Tag Archives: reflecting

Lil’ Johnny

downloadWhen I was a student-teacher one of my facilitators used to forever give us scenarios with the fictitious trouble maker Lil’ Johnny. It was a source of great amusement and I must say it helped to spice up her class.

We all had, of course, had a Johnny before. And we had all pretty much already come to the conclusion that Lil’ Johnny was a kid with issues. Hey, who doesn’t have issues in this world today? Why would we think Lil’ Johnny was any different?

The problem, though, seems to be that 7 years after laughing and role-playing and scheming strategies in that classroom, I’m now faced with a culture that is almost completely alien to the one presented to me in that room.

I find myself daily in a classroom that wants very much to look like this. giphy (4)

It seems like instead of having one or two Lil’ Johnny. I’m faced with 45% Johnny’s and even some Lil’ Janes to compliment them. Which makes me feel like my classroom is

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It’s not a great feeling returning to the staffroom feeling like you’ve just starred in a scene from some world war 2 movie. You know the ones where the men are cornered in the trenches and can only throw the occasional grenade out and hope it hits the right target.

It’s ‘noice’ to imagine that all those fancy strategies like “Ignoring unwanted behavior” and “calling on the student once” or my personal favorite” waiting for the class to settle itself” etc. etc. etc, are always the answer. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Unfortunately they seem to be completely inadequate in the face of some of the cultural and social problems we have in the Caribbean classroom today.

(Yes, I’m singling out the Caribbean classroom because I feel like it is sorely neglected in the field of modern psychology, especially given all the pedagogues who lecture and self promote but do precious little to help us to establish the psychological base that we can work off of to better aid our students)

It’s enough to make a girl…rxf3oLt

Alas, that isn’t the answer either. Sigh, what is a girl to do? It was during a guilt trip my youngest tried his very best to lay down on me, that it occurred to me. A genuine, authentic eureka moment! Empathy as a classroom management tool!

Hold on, relax. It’s not as messed up as it seems.

I started with the class with the most and most outrageous set of Lil’s. I set up the class to do a cooperative learning exercise. Each group got an objective, an outline of their content and time to plan. I watched and listened, maybe cackled a little as some elaborate presentations were planned. Skits, lectures, song sessions, you name it, they planned it.

Then came the presentation day. And boy, did my babies put out. Some of them performed some works of educational art. I loved it, and for each act of greatness, there was an act, by the Lil’s spread among the groups, to disrupt the wonder.

Little faces turned to me in dismay, little hands were thrown up in exasperation. Until the biggest Lil in my class stood up and delivered a speech for good behavior so inspirational that even I was taken aback. Dude!! something might even have gotten stuck in my eye.

After class, a few of the Lil’s cornered me. I was made to listen as they said things like “Teacher wha mek dem sooooooo rude?” “Teacher ah so you feel every day?!?” “Teacher me sorry bad jack.” “Teacher nar do it again, me cyan teach nobody again.”

I chuckled, it was fun. A little revenge, a little life lessoning, and the next week even though there were some minor disruptions I never had to look at anyone like this…

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I find that with a little heavy complimenting, and a few sweets my classroom is a bit more civilized. It’s not pristine, I didn’t solve anyone’s life angst, but our learning environment might just be a little more heavy on the learning.

 

And for that maybe I might spend a little more time thinking of that class like this…

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Listening to Road Noise…where to fit?

Wow it’s been a while since I wrote one of these…been a very long time since I just let my fingers amble across my keyboard, letting thoughts pour out where they may.

I know why I haven’t been doing it. You see, somewhere in recent months I lost my confidence. No…that’s not precisely it. I’m not sure how to phrase it exactly, except to say I wasn’t sure that anything I had to say would fit into the rhetoric that people wanted to hear, wanted to read.

I figure in the worrying, I kind of lost myself. I was trying to fit in, and truth is I’m not sure who I was trying to fit in with. When I was younger fitting in was never an issue, there was always a rag tag band of misfits ready to take me in. We were out of the box and we liked it.

But now everybody has thrown away the damn box, everybody is a rebel in this boxless, structureless, social system filled with boxes to check so you can belong to some group of rebels, and I’m confused. I think I tempered into someone more radical but also more conventional than my contemporaries. -_- I know right?

I’m more reserved than the reserved people say they ought to be, but more out there than the out there people think they are. Experiencing and doing things they celebrate but without the need to extrovert it. You know? No? OK.

