Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Greatest Adventure of My Life

14 years ago today, my wife and I said "I do" to each other in a restored dance hall in Yonkers, NY, and I can honestly say it has been the greatest adventure of my life.  

Our wedding invitation.


I say that without hesitation, or perhaps with a tiny bit of hesitation-- I mean I want to be accurate right?  Perhaps there was some other adventure that I embarked on that was bigger?  I've been on a few of them.  Driving down to Venice Florida to start clown college, not knowing a single soul there.  Driving cross country to the Dell'Arte school without having been there before, to figure out how I was going to learn to live in rural Northern California.  Teaching clowning as part of a cultural exchange program in Chile.  Studying clown in Czechoslovakia. Traveling to Copenhagen Denmark on a whim and then lucking into three weeks of following Dario Fo around the area.  (As I like to tell it, I met Dario in 1995, and he won the Nobel Prize a year later.  Now I'm not saying there's a connection... I'm just saying that before he met me, he was not a Nobel Laureate. )

But even looking at all those cool things I did, I can say that getting married (and having a kid) is the greatest adventure I've ever had.


Here's the video the NY  Times took the day after our wedding. 


It's amazing to see us as we were then-- before we were parents, embarking on our great adventure.


This is who we were back then.  Two newlyweds.  (Literally, this video was taken the day after the wedding as we were packing to go on our Honeymoon to Paris) 

We're not that far off from that now, although a little worse for the wear and perhaps a little less starry eyed.  Time (and Madness) takes its toll. (Thank you Rocky Horror!)

We're about to set off on another adventure- a couple of weeks in Thailand!  




Read the full article in the NY Times here.

It Doesn't Always Feel Like An Adventure

It doesn't always feel like an adventure, mind you.  Of course, many times it does.  Sometimes it feels super exciting, and everything is a blur and a whirlwind.  I can't concentrate, I've got a pit in my stomach, my palms are sweaty, my heart is racing, and I am not exactly sure what's going to happen next.

There have been times when this adventure feels downright dangerous to my physical, mental, and emotional health.  My head is reeling, I've got a pit in my stomach, My palms are sweaty, my heart is  racing, and I am not exactly sure what's going to happen next.

Sometimes it feels like a slog, and so rote and predictable and the same old same old- so much that I want to scream. My palms get sweaty, my heart starts to race, and I am pretty sure I know exactly  exactly what's going to happen next.  Until I don't.   And then rinse and repeat.


Hmmmm... these things all feel the same....

Because let's face it, adventure is all of those things at once-- it's just hard to focus on any one of these things at a time.

One of the many clown wedding photos I insisted on taking.  I'm not sorry one bit.



Here are some tips to remind me to focus, when it gets difficult (and even after 14 years, it still gets difficult.)

1) IT'S ALL ABOUT MINDSET .
Henry Ford said "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right."  I have a tendency to focus on the negative, to worry about what could go wrong, and think of solutions to prevent things that have not yet happened and might never happen.  Sometimes that's good, and sometimes that prohibits me from enjoying myself fully.


2) WE, NOT I
The more I can focus on the fact that we are on the adventure together, the better off I am.  I am historically poor at this, and I am trying to get better.  But at the same time, The Greatest Adventure of Our Life would be a terrible name for this post, because I'm trying to explain my point of view, not ours.  And there are often differences. Stark differences.

3) THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION.
Enjoying what I have and not being disappointed by not getting what I didn't want.  Words to live by.  

This is a variation on a fortune cookie I once got which said "The Joy of What You Have Is Lost By Wanting More."  That rings so true for me.

4) YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN THE NEXT CHANGE IS COMING

Life will gobsmack you when you least expect it.  So stay flexible, and always bring a towel. (Obligatory Hitchhikers Guide reference). 

5) If I had to do it all over again, I would.  

No regrets.  You can't change the past.  And in this case I wouldn't if I could.  I could have made better decisions along the way, there are some situations I didn't deal with very well, or could have handled differently, but let's look at #3- the journey.  I'm very happy to be on this adventure with my wife, with my child, and with all of the other people that are involved in my life.

Looking forward to many more anniversaries!






