Sunday, 28 April 2013

"Oh, you'll never see them again" and other LIES

"You'll never see them again" is the only lie I'm actually going to address at present, but it is the LYING-EST LIE, so I do feel it deserves my full attention... and yours.

All those times people say, oh-so-reassuringly, "Relax, you'll never see any of these people again," they are lying to you. They may not know it, but they are. 

My life exists to prove this.

7 years ago (holy hell), I headed off to college. As I was discussing my plans with a friend of mine, she perked up. "Really? Scripps?" she asked, "That's so funny. I think Rayne is going there too!" And, indeed, she was. Rayne was a classmate of mine in middle school.

In middle school, in Taiwan.

In my teeny, tiny British middle school in Taipei. 30 students in the whole grade, and one of them was going to be at Scripps, a teeny, tiny liberal arts college in Southern California. What were the odds?

It was great. I like Rayne, and she was incredibly helpful when I was stuck on my Chinese homework. She actually lived upstairs from me during our Sophomore year, and I would stroll back from her room humming "It's a small world" under my breath.

So that was weird, but life is weird, right?

Then, several years later, I was visiting a friends in England (in fact, one of them was the same friend who told me about Rayne coming to Scripps). We were discussing plans for the evening, and I was actively resisting going dancing. "I don't want to," I whined. "I'll look ridiculous!" Anna shook her head. "Why do you care? You'll never see any of these people ever again." I considered her point. Yes, I would look like a fool, but she was right. The likelihood of me ever meeting any of these people in the future was miniscule. Plus, even if I DID see one of them again, we would certainly never remember each other. And Anna and Eesa had seen me do enough stupid things; a little embarrassing dancing was unlikely to ruin a friendship that had begun in 7th grade.

So, ok. I acquiesced.

We fancied ourselves up, and headed to Cindy's, one of several clubs in Cambridge. As we entered the club, we took stock of our surroundings. The slightly sticky carpet, sweetness of alcohol in the area, the flurry of movement from our fellow uninhibited dancers... and a swirl of remarkably familiar dark red hair. Erin?

Erin had been my host when I had been a prospective student at Scripps. That year, she actually lived right down the hall from me. We greeted each other with an excited hug, and with repeated gasping in amazement. What was she doing there? What was I doing there?

Yep, I would definitely be seeing her again.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Day of Silence

The Day of Silence is a day that is dedicated to showing support for LGBTQ youth who have had their voices silenced-- by bullying, by a general lack of regard for their experiences and input, by suicide, by the limits that our society places on people who don't conform to the heterosexual/cisgender "ideal." It is a day that is made special not only by what it stands for, but also who participates. In the schools, where students are bullied every day... that is where kids are speaking up by staying silent.

I am so very, very proud that this year, Panda, Pom Pom, Clover, and Neptune have all decided to join the ranks of students across the country who are saying that enough is enough.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Pick Your Battles

I've always heard "pick your battles." It's strong advice, given by strong people, to strong people.

Is this a hill you want to die on?

What are you trying to achieve?

I am, for all of my many faults, an extremely reflective individual. In fact, some (me) would list that among my faults. I ask myself these questions all the time. Often before a request leaves my mouth, but sometimes after. 

Is this something I want to pursue? 

Will the energy (and potential misery) be worth the end result?

Will I gain or lose respect by handling this situation in this way?

What do I want him/her to learn?

Will this help him/her grow as a person?

Is there enough time for this to be a battle?

Think. Think. Think.

Generally, here is what I've concluded:

Hills to die on
- Treating people with kindness
- Getting chores and homework done
- Health and hygiene matters

Not worth the battle
- Pretty much everything else.
- Yeah, ok, like everything else.
- For example. The precise standards of bedroom tidiness. 

Breathe in, breathe out. Think.

What am I trying to achieve? 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Math, you say? SINGING, you say?!

I'm not really a... "math person." I was never one of those folks who just loooved math, who saw the magical way the numbers would have to fall. The logic wasn't clear for me. I could do it, I always did fine, but it wasn't intuitive or enjoyable. At all.

