So, I work in a grade school (JK through 6). I’m an educational assistant. This can and does mean many different things, depending on the day or even the time of day. The first month or two I spent at my school, I was in a kinder class focussing on a particular child. As his behaviour stabilized, more or less, I began spending more time with the grade school kids.
My first day out of the kinder class, I was pointed in the direction of a grade 2 student, let’s call him Randall. Randall was refusing to participate in an outdoor activity and was out of sight of the teachers. The principal asked me to bring Randall in to the office. I wandered over to Randall and asked him how he was doing. He growled at me and climbed in to a bush. “Tough morning, huh?” Another growl and some thrown leaves. I Introduced myself. “I’m Mr. Geoff. You might not know who I am cuz I’ve been hanging out in the kindergarten classes.” Hissing and then a growl. “Hmm. What’s your name?” Silence. “Listen boss, you don’t actually have to tell me your name, but it’d be a load easier for having a conversation.” Silence. “Don’t want to tell me huh?” A very low and small “No.” “Totally ok dude. The only problem is that I’ll have to make up a name for you if I can’t find out your real name.” I explained that having an invented name for him would be better for me than simply referring to him as “that kid in the bushes.” “So, yeah… not doing so well this morning, I guess.” Silence. “Anyways, the boss asked me to walk you to the office. I guess you don’t really want to be doing all this fun stuff so we figured you could use a break.” I told him he could have a minute to think it over. When the minute was up I tried to get him to come out of the bush. “Come on Steve. Seriously, aren’t there mosquitoes and stuff in there?” “My name’s not Steve.” he tells me. “Oh, I know that Steve, but you won’t tell me your real name, so I’m stuck calling you Steve. You kinda look like a Steve.” (He doesn’t actually look like a Steve.) “Anyway, Steve, we should head in. The principal said to me “Mr. Geoff, go bring Steve in.” So I think we should go. I hear they have a very nice office here, we should check it out.” He came out of the bushes, trying hard not to laugh and looking rather confused, and began to walk in the other direction from the office. Of course, I walked with him. “Where we going Steve?” Silence. We wandered the yard for few minutes and then her pipes up, “My name isn’t Steve.” I agreed with him and again told him that I didn’t want to be rude and call him “Hey You.” That got a smile. “Look Steve, we can check in at the office and let the principal know that you’re with me and that you aren’t missing and then ask her if you can just head to class, I mean you did get out of the bushes and you are letting me call you Steve, so you know…” I began to walk towards the office and Steve followed.
Just before we got to the main office, he turned to me and said “My name’s Randall.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you Randall, but I still think you look like a Steve.” This got an actual laugh to go with the smile. By this point, all the anger that he’d had, seemed to have faded away. We talked to the principal for a minute and then I walked him to class. Once there, I said “It was pleasure hanging with you Steve. See ya later.” He threw me a wave and said “See ya later Bob.” I laughed my ass off.
That was around October. Every day I’d greet Steve and he’d call me Bob. We confused the hell out of his mom whenever she’d drop him off in the morning. One day she took me aside and asked “You’re name’s not really Bob is it?” I told her it was Geoff. She was relieved because she’d been sure that my name was Geoff and though she’d been calling me by the wrong name. I told her the story of why Randall calls me Bob and why i call him Steve. She nearly cried, she loved it.
Today was the last day of the school year. Randall is one of my faves (yes, we have faves). He and his mom came up to my office and presented me with a little gift to thank me for hanging with and helping Randall this year. It was one of those gifts that you don’t see coming and though I kept my composure at school, writing this is plucking at my heart strings. Other than the bottle of wine one of the parents gave me, this is the best.
Sometimes I’m loud. I have kind of a big voice and a personality to go with it. Most of the time I have it all under control. At school, at times, I’ll bring out what I call my Big Boy voice in order to be heard. I also laugh loud. That one is a lot harder to control, but it’s laughter, so fuck you.
This past Friday I went out with my coworkers for drinks. Many drinks. It was brought to my attention, about a pint into the proceedings, that I was being loud. I assured everyone that this was normal and to be expected, but I added that I would try to keep it down. I also gave everyone instructions to cue me for being loud as I take direction well.
So, many pints and one patio change later, the subject of this blog came up. I was going through the photos on my phone, in search of something that I don’t know what it was, when I came upon the picture I took of Jesus. Yes, that Jesus. The Jesus trying to eye fuck everyone. The picture was passed around and I regaled them with a very witty summary of the blog post. Have I mentioned that not only am I loud when I drink, but I’m fucking hilarious. As I was getting laughs and no one thought to cue me for being loud, I made no efforts to keep it down.
