random, whiny, unedited

(otherwise known as “would have made this my Facebook status, but that would have been super-obnoxious”)

I went to an orientation this morning for substitute teachers for a center-based special education program in a town about 30 minutes away from me. I don’t know if I will sub there a lot, but in part it felt like it was free training, and I think I also needed the motivation.

Motivation is not something I have enough of, today or any other day.

My eyes lit up when I saw the kids. I felt energized by the information that was shared. The assistant director of the school used the words “evidence-based practice” several times, and I was impressed with the facility and the energy of the place.

(It was a little bit…white, though. Maybe “white” is not the right word, but it felt too perfect…wealthy…insular. The names of the teachers were overwhelmingly of the same ethnicity, and it felt like a bit of an insider’s club. Maybe not fair to judge after an hour in the place, but let’s just say that it was clear that we were not in an inner-city school district.)

Motivated. Trying to remind myself that I need to push forward with this school thing and then I can be around kids all. the. time.

You think that would have spurred me on…go home, dive into the schoolwork, get this one class out of the way so I can go on to the next…

But no. I turned on the Uber app, hoping to cover my trip out to the boonies. Took two riders. Needed lunch; was craving Chinese food, so I stopped and got some. Carb coma ensued. Fell asleep (but not for long enough). Woke up. Went shopping for no reason.

I need to sleep, because I know it will help me to feel better. But I am sick of myself, sick of knowing that I could be moving forward, but for this invisible force that holds me back. Sick of my house being in total disarray…sick of the crap I eat that is probably making me more tired…sick of my days getting away from me and my constant level of disorganization.

My therapist tells me that she has nothing new to add to the situation, that I have the knowledge that I need…I hear her words, I know she is right.

But I am still stuck.

I am running out of time. I am wasting my life. I have barely twenty good years ahead of me career-wise, and yet I am driving towards this goal via the slowest possible route, even though the highway is easily within my reach.

And right now, I just need to go to sleep and tell myself that I will make better choices tomorrow.

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I read this, and it took my breath away.

Not to beat a dead horse, but if you’ve been reading this for a while (all two of you!), then you know how I feel about people making a joke out of ADHD. Even so, it’s hard not to assign blame to myself for this. No matter how many ways it’s confirmed, no matter how many different tests show that I really do have this thing, it’s still hard not to feel like this is a moral failing.

It’s still too easy to despise myself.

A few days ago, I came across an article on this website. A parent was asking for help navigating her son’s school environment, and trying to get the cooperation of his teachers. The writer, Sue Whitney, gave a helpful and very detailed response. The first part that caught my attention was this:

When they say, “He . . .  

  • doesn’t pay attention,
  • forgets,
  • interrupts,
  • daydreams,
  • wanders off task,
  • drives the teacher to drink,
  • doesn’t show his work on math problems,
  • is disorganized,
  • etc.”
    You say, “That is part of his disability.

See more at: http://www.wrightslaw.com/heath/dont.care.iep.htm#sthash.WBipQdqZ.dpuf

So there I am. I don’t pay attention…I forget things (or remember too much, sometimes)…I interrupt-dear Lord, do I interrupt. Off task? Check. Disorganized? Check. I don’t *think* I drive my supervisor or colleagues to drink, but you never know…

My current job is a huge struggle for me in that I am too detailed, too easily distracted, not fast enough. I get bogged down in the details and everything takes me so much longer than it takes those around me. I work with people who can hold long conversations with the people around them and still get more done in their day than I ever can, even if I buckle down, sit far away from everybody, and try to shut out everything around me.

I feel the limits of my brain quite acutely in this setting.

When it comes up in my performance evaluations, as it so often does, we talk about me trying harder, about ways that I might be able to work more efficiently. I know that my brain is part of the problem, but it never occurs to me to think of it as anything other than something that I am at fault for. Surely this is something I can “fix”.
But the writer of the response then said something else. Something that stopped me in my tracks. She was responding to the parent’s report that her son was sent home each day with a behavior chart that inevitably had multiple “sad face” stickers on it. Whitney responded in this way:

How do they think that makes him feel? Do they think the sad face stickers are going to change his disability? Does the kid in the wheelchair get sad faces on her chart for not walking well? If they gave the kid in the wheelchair sad face stickers do they think it would change the way she walks?

(emphasis mine)

A disability. A real disability, that I can’t simply change by trying harder. I don’t say this to suggest that medication and modifying behaviors and the like are not necessary. I am not saying that there is nothing I can do, or that I just “can’t help myself”. I am just saying that I am always going to struggle, that my brain does not work so well sometimes.

