Monday, March 31, 2014

Parenthood: Week 44 – Solids

I wasn’t that excited about Ollie eating solid foods. Exclusively breastfeeding really worked for Ollie. He grew at a great pace, it was convenient and we didn’t really to worry about portion sizes and making sure that he had a balanced diet.

Some parents envision the cuteness of spaghetti being thrown around and blueberry stained lips, I just imagine the mess that such cuteness produces and the pain of cleaning up after a meal like that.

There’s conflicting information about when to start kids on solid foods and I was fine going with whatever Diana wanted to do when it came to the timing of starting solid foods. We thought about it and felt that there was no rush to get Ollie started on solids.

Ollie’s first step into solid foods was with breast milk popsicles. Diana made these little frozen breast milk things in molds that created a little popsicle about the size of a ring pop. At the same time, Ollie was teething so it seemed like the perfect thing to try. Ollie loved it. He was totally into trying to get it in his mouth.

Around the same time, we bought some baby food spoons. As soon as Diana put it in Ollie’s hand he stuck it in his mouth. We took this as a sign that Ollie wanted to start eating solids.

Soon after, we visited my parents in Seattle and my mom went crazy making purees and cooking down rice for Ollie to start eating. A couple weeks later my mom came and visited us and showed us how to steam fruits and vegetables. I started cooking eggs for him, and then mini-meat loafs. After only a couple months of eating solids, he’s often eating whatever we are eating for dinner.

There are the moments when Ollie puts too much food in his mouth without swallowing or rubs his face when he is holding a piece of fish so it gets in his eye.  Ollie often insists that he can feed himself with the spoon even though he inevitably fails to get the spoon in his mouth without tipping it over and spilling food on himself.

That’s the bad stuff, but the good stuff is great. Ollie loves and gets so much joy out of eating. It’s a mentally stimulating and an adventure for him. Even when you have apple puree thrown in your face it’s hard to get too mad when your son finds this hilarious.

I still don’t get excited about Ollie trying to eat new foods but I really do enjoy sharing meals with Ollie. I love cooking for people and it’s a great feeling to put food on the table that we all share. Even Buffy is a part of our meal, sitting below Ollie’s high chair eating the scraps that fall off his tray. 

So many of my favorite memories of my family growing up centers around, cooking and sharing meals.  Cooking for people is one of the most important ways that I show people I care about them.  I fully embrace Diana breastfeeding, but it was something that she did without me.  For months, she was almost exclusively in charge of feeding Ollie.  Even when I gave him a bottle, it was because she pumped milk ahead of time for him.  This was hard.  Because part of me was jealous that she had this connection with him and played such a central role in his development.

Even now, things aren't completely even because he still breastfeeds.  The reality is that things between parents are never "fair."  That's hard to accept but when you focus on your kid you realize that the fairness that is important is not between the parents but for the baby.  If being fair means giving a baby everything he needs to succeed then that may mean that the mom breastfeeds and that dad for months doesn't feed the baby.  That's what's most important.

This dynamic is changing.  I cook for Ollie all of the time and Diana and I take turns feeding him when he eats solids.  It's fun and it's a mess.  I still feel that little bit a jealously when I think about how much Diana sustained Ollie, but more than that I feel proud of her.

Now that I'm playing a more active role in feeding Ollie, it's not like things are more fair between us or I'm finally getting my due.  What has changed is that we now get to share in feeding our little guy and have one more activity that we do as a family.   

Friday, March 28, 2014

Year 4: Week 27 – Politics

Lately when I’m talking about politics, I’m not talking about the government.  I’m talking about the way the teachers manage relationships and compromise to achieve individual goals.

A lot of teachers complain about these politics and wish that the politics of a school didn’t interfere with what happened in the classroom. While I understand that some teachers are more and less comfortable with this part of the job, it is something that we all have to deal with and learn to manage.

It seems logical that if you have something that you need for your classroom, you ask someone and you should get it. The reality is that the success of getting what you need for your students relies on whom you ask, at what time and the way you advocate for your students.

It’s not an outright devious exchange. When someone does something for you in a school, it’s not because you did them a favor and now they owe you. It’s not like that, but there is a relationship to consider. If the only time that you talk to your principal is when you want something, that professional relationship can become strained.

