Influences

Clara, my high school senior, has been telling me about disclaimers teachers make in class.

“We’re going to be studying existentialism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents saying that you’ve become an existentialist.”

“We’re going to study communism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents telling me that you’ve become a communist.”

“We’re going to study nihilism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents saying that your now a nihilist.”

“We’re going to study anarchy. Don’t go home and tell your parents you are now an anarchist. I don’t want to hear it.”

“We’re going to read Dracula. I don’t want to get a call from your parents telling me you want to become a Vampire.” If your child is already a Vampire this won’t apply to you, because your child won’t say anything. 

And this brings me to some thoughts on influence, school, teens, poetry, and beauty.

Many things out in the wide world influence our children. It is up to you to give your children the tools they need to evaluate these influences. And you know what I’m going to say now… If you over protect your children you’re going to screw them up for LIFE. That is why you need to talk to your kids about, well, everything. If they learn, maybe you can learn from then. No, I take that back. You WILL learn from them.

Last week Clara asked me if I’d read Dover Beach. I vaguely remembered. Then I looked it up. Yes, in a way, it too is about choices and belief.

In my wildest dreams if I could write so beautifully…

My child and I talked about the poem, the meaning, the use of words. It was a joy. I thank her English teacher for setting a fire in the souls of her students with the words and passions of so many different writers.

Please read, enjoy, ponder, and be inspired.

Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


 

Have a good week everyone,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

High School Horrors (Or Math is Eating My Parenting Brain)

As a parent I find it difficult not to ignore teachers my kids have problems with.

I’ve written about this before during my daughter’s utterly disastrous Freshman year in high school when she didn’t get the classes she should have had, one of her teachers was a total witch who hated her students (I wrote a post about it) and another had a mental health and drug problem and was never there. Those two classes were a total waste of time. I was so angry about it but I tried to keep out of it and let the child learn to take care of her own problems. Now I wish I would have gone up to school and showed my fangs.

This year, the Senior year, there is a mathematics teacher who punishes the ENTIRE class and every single class because one student cheated (among other things.) There was almost a mass exodus from the class – enough kids trying to get out that it caused the school principal to send a letter to all of the parents saying how the teachers want to help and she doesn’t know what the problem is.

Well, I’ll tell you what the problem is. In fact, I’ll tell you what the fuck the problem is.

  • The teacher has a bad attitude and assumes all kids want to cheat (according to the students.)
  • The teacher will not give tests back to the kids so they don’t know why they failed.
  • The teacher yells at the class because so many kids are failing. Maybe she should yell at herself. These are advanced students. They aren’t idiots. They are studying their 16-18 year old butts and brains off. But if they don’t know what they are or aren’t doing right or wrong they’re going to be in the dark. Being in the dark is great for a Vampire but not for a high school student.
  • The teacher seems flippant about her attitude about these students. For a lot of them this class could make or break what college they get into. But she doesn’t give a shit. Maybe she does give a shit – but she has to let the students know that. It will make a big difference if they know she really cares.
  • The teacher will give the students a little bit of credit for homework but they don’t know if they did their homework correctly because the answers aren’t checked. No shit. I kid you not.

So what is a parent to do?

I’ve asked the child to talk to the teacher. She says she is available at lunch. I keep telling the child to talk to her at lunch. I keep telling my child to step it up and see her teacher. Tell her what you need. Tell her you have a nice college student tutor. Tell her you don’t want to fail. Tell her you need her help. Tell her that you really don’t want to fail and need her help.

If that goes badly tomorrow then I will have to let DAD take care of it because I tend to use too many bad words.

At one time my dear old dad was a college professor. He said if his students were a success then he knew he was a success. He never understood teachers who didn’t care if their students failed. If your students fail then as a teacher you fail.

As you know, if you read this “parenting” blog, that I am not a helicopter parent. I’m not one of those women who is always up at the school driving the administration crazy with crazy requests. I tell my kids to fight their own battles. That is why they go to public school – to learn to fight battles of the brain and learn to play the game of life. But this time I can’t stand back.

Fangs out. I’m ready.

I’ll keep you posted.

I hate this.

Yes, when you’re a parent, sometimes it feels like it is always Halloween.

And to the rest of my child’s teachers – you are wonderful. I love you. You make me want to go back to school.

To the math teacher – chill, listen to your students, have faith in them, respect them, trust them, and be there for them. They’re great kids. They’re smart. They really are. They want to learn. Let them know that YOU want them to learn too.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

School… Check list please.

This morning at the dog park I was talking to a teacher and the husband of a teacher.

Teachers don’t drop out of the profession because of the kids. It is the parents and administrators who make them sick and tired of the crap.

