The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Sunday, January 30, 2011]

Change Is Good?


I've been teaching the 8- to 10-year-old Primary (junior Sunday school) class for the past few years. I had a challenging group last year and the year before, mainly because of two children with disruptive, disrespectful behavior. One was in my class two years ago, while he was 10 turning 11. He was supposed to be in the next class up, but he and another boy his age were too much together, so they put him in my class. The other boy was in my class while he was 8 turning 9 (a younger) and again last year while he was 9 turning 10 (an older). Last year, I had a particularly large class of nine children, including the one disrespectful child, one with moderately severe autism, and one with severe learning disabilities as well as behavior issues. The one with learning disabilities ended up being pulled out in March so that a teacher could work one on one with him, which improved his attitude, if not his gospel knowledge. The child with autism had spotty attendance. So my main challenge was the disrespectful child, who hated me (along with his parents and basically every adult on the planet). We got through it. Now he hates Sister Frye, and may heaven help her.

When I learned that I would continue teaching the 8- to 10-year-olds this year, I was excited, because a. the curriculum was the New Testament; b. I would have the youngers from last year's class, including one boy that I cherish; and c. the new youngers seemed like great kids. The child with autism and mister surly were both olders last year, so now they are youngers in the next class up, the 10- to 12-year-old class. As far as I knew, the child with learning disabilities would continue to have his one-on-one teacher.

The first Sunday of this year, I was surprised to fine him seated at the table (I have a long table in my room, so that the kids have somewhere to put their scriptures, which we make frequent use of) along with his age mates. Surprise! I ran and grabbed the Primary president to make sure he was in the right place, and she said, "Oh, I put him back in your class, so he'll be with you this year, thank you." Communication? Never mind.

That was challenging, and I had to stop the lesson many times to ask him to stop humming or moaning or poking his neighbor or what have you. But we made it through. One girl, a younger, apparently had different expectations on her last year, because she spent a lot of time chatting with neighbors. We had a little talk after class, and she was quite chastened. I chose her as a special helper the following week to make sure she knew I wasn't holding it against her, and she has been good as gold ever since. They all have.

I have the best class, seriously. I have eight kids: four boys and four girls. I love them all, even the ones I have only been teaching for a month. The curriculum is fantastic, and I've been chomping at the bit to get to the stories and parables. (So far we've talked about who Jesus is, and we had one lesson on John the Baptist.)

Today, before church started, the second counselor in the bishopric asked to talk to me. No! I gave a talk and said a prayer in sacrament fairly recently... maybe he wanted to talk about single adult activities (which are nonexistent, but they want me to go to the planning meetings for said nonexistent activities)? No, it was about callings. You guessed it: I'm not going to teach that class regularly anymore. Instead, I'm going to be a senior Primary (ages 7-12) permanent sub.


Of course, I agreed, but I felt like crying. I still feel like crying. I love my class so much, and I will miss them. We've bonded. They gelled faster than any class I've taught. As a contrast, last year's class took a good two months to gel.

I also got a new calling: ward organist. They already have a ward organist, but we're going to share the duties. I guess we'll alternate weeks or something; I need to talk with her about it. So now I'm interpreting, playing the organ, and sometimes teaching Primary. I like all of those things, and I'm willing to do them. Everyone seems to dismiss interpreting like it's no big deal, but it's by far the most demanding of the three. For me, anyway.

I'm really going to miss my class. It's so wrong, but I feel like no one else will teach them like I could. I'm worried that one will go down the dark path his older brother has (that 10/11-year-old I had two years ago? his older brother, who is 12 and has fallen in the abyss known as Young Men). I've built a strong relationship with the younger brother, though, and I can get him to do things like put down the hood of his hooded sweatshirt, read scriptures, and even sing. He's too cool for school--you know the type. Today he unslouched during sharing time, which is a first. I finally hit on a strategy that is working for him and another boy, that helps them behave appropriately during sharing time and even participate. I was really hoping to get this boy to meet with the bishop and talk about something that's been bothering him since last summer, and I'm a bit distressed that we haven't gotten to that point.

I will miss another boy so much, because he is just full of light. He's going to be a general authority, count on it. I've been in Primary for 10 or 15 years, in four different wards, and this is the most pure child I have ever encountered. He just wants to be good. He has grown into such an excellent student. In the past year, he has gone from a vacant-eyed, sit-and-nod-your-head automaton (I actually thought he had a low IQ when I first interacted with him) to an energetic, first-one-to-raise-a-hand risk-taker, who is developing faith and critical thinking skills. He has really blossomed, and I consider myself privileged to experience the transformation in him.

