Teen Video Contest Highlights Activist Leaders

Community Involvement for Social Change via Video

Writer Ayesha Siddiqi is quoted as giving this piece of advice: “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” Working to inspire younger generations can ensure that your vision grows, expands, and lives on beyond you. Many young people do have peers as well as older adults in their lives who inspire them to do important deeds such as organize within their communities, fight injustice, and educate others. Identifying leaders can help young people to discover qualities they would like to cultivate for themselves.

Making Democracy Work in My Community is a video contest for Massachusetts teens. The contest asks young people to create a two-minute video about a person who is “making democracy work.” This challenges teens to think about leaders who foster dialogues, organize action, and encourage civic participation from other community members. The contest will amplify young voices as teens have the chance to articulate what they admire about their chosen community leaders. Finally, the contest will have the broader impact of shining a spotlight on politically active people in our neighborhoods, thus encouraging everyone to get more involved in the democratic process.  Read the rest of this entry »

Goshen Rocks! Teen Initiated Arts Expo Comes to the Hilltowns.

Goshen Rocks: Youth Arts Expo Empowers Teen Artists through a Collaborative Network

Teens in western Massachusetts have outstanding skills, knowledge, and creativity to offer to the world! Celebrate their interests and accomplishments at Goshen Rocks: Youth Arts Expo, a collaborative showcase of music, poetry and visual art – all created and performed by local teens!

The Arts Expo is organized through a collaboration between Graffiti Cat Zine and People to Watch: The Next Generation – both are teen initiated arts-based resources that build creative community by connecting local teens with community venues and outlets for sharing their work. In keeping with this mission, Goshen Rocks offers the first event of its kind to western Massachusetts: not only does the expo combine visual, written, and musical creative work, it is the first community-based teen-specific creative event of its kind.

Read the rest of this entry »

Teens 101: Getting Things Done

Creating a Different Way Forward

“No one lies on their death bed and wishes they spent more time at the office.”

My dad shared that adage with me at some point in my youth, which was ironic, because my dad sure did spend a lot of time at the office when I was a kid. Luckily he’s not yet on his death bed, and has been making up for it.

Now I share it here, with next generation irony, because my office is wherever my computer is, and I sure do spend a lot of time at it. I am in no position whatsoever to remind anyone that there is more to life than working, because lately, working is my life.

But of course it isn’t. My children are my life, my husband, my family. This is what matters to me. So why is it so hard to put my work away and be with them?  Read the rest of this entry »

Teens 101: Supportive vs. Antagonistic Relationships

Adults v. Teens: The Fight Where Everyone Loses

Negative exchanges occur between young people and adults every day.  We accept it as normal for some relationships to be antagonistic, at least some of the time.  These exchanges might feel inescapable or even necessary, but they are also counterproductive, not to mention unpleasant.  What are the effects of antagonistic relationships?  What would it take to maintain supportive relationships between adults and teens and reduce or even eradicate antagonism?

A story from my childhood: Read the rest of this entry »

Teens 101: Allowing our Children to Choose What’s Best for Them

All the Things We Thought Were Important

To bush or not to brush. To mitten or not to mitten. Is it worth the fight and sometimes unhappy kids? Learning to listen and allow my kids to make their own choices allows them to make choices that are right for them.

When my kids were little, we had some friends who never made their kids brush their hair.  They didn’t have dreadlocks- it wasn’t a cultural or aesthetic choice, it was just a choice not to argue about it.  Combs were offered and suggested, but in the end the family went out and about happily whether or not the children had combed hair or snarls.

At my house the children did not go out happily, nor did they go out with snarls in their hair.  Frequently they went out with eyes red from crying after lots of fussing and fighting about hair brushing.  Their hair got brushed because I am bigger and stronger and insistent and have the car keys.  But it was sometimes awful.

Then we’d be out and see these other kids with their messy hair, and who cared?  I didn’t.  I didn’t judge those kids or that family.  I noticed, in an amused sort of way, and then the very next day I went back to fighting with my own kids about their hair.  A model of another option was right there in my life, but I didn’t consider it.  I wanted calmer, happier interactions with my small children, but not so much that I was willing to be seen in public with them looking unkempt.

Was that for them?  No.  That was for me.  That was all ego.  I couldn’t be the mom with the kids with messy hair, and if that meant some crying and screaming before we went out, so be it.  Somehow I thought it was that important. Read the rest of this entry »

Debut of Teens 101: Hacks, Ideas, Commiserations, and Small Wonders

Adolescents and Squirrels

This adolescent period is a clunky time for all mammals- one long and clumsy transition. As adults, our role is to walk the impossible balance of supporting just enough challenge and exposure so that they can gain necessary skills, with enough safety and protection to prevent injury.

I’ve never really been into squirrels. Never thought too much about them except to avoid them on the road. But suddenly this spring I’ve found myself fostering two baby squirrels, from a nest narrowly saved from a chipper on my husband’s job site.

I’m a sucker, and I’m a mother. You give me a small, helpless, hungry thing, and I feed it. With the guidance of a wildlife rehabilitation professional and the internet, we’ve managed to grow a couple of happy, healthy squirrels, and they’re almost ready to go back out into the world on their own.

I don’t usually work with squirrels. I work with teenagers. I am currently parent to two teens, as well. And now some adolescent squirrels, too. Adolescents at every turn.  Read the rest of this entry »

Personalized Education for Teens in Holyoke Draws Upon Community-Based Learning

 Welcome LightHouse Holyoke to Hampden County!

Into the midst of the educational upheaval happening in Holyoke enters LightHouse Holyoke, Personalized Education for Teens, a new school alternative opening in September 2015. Located in the Innovation District of Holyoke, MA, LightHouse will support teens to pursue individualized educational paths while drawing upon community-based learning opportunities and courses.

Each student’s use of the program is personalized, and LightHouse offers four optional Pathways as a foundation: Entrepreneurship, Arts, Tech, and College Prep.  Learning overlaps in the 8-week classes. Additionally, students learn through tutorials – one-on-one, individualized learning experiences that generally (but not always) focus on core academic areas. Students further their learning by engaging with community organizations, allowing them to put theory into practice in real-life contexts.  Read the rest of this entry »

STEM Fest For Teens With Science Quest at UMass

UMass’ Science Quest
Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Science Quest is an exciting opportunity for high school students to visit the UMass Amherst campus and engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and guided lab tours. All presentations are organized by UMass faculty members and designed for high school-aged students. Science Quest is a one-day free event happening on Saturday, April 11, 2015 in Amherst. — Space is limited, so register early!

