Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lesson Learned More or Less

The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
          Douglas Adams 

I am sitting in my living room, warm and cozy, almost snuggily, nummy nummmmmzzzz.  Or maybe more like the trapped, immobilized, hostage of recent foot surgery,  so I’ve decide to start my on-line course that launches my newest venture in education,  a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  Trumpet blare please.  Drum roll….(Maybe I’ll be the first female president.  All I need is a dollar and a dream, right?  Oh that’s for the lotto, but the odds are probably equal.)   This starting of my on-line coursework might explain why I’m actually writing here, instead of studying and reading, there.  

I am maybe one of the premier worst students alive, ever, across several decades and in a variety of areas of learning.  No, really, it’s true.  The irony that I became a teacher is a wee bit twisted. And so I am also, maybe, the premier most twisted educator and a premier seeker of all things hot on the pursuit of a real challenge.   Which might explain how this being me, all comes together in some insane and sick master plan of the Universe. 

I was one of those students that had erasers and tissue boxes launched at them.  I was put in corners and directed to the coat closet.  My ample arse has been the recipient of a ruler swatting-just that once, before it became ample, way back when swatting it caused me great humiliation and immediate motivation not to ever speak when Sister Bernadette was speaking.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she let me know that she was familiar with my father too, Philip James?  Yes, she knew him very well!  His ample arse might have remembered her ruler but I wasn’t going home to shoot the shnikey and find that out on that mortifying day way back in that very first grade experience.   He might have recognized the similarities but he would have been obliged to follow suit and teach me a thing or two.  And I think the lesson was learned and sore and still red.   I had notes pinned to me.  Later on detention slips mailed home and a few, 80 plus or minus absentees from P.E. class around about 9th grade.   This was way back, before New York State starting tying attendance to grades.  Somehow or other you could show up on testing days and glide through the year if you felt like it, for the most part.

I know that sounds terrible.  The absentees.  Or the chronic cutting.  And I wasn’t out in any fields or near any streams smoking or sleeping or doing whatever those bad students do.  I was at that time enjoying fashion and I was wearing my now beloved pencil skirts, or fitted skirts and heels or fitted tailored blouses and Jordache, or Gitano jeans.  I know, it was low end, but it worked for me.  The real truth was I wasn’t particularly interested in gym class.  I had pretty much mastered the tumble-sault by then.  Or is it the somersault?  I wasn’t that amused or enthralled by square dancing.  My ample ass wasn’t so skilled at hoisting itself over the pummel horse and it’s pretty hard to move quickly in a pencil skirt.  I was more than likely in the cafeteria visiting friends during mixed grade study hall or in the library quietly reading poetry and pretending to be sophisticated and academic minded. I'm one of those annoying non-conforming students who needs to really understand the purpose of the learning.  Or I need to be somewhat interested. 

Let’s just say, it might not have been a different drum that I was beating, but the concept of one size fits all in the education system has just not worked out very well for me.  I have a little difficulty conforming.  Or fitting in.  Or maybe following directions.  Or it could just be quieting my busy little mind and relaxing my medium sized body, simultaneously, in sync, all together-like.   I wasn’t very physically adept and it wasn’t something greatly valued.  In terms of using my body for any physical education, I already learned and knew I had been blessed, or cursed with "breeders hips" for filling out skirts and having babies and carrying groceries home on, not for  tumblesaults.  Really!  Who designed P.E. curriculum then? OK.... I know..... I’m pushing it. 

I got through those earlier years.  I excelled in the arts and humanities and I just squeezed by in math and the sciences.  I focused on art.  I moved in my 15th year out of state.  I was stunned that the new state counted P.E. attendance a bit more seriously.  I spent tenth grade taking 2 P.E. classes, and the humiliation coupled with my status as the new girl helped me keep everything else in check and as close to in-sync as I can get.  I focused on my art.  I chose a college based on it’s strong and competitive program in art, and it’s rather negligent program in math and science.  The tissue boxes and erasers were not launched in my direction for quite some time.  But that might have more to do with laws changing around corporal punishment and not a direct reflection on my own personal growth.