Most of my readers know what parents I’m talking about. It is the crazy ass mom who constantly complains that the teacher is unfair to her little darling (evil monster.) It is that mom who argues with the professor during a field trip to the planetarium saying there are aliens living on Mars. It is those parents who teach their kids to lie, cheat, stalk, and generally act like assholes, then complain loudly about their poor little darling being treated unfairly. It is that parent who thinks her child is the most brilliant child in the world and therefore the only one who matters. You know who this mom is. She is the one who stands up at the yearly parent information night in the school multipurpose room and states how her eight year child should be talking college level math, and she wants everyone to know how special she (the mom) is.  Once my kids moved onto high school I noticed the teachers and administrators shut these parents down – or at least it seemed that way. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… Really, those hyper crazy moms are the people who suck the joy out of elementary and middle school out of the rest of us. So many times I’ve just wanted to yell, “GO THE FUCK AWAY,” but school authorities don’t look too kindly upon that sort of behavior…but they put up with…oh never mind. Anyway…

School is starting again. Summer was way too short this year.

My kids are awesome. I’m going to assume if you’re reading this your kids are awesome too (even if they aren’t Vampires.)

One of mine is getting ready for her senior year of high school. The other is a junior in college and getting ready for his upper division courses.

One says she doesn’t have time for boys. The other can’t think of anything but girls.

So I made my official 2016 back-to-school check list.

  • School supplies (Target)
  • Tell Dad what day school starts.
  • Tell Dad again what day school starts.
  • Ask kids if there is anything else they need.
  • Ask kids again if there is anything else they need.
  • And for the third (but not the last time) ask the kids if there is anything else they need.
  • Check emails for last-minute information from the school.
  • Ask the college junior why he is packing up a chain saw, and a 1968 set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to bring back to school with him.
  • Ask the college junior to please return the two pairs of panties (different sizes) to their owners when he gets back to school.
  • Tell Dad what day school starts.
  • Get extra batteries for calculators and other small magic boxes.
  • Give them both Dutch Brothers cards just because you’re the best mom ever.
  • Remind them that there are clothes that are not band shirts.
  • And last of all remind them again that their white trash thermos is ok for summer, holidays, and weekends, but not in the classroom unless it has a lid, and maybe not even then because glass shatters if dropped (a WT thermos is a large mason jar containing morning coffee when one has lost his/her travel cup.) Also remind them that it is not Mom’s fault if she knocks over the damn thing in the car because it won’t fit in the cup holder and has no lid. It is the child’s responsibility to keep their own coffee safe.
  • Ask the kids if they need anything else.
  • Tell them not to stress out. Tell them they’ll do great – even with the hard classes.

I’ll be checking my email over the next week for more information from the school. This is our last year in high school so I’m going to savor it all. I’m going to try not to get sad because, well, you know.

As the school year starts the one thing that I can stress it to listen to your kids. Let them know that it is safe to talk to you, their parent. Talk with them. Don’t take shrugs and grunts for answers. Engage them. Listen, listen, listen to them. And let them talk. Really let them talk. They’ll tell you a lot. You’ll learn something too.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

backtoschool

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey teacher – my kid is listening to every single word you say.

Pretty much the title here says it all. My daughter is a Junior at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, California. The reason I’m blowing my cover and giving out a location is because I want to give credit where credit is due.

One of the mantras on this blog is to talk with your kids. That said, my kids talks to me about everything that goes on at school. I’m not saying that there aren’t frustrations and difficult issues. The workload is insane. The pressure of AP classes is insane. I’m sure there are also social issues I don’t know about that wear on a young mind and heart.

A lot of what I do hear is about the teachers. Even if the work is hard, the teachers are good. They’re great.

Dear Teachers,

  • My teenager likes you. All of you.
  • Mu teenager respects you.
  • Even when you’re assigning difficult and completely confusing projects she likes you.
  • Why? Because you treat your teenage students with respect.
  • Because you make an attempt at humor.
  • You never make any of the kids feel stupid in front of other kids.
  • You call out kids who are being jerks and deal with it.
  • You don’t treat your students like babies.
  • You make the subjects interesting.
  • You know the kids are all going to be desperately trying to get into college soon and respect that panic. You know the difference a grade can make.
  • You encourage parents to talk to their kids before they call you.
  • You encourage your students to think and have original thoughts.
  • You challenge your students to think for themselves.
  • You answer your students questions.
  • You respect the teenagers and acknowledge that they are valued as future human beings.
  • I know my child is in good hands.
  • I wish all teachers were like you.
  • This is for the AP History, AP English, Chemistry, Algebra 2, Ceramics teachers (you know who you are, I hope. I’ll let you know personally later.)

Thanks,

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Keep Calm We're Teens

Media Literacy: Personal Cultural Space & The Vampire Maman

From Dark Pines.

Dark Pines Media

Today I discoveredVampire Maman, a fascinating blog about   The Musings of Modern Vampire Mom by the author Juliette Kings.

Kings’s blog is full of quirky humour and insight. One post that got me thinking in tangential directions was Thank you for pissing off my teenage daughter . It was an open letter to her 14 year old daughter’s  English teacher. As a retired  teacher (English/Spe.Ed/Media Literacy), I found it delightfully refreshing in how it both expressed parental concerns and showed a depth of understanding of a teacher’s difficult role in a child/teen’s life. The ironic humour was very effective and the observations were insightful.

