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"Ms. Schwartz, how old you is?"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Caribbean English isn't always exact.

We've been tiling the mural - we're working about 8 ft above the ground - so we schlepp everything out of the auditorium storage room, and get set up in front of our wall. I drag over the garbage can to use as a table. We put a cardboard box (the flat bakery box) on the garbage can, and we put the mesh squares with tile glued on in there, with the back side up so we can see the coordinates.

I hop on a chair, lean over, grab the square, hold it up in position. We decide if it's lining up correctly, or if we need to make adjustments. I put the square of mesh back on the "table." I smear cement all over the square on the wall. I jump off the chair and supervise students as they quickly and lightly smear cement on the back of the mesh. I jump back on the chair, lean over, gently pick up the mesh square, and position the mesh while students standing on chairs each side of mine press the tiles against the wall, so it all sticks. We clean out any excess, clean the face of the tiles, replace any tiles that fell out. I climb off the chair, ready the next square, we start again.

So after my fourth or fifth square of the day, a student asked, "Ms. Schwartz, how old you is?" And being teacherly, I rephrased the question to more proper grammar - "How old am I? I'm 57 years old."

Of course, the students were shocked. A few said I was older than their mothers. Others said they thought I was 40. A bunch said they thought I was 30-something. I laughed and said no, I'm 57.

And I realized, I'm older than 90% (or so) of the teachers at school. I'm older than most of their teachers. And I'm also the only one who's going to be jumping on and off chairs, spending several hours a day tiling a wall, or just working outside while teaching all kinds of art theory and skills and academic skills to my students.

So I like to think that my students thought I was younger than I am because I DO jump on and off chairs - because I'm active and busy - because I don't act like I'm 57. Or their idea of 57, anyway. Because I act like a young, physically active and mentally vibrant teacher, rather than staying in a classroom.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BESEVEN 2/29/2012 9:59AM

    That is so cool! I'm 48, and I wish I were in good enough shape to jump on and off chairs all day! You have really inspired me to get my butt in gear. I'm definitely going to work out today.

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TARABEAR 2/21/2012 2:13PM

    Yay, Phebe! What a cute story. They are right, of course.

p.s. no wonder that tiling is tiring! What a workout!

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WATERMELLEN 2/20/2012 1:55PM

    So cool that you are pereceived to be "young": to be fit IS to be young, really.

I just loved this article in today's Toronto Globe and Mail about the myth of inevitable muscle loss as we get older. Doesn't have to happen, up to us: an 80 year old who works out can have the same fat to muscle to bone ratio as a 40 year old. So: that's what I'm aiming for!!

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PHEBESS 2/19/2012 7:18PM

    DrP, there are many 100+ yr old people here, but also a lot of our students have lost family members or friends to gang violence. I don't know what the average life expectancy is - but I know when I was about 13 yrs old, 57 sounded ancient!!!!

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PROVERBS31JULIA 2/19/2012 12:30AM

    I hope you're able to jump on and off chairs (on purpose, not accidentally!) when you are 77 or 87!!!!

I've not spent as much time in the Carribbean as you have ( Puerto Rico is all) but curious what the average (median I think, but I never could keep statistics straight) age is and the average age at death? When we were in Jordan and in Egypt, we were treated like old-timers because, as the guy who was our tour guide rep in Egypt, average age at death was 42 for men and I was almost 40 at the time (37 when my son was born and he wasn't quite 3 years old when we went over there.). He told us he was already a grandparent and he was only a few months older than me. Apparently the women don't live that much longer. ( they tend to die of liver flukes according to this guy we met at the travel agency.).

Later I met a deaf Nigerian guy at church who was sent here to finish up his career as a pharmacist and he would call me "Mom". His Mom is only a year or two older than me, and was already a great-grandmother. He is in his 30's now with 3 children and just finished his doctorate. (so I guess I can do the good Bubka thing and brag that my Nigerian "Son" is the Doctor!).

He really latched to me shortly after he arrived in the USA and was frustrated that a big pharmacy test (like board exams?) he needed to take was only on the Sabbath. I told him that in USA most of those tests he has the right to request Sunday testing. He was pleasantly shocked to find out, when he checked into it, that I was right (although he did have to travel from DC where he was in school, to Chicago where the test was administered.).