Saturday, March 19, 2022

El Dia de los Padres

 I've been seeing Father's Day signs in stores and was thinking "Wow that's really early!"  It's not even April yet!



Today, I saw some more, signs and a couple of people were really nice to me at the market. 


When I got home and I took  a look  on the internet and it turns out that Spain celebrates Father's Day today  March 19, coinciding with St. Joseph's Day!




My family is not going to find out about this until it's too late, and truthfully I don't really care.  I don't need acknowledgement from them to appreciate the rewards (and occasional pitfalls) of being a dad.  

They are part of the process!







But I thought it was worth pointing out-- So Happy Early Father's Day, all you Americans!

And for those who live in Spain:

¡Feliz día del padre a todos los papás!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

What It's Like To Be A Teacher in 2021.

Chris Bernholdt, in a still grabbed
from his TikTok account.

 I got this from my friend Chris Bernholdt,  (DadnCharge) who is an art teacher in Pennsylvania and a well known Dad Blogger and influencer.

I love the sentiments, and all of the conflicting information and demands on teachers (and it's absolutely similar for parents as well!  And students-- well fuggetaboudit!)

Chris says on his post that he got it from a friend, so I have no idea who really wrote it, but it's brilliant.

If you know who wrote it, I'd like to give them proper credit. 
Let me know in the comments who is the author, and I will praise them and point to them with awe.

I re-formatted it a little.  



What it is like to be a teacher in 2021

**Shared from a friend**

Me: Ok class, today...

Student: This is stupid. I'd rather be playing video games.

Office: *ring* Send (student) to the office.

Voicemail: My kid told me that YOU...

Email: We need you to sub on your prep.

Teacher coaches: Students are experiencing an all time level of trauma. Form relationships with all students and make connections every day.

SRSS: Make sure to incorporate ELA and math into your lesson plan daily, so we can boost our scores for data.

IEP: Implement these modifications and accommodations for these students every hour. Document it.

504: You are legally bound to adhering to these accommodations for these students. Document it.

Pinterest: Every teacher in the universe has a cooler and craftier idea and classroom than you.

Facebook: Omg. Did you hear about what happened in *insert teacher here* class?! Don't they even watch them? It's their job! How did (s)he miss that?! Yeah, and I heard...

Class roster: 30+ kids every hour, 6 times per day.

Student Services: You have 4 homeless students. You need to provide the following daily.

Student Medical alert: These students will die if you don't monitor these medical issues closely
.
Professional Development: We're trying something new this year even though we're not ready to roll it out and there's no funding for it. Be sure to document that you are doing it correctly.

Media: Your classroom is going to get shot up any minute.

Surprise observation: Be sure goals are set, reports are finished, lesson plans are perfect, and that you hit the learning target and success criteria multiple times. We need documentation and evidence that you're doing this.

Standardized tests: You suck as a teacher. Also, your rating is based on this, but also, make sure students don't feel defined by their performance on these.

PBIS: Teach students the expectations in the hallway, cafeteria, classroom, and outside. Take students in the bathroom and reteach how to wipe, flush, and wash hands. Be sure to only reward positive behavior. Check in and check out with these specific students daily.

MTSS: We have 3 tiers of support. What about your gifted students, pull out students, intervention students? Why aren't you providing enough differentiation? You need to provide documentation.

Door: Keep me locked, so that students are safe. Yes you will be interrupted to open me 10x per hour.

Papers/Grading: Say good bye to your evenings and weekends.

Lesson plans: Are they aligned with school, state, U.S., and world wide standards? Be sure to document that.

The Powers That Be: What can we do to help?

Teachers: Please take something off our plate before adding something new.

The Powers that Be: Sorry, no can do. Btw, you also need to...

Tech Dept: We are working on correcting today's issue as quickly as we can.

English Language Learner: *crying, speaking a foreign language, feeling alone and scared*

The Powers that Be: Sorry, there's just not enough funding for those students.

Department Heads: I've been told we need to align all of our curriculum, assessments, and daily lesson plans. Be sure to document that.

Staff Memo: Be sure to attend the following meetings this week: staff, grade level, core subject, tech, school climate, school improvement.