A school is like any other work place. There are people who make things happen. Sometimes these people have titles, but often times they don’t.  It’s important to figure this out so that you can understand how things work.

There’s also the lingo. Every school has a dialect and a way of discussing things.  Certain themes and ideas permeate a school and when a person weaves them into a conversation, it can really help thing moves along.

The reason why I’m beginning to really enjoy the politics of my school is because it is based on relationships. People work together and for each other because they have to, but when there is a solid relationship, the work is full of joy. 

The frustration, which I felt in my previous teaching jobs, was not knowing the political landscape and being an outsider. It’s tough in those situations when people don’t let you in. Trying to navigate the politics of a school without a good mentor is very difficult. A teacher who is a master in a classroom who can’t figure out how a school works faces real issues that may threaten their longevity at a school.

Take the time to get to know the people in your school, from the janitors to the principals. Volunteer for committees, get out of your office and try to figure out how things really work. No, you don’t need to be a master politician to be a good teacher but teachers need to have a sense of who is in power beyond the titles.

Sometimes politics is overwhelming and often times its aggravating.  However it doesn't have to be this way.  If you build relationships throughout the school you will not only enjoy being a work more but it will also transform the politics of your school into something that helps more than it hinders.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Parenthood: Week 43 – The Little Man

Most of the time I think of Ollie as a baby. The diapers, the bottle feeding, getting him to bed and other things like this make you feel like you are taking care of not so much another human being, but a baby.

Someday Ollie will be old enough to talk, read a book and even drive a car. However, right now he’s a baby and his needs differentiate him from the way that I interact with most of the other human beings in my life.

As time goes on, Ollie has stopped simply being a baby and I’ve come to recognize awesome things about his personality. I enjoy Ollie for the cute baby things that he does, but there’s more than cute moments that make the time we spend together so much fun.

My mom told me when I was a teenager that because life is short you need to spend time with people who enrich your life. People you share your life with that make you feel better about who you truly are and make everything you do more meaningful should be kept in your life. People, who tear you down and are a burden, even if they are family, should be extricated from your life.

There are times when taking care of Ollie seems burdensome, but Ollie is not a burden. Even more than that, Ollie’s an amazing person who teaches me about life and challenges me to be a better person.

Ollie loves life. Everything that is new to him, whether it’s a new toy or a grocery bag is interesting and exciting. He finds joy in simple objects and in this way he challenges me to look at the world with wonder.

Ollie loves people. He smiles at strangers and crawls over to other babies reaching out his. There is nothing in the world that makes him happier than interacting with people. This is a great reminder that nothing replaces the joy of human interaction.

Ollie has a great sense of humor. He thinks my hair is hilarious. Ollie also finds Buffy chasing her tail to be endlessly entertaining. Other times Ollie will just start laughing for no apparent reason. Every time I hear his laugh, it’s a remind to stop taking myself so seriously because the more I do, the more ridiculous I’m making myself look.

Ollie isn't going to be a baby for very long, but he's always going to be Ollie.   He’s full of so much spirit, energy and love.  More than just a baby, Ollie is my little man.   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Year 4: Week 26 – Power

There is an undeniable power dynamic between teachers and their students. It’s a unique relationship, not quite like a parent, mentor or friend but some mix of all of those things. I’ve talked to many teachers about the nuances of the student teacher relationship. It’s a challenge to balance out all of these facets.  The approach to this relationship and how it's defined depends on the teacher and the age level of the student.

One aspect of this relationship that people don’t seem to talk a lot about is power. It’s probably because this word connotes something dark, something less caring but power is part of the teacher-student relationship and when wielded effectively, a teacher's power can really help students. 

Students walk into a classroom knowing that the teacher has been given institutional power. Teachers can tell students what to do and students are supposed to comply. For some students this is enough. Whether its the fear of consequences or authority itself, some people including myself are intimidated by titles and people that society tells us have power.

There’s also a lot of students who this doesn’t work for. We live in America, a country that pride itself on calling out authority figures and speaking truth to power. While this can be annoying as a teacher, it is one of the most important parts of our democracy. So for people for whom institutionally given power doesn’t engender compliance, there’s a very different approach that needs to happen.

