healthy living, teaching

The Nature of Separation

Thanks to my article reading over Christmas break in search of brain maintenance information for my high school studentsʼ research papers, Iʼm trying to correct my own negative behavior impacting my brain. For example, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I eat too much sugar. I have little resistance to peppermint bark even though I know itʼs not good for my teeth or my body. Now Iʼve learned that sugarʼs creating a dopamine need for it in my brain, basically causing an addiction. Somethingʼs got to give! So Iʼm back to working out at the gym, getting more sleep, trying (I must be honest here) to stop the candy crush, and eating healthier foods.

I like a cold-pressed organic drink by Suja, called Über Greens. Itʼs lower in sugar than other health drinks. The bottle sports an interesting quote: “Separation is Natural. SO SHAKE THINGS UP!!” It literally applies to the settlement occurring during refrigeration; however, I like it for the figurative lesson it implies. This ties to another quote: “Birds of a feather flock together.” How lovely it is to be with others who think, act, and feel like us. Itʼs reassuring. Itʼs comfortable. Itʼs kind of addictive, and like sugar, itʼs not really healthy.

Itʼs healthy to grow. When we live in a stagnant environment where all our thoughts are the same, and everyone does the same thing, healthy growth is suppressed. Cliques are unhealthy for us. This concept is often voiced, but the advice is difficult to follow, especially when we feel content in our own groups. Teachers try to keep this from happening with students. We teach them to accept each other and appreciate differences, yet I always have classes where like-minded students try to stay together. No matter how hard I try to regroup them, the separation continues during recess, lunchtime, and after school. Itʼs natural.

Separation is naturally divisive, too. It creates sides, leads to fights, and, in extreme cases, initiates war. It squelches creativity and vilifies diversity, so we should shake things up! Truth lies somewhere in the middle where weʼre open to opposing thought, we listen to the diversity of ideas, and we create a place where we all can live together.

Family, military

Truth be Told

I was once asked by a fellow teacher, who was male, if I had any uncomfortable incident in my life that happened because I was a female. I immediately remembered my senior year in an American high school on an Air Force base in England.

I had already been accepted to my American university, and it was the 4th quarter of a school year that felt like prison.  Math came easy to me, but I planned to major in English because of my love of reading and writing. My analytical geometry and trigonometry teacher was a male who spent our class time preaching about the ills of the American government and extolling the wonders of the British government—and not teaching much math. I believe that everyone has a right to an opinion, but I didn’t appreciate the man biting the hand that fed him because he collected an American government paycheck.  I also didn’t appreciate being force fed his opinion since I was required to take his course that had little to do with what I was supposed to be learning.

He allowed us to write our formulas for all the equations on flashcards for homework, quizzes, and tests—so I did my homework at night and let my mind wander in class while he ranted. At the end of the year we had our final exam a few days before graduation. When I took my flashcards out of my purse for the exam, my classmates immediately warned me they weren’t allowed.  I was the only person in class who didn’t hear him say we needed to memorize our formulas for the exam.  I was terrified, knew I failed the test, and went to see him when it was over.  Being in no position to be self-righteous, I deferentially told him of my dilemma.  I said I knew I failed the exam but had to pass the course to go to the university where I was accepted.  He smiled at me, winked, and said, “You’re a cute girl—you won’t fail.”  I won’t describe here what I felt like doing, but what I said was “Thank you” and walked away.  He imprisoned me and then cheapened me—but to be truthful, I have always thought it was my fault.

I used his politics as an excuse to be lazy, and that laziness put me in a position to lose my dignity. Throughout my life I’ve observed many difficult situations where the first reaction is an excuse. Excuses stunt growth. Ownership makes growth flourish. As a woman, a wife, a mom, a teacher, a grandmother, and an American—I believe we better take ownership of our own responsibility in any situation so we can truly be free to grow. It doesn’t hurt to learn from the mistakes of others, either.  Trust me, when I became a teacher four years after that incident, I made it a point to not hold my classes captive to personal stories or opinions. Both males and females can be despots.  Despite what I didn’t learn in math, I learned to take responsibility for my own actions through an uncomfortable wake-up call.