So anyway his dad died a few years ago and not sure if his mum is still alive in Africa - but he said people my age were considered tribal elders. Yet I feel like a kid, mentally, at times?! Like I haven't matured Enough?

Anyway this was longer than I thought I'd write but I just wondered what the experiences was with the kids in your classes - how old their parents or grandparents are, as well as their decline in physical health.

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IMAOFSEVEN 2/18/2012 11:58PM

    May you be able to jump on and off chairs with your young ones for many years to come!

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PHEBESS 2/18/2012 7:18PM

    I've always said that teaching and being with young people all day keeps me young!!!

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SAPNA. 2/18/2012 1:45PM

    You do look much younger and you act much younger. Plus you are much fitter than your real age. So if I were you i would settle for 40 for the next forever.

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JLPNURSE 2/17/2012 9:14PM

    Your young spirit is showing through.

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ROCKYCPA 2/17/2012 8:43PM

    Good for you - age is a state of mind. As long as you do what you enjoy doing then you will be able to do it. Age should never limit your ability to do anything.

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Logic doesn't always work

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Situation 1 - I go online at school at lunchtime - I tried to order some books for my Kindle. BOOKS. SCHOOL. These two words make sense together, right? Nope, the server has now blocked Why??????? Why on earth would anyone block a school system from looking at a book website???????

Situation 2 - A student has been sent to the office by the school monitor, for being out of uniform. Yes, he has one green sock. And no shoe. Because he's on crutches, with a broken foot that has not yet been put in a cast. And who wants to walk around on crutches with a dress-code white sock, and no shoe, and get the sock filthy?

OY! Sometimes people truly need a smack upside the head!!!!

Note - The assistant principal immediately gave the student permission to go to class with his green sock.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CCSDESTINY 2/17/2012 7:15AM

    Things that make you go HMMMM ?! emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 2/11/2012 10:00AM

    Hilarious! This IS a place of education, right?? A place that values some modicum of rationality????????

And as you say, "Oh well."

Retirement: gonna be better, absolutely!!

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JUDICAT63 2/11/2012 9:45AM

    Oy Vay!!! The monitor needs monitoring!! What a waste of everyone's time! As for the server blocking Amazon - it may be that some students were looking at P*rn in the book format?? I mean if they report someone for wearing a green sock on their broken foot, one has to wonder what they actually know, understand and can do!! Not a lot I think!! Argh poor you!! emoticon emoticon

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MILLISMA 2/9/2012 5:49PM

    Good for the principal. I'm with you on giving the monitor a slap upside the head! Sure does make you wonder.

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PHEBESS 2/9/2012 1:11PM

    I know! Makes you wonder how some people manage to put food into their own mouths!

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TARABEAR 2/9/2012 12:45PM


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JLPNURSE 2/9/2012 10:13AM

    I would say, logic is not being used in either of these cases.

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SAPNA. 2/9/2012 7:41AM

    Complete madness!

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I'm mentoring a kid with problems

Monday, February 06, 2012

We have "adopted" students at school, and so I signed up for one borderline girl and two big problem girls - all my students.

One girl has a lot of problems - she's been shuffled from parent to parent to grandparent, there has been abuse in some of the households, and she's back safe and sound with grandparents. But she has a LOT of behavior problems - seeking attention in all the wrong kinds of ways.

She's not my student this semester, but I check up on her, or she drops by to say hi.

Her birthday is on Wed. - and I had this very small ring that I found (I have no idea where, I discovered it in my office at home!) - and the stone is a tiny amethyst (Feb's birthstone). So I put the ring in a little bag, then in a little pink fabric bag, and I gave it to the child this morning. She politely but sullenly said "Thank you very much" and walked into her classroom. The teacher had the door partially open, so I could see the girl opening the gift. All of a sudden, there was a high-pitched "EEEEEEEEEEEEEE" squeal (as only young girls can make!) and I glanced in - she was almost jumping up and down with excitement!

It made my day! A small gesture, but letting my adopted kid know that I care. I hope a lot of small gestures can turn her around into the lovely young lady I know is just waiting inside that prickly defensive surface she shows the world.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRULYVISIBLE 2/14/2012 4:36PM

  I really like this and I like what kind of a person you are. I want to add you as a sparkfriend.