You can go with the social responsibility route and help students understand that their actions affect other people. It is up to them to have a positive or negative influence on their peers which comes right back to them. It’s a mix of peer pressure and helping them understand the consequences of their own actions. This approach will get you some kids, but some will pretend or in reality, not care about other students in the class, so other times you have to make it about you.

My Introduction to Christianity professor explained the power Jesus had over his followers this way: Jews followed theirs leaders during Jesus’ time because if they didn’t they were punished. The Jews gave power to the authorities because of fear. In this way obedience and power was demanded.

Jesus took a different approach. People followed him because of how much he gave to them. Everything he gave including his life was for others. When a person gives that much of themselves to another person, the receiving person gives authority and allows that person to have power over them willingly. It’s not about guilt, but rather faith and trusts.

I’m not saying that teachers should try to be like Jesus, but what I do know that gaining authority through giving of care, time and attention is the most effective way to get a class student to comply when you tell them what to do.

More often than not, students walk into a class and will give teachers authority initially.  Teachers have a window to show kids how much they care and build relationships so that the student freely gives power to the teacher.

Some kids will never get to that point and without black and white consequences that produce a level fear and stress, those students will never comply. Not every student will see how much you give him or her as a teacher. Assume those kids are in the minority and don’t take that approach with a whole class.

We have to earn the power that our students give us. When this is given willingly it opens students up to learn, to take chances and be present. Our power as teachers is not about making them do what we say.  It's about the opportunity that students give us to serve them and help them grow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Parenthood: Week 42 – Everything Is Harder With Baby

Walking a dog is harder with a baby, making dinner is harder with a baby, folding laundry is harder with a baby. Even putting on pants is harder with a baby.

Things that once took minimal effort become productions when you have a little human being that you are trying to take along for the ride. However, this doesn’t stop us parents from trying, almost against sanity to go out and do things.

I don’t blame any parent who has an afternoon with his baby for staying inside the entire time. For the past couple months on Thursday afternoons and evenings I’ve had Ollie to myself. While I have ventured outside of the house during some of these Thursdays, the majority of the time I spend at home.

A lot of this had to do with the fact that on average it was around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (this isn’t an exaggeration). However a big part of this has to do with storing up enough "crazy" to actually take Ollie out to do something.

Taking a baby out to do an activity or an errand takes a lot of planning and a willingness to take a chance. You have to take your child out during a time after a nap and make sure that you get back before he or she needs to go down for the next nap.

Then there are feedings. Whether, it’s breastfeeding, formula or solid food, you need to think about the timing of this and carefully pack so that whatever the child needs to eat can be made available before the meltdown over hunger occurs.

During the summer and the fall, there was the diaper bag that needed to be packed. Now there’s winter clothing. To put it quite simply, winter clothing crushes the spirit of parents. When it’s below freezing, everything you do with a baby becomes even more difficult.

My car is parked outside. So I need to go warm-up the car. Then I need to get Ollie dressed in his winter clothing. There’s the hat, booties, jacket or the coverall. There’s no indicator on any of these articles of clothing at what temperature these pieces of outerwear are most appropriate, so it’s kind of guessing came. The whole “wind-chill” thing only makes matters worse.

After getting Ollie dressed in his winter gear, a process that Ollie despises, I carry him out to the car. If the car is warm, then I take him out of his winter gear and put him into the car seat. If the car isn’t warm yet, then I put him in the car seat, all dressed for the sub-zero temperatures. If I do this, I will inevitably have to stop somewhere after the car has warmed up to take Ollie out of his car seat, remove his coat, hat and whatever winter gear I put on him and put him back into his car seat.

Why? Because Ollie hates being hot.

Apply this whole process to leaving the car and going into a store and also to leaving the store and getting back into the car. This is exhausting and the fact that Ollie strongly dislikes almost every step of this process only makes it worse.

Even with all of this planning and work, things can go and will go inevitably wrong. No matter what you pack in your diaper bag a situation will arise when you need something that you don’t have and for no reason that you can discern your little one will just not in the mood for what you are selling.

