On the Subject of Eggs, Pornos, and Tech Not Replacing Teachers

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.13.37 AMMy son is walking around talking to eggs. He takes one from the carton and introduces it to me. “This is my son, Steve. I’m finally a dad.” I tell him to put the egg back.

“It’s my son.”

“It’s not your son…” We argue.

“Kids come from eggs.” I don’t want to discuss this now. I want to bake cookies. I tell him to choose between his son and the cookies. I need the egg. After a heart wrenching moment, he chooses cookies.

“Goodbye, dear son. I love you. I’ll miss you.” He caresses the egg, a tear coming to his little eye. He kisses the egg goodbye.

“It is not your son.” I crack the egg.

He waves a sad little wave as the yolk membrane crushes and the egg blends into the batter. “Take care of yourself in there….”

I feel like a real jerk, making the kid kill his son so we can eat cookies…Is this what every mother chicken and cow feels before humans eat dinner?

No. He will not draw me into his insanity. It’s an egg…I wipe his tear. We make cookies. We eat cookies. A person can really question their sanity raising a six-year old. I start to see, talk to, and put plates out for imaginary friends

He takes another “son” while I’m not looking.

“Put that back before it…”

Splat.

Too late. Eggs are impossible to get off the floor. I’m unhappy. Declan’s devastated. I clean the floor and plan a funeral at the same time–good thing I baked cookies for it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.12.58 AMOne day, my boiled eggs went missing. “Look, Mom, twins!” I was hungry, but at least boiled eggs don’t splat all over the ground. Turns out, they crumble. “This is Steve’s heart.”

Back to cleaning floors…

I still need to eat so I attempt a frittata . As soon as the carton comes out, there’s Declan, reaching in…

“I’m having another child. I’m a good Dad.” If that were true, Steve wouldn’t be on his fourth life.

“No more children!” I say. “Dinner!” His little lip quivers. He wants to be a dad.

“But eggs are where children come from.” This question’s not new. I’ve answered it–we watched medical videos on YouTube. YouTube is where every parent turns when they don’t want to answer. If I don’t answer, he’ll just ask Siri or Google. He thinks they’re real people. I think they’re jokesters–they sometimes show inappropriate things.

When Declan has something on his mind, he’s all in. He’s focused. He gets the answer. If he’s not interested, there’s nothing I can do to keep him on task. It’s no different in my classroom. We’re so busy standardizing curricula, we don’t see the tree through the forest. Each individual tree is a beautiful thing to behold.

People ask me if technology will replace teachers. No, it won’t. Technology won’t replace teachers because not all teachers have technology that works. Mostly, it’s broken, blocked, and banned. But when it isn’t, kids still need a guide–someone to help process the information. Someone to who will clap, say “great job,” guide them to the next level, and tell them the amazing things they can be.

There are many paths to the top of the mountain. Tech allows kids to meander around looking at the flowers and trees on the way. They’re engaged. They learn. And sometimes parents get a moment of rest.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.13.22 AMDeclan still wants eggs. I try something different. Plastic Easter eggs.

“Here’s your egg.” I pick a shiny blue one.

“Thanks, Mom!” He hugs the egg, “I missed you, Steve.” He turns to me. “I need four more. We’re going to school.” I get them. Soon, the egg-kids are lined up efficiently in school. Steve gets broken. I explain we can’t keep replacing Steve. Good moms and dads take care of their kids. Declan cries. I get him a new Steve.

Steve’s the troublemaker at school. He stays in for recess.  He’s a lot like his “dad.”

“Hey, Mom,” Declan says. “Kids come from eggs. Let’s watch those videos again!” We watch medical videos that speed up nine months of pregnancy. We skip the ones that show how the baby got in there and how it gets out. No pornos here! Nothing to see!

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 5.13.17 AM“Hey Mom,” he says. “Can we watch a video about how the baby gets in? And how it gets out?” Kids don’t miss a thing.