Students learn about a wide variety of STEM topics in school – everything from the periodic table to the Pythagorean Theorem – but all too frequently aren’t shown the interesting, practical, and often surprising ways that STEM topics can be applied to real life!

High school aged youth are invited to UMass’ Science Quest, an annual free event offering students the opportunity to learn firsthand about science research, the practical applications of science knowledge, and the creativity that STEM work sometimes allows!

Students in grades 10-12 who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math can engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and lab tours at UMass Amherst’s Science Quest event on Saturday, April 11, 2015 from 9:30am-3:40pm in the Integrated Science Building (661 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA).

Students can choose from a variety of classes, demos, and tours, including ones on topics like food science, physics, biology, nanotechnology, astronomy, alternative energy, chemistry, animal sciences, and engineering. High school students can become more engaged in the sciences through this free event, which promotes hands-on learning and participation. In addition to these activities, UMass undergraduate science students will be present to talk about their experiences as science majors and an admissions representative will be on hand to discuss preparing for college and applying to UMass.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown High School Students Mobilize to Support Democracy

Members of Model United Nations Club Raise Awareness

The entrance to Gateway Regional High School in the Hilltowns features student words of support for Hong Kong protesters.

Hong Kong. A city of more than seven million people, is a global financial center known for its film industry and manufacturing sector. And more recently, known for the protests that have brought tens of thousands to its streets, all demonstrating for free and fair democratic elections. Recently, students at Gateway Regional High School in Huntington, MA, put together a campaign to raise awareness of the events in Hong Kong and to show support for the pro-democracy protesters half a world away. Senior, Cory Bisbee,  had followed the protests closely and decided to start organizing a group of fellow classmates to address them after police shockingly used tear gas and pepper spray on the protesters.  Read the rest of this entry »

Trail Crew Work Opportunities for Teens in the Berkshires

Teen Trail Crew Work Opportunities this Summer

Many teenagers do their summertime growing-up while working for minimum wage.  Structured activities (such as part-time jobs) with specific and clear expectations provide teens with more than just something to occupy their time – they learn responsibility, methods of effective communication, punctuality, reliability, and other useful real-world skills.  Important though such attributes are, most of the jobs available to teens involve spending time indoors (often hours on end) and, with the current economic climate, jobs for even the most inexperienced workers are hard to find.

While a first paycheck can be an important rite of passage, the Appalachian Mountain Club offers teens an incredibly worthwhile alternative to working retail or foodservice.  Teens looking to acquire life skills while accomplishing something both tangible and meaningful can participate in the AMC’s Teen Trail Crew weeks in south Berkshire County this summer. Participation in the program means working hard from Monday-Friday to help maintain and improve AMC trails, as well as working as a group to pitch tents, make food, feed a campfire, and completing all of the other tasks that come with wilderness camping.  Typical projects include moving rocks, cutting trees, and using tools to build trail features (including bridges and walk boards).

Read the rest of this entry »

PeaceJam: Connecting Teens with Nobel Peace Laureates

PeaceJam: Youth and Nobel Peace Laureates Working Together to Change the World

Have you heard about PeaceJam yet?  It’s an international educational program that connects young people with Nobel Peace Laureates, built on three simple ideas: Education, Inspiration, and Action.  The mission of the PeaceJam Foundation is, “to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.” Here’s how it began:

In a recent interview with Western MA native, Donovan Arthen, regional coordinator for PeaceJam New England, Donovan shared more about PeaceJam and about an exciting spring conference happening in Connecticut in coming weekend, April 6-7 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

How did you get involved?

DONOVAN: I started as a college-aged mentor in 2007 after my sister attended a national conference and started a PeaceJam Ambassadors group at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School.  I’ve been going to the Conferences and Slams ever since as a mentor, an MC or a workshop leader. It has been a significant part of my life for a long time.

What are the most rewarding aspects of being involved with PeaceJam for you?

DONOVAN: Well, there are quite a few aspects that make me feel fulfilled by what I do with PeaceJam. If I were going to choose one though, I would have to say that it is experiencing the youth at the different program sites and at the conferences. It was this that got me so excited about PeaceJam in the first place. There is an amazing quality of feeling that I get when I see these young people, so motivated, so active, so passionate about making a difference. It is incredible to see these youth stepping forward and being leaders in their communities right now, and embracing the power that they have to create meaningful change.

Can you tell me a little bit about the conference – who is it for and what will happen during the weekend?

DONOVAN: This conference is for mainly for young people between the ages of 13-18. We will also have college-aged mentors and adult advisors there, but it really is mainly for the teens. We start early on Saturday morning, April 6th at the University of CT. There are workshops, a few sessions with our special guest, nobel peace laureate Jody Willimas – who is really a dynamic presence – opportunities to do service projects and meet with other “Jammers” just to talk. We will have a celebration on Saturday night, and then gather again on Sunday, April 7th,  more of the same.  – The conference is open to all teens interested in making the world a better place.

What do you think are some of the best things that teenagers can get out of PeaceJam and out of the conference in particular?

DONOVAN: You know, it is inspirational to learn about and see the Nobel Laureates – to hear what they have to say in person, but it is just about as exciting to be able to connect with other young people who really want to make a difference. You can get a lot of ideas about service projects you can do yourself and get energized by the kids who are really into it. We have a lot of fun.

To find out more about PeaceJam, visit their web site at www.peacejam.org.  If you have questions about the New England PeaceJam Conference happening this weekend at the University of Connecticut, email Donovan at peacejam.new.england@gmail.com.


ABOUT DONOVAN ARTHEN

Donovan Arthen grew up in Worthington, attending first the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in Haydenville, MA, and then Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School. He returned to the Hilltowns a couple of years ago after studying world music and graduating from Weslyean University in Middletown, CT, with honors in 2011. Currently Donovan is the regional coordinator for PeaceJam New England and is organizing their annual conference which will be held the weekend of April 6 & 7, 2013.

Equality for All: Spoken Word Video Contest for Western MA Youth

Hampshire County Law Day 2013
Spoken Word Contest for Middle & High School Youth

Hampshire County LAW DAY 2013: A Spoken Word Video Contest for Middle & High School Aged Youth. — Spoken word poetry is a powerful, high energy form of storytelling intended for onstage performance. It has ties to hip hop, modern poetry, postmodern performance and monologue theater, as well as jazz, blues and folk music.