Last Saturday, we had a wonderful, wonderful class with a middle school math teacher. She was enthusiastic, fun, and extremely energetic. She likes math, but she loves students, and that really made me think about this whole "teaching math" thing differently.

By which I mean, it made me think about teaching math at all.

I think the real turning point came when she encouraged (ahem, *required* us) to come up with songs or chants to remember information about rates, ratio, and proportion. Extra points (life points, not class points) if we could come up with a "total physical response" to help kids remember the terms or ideas.

Oh yeah. This is my kinda thing.

I turned to my group with great excitement. Together, we came up with the following work of staggering genius.

Feel free to sing it out loud, in public, on the daily. That's what I've been doing. Just make sure you're singing it to the tune of "Winter Wonderland."

Rates, ratio, and proportion
All compare the values "a" and "b"
If "a" gets multiplied by a number
Then "b" gets multiplied equally

To simplify, use division
For equivalents, use multiplication

And then you will see
What "a" is to "b"
Looking at numbers comparatively

You may now applaud.  

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

You can lead a kid from technology...

I'm sitting at the table, typing this blog post on my iPad, which is snuggled inside a little keyboard case. In or out of its case, my iPad is rapidly becoming my brain, outside of my body. It has my lists, notes, address book, recipes... everything. 

Next to me, within easy reach, is my phone. And yeah, it's smart. Some days it seems like my phone is smarter than I am. And I take advantage of it, I do. Plans are made by texting, e-mailing, Facebooking from anywhere. Google is accessed daily. How late is the restaurant open? And how do I get there anyway?

On the floor by my feet is my bag, which holds my iPod (source of Music and Dancing), and six trillion cameras. I'm trying to be less crazy about the whole picture thing, because I don't want remembering an experience to get in the way of living it, but... I love my cameras, especially my DSLR. 

So what I'm saying is, I'm drowning in technology. And even while I love it-- and I really, really do-- I hate it. I hate that almost anyone can reach me at any moment (though I'm getting better about simply not answering my phone if I don't want to). I hate that I have to rely on Will Power and Self-Control to do things like day dream and people watch rather than skim through Facebook or watch a YouTube video of a hilarious dog. I hate that it gives me the ability to do work Anywhere, so there is literally never an excuse for me not to be working on something. I'm not saying anything new, here. I know most people feel the same way, actually. But it's really come to the forefront for me recently, as I've been watching the kids.

They are transforming from people who like to Do Things and Go Places into kids who would really rather just be on Twitter, kthanxbye. If we can't post what we're doing on Instagram, what's the point? Is this activity REALLY going to be more fun than playing Plants Versus Zombies, or using that weird paint-colour-swirl app? I don't THINK so. (Don't you roll your eyes at me.) 

And YES, it is important for kids to know how this technology works, and to feel comfortable with it, because by this time next year we will all have chips embedded in our brains that turn us INTO iPads. But, look, it shouldn't come at the expense of experiencing a three dimensional life. Boredom is good. Playing in the rain is way more valuable than whining about the rain on your fav social media (they do, actually, agree with me on this one). I get so frustrated seeing people (kids, adults... but MY kids, specifically) so plugged in to what is happening next on their iPod touches, Kindle Fires, laptops... you name it. We set time limits, o' course, but they are hard to stick to and monitor. These devices are picked up and put down a hundred gazillion times a day, in five or ten or twenty minute increments. 

Or maybe this is what's bothering me the most: it's taken over their conversations. I hear about Twitter posts, and Instagram conversations, and the latest bands more than I ever hear about what they're thinking or feeling. More than their conversations, more than their activities, this technology seems to have taken over their brains. I feel like I'm jumping up and down, windmilling my arms in the air: "Hello! Hello? I'm over here! Let's play!" 

And they will. It's not that they never put stuff down, it's not like they never do anything else. I keep talking to them about current events and interesting ideas, keep insisting on outings and activities. Once they are led to water, they will drink. But far be it from them to suggest we find a stream.