“No. And don’t ask Siri or Google.” I pick another plastic egg out of my pocket and tell him Steve’s friend is here to play.

“Come on, Steve, you can get out of time out. Hondo’s here to play…”

Steve and Hondo play, I eat my frittata sans guilt, and I hide Siri…so she can’t make trouble later on.

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I Do Dumb Things. Ban Technology.

A video posted to my Google+ profile. I didn’t notice. It’s gone now, no use looking. It was me staring down my webcam for about 20 seconds. No makeup, terrible hair, stained shirt–frightening. I was playing with settings for a Google Air hangout. Apparently I sent it live…happens to the best of us. Good thing I was behaving, even if I was looking Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 6.55.42 AMpretty ragged.

It reminds me of a time long before Google. I was at work in my first cube-based career. We had a ten-line Simplex system which allowed transferring calls from cube to cube without identifiers. This created a ton of crank calls. Three of us were new. One co-worker always cranked called us in an outrageous foreign accent. I think he thought it was Indian. I thought he needed to take a couple more engineering classes to get it right.

“Hello, I would like to report a claim,” he’d say. We, the new people, would get sucked in every time, and answer fake accent guy. Finally, I learned. I’m good at languages, dialects, and accents. I can spot a fake from four cubes away. My phone rang.

“Hello, I would like to report a claim,” the voice said.

Fool me once, forgivable. Fool me ten times–I just wasted a lot of money on college. “You have to talk to Steve about that,” I said. A couple of people noticed my not usually assertive tone, stopping behind me.

“Okay,” said the voice. I paused, waiting for the usual burst of laughter and the loud slam from across the office.

“Hello?” said the voice on the other end of the phone.  The crowd behind me grew.

“Yes, I’m going to transfer your call.” I smiled. Steve was getting good. Very, very good. Not a single guffaw or snicker. He was really polishing the accent.

Long pause.

“Okay, I am ready for you to transfer my call.” Soon, everyone was behind me, waiting for the end of the joke. Including Steve. I threw the receiver and ran to the bathroom. I never knew what happened to the man on the other end of the call. I hope Steve helped him. I felt guilty. I want to teach this man’s kids so I can make it up to him in the cycle of life.

I was recently asked about digital citizenship. It’s an area of concern for teachers, IT people, and educational leaders, many of whom block, ban, or avoid technology in the classroom because it might not be used appropriately. It’s a problem I’d like to solve.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 6.56.47 AMHow do we make students responsible citizens so we don’t have cyberbullying, crime, hate, cruelty, bad grammar, pranks, and general negative vibes in the universe?  Tech definitely gets a bad rap on this one. “Bad” occurred before the Internet. It will occur long after something better’s invented. We all make mistakes–case in point that Google Air video. We can be rude with or without the Internet. That phone call is a fine example. Improperly used, technology can detract from classrooms, like devils advocates say. I think back to every teacher I ignored in favor of writing, folding, and passing notes in class when the only technology I had was a pencil.

If I teach kindness and good manners universally, paying attention to what I model, tech should be okay. I teach these lessons to my students. I show them a few profiles of mine on the spot. They’re always hoping for dirt.

“If you’re looking for a picture of me drinking a 40-o wrapped in a paper bag on a street corner singing a-capella, you won’t find it,” I say.

“Why?” asks a kid.

“Because it doesn’t exist.” It’s the punch line of the lesson. “You need to behave, in writing, on the Internet, and in life, like it’s being broadcast. Because one day, it might just be.”  If my life were broadcast, it’d be the cure for insomnia. I should patent it.

I found a picture of Declan piling blocks on me. It self-posted to my Vizify. Then, of course, that video of me staring down the world on Googe+. I look like someone who’s applying for a makeover show, in need of rehab, or a costume designer for a horror set. Hideous, but harmless.

That’s the risk you take, I guess, in the 21st century.

