Friday, April 20, 2007

Today is conference day at school

I wish all of my colleagues the best. All of my students were doing fine. If any of the parents ask, you can let them know I said so. I was talking to Jon yesterday about the kids who really make teaching worth it. It's those kids who are a little different, smart, and maybe have not found their place yet. When I can get in there and tap into a kid's potential, I am so happy. It's the ones who are the most challenging to teach that help me the most about myself.

With regards to my last post and being defined by those who love you back, not all kids or parents are happy with the effort teachers put in. You get used to it. And after awhile you start to really appreciate it when someone takes the time to acknowledge your contribution.

I wonder some times if I live for the feedback, the praise, the "thank you." When I was doing the math club, I brought in muffins every week. The kids just eat them. A few would say, "Wow! these are really good!" (usually when I used chocolate chips), ask for seconds, say thank you and that's fine. What made me happy was when I had some left over and I brought them upstairs and everyone gushed over them. Richard used to come down every Wednesday to find them. I'm like Sally Field at the Oscars, "You love me. You really love me."

I used to sell stuff on eBay in the summer not even so much for the extra cash, but because I felt like some of my stuff was pretty special and wouldn't it be nice of me to take the time to find someone out there who could appreciate it too. If I gave it to the thrift store, anyone could get it for nothing and might not enjoy it as much as if they had to do a little work, fighting and clawing to outbid others at the last minute. I thought I was going to make someone happy by letting them have my Donna Karan dress or Coach bag for a fraction of the cost. I learned quickly what sells and what doesn't so I only put good stuff up there. The first time I got negative feedback, it crushed me. I had a 100% record and only about 40 transactions and then I got a second negative within 24 hours. Neither buyer had contacted me to tell me they were unhappy before leaving the score (which, for all you non-eBayers, cannot be taken back). Of course they did not realize that I am a nut and if they had let me know they were unhappy, I would have flown to their houses to personally return their money just to make sure they were happy. One was an Agnes B. cosmetics bag that a woman in Australia won for a dollar. She was late paying and sent me an email begging that I not leave her negative feedback for her tardiness. The bag cost me more to ship to than I had charged so I actually lost money on that one. She claimed it was fake. Excuse me? The other was a woman who claimed I told her I was selling a suit when in fact it was two pieces from the same fabric from Club Monaco. I was devastated. Sachi and Brian thought my reaction disproportionate to what had occurred. But if you know anything about math, you realize that no matter how many more transactions I had, I would never have a 100% rating again. And I was doing it to make them happy, dammit. I stopped selling on eBay. I take a charitable deduction on my taxes when I donate stuff to the Goodwill.

Then recently I found a community online called Swapbot. Instead of buying or selling, you swap. Fun! Also the rating is not based on the quality of what you send, it is based on whether or not you fulfilled the requirement of the swap. There are all kinds of items being swapped but I like the sewing or knitting or homemade postcards because it gives me a chance to try out a craft without thinking about the results. When I make someone a present, I get caught up in making it perfect so I am not as free. Some of the swaps require a bit of thought about the other person so you read the profile and learn a little bit about her likes and dislikes. As you can probably guess, I give too much, trying to make a super special package that my partner is going to be so appreciative to get, three balls of yarn when one was asked for. There used to be no way to acknowledge that your partner was very generous on the rating system, so I would get a little note on the Swapbot board or an email thanking me. Then recently they added these little hearts your partner could give that let everyone know that yours was an extra special package or postcard or whatever. A lot of times the partner who was assigned to send to you, flakes out and you get nothing. (It's not the same person you send to.) Some people sign up just to get free stuff and then drop out. You can't stay in the group if you do it more than a couple of times. Also the rating can be changed if the swapper comes through late or makes up for what was missing. I don't care that much when I don't get a package. It's not like I need more stuff.