Counselors: We saw 500 of the 900 students on our caseload, this month.

Social Worker: Yes, I filed that CPS report and the other one. Now we wait on the state to act.

Student: My step dad got arrested last night for beating up my mom.

Tornado Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.

Fire Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.

Internal Threat Drill: Surprise! Barricade your door and make sure all students are silent for 45 minutes. Go back to teaching.

External Threat drill: Surprise! Make sure student are silent and out of the funnel of potential bullet spray. Now go back to teaching.

Tutoring: Provided before school, after school, and during lunch.

Technology: Must be implemented into all lessons but also make sure to monitor all 30+ students at all times and make sure they're not doing anything inappropriate.

Data: You suck as a teacher.

Administrators: *literally being pulled in 20 directions at once, everyday, while fielding discipline, making multiple teacher observations, fielding staff, breaking up fights, keeping us safe, performing investigations, cooperating with police, meeting with students and parents, and attending all after school and extracurricular activities*

Employability grade: Be sure to document when students are tardy, not following directions, unprepared, and not collaborating well. Document this for all 175 students.

Academic Grade: Document all accommodations, modifications, retakes, and rationale for grades for each of your 175 students. No we will not provide district time for you to enter these into your grade book.

Special Ed State Dept: You must mainstream all students regardless of behavior, cognitive function, and/or potential violent episodes. Sorry, there's just not enough funding for
additonal support in your classroom.

State: Make sure you are highly qualified, but you must pay for all of your professional development, student loans, grad classess, conferences, hotel stay, food, travel, and substitute teachers out of pocket. And you need to update your certification. You'll need to pay for that too.

Bladder: You haven't peed in 7 hours, you're going to get another infection.

Heart: *racing*

Stomach: *in knots and anxiety coursing*

Brain: You're not enough. You'll never be enough.

Chest/Lungs: I can't breathe.

Eyes: *leaking tears*

Me: *smiles* (Tells self) Stop. Just suck it up. You're fine. You have 30+ students eyes on you right now. Do NOT let them down.

Society: F*ck respect for authority, including your teachers. Must be nice to get your summers off.

Parent of a student: You make a difference.

Student: I know I'm special and have value, because of you.

My own kids: Dad, why are you crying?

Me: *sets alarm for tomorrow to do it all over again*

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

International Dad Jokes.

One of my brothers sent this meme/questionaire to me recently, and I have to say, I guess I'm pretty dad.

I guess I'm pretty darned dad.


 


Many of these "witticisms" are things I say on the regular   (Hmmmm, on the regular is not on this list.)


I looked this over with my 12 year old son, and we counted 8 on the list that he recognizes as mine, and those I  mostly learned from my dad.  I thought of them as loving nods to the way I was raised, but perhaps they are just incessant ear worms (memes for you younger folk) 

"Looks Like We'll have to amputate"

Actually, I just used a variation of this joke at the doctor in Spain.  My son had a slight fever (we think Strep, although the test came back negative.  It was not Covid.)  We visited the doctor twice. On the return trip, in my very bad Spanish, I asked as seriously as possible "Es necessito amputado?"  The doctor smiled, recognizing this apparently international dad joke.  


"Let's rock and roll"

I actually usually say "Let's rock and/or roll"  which is a reference to a Simpson's episode that I've long since forgotten.  I am also known to say "Let's G"  "Let's make like a tree and leave."  "Let's make like a bakery truck and haul buns."  and "Let's make like a hockey player and get the puck out of here."

"What's the damage"


When I do this, it's usually accompanied by a clown double-take when looking at the bill, or a Fred Sanford "It's the Big One Elizabeth" stagger while clutching my heart.  One day I might have an actual heart attack while looking at the bill, and then the joke will be on me.




"No, your other right."

I don't associate this with something I use as a dad.  This is a joke I almost exclusively use when teaching clowning and physical comedy to people.  It turns out, a lot of people (especially kids) don't know the difference between left and right, and just follow the cues of what the teacher is doing.  And since they are facing me, they actually do need to use the other right.  (Although sometimes I do demonstrate backwards, just to confuse them!)