As we teach our children how to conceptualize the world, they are most certainly forming their own opinions about what it means to live and exist within it.  We give them lots of information on the past, and perhaps even more than that, we give them advice and guidance for navigating today and the future.  We share with them critical information about our history – both as individuals and as a country and culture – and we try to help them make sense of it.  Whatever they gain from it, they then use to find their own place in the world.  But rarely do we ask them to tell us what it means to them.

When we teach students about things like feminism, civil rights, tolerance, and equality, the topics become important to them not when we teach them, but when they find a way to connect to them.  And what better way to find out what they’ve learned than to ask them to share what these things mean to them?

The upcoming Hampshire County Law Day (which will take place on May 1st, 2013) is offering an opportunity for middle and high school students to do just that.  Youth interested in making themselves heard can create an original piece of spoken word to the Northwest District Attorney’s Citizen Advisory Board – pieces will be reviewed by the board and three students will be given the chance to share their voice and their perspective during the event.  Held to celebrate the steady development of equality in America, the event focuses on the same ideals shared by those who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, as well as followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech took place 50 years ago.

Submissions to the contest should be in video form, as the most important element in spoken word is the delivery of the poet’s work.  The deadline for submission is 4pm on Tuesday, April 23rd.  For more information about both the contest and the event, including specific content guidelines for submissions, visit northwesternda.org.

Science Quest at UMass for Teens

UMass’ Science Quest
Saturday, October 27th

Science Quest is an exciting opportunity for high school students to visit the UMass Amherst campus and engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and guided lab tours. All presentations are organized by UMass faculty members and designed for high school-aged students. Science Quest is a one-day free event happening on Saturday, October 27th in Amherst.

Students learn about a wide variety of STEM topics in school – everything from the periodic table to the Pythagorean Theorem – but often aren’t shown the interesting, practical, and often surprising ways that STEM topics can be applied to real life!

High school aged youth are invited to UMass’ Science Quest, an annual free event that offers students the opportunity to learn firsthand about science research, the practical applications of science knowledge, and the creativity that STEM work sometimes allows!

At Science Quest, students can take a tour of the school’s physics lab, to see how nanoscales are made; learn about both the political and technological sides of biofuels, solar energy, and fuel cells; and see crazy (but science-based) demonstrations of peanut butter being turned into a powder, ice cream made using nitrogen, and more!  The event will also include a panel discussion with current UMass students pursuing degrees in a variety of STEM-related fields, as well as a Q+A with UMass faculty and staff on the university’s programs and studies of STEM in higher education in general.

Registration is required – students may attend as part of a school or homeschool group, or on their own.  Science Quest will take place on Saturday, October 27th from 9:30am-4:30pm at UMass’ Integrated Science Building (661 North Pleasant St.) in Amherst, MA, and includes free registration, parking and lunch. Limited travel funding and PDPs for teachers is also available. For more info visit  www.umass.edu.

Teen Volunteer Opportunity with Habitat for Humanity & Zoo in Forest Park

Springfield Non-Profits Working Together!
“Habitat Goes to the Zoo!” Volunteer Event
Saturday, Sept. 22nd

Laura Browne of Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) chats up a friendly camel during her site visit to the Zoo in Forest Park. (Courtesy photo)

Teens ages 16yo and older and their parents are invited to participate in the volunteer opportunity event, “Habitat Goes to the Zoo!” on Saturday, Sept. 22nd!

The Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) and The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center, two cherished Springfield non-profits, are working together to improve the public grounds at the Zoo for the community to enjoy by organizing this volunteer opportunity.

Jennifer Schimmel, Executive Director of GSHFH says, “Our primary mission is to provide decent, affordable housing to families, usually human families,” she laughs. “Although this project falls outside of our typical mission, we are Springfield neighbors with the Zoo and the animals that live there need a little help with their housing as well.” Schimmel adds, “GSHFH is very adept at mobilizing and managing volunteers and we are glad to be leveraging that talent on behalf of the Zoo.”

John Lewis, Executive Director of the Zoo in Forest Park says “We have spent much of this season recovering from big property damage from the storms of last year. We are so grateful that we were able to connect with Greater Springfield Habitat to put the finishing touches on many of our exhibits. Habitat volunteers will focus on painting fourteen of our wooden buildings & animal sheds which will really look great when finished.”

The date for the “Habitat Goes to the Zoo!” event is Saturday, Sept. 22nd from 8:30am-3pm (rain date: Sunday, Sept 23). Teens ages 16-18yo are welcomed as volunteers along with an adult chaperone. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit habitatspringfield.org or call 413-739-5503.

ABOUT PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS

The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center is more than 80 years old and located in Forest Park in Springfield, MA. They depend on the support of the community, memberships & educational programs to thrive. They have approximately 175 animals with over 85,000 annual visitors. Forestparkzoo.org

Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity is a housing ministry dedicated to strengthening communities by empowering low-income families to change their lives and the lives of future generations through homeownership opportunities. HabitatSpringfield.org

Own the Night: Palmer Library Poster Contest for Teens

Own the Night

Teens are invited to showcase their art and design skills in the Palmer Library’s poster contest!  This year’s summer reading program theme is, “Own the Night,” and the library invites local high school students to create a poster expressing the theme – all entries will be shown at the library, and three winners will be chosen!

Artists can use essentially any medium (or media) that they like, and are asked to keep their work free of copyrighted characters and/or clip art – make it all original –  should also be between 8.5×11 inches and 34×44 inches.  Entries should not only be inspired by the program theme, but should convey what it is through text and images.

The contest is an opportunity for teen designers and illustrators to practice their skills, and to have their work viewed by the community while celebrating the summer reading program!  Entries must be submitted by June 29th, 2012 – pick up an entry form at the Palmer Library or at Palmer High School.

For more information, call Krista Navin at 413-283-3330 ex. 106.

Parenting vs. Pestering: Keeping Teens Drug-Free

A “Posh” Life

If you are an entertainment junkie as I am, you might have seen or heard about Demi Moore’s fateful night a few weeks ago. According to a released 911 call and several reports, the gorgeous movie star allegedly smoked an unknown “but legal” substance that caused her to go into convulsions. When asked about the report on a red carpet somewhere where I was not and probably will never be (but I digress), George Clooney chastised the media release of the 911 tapes for going too far and prying into a human’s private life. But I disagree with him. (Yes Mr. Clooney even with all your suave, debonair, handsomeness I won’t be swayed when it comes to this. But I could be swayed in other ways………….) Um…WHERE was I? OH Demi! Yes.