You have to be pretty crazy to go through all of this simply to get out of the house for an outing. The thing is that if you don’t go through all of this you will in fact actually go crazy for not getting out of the house.

I’m a homebody. I can spend all day in the house and not feel cabin fever. However with Ollie I feel different. Part of this has to do with the fact that when you spend five or six, or even three hours with a baby, you quickly run out of things to do and nothing eats up time like going on a walk or going to the store. Even though I may not feel a need to get out of the house, Ollie probably does and if I don’t, I start feeling guilty for not being a more adventurous dad.

So the other day when I had Ollie to myself, I took him to Home Depot. Isn’t that one of the things dads are suppose to do with their sons like go to a sports game? While I have little to no interest in sports and I needed to buy some screws, I didn’t feel I was trying too hard to fit fatherhood stereotypes that just don’t fit how I define myself as a man.

It was only slightly below freezing, which was helpful. Ollie hated getting ready to go as much as I predicted and it wasn’t until we were actually in the store when he started to gaze around and enjoy his new surroundings.

It was pretty quiet that day and it was a lot of fun walking around with him strapped to my chest in a baby carrier. And then he started whining and screaming. Oh yeah, I forgot to take off his jacket that I had put on him for the walk from the car to the store. After getting that off and putting him in the shopping cart, he was much happier.

I found the things that I needed and after checking out, we commenced the whole winter clothing process and finally got home.

There’s a great feeling of bonding being at the store with him and even though it was only a short outing it felt good that I had made it through all of the struggles to get him to the store. It was nice to get something off of my to do list and the many people who smile at Ollie when we walked by made me feel proud of Ollie.

Being a father is constantly doing things for your household, your job, your wife and your child. There’s always laundry and there’s always dishes to be done. In this swirl of responsibility, there are moments when you reflect on how much you got done and it feels great. It’s like running a race and getting to the finish line.

Whenever I take Ollie out with Diana and especially when I take him out by myself. I really feel that sense of running a race. There’s the excitement before you start and the many tribulations that occur before you get to the finish. Doubt creeps in that required perseverance. Mixed in with all of this are the highs and that amazing feeling when you get to the finish line and realize that you did in fact take your son to Home Depot and buy a screw and some paper towels

Everything in life worth doing, takes a little crazy to accomplish. There are always more logical reasons not to take your kid out on an adventure. If you don’t ignore the logic, and the inevitable drama, the unpredictability and potential for complete failure, you will do a disservice to your kid and yourself.

If you chose to be parent then you did that ignoring all of the things above and if you love yourself and your child, you continue this mindset. Because love makes you crazy and all it takes to remind a parent of that is a smile, the wrinkle of a little nose and the memory of the feeling you get when you arrive home after an adventure with your baby.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Year 4: Week 25 – Kicking Kids Out Of Class

The longer I teach, the more comfortable I feel disciplining students. Once upon a time having a talk with a student after they misbehaved made me really nervous. Now, I look forward to these talks.

When a student needs to be disciplined, my brain goes through the many different ways that I could do this and I try to pick the approach that would be the least disruptive to the classroom and the most effective. There’s giving the “teacher look,” a student could loose his or her turn on an instrument, I could snap at them or I could ignore them depending on what they do. The one action that I hesitate the most with and I feel the least comfortable with is kicking a student out of class.

I rarely kick students out of class. There’s no way to do this that will not disrupt the flow of class, but usually the action that has led to this consequence is so disruptive, I guess that’s not really an issue. Also, there’s the issue of where the kid will go once they are kicked out. There’s a lot to consider with this consequence.

I don’t think that kicking kids out of class really motivates the student being punished to behave that much better. Often students who are being disruptive are doing so, because they don’t want to be in class. So in some ways you are giving them exactly what they want.

There are other things at play when you discipline a student besides how it will benefit the student being punished. Most students learn the limits of what is acceptable behavior in class partially from watching other students being punished. When we give a student a consequence, it’s letting other students know our standards. It’s one thing to talk about respecting each other, but students really have to see what happens when respect is not expressed to understand that your words hold meaning.