OK back to now, or modern times and educating Rita, or me, Ginger.   A few years ago my daughter attempted to teach me stained glass making.  And once I attempted to go to ballroom dance lessons with a husband.  I will say the lesson with my daughter was a moment of truth that was hard to swallow.  The dance lesson, was a bit more comical but along the same vein.  If you know me, the word perfectionist doesn’t generally come to mind.  But the fear of being imperfect was huge in these moments.  I am more of a juggling everything at once-type student of life.  And so far I have been especially skilled at flexibility and plate spinning and diversion-making eye trickery.  When my daughter was attempting to teach me, however, I became tense and agitated, and all of these feelings of inadequacy came flooding in and snapping out of me.  It was horrible.  I could see it and feel it and hear it.  Blessed daughter that she is, stopped, turned, and allowed for it without mention.  She seemed, all of 17 at that time, to understand immediately, that she needed to change her teaching style, rather than telling me to change my learning style.  It was monumental, this particular moment.  It worked. She taught me more about myself in that moment than many before her failed to get across. It also became rather clear that maybe I have been deserving of a few launched tissue boxes, or at least it made it clear how someone might be driven to that response.  It has helped me as a teacher, more than any textbooks or lectures, to really understand that learning is often a time of great vulnerability and risk-taking.  Good teaching is the ability to support those moments and fill them with potential.

Today, as I sat attempting to make sense of the course syllabus in PDF format and the lessons in Word format, and then followed the link to the course texts, only to head back to the Notes page in Excel, I started feeling that old familiar feeling.  I am a little bit not knowing what the hell to do here and maybe wishing my friends are in some cafeteria just waiting to see me.  They would be pleased to see me looking happy.  The way friends are.  They wouldn’t need to know my smile is related to being able to successfully avoid a task that is unfamiliar to me.  But today I am inconveniently immobilized from the foot surgery, so instead my brain started imagining how to jump out of my skull when no one was looking, or maybe if it could just shut down and quietly hide out in some other chamber or hidden passageway, at least until the 7th edition of Public Administration for sadistic students seeking self-abuse, I mean wisdom and knowledge, gets delivered.  

The dance lesson?  Let’s just say leading is a bit of a problem for me.  Or following, depending on your perspective.  Having someone point out my flaws is never received happily, so barking that I needed to turn left or just take a half step seemed confrontational. And well, I snapped a little, and never wanted to go back to that stupid, old class.  The flaws are already screaming at me when I start something new, and damn it why can’t all those teachers hear that screaming too!?  Counting and moving my feet is a bit complex for me.  Chewing gum and walking works just fine, thank you very much, but maybe 9th grade and square dancing were a little more important than I believed at the time.  And my God wouldn’t I look that much better in those pencil skirts if I could fox trot, tango and twirl at someone else’s big strong graceful direction?  I wonder if that’s going to be covered in my course work.  The premier public administrator of this great nation was certainly required to dance at a few big events recently.  I imagine the Mrs. is also familiar with not being able to be lead so easily.   Hmmmm I didn’t notice waltzing on the syllabus.  Maybe it’s on that Excel spreadsheet….

It's worth noting there has been some recent growth.  It is with great fun and many big smiles with friends that I can occasionally be found at a Zumba class.  I think LMAO has a new meaning when I attend Zumba.  It definitely burns calories and enhances my physical well being.  But let's just say if there was an APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) for my Zumba instructor based on my ability to Zumba, she would be on an improvement plan, or getting her pink slip by now.  If, on the other hand, she were being graded for my smile, she would be receiving a life time achievement award and tenured for eternity.

Also worth shouting out, I'm the proud recipient of a scholarship based upon my prior GPA of 4.0 that I earned  while attending school, working and raising three children. Those eraser concussions must have helped after all.  The ability to spin plates and juggle while pursuing a degree is an integral part of my learning profile, or could be just symptomatic of my ADHD and a few self-taught coping strategies.  Less isn't more, here, more or less, more is necessary.  

Kites rise highest against the wind; not with it.
           Sir Winston Churchill 

and boy howdy has my kite been flying throughout my life long learning pursuit.

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