Apparently the substance that Demi was smoking at a party (that her daughter was also attending I might add), was called “POSH.” When Giuliana Rancic, E’s reporter, uttered this word my husband, who usually is uber bored with my E Entertainment News obsession, sat straight up and began shaking his head in a disgusted way vigorously. The attention to the story puzzled me and I assumed it was because, well, Demi Moore in all her brunetty-rockin-body way is EXACTLY his type. But it wasn’t that at all…it was that he somehow agreed with me in my disagreement with Clooney’s protestation.

“I am glad that they released the tapes.” He uttered.

“You are?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, it is about time that Posh gets some kind of media attention. You have no idea how rampant it is at school and since it is legal there isn’t really anything administrators can do about it.”

My husband is currently interning as a vice principal in a local middle school. Recently a student was caught smoking this “Posh” substance in the bathroom. When he was confronted about it in the main office, the red-eyed student was higher than a kite. He couldn’t contain his laughing, nor was he able to make eye contact with anyone or any object. Being as high as he was actually turned out to be an advantage to my husband and the other administrators because the boy was willing to say whatever and willingly give them the contents of his pockets. Here is what he handed over to the principal. Be sure to study it because what you are looking upon is quickly becoming an epidemic amongst teens for several reasons:

Read the rest of this entry »

Recognition of an Unbalanced Mother

Next to Normal

The piano started--a ballad--and I sat up a bit straighter, leaning in, in order to hear the lyrics clearly. “So Anyway” was the title. It was a song written for the lead, a mother…an unbalanced mother…I leaned in even closer identifying immediately with the sentiment of the song, with the sadness and regret, and it happened…

Last night I attended a benefit for our local professional theater. I smiled and laughed at dinner with my sister, her husband and friends. I rocked back and forth, even danced a little in my chair to the INCREDIBLE live music coming from the talented Cabin 3 at the front of the bar. (Okay…a shameless plug for a talented friend.) But if truth be told in the very center of my solar plexus there was an all too common sphere of sadness, dread, rage, anxiety–perhaps it’s a psychotic being–as it seems to be living and breathing. You see, life with the teens, with the hubby, heck—life with the family has not been a picnic lately and the weight of all that disappointment, frustration…resignation pulled upon my limbs as I crossed the street to the theatre making my legs feel like they were wading through thigh-deep mud.

I continued wading through the wine and cheese and small talk of the local elite. I pressed on with my persona of the dutiful mother and happy wife. I rallied hard to ignore the sadness that engulfed me, and refused to listen to the continuous worry reel that was rolling through my mind. Like a Chinese acrobat, I kept spinning those plates high above me and hoped that they wouldn’t come crashing down on some unsuspecting head—forging forward in my familial fog feeling utterly and completely alone with my thoughts.

A writing acquaintance of mine, Katrina Anne Willis (okay okay another shameless plug) recently wrote a blog post in which she stated,

“My marriage, my children — those are the relationships I’ve vowed to hold onto forever. Those are the people, no matter how much they change, to whom I’ll always hold fiercely, always fight for. Those core family relationships are different — at least to me.”

I adore this woman and her incredible writing, but I gotta tell you that sometimes lines like the ones above make me feel utterly inadequate as a mom and as a wife because if I was being truthful, there are days that the changes and challenges brought upon by my marriage and my children seem to me to be a continuous barrage. And that barrage has exhausted me to the point where “holding fiercely” and “fighting for” are the last things I want to do. Maybe it is because I am tired of fighting; fighting to keep those sometimes wayward boys of mine on the straight and narrow, fighting against my selfish nature, fighting to be a better mother, fighting for honesty, fighting against disappointment, fighting to be heard, seen, appreciated just a little and of course the never ending battle for good old fashioned respect and understanding. And while I am at it, I am tired of fighting the incredulous feeling that all of those sacrifices, all of that thinking, all of that effort…was for what—for what? Where I am—where my family is—is exactly where I didn’t ever want it to be, and it’s there despite all the fighting, despite all the thinking and despite all the effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Intergenerational History Project in the Berkshires

Southern Berkshire Community Coalition
Senior Life History Project for Teens

The Southern Berkshire Community Coalition is sponsoring a unique intergenerational history project!  The Senior Life History Project pairs teens (ages 12-18) with seniors, and the pair will together create a life history project.  Together, the senior and their teen will use writing, photography, and video to tell the story of the senior’s life- the end result of which will be a scrapbook (including mixed media, if the pair chooses).  Teens who participate in the project will get to hear a firsthand account of what it was like to live in their community during the past 60+ years- they will learn how local culture has changed over time, and what it was like to live in the Berkshires during important eras in history (During the Civil Rights movement, for instance.).

There are two different meeting locations for the project, and those participating will be expected to meet weekly at either Monument Valley Middle School or the Sheffield Senior Center.  The program begins on January 12th in Sheffield, from 3-4pm, and on January 17th at the middle school from 12:15-1:10pm.  For more information or to sign up, call 413-528-1919.

Reasonable Expectations of a Teenage Son

An Ode to the Eye Roller

I am a reasonable human. What I ask and expect is so small, so piddly. My familial desires are quite mundane…and yet, and yet. Each time one is voiced or expected it seems that what I’ve uttered is the most unimaginable, unintelligible, and unreasonable thought, request, plea that any human has ever put forth into the universe. Well. I’ve. Got. News. For. You.

It is not unreasonable for a mother to not want her house to smell like a sewage treatment plant due to the foul filth that penetrates the air coming directly from your bathroom.

It is not unreasonable for me to ask you to clean a bedroom that currently smells like the inside of a gas station urinal…not the inside of a gas station bathroom mind you, but the inside of a gas station urinal.

It is not unreasonable for me to feel and express anger when the beautiful clothes that your grandmother bought you, an entire wardrobe, is covered with black mold and full of holes due to the MONTHS that they stayed wet and dirty in the now also moldy two canvas hampers that are ruined as well.

It is not unreasonable for me to ask you to take part in the college application process. I can do certain things, fill out paper work, find a way to pay the fees, but I can’t get your references, can’t decide where you want to go, can’t study for the SAT’s and ACT’s for you. It is not unreasonable to ask you to do those things…in a timely manner. Which brings me to…

It is not unreasonable for me to remind you of deadlines and due dates for homework, college applications, job schedules, bills, for anything for that matter. If you don’t want a reminder, start showing me that you are responsible enough to remember and stick to those deadlines.

