Numero Uno Humans

For the past several years, I have been working at a K-8 school.  I am neither a teacher nor an administrator, rather, I am the one who walks around capturing little magical moments (of which there are many) and sharing them in articles and on social media. 

Because I am at school a lot, the kids all know me as Julie: the lady who is always taking pictures.  I am in tune to the kids insofar as knowing who is camera shy, who will jump in front of the camera whenever humanly possible, who is photogenic and who is having none of it. The kids don’t necessarily know that I post the pics up on our Instagram and Facebook accounts with a pithy description of any given magical moment (again, there are many), but their parents do. And they kinda dig it. Who doesn’t love seeing their kids being totes cute? It is one of the joys of parenting: knowing your kids are doing just fine in your absence.

As a parent, I have had at least one child in school every year since 1999.  I have one who is done, and three more who are active students. 

I have been to umpteen conferences, back-to-school nights, school committee meetings, and assemblies, both as a parent and a school employee. Some I even paid attention. Some I even enjoyed.

Over the years, I got to know many teachers. Not to brag, but I was pretty much universally loved by them, mostly because I refused to come from a place of “not my kid”, rather, I assumed it was my kid.  And it usually was.  

I am still in touch with many of them, because, well, they not only put up with my kids, but returned them back to me in an improved form.  And for that I am grateful.

I naively thought I had a pretty good grip on what it might be like to be a teacher.

And then I took on a new role: proctoring middle schoolers while their amazing teacher valiantly teaches from home via Zoom. 

Remember when I said I had a good grip…yeah, that was a lie.

Folks: Now is the time to bow down, cherish, adore, and heap gifts upon every single teacher you know.  And even the ones you don’t.  I don’t care if they never taught you or your kid…they deserve capes to accompany their Super Hero status.

To be clear, in my new role, I am expected to impart exactly zero knowledge to the kids.  I am little more than a placeholder for the real deal. Rather I am there for two purposes: to keep everyone alive and be the grown-up in the room.  

Let me tell you something: there is not.one.single thing easy about being a teacher – even if you are not actually teaching.

Every single kid in the world is awesome.  At least some of the time. (What? You thought it!) 

Every single kid in the world is unique in how they learn, interact, opine, and share.  

Cool.  

That being said:

This kid never has a pencil.  That kid talks too softly to be picked up on the microphone. The other kid finished all the work ahead of everyone else and is, argh, bored. 

This kid seems to literally have ants in his pants.  That kid is all about mask breaks.  The other kid is crazy smart and knows every answer before everyone else, every time – in a good way. Except when you are the adult trying to keep things under control.

This kid is less interested in the lesson than in talking with that kid.  That kid cannot stop herself from responding.  And the other kid, yeah, she just got booted off of Zoom.  Again.

They are kids. Doing their job.  Nothing to see here.

That is where the teachers come in.  

They are calm when us mere mortals definitely would not be.

They are patient for way longer than you or I would be. 

They are accepting because they know exactly what they are working with. And don’t hold it against a kid.  Like, ever. Oh, sure, they might think some less than charitable things, but they never-ever-ever let on how frustrated they might be. Super power.

They have this laser focussed ability to pick up on each child’s needs and manage each kid so seamlessly that it looks easy.  Newsflash: It is not easy.

They are teaching with masks on.  All day long. The only upside to this is that they need not fret over chin zits which are a direct result of wearing said mask. Not that that’s happened to me.

They are reliant on computers and applications that should, but very well might not, work. And, just to keep things fun, one never knows when justonemore Zoom attendee will crash the whole internet connection.

Now, I would never dare to call myself a teacher of anything other than, perhaps, the virtues of McDonald’s french fries, but I will dare to say that if my limited “teaching” (you know, the one void of lesson plans, creating tests, and, um, imparting information) is any indication, these folks are numero uno super humans.

N.U.M.E.R.O.  U.N.O.

Straight up. 

To the millions of teachers I have had in my and my children’s lives, let me say this: 

Sure, I was a parent that teachers dug because I hung on every word they said, but I am willing to bet that to every one of me, there were dozens of the other kind. You know, the “Not my kid!” kind. They stink. I am truly, truly sorry you had to deal with them. Or any other jerk – adult or child.

Thank you for loving my kids when they might have been a little unlovable. Which was not altogether unusual.

Thank you for having the patience of Job.  (Sidenote: In 2nd grade I had a teacher who was not a numero uno super human. She did not love me when I was either lovable or unlovable, and had no patience at all.  She actually definitely hated me.  And did little to hide her feelings.  Ah, Miss Estelle Cassidy…or, as she will forever be in my mind: Miss CassAssidy.) (Note: It is okay to talk smack about her for the following reasons: she was wicked mean to me, I believe the only thing she taught me was self-doubt, and she is long dead.)

Thank you for showing up every day, ready to take on whatever might come your way. Particularly knowing that “whatever” could truly be anything.

Thank you for being wise enough to teach all those things that I know nothing about – like math and science – and, further, being able to teach them to my kids who, because half of their genetic make-up came from me, were at a potentially lethal disadvantage.  (Aside: they happen to have done great in both math and science.  Go figure.)

