Posted in education, meandering, motivation, parenting

How do you teach…

I have had so many conversations with colleagues near and far recently, and there have been two themes with regards to deficiencies in many of our students (though I wish I could say the problem was limited to just students…).

One is attention to detail.

How do you teach attention to detail?

A student in a colleague’s band had a playing test on the G Major scale. The student had music as pictured to work from. Despite the highlight and label, the student didn’t play the F#.

I gave a written test to my classes years ago when I was student teaching. The extra credit question was “Spell quarter note.” A significant number of kids got it wrong. Wrong! (They left out the second R, which is how they were spelling it previously.)

There are endless examples of simply not noticing details. And yes, we all do it in some way or another some of the time, but ’round here, it’s chronic.

I think much of it ties in to the second theme.

I can’t teach people to give a shit.

Let’s say, in the above example, the kid saw it but played it wrong because he didn’t care. “I got most of the notes right,” or “Band isn’t important anyway,” or “I’m not going to play next year so who cares what I do now?” How do you change that?

Most often, we use punitive measures—we’ll lecture you or lower your grade or call your parents or revoke a privilege. Parents do the same—we’ll revoke a privilege or yell at you or hit you. They work OK sometimes, but if they gain us anything, it’s only compliance, not investment. And there is almost always a next time.

I teach a subject that kids have to opt into. Parents need to take steps to acquire instruments for their kids, even if it’s a school instrument. And still, there are so many of them who just refuse to engage, regardless of what the project is for that day.

I understand that sometimes, kids (all people, actually) act like they don’t care when they do, as a means of protection. “I can’t do this (or I’m afraid I won’t be able to do this) so I’m going to act like it doesn’t matter and I’m choosing it to be that way. This way, I feel like I’m in control and I don’t need to be vulnerable.”

I also understand that just teaching kids to be compliant is not ideal. We need kids to be active and engaged and thinking and experimenting and learning the way that kids—all people, actually—learn best. There is high value in rule-breaking in some contexts, but it’s not typically willy-nilly “I don’t feel like doing that” that’s valuable, in or out of school.

All that said, there is a requirement for some degree of compliance in any social space. There are boundaries (rules, procedures) and, for the most part, they have good cause. We can have roads and freeways and grocery stores and malls and parks and movie theatres and on and on because of these boundaries—and we get angry (and potentially hurt or killed) when people in those spaces disregard people around them.

My classroom has rules and procedures, and I work to adjust the space for students who need it, or for students who make a reasonable and implement-able request.

Not everyone is interested in all things. Not everyone who is interested is interested to the same degree. I fully understand all of that (and certainly see how it applies to all people, not just my students). But if you’re going to have to be here, you might as well try to get something out of it.

It used to be that I’d consistently have kids in band who didn’t do well in the rest of school but loved playing their instrument. They behaved better for me. They worked harder for me. My class was where they thrived.

I don’t have that any more, or I haven’t in the last few years. I feel like the kids who might have been those kids are already checked out and won’t even try. Even with explicit invitations, those kids are gone.

I have spent a lot of time this school year talking to kids about emotional safety. About how mistakes are normal and OK and we all make them, including me. About how we need to make the space safe for each other, that that’s not something I can do by myself. About how, as a team, we’ll be better if each one within the group has space to learn and to mess up and to grow. Because we can’t learn this skill without messing up. You’ll make mistakes on your instrument for as long as you play it.

Maybe there are kids I’ve reached, kids who have received this message and changed their behavior somewhat. Or their perspective. Maybe they were already safe for other people but now feel other people are a little bit safer for them.

I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. (This is one of the things about teaching. Planting seeds that you often never see sprout, much less thrive. Shout out to former students who have gotten in touch.)

I’m at a loss. I don’t know how to teach attention to detail. I don’t know how to teach giving a shit (to students; sometimes also to parents; occasionally to colleagues). Not only does the success of my classes require it, but the success of our businesses, of our economy, of our families, of our country all require it.

Posted in meandering

Happy 107th birthday, Arizona!

On this day in 1912, Arizona became a state.

Here are some fun facts about the Grand Canyon State:

It is the 48th state, followed only by Hawaii and Alaska.

It is also called the Copper State, leading the nation in copper production.

The southernmost border was drawn that way to intentionally prevent a seaport. Railroad only!

There is a state fossil (petrified wood). Do all states have a state fossil??

Arizona is one of the Four Corners.

Except for the Navajo Nation, Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time. We have enough sun in the summer, thankyouverymuch!

Interesting town names include Tombstone, Gillette, Gunsight, Tuba City, Why, Nothing, Strawberry, Snowflake, Miami, Carefree, and Tortilla Flat.

I don’t know where most of those are, but “middle of nowhere” is most likely. There’s a lot of “nowhere” out here.

Hopefully, it stays that way…

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, meandering

Right now…

From my Facebook memories:

“Lots of sirens in the distance. I am snuggled in my bed. Every now and then, I am struck by just how different everyone’s experiences are right in this moment.”

I wrote something similar at some other point as well, while a few close friends were going through drastically different things simultaneously: one had a baby the same morning another closed on a house while another had a parent die while another was packing to move out of her house and marriage.

Sometimes I think with a long view about people’s life paths.

But in this case, I’m thinking just about this moment in time.

In the time that I’ve spent writing, people have died, people have been born, people have been taken to and released from prison. Kids have started and ended school. Job shifts have started, ended, and dragged on. People have been intimidated and liberated. Loves found and lost. Ignorance perpetuated and eradicated. All of these interactions have involved at least two people, sometimes many more. Ripples begin to move.

It’s amazing anything works at all.

Posted in differences, meandering, mental health, vulnerability

Hurt people hurt people

My biggest question is: how do we fix it?

People’s past experiences predict how they’ll treat people currently.

People who treat others badly have a history that leaves them with wounds that prevent them from behaving in pro-social ways.

All of these anti-social people (ASPs for ease in the rest of this post)—from sexual predators to KKK members to your verbally abusive aunt to the bully on the playground—have a history of trauma. Their experiences aren’t all the same, and, in some cases, their experiences administered to a different personality wouldn’t even be traumatic.

Doesn’t matter.

Given that bad behavior is a result of trauma, we should, as decent human beings, have sympathy or empathy for what has brought ASPs to this point.

But as adults, we’re responsible for taking care of our own baggage, so ASPs are responsible for working out whatever it is that makes them like that; they don’t just get a pass because bad things happened to them.

But as humans, if we’re so triggered by our pasts that we can’t give benefit of the doubt to people or we can’t be open to learning about other people’s experiences, then we’re certainly not in a place to own our own shit and subsequently work to clean it up. So ASPs aren’t in a place to be able to take ownership of their behaviors.

But also as humans, it’s our responsibility to stand up for people who can’t do it for themselves—which means standing up to ASPs on behalf of those who they’re trying to cut down.

This goes back and forth forever.

So how do we give enough love to ASPs for them to feel secure enough to look at themselves, realize they’re behaving badly, and get a damn therapist while not at the same time condoning or enabling their behavior?

I have no answers. But I’d love to have a conversation. What do you think?

Posted in about me, meandering

Our first track meet

The Kid is doing track. He’s with a team that, so far, seems very invested in doing right by kids. That’s important, especially in sports.

Saturday was our first track meet.

The email they sent gave us the location, what the athletes should wear (no uniforms until later in February), that we should arrive no later than 7 (8:00 start), they don’t know how long it will go or what time events are, and some attachments, including “Track Meet Advice.”

Advice included where to sit so we could all be together, emphasis on being there early and warming up, pay attention so you don’t miss your events, bring snacks and water.

So aside from the events he was running (100m, 200m, 400m), that’s all we knew for Saturday.

I had heard from someone (I don’t remember who at this point) that the little kids’ events would be early so they could run them and go home.

Whoever told me that was so very wrong.

We arrived at 7 with a back pack full of fruit and trail mix and, as instructed, sat in the home bleachers near the finish line; there weren’t many of us and it turned out we were all newbies. We learned a bit later that the finish line was actually on the away side; we moved.

The Kid joined his team and did warm-ups. We sat in the stands and watched the sun come up. Eventually, he joined us with his bib. At 7:55, they announced that the track was closed. It was close to 8:30 before the first event began.

As a note: the announcements were (presumably) from the box on the home side. The speakers on the home side were on. The speakers on the away side were off. The announcements were all at least partially inaudible.

Before the first event started, someone sitting in front of us got a list of events in order; we grabbed a photo. There were numbers penciled in next to each. We were hoping the numbers were how many kids from our team were in those events. Turns out, those numbers were heats.

They had scheduled 206 heats.

We watched the 3000m. Twice. Then the 800m 23 times. That was the only event while we were there that people did any significant cheering for.

The Kid ran his first race, the 100m, at 11:00. We had been there a full four hours before his first race. (He went with his team to get signed in and divided into heats and all that half an hour or so before.) He finished warm-ups with his team over three hours before his first race.

To pause the sequence of events here… The 8 and under 100m dash was one of the cutest things I’ve watched in a long time. It was apparent which kids have done track before and which ones are new. Lots of mugging for the stands. The first heat of girls was lined up, and apparently they all just kind of looked at each other and took off—no gun or anything—so they herded them back to the start and did it again. Most kids stayed in their lanes most of the time…

During the 100s, we realized we weren’t going to have enough food. We didn’t pack lunch; as per the email, we packed snacks. So after his race, The Kid and The Climbing Daddy went down to the concession stand.

They had one plate of fries left (and were apparently going to the store to buy more). They had no mac and cheese left. And they had no other vegetarian options. The Climbing Daddy convinced them to sell him two plain hamburger buns. We bought a box of Girl Scout cookies from a girl roaming the stands selling.

Near noon, he was called for his second race, the 400m. At 12:25, he ran.

Nearly an hour and a half later, when they were still running 400s, we realized that it was unlikely that his last event would be called before we had to leave for a birthday party. (We RSVPed for the party prior to signing up for track, and it was for one of his best friends.) We checked with the coaches and they confirmed that no, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon and that yes, he should go and enjoy the party, and good job in your first meet.

We left at 2:00, seven hours after arriving. They were on 400m for the 13-14 age group. Two age groups to go, then the rest of the events. I’d be surprised to learn that they were done before 5:00, though I saw quite a few young ones leaving before and when we did, so I’d guess there ended up being fewer than 58 heats of the 200m.

I don’t have an issue with being at a sporting event that my kid is participating in and not seeing my kid participate the whole time. He wouldn’t be active the whole game in any team sport.

I do have issue with the expectation of sitting in bleachers for 10 hours for less than three minutes of activity.

Honestly, unless he’s running an IronMan, I don’t think there should be an expectation of spending a full day for any event.

I don’t blame the coaches, but the way this is set up is disrespectful to people’s time and attention. It’s not good for kids—the majority of people were not watching the majority of races, and aside from the 800, only really close races got any cheers.


On the bottom of the schedule, it told us that ribbons would be given for each event for first through sixth place.

Overall? Per age group? Per age group by gender?

(It turns out—per age group by gender.)

There were more than six heats for most age groups for the short events. So you could potentially win your race and not get a ribbon, unless there’s another rule that I don’t know (which is possible).

When we were leaving, they told us that the next meet would be shorter because some of the runners are actually field competitors and won’t be running. (There were no field events at this meet, but the next meet is “indoor events only.”)

I’m new to this, but I’m also a really big fan of efficiency. This was not efficient.

I mean, they seemed good about getting kids to the check-in tent before their events and getting them out to the starting line well before it was their turn to start. That was efficient. (Aside from difficulty hearing the announcements for who should report—the coaches helped with that.)

But the schedule of the day overall? Terrible!

Instead of, “Yeah, track meets take all day,” FIX IT!

They could run 100s on both sides of the track simultaneously. They could probably run 200s the same way.

They could make two start times: one for 10 and under, and one for 11 and older, which would make the day more streamlined for both age groups.

We are talking about setting up a pop-up tent to the side (there were over a dozen of them) and spending the day in there for future races, then moving up to the fence to watch events. Would be much more comfortable. Could bring other things to do—games, books, whatever. But then we lose the benefit of hearing the coaches call for events. But sitting in bleachers all day… I can’t even sit through an entire staff meeting. It’s not good for bodies to sit all day, whether in comfy chairs or not.

The Kid’s take: “I think it was a good track meet. I ran my best. I really like my coach, too. I did not like sitting in the stands and watching everyone else run.”

Yes, he needs to be able to sit and watch his teammates run, and cheer for them, and so on. But for the entire day? I don’t think so.

Posted in meandering, thoughtfulness


It’s been a while since I’ve attended a webinar. Nearly every one I’ve been to has been disappointing. Often, introductions are 10 or 15 minutes long. Content is thin, at best. I’m on board with selling your program at the end of the webinar, but I don’t think that your pitch should be longer than your content. And introductions don’t count as content.

So I gave up on them.


I went to one the other day—first one in years—on common mistakes in desert gardening, and it wasn’t the best way for me to spend that hour.

I did find out the common mistakes.

And the solution to each: don’t do that.

(I can’t imagine giving a webinar on mistakes in healthy living and letting the solution to each be “don’t do that.”)

Her course sounds like it might be good–and might go into more depth on trouble-shooting–but her webinar sounded like it would be good.

For me, this dissolves trust.

Friends, be assured that if I offer a webinar again, I will honor your time and include usable content.

Posted in meandering, thoughtfulness

Something borrowed

Nearly everyone has borrowed something from someone else at some point.

Sometimes, we give it back; sometimes not so much.

I’m in the process of getting ready to return something that was loaned to me (I didn’t ask to borrow it, but I was happy it was offered) two years ago.

Two years ago.

Yeah, I feel kind of stupid about returning it now. But: integrity. What’s left, two years later…

That said, there are things I’ve loaned out that years later, I still wish had been returned. (If you have my CD of Looney Tunes music, drop it in the mail, would ya? Someone in college had it, but I don’t remember who…)

I assume positive intent, and that people just forget to get stuff back.

There have been things I’ve taken a long time to get back to the giver, and they’ve told me not to worry about it. (Because they didn’t miss it? Because they already replaced it? Because it didn’t fit any more anyway?)

What’s your timeline on comfort level on returning something?

Posted in about me, meandering

Christmas lights, 30+ years ago

The other day, I shared on Facebook the four most popular posts from December. Two of them were about Christmas.

A friend from way back commented that I’d written a lot about Christmas but not about the lights.

The Lights.

In short (because I’m not sure that a longer piece would do it any more justice), we always had the ugliest lights in the neighborhood.

The lights are retro now—the big, colored bulbs that, back in the day, got wicked hot. I saw quite a few houses with that type of light on them this year, though I suspect they are less of a fire hazard now than they were then.

I think—and honestly, my memory is fuzzy on this at this point—that the small lights were just coming out and were popular and were much more aesthetically pleasing and much less likely to burn the house down.

But my dad wouldn’t buy new lights as long as we had lights that worked perfectly fine, so the old lights went up year after year.

(And at this point, I see the value in this, and in many ways, I do the same…though I also have the benefit of Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace and Freecycle for things I don’t want but still work.)

If I had a photo, I’d share it, but alas, I do not.

Fortunately, we didn’t have a ton of lights, so it didn’t scream “Griswold!”

Ah, the “good old days.” Not enough money in the world to revisit them, except maybe as an observer…

Posted in meandering

Colliding of worlds: silly edition

To celebrate the new year, The Climbing Daddy and I did a set of two 5ks: the last 5k of 2018 and the first 5k of 2019.

One started at 10:30 p.m. and the other at 12:10 a.m., with a sparkling cider toast at midnight in between.

So two 5ks, which is the same distance as a 10k but not exactly the same… more like …

a 10k with an intermission.

My worlds—music and exercise—colliding.

I was so entertained when I thought of this.

Anyone else amused?

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, meandering, storytelling

Tell me your story

I’ve heard so many stories of people’s celebrations … so many stories of Christmases not exactly as planned but still lovely … of new beginnings … of “probably the lasts” … of new traditions with old people … of old traditions with new people …

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. If you haven’t, please do, regardless of the happiness of the story. What made this year special? Or extra-happy? Or extra-sad? Or some odd combination of lots of things that maybe don’t even usually go together? With or without photos. I love to hear your stories.