It is not unreasonable for me to want you to return phone calls and the like. It isn’t unreasonable. It is called courtesy my dear, courtesy. It is NOT unreasonable for me to expect that you will be courteous to others. If you are expected to be some place, then you should be there. If you can’t make it, then people expect notification. It is courteous. If you have been hired to work somewhere, it is absolutely necessary that you WORK. That you call for your schedules. That you show up on time. I don’t care if the job is at a famous fast food place that you believe is beneath you. If the employer has put her time and energy into checking references, training you, working around your schedule, it is not unreasonable to be disappointed, no…absolutely disgusted..that you didn’t follow through and let a perfectly good job slip through your fingers. And THIS would be a logical time to transition to…

Read the rest of this entry »

My Teenage Hypochondriac

Hypochondriac

Dictionary.com defines the word hypochondriac as someone who is excessively preoccupied with and worried about their health. But really I didn’t have to look up the definition. I could have told you what that meant without even turning on the computer. You see I grew up hearing that word over and over again. One of my grandmothers was afflicted with this disorder. I distinctly remember the phone ringing at all hours of the day and night, my grandmother on the other end needing to speak to my father—right away—lest she die while waiting for him to get out of his easy chair. I often listened to conversation after conversation between my mother and father about these phone calls and the imagined diseases and maladies that always came with them. The first time I heard the word, “hypochondriac,” I immediately ran upstairs to our shelves of books to pull out ol’ Webster’s and looked it up, and although the definition wasn’t comprehendible for such a young mind, I knew that the connotation of the word was not a good thing.

And so, it was no surprise to me when one of my sons started displaying the same signs and symptoms of my grandmother at a very young age. (Dear geneticists, if you are looking for your next gig perhaps locating the hypochondria gene would be a worthwhile venture. Trust me, the people who endure the drama would forever be in your debt.) And because of my experience with good old Grandma…I was prepared. I knew the remedy to such nonsense. Ignore it. Plain and simple. Put no credence in any ramblings of a neurotic son.

I have to tell you that most of the time, pretending that I didn’t hear statements like, “Mom, I think I have MERSA.” Or “Mom? Could I be dying of a heart attack? My chest is really tight.” Or “Mom, I’m pretty sure that I have some kind of cancer. Feel this lump! Am I going to die?” worked for the most part. And if ignoring didn’t stop it, usually a simple, “No you don’t have cancer.” Or “No you aren’t having a heart attack.” Or “No, you do NOT have MERSA” coupled with an “I promise” did the trick. For years I fended off affliction after affliction after affliction by using just these strategies, and for years that simple promise worked because…well…it was a promise that was really never broken. He never did have cancer or a heart attack or even MERSA and so those promises held enough credence to calm the obsessive compulsive consistent and constant health related panics. That is until…  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Your Daughter’s Online Social World

The BFF 2.0 Tour: Welcome to Your Daughter’s Social World Online

What is your daughter doing there, hunched in front of a computer, phone beeping to one side, mp3 player buzzing to the other, earbuds streaming music or video or the latest drama? Do you ever feel like she’s in another world, one you don’t understand, are too old for, or can’t figure out?

Welcome to BFF 2.0, your daughter’s online social world… I’m taking parents on a tour. Don’t worry: this tour has no technical information whatsoever. I’m going to speak in real English and keep it simple. I’m offering some big picture points about why girls are so obsessed with social media and why so much of it is making them anxious and insecure.

Stand on the edge of any playground and you’ll see a scene play out day after day: most boys play games, and most girls linger on the edges to talk. The same is true online: social media is social, and girls use technology to connect and share. Check these stats out:

  • Girls typically send and receive 50 more texts a day than boys.
  • Girls ages 14-17 are the most active, churning through 100 texts a day on average.
  • Girls are more likely than boys to carry their phones on them at all times.

It wasn’t always this way. In the beginning, technology helped connect girls. It was an adjunct to relationship, filling the gaps of contact that opened up between home and school. Today, technology is part of relationship itself. With gadgets more portable and accessible, the average kid ages 8-18 spends up to 8 hours a day using an electronic device. Girls move fluidly between virtual and spoken conversation, texting to each other in the same car and conducting real and virtual conversations simultaneously.

Real life is frequently experienced as a new opportunity to post or share online. A high school girl told me that the phrase “take a picture of me” now simply means, “put it on Facebook.” Another girl told me, “People go to parties in college with the intention of just having [Facebook] pictures for the night. If someone makes a joke at a party, a person will be like, oh my God, that’s the perfect title for my album.” And in 2009, a teen told Teen Vogue, “You’re not dating until you change your relationship status on Facebook.” A year later, “FBO,” or Facebook Official, became the new measure of dating legitimacy.

Many parents suspect that what’s happening online is some crazy, altogether foreign world than the one you know your daughter to inhabit. Think again. All social media does is magnify the feelings and dynamics that were there all along. In the real world, girls are obsessed with their relationships. They know a big part of their status is defined by who they sit next to, which parties they get invited to, and who they count as a “best friend.”

The same thing is happening online. Every time her phone beeps, or someone “likes” her status on Facebook, she gets a tangible message about how well (or not) her relationships are doing. Today, a socially aspirational girl must be vigilant about not only what happens in real life, but her virtual reputation — and on a new, uncharted plane of connection and coolness. That girl sitting at her laptop, working three machines at once? She’s doing a new kind of social work. It takes time, and it takes access.

That’s why girls claim they “don’t exist” if they lack a Facebook account. This is why parents sleep with confiscated laptops under their pillows; they know their daughters will do anything to get them back. And this is why girls show levels of rage and anxiety hence unseen when they lose phone or online privileges. It is precisely the value that girls place on their access to technology that illuminates its position at the heart of girls’ relationships.

But just because girls love social media doesn’t mean they know how to use it responsibly. The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that a girl “gets” technology in a way that an adult does not. Looks are deceiving. The world of BFF 2.0 has presented girls with new, unwritten rules of digital friendship, and it has posed a fresh set of social challenges.

What does a one-word text mean when someone usually types a lot? What if you and your friend are texting the same girl, but she only replies to your friend? Does she like you less? How should you handle it? Online social interactions generate situations that demand sophisticated skills. Without them, girls become vulnerable to online aggression and worse…

Related post:


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

The Language (and Fees!) of College Applications

College—Can I Get a Translator??