Bottom line is this…we misbehaved before we had tech. Good teachers mitigated misbehavior with motivation. I didn’t pass notes while sitting on the edge of my seat. It’s our responsibility to get students ready for real life. Real life includes technology. If I leave that part out, I’m not doing my job.

 

[images: shutterstock.com and acclaimimages.com]

Gardening is Like Gambling: Cut Your Losses

brussel sproutsI pulled out the last of the Brussels sprouts without brussels. I’d been watching them, waiting. I asked the farmer when I saw them getting cabbage worms.

“Should I spray?” I didn’t want to spray. I wanted to be organic. Spraying would make me no better than the chemical companies I was trying to avoid.

“Listen, if you see worms, it’s too late. You have to do it ahead of time. We don’t want to spray, but if we didn’t you’d be hungry.”

Proactive. Not reactive. It’s a philosophy that works well in life, not just on Brassica. Epic fail in failing to thinking ahead and being too holier than thou to spray.

Still, the things grew and grew. Bean stalks perhaps? I left them. No brussels appeared.

“Google, when should these brussel?” I searched.  Nobody told me what to do when my Brussels sprouts didn’t brussel. There was no support group, no help. I asked my friend the garden guru.

“Pull them out,” she said. I obeyed. It was a sad moment. I’d invested a lot of time, space, and love into these barren stalks.

Pulling them out wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do. There wasn’t one sprout I could eat as a consolation prize. If you haven’t seen Brussels sprout plants, they’re huge. Quite an investment in garden space. It’s probably why I let them go so long.

When investing in something that’s going sour, the temptation is to let it go another day to see what happens. It’s no different from being a gambling addict…everyone’s always hanging on to win the jackpot…the casino knows most people will play one more game tomorrow. I was playing with Brussels sprouts, but the endorphins are the same. Spinning the roulette wheel one more time. I came up short and the table cleared. No return forthcoming.

I ripped up the Brussels sprouts and took out the browning cornstalks for good measure. They’d produced two-inch twisted baby corn, then met their maker. I bundled them up and converted them into a “decoration,” next to a pot of unbloomed mums. They looked sad. The mums turned completely away, protesting, refusing to open until deformed corn was removed.

corn“Those are the sorriest excuses for corn stalks I’ve ever seen,” said my husband. “They look dumb. Mums are nice, though.” The stalks bowed over, sad and ashamed. They knew I’d given them an awful lot of space and they didn’t deliver.  I’d waited “just one more day” for them,  too.  One more spin of the roulette wheel. Nothing

Lesson learned. Sometimes things don’t produce. Things that don’t produce have to go.

The moral of my stories is generally the opposite. I discuss education. I talk about student success…flowers blossoming in their own time… Not today. Sometimes it’s best to realize things aren’t going to come to fruition. A policy won’t change, a student won’t be interested in graduation despite my very best efforts, or a collaboration won’t work out.

At some point, it’s time to change direction. Waiting for things that won’t happen is not useful. I could have done something far more productive with garden resources. Nature doesn’t force a bloom. Nature also corrects for things that don’t work out. It’s not a bad thing–everything ends up doing what it’s supposed to in its own time. But that doesn’t mean I should sit around and wait.

I pulled the eggplant with no blossoms, and took out the dried beans.

“Even Jesus wiped out a fig tree that didn’t bear fruit,” I thought.

The sprouts and corn are gone. Finally. Should’ve done that months ago. I could have been eating a great fall crop of broccoli or lettuce right about rather than waiting for stuff that I sensed would never come to pass.

Could this be a life lesson? Something useful for the classroom, too?

Maybe I should let students make their own path without judgment or not go crazy at work trying to solve all the problems of the universe. Who knows. Today, I’m just ripping out the veggies.

I’ll let skilled philosophers figure out the rest.