"Just resting my eyes"

My dad used to say this all the time while laying on the couch watching a baseball game... and snoring.  I am not that far behind him really.  Well, I don't really watch baseball.  More likely to be watching Netflix or "Critical Role."

"That's how they get you."
This might be one of my most used expressions.  I don't just use it about warranties, I use it about nearly everything. Yes, I've turned into that jokey conspiracy theory dad. Of course they are going to get you.


I inherited a few other sayings from my dad that didn't make the list.

"Hands down by your sides-- like a soldier." 
If he was inspecting you to make sure you were properly dressed, or if you were trying to hide something, he'd say that.

"Pay attention- there will be a quiz later."
If you aren't looking or paying attention

"I gave him the one-five, the one-five, (he gave me the 2,3,4 back.)"

This was kind of a joke, because my dad had a very brief stint as a boxer. (at least that's what I've been told)  He was a tall thin guy at the time with extra long arms, and I guess that was attractive at the time.  He didn't like being hit, or hurt, so he quickly gave it up.  


So what did your dad say to you?  And what are you saying to your kids?  Let me know in the comments.


Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Race -Virtual Theatre- Extended March 13-28!

 I previously wrote about my friend Mark Binder's play, that had its World premiere via Zoom at the Wilbury Theatre Group in January. 


Read that article here.

It closed on January 31, but due to popular demand, it's being brought back from March 13-March 28.

Here's a video trailer for the play.

The Race - live theater that disrupts the zoomscape from Mark Binder on Vimeo.


 
In the play, two candidates (Mr. White and Mr. Black) are vying for a position.  One is white, and one is not (and during the course of the production, the actors change roles, so their name is NOT an indicator) As they are interviewed by an unseen third party (who may be a person, or an algorithm, or some strange amalgamation of the two) politics, race, bias, competition, complicity and computer mediation are all explored.  The questions are off-putting and relevant (and audience members can participate in the live chat and vote on some of the questions using Zoom's Poll feature)  And at the end of the show, the audience is invited for a talkback.

Don't miss the chance to see it!


Tickets are available at https://thewilburygroup.org/the-race.html


The Race by Mark Binder features Rodney Eric Lopez (left), Jim O'Brien (right) and Jennifer Mischley (unpictured)  The actors change roles nightly, which adds to the interest of this production.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Virtual Theatre: The Race by Mark Binder: Wilbury Theatre Group Ends January 31


Yes, the pandemic has shut off traditional methods of producing theatre.  But there is always a way.  And sometimes that way actually expands the possibilities of your work.

My longtime friend (and accomplished storyteller and novelist) Mark Binder has a new play being produced by the Wilbury Theatre Group in Providence, RI.  The play is called The Race, and it uses the zoom platform effectively to simultaneously isolate and engage the audience.   

It's his first produced play in 20 years, It ends this weekend, it's gotten great reviews, and I urge you to see it. 

The Race by Mark Binder features Rodney Eric Lopez (left), Jim O'Brien (right) and Jennifer Mischley (unpictured)  The actors change roles nightly, which adds to the interest of this production.


In the play, two candidates (Mr. White and Mr. Black) are vying for a position.  One is white, and one is not (and during the course of the production, the actors change roles, so their name is NOT an indicator) As they are interviewed by an unseen third party (who may be a person, or an algorithm, or some strange amalgamation of the two) politics, race, bias, competition, complicity and computer mediation are all explored.  The questions are off-putting and relevant (and audience members can participate in the live chat and vote on some of the questions using Zoom's Poll feature)  And at the end of the show, the audience is invited for a talkback.

A behind the scenes look at The Race.  I recognize this desk as Mark's!  (photo by Mark Binder)


Because it's on Zoom, anyone in the world with $20 and a computer can see the show. (which expands the audience base.) And because it's DESIGNED to be consumed in the Video/streaming format, it suffers none of the typical issues that a play suffers when translated into video (poor lighting for video, bad camera angles, muffled sound, and a feeling of not being present in the room.)  


This is an interesting new way to look at theatre, and a well designed and enigmatic evening. The actors are great, the writing and directing are on point, and like all good theatre it raises as many questions as it answers.  Definitely see it if you can!