Of course it brought up a number of ideas that I would like to address. The first thing that jumped out at me was how her daughter was not allowed into the Honours English and that as a consequence she was in a…

View original post 702 more words

What my teen and I are talking about today … school testing and politics

What we’re talking about on the way to school: school testing, role models, politics and other important stuff.

The impending 2016 presidential election has come and slapped us full force in the face like springtime allergies. And this isn’t just for adults. Teenagers have a lot of opinions. These are not always their parent’s opinions either – yes, those teenage brains are working (no matter what most parents think.)

Nobody named Clinton or Bush will get my vote. That was from my fifteen year old daughter. She isn’t going to be voting (duh) but she has a good point.

Also from my teen:

  • Who the Hell would name their kid Jeb?
  • Hillary is not a good role model. She stayed with her husband after he cheated on her. I would have burned all of his stuff and left. She only stayed with him for her political career. She hasn’t driven a car since 1996. She has no idea how the average American lives. 
  • All teens hate Michelle Obama because she took all the good food out of the schools.
  • Michelle Obama dresses better than most women in politics. She isn’t frumpy. 
  • Michelle Obama can give “the look.” You know that look of disgust. She gave it to that old fart in Saudi Arabia. She wanted to go to France so she was already pissed. I’d vote for her. She should run for president just because of “the look”. Nobody would cross her. But I think she is done with politics. I bet she can’t wait to get out of the white house. 

I noticed that the teens never talk about the Obama girls. They are just kids who live in the White House and take a lot of trips with their mom. It isn’t like the days when Amy Carter was running around like a wild ferrel child or the Roosevelt children (Teddy) were hauling live animals through the oval office. White House children are kept for the most part from the public eye – as well it should be. That said, most teens I know would love to be invited for a sleep-over at the White House.

Today the juniors and sophomores have more testing. The juniors are testing in English and math. The sophomores are taking science tests. Clara said she feels sorry for the juniors because they have these tests, plus the SAT and ACT tests and a few more.

I mentioned that the test results would just go into another database that will be looked at by people who haven’t been in a classroom since they graduated from high school twenty-five years ago. The data will sit and suck up money. But nobody will ever talk to the students or teachers and ask them what they think of education.

I can see how much my child is learning this year. She is learning A LOT. Her teachers ROCK. I am in awe. Hats off to the sophomore level teachers at Bella Vista High School.

So I said out loud, “Nobody talks to the teachers or students.”

“Exactly,” says my child. Then she said the tests were just made to prove everyone wasn’t stupid or sleeping.

The politicians don’t listen to teachers or students or parents. So rather than spending money for books and science supplies and the arts for kids let’s spend all the money on MORE STUDIES. Hell, while we’re at it lets give all the countless administrators who never talk to teachers, students or parents another raise. Let’s keep teacher pay down so they’ll quit the profession to find other jobs that pay more.

I’ve always felt that Middle School is a big mistake. That is where kids go on a free for all. They are too young to be on their own. The schools are usually too large. They learn every vice in the book and then some. In two years they become completely disengaged from wanting to learn then are spit out into high school. Some kids recover from Middle School but some never do. They’re lost. There again, Middle School teachers need to be allowed to have control over their own classrooms. Throw the administrators overboard and give the teachers control.

We also discussed in the whole religion in school issue. NO. NO. NO. If you want religion in school then send your kid to a private church school. I have my spiritual side but I don’t want it in school. The school population is too diverse. The kids are allowed to meet with their religious groups during breaks and at lunch on their own time. That is enough. So just shut the Efron up about it and get back to your standardized testing.

And you don’t have to be super religious to be a good person. Some of the worst people in the universe claim to live a religious life. F them. They give a lot of good people a bad name. Yes, you know who you are. You’re an asshole. I just had to say that.

Then our conversation went to the sister of a friend who had brain surgery yesterday. She had to drop out of her college classes. She’ll be fine (they didn’t even have to shave her head – good news), but it is incredibly scary for her and her parents. They’re all doing fine but… it is scary. Life is so random and unpredictable.

As I stopped the car at the school a beautiful girl walked by. It was Krazy Kitty. She is pretty and friendly and dresses well – but don’t cross her or she’ll slam your head into the pavement. And you thought Vampires were scary.

There will be a lot of talk in school about the Junior Prom that happened over the weekend. They’ll laugh over silly jokes and funny things they’ll do. They’ll be teens. For the most part that is a good thing. A really good thing.

When you’re a teen you can explore and discover the world in ways that are off-limits once you become an adult. Anything IS possible. Believe me, there is a lot more laughter than there is angst.

I truly believe that the generation of kids who are teens RIGHT NOW will change the world – for the better. 

So that is what we’re talking about today. And remember to talk with your kids. Discuss ideas. Keep your mind open. Let them express themselves. Maybe you’ll learn something.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Teenage Jungle