Beyond being a public consequence that others students can learn from, kicking a student out of class allows the remaining students to learn. The tipping point for me that makes me consider removing a student from class is when they get to the point that they are significantly taking away from the learning experience of other students.

I’m not going to kick a kid out who’s not working in class, or even a student who very quietly is having off topic conversations. I’m not going to kick a student out of class who gets in a heated argument with another students and I’m not going to kick a student out who accidently makes a racist comment. If a student doesn’t want to learn and is being quiet, I’ll keep them in and if it’s only one or two outbursts, that’s fine.

You may think a racist comment warrants being kicked out, but for me I’d pivot that into a teachable moment that the students who made the comment needs to be a part of.

I hesitate to kick students out because it means that they will miss class time, which means that they will be more confused and lost in future classes that could lead to worse behavior.

When I pull the trigger and I kick a student out, I’m making a public statement that the other students’ learning is more important than that individual’s growth. Yes, maybe that student has surrendered their opportunity to learn by being so disruptive that I had to get to this point. That’s one way to rationalize it, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about having to take such a harsh action.

After kicking students out, I’ve seen improvement in behavior while others fall into a pattern of bad behavior and start to be removed from class regularly. The latter always makes me sad but sometimes it’s just what needs to happen.

When I talk to students who I’ve kicked out after class some of them say the right things, others don’t. Like every consequence, it works better or worse depending on the student. My struggle is more how I feel about it.

I really don’t like getting to that point with a student. It feels like giving up, but the reality is that I only have so many minutes in a day and I have a lot of students. One disruptive student cannot monopolize my time and attention. The student who is doing everything right deserves as much attention as the student who isn’t.

Part of my motivation to work hard to create relationships with students is so I don’t have to get to this point with my students. If spending extra time hanging out with them before school and during lunch means I don’t have to kick as many kids out of class, than the extra effort in getting to know them is really worth it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cannonball By Lea Michelle

Okay, Shaun, here you go:

Cory Monteith’s death resonated in popular culture. As one of the stars of the popular show Glee! his character endeared himself to audiences as a jock who liked to sing. His co-star Lea Michelle was also his girlfriend and when he died we were all shocked. As hard as it was to imagine loosing a co-start the tragedy of loosing a boyfriend as well was heartbreaking.

Pop music is sometimes frivolous and it's sometimes profound. Taylor Swift has made her mark using her music to work through the emotions and struggles of her own life. It’s fun game to listen a song and try to figure out which boyfriend she’s singing about. While this is entertaining, does this make her songs better? Not necessarily.

The Coen brothers claim that their film Fargo was based on real events, which they later revealed to be a false statement. Does that film feel different when you assume it reflects real events? Yes. When we harness the story in reality our suspension of disbelief changes as we allow ourselves to believe more of what we see to be plausible then a film we are told is fiction.

Pop singers are actors. We don’t expect that what they are singing about is actually something they have experienced. There is a suspension of belief that  was at one time actually crazy in love. When we are told that a song is based on a true story, we listen to it deeper and try to decipher what the lyrics are really saying not so much metaphorically but more literally.

When I heard that “Cannonball” was about Monteith’s death, I expected a heartfelt tribute, instead a got something very different. In this way, connecting the song to a real life tragedy threw me off course.


From the first word of the song, you know this isn’t your ordinary song about death.  Is it “breakdown,” as in she’s having a mental breakdown or is it “break down,” an action and get out of the walls she has built up around herself.

If I wasn’t told ahead of time, I would have thought that this song was actually about a break-up, not the death of a loved one. It is exactly these different ways that you could interpret this song that makes it interesting.

The mourning of Cory’s death has put her in darkness, and she needs to find a way into the light.  She lights the “fuse” and like a cannonball she flies. A cannonball doesn't fly, rather it’s propelled for the purpose of demolishing. While this analogy may seem strange, it fits what Michelle is trying to say. She can't simply fly away from the darkness of her loss, she needs to be propelled by something more powerful than death. In this way she can move on with her life and let go of her fear.

While we are seeing a trend of artists mining their own lives for inspiration for songs and sharing these intentions with their fans, the story behind the music really doesn't speak to the what is truly meaningful in music. 