Someone who uses a wheelchair because their legs do not work the same way as other people is not, to my knowledge, ever accused of moral failure, of not “trying hard enough”. Can I give myself that same grace? And how do I advocate for myself in the workplace when so many people, myself included, don’t take ADHD seriously?

I don’t have the answer to these questions. I only know that these words were a gift to me, a compelling reminder that my struggles are real, even if invisible.

(The article referenced in this post is from http://www.wrightslaw.com/heath/dont.care.iep.htm)

– See more at: http://www.wrightslaw.com/heath/dont.care.iep.htm#sthash.WBipQdqZ.dpuf

Choices to be made . . .

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
Sydney J. Harris

In the iconic television game show The Price is Right Let’s Make a Deal, one of the popular games requires the contestant to select from among three doors. If I am remembering this correctly, the prize behind Door #1 is revealed, and the contestant then needs to decide whether they are going to keep that prize, or risk asking to see what is behind Door #2 or Door #3. What’s behind those other doors could be much better than what is in front of the contestant, or it could be much worse.

I have been thinking about doors quite a bit lately as I have been reevaluating my life, because I have seen what’s behind Door #2 and Door #3 (or at least, I have seen a glimpse of each of them), and yet I stand here, hesitating, almost paralyzed by the crushing weight of inertia.

I am not happy with my life as it is. I am sure that this is no surprise to anybody who knows me. And for years, I have vacillated, unsure which direction to take. I am annoyingly fickle; it seems like I follow a given passion for a while before discarding it for the next whim or fad that comes along. A few things have remained constant, however, at least on the macro level. I have not outgrown my love for children, or my passion for fighting racism. The desire to have someone to mother is another longing that I have not been able to shake.

Over the last few years, desperate for something to change, I have felt a pull to two different doors, each related to these underlying passions. I have taken halting steps towards each of those doors; however, I have yet to make a choice, and I am hyper-aware of the fact that time is passing me by, and that every day of non-decision is a day that brings me closer to being stuck with the crappy-living-room-furniture set that is my current “Door #1”.

Behind Door #2 is the “mommy” prize. I have glimpsed into this door, even going so far as to take a few initial foster care licensing classes. My experiences with Elijah have convinced me that I would be able to do the hard work of fostering without any promise of permanency, and I am awestruck at the thought of what a gift and a privilege it would be to be in a hurting child’s life for a season. Am I certain that I could do it? Not at all. But I know that the need is huge, and I do not want to avoid doing something merely because it is difficult.

Door #3 holds the “teacher” prize. Having pursued (repeatedly, and unsuccessfully) a particular alternative teacher certification program has been a roller coaster. Certainty that it was going to happen, followed by crushing disappointment. Trying again . . . and again. Still not succeeding, and yet, unable to shake the almost visceral sense that this is what I am meant to do. That feeling ebbs and flows . . . working a temp job grading standardized tests recently, I felt the pull again, “seeing” these students and their need through their essay answers. Who is going to speak for those who have no one to advocate for them? Again, the need is huge, so why not me?

I have begun to identify steps that would bring me closer to being able to walk through one or the other of these doors, but I have a long way to go. I am paralyzed by indecision, however, and my greatest fear is that I will continue NOT to act, that I will indeed waste my life. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and my body reminds me daily that I am getting older. If I don’t do something now, I am certain that I will wake up one day an old lady, sitting on that outdated piece of furniture that will daily serve as a reminder of the way that I chose the default option, the “safe” choice that is no choice at all.

I believe I was created to live a life that matters. That I am not moving in that direction is a travesty of the worst sort. I need to fling open one of these doors; there is work to be done. I say that I want to live the way my heroes did, but those words ring hollow in the shadow of my inaction. I need to work around the pile of excuses that have held me back for so long. I need to move forward, because life will not wait for me. And the one thing I am certain of is that what is beyond those other doors will enrich my life in ways that I cannot yet fathom.

I just pray that I don’t miss it.

Sunday blogging against racism–Meet me in St. Louis (or not)

So yes, it’s still my favorite movie, and yes, I am excited to see it on the big screen next month!

But I was reminded again today of how insidiously racism has been woven into the fabric of our nation . . . and how easy it is for us in the 21st century to remain ignorant of our nation’s history . . .