I left the patio to stand several inches away in order to have a smoke (because you can’t smoke on the patio). As I was smoking, I continued to wow and amaze my listeners with smooth story telling. A lovely woman sitting at the next table over, broke from the conversation with her friend and turned towards me. In that moment I knew that, had she been reading my blog, she would have hit the follow button. Sometimes you just know that you’ve gotten through to someone and that you are now on the same page. In the second or so that it took her to turn towards me (leaving, what I’m sure, was a staid and numbing conversation), I knew.
“If I’m going to have to listen to every single thing that you say, you better at least show me the fuck-me-Jesus picture.” This was delivered in an even and calm tone. It was pitched perfectly so that my friends and I could hear it and it was loud enough to cut through whatever bullshit was probably pouring out of my word hole, but not so loud as to embarrass me in front of the whole patio. In that moment I knew what she was saying. This wonderful woman had just told me to shut the fuck up. I loved her in that moment. It was perfect. I may have been told to shut the fuck up, previous to this, but none has every made me want to shut the fuck up. I needed to shut the fuck up. For her.
Of course I showed her the picture. “Wow. He really is trying to fuck everyone.” He boyfriend/husband guy looked at it and laughed louder than anything I had yet produced, so he should probably shut the fuck up too. We chatted some more as a group and she even had us join in on a spirited game of judge-the-guys-trying-to impress-girls. Awesome. I have no idea who she is but there’s a picture of us on her phone and I’m a little in love with her still.
Sometimes in life there are perfect moments. This was one of those.
P.S. The whole night was amazing from start to finish and I need to do that again, soon.
My mother in law always has a Jesus calendar on her wall. I’ve known her for 18 years and there has always been one.
Over the years I’ve noticed a slow change in the artwork of these calendars, specifically in the drawing of Jesus. He’s always been caucasian looking and has always been rocking a mumu type robe. A few years ago I saw that he had become a little more swarthy, which I thought was pretty cool, given the area of the world he’s purported to come from. Alas, this did not last and he’s back to being a stubbly caucasian.
But why is he trying to eye-fuck me? Seriously, that piercing, head on look of his, cannot be confused with beatific peace. He is telling you that even if your soul isn’t his, your body will be. If your date looked at you like that, his intentions would be unmistakable. Other than the calendar, I’ve never been on the receiving end of a look like that and I’ll admit that it terrifies me and confuses me at the same time. Repelled and drawn. This is the power of the calendar Christ.
I don’t know that I could live in the same house as that calendar. I have visions of myself standing, enraptured, trying to scrute the inscrutable. Trying to come to terms with the power of that eye-fucking.
So, this is a short and rather simple take on a complicated subject. There are so many more factors at play than the ones I will mention. The conversation I’m suggesting take place is much deeper that this post implies. Basically I’m trying to highlight something that I see as the essence of the problem. Thanks in advance for reading.
A dress code for students, both middle school and high school, is important. As a parent and an educator, I really do see the need. I will enforce the dress code as part of my job. My job does not include explaining to the kid why there is a need for a dress code. This is anathema to being an educator; I really like explaining things and it’s a great opportunity for learning and debate. The dress code conversation is way above my pay grade. Would you like to know why? Of course you do. Let me explain, as best I can.
The reason that I’m not going to engage any student in the debate over dress code or try to explain to them the reasons behind it is, it’s not my job. That lovely task falls to you, the parents. But, Geoff, why should I have to defend the school’s policy? It’s your policy, not mine. Let me ask you something, dear parent: Do you want me, an admittedly amazing person, talking to your preteen or teen about sex? Your answer better be no. Perhaps you’ll say that you don’t want me to talk to them about sex, but do want me to discuss the dress code. Well, they are the same thing. That’s why it’s difficult for any school to justify/explain/debate/enforce a dress code, and it’s also why a dress code is needed. Your kids are changing in shape and hormone content. They are also becoming more and more aware of their own bodies and the bodies of their peers. When it comes right down to it, puberty and all the changes that come with it are about reaching sexual maturity (not mental maturity). The changes are already screaming “Look at me! I’m fertile/virile! Let’s do it!” There’s a feeling if power that comes with these changes. You’re turning heads and having a visible effect on others. It’s about sex.
Your kids need be defined by more and noticed for more that long legs or cleavage. The problem being that the media’s influence makes that harder and harder. Peoples’ worth is so often and so unfairly tied to their appearance. This is not a new thing, but is so prevalent in our society that the battle against it is overwhelming. It’s insidious and is present everywhere. You don’t need me to point out to you all the ways that girls and women are told that their looks and attractiveness to others is the most important thing.
Fashion has always tried to test the limits of what society deems appropriate. Teens are discovering themselves and the world around them and in the process they also want to test all boundaries. I don’t want that to change. That is innovation and is always needed. This is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about the broader lesson that our children need to be taught. They are more than their physical appearance, more than the sex that will inevitably become a part of their lives, so much more. As parents you can safely explain to your kid that they are beautiful and sexy and that they are also more than that. There are times and places that are great for strutting your stuff and revelling in the physicality of being a teen. Despite it being the most social place in a teen’s day, school just isn’t the place for that. Some restraint is needed. It’s up to you, the parent to explain this to your child. Please, please think about all of this before you complain about the school’s dress code or the enforcement of the dress code.
END OF PART ONE. Stay tuned.
(A note: This is a simplified view of things, but still, I feel, very valid. Not all situations are the same and some are so very complicated that they defy simple advice. This is a sort of starting point. I have worked with children all of my adult life. I have worked in child protection and have also been investigated by child protection services. I’m not making light of anyone’s situation, I’m just trying to give you some good, if simple, advice.)
So, child protective services are in your life…
Whatever they’re called in your neck of the woods, it amounts to pretty much the same thing. Chances are good that you are not happy about it. No, it doesn’t feel good and you are probably angry and ashamed and embarrassed. All normal emotions to be having. There’s no way it’s going to feel good, right away. What if people find out? What are they going to think? Well, it’s unlikely that anyone else will know about it, other than the people directly involved. If people do find out, they may judge you. Hey may think less of you. They may be happy that help has arrived. Though we want everyone to think we’re awesome, it’s not always going to happen. Fuck em’. You have your own ducks to get into a row.
Something you need to know.
Child services don’t want your kids. Period. Sure they’ll remove them from your care if they have to, but they would so much rather leave them with you, the parents. Generally that’s the best place for them. There is no quota to be filled by the social workers. They do not get paid by the child. The worker does not hate you, even if you are hateful. The worker wants you to be better and will do what they can to make that a reality.
What do you need to do?
In a nutshell… Calm the fuck down.
Seriously, calm down. I know you’re angry. They know you’re angry. You’re asking, “who the fuck do they think they are?” Well, they think that their job is to keep kids safe. Ask the average person on the street if it is a good thing to ensure the safety of children. Seriously, go on. I’ll wait. No one, anywhere, would ever say that this is not a good thing. That is unless you and you’re family are the focus of their attentions. In that case, fuck them. So yeah, calm down before you make things worse.
I’m not kidding about making things worse. Let’s say the concern that’s been raised has nothing to do with your anger or your temper. Well, if you put your anger and temper on display, front and centre, then that becomes the focus. The worker can’t get to the meat of any problems if they, first, have to deal with you being an obnoxious, belligerent twit. Maybe your temper and anger are the problem that’s being looked into. Well, showing that you can’t control it certainly doesn’t play in your favour.
So take a deep breath. Find out why they are involved
So take a deep breath. Find out why they are involved. You can ask and they will tell you. In fact, they’ll tell you even if you don’t ask. Why would these evil, life invading, day ruining bastards do that? Well, you see, you need to know. If you know what the problem is, you can fix the problem. Maybe there isn’t a problem. Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding. Great. These bastards don’t want your children, I promise. So they are going to listen to you too and if there’s no problem they’ll thank you for your time and get the fuck outta there. There is nothing they want more than to be allowed, legally, to leave you and your children alone.
So, now that you know what the problem is, you can do something about it. If they have determined that there is a problem, they will also provide you with some ideas about how to change. They even look into ways to make it as easy to do as possible.
For example, let’s say you have a temper and sometimes your kid pushes you just far enough that you snap and hit them. Well, the first thing that pops into one’s head might be: Don’t hit your fucking kid! Here’s the thing though… everyone knows that there’s more to it. The folks with child protection will suggest anger management of some sort. Why? Well, hitting your kid isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem may be that you have serious anger issues and they take you to a place where you hit your kid. Helping you with your anger will help you in general and also, hopefully, stop you from hitting your kid. (One thing to note: even if you have anger problems, it’s not ok to hit your kid.) You have to accept that there is a problem and that it’s your job as the parent to fix it.
Maybe you don’t have an anger management problem. Maybe you have crippling depression and have difficulty getting out of bed, let alone making a meal for your kid and taking care of all the other little needs they have. Guess what, there are things that can be done to help there too. Help the depression and maybe the safety of your kid stops being an issue.
Or, my favourite, you are just a shitty parent. You’re parenting skills are nil. You have no idea how to meet the emotional and physical needs of your kid. Maybe you can barely take care of yourself Well, guess what? The nice social worker can help you there too. Amazing. There are people who’s only job is to try and help people learn how to be parents. There’s classes. There’s one on one training. For fuck’s sake, there’s the internet! Seriously, look that shit up. Make an effort to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. “Oh yeah? Who the fuck are you to tell me I’m not a good parent?!” The best answer to that question is, “Fuck you.” It doesn’t matter if you think that the child protection worker needs to be involved with you. Once they are involved, they have to be able to legally show that your kid is safe. If you have to bend a little to make this happen, then fucking bend. Pretty simple. You are not being targeted. There is no vendetta against you and yours.
You don’t even have to fix the problem right away. What you need to do is make an effort. Work with the social worker. Putting in the effort shows a lot about how important your child is to you. No, things that are important are not always easy to fix, but hopefully your kid is worth it to you.
So, please, find out what the issues are. Stay calm. Find out what you have to do to fix things. Accept the help that is offered. Put your kid’s needs ahead of your own.
Anyone who knows me (in the real world) knows that I have a really hard time with stupid. Stupid annoys me and can easily make me mad. To me, stupid is often willful or simply lazy. Some people would rather say something stupid than spend a little extra energy on an actual thought. The titles of those buzz feed articles and picture sets, drive me right around the fucking bend. The assumptions that they are making are awful:
1. What makes you think my faith in anything needs to be renewed?
2. How do you know I think humanity sucks?
3. How do you know that my opinion isn’t valid?
Sometimes, life is wall to wall shit. There are not enough lol-cats or inspirational sunsets in the world to change that. How dare you think that my feelings and or convictions could be so easily changed. Pictures of people doing nice things or good deeds should not be so out of the ordinary that a picture of it will change my outlook on the world. Those things should be the norm.
On to the real world thing that made me happy….
I should mention that there are a great many things that make me happy. I think that there are more things that make me happy than there are things that make me angry, though some days it’s too close to call.
I work in a grade school as an educational assistant. This means, broadly, that I’m there to support the teachers and the kids in a variety of ways. Very specifically, I’m the one who deals with a lot of the behaviour problems and also with those kids who have special needs of some sort. This is a very simplistic view of what I do, but a more complicated explanation would be very, very long. One of my little guys has autism. He’s in a regular classroom, which is awesome, but needs a fair bit of individual support to navigate the routines, social interactions and sheer chaos of a grade 3 class. This kid is awesome. He’s seriously the highlight of my day, even when he tries to bite me.
We’ve recently started trying to get him out on the main yard for recess. For the past few months he’s been inside at recess, with me. Being on the yard with a couple hundred other kids was difficult for him. Yesterday was day two of recess on the yard. Generally I keep him away from any tag type games. They usually end with him tackling some one to the ground or initiating a game of tag with people who don’t know that they are now playing tag.
Yesterday, about 50 kids were playing a game called Manhunt. If I understood it properly, someone would be it and anyone they caught would also be it, so on, until there was no one left. Sounds fun. My little pal wanted to join in. He didn’t seem too ramped up by the idea so I let it happen, staying close to prevent any problems. He volunteered to be “it” because he LOVES to chase people. The game starts and everyone scatters. He’s about to start running when a grade 6 girl approaches him. She’s one of the nicer kids I know. She can take and joke and make one of her own right back (an important skill for anyone who spends more than a couple minutes talking to me). She says to my guy “Hey ________, are you it?” He tells her he is. She holds out her hand to be tagged, which he does. She then tells him “Awesome! Let’s go catch everyone else.” She took his hand in hers and off they went. She made sure he knew who was fair game to chase. She was quickly joined by two of her friends from grade 5. The four of them spent about 30 minutes playing together. They would tell him who they should try and catch and then work with him to try and get them. He had an amazing time. He finished recess, beet red and out of breath and smiling from ear to ear. He played an amazing chase game and didn’t tackle anyone. It was an utter joy to behold.
The thing that moved me the most and made me happiest, was the choice by those girls, to play with him. You see, he’s often targeted by other kids because he’s so easy to get going and once he’s going it’s a bit like a hurricane – it’s loud and scary and potentially dangerous. These girls did the exact opposite with him and it had been a long time since I’d seen anyone make that choice.
Each one of those girls got my sincere thanks and a large colourful award ribbon, made out of duct tape: The Mr. Geoff Award of Awesome.
Those girls are the kind of thing that will restore a person’s flagging faith in humanity.
Thanks for reading.
“Teenage stupidity is magical. At that age, you’re so dumb that you may think you know you’re dumb, but you’re actually so ignorant (and arrogant) that you think you’re smart and wise for knowing you’re dumb. In reality, you’re just dumb. Take away the recursive loop of delusion and any sense of how wise you are even though you’re so young that your pubes still have that new pube smell, and the truth is all that remains: You Are Dumb.”