And a child walks in and starts talking and I completely lose my trend of thought. Errrrrrrr.

At the end of the day I find myself a fairly objective observer outside every group I come across, not feeling particularly inclined to join anyone because some part of the fundamental group rebellion doesn’t appeal to me, or because my soul just doesn’t take and they set off my jibbering rage monkey. Don’t judge me, you have one too.

My granny used to say something to the tune of “If you’re at odds with everyone else, then everyone else can’t be the problem.” so maybe it is me. Maybe it is me that doesn’t fit and has concocted for myself a moral, ethical and general personality framework that just doesn’t fit anywhere. And I do mean anywhere, not at home, not at work, not on the Facebook or the Twitter, not in person and certainly not in print.

So what to do? I can’t dump social media, that’s how I stave off loneliness, and there is my game with all the croppies. I can’t abandon my family, they live where my stuff is. I can’t quit my job, I’m kind of addicted to food, and I can’t stop writing, because it’s most of what I think about these days, even though I’m not doing a whole lot of it. So… blend in? Fake it, til I make it?

When this first started I used to be pretty good at blending in. You know? Just smiling and nodding, or giving the right non-committal sound at the right moment to make it by. Maybe even participate in the conversation just enough to satisfy and not bring on the revulsion of folks faced with an outsider.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough for me anymore. I want to be a part, I want to feel…not so alien. I want to feel included in something, but my person suit has grown too small and people are beginning to see inside. I’m not sure they’ll like it, and I’m not sure I care.

Any advice for a poor lonely sinner? I know the thought isn’t completely complete but another kid just walked in and there isn’t the slightest chance of getting back on track…sigh…the mommy life.

Listening to Road noise: Womahood is…

Hi guys, I know I’ve been away a bit. I’ve been letting myself get caught up in all the depressing mess ‘m surrounded with. Sorry, It’s an apology to you as well as to myself. I should know better, than to let go my fighting spirit, but sometime last week or was it week before. In a moment of reflection, with a friend, after one such depressing thing, happening simultaneously with a pretty wonderful thing, I got it back.

What does that have to do with this? Well…you see one of the things I’ve been struggling with is what is expected of me, what I expect of myself and where the two should meet. One of the huge factors it seems that affects that is my sex. I am a woman. As such I should, do, be, act like…

Seems like everyone has an ending to that sentence. Maybe I shouldn’t even be confused. What with all thee girl power and ish flying around. All the rights and the roles and the freedom. All conflicting sadly. Not that this is a new thing, I’ve been struggling since primary school. But now my definition of self takes on an even greater weight, as my kids are knee deep in puberty and looking at me to guide them.

So what is womanhood? What is womanhood as it applies to me?

Whelp….

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  • My physical self:  One of the first things I learned about being a grown up woman was that I would grow boobs and be all curvy. I learned this by observation, after I figured out that there actually was a difference between girls and boys. I learned, secondly, that women had the babies, they grew inside us and somehow got out. I learned that boobs were used in feeding those babies. It came later, and with a bit of trauma, the actually mechanics and monthly obligation of that task.I learned it was my truth, irreversible and something from which I cannot divorce myself. It is a natural part of me, and so it has formed part of the framework of who I think myself to be. I am someone capable of ushering life into the world. 

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  • Motherhood: If it’s one thing I have learned definitively in my working life, if not my personal one, it’s that giving life and nurturing it are two different things.  I was raised where there was a mother, or a mother figure in every house I knew. For that matter, not having a father or father figure was a rarity among the folks who inhabited the landscape of my early life. One or two folks had grandparents for guardians, but even then we just dropped the “grand” and that was that. It was never a question that I would raise my children. So much so that up until recently I have shunned every opportunity that would separate me from them for any extended period. I don’t mean weekends at grandma’s, I mean like 3 years abroad. The thought still makes me uncomfortable. I need to be there to make sure these folks grow into people they can be proud of. In my mind, children are the greatest legacy anyone can leave behind. I want to be a part of making my legacy great. Therefore I am a mother. Not the best one by far, but I try my best, I think that’s worth something. Right?

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  • My sexuality: “Society has taught me to regard a woman’s sexuality as currency”- Piper, Orange Is The New Black. 

I learned about sex from a Dr. Ruth book I found lying around. It was taken from me when I was caught with it, but that was on like the third read so that was OK. I learned a lot about the mechanics, but also about the attitude, about the importance of my satisfaction and that of my partner, and about being open minded and able to communicate about it. Somewhere I got the impression that my sex/sexuality was something special not to be shared willy nilly. Yeah I’m snobbish like that, I am the living example of Ms. Mia’s diamonds at the meeting of my thighs, and diamonds are worth the struggle of living up to my standards. Sadly not a whole lot of the populace makes the grade. But for him that does, that open minded stuff and that communication stuff serves well when it’s time to get busy.

You see, for some reason my parents missed that memo when raising me. I was clean, and fed, and the focus many times was not on how cute I could be but on how smart I should be. So I never learned, until my teen years, and late into those at that, to associate myself with my sexuality. Hell, I’m still going through my boy phase, comfortable, functional and cool are for me far more important than being perceived by an entire society as sexy.

As such I don’t know how to use my sexuality as currency. Not really, most attempts go horribly wrong. I do however know that I am a smart cookie, and thus try to use my intelligence the way folks use their sex. Given that intelligence, as far as I know is not a gender specific thing, I expect all my peers to regard me the same. While I am a sexual being and fully satisfied with it, it’s not my leading characteristic. Call me prudish, I’ve been called worse. I give a hard reprimand to anyone who tries to contradict that with my kids.  I lead with my brain, not my bosom.

The only thing sad about that is that it seems I’ve missed out on some potential dalliances through the years, but maybe that was for the best.

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  • My place in society: One of the great things about my parents missing the memo about sexuality is that they also missed the one about me being locked into any one role.

I remember the day someone said to me “You better learn to do this or that if you plan to get  a man.” I remember that person being shut down so hard and so fast it made my 11 year old head spin.

I was taught to cook, sew and clean, not to make me a suitable wife, but so that I could do for myself. So nobody could “cut style” on me. I never assumed that my life would be spent in someone’s kitchen. I bristle at the idea that any work at all should be considered “woman’s work.”

I think it has to do with being a Caribbean woman too. We are a strong bunch, accustomed to bringing home our own bacon. One need only throw a stone to hit a woman in a position of note.

Come to think of it, I also remember when I started primary school and the boy two rows back used to tease me relentlessly. About my weight, my hair, my lunchbox. I remember coming home crying and getting reprimanded for it. I remember them telling me to fight back if it came to that. I remember knowing that fighting wasn’t right, but if I did have to, win. Because if I didn’t, I would get a licking on top of a loss when I got home. This is far at odds with what I later learned from the church and the politicians and the news and the radio etc etc etc. Maybe that’s why I find myself many times off kilter, or at odds with many of the gender arguments set before me. I blame my parents, and I thank them.

I am not weak. I am equal to anybody out there. 

I understand the perception of womanhood varies from place to place, family to family, social group to social group…you get the point. But I’ve concluded that outside the genetics which is something we can’t control, it’s pretty much as fluid as we are in our thinking.  There is no general definition of womanhood. It certainly isn’t the stereotype we see everywhere or the garish impersonations we tend to get. Swear to Baby Jesus, I never met a woman who fit either of those molds. Well maybe one, but that’s a sad story for another day. So in the end I don’t think there is a standard definition. I think trying to find one is a task that would only serve to confuse me more. So it might be better to try to describe myself by way of definition. Here goes…

img_20160617_090431.jpg Hi I’m Michelle. I am someone capable of ushering life into the world. I am a mother.I lead with my brain and not my bosom. I am not weak. I am equal to anybody out there.

I love fun, the boring kind, most days. I love food, the fattening kind, and a good cocktail. I love beer.

I don’t like ignorance, or illogical folks. Too much emotionalism makes me uncomfortable, though too little makes me suspicious. I’m a good person most days. Faithful, loyal, all that good stuff. Unless you are one of those people who have violated me, then I tend to be less so.

I am of Afro-Caribbean decent, which means I got rhythm even when I don’t want it, and am creative, colorful and sometimes loud. My sister tells me that is called having “A big personality.” lol,

That’s me, does it qualify as  a definition of womanhood? Probably not, but writing this, reflecting on it, has lead me to think it may not be as important as my character and my sense of that.

So what is womanhood? Socially and culturally? Who knows? But it’s not something in a little box, it’s not about clothes or hair, or appearance. It’s not sex, it may not even be sexy. It isn’t determined by society.