The Race by Mark Binder, directed by Brien Lang with original music by Nikita Zabinski, and features actors: Rodney Eric López, Jennifer Mischley and Jim O'Brien.

Three more shows available:   (click links to purchase tickets)

Friday, January 29, 2021  7:00 PM
Saturday, January 30, 2021 7:00 PM
Sunday, January 31, 2021  2:00 PM

To find out more about the show: visit https://www.thewilburygroup.org/the-race.html

Read some reviews of the show:


https://artsfuse.org/220539/theater-review-the-race-business-as-unusual/

https://www.thewesterlysun.com/lifestyle/entertainment/the-wilbury-theatre-presents-mark-binders-the-race/article_0cf37e5a-5521-11eb-8a8c-472993a2567a.html

https://cranstononline.com/stories/wilburys-the-race-is-masterful-innovative-theater,158050

https://www.providencejournal.com/story/entertainment/arts/2021/01/21/zoom-job-interviews-get-dramatic-wilbury-theatre-groups-the-race/4235022001/






Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Relief for Out of Work Chicago Restaurant Workers!

 
Struggling Cook County restaurant, bar and coffee shop employees can apply to a relief fund that has more than $3 million to give to workers. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a Texas-based nonprofit, established the Chicago Restaurant Worker Relief Fund in August to help people who have been laid off or lost work as coronavirus restrictions limit restaurant service, but it has received limited applications and has more money to give out. The average grant is $2,500-$3,000.

Southern Smoke established the Chicago Restaurant Worker Relief Fund in August to help people who have been laid off or lost work as coronavirus restrictions limit restaurant service, but it has received limited applications and has more money to give out.
The average grant is $2,500-$3,000. To be considered for assistance for the Chicago fund, applicants must have worked in the food and beverage industry for a minimum of six months and an average of 30 hours per week. Applicants must be able to show proof of employment.
The foundation is vetting applications and prioritizing based on urgency.  Apparently, their grant team meets daily to approve and give away grants.
There is also the possibility of more funding: The private donor who started the fund is also matching up to $1 million in donations. If that goal is met, there’d be a total of $6 million in relief funds. 
If you like, you can donate to the fund here.
Since March, Southern Smoke has given close to $4,000,000 to over
2000 restaurant workers affected by COVID closures.


Southern Smoke was launched in 2015 to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and advocacy. The group shifted gears in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, providing financial assistance to workers in the food and beverage industry affected by the disaster. 
Apply for a grant https://southernsmoke.org/chicago-relief-fund/

Saturday, October 10, 2020

My Failings As A Father and as a Person

 

Alexander the Great I'm not.
It's my birthday tomorrow, which always brings me a certain level of depression and frustration.  It's right around this time each year that I start to think about all the things I haven't accomplished, all the things I haven't done, all the things I wanted to do this year, and somehow managed to avoid.  

When I was in my 30's, my joke used to be "When Alexander the Great was my age, he'd been dead for five years.  He had conquered all of the known world.  I've finished making payments on my five-year-old car."  

Yeah, I know.  I have it good compared to a lot of people.  I'm still alive and without COVID (knock wood)  My wife still has her income, and I'm fortunate to continue to be a house-husband, stay at home dad,  and (sort of) pursue my goals as an artist. And I've accomplished a lot this year.  (Including shedding 70+ lbs, working out every day for a year+, and keeping it off during the pandemic!)  I've also taken three major workshops, attended a couple of conferences, joined a mastermind of sorts, live-streamed every day for a month, wrote every day in my blog for a different month, started playing D and D again, and produced almost 40 sonnet videos (although I've stalled the last few months) on my Daily Sonnet video project. 

So I've done some things this year, but not enough, not enough.  I'm feeling disappointed in myself that I didn't jump on the virtual show bandwagon, that I didn't miraculously monetize my sonnets, that the idea that I have for an online course now seems stalled.

Dark skies ahead.

But  I wasn't thinking about any of these things when I lost my cool with my son tonight, in a way that did not reflect my best self, my best intentions, or show myself as a good parent.  Instead I got pretty angry and frustrated.