Thank you for not only figuring out, but slaying the whole remote learning gig.  From where I stand – as a parent and a stand-in fake teacher – it is kinda hell on earth. (Legit question: how many of you are teaching with sweatpants on?)(C’mon, you can admit it, I won’t tell anyone.)

Thank you for picking up where a lot of us parents/mortals fall short or, more to the point, don’t understand this funny new math. 

If you have children who are or were in school, as in ever, please go socially distantly hug a teacher.  Or send them a note.  Or give them Starbucks for the rest of their lives.  Or get down on your hands and knees and bow down to them. And thank them like you’ve never thanked anyone ever.

They truly have the hardest job on the planet. (School administrators have a hard job, too. Feel free to hug them.)

Oh, and I could use a hug, too.  

Free

When was the last time you felt free?  Like truly free?  Nothing worrying you, no low-grade or high anxiety, no general discomfort, not a care in the world?  Yeah, me neither. This guy here?  I think he might be the … Continue reading

Hangover 2020

I am exhausted. Well, maybe hungover is a better way to put it. Problem being, I never (okay, almost never) enjoy more than a single glass of wine in one sitting. Given, well, life, I believe that to be noteworthy. Anyway. Not a drinker, yet seriously hungover. Geez.


Assuming you are a living, breathing creature who did not spend the past several years living under a rock, I am going to assume you know what I am talking about. Hungover and exhausted every single day. Minus the fun of drinking.

I would argue that it doesn’t really even matter where you stand politically or socially; whether you vehemently agree or disagree with the goings-on of the world – you feel hungover, too…right? Here’s why: the daily hysteria, and ruckus, and he said/she said, and anti this versus anti that, and a seemingly endless tornado of chaos which, in and of itself was e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g. And left you feeling perpetually h.u.n.g.o.v.e.r.


Yet now, even though we are thisclose to a different “mood”, the weariness and resultant nausea and headache seems to have ramped up rather than settled down. And again, no tasty adult beverages were had. Well, that’s just rude.


It almost doesn’t feel safe or even appropriate to exhale and not feel ill. The troubles we face as a county are enormous, the damage done is immense and runs deep. The divide is so deep, that, in my estimation, it will be beyond our lifetime before it is settled. Crap.


Saturday night, I sat with my husband, his parents, and our 22 year-old niece listening to Kamala Harris (aside: she is everything) and Joe Biden speak. My niece was in tears, my in-laws were mesmerized, and I had goosebumps all over. But then, when the Harris and Biden families came on stage?? Man, I sat up straighter, felt my shoulders relax, could feel the genuine love between them. As things began to wind up, and the promise of new reality dared to settle in, though, I was overcome with exhaustion and an almost drunk feeling. All I know is that I-needed-to-crawl-into-bed-for-a-week and hoped to wake up sans the hangover. Anyone else?


Sunday morning, my husband was raking the tremendous piles of leaves that had amassed so suddenly. It was as though the trees, struggling with their own exhaustion, simply could not hold onto those leaves for one more moment. In an effort to avoid raking, I headed out for leaf bags at Home Depot.

In line, there was one woman in front of me, one behind, and one running register. The customer in front of me turned around, looked me dead in the eye and asked;


“Are you happier today than you were yesterday morning?”


I legit hesitated for a few seconds, wondering if I was being set up. I was concerned as to whether she would align with or denigrate my response. I paused and considered avoiding the question, fearful that I would find myself on the wrong end of an argument in, of all places, Home Depot. Given our proximity to one another (admittedly less than 6′), I really had no choice but to respond. My back was up, having grown so accustomed to animosity, anger, and vitriol. And I had an unearned hangover.


Thowing caution to the wind, I replied.


“Oh, yeah!”


The woman behind me said something along the lines of,

“Amen to that!”


The woman at the register, a young African American woman, also agreed. Aggressively. In a good way.


The woman posing the question had tears in her eyes. I had not, in fact, been set up.


I noted to her that asking someone a question like that could be risky. She acknowledged that fact, but enthusiastically, and with pride added,


“I straight up don’t give a shit.”


Then, women in arms, we all purposefully exhaled and visibly dropped our shoulders. Then they (okay, we) let loose on the magnificent relief. Finally, we all sighed at how utterly exhausted we were. Hungover, even.


The relief at something being over is almost always coupled – and complicated – by the fact that something new is coming. Everyone always says that change is good. I have always retorted with a (perhaps) whiny,


“But it’s haaaard!”


Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but to my thinking, things are going to get worse before they get better. I am not able, or, perhaps, ready, to let go of that hangover quite yet.

There is so much wrong with our country.

People within my own small community who have differing opinions are, on the daily, vicious to one another. (Admittedly it is mostly online – lots of keyboard warriors out there, folks.)

Covid has issued a super gigantic fuck you to those who thought that we might be approaching the other side. We aren’t.

And, oh, yeah, our climate is whacked. As much as I like 75 degrees in November, it ain’t right, and, not for nothin’, does nothing to ease my personal hangover.


No one can predict what lies ahead. No one person (or two people as the case may be) can fix what was recently, and not so recently, broken. It’s not over. The fat lady isn’t singing. Yet.


Look out for your people.


Take care of yourself.


Try to clear your head from all the noise. It’s not helping.


As I write, I am nursing a glass of wine. I encourage you to do the same.

With any luck, it won’t bring on a hangover.

Because hangovers, no matter the source, suck.