All songs are amalgamations of emotions that come from true life.  Some songs speak more directly to actual events than others but all songs express feelings that come from the human experience.  Artists can provide context for us which appeals to many people and makes songs feel more authentic.  However, if the story doesn't reflect events in our own lives and the song doesn't resonate with our experiences, the connection to an actual event becomes meaningless. 

Great music doesn't have to be about actual events to be intensely personal and artistically profound.  Truly great music needs to authentically reflect emotions from our lives.  This makes the song feel as much about the story behind the music as the story of our own lives. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parenthood: Week 41: Guilt

My parents didn’t instill in me a strong sense of guilt. I do have a strong conscience and my brain is filled with questions of morality all of the time. However, guilt is not an overriding feeling that I possess and it doesn’t really sway me in my everyday choices.

This all changed when Ollie was born.

On the second day after Ollie entered our lives, Diana suggested that I go home, take a shower and maybe grab a quick nap. We needed some stuff from home and I had been at the hospital with Diana the whole time it made sense that I take a break.

When I got home, I took care of some things around the house and then as I sat down to watch some television, I felt really guilty. I decided give that up and after a not very restful fifteen-minute nap I was in my car driving back to the hospital.

Diana has never said or done anything to make me feel guilty as a father. There are times like when she was in the hospital when she would tell me directly to take a break.

Diana and I both believe that one of the most important things we can do to take care of Ollie is to take care of ourselves. If we are a mess physically or emotionally, we can’t really do what’s best for Ollie.

While this is logical reasoning, it doesn’t always line up with the emotional part of being a parent. I feel guilty when I’m at work, away from Ollie, I feel guilty that I’m not doing more when Diana is breastfeeding and sometimes I even feel guilty when I’m with Ollie and not playing with him in the most creative way possible.

You want so much to do not only what is best for your child, but you want to do everything. I do trust Diana and the people in our support network to care for Ollie but he’s my son. I can’t drop the feeling that I should be the one doing all of this stuff for him.

My guilt related to Ollie has simmered and I’ve learned to move past my feeling of guilt. I have found that if I put Ollie in his play pen and fix myself dinner, I will be a better dad overall, even if during those ten minutes Ollie is crying. Those are the toughest moments, but Ollie needs more than just me, he needs me to be in a good working order.

I still struggle with the work thing. I love my work more than ever but those days when I leave before he wakes up and I get home and have only an hour with him before he goes to sleep, I feel like somehow I let him down. So I do laundry, do some dishes and try to make myself feel better by doing something for him indirectly.

I wonder if I was a stay-at-home dad if I would feel different about any of this. Part of me thinks my guilt being away from Ollie would be replaced with a feeling of emptiness from not having my job.

I know that I'll never be everything for Ollie.  That makes me a little sad, but I know it's for the best.  He never means to make me feel guilty, that's on me.  I'll eventually get through this but until then I'll enjoy the feeling of love and warmth that washes away the guilt when he leans in close and looks at me with his bright eyes. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Year 4: Week 24 – The Resume Sift

How do you choose the best candidate for a job when faced with a stack of cover letters and resumes?

For the past two weeks, this has been on my mind as I have received applications for the position that is open in my department. I’ve spent more time on the other side of table applying for jobs than  choosing who should get a job. I have great sympathy for the people applying for this job. Searching for a teaching job is very difficult and it takes a lot of perseverance and stamina.

When I’m looking through there cover letters and resumes trying to decide who should be brought in for an interview, I can’t help but think of the almost hundred time that I didn’t make it through this step. I remember thinking, if they only give me five minutes to talk to them and three minutes in front of a group of kids, they would see that I was the right person for the gig.

The funny thing is that now that I’m on the other side of the table I want the same thing. I would love to chat with each person for five minutes and see him or her in front of kids for a couple minutes. That time would tell me far more about who they really are as a teacher. However that’s not the system we live in and practicality prevents us from actually choosing candidates this way. Instead we read cover letters and analyze resumes.  I realized that I had to stop getting frustrated at what this process was not and embrace it for what it is.