When I was in school, (although I hid it well) I realized at an early age that I had a penchant for language. ANY type of language study whether it be reading it, writing it, learning French, Latin and Spanish, came extremely easy to me. What’s more, I enjoyed it. (I hid THAT nugget as well in high school!) As I got older, I continued to study anything that would feed the ravenous verbal monster in my mind who always wanted more, more, more. Words to me, reading and writing, song lyrics, monologues and quotes, book after book after book became solaces, comforts, soul food.

That is until I began the college application process with Son1. I have to tell you that before this process began I felt quite self-important when it came to all things reading and writing. Writing a unit plan for school, a blog entry for Muddled Mother and editing a school paper for hubby took no effort at all to do in one afternoon. The computer was my friend. The pen was my friend. And words….sweet words…well I never met one I didn’t love—until now!

I’ll just come out and say it because there is really no other way to put it…the college process MAKES-ME-FEEL-STUPID. Phew…there…I said it. I mean is there anyone out there who can tell me the difference between “early acceptance” and “early admission?” How about a “universal application” and a “common app?” Words like “aptitude”, “transcripts” and “FEES” “FEES” “FEES” make my head swim. And don’t even get me started on the bleepin’ abbreviations. You can take your G P A’s and S A T’s, you can take your A C T”s, your A P’s, and your F A F S A and shove them well…you know…

It doesn’t help matters that Son1 seems to not have any compass or desire when it comes to this process. We took him on visitations last April, have offered to take him on more. Heck, his grandfather even took him to college night at our local state university. But nothing has really helped. He seems to be just as mired in this process as I am. And that makes me wary. There are plenty of parents I know that just tell me to fill out the applications for him, have him write a “Common Essay” and send them off. The decisions can be made later. But, for someone like me who is on an EXTREMELY fixed budget, the “FEES FEES FEES” that these applications demand could break the bank pretty quickly, and for what? For Son1 to say, “Nah…I really don’t want to go here or there…” So I am reluctant. If HE doesn’t know what he wants to do…how can I move forward?

Inept. I feel inept. I listen to parents around me whose kids seem to know just what they want and just where they want to go…or they at least have a bit of a plan such as the SIZE of the college or even the location…jeez…I’d even settle for a class Son1 really wants to take. But I feel like there is a “college cloud” over both of our heads and it has soaked us in a procrastination puddle. The deeper I wade the more confused I get. As October turns to November which seems to quickly be turning into December (according to the giant blow up Santa our local hardware store is already displaying as a decoration) one other word keeps dogging me—a word that probably weigh more heavily than all the other college terms that muddle my mind—and that word is—DEADLINE!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Brian Talbot]

One Mother’s Readiness for College

We’re Ready!

On Thursday we embark on our first trip to visit colleges with our 17 year old, Aidan. We’ll travel to Boston to check out BU, Emerson and Salem State University. By now you know that I am a tad bit (just a tad) on the high strung side. (My children are rolling their eyes at the word “tad” I am sure.) Therefore, I bet that you think since I have that tendency to be just a wee bit anxious, that I am mourning the end of my son’s childhood. Knowing me I am probably lamenting Aidan’s absence even a year before he leaves. I am sure that there is a consensus out there that I have already built a shrine that I will bring alms to on a daily basis to ward off the evil that may befall my first born while he is away.

Normally, I’d agree with you. I will admit that I expected this monumental moment—finding a new “home” for my oldest—to be a three-box-of-tissues sort of occasion. And I tried. I really tried. While looking at Boston University’s website, I sighed and sighed wistfully. After making a tour appointment at Emerson I slumped in my favorite chair ready to feel sorry for myself and how “old” I must be since I would soon have an offspring that would be a college student. But…but…I am just not feeling it. In fact, there is excitement in the air. Now stop…I know what you are thinking…who IS this woman that is pretending to write Logan’s column this week. It is me. Really it is.

I know it is surprising, but right now there is just no sense of sadness. I am ready. I am ready. (Right now) I have this sense of peace and a sort of awakened anticipation. I am ready. Ready to see where he will go. Ready to see what he will do. Ready to see who he will become.

Perhaps it is because I have a toddler at home who will help keep me busy. Perhaps it is because of the colossal changes that this household has been through in the last year. Perhaps it is that I am getting wiser in my old age…(okay that one might be a stretch!) More likely, it is the fact over the past few months, I have seen glimmers…slivers…a tad bit of a change in Aidan too. Never mind the fact that physically he has morphed into this gargantuan manly man. It is the decisions he’s been making, the dulling of his hormonal sharp edges, and his excitement and participation in the college planning process that makes me realize…he is ready. Ready to see where he will go. Ready to see what he will do. Ready to see who he will become. HE is ready!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

Our Daughters: 5 Ways To Talk With Your Daughter About Technology

The New Odd Girl Out: 5 Ways To Talk With Your Daughter About Technology

As part of my series celebrating the newly revised and updated Odd Girl Out,

I’m leading parents and girls through some of the twists and turns of girls’ social lives online.

With stories of cyberbullying everywhere, parents’ anxiety increases with every headline. But parenting can’t only be about saying no and laying down the law, or operating from a place of fear. Rules are important, to be sure – and I’ll write more about that soon – but so is conversation. When parents take the time to ask why their girls love and struggle with social media, they exercise empathy and gain crucial insight into their children.

Asking questions about your daughter’s life online also cuts down on the “us vs them” mentality that exists between many girls and their parents. Perceiving a parent only as a digital policeman makes a girl far less likely to confide when she’s in trouble, or to listen to why a rule might be in place.

Here are five conversations starters. My advice is to have discussions that come from a place of sincere inquiry. You are taking the time to learn about your daughter’s experience and empathize. This is not the moment to discipline or yell “A-ha! I knew it!”

1. What is your favorite thing about [name a form of social media, like texting or Facebook, that you know she loves]? Or: What’s your favorite thing to do online or on your phone?

Discussion Tips: Make a genuine effort to see social media through her eyes. Ask her how fast she can text or if she can do it without looking. Invite her to show you her favorite videos. Ask her to take you on a tour of her digital life. The point here is for both of you to connect over the positive aspects of social media, and for her to see that you respect – or at least tolerate and understand – her relationship to this very important aspect of her life. If she’s not engaging, try this one: If you had to give up your phone or your computer, which one would you pick? Why?

2. Would your friendships be better or worse without technology? Easier or harder?

Discussion Tips: Be careful here. If she’s honest and says, yes, my friendships are harder, don’t do the I-told-you-dance. Technology isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much it taxes her relationships. This is a great opportunity for you to share your own feelings about how social media has changed your own relationships. The answer is never black and white here. Wrestle together with both sides of the question.

