Monthly Archives: June 2012
It is the worst kept secret on earth that I dislike hot humid days, so when my better half asked me to attend a surprise birthday party with him and and quietly said it was to be held in a backyard, I was having a moment in my head…but, in true diva fashion, I went armed with my bug spray, cool summer dress and a good attitude.
Am I ever glad we went….All of five minutes after our arrival, three gentlemen came to my table, looked at me and one said” yep, she’s a cutie, I think we should stop right here” and proceeded to pull up chairs with one of their wives while introducing themselves.
Bubby, Ro and “him” were friends of the Birthday boy Eddie and they were all around the tender ages of 84! They have been friends for over sixty five years and regaled us with wonderful stories about being in high school, who got in the most trouble, attending Cheney and Lincoln Universities where one became a Doctor, the other a Lawyer and the other, a Probation Officer. They grew through marriages, children, grandchildren and great grand kids all while making each other laugh every few seconds.
It was amazing to me as I had never seen friends that lasted that long so I asked what was the secret to their lasting friendships. Guess what they told me?
Laughter, understanding that they had families and would not always see each other and a determination to keep the bond strong throughout the years. Bubby bought a house in Jamaica and hosts his friends each year there, “him” wrote all their wills and took care of any court cases they may have and Roland the Probation Officer, kept them all on the right side of the law. They had such a dignity and regality about them that is hard to find these days and when I asked what happened to this younger generation, Bubby quipped, ” we are to be blamed because it is our children that are raising these brats” We were too busy making a better life and climbing social ladders to remind our kids of their history….They in turn, had very little to pass on and it has only gotten worse. Add to that he says, is this ” I got mine mentality” where no one sees about each other much unless there is a payoff attached.” Ro chimed in with ” well, at least we are well preserved, so maybe we can do something to reverse this before we roll out in our coffins”
I laughed until my sides tingled and completely forgot, I disliked heat…
I recieved a delightful phone call from the American School Board Journal which represents the National School Board Association and was asked to give an interview from A School Board Member’s perspective on, of all things, Parental/Community Engagement. It seems I was seen somewhere recently ( Boston) espousing the real benefits of family engagement and was subsequently tagged for their cover story in September 2012.
I did my due diligence and spoke about the subject matter but there was so much more left unsaid for a myriad of reasons not the least of which is this; Many STILL have no idea how families fit into the fabric of schools and we have historically played around the subject matter because ( And yes, I am going to say it) too often, families are felt to be more of an intrusion in an already jammed packed educational schedule during a school year and beyond having familes read to children, help with homework and volunteer WHEN CALLED, this is just another box to check off.
Added to this mess are families who feel for whatever reason, that they are not welcomed when they walk into a school. Whatever do I mean by this? I had a parent call one day who was mortified that she went to a meeting for her child and she could hear the Principal telling the Secretary ( who was not at all friendly) to make her sit and wait. Which she did. for more than 20 minutes. After she was given an appointment. When she was finally seen and began to discuss the issues as she saw them, she was subsequently dismissed as out of hand which so infuriated her, she broke down. Then she called me. She made another appointment and we when we both walked into the room, the Principal again tried the same thing until he became clear that I understood the policies and procedures of said school of which he had broken every one beyond hello. As a direct result of this person, the climate of the building plummeted and the building developed a reputation for being unwelcoming to say the least.
The other side of this coin is the parent who asked for a meeting, was greeted warmly and asked if she wanted something to drink, made to wait less than five minutes where she was then brought into a well lit room , all the participants had smiles and gave solid eye contact. She felt heard because her words were repeated to her for clarification and when it became clear there had been a serious communication issue, the Principal looked at her squarely the eye, apologized and went about the task of making things right. It has been years and this parent still speaks highly of that Principal who has since retired.
I have even had Teachers say it’s amazing how differently they are treated when they are wearing the “parent” hat in the schools their child attends and it brings into sharp focus, what they could possibly be projecting to families that enter their classrooms. I really believe when college students are looking to become Educators, there ought to be a course on working with families. We keep saying “congratulations you are a teacher, here is your class and supplies but oh yes, good luck with their parents…”
This is just a small piece of a much larger issue and I will be discussing parents who are considered a nightmare to schools but they too can be addressed to for the benefit of the children involved. I know, because I have done it. It takes authentic, relationship building on both ends to make this work and if we stop pointing fingers long enough and just be human to each other, things would get better after all.
I must preface this post by saying this: I am known for chatting with anyone, anywhere and at anytime as I believe it is our human connection that keeps us from being totally dismissive of others. Ready?