My son has been having focus issues at school, particularly with math.  He is complaining all the time about school.  We have had to cut down his computer game time, and assiduously watch it, because he's lied about checking out game sites during the day, about doing his homework, and he's just putting in the absolute minimum effort to do his work.  He doesn't want to do what the teacher expects, which is to write down the problem and show his work.  He's downright belligerent about it.  And sadly, I can be belligerent too.

After online school today, my son came to my office to ask if he could download a video game and play with his friends FIRST before he did his homework.  Typically he has to do his homework first.  But all of his friends were playing now, and I want him to have fun. He said that my wife had left it up to me.   I said, okay, but afterward, you need to finish your homework and take a shower.  He agreed, and even pinky swore.  

That was at 2:30 pm.  I had a bunch of stuff to do, and was in my office working at 4:30pm when my wife called me to say that she was leaving to have a socially distanced dinner date with a girlfriend, and did the boy do his homework?  I went upstairs to check on him, and he (naturally) was still playing video games.  It turns out children are not self-regulating, and they need to be reminded to do the things they said they were going to do. I asked him to get off and start on his homework.  

He grumbled but said yes.  About 8 minutes later, he was off, and when I checked in on him 10 minutes later, and he hadn't done a single Khan problem.  He's just looking at the problems, and he seems a little dejected.

There's nothing on his notepad.  He hasn't tried it at all..  I ask him if he needs help.  He says yes. 

 I pull up a chair and say "Okay, what's the first problem?"  

He pulls it up on the computer.
I say  "Okay, what''s the first step? " 

He says  "I don't know.  This is stupid. I don't understand it all."

"What don't you understand?"

"Everything."

"Like what?"

"Everything?"

I can't stand this kind of answer.  If you are having problems with understanding stuff, that's cool.  Math isn't easy, algebra isn't easy, you have to practice.  But when you haven't tried-- when you've put in zero effort, and then you ask me for my help, it is frustrating.   And then you start just making excuses, saying you don't understand everything, well, shut up.  It's not that you don't understand it.  It's just that you are refusing to try.



I try to show forbearance:  

 "The first step is: Write the problem down."
He says "I don't want to... I can't.  My fingers hurt.  I don't know where the sign goes, I can't multiply by a decimal. I don't know how to add or subtract."  And a dozen other excuses.  I chide and chide him. He finally writes it down.  He writes it extra big so that the problem takes up the whole piece of paper.

I say, "Okay, let me show you again how to do it."  I take the pad, and put it down, on the mousepad, moving the mouse slightly.

"AYYYYYYYYYYY!" he yells.  "Don't move the mouse!" 

"Why is it broken?"

"No, I just don't want it moved."  There's not enough space on the desk to make notes.


We go through this four times.  At this point, he wants me to just solve his problems for him, and he's pretending that he doesn't know how to add or subtract numbers.  Every time I try to show him, he is not paying attention, or he yells about me moving the mouse slightly.

He's telling me that he's stupid, that's why he doesn't get it, that he has a little brain, that he's not good at anything, he's not good at Minecraft.  I'm reassuring him that he's not stupid, I've seen him do this work before, he can do it.   But I'm not cheerleading him, it's not buoying him up.  He wants to get out of doing his homework and I don't want to be tricked or taken advantage of.  He's looking for sympathy, but I don't have a lot for him. We have been down this road many times before.


At this point, I know I need to show compassion, but I don't have any to give.  He hasn't met me a quarter of the way.

His obstinance and deliberate obtuseness is getting to me.    I say "Don't be lazy."  Then I regret telling him that.  I say, "I don't mean that you are lazy.  I mean that you are not doing the work you need to do, and now you are just being obstinate, hoping that the problem will go away. But it won't." 


Still no movement from him.  He's dug in.  I explain to him the options.   I tell him that I will take away his computer for the rest of the weekend.  I tell him he will have to sit at his desk until he finishes his homework.  He has three more problem sets to do.  It's 16 questions.  It will take him 15 minutes if he works at it, or it will take him three hours if he doesn't.  There's nothing else he can do. 

 Despite my best intentions, despite my desires, I've turned this into a power struggle, one I'm destined to lose.  