I will also miss a girl I have only been teaching for a month. Yup, one of the youngers. She is bright and loves to learn about the gospel. She wasn't in my class last year, but I guess she has learned a lot at home. That is not at all a given--none of the others seem to know anything that I haven't told them. Poor memory for things their parents say, I guess. But not this girl: she's on the ball. We were talking today about some of the things that Mary and Joseph were told about Jesus before he was born. One was that Jesus would reign over Jacob. So I asked, "Who is Jacob?" We reviewed the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the olders studied the Old Testament last year, but this was new information for the youngers), and I crossed out Jacob's name, explaining that it was changed to something else. To what? This little girl about fell out of her seat, waving her hand. And she knew the answer! Israel. She reminds me of myself: often knowing the answer and eager to say it, but keeping quiet if not totally sure of herself. Especially with the "what do you think about..." and "why do you suppose..." questions. But she is starting to take risks and describe her line of thought or give a good guess, not just try to predict what I want her to say. She is developing rapidly. Who wouldn't want to teach a child like that?

There are five more that I enjoy and will miss. I realize that not teaching every week is a blessing, that it means I can go to Sunday School (which I LOVE)... And I can visit the ward that has a deaf teenager and people who sign, which Laynie desperately needs.... But I grieve to leave the children I love. This class was my reward for making it through the last two years without wringing anyone's neck!

But I am looking forward to playing the organ, and I'm happy that Laynie will get what she needs sometimes. And I am very much looking forward to the times that my kids' new teachers are absent and I get to sub for their class.

[Friday, January 21, 2011]

Ski Lesson


This is totally gratuitous (hm, come to think of it, all of my blog posts are.. they're for me, sorry people), but I don't want to forget what I'm supposed to work on. I'll lose a paper note, but I don't think I'll lose a blog post. :)

I am working on keeping my upper body facing downhill and letting my legs move out to the sides.

I am working on keeping my hands up and not dropping my uphill hand on turns. Driving forward with my hands.

I am working on pole plants--light, out to the side and a little forward. Wrist action, not arm action.

I am working on choosing my path on a mogul field.

I am working on pole plants on the tops of the bumps, letting motor memory help me with mogul field turns.

Ugh. It's a lot to remember! I went skiing after work today and took a lesson. Glad I did, because I learned a lot. Holy cow. Usually they give you one thing to work on, but this guy piled it on. That's cool.

Oh, the tray of food exercise helped me with my turns and remembering to face downhill and keep my hands up (tied everything together!). Hold poles together across hands with arms at chest level, don't tip the tray and spill the food.

The shuffle exercise might help with balance. When cutting across the hill, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle the feet.

Weight 60% downhill ski, 40% uphill ski. (Sigh, not happening here.. more like 75/25.)

As always, I'm working on staying forward. Especially on steeps.

Basically, I pick one or things to work on at the same time. There is so much happening so quickly; I know that I have to get the techniques into muscle memory.


You know my little mute student? I'm referring to the one who speaks ("in paragraphs," per mom) at home but gives everyone else suspicious stares when they try to interact with her. Right, that one. She's making great progress!

I think Betsy would be a good name for her.

Betsy makes comments to me during circle time, like, "My Dabby idoo!" Translation: My Gabby igloo. She's kind of hard to understand, but I'm not even bringing up articulation until she's comfortable with talking. I asked, "Oh, Gabby made an igloo like that one in the book?" "No, daddy." Daddy made an igloo for Gabby. (Go dad!) So she's volunteering information, which we call initiating; and she is answering questions, which we call responding. IEP goals, check and check. Betsy has goals to initiate and respond consistently with at least three different adults (not counting family).. and at least three different kids in the class. Well, that second part is not really happening, unless you count screams of, "No!" "Stop!" or "Mine!" while pushing/hitting/grabbing. It's a work in progress.

I just love this sober, perpetually stressed-out, little child. She got into my heart very quickly and is one of my favorites.

Here's a little gem from one of my deaf students. He gets into little obsessions, and last month it was pencils. They MUST be shark. After a brief glance at a pencil, he'd say, "It's not shark. I need to shark it." Maybe he was just looking for an excuse to use the totally cool, electric pencil sharpener. Whatever, I let him. Who am I to judge a boy's need for shark pencils?

[Thursday, January 20, 2011]

Did That Kid Just Give Me the Punk Test?


I was at a Head Start preschool this morning, where I see an adorable little boy.. whose mother is a hooker. Literally. So my little guy, Jeans, had some bruises and scratches, as always, and I asked him what happened. First he said he fell down. Then he said he was fighting with his brother. Another kid, Sweatshirt, piped up to say that he's really strong and a good fighter. They're barely four years old.

I made it clear that fighting is not cool at all, that it does not mean you are strong. Sweatshirt wandered away, and Jeans was interested in continuing the conversation. The fighting at his house (there are 8 kids between the mother and her sister, who is also a hooker--grandma's their pimp) was really getting to him.

While we sat on the floor talking, Sweatshirt walked behind me and pressed down on my right shoulder--not hard but in a way that didn't seem accidental. I gave him a look and said, "Make sure you have nice hands." I went right back to my conversation with Jeans.

About a minute later, Sweatshirt poked a finger into my left arm, HARD. He was standing next to me with a stony expression on his face. I gave him my best I'm-a-teacher-and-I-mean-business look and asked, "Are you having nice hands with me?"

"Huh-uh," he responded, and I could see the challenge in his eyes. This four-year-old was ready to throw down with me!

I gave him a stern talking-to and let him know in no uncertain terms that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable and he cannot treat me that way. The classroom aide (I'm itinerant, just there half an hour a week to work with Jeans) realized that something was up, and she made Sweatshirt sit on the carpet for a while before he could choose a center (play area). He sat there totally unfazed. Then she gave him a talking to. Our words made no impact. This kid has the demeanor of a hardened criminal.

As he was doing his time on the carpet, I realized that pressing on my right shoulder was the punk test... and I had flunked it.

I learned about the punk test from Patrice O'Neal, who plays the warehouse guy on The Office. He explained it on the Opie & Anthony radio show. I can't do the punk test justice like Patrice can, so I don't want to explain it myself.

This show uses foul language--consider yourself warned.

[Wednesday, January 19, 2011]



What's a Zoku, you ask? Oh, you are such an unfortunate person.

Zoku is like an ice cream machine bowl, the kind that you put in the freezer overnight and then use in the machine. Except this "bowl" has three slots for making pops. Yes, it's as amazing as it sounds. McConn got one for Christmas, and we were making apple, orange, and grape juice pops while I was in New York.

When I got one myself, we really got to the business of making pops. Fancy ones! There are recipes you can make, such as Bananaberry, and Strawberry Banana, and Orange Creamsicle, which are what we made the first time we tried it out. Soooo good. You throw some fruit in the blender, with either sugar or agave nectar (like sugar but lower glycemic index), along with lemon juice or yogurt or vanilla or whatever. Then pour it in the molds. Well, you do have to strain the seeds out first if you're using berries.

Katie and I love Zoku pops!

Heck, we all do!

Later we made mint pops with chocolate magic shell. I thought they weren't too bad, but Laynie thought they were bitter from the peppermint oil. So I modified the recipe, and it worked out much better. Here is what I made up:

1/2 c half and half
1 c whole milk
3 Tb agave nectar (try the natural/organic area of the supermarket)
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp mint extract
1/4 tsp peppermint
pinch of salt
3 drops of green food coloring

I also added a tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk, but I'm not sure it needed that. It was maybe too creamy, kind of hard to get out of the mold. Next time I'll make it without that.



I went to New York for a few days over Christmas break, and I saw my teeny, tiny, little Peanut (Hi Morgie!). She keeps getting less tiny. Actually, she's almost 11.

Here is what Morgan wanted to do pretty much all the time:

iPad awsomeness definitely had her in its thrall. Unfortunately, her brother and sister were similarly enthralled, and adult intervention was warranted more than once. I do not have any pictures of Carson and McConn, because I was the worst picture-taker ever on this trip. I took a couple of pictures of Morgan while I was packing to go home, and that was it. Sad.

I had fun skiing with Morgan at the little place ten minutes from their house. And I had fun working on the LiPS program, to help Morgan improve her literacy skills. English spelling certainly is tricky. McConn also worked with me, but Carson refused. Tearfully. Real, dramatic, soul-wrenching tears, that he would not be made to improve his reading and spelling skills.

We saw Yogi Bear 3D, which seemed enjoyable for people under four feet tall. I watched most of it 2D, because I'm a wimp: 3D makes me feel almost like motion sickness. The best part of the movie was that we went with Sue and Jane and the boys; it was great to see them.

Basically, I had a really good trip.

A cute little Peanut



Skiing is my favorite thing in the world lately. I love it!

Laynie took a video of me skiing down an easy black. I'm the one in the Barney-purple jacket, hard to tell at the beginning. I slow down because I feel someone right on my tail, and I nearly stop, trying to figure out why he doesn't just pass me. Turns out he only has one leg.. whatever. So that's me--the slow one.