacher yells at them, then it’s a good thing that this is one ineffective teacher.

But what happens when an effective teacher, an influential teacher, decides that it’s OK to deny students the right to mention the word “God” when someone sneezes?

What happens when the school administration supports some teacher’s (or student’s) “right” not to have to even hear mention of the word “God”?

Are we really to believe that, for atheist teachers in public schools, the word “God” requires a trigger warning?

And are the students’ parents good with this? Or don’t they know that, for 45 minutes per day, one person’s desire not to hear a certain word mentioned trumps the free-speech rights of 25 others?

Image credit: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain. Modified in Canva by the author.