I'm trying to be patient with him.  I try to show him the problem again, he yells at me again about moving the mouse, I pick up the pad, and it brushes his face and "Ow!  You hit my nose!"  He won't let me work on the desk, so I bring him to  the kitchen table, and he puts his foot under mine and now "OWWWWW!  My foot hurts!  You stepped on my foot!"

I dealt with that, and brought him back to the desk.  I'm trying to persevere, I'm trying to show him how to write down the problem, and he yells about the mouse again.  In a fit of frustration, I clear all the stuff on the desk onto the floor with one sweep of my hand.  Everything clatters to the floor. I meant it to be "okay, let's clear the desk so that there's room to work within your ridiculous phobia about moving the mouse."  And yes, it was an overly dramatic gesture.

But that's not how it read to him.  (Of course.)   It came off as "I cleared this desk, and if you keep on making me angry, I'm going to clear you."  He gets frightened and runs into my bedroom.  I'm fuming at him for his obstinance and at myself for the way I've handled this.  Why can't I have more patience with him?  Why can't he just do the work, and save us this endless runaround?  Why do I care so much that he tries at his homework?  And why did I let him get to me?

He's barricaded himself in my bedroom, he's called my wife, she texts me to say, leave him alone, don't worry about the homework.  I text her to say I'm considering joining the French Foreign Legion.  Because I just want out.

I'm pissed.  I'm fuming.  He's played us again, he got to play video games, he didn't take a shower, he didn't do his homework, and I feel like a failure as a father.   I don't want any part of him, I don't want to hug him, or comfort him or find out what the problem is with his math.  My goodwill towards him is at zero, and I'm upset with myself that it bothers me so much.

I make my own dinner.  I toy with not making him dinner at all, and letting him fend for himself, but decide I can try to be the peacemaker.  He yells at me "Where's my food."  I give it to him, and we sit in silence, not looking at each other, not talking to each other.  I hate it, but I am not going to let him get the better of me.  I have to review an online show, so he goes back to my bedroom and watches The Good Place.  I don't say a word to him.

 

Self portrait as a frustrated dad.

My wife finally got home, and she soothed him a little bit, as she is capable of.  They watched TV in the bedroom.  I didn't want to go in there.  I watched my show and wrote this blog post, read the news, watched my own show, avoiding our bedroom, avoiding them.  He fell asleep in our bed, and I considered just not going to sleep, or sleeping on the couch.  But I went in and pulled him out of the bed and brought him into his own.  But I'm not tired and I don't want to sleep, and I feel like I need to share this post, even though it's not a good look for me.

I wish I had a better, happier ending to this story.  I wish I knew how to let it go, to let it roll off my skin like water off a duck's back.   But I don't.  Right now I don't even know how I'm going to let this go, and I know I need to, but I don't want to.   I'm disappointed in him, and I want him to know it.  And I'm disappointed in myself, and I don't know how to fix it. 

Happy Birthday to me.  And it looks like Alexander the Great is going to have the last laugh. His son became the Emperor

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Sometimes Digital Learning Can Be Great!


 I've been complaining a lot about digital learning as of late.  It's not engaging, it's overly strict, the kids are too regulated, there's not enough playtime or downtime. 

During the digital lesson my son (aged 12, going on 26)  is either trying to shut off his video so he doesn't have to pay attention or sneaking discord/ chat messages with his friends.  (He's already gotten in trouble for arranging to play minecraft during Lunch time while using the school provided Google Chat!)  I have to go over his history with a fine tooth comb, and he's always pretty shifty.

After the lesson is over, I find myself either having to police my son to make sure he does his work, threatening him with lack of internet (do I have any other leverage these days?)  And when he manages to do his work, it's lackluster and/or just out and out wrong.   And he's cried and gotten angry more in the last three weeks than he did all summer, and I have to think that digital learning is at the root of most of that.  (Well that, and the onset of puberty!)


 Basically, my son hasn't had great experiences with digital learning thus far.   But there's hope on the horizon.

Brady Lea

My friend Brady Lea (fellow alum of Clown College and a brilliant playwright and theatre artist) teaches improv at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, a competitive arts-based public high school.  She recently posted a fantastic story on her Facebook about one of her digital/ distance learning/ Zoom classes.  It was inspiring, and I wanted to share it here.  And she gave me permission to do so!  