When’s School Start, Anyway? Notes from The Bad Mom Files

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 5.55.52 AMWe were all ready to go. We had our five outfits picked out for the week–sure, Labor Day was Monday so there were only four days, but you never know when you’ll need an extra outfit. The boy doesn’t suffer change well–most weeks we need five outfits, so we started by preparing things in groups of five right away.

We picked out four pencils and sharpened them. Two were yellow, one said “You’re cool,” and the last one was red–his favorite color–and had his name. The principal sent a supply list at the end of kindergarten, requesting two glue sticks, two pencils a month, crayons for September and the middle of the year, and a few other first-grade weapons of mass destruction.

“Pick an eraser, buddy.” It was the last thing to be packed into the red pencil case. There was an old-school pink trapezoid eraser and several Cat in the Hat fancy ones that didn’t look like they’d erase very well.

“Can I have two?”

“Sure, you planning on making a lot of mistakes?” The question went unanswered.

“How bout three?” That’s the way he negotiates. He’s pretty good.

“Okay, three. No more! You have to carry all this stuff.”

“Mommy, I need a new lunch box,” he said.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 5.57.33 AM“You don’t. It’s fine.” I’m not the kind of mom who buys crap because it’s September. I buy things when they are needed. Or more embarrassing yet for his impending little future–I make them. Who doesn’t want recyclable wraps for their sandwiches?

“LOOK!” There was, indeed, the tiniest point where the ribbing had separated from the corner. “I need a PackIt. Regular lunches only keep your lunch cold for two hours. The PackIt keeps it cold for ten hours. That’s five times longer than a regular lunch box. By lunchtime my milk could spoil! That’s not healthy. I need that.” I have given birth to an infomercial.

“This will be fine for tomorrow.”

Except that there is no school “tomorrow.” The phone rang. Robo call. “Hello, this is the principal calling to tell you how excited we are to see your first grader on Wednesday.” The message was to indicate that the regular teacher was ill and there would be a substitute on the first day. That was a kind message. But Wednesday?  School starts after Labor Day. “After Labor Day” is Tuesday.

I’m a bad mom. I never even checked. Nor did my husband. This is his home town, for God’s sake. I thought he inherently knew.  I called Declan’s friend’s mom. The phone–it’s a real phone–was busy.

I remembered my friend, Google. “School’s Wednesday, dummy.” Thanks Google.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 6.00.05 AMWednesday. Now, what to tell The Boy. At least we were tipped off so he wasn’t standing out there in the rain with his little pencil case waiting for the bus that never came. That’s what happened last year at the old school when the kindergarten bus forgot him and the lady at the front desk of the school was really mean.

“Hey, GREAT NEWS!” The “great news” approach never fails. “Turns out you have an extra day of summer tomorrow. School starts Wednesday.”

“Yooo HOOOOOOO!” he said. “I can play dinosaurs and watch Netflix.”  Yesirree, you can. That’ll help you start the school year off right.

But in the mean time, I need to pay more attention. There are going to be a lot of forms, fliers, and signup dates flooding my life. On paper. I’m going to have to scan them and set alarms to avoid missing all the good stuff.

At least this year I won’t get yelled at by the school for packing a chocolate chip cookie. I really like this school. I think he’s going to have a good first grade, even if it’s one day late.

 

 

[images: Declan’s closet (the horror!), PackIt.com, and d118.org]

Work Less. Smile.

“I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” she said. “I can’t teach first graders to sit for 180 days. I don’t even have time for my own kids.”

Do you feel this way?

Here’s two from my playbook: “I just corrected two hundred fifty packets and didn’t cook dinner.” And, “I’ll play in five minutes. I just have to finish this.”

Teaching has the highest burnout of all careers. Higher than emergency responders and doctors.

It’s hard. We set expectations for ourselves. The system sets expectations, too. Kids expect instant results–ironic, because they don’t always give me their stuff instantly. I’ve set a high bar—one I could easily meet if I agreed to work 24 hours a day.

The problem is, I no longer do. I’m learning this lesson slowly, but surely.