3. Do you think people act online the same way they act in real life? Why are people more inclined to be rude or mean online?

Discussion Tips: These are exciting questions because they can open a window into personal stories. If you promise me that you won’t come down hard on her for the answer, try asking if she’s ever said anything online that she’s sorry about. Extra points if you can share your own confession. The point is not to freak out, but to talk frankly about the challenge of learning what belongs online and offline. We can’t learn unless we know what we want to change. It won’t help any if she feels like she can’t talk about her learning process.

4. Technology can bring friends closer together. Can it also make you more insecure in your friendships?

Discussion Tips: This is not a question about bullying or even aggression. It’s about what happens when friendships become public and tangible, as they do online, and how we compare ourselves to others by using our social media lives as a barometer for social status and self-worth.

Trying asking if she’s ever felt left out of something online. Some ways this could happen include texting someone and not getting a reply; watching someone get lots of texts while you don’t; seeing pictures of parties or hang-outs that you were not invited to; or getting fewer Facebook wall posts or birthday messages than someone else.

5. Are there ever misunderstandings caused by technology?

Discussion Tips: This is harder for younger girls, so you may need to prompt a bit. Have you ever thought someone meant to say one thing in a message they wrote, but they really meant something totally different? Or: have you ever thought you were being left out of a situation because of something you saw online, and then realized you weren’t? You will feel the symptoms of I-told-you-so-dance coming on. Hold back and put your most empathic foot forward.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Spoken Word: Nurture & Empower Individuality

Embracing Difference Empowers Individuality

Although all of my previous posts have dealt with the lessons I learned and taught inside my classroom, some of the most profound moments have come when my students walk out of these doors to create the next chapter of their lives.

Today I received an email from a former student simply entitled “Thank You.” When I saw who the sender was, I couldn’t help but smile.

Here was a girl who nearly everyone had written off in high school, even her parents. When she first walked into my classroom, she carried the stigmas of being not smart enough, not pretty enough, not good enough. Through her essays and journal writings, I got the sense that her confidence and self-worth had been constricted and strangled by many strands of these thick and heavy “nots”. Ironically, and thankfully, the strongest strand that weaved its way throughout all of her writing was that of hope.

The semester that she was my student just so happened to be the one that I chose to teach from Jean Auel’s, The Clan of the Cave Bear. Themes of Love and Power and Feminine Strength filled the classroom everyday, and I found that this seventeen year old student related to the traits of individuality, perseverance and honor exuded by the main character in the story.

As her peers, parents, and even other teachers continued to label her as academically and socially unmanageable, I hung on to that glimmer and spark which still shone bright in her eyes just behind her veil of insecurity and self-doubt. Along with honest and supportive feedback regarding her coursework, praise for her efforts and pride for her accomplishments were all she heard from me on a daily basis. Over the course of the term, her writing became more insightful and her discussions more expressive. She was beginning to shed the heavy burdens of self-deprecation to reveal her true identity which had been forced to hide in the shadows for so many years. She was growing up, and embracing her positive changes.

When she graduated, I held on to the hope that she would have the strength to maintain out in the real world, for she would be surrounded once again by those who would rather ignore her than try to get to know her.

A year after she walked out of my classroom door for the last time, I received her email and was reminded once again that instead of shunning those deemed different, we should nurture and empower their individuality. For these will be the ones who shine the brightest in our lives.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Winston ♦ Teaching Teens: Lessons I’ve Learned in the High School Classroom

Jeff Winston writes our monthly column, Teaching Teens: Lessons I’ve Learned in the High School Classroom, illustrating the life lessons that he taught, and just as often learned, both in and out of the classroom. Jeff has lived in Easthampton since 2007, after moving up from Philadelphia with his wife, Alli, and their 3 dogs, Murphy, Zoey and Maggie. Jeff has a private tutoring business, Tap Your Truth, specific to enhancing writing and study skills, focusing on empowering individuals through their own written and spoken words. Jeff writes a blog called Better Out Than In…, a place to read creative expressions of his life’s experiences, samples of his student’s work, and tidbits that will enable readers to gain insight into their own lives.

To Rescue or Not To Rescue: Teaching Kids Life Consequences

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

9:30 pm—I had just finished cleaning the dinner dishes, sweeping, and packing lunches for school the next day.   Like most moms at this time of night, my bones were weary, my muscles were weary, but my mind was weariest.  The house was as quiet as it ever gets.  Two sleeping boys in their separate quarters and a basketball game droning on in the living room, I decided to get in some reading time before going to sleep.  The only thing that kept me standing through the nighttime routine was the heavenly pair of pajamas that I knew was waiting for me at the end of my bed.  I tiptoed down the creaky hall hoping not to wake the sleeping beasts determined to put those pj’s on and get into reading position.

No sooner had I put my arm through the second sleeve of the luxurious top did the door bang open and slam against the wall.  Son1—nine at the time—was standing in his boxers, hands clasped to his chest, mouth stretched as tightly as a rubber band across his mouth.  “Mahhhhhhm!” he throatily cried, sheer panic making his voice deep and low.  “What is it?”  I cried equally panicked, my voice equally throaty, deep and low.

“I forgot to do my REEEEEEEEEEEdin’ project!!”  he sobbed.   I then asked something that I am sure many moms ask–even though they know full well what the answer is– “When is it due?”

“ToMORRow!  ToMORRow!  ToMORRow!”  He yelled repeatedly (just in case I missed it the first time.)  Saying all the mom-stuff like “How long have you had to do this project, and why did you wait until the last minute,” didn’t help the cause at all.  Instead it just added to Son1’s utter terror.  He began to cry hard.  Do you know that cry?  The ugly one where the snot starts to river out of their noses and into the little divits above their lips.  The one where the tears have enough gusto to make it not only down their cheeks but to roll over their necks and onto their clavicles.  The one where it is so impossible to take a breath from the heaving that they begin to cough which in turn makes them gag, which then of course leads to a mucousy puke right on the carpet of your bedroom floor.  Yes…THAT cry.

Trying to decipher some sort of understandable language during this crying spectacle, my mom-ears detected horrific words like “trouble” and “teacher” and “missing” and “recess.”