Listening to road noise: Praying helps?

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I’m not a religious woman, I’ve never been really.  As a matter of fact I’ve spent much of my life raising a skeptical eyebrow at folks who walk this world quoting scripture and beating bibles, asking the Lord for protection, or money, or what ever blessing they think will fix it, when they themselves never look inwards to see how they steer themselves in the type of debacle that requires such aid.

I do go to church though, not often, or more rather not as often as I would like, due to a collection of circumstances over which I have no control. But I go, and when I do it’s usually to fulfill a yearning for the fellowship of folks joined to a single purpose, one that is good or at least peaceful. I go for the words of practical advice my pastors, three now, seem to be so adept at delivering. I haven’t taken communion in over 6 years, I don’t think it would be right to take part in a right belonging to a purpose I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly commit to.

So it would seem strange for someone like me to offer a word of prayer to anyone in need. But I do, I did just a few moments ago, and it suddenly struck me that it’s a thing at odds with me. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, in one form or another. I don’t think anyone could deny the existence of a driving force behind life, one yet un-quantified. As to what it is though I, and by enlarge we, are not sure.

All that being said, I’ve long since subscribed to the idea that it is by our own strength and mental prowess, perhaps given by that force of life, that we survive the worst of times. Those of whose blessing don’t come at the expense or suffering of others that is. So why then pray? Why would I offer it? Why would I hope to receive it?

Because in my mind it represents that kinship, between souls, a simple human empathy that is inextricably comforting to me, and I’m sure to others. Since some of my darkest times, it’s been that support in many cases which has helped to get me through, simply by ousting that feeling of being utterly alone, and in turn I offer that same comfort.

I do say the prayers though, just in case they have the right of it, that there really is a sentient being who measures the depth and importance of our needs and gives aid, unseen and in many cases undetected where it is most needed. Couldn’t hurt right?  Some of our crises really seem to need divine intervention don’t they?

So does it help? Have I ever seen it work? Have I received miracles, or seen them worked in the lives of people around me? No. But I’ve seen strength drawn from reserves of human kindness, seen the power of a warm embrace, a comforting shoulder, sometimes being all that draws one away from the unthinkable end of ones suffering.

So I offer a prayer, so you know that my thoughts are with you, I will offer aid in what little way I can because I know how deeply the slightest act can touch a wounded heart. And hope that somehow somewhere maybe these utterings and acts will stir the flow of universal currents, and bring forth circumstances that stave off the worst life seems to continuously rain down on us.

Listening to Road Noise: Reflecting on things

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What do you reflect on? Not that I’m being nosy. I think a better question to ask is when you reflect, what aspect gets you the most? I think that’s a deeper question, one that means more in the long run. Don’t you think?

We all have things that we have to stop and look back at. We weigh the rights and wrongs of our actions or inaction, and those of the people around us. We look back and see hints and clues, we see flaws in ourselves, our cohorts, and our situation. That part is easy, I think, to look back and see all the matters of circumstance. It’s easy, at least for me, to whisk back into the emotions of the moment and feel all over again, the joy or the pain, or not. Or to look on with detachment as events role on in the theater of memory.

There in lies the danger in reflection. The part where you see yourself and others without the cloud of emotion. You don’t see through rash things, hazing judgement, things like anger, or love, or adrenaline, or sadness. You just see events for what they were, sometimes seeing all the different roads that the journey could have taken. For many when we do look back in that way, we form regrets, we yearn to say ‘I’m sorry’, or have them said to us. For many, we see all of our failings when we look back, and not wanting to appear less to ourselves, we opt not to. Or at least not to so deeply.

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Does it make sense to look back and never see? What kind of delusional dementia can be brrought upon ourselves, if we always look but never take to heart. Never try to judge ourselves, for ourselves, and try to learn from our own experiences, seen through the filter of maturity and the buffer of time? What if we never take responsibility? What if we never admit our wrongs or take triumph in our rights?

For many, one of the reason we decline to reflect, it that we don’t want to see how far we have come from where we started. We don’t want to look back and see our ideal self and wonder where we went, how we got here, how we got all broken and damaged.

But that’s how we grow, and the little cracks that make us, make us better don’t they? That’s how we know the different flavors of pain we have tastes, and appreciate all the shades of joy that we have experienced. In the end, peace may lie in reflection, what do you think?