In a prior career, I worked hard. It wasn’t my job. I ended up doing a lot of translating. I’ll say “translating,” but what I mean is communicating. I hack through languages with all the skill and fluency of someone moving to the United States barely speaking English.  I love languages, so, I give people my respect, and in the process I can usually solve the issue.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 7.47.58 AM“Hello, may I help you?” I answered my phone, hearing a synchronized slam two cubes over, indicating someone blind-transferred the call to me. It was really their call.

“Hola. Necesito hablar con alguien…” I took the call, helped, and moved on.

Problem was, once the floodgates opened, it happened more and more.  I took calls in every language–some I spoke, most I didn’t.

These were the days before Google translate. I’d call the AT&T center.  A translator would conference in the parties, calls ranging from $2–$4/minute. First, I had to be able to identify the language. I was working with dialects of Spanish, Mandarin vs. Cantonese, Cape Verdian, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, Cape Verdean, Cambodian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Armenian, Romanian, Polish, Laotian, Hindi, Gujarati, and once in a while Japanese. Recognizing the cadence, rhythm, and indicators of a languages, the ethnicity of the last name–that’s doable for me. The hard part–telling people to hang on for the translator. In their language.

All of this takes time and skill.

Meanwhile, my own stack of work….growing…morphing into a monster I couldn’t control….cascading off my desk…threatening to crush my very existence.

“Send the call to Casey, she speaks…”

“I DO NOT SPEAK HINDI!”

My work wasn’t getting done but I was “being a team player.” This happens in teaching.

While taking others’ calls, I’d ask for help. “If Joe Smith calls, ask him…” Instead, I’d return to a pile of pink message slips. I was doing two jobs. I wasn’t getting help.

I decided to ask for a raise, bringing the logsheet of the calls I’d taken, showing the value of the services I provided.

“I’ve saved you tons of cash. Let’s split the difference.” Even “the difference” was a lot.

Laughter. Serious laughter. Comedy Central laughter. Watching Comedy Central while drunk laughter.

“Nice one, Casey. No. Get back to work.”

“Okay, but I’m no longer providing this service. I need to focus on my work.”

From that point on, I “wasn’t a team player.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 7.44.34 AMThis happens in teaching. We overextend. We want to help for the good of the school–to be a team player. We do too much. We join committees, sponsor clubs, we never say “no” when asked to contribute, whether it’s in terms of time, talent, or treasure.

“It’s just one night.” The problem is the nights, meetings, planning sessions, after school trainings, and things add up. Sure, it’s going to be a great training session–I really want to participate. But the choice becomes two hours every day after school for a week or seeing my own boy. In the past, I’d chosen work because it was important, even though it was on my time. This year, I choose my family, hobbies, and me.

That’s not a bad thing. That’s the part that has to sink in for the majority of dedicated teachers.

Teachers overextend. Families feel neglected, relationships suffer, we get sick. A day can’t be 30 hours in it no matter how much coffee we drink.  When we cut back to “realistic” and “human,” we feel we’re not doing our best. This Lifehacker article, “Don’t Be A Work Hero,” got me thinking. Read it. Ruminate.

I decided to be human this year. I chose to do one thing for school this year–something I love, tech.

This decision feels pretty good. I notice a difference in mindset already. And by the end of the year, I hope my students, family, and friends will, too.

 

[images: greatergood.berkeley.edu and ruiram.com]

Google Can Get Peach Salsa Out of Your MacBook Pro

The phone rang. I don’t use the phone for calling much anymore–it’s sort of a mini dictator that chimes and pings, commanding me to do certain things–answer you, be amused by your blog post, watch a video, work, attend something, look at photos of your kid, submit something…As I get sucked over to the dark side of tech and more and more dog-trained, I use the phone part of the iPhone less and less. Eventually, Apple will name it the “iCommandCenter,” or the iBigBrother because it knows what I’m doing before I do.