A cover letter is an expression of care and desire. If a cover letter is carefully written and personalized to the school then it shows that he or she is a conscientious professional and took  time to learn about the position. On the flip side, misspelled words and cover letters that are clearly not personalized to the school show a lack of care and interest in the job.

A cover letter and a resume expresses what the candidate values and feels is important in teaching. These documents also express what they think the school values. If they write in the cover letter that they have won a lot of competitions, this tells me that they value competition.

I would prefer that candidates are real and express not what they think I want to read but what they actually believe about teaching. This is really difficult to distinguish in a cover letter, which is why you can’t base all of your decision-making on those couple paragraphs.

The resume, oh the resume. There are so many articles out there and tutoriasl on how to make a good resume. After sorting through resumes this week, here’s things that I’ve noticed
  • Four pages is too long. Two pages maximum. 
  • I don’t want all of your job experience. I want to see relevant experience. If you have taught for ten years, your high school jobs are no longer relevant. 
  • Don’t be creative in your formatting. Clarity is the most important thing. No fancy fonts or weird borders. Have clear headings, concise descriptions and dates. 
  • Tell me about yourself. I find it interesting when people tell me about their interests and activities. This is a nice reminder that there is a person behind this resume and shows that you are well-rounded.
One side note: I did internet searches on every candidate who applied as I was looking through their resume. Please do this yourself and if there is something online that you don’t want people to see, do something about it.

This is really fascinating and exciting process. It’s difficult and I wish I could help each one of these candidates find a job, but the reality is that not all of them would fit at my school.

The next step is going to really interesting.  I'm not choosing which candidate makes it to the interview by myself.  We're going to do this as a music department.

More on that next week . . .

Monday, March 3, 2014

Parenthood: Week 40: Parents as Martyrs

Everybody wants to be a martyr sometimes. Now I don’t mean that everyone literally wants to die for his or her religious beliefs. When I use the term martyr, I’m talking about that annoying person who complains that other people don’t give them their due credit. When I say that everyone feels this way, I’m saying that I feel this way sometimes therefore other people must feel this way. I may bewrong on this point, but I feel a need to generalize my feelings as part of a shared human experience, because if I don’t . . . life gets kind of sad.

Parenting and martyrdom seem to come hand in hand. Parents don’t get enough recognition by society. We have collectively made choices as a country to make parenting, harder as opposed to easier.  We systemically make the job of being a parent feel more like a burden than a joy.

It’s really difficult to not become bitter and annoyed when issues related to parenting don’t seem like a priority in our country. We can all celebrate the fact that children are our future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will actively do anything to make that future brighter by investing in schools, lengthening paternity and maternity leave, subsidize and better regulate day care and make sure every child in America has enough food to eat.

If you let this bitterness at society mix with the sleep-deprived and often-frustrating job of being a parent then a feeling of being a martyr can quickly set in.  If you fall into this mindset and complain about deserving recognition, you will annoy all your friends and just become more bitter. The logical response is: no one forced you to be a parent, so don’t be such a martyr about it. The thing about logical responses is that they annoy people dealing with emotions than help because they invalidate feelings and push people in cycles of negative self-talk.

The crazy thing is that sometimes we choose to do things the hard way as parents so that we feel more like a martyr.  You don’t have to cook dinner, do the laundry and clean the house while taking care of your infant son while your husband is at work. However if you manage to get all of this done, it adds to your fuel, your righteous justification to demand more recognition.

At least one evening a week, I’m with Ollie by myself and sometimes I push myself to try to do way too much. It’s not that I want Diana to give me more credit when she gets home; it’s just that part of me wants to be that self-sacrificing super-parent. Part of me wants to be a martyr, a person who does so much that people will be awe not be able to deny me credit and adoration of my accomplishments.  At the end the day, I'm not going to get that kind of credit, so it's all a little silly, isn't it?

So when you feel like being a martyr, pick your audience carefully.  Whining about wanting more recognition may feel therapeutic but it's not going to get you anywhere.  At some point we need to accept as parents that what we do for our kids is not ever going to fully recognized.  Yes, this is a depressing thought, but this is what it's all about.

Evolving from parenting to get recognition to taking care of our children without expecting anything in return brings us closer to what it means to truly love our children.