Tomorrow is the last day of work for two weeks and I am stoked. You see, despite generally liking my job, I’m pretty sick of it right now and am ready for a break.

OH NOES! A teacher just admitted to not liking his job every day. I guess I should be fired now.

I tend to insulate myself from the “teachers must be perfect” nonsense, but Cate, for some reason, has run across a fair bit of it lately, and I thought I’d write a little post about how stupid that is. Ready? Here it is:

Very. That is very stupid.

You see, dear reader, much like you, I have many faces. There is work face. There is dad face. There is husband face. There is writer face. All of these are part of who I am, but some are farther from the truth than others (husband face is certainly closest to the truth). Work face Jason (usually) keeps his cool and doesn’t yell too much and rolls with the punches. Husband face Jason often rants to his wife about how he can’t believe how much griping he has heard about some absurdly easy assignment. That same Jason also will admit that he doesn’t like all of his students the same amount (though all versions of me try very hard to not show favoritism).

This is called being human. I run into very few people who think I should be perfect all the time and love all children. But they exist. There are people out there who think that if a teacher complains about a student, then that is a bad teacher.

Let me ask you something? Do you have kids? Ever complain about them? Are you a bad parent?

You see, kids can be aggravating. They can be especially aggravating when they are someone else’s and you don’t have the power to take away their phone and lock them in a room until they finish their homework. I know this is part of the job and usually I can deal, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be irritated sometimes. Everyone gets irritated by things they generally like from time to time. So, if you ever hear of a teacher griping about students and you feel compelled to jump on them, just don’t. Unless, of course, you never complain about your job or your children. Then I guess you probably need to let everyone know how it is you manage to be so perfect.

Novelist

December 15, 2013

Gratification is an interesting feeling because it is so associated with hard work or some quality that an individual feels is intrinsic.

When I got married to Cate, I was fabulously happy, but it wasn’t really gratifying. I hadn’t really worked for it. The same with the births of my children. I was happy. I was relieved that they were healthy. But gratified wasn’t the right word.

Well, I found out, just yesterday, that I am going to have a novel published. That may be the most gratifying thing I have experienced.

I became really serious about fiction writing when I was 20 years old in college. I am 33 now and by the time this novel is fully published, I will be 34. I have written two complete novels. I have a story cycle which is somewhat novelish 80 percent done. There are various other short stories sitting unpublished on my hard drive (yes, a few have been published here and there). The novel that will be published, I think it is reasonable to say, is my fourth book. It’s just the first that more than a handful of people will read.

You may want details. Here they are: it is a baseball novel, but it isn’t really about baseball. It’s about family and priorities and obligation. It is about a player who has to decide whether or not to play in the wake of his father’s death. It is going to be first published in 11 monthly installments, starting in January. In November, at the end of that run, it will be published as a book.

I can’t explain how gratifying this is. I am going to keep trying, but I will fail.

I have, for the past thirteen years, been writing. I have written a lot. I have written mostly for myself, but also with the hope that it would one day find a larger audience. I started this blog to help with that. I currently write for five different websites. All of it has been done with the idea that it might lead to finding a place for my fiction which, aggravatingly, becomes unpublishable when I put it on my blog. So I have written everything else I can write, and finally, there have been results and someone is publishing my novel and for the next year, I will be working on a project not just for myself and not just with some nebulous hope that it might eventually come to something, but with full knowledge that there are deadlines and that people will be reading it and that, in my various bios, I can now add the word novelist.

A New Gig

December 4, 2013

Hey Kids, I have a new writing gig, which I have somehow forgotten to promote here.

A friend of mine has started an internet magazine called The Louisville Lip. I’m blogging and writing articles for them. You can find my article from the first issue here. It concerns teacher quality, how much teachers can do and what really effects student learning.

Enjoy.

The Perfect Age

December 2, 2013

A lot of parenting, I have found, rests on faith that your actions now will pay off later. This is certainly true in the early going (which is the only part of the going I have personal experience with). Preschool children can be little monsters. They don’t listen. Sometimes they don’t sleep. They don’t eat (but they would if you just had whatever you ran out of yesterday). They throw fits that can go on for hours.

It’s a challenge.

I had heard that something magical happened between four and five. The word that kept coming up was “reason.” As in, “They become more reasonable,” or, “You can finally reason with them a little.” I had my doubts, but I was hopeful.

Our oldest, Simone, has been difficult at times. I haven’t made a secret of that here on the blog. But there’s also always been this wonderful child lurking beneath the surface of the fits. She’s always been very empathetic. If someone is upset, she tries to cheer them up (and she’s pretty good at it). She (usually) shares. She’s very curious and intellectually engaged. But, yeah, she can throw a fit if she doesn’t get what she wants.

Then, a few weeks ago, something happened. She’d been going through a rough patch. Lots of fits. Not listening at all. Basically, doing the thing kids do periodically where you end up questioning every choice you’ve ever made as a parent. And then, it stopped.

If I was a believer, I’d be tempted to call it a miracle. It’s not that she never thows fits now, but they are much rarer and much shorter and generally easily explained by hunger or tiredness. Her self-control is a lot better. She helps with her brother. She helps (in her way) around the house. We were cleaning recently and she spent half an hour scrubbing crayon that her brother had scribbled onto a window. She volunteered for this job.

And now, it’s Christmas time. I have always loved Christmas and since Simone was born, I’ve been looking forward to that age when it would be as magical for my kids as it was for me when I was little. Last year was great because she was three and a half and it was the first year she really, really got it (she had spent the previous Christmas figuring it out as it happened). She knew what was coming and she was excited. But she was still pretty high-maintenance and toddler-y at times. But this year, I don’t even know how to explain it. I just can’t imagine anything more – to use a term I normally scoff at – heartwarming than my daughter right now.

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Transcript for the preschooler disadvantaged: Dear Santa, Thank you for bringing me presents. *picture of reindeer* *picture of heart* Love, Simone. Thank you. It’s Christmas time.
Under “For Me” – Pictures of stroller, dragon Legos, doll. Under “For James” – Picture of Winnie the Pooh.

She is excited about everything. She was excited to get the Christmas tree and REALLY excited to decorate it. She was actually helpful with it this year, too. Yesterday, we wrote her letter to Santa. It took more than an hour (she is four), but she was so, so, so excited to put it in the mailbox when it was done. Last night, of her own volition, she made a sticker and ribbon collage to leave out for Santa on Christmas. She will periodically stop whatever she is doing to go look at the Christmas tree. Every night before bed, we count the days until Christmas. Last night, obviously, it was 24, and at the end she said, “That means Christmas is going to be here really fast!” For a few nights, she had trouble falling asleep, but she’s really calmed down now and goes to sleep quickly to speed the arrival of the big day.

It is everything I wanted parenting a small child to be. And it has come at the perfect time as her brother, formerly the sweetest baby in the world, has recently entered the limit-testing 18-24 month stage which he has supplemented with constant teething.

That also has been good for us, I think. Since he was born, James has been very sweet and it was impossible not to think of him as “easier” than his sister, but everything in childhood is a stage and that stage has ended for him. Which is fine. We’ve done this before, so at least it isn’t a surprise.

Parenting is hard. Sometimes, you question your choices, but this year, we’re seeing some of the payoff. Our daughter is happy and kind and she’s turning into an awesome little person and she’s going to make me cry one million times between now and Christmas and then… Christmas morning.

I might be as excited as she is.