Here’s an excerpt from the book  1904 World’s Fair: The Filipino Experience by Jose D. Fermin:

A driving force behind the 1904 fair, as well as with other major U.S. expositions during this approximate period, was America’s belief in the racial superiority of whites over darker peoples. By publicizing the supposed backwardness of nonwhite races for all the world to see, the 1904 fair organizers were able to translate the United States’s national and global accomplishments into grounds for acknowledging the transcendance of Caucasian races over their “colored” counterparts. Fermin writes in his book that “In measuring their technological achievements and national progress against those of other nations, Americans laced the fairs with racism.” Hence, they “considered themselves above the nonwhite peoples of the world and regarded them with a negative and demeaning attitude.”

It’s true that these “expeditions” were meant to showcase the best of the USA, and to foster pride in our nation, but even admirable steps (like the film at the 1964 World’s Fair, To Be Alive!) were hardly enough to erase a few hundred years’ worth of negative stereotyping.

(Ah . . . interestingly, the 1964 fair in NY was not an “official” World’s Fair. who knew?! It also seems like it was bogged down by lots of bureaucracy. In NYC?! no way!!!)

So what do you think? Were you aware of the history behind the 1904 World’s Fair? Is there something else you learned in school that you have since learned was wrong? (hint: the answer to that last question is “yes”–and if it’s not, then you just haven’t explored enough just yet!)

 

It’s been a long week . . .

and even though it’s Friday night, I’m going to back-date this because then my saying, “have I mentioned it’s been a long week?” in the post I wrote tonight and back-dated to Thursday will make sense.

(do you feel cheated, dear 2.75 readers out there?! if so, I am deeply sorry.)

Here’s the crazy thing, though. I wrote a while back about my decision to not pursue the NYCTF thing. At the time, it seemed clear that this was not the path I was to take, at least not right now. But this week, I found myself back on the emotional roller coaster of indecision because of two incidents that led me to two completely opposite conclusions.

First, lunch on Monday. I had the joy of sitting with the wife of my favorite new CRWM staff member, who is a teacher, as well as with another new missionary who is a social worker and will be in a school setting in the country she and her husband are moving to. Somehow the conversation turned to charter schools, NCLB, etc, and I was instantly engaged . . . doing that typical “lorraine” thing of practically jumping out of my chair because I just had so, so, SO much to say.

The thing is, I have strong opinions about the whole charter school thing (which I’m sure you didn’t notice), and my passion for racial justice is so inextricably tied up in my passion for public education that serves ALL of our children, and perhaps especially those who don’t have parents who are able or willing to fight for what they need. (This is mostly Jonathan Kozol’s fault.) So then, am I *meant* to be a teacher? What am I to do with all of this passion?

Then there was today. (try not to think about the fact that “today” is really two days ago as I’m writing this–we’re pretending it’s Wednesday, remember?)

There was an hour’s gap in our childcare schedule at the last minute, and my supervisor, knowing how much I love kids, suggested that I be the one to fill in that hour. Now, the thing is, I love kids, but I think that I tend to enjoy them much more on a one-on-one basis. I also don’t do quite as well with rambunctious and/or disobedient kids . . . basically, I’m a sucker/pushover/wimp, and kids can smell that the minute they look at me. I make all of these feeble attempts to set limits and boundaries, and yet I end up letting too many things slide, and chaos ensues. This hour, with this particular group of kids was no exception.

 
(this is what the room looked like while I was in charge)

I did have their attention while I read a few books, and was able to re-focus them for the most part during that part of it. But then there I was, trying to extract profound conversation from them, and I really got nowhere.

Worst of all, however, the teenager who was there to help for the day told me at lunchtime that, “as soon as Mrs. Z got there, they were all very well-behaved.” In other words, Mrs. Z took control of the classroom and was able to “manage” it. Me, not so much. So I don’t communicate very well with groups of children, am not good at engaging them, and have NO classroom control whatsoever. Any of the “maybe I SHOULD do this” thoughts that I’d had a few days before flew out of the window with that one observation from an objective observer. As anybody can see, I don’t like meting out discipline, and I am NOT a good teacher. I’m not even sure I really relate/connect to kids in any meaningful way . . . maybe they all just think I’m nuts, who knows. (wouldn’t be the first time . . . )

 
(this is the classroom restored to order and sanity once the “real” teacher arrived.)

Then I think, “well, I could go into administration . . . have some role like that . . . train educators . . . ” but of course, none of this makes sense because I can’t see any path to training educators that precludes my having first BEEN an educator.

So yes, we are back to square one. Thanks for reading! We have some lovely parting gifts for you . . .