When my children were in this state a mountainous force of making it better filled every crevice of me.  I hated to see Son1 so beside himself.  I couldn’t bear the thought of him up all night–sick with worry–anticipating the trouble he was going to be in with that “mean ol’ teacher.  It tore me to shreds that he’d be embarrassed in front of his friends when they all skipped on out of the lunchroom door for recess while he trudged back to the classroom—a prisoner with his privileges taken away… Read the rest of this entry »

Science Quest for Teens at UMass Labs

UMass Science Quest
Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Click to see poster

Science Quest is an exciting opportunity for high school students to visit campus and engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and lab tours. All presentations are organized by UMass faculty members and designed for high school-aged (and adult) attendees only.

UMass hosts Science Quest on Saturday, October 15th from 9:30am-3:30pm! Science Quest is an opportunity for high school students to visit the college’s campus and take part in hands-on science activities, tour the campus (especially the school’s science facilities), and watch demonstrations on everything from biofuels to bacteria to peanut butter! Along with all of the opportunities to learn about science, there will also be a panel of undergraduate students majoring in sciences at which attendees can learn about what it’s like to study science at UMass! The event is free, and is a great opportunity to learn about science topics and high education. To register or to learn more about the event, visit www.umass.edu.

That’s What an Outhouse is For!

The Hallow of Hell

For 16 years we were a one bathroom house. For 16 years, I was the sole woman trying to pee amongst three men with the bathroom couth of a drunken gorilla. In order to well…do my business in a lady like fashion I would perform a necessary ritual before sitting um…on the throne so to speak.

I’d first take out a box of Lysol wipes. Standing with my feet shoulder width apart, I’d straddle the front of the bowl and bend over at the waist. Lysol wipe in hand, I’d clean the floor in the front and the side of the bowl searching for stray drippy-drop marks since inexplicably it seemed that boys…or perhaps just the boys in my house…don’t use toilet paper after going number one—as the kiddies all like to say.

As soon as the floor was safely germ free, I’d grab another Lysol Wipe and swipe along the back of the toilet where the cover stood erect. Evidence of a poorly aimed stream would be erased away with a few swishes here and few swishes there.

Despite the lemon-scented antibacterial wipe-down, I would still instinctively plug my nose while I—well–did what one does in the bathroom in order to spare myself from the overwhelming and seemingly inerasable gas station restroom smell that always seemed to originate somewhere to my right, probably coming from the shower curtain that nearly touches the toilet due to the miniscule bathroom that with which the builders of our home blessed us.

Read the rest of this entry »

Spoken Word: Arrogance in the Classroom

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose

In my classroom, I try to set the example of what I ask of my students.

First off, I leave my ego at the door. There really is no place for arrogance or power-mongering in the classroom, as I want my students to be as authentic as possible.

Since I ask for their respect, I have to mirror the same. I mean, what really is the objective behind pop-quizzes or adding trick questions on an exam? There are so many more effective ways of getting students to study material rather than resorting to sneaky tactics. If I am asking them to express deep reflection in an essay, then they should get an equal amount of reflection in my assessment, and not simply a grade in red ink at the top of their paper.

For some reason, honesty is a tough pill for many people to swallow, and many teenagers skip the dose altogether. I have found that being completely honest with my students sometimes may mean saying, “I don’t know” or “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong.” Clear, open and honest communication is a two-way street, and the more honest I am with them, (even if that means swallowing my own pride), the easier it is for them to speak their truth rather than instantly creating their lie.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: My Teenage Werewolf

Mom Embeds Self in Teen Daughter’s Life! (Read the Author Q&A)

My Teenage WerewolfAre you currently on a wild roller coaster ride with that charming/ alarming pre-teen or teen in your midst?  If so, Lauren Kessler’s book, My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, A Journey through the Thicket of Adolescence— just released in paperback — may save your sanity.  The award-winning author launches an 18-month mission, embedding herself in her own about-to-be teenage daughter’s life. From middle school classrooms to the mall, from summer camp to online chat groups, Kessler observes, chronicles—and sometimes participates in—the vibrant, dynamic and scary life of a 21st-century teen. With the help of a resident teen expert (her daughter), as well as teachers, doctors, therapists and other mothers, Kessler illuminates the age-old mother-daughter struggle from both sides,  interweaving personal experience with journalistic inquiry.

Why did you write this book, Lauren?

The short answer is:  I had to.

I had to write about my feisty, moody, mercurial girl-woman and her generation of take-no-prisoners girls.  I had to dive into the deep end of teen girl culture and attempt to navigate the stormy seas of the mother-daughter relationship.  It was the only way I could figure out how to survive her teenage years.

She was 12 when overnight, it seemed, I toppled from my throne. I ceased to be Mommy the Genius, Mommy the Wise and Beneficent, the font of all things cool and fun, the curer of all ills.

That’s how little girls look at their mothers. But at 12, my girl was no longer little. She was already full throttle into teendom and had mastered the vocabulary: deep sighs, exasperated eye-rolling, monosyllabic responses, snotty retorts and stony silences. Mom (that would be me) was now the enemy. All of a sudden, it seemed to me, Lizzie and I were sparring over everything, from food to friends to fashion, school work, chores, screen-time, bedtime, you name it. Most mornings we would eye each other warily, waiting to see who would cast the first stone.

I had to do something.  I’m an immersion journalist, so that’s what I did:  I took it on as a major research project.   I’m a storyteller.  I told a story, a story I was in the midst of living.

So you embedded yourself in teen girl culture, in your daughter’s life. How did you convince your daughter to let you do this?

First let me assure you that I employed no coercion or bribery…although it did cross my mind!  In fact, although our relationship at the time was, shall we say, tempestuous, she readily – almost enthusiastically – agreed.  I can’t answer for her about her motives, but I can tell you my take on it. I think it was all about the balance of power. I basically asked Lizzie to be my expert, my source, my guide. She got to teach me. I was her student. This was particularly the case when she instructed me on her online life and taught me computer games, and when she helped me through my week as a summer camp counselor. But it was just generally true. She was empowered throughout this process, and she loved this position as “boss.”

What most surprised you about what you learned?

I was also astonished at how savvy the girls were about just the things that keep us mothers up at night: sex, drugs, internet predators. I am not saying they did the right thing, that they invariably made the right choices (blame at least some of this on that discombobulated brain). I am saying that they understood the terrain better than we think they do (and sometimes better than we do).

I sat through a week of sex ed classes at school, for example. During one session, the kids were asked to share what their responses would be if they were being pressured to have sex and didn’t want to. Only the girls volunteered responses – no surprise here – but if their mothers (all mothers) could have heard those responses…the intelligence and power and self-confidence behind those responses – well, we would all be sleeping better at night.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: