Thursday, August 6, 2020

"Dear Old Golden Rule Days"

Once, in grade school, Sister Judy slipped over to my desk and assigned me the task of looking up the word "Procrastination" and writing down the definition. Or, more accurately, a whole page of them. 

This was educational in a variety of regards. 
Firstly, I didn't know the meaning of the word until my skinny little self had leafed through the dictionary and my finger slid down the "P" page to The Word.

Also, until then, I didn't know what I had done wrong or why I was being punished. I remember the quiet feeling of deep shame washing over me, knowing I was blushing, and not wanting to look up, because I knew everyone else also knew.

The school was a one room school and very small. So small it was impossible for the entire student body not to know I was being punished. Some of them knew why. Unlike me, they did know the meaning of The Word.

Dutifully I wrote my sentences and tried to act uncaring. But I did care. I felt very bad. I liked Sister Judy. She was one of the kindest teachers I ever had. For her to have given me a consequence of this description meant I had pushed her over the edge. 
I did not want to push her over the edge. I wanted her to like me. 

It wasn't that I thought I didn't deserve it. Barely getting my assignments handed in on time was routine for me. Sometimes I even handed them in late. When I think back to my grade school days, my overall impression in regards to the scholastic end of things was that I existed in an everlasting state of confusion with a cloud of mild anxiety hanging over me. Something was probably due and I didn't have it done.
But what? And when?

It wasn't that I didn't grasp the material. (Except for math. I was clueless when it came to math.) But for the most part the material came quite easily for me. I simply had no clear concept of how to arrange my actions and my days to complete things when they were supposed to be completed.

I guess you could say it was a partially effective punishment. I learned what it was I was all the time doing at least, and I acknowledged the truth of it in my heart. I also never forgot the lesson.

They say acknowledging your issues puts you halfway to the solution. 
This cannot be true. I still procrastinate. In various aspects of life I struggle mightily to know what I should be doing when, and the cloud still hovers above me by day. 
So far, I have not seen a pillar of fire by night.

I have, in truth, learned some coping techniques. 

But here is just a little word of encouragement to you moms especially, as another school year approaches.
If you have a native who can never pull it together, who has papers and books strung from Jerusalem to Jericho. If, in the deportment department of his report card the little box beside "Uses time well" is routinely Xed by your child's weary teacher....gather that child up, fix him or her some Oreos and milk, and together look at the problem. Help him come up with a system. Designate a specific cubby or space for his school things things, and times for homework and study, if appropriate. Make him visual charts he can reference so he knows when each class will be held and each assignment will be due. 
If he has a lot of homework, break it down into manageable segments, and set a timer to help him focus. Let him be the one to tell you how many minutes he thinks he can do it in, so he feels some control in the matter and personal investment in meeting the time he himself set.
Dole out occasional rewards for successes.

I am no expert obviously, or I would not still be struggling with myself in these matters. They are only things that I think in retrospect may have given me tools for success, and some things that have been helpful with our natives. Some of them, your child's teacher would ideally implement, or you may at least need to get information from him or her. But the fact of the matter is, teachers come in all degrees of competence, and your chances of training the teacher are a little more bleak than training your child. 

A good school year to all of you! I suppose it will look a little different to many of us this year.
Whatever it looks like for you and your natives, embrace it with good cheer. If there is craziness going on in high places, be the buffer. 
Don't send them to school saturated with secondhand indignation. Send them with a tight hug and a smile. 
They will need it.

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