Saturday, May 4, 2013

Flying with a Wiggle Worm

You know those moments in life when everything slows down and it feels like you’re life is in a movie?  That’s how I felt when we took our almost two year old on a flight home from Hawaii recently.  She did really great on the way there—a six hour flight!  While she refused to nap, she remained pretty calm compared to the thirteen month old in the seat in front of us.  Maybe the key is having a view of a child that is more difficult than mine to deflect the internal struggle I have with surviving such cramped quarters for the sake of saving the cost of a ticket to Hawaii.  We wouldn’t have been able to swing it otherwise. 

On the way home, it was another story.  While E was a respectful neighbor for the most part, she was a wiggly and squirmy girl.  The flight was supposed to be quicker—an hour shorter—but it felt at least two hours longer.  An afternoon flight, I had hoped E would take her usual nap.  Flying is far too exciting for a toddler to miss anything.  She was excited the entire time to be on an airplane, even though she knew the drill.  She’s really a great flyer, but her much larger size and energy level was enough for me to swear that I’m buying her a seat the next time around, no matter what the cost. 

Here are the things we took with us to keep E happy and entertained.  Aside from her refusing to nap, they were a smashing success.  I brought a variety of snacks to break out throughout the flight—her familiar favorites and some new things I knew she would like.  I grabbed four new board books, which we read over and over and over and over again.  We had downloaded an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on our Ipad.  We don’t really let E watch TV—only on special occasions—so she was excited.  An arsenal of stickers at my disposal, we had fun putting them all over the place.  E has really been into the Little People lately, so I was able to grab a set at our local grocery store on clearance, as well as a Minnie Mouse & Daisy play set.  Both could have been easy to lose on the plane, but since I kept putting things away, it was easy to keep track of them.  We also colored in a new coloring book, and identified things in one of my magazines.  Finally, her “lovie” (an old sleep sack from her baby days), her stuffed bunny, and baby doll all kept her comfortable.

I can still relive those dreadful moments when time stood still, but I really can’t complain.  A toddler the same exact age as E screamed his head off for over an hour of the flight, so I really am grateful for our seemingly idyllic child.  We’ve flown with E since she was born, and each time there’s been a different set of challenges because she is growing up so fast.  So far, we have a little adventurer, and we hope to keep it that way!  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seizing Cell Phones

“Bringing people into the here-and-now. The real universe. That's the present moment. The past is no good to us. The future is full of anxiety. Only the present is real--the here-and-now. Seize the day.”
Saul Bellow, Seize the Day

As a high school teacher, cell phones are the enemy.  I enjoy the hunt.  Seriously, though…I love my phone, but I put it away while I’m teaching.  As soon as class as over, I look forward to checking in to see if there’s anything new, just like my students. 

I warn students on the first day of school.  I don’t have very many rules, but keeping the cell phone put away from bell to bell is pretty much the one I enforce.  I warn them—it’s a power trip for me to take their phone away.  I go into the philosophy behind my rule—I want them to learn, and value the people around them.  There’s less and less face to face interaction, and my class is a place that I want to encourage social etiquette.  Still, it happens almost every day.  Sometimes I sneak up on my prey, and take the phone away, and other times I make a run for it, being loud and obnoxious but, almost every time, there’s a sense of surprise on the student’s face when I reach in for it.

Today was an interesting score.  It was a girl using the purse block technique.  Her purse was on top of the desk, as a shield, with the phone propped inside or behind it.  She willingly handed over the phone.  The school rule is that I turn it into the office.   If it’s the first time in my class, though, I ignore the school rule and keep it for the duration of the day.  It was her first offense all year, so I told her she could have it back at the end of the day.  Of course there was an excuse and a protest, but I ignored her.  At the end of each period we have a tutorial built in to help students who are not passing, or need help.  She stayed back and mumbled about why she needed her phone.  I took pity, and told her she could have the phone after the bell rang, briefly, to retrieve her mom’s cell phone number or shoot a quick text.  She stood, frozen, at my desk for the next ten minutes.  It was weird.  I told her to go sit down and relax, but she couldn’t.  The girl was having a melt down without her phone. 