I travel quite a bit and work with such passion and determination that there are times when I seek refuge in a few secret places where I go to clear my head and feel human again. This morning, I strolled into one and made a beeline for my corner, only to stop short because an older Chinese man was sitting there just a calm as you please having some Jamaican fare. I squinted at him and in my most devious voice, told him he must be keeping my seat warm because there is an unwritten notice in this place, that that coveted seat belongs to me. He squinted back and said in Patois, ” Only a regal Jamaican woman could walk in here like she owned the place, wanting what is not rightfully hers”..we smiled warmly at each other and commenced to chatting about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.
What I found in those thirty minutes, were some really profound statements made by someone who has been alive for 70 plus years… Turns out this man is a Structural Engineer and he began frequenting this establishment since his wife of 31 years died in 2002. He then tells me of his life in New York for many years, his six children and how he took such pride in the fact that his wife never had to work and they lived quite well. He then said, he had one huge regret and wanted to impart it to me……
He was so busy earning a living, he never really got to know his children and to this day, he feels the sting of it. He believed that being a good provider was all about the money and he now believes that is only a small part; the larger piece is building a strong, solid relationship with his children and creating a legacy that was tangible. “I would give up some of that money today and live with less if I knew then what I know now” he said and went further into sadness as he relayed a conversation he recently had with his grown son who told him that had he ( father) put structures and discipline in place for him as a child, he ( son) would have been a much better adult.
To compound all of this, he said as much as he loved his wife and provided for her every need, he had no idea who she really was until she died and he saw the outpouring of love and testimonials from perfect strangers about who she was a person. He was too busy making a living. I told him a little of my life , my sons and how I truly believe they ( sons) are my legacy here on earth and I raise them with the best I have within me as a parent with good examples. As I hugged Mr. Chin good bye, I walked away with the thought that there really are some non- negotiables in this life that we can all strive towards, depending on where we are cognitively;
- Smile often and give hugs freely
- life is too short to give your energies to people who are undeserving. Do not allow the “takers” to suck the very life out of you.
- NO is a great word. Use it.
- Treat others with kindness as much as you humanly can; it is like storing ” karma nuggets” for the times when life throws you serious curveballs.
- Do not ever apologize for putting your health and well being above what others want. There will always be an “important” meeting and life moves on with or without you.
- Choose always to do your work with pride and excellence; you will never go hungry.
- Pick a profession not so much for the monetary reward but rather the feeling of accomplishment you gain from it and what are you contributing to society as a result.
- Find out as soon as you can, what your purpose/ contribution is here on earth and try not to be labeled as a “grabber” or “taker” since you cannot leave earth with any of it.
- Your legacy is not the money you earned but rather your children and the contributions you left behind.
- Love your children enough to hold them accountable for their actions and try not to relive your childhood through them. Allow their own natural creativity to flow.
- Be love.
In a recent phone message from a parent I had never met, was a frantic plea for a return call as she wanted a refund on Summer school and needed to know how to best have that happen. My gut instinct went red hot but I sighed and called while hoping for the best. If wishes were like horses…
This delightful woman paid for two clasess that her child flunked during the school year and several days in, he had not been in said classes so she wanted a refund. Silly me, I asked if he was ill etc, and the response was ” no, he just refused to attend”. Before I could stop myself, I asked, ” And he is residing where after that decision?”
She bashfully said he “thinks” he’s grown and she just wants her monies returned. I sighed and nicely told her having the money returned was the LEAST of her issues and explained that summer school was not there for Educators to get extra pay; it’s designed to have children make it to the next grade when they failed to make the mark during the school year. I advised her to make him aware that this was not a game and if he desired to not be left behind while his peers moved ahead, he needed to revisit that brash move he made in deciding not to attend.
The larger issue here for me though are parents who believe that once a child reaches the ripe old age of 14, they no longer have control of said child. In what world? How does this happen when you feed, clothe and put a roof over this child’s head? When did we become “afraid” to speak to them for fear of hurting their feelings or worse, retribution?
Parents, please love your children but not to the point where they are so rotten and self serving that you no longer have control in your own home. Set strong parameters in place, then abide by them because mark my words, doing it on the front end consistently, will save you from having a forty year old child living in your basement like an albatross around your neck on the back end. This is not a dress rehearshal and society does not care that he/ she will not be able to cope with what they should have learned as a youngster.
I live by this mantra in my house: ” you are never too grown, not while you are living here. When you leave and start paying your own bills, then all the stupid decisions you choose to make can be done freely. until then, you dance to this tune called * my momma is crazy and not to be played with*”
It has taken me a loong time to start a blog but I have finally come to the conclusion that I have way too much to say about everything and facebook is not always the space to do it…buckle up, you are about to get truth. personified.