Monday, June 25, 2012

But, what else is going on?

I am excited to participate in Teachers Write virtual writing camp hosted by author Kate Messner. If you haven't heard about it, check it out! Join in! 

Today's Monday morning warm-up from Jo Knowles was a challenge indeed. Imagine a scene from another character's point of view. Consider what else is involved in the situation. Jo pointed out that there's is always something else going on beyond the obvious. (This is soooo true about her book See You at Harry's which I finished this weekend while traveling. Grab a box of tissues and go read it if you haven't already.)

This post is about a character from a book about the relationship among a group of teachers in a school where standardized testing and a crazy principal are about to push everyone over the edge. I balked at the assignment at first, not knowing where to begin. As I finished, however, I had a much better understanding of  how the 'back story' of characters can really enrich the overall story. I never would've thought to include a side story like this! 

Thanks to Kate Messner  & Jo Knowles for this project!! I get more excited every week at the thought of sharing my writing experiences this summer with my 5th graders this fall!


Installing a padlock on my youngest son's bedroom was the best idea I've had in a while. For a time it prevented his older brother and older brother's random friends from stealing things. 

"Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!!!" There was a guttural quality to the yell that rattled me out of the dream I was having. 

I awoke to the sounds that only wrestling boys can make and half-tumbled out of bed and down the hall towards the source of the grunts and thuds. Apparently while younger was at a friend's last night, Jake and company decided they needed to get into younger's room. I touched the splintered wood and pushed the bent metal across the carpet towards the wall with my bare foot. Honestly, there's not much real wood in door frames built for today's homes. 

To a kid who keeps his shoes neatly organized by purpose and color, a small discrepancy in their order would have been a big deal. This was well beyond 'Big Deal' level. I stared for a moment into the ransacked bedroom until more grunts and thuds pulled me towards the den.

"Ahem." My voice wasn't awake yet. More tumbling. I moved behind them towards the breakfast bar.

"Boys, please." I tested out my nice mom voice. The boys were a mass of entwined arms and legs pushing as the fight continued. They didn't notice as I circled around them once and headed towards the kitchen doorway.

"HEY! STOP IT!" An almost imperceptible pause in the action as my voice penetrated their primal brains. Jake continued to push against his younger brother who was now sitting across his chest trying to pin Jake's arms to the floor.

Two more steps and I grabbed the closest pan out of the sink and slammed it down on the Formica countertop. (Great...another battle wound in my once proud kitchen.)

The noise seemed to shock the boys back into the real world of our damaged home. Damaged from countless fights like these. Damaged from slamming doors, failed improvement projects, and unauthorized house guests ('strays' as I called them). 

I didn't have time to go through the steps that we'd practiced at our recent family therapy sessions. It was me and a skillet and two sweaty almost men still laying on the floor where they'd been stunned back to reality by more than just the sound of the pan. Stunned by my anger. 

These 'episodes' with the boys were getting worse. Someone was bound to be seriously injured sooner or later. Nevermind the broken noses and hands....those could be repaired with tape and time, but the intensity of the fights were starting to interfere with my sanity and therefore my job. 

There was no time to sort out what had happened in younger's room. Frankly, it didn't matter. His privacy and property had been utterly destroyed over the last few months. 

Jake rolled out from under younger and made his way to the door. I didn't know where he stayed from night to night. My home had become something of a rest area for him and his friends. They'd appear for a day or two and refuel on sugary drinks and junk food and then disappear just as quickly. 

I motioned for younger to lead the way down the hall so that we could get ready for school. "I'll drive you this morning." It was the least I could do since I could no longer protect him from his lost older brother.

I silently prayed on the way to school...please give me guidance....please help me figure out these me to keep younger safe and me to fix our home...please please please don't let today be my day for a classroom observation. 

I just wanted to make it to school where I could slip into my classroom, close the door and be with my students. I could focus on these young people who were so much more 'fixable' than the mess I left at home this morning.

Just as I had settled into my writing mini-lesson the door swung slowly open and she came in carrying The Clipboard. I glanced nervously at the clock. Crap. I'm supposed to be already doing calendar by now. Crap. Crap. Crap. And now the all-too-familiar internal struggle. Do I abruptly move on to calendar or stay the course? I mentally tried out my excuses for being off schedule for the follow-up meeting in her office. Not worth it. I instruct the students to return their blank journals to their desks and prepare for calendar.

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