The thing that is so great about this is that it shows when handled in just the right way, that digital learning can totally rock.  She gave the students some (pardon the pun) Lea-way, and they came through big time.

 I'm not sure how you could teach math this way, but maybe you could.  And if not this way, some OTHER way that follows the student's desires while still pushing them forward, using peer pressure in a positive way.

One of the things I love about this is that it's not about how great a teacher she is.  (although I'm sure she is)  As the story is told below, the real magic is in how Brady saw an opportunity and seized on it, and let the kids guide her.  And in the process, threw away her lesson plan, and her agenda. That's the kind of teaching (and learning) that makes a real impact.  I have no doubt that years from now, this little incident will be emblazoned in the brains of the kids who participated.  I know I'll be thinking about this moment of magic for some time.  And I wasn't even there!


Thanks for sharing, Brady!



Post by Brady Lea (all copyright by her. Reposted by permission)

I've posted an image of the facebook post below. If that doesn't work for you, I've also posted the text below that. All words by the wonderful Brady Lea.

If that image didn't come through, here's the text (again, reprinted by permission)

Warning: Long Post. (But entirely politics-free.) Follow up to yesterday's post about having a great zoom class. It was my first class teaching my material (have been doing other activities the last few weeks) with HS Juniors. I've had them for three years. It's a frustration to speak to a screen when a lot of kids are muted and/or have their video off. Especially teaching improv. We get no automatic feedback. As a comedy person, this is extra painful. 
 
Thanks to the many other generous teaching artists sharing lesson plans and tips for online teaching, I found a few tips on getting students engaged right off the bat. One was to admit nobody until there were 5-6 people in the waiting room. So I did that. Someone else suggested having the teacher's mic & camera off so they chat amongst themselves, something we really don't see much of. (Except them messaging each other on other platforms.) I waited for 5-6 more and then let that group in. They chattered away for 5 minutes, as I let in a few more people one at a time. 
 
I had been planning to just turn on my camera & mic then and start class, but also about that time, they started going, "Wait... where IS Brady." "Yeah, where?" Then they said some things I might be doing (nothing offensive-- ribbing me for my pet subjects.) I thought it was funny, and they were more engaged as a class on one thing than I'd seen in-- uhhh--since the before times. Eventually, someone said (joking-- I think) "What if something happened to her?" "Yeah, what happened to her."
 
At that point, I scrapped my warm-ups and wrote in the chat:

  

BRADY HAS BEEN ABDUCTED BY ALIENS. 
 
I really thought this would maybe get me 1 second of sarcastic laughter from ~16 yr olds. But they got into it, freaking out (schmacting) about my peril. Then I said:

 SAVE ME!!!

And at that point they all (ok mostly) got into using tactics and mirroring and ensemble work to save me. They tried doing it psychically. They asked about my whereabouts. They all (but one) made a tube with their hands for me to crawl through. The Alien commander took over my chat and made the one hold-out participate. Then the commander demanded a sacrifice. Before they actually sacrificed one of their own, they were told it could be someone from their rival department. They had a name instantly. The commander then said he had eaten this kid. (YAY!) (We like him.) 
 
As the problem solved, trying to find the internal logic none of us knew, they also asked specific questions about the aliens to help further their rescue plans. How many legs? (6) How many arms? (3) What color? (Purple and green, based on my wee nephew's skin color chart.) Then they did the math to make sure every alien limb was accounted for.

 This had been 15 minutes of working together and narrative-building and it seemed like maybe I should start "real" class. I teach standing up from my kitchen and at that moment David Gallagher (spouse) came by. I told him to stand in front of my computer, and I turned on the camera. Students screamed. He spoke for a few seconds and then just moved his mouth while I dubbed his voice, claiming to be trying to take over his body and therefore escape. They used more psychic powers/telekinesis to blast him off the screen at which point I finally appeared. Much applause all around, and I praised the ensemble improv skills they showed. And then we started our grading period.

I had so much fun. So, thank you to whoever it was in whichever teaching theatre online group I'm in that suggested waiting until there were 5-6 of them before I let them in. Useful.