There have been some studies done recently among college students.  They asked students to give up their cell phones for 24 hours and log their feelings.  Many students recorded feelings of panic and loss.  Many spoke of having anxiety and twitching, even, similar to a caffeine or drug addiction.  Today I saw this behavior in my student. 

I worry about this generation.  Their phones seem to hold the answers to almost everything they need.  The phone validates their existence, and Google seems to hold the answer to any question that comes up.  It’s pretty cool that we can find the answers to so many questions, but sometimes questions don’t have an answer, or there are several solutions aside from the one that comes up on the Internet.  My student couldn’t figure out what to do about not being able to contact her mom, or so she said.  I gave her a couple of suggestions—write the number down and use a friend’s phone, text from a friend’s phone, or go to the office and call her mom.  Nothing was acceptable except taking back her phone. 

I made her live without it for the rest of the day.  I’m sure there was something more to the freak out.  I’ve found some interesting things on my cell phone acquisitions; accidentally hitting buttons can expose things.  I do not search their phones for this reason.  I’m not out to get them.  I’d rather respect my student’s space.  Still, I’m concerned that kids are losing the ability to function face to face.  Almost everything can be done through planned communication.  What’s happening to organic, spontaneous conversation?  I’m sure that my parents were worried about what the computer could mean, and their parents worried about the television. 

Regardless, I’m still going to try to push my students to be present in the moment, rather than in two places at once. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bucket Lists

Recently I had dinner with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday, and on top of a delightful evening of Italian food and good company, I was inspired to dream of travel again.  Not that I don’t dream now, it’s just that a conversation triggered me to think about my next adventure.  I love it when conversations flip a switch in your brain that starts lighting up ideas that you know were there, but are suddenly creating new ones. 

At dinner, I reconnected with an ex-colleague who shares my love for going places.  The last we spoke, she was off to Vietnam and France for the summer.  It turns out that she spent her Christmas vacation dog sledding in Minnesota and absolutely loved it.  How random, right?  It was on her bucket list.  I have one, too, of course, but I’ve never written it down, so I thought I would make it official.

1.  Hike Machu Picchu, Peru
2.  Stay in multiple treehouses like this one in Scotland or Sweden (I can cross off northern lights, too!)
3.  Go on an African Safari
4.  See the northern lights from Iceland or Norway
5.  Ride on a boat down the Amazon like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but in South America please!
6.  Cruise the Nile like Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile
7.  Go to Everest Base Camp thanks to Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air
8.  Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway through part of Russia & visit the Kremlin
9.  Visit Petra in Jordan like Indiana Jones
10. Take a dip in the Ganges River, India
11. Go on a river cruise in Europe during the Christmas markets
12.  Hike through Denali National Park, Alaska
13.  Stay in an English cottage in the Lake District
14.  Explore the Silk Road east of China & spend the night in a yurt
15.  Visit the giant Buddha in Leshan, Sichuan, China

What I have crossed off:
1.  Rode a camel in the outback, Australia
2.  Bungee jumped off the original jump site in New Zealand
3.  Sailed on a junk off the coast of Northern Vietnam (Halong Bay)
4.  Climbed up and on the Great Wall & went to the Forbidden City
5.  Swam & went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
6.  Ziplined and hiked through the Costa Rica rainforest
7.  Hiked the Cinque Terre, Italy
8.  Stuck a prayer in the Western Wall, Jerusalem
9.  Sailed over lost and sunken cities in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey
10. Explored castles throughout Scotland, like the one in Entrapment
11.  Bicycled through rice paddy fields through the Thai countryside
12.  Kayaked off the coast of Fiji
13.  Rode an elephant through the jungle in Thailand
14.  Bargained for a flying Turkish carpet in Cappadocia
15.  Hiked on a glacier in Norway & New Zealand
16.  Visited and photographed Angkor Wat, Cambodia
17.  Wandered Prague, Czech Republic with the love of my life
18.  Attended a World’s Fair (Expo) in Shanghai, China

All photographs taken by me. 1) Shanghai Expo, Czech Republic Exhibit 2) Hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy
3) Sailing on a junk in Halong Bay, Vietnam  4) Angkor Wat, Cambodia