Which is why I wish iBigBrother could have predicted that I’d be startled when the actual phone app rang at the exact moment I was testing out a bowl of my freshly made peach salsa, sending salsa sailing out of my hand onto the right side of my keyboard. I swished it off immediately, but it was liquidy salsa–salsa needs to set awhile after it’s made.  Peach salsa and electronics are bitter enemies.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 2.36.37 PMI started to Google “spilled peach salsa on Mac.” Google knows everything. Google is my friend.

“Wait!” I thought. “Won’t typing squish salsa into the keys more?” I reached for my iBigBrother who’d predicted this all along.

“How can I help you?” asked Siri.

“I spilled peach salsa on my MacBook Pro.”

“You’re stupid,” she replied.

“No, Siri, I need to clean it, what do I do?” This is important!

“Cry. You just fried it, idiot.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” This is SERIOUS! School starts MONDAY!!! Answer!!!!!

Siri mocked me. “Nope,” she said, “You’re screwed.”

Google. Google won’t let me down!

Google is your friend,” said the voice in my head. If Siri isn’t my friend, kiss up to Google. I hold no malice toward Google for being a mind-reading megabrain selling my information to the highest bidder. Google’s free. I use it in my classroom. I’ll sell my soul to anything that’s free and not blocked in the classroom. That’s the truth.

I had to act fast. I could hear the computer translating the salsa into Spanish, playing Mariachi music on the way to circuits frying.

Time to learn a new skill. I picked up iBigBrother and Googled. “Unplug your Mac IMMEDIATELY.” Immediately had passed. I went for ASAP. Unplugging complete. Salsa seeping through the keyboard. “Invert your Mac.” Despite the fact I didn’t have enough common sense to unplug a liquid-deluged electronic device, I had turned it upside down until salsa stopped dripping. I sopped up the keys.

“Clean the keyboard.” Every time I wiped the keyboard I felt the sticky ooze under the letters and numbers.  The speakers crinkled. Turns out it wasn’t fried speakers, just an old “I get chicks” Barry White song popping into R’dio unsolicited. Phew. Not frying yet.  Turning off the computer–good idea. Easier said than done when there are eighty apps  open. A week’s worth of WIP (works in progress) leading my machine toward RIP. It finally went black.

“Take off the keyboard. If possible, take out the battery.” More Google. Praise God for the half-hour video teaching how to rip off keys with parts smaller than the IQ of someone who dumps salsa on the keyboard in the first place.

A couple of keys were different. Panic. Deep breath. There was no one around but me–and Google. It was my moment of truth. Dive in–if underpaid children in China can do this, so can I.  Two swears and an “I wonder if I need my F-12 key” later, the keyboard was reassembled, any remaining liquid deep in the recesses of the machine. Time for prayer. And more Google.

“A classic newbie mistake is trying to turn the machine on after an hour or two. Leave it for 24 hours minimum. 48 or 72 is better.”

I had a premonition about this last week, “I’m not properly backed up.” Backup was last week’s project. This week’s–to spill salsa on it, making the backup worthwhile.

I’ve finished canning the salsa and peaches. If the computer works, I’ve learned a new skill, thanks be to Google. If not, this is the most expensive peach salsa I’ve ever made. Sixteen jars divided by the cost of a new computer breaks down to a total cost of $93.75 per jar.

Put in your orders now.

Blueberries and Pickles–No, I’m Not Pregnant

Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, Warwick, RI

Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, Warwick, RI

Last week, I picked blueberries in the rain. It wasn’t that pleasant. I was cold. When I reached into the bush, water shook from the leaves, soaking me to the bone. I got colder and wetter. I started to frown. There was one drop of rain on my glasses I couldn’t get off. When I wiped it on my wet shirt, I smeared both lenses until I couldn’t see the blueberries. And I had a migraine. Annoying.