Okay now to the point of the story. I recently participated in a Good Fairy Swap. That is where you send someone the stuff that some delinquent swapper did not send. I had only been screwed on three fabric swaps but I signed up anyway. The partner I was assigned had a laundry list of items, a christmas stocking full of presents swap, a girly things swap, and a cold weather items swap. Okay that is a lot of stuff, and unlike the swaps I usually do, this required me to go out and purchase the items. I never got a package from my good fairy. Whatever. But when I emailed my partner to find out if she got hers, she was snippy in her response. She claimed she sent me a thank you note already. I wrote back to ask if maybe she could leave me a rating and her response was she does not believe in it and will no longer be giving ratings. Okay fine, but there is a point to the rating system, I explained. I did NOT ask her to rate me again. I just wanted to know if she liked the package? I guess I was bugging her at this point because here is her response:

Hello Aly,

I am sorry you feel that way. And am sorry to disagree, good ratings do not distinguish good swappers from bad swapper anymore as I found out on my own skin that a 5.0 rating means absolutely nothing around here. I've also checked and it's not like you are in a situation where you need my rating to get your rating up here. I am also sorry but I do not rate by obligation nor do I feel the point of rating a fairy swap as when I've signed up for it myself to make good and not thinking about ratings. I am sorry you've signed up to make good expecting to get a grade for doing good, I do not agree with it nor with you insisting with me about rating you. If I would rate you now, I wouldn't give you the 5.0 just for your insistence. I remind you that not only for this swap but for any other, rating if entirely up to your partner, it is a nice thing to do but it is not mandatory nor, once again, do I feel the need to give grades to anyone on a fairy-do-some-good issue.

I've already thanked you and explained that I am not rating anyone here anymore and why, really can't explain more clearly than this to you. Please do not insist... It is polite to ask the first time, it is not polite to insist.

Wishing you all the best again.

Okay so now, a five just means it was sent and was the expected, no more. A three is what you give if it did not meet the requirements and a zero is never received. I did not write back at this point because even though she had illogical grounds to rate me any lower, there is nothing I can really do to stop her.

So am I doing everything for the grade? the love? the praise? the thanks? Do I expect to get back as much as I put in? I have this fantasy about winning the lottery and just walking around handing out $100 bills.

I have to say, I started this blog to keep people up to date on my surgery and medical happenings. I write very freely without much thought to the quality. Then yesterday, Jon said he liked my writing on the blog. I had been really nervous to give him my cartoon because his opinion matters quite a bit to me. He is frank and honest and keeps the bar pretty high. He once commented on something I wrote by saying, he expected more from me because my dad and my sister are such good writers. Grrr! I worked so hard on the cartoon focusing on the results. My blog was just a place get information down. I am a little confused about what mattered more to me, that he liked my drawing or he actually thinks I have some talent as a writer. As long as I have known him, he has encouraged me to write. "There's your story," he would say. He let me read his novel in its earlier stages and it is brilliant.

I used to go to Al-anon meetings when my brother was still alive. It is a support group for families of alcoholics. One of the things I learned there is that people who have a family member who is an alcoholic, tend to be people pleasers. I am. They also tend to think: Don't say the things that might make someone unhappy (yeah, I really live by that motto). The more important lesson was put it out there and let go of the results. Even though I might say I am sorry, the other person may not forgive me. I have no control over the response I am going to get. It helped me a lot in my teaching because I still believed there was this goal could achieve of the perfect classroom where if I just said the right words and built the ideal system, no one would ever call out and everyone would learn all the material. Put it out there and let go of the results.

Being sick has obviously given me a lot of time for self-reflection. When Tim and Roger both died on the same day, I did not think anything about what they gave me or did not give me. I worried that they did not know how much I loved them. Did I tell them often enough? Why didn't I visit Roger more when he was in the hospital? So I started to say instead of living every day like it is your last day, live like it is everyone else's last day. Because when something happens to someone else, it is the living who are left to reflect on their actions. The dead are at peace. They are not sitting around regretting their last move.

This another reason I have for not eating meat, people argue that we were meant to eat meat. We have canine teeth and it's instinctive like in animals. Human beings have the ability reflect, make choices, and regret. We can choose to use these abilities that animals may not possess. Enough. My presentation has grown tiresome, as Deiter on Sprockets, would say.

I grow more and more confident every day, I appreciate the time I have had off to rest and come to this place. My surgery will be a success!


Paul said...

you are a terrific writer regardless regardless of any relations you may have. i'm sure everyone agrees.

Anonymous said...

alyson, this is fatima, from portugal. we met in lisbon in 1995 and later, briefly, in london in 2001.

when we first met i admired your sense of self, your love of teaching and of the kids you teach. as i'm reading your words i feel it's all in here and so much more: your courage, your resilience, your candor. and i agree with paul, that it all shines through brilliant writing.

from a hugger who loves you, please feel this warm, tight hug i'm sending you. it comes with my strong belief that all will be okay. i'll keep you in me.

all my love,