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JUDICAT63 2/11/2012 9:52AM

    That was sich a wonderful thing to do, and what a lovely sound she made!! Working with "damaged" children is challenging and very worth while. Thank you for sharing this.. emoticon

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TARABEAR 2/7/2012 12:34PM

    So sweet!

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ROCKYCPA 2/6/2012 10:08PM

    What a great program your school has - working with children who really need the help or attention. good for you!! Wonderful story!!!

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WATERMELLEN 2/6/2012 8:30PM

    What a sweet story. You really are such a kind and imaginative person.

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SAPNA. 2/6/2012 2:43PM

    That is a lovely thing that you did for this child. She will remember your kindness always. A moment of light in a dark world.

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JLPNURSE 2/6/2012 11:51AM

    Very nice. I like that your school does this adopt a kid program. I wonder if other schools do this as well.

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Today is my half birthday, and I'm missing my mom

Friday, February 03, 2012

My birthday is in August, and as a child, we were often travelling to coastal regions so that my father, who was in college, could work on research for his MS and then PhD. He's a coastal geologist, who specialized in sea level change and erosion/accretion and all that stuff - so we had wonderful summers on beaches, but it also meant that my birthday wasn't celebrated by having a big party with all of my friends.

I grew up in a family with 5 children - my sister had special emotional needs, my brothers were a handful - and I was the quiet kid, the good kid, the one everyone counted on for help or support. Didn't cause problems, didn't complain, just did what needed to be done.

So my mother - who was sort of the good kid when she was growing up - decided that my birthday in August would be my family party - and some years my birthday party was chicken pot pies in our trailer or rented cabin. But she also decided my friend birthday party would be on my half birthday, in February. So for a few years (about ages 8 to 12-ish) I had my half birthday party, complete with friends, balloons, presents, cake, ice cream, the whole bit. I have absolutely no idea what those friends (or their parents!) thought, but my mom was kind of known as being unconventional, and this was probably accepted as just another one of Norma's ideas.

I thought it was wonderful. I STILL think it was wonderful. I had two days a year when I was the star, when my sister's and brothers' needs didn't overwhelm me, when I had everyone's attention (even if it was only for an hour or so). I had the party with my friends, and didn't miss out on that, the way so many summer birthday kids do.

And I knew that my mom knew that I was the overlooked kid, and that I was special to her.

So at times like this, I really do miss my mom.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NOMIS1 2/11/2012 12:01PM

    Happy belated 1/2 birthday.

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EDDYMEESE 2/7/2012 7:05PM

    This is so fantastic! Your mom sounds like she was a very special lady :)

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RAINSTORM17 2/4/2012 8:55PM

    Happy half Birthday. What a cute story. It's awesome the things mom's do to make us feel like we are very special and so deeply loved. I still miss my mom too! emoticon

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JLPNURSE 2/4/2012 11:03AM

    That is such a sweet story and happy half birthday!

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PHEBESS 2/4/2012 8:52AM

    Too funny, Boss!

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BOSS61 2/4/2012 7:22AM

    Alright so the parallels here are uncanny. Where to begin?

1. I am a geologist. My undergraduate research project was on coastal processes, theories of inlet formation on barrier islands, storm effects on beach erosion and deposition patterns...

2. Our daughter has an August birthday.

3. We frequently threw her parties for her friends on her February half-birthday, as no one seemed around when the actual date rolled around in August.

4. Our daughter feels sometimes overlooked. Nothing could be further from the truth, but her perception is her reality.

So I guess all of this makes me your Dad, huh?

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TARABEAR 2/4/2012 12:16AM

    I love this! People have suggested it to me since Teagan's birthday is so close to the holidays but I didn't know anyone who actually did it. Those are very special memories you have. Sounds like you had a wonderful mom!

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PHEBESS 2/3/2012 5:21PM

    Mary Anne, I never met anyone else who did the half birthday thing before!!!! How cool!!!!!!

And I have to add, DH brought home flowers for my half b'day!!!!!

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MILLISMA 2/3/2012 5:10PM

    I had to read your blog. My daughter is also an August baby and we would celebrate her half birthday. Too funny.

emoticon emoticon

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    Your mother's intuition and understanding that birthdays are at the top of a kid's list make her perfect, as does knowing where all her children fit into the family picture. Now that you write about it, I recall summer babes wishing they'd been born during the school year so they, too, could have parties in class as well as at home.