I thought about homesteading. How I planted my garden, how my husband chopped the wood, how we try to get off the grid. How the stuff we can’t do–produce eggs or meat–we get from the farm around the corner. About how close I am to getting rid of boxes, store jars, and tin cans. As I sat in the middle of rainy blueberries wishing the weather would clear, I thought, “A couple hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have had a choice to make homesteading my…(dare I say)…hobby.”
Not picking very fast. Pioneers didn't check email while farmingI never thought of homesteading as a hobby. It’s a good activity–I started out intending to save money, produce better quality food, and maybe stop global warming, prevent a few small nations from blowing each other up, or attain enlightenment. It doesn’t save money. Farming is expensive and I give stuff away.  Friends visit and remind me they like my peach salsa.
“Homesteading” is cool, though. What people once mocked me for, comparing me to their grandmother, is now chic, hip, and in. I’ve never been any of those things–I’m enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame.
But whining about wet blueberries–weak. I could never be a real homesteader on the prairie…I felt somewhat disingenuous. The pioneers didn’t have an option. They would’ve picked blueberries in the rain. And been grateful. The work would’ve been there every day. No one’s great-grandmother in Oklahoma would have skipped a day because of a weather, a lunch date, or a migraine.
Because if they did, they would have died. I watch homesteading shows on the Discovery Channel. The Alaska ones are cool–no one comes to their rescue. “Excuse me Stop & Shop Peapod…can you deliver?” I think not. Conversely, I watched a few shows where modern families pretended they were pioneers–shows where people dress up and cry after the first few days. The Alaska people never cry. I have to toughen up and be more like them. Today, In the true spirit of Alaska, I’m weeding my garden and making pickles again because I killed my last crock of kosher dills.
“HOW did you ruin pickles??” asked my friend of Russian Jewish descent. No Russian ever ruins food–that might be the last vegetable you’d see until the reincarnation of Lenin. And a Jew ruining a Kosher Dill? Heresy. Doesn’t happen.
“I didn’t weight them down. The top ones molded.” I asked around, “Can I eat them anyway?” I was so looking forward to them–I’d just eat one off the bottom. My husband said no, it’d kill me. I rationalized that cheese is mold, and the life insurance is paid up…would the pioneers scrape off the mold? They wouldn’t have had mold to begin with. Because if they did, they’d have starved.
Prairie women. My heroes.

Prairie women. My heroes.

I googled in case everyone was wrong. Google said, “Don’t eat it, moron, you’ll die.” Not trusting Google is sort of like not trusting Jesus or the threat stated in a chain letter. I tossed the pickles.

I’d be a crappy homesteader. I didn’t pick enough blueberries–too busy finishing off a text conversation and dictating ideas into Siri. Pioneers wouldn’t have stood for such behavior. And I killed the pickles. I’d have eaten them anyway because Google wouldn’t have been there to save me. I must drink some imported french-roast coffee and contemplate ways to improve.
The weather cleared midway through picking.  I remembered why I love it. I go deep into the middle of the bush, where lazy people don’t pick. Then, I crawl under the bushes, where no one goes, either, except the grandmothers who are serious about their homesteading, and little, tiny kids.
When I’m  looking under the bushes, I see an entirely different view. Seeing the berries under the leaves where no one goes reminds me of teaching. The berries at the top shine for the world. They hog all the sunshine, tasting nice and sweet. But when you climb in and under the bush, you see the berries the world forgot. They’re there, clumped together waiting for someone to pick them. I like those best–they’re bigger and sweeter because they were left alone to grow at their own pace. They leap into the bucket with excitement ready to become part of something great. This reminds me of my students, the ones who get left behind by traditional academics and need someone to peel back the branches and leaves to let them see the sunlight, too. But when they do, it is always magic.
Maybe I’m a bad pioneer and homesteader, but thinking about the blueberries this way, I decide I’m a pretty good teacher.
I smile. And I pick one more bucket before it’s time to go home.
[image 3: candgnews.com]