A very merry unbirthday to you (to you -- with a tip of the top hat). Enjoy the sweetness of your memories.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon


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PHEBESS 2/3/2012 10:01AM

    You all make me blush!

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BATYAFA 2/3/2012 10:00AM

    Wow! What a wonderful idea! It takes a very special person to come up with an idea like that! No wonder you miss her - but what very special memories you have of her!!
Well, have a wonderful half-birthday, and remember, there are 363 non-birthdays left in the year to celebrate!
Shabbat shalom!
Batya emoticon

Comment edited on: 2/3/2012 10:01:15 AM

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CRYSTALJEM 2/3/2012 9:34AM

    You had a very special mom. I hope you have a very happy half birthday. What a wonderful memory and tradition. My son is that 'good kid' and I appreciate him so much for that. I hope I am able to make him as aware of it as your mom did with you. I have just started visiting you recently, but you sound like you must be a lot like your mom.

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SAPNA. 2/3/2012 8:57AM

    Wow, your mother was amazing and empathetic. What a wonderful lady. They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and you are just like her. A perfect apple on a perfect tree.

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PHEBESS 2/3/2012 7:53AM

    Ellen, you always know what to say! (Besides, I look just like my mom!

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WATERMELLEN 2/3/2012 7:48AM

    Your mother clearly was a genius mother: and her sensitivity towards the needs of others is something you've brought to your teaching, clearly. So: she lives on in you.

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Another update on Little Mr. Orange Kitty

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Remember him? He's the very cute kitty that a few of us fed last year at school, and finally caught and took him to the vet for neutering - then he was adopted by one of our counselors and his wife.

I ran into the wife at the post office - the cat (they call him Ronnie) is big and cute and loving.

And he brought home two stray kittens!!!!!!!

One looks just like him, so he's named RJ (for Ronnie Junior) - although obviously he isn't his own son. The other, a girl, is marble-colored - so her name is Mabel.

Seriously, the lady told me these two stray kittens were hanging out with Ronnie when she and her husband got home one day, and they've been tamed enough to come inside and sleep - though they aren't willing to be touched yet.

I can totally see Little Mr. Orange Kitty happening upon these two kittens while he was out roaming - "Hey, I know how it feels, I used to be homeless too. Why don't you come home with me, these nice people like cats and they'll feed you too!"

Just such a funny little vignette! And yay for LMOK for rescuing his own little kitties!!!!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PHEBESS 2/14/2012 9:14PM

    A stray showed up at our house (when I was a teenager) - my mom said, "Okay, let's feed him, maybe he'll go away."

We all laughed - like that would work!!!!!!

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TRULYVISIBLE 2/14/2012 4:42PM

  Love the story being a cat lover and living with one. My cat is indoor and doesn't bring home anyone but the two strays in the neighborhood know I am good for a free meal so come around.

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EDDYMEESE 2/7/2012 7:04PM

    Thanks for the update! It is such a sweet story :)

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JLPNURSE 2/4/2012 11:02AM

    That is just too darn cute!

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PHEBESS 2/3/2012 10:21AM

    I love the altruistic attitude of LMOK! He's a giant among cats (or something like that!)

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SHORTY20 2/3/2012 9:20AM

    Awww, that's a cute story!

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ILOVEROSES 2/2/2012 8:09PM

    What a lovely story! emoticon+ emoticon+ emoticon=happy family!

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WATERMELLEN 2/2/2012 7:39PM

    This is a wonderful story . . . and love the name "Mabel"!!

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PHEBESS 2/2/2012 5:09PM

    I know, Myrna! He found his own pets!

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SAPNA. 2/2/2012 2:41PM

    I have never heard of that before. What a wonderful cat!

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GAYLLYNNE 2/2/2012 2:13PM

    Isn't that sweet! Lucky little kitties!

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TARABEAR 2/2/2012 1:19PM

    So sweet!

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MARCHEM 2/2/2012 12:31PM

    Glad to hear LMOK and his new buddies are doing well. I guess humans aren't the only ones to pay it forward.

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LILRED75 2/2/2012 10:35AM

  Way to go Little Mr. Orange Kitty. He's no dummy!

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MISTRESSC 2/2/2012 10:34AM

    I love stories like this. I am an animal lover!

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