Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Middle School

I'm completely convinced that middle school for most of today's young people is 5 bazillion times worse than it was when I was younger...It is nothing short of pure hell, and I just pray that Hannah survives. I'm realizing now just how innocent, good, and naive she really is. That doesn't mean she's perfect. She tells lies to get out of trouble, she makes bad decisions, and she's often completely disrespectful to Hubby and I. But, in the end, she is a *good* girl. A *good* person, especially outside the walls of our house....especially at school.

She has NEVER misbehaved in a classroom or disrespected a teacher. Never. Ever. And she never would. Moreoever, she's never been in a classroom setting where backtalking the teacher, mouthing off in the back row, and generally being rude and disruptive on a regular basis is how some kids behave. And now, after two years of attending a wonderful school with top-notch standards, best learning/teaching practices, and fantastic facilities and resources, she has now been thrown into the lion's den.

On top of going through the repatriation process, which brings its own specific challenges, she's also going through the difficulties that come with a new school, town, etc. She's hypersensitive AND going through puberty, which means at least 50% of all her reactions to anything end up in a teary meltdown. I'm doing the best I can to be patient, understanding, and helpful to her during this transition. But, frankly, I don't have all the answers. Hell, I don't know if the answers I have are even any good. And honestly, I'm going through my own repatriation/new town/new job issues, so part of me just wants to sit down and cry along with her!!

I don't know that I have a point here. I'm just hoping that if I keep getting things down in writing somewhere, I'll feel better, I'll think through things a bit more carefully, and maybe even some answers will magicaly appear. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Still Here

I'm here...barely.

As usual, lots of stuff happening in our household. My Mom came up for a visit in mid-August, and we had a great time with her. We followed that with a week in Ocean City, N.J., where we rented a beach house like we did last year. This time, Hubby's aunts and their families did the same, so the girls got to spend lots of time with their cousins at the beach. It was a great trip and a perfect way to end the summer. Last weekend, we had the hurricane-related weather, which really just amounted to lots of wind blowing down limbs, leaves, and such all over our yard and sidewalk. We also welcomed a new member of the family into our house last week. Meet Charlie
our new poodle! He's around 4 years old, and we adopted him from a rescue group that transports dogs/cats in the south to their forever homes in New England. We've been promising the girls a dog for the past two year, telling them we would get one as soon as we moved back to the U.S. We knew we wanted a poodle because we'd seen how wonderfully behaved my mother-in-law's standard poodle is. We did not, however, want to buy from a breeder if we could avoid it, because they are just so many dogs that need a loving home. We got very lucky in finding Charlie! He's shy and behaves as if he may have been mistreated at some point. He cowers quite a bit when Hubby approaches him, but he's getting better as he learns that we love him and handle him gently. He's a very well-mannered dog, only barking when he hears someone at the door, and he's great around the kids (meaning he lets them pet him but he's smart enough to run and hide when Amelia chases him). Since I'm the one who drove to Connecticut to pick him up, he has taken to me the most, following me around wherever I go and laying next to me wherever I sit. It breaks my heart to think that some family could give this dog up, much less treat him with anything other than kindness. I pray that we'll have a good long time with our new addition!

Hannah has also started school this past week. It was not the start I was hoping for, though. She faced one part culture shock from being back in the U.S. and one part urban school shock from being at a good-sized middle school in an urban area. It was evidently an R-rated experience, and she witnessed kids being disrespectful to teachers, mouthing off during class, etc. She was unhappily surprised to find the school schedule nothing like what she experienced in Doha, where they followed best practices and allowed students a short morning break and afternoon break between classes (this allows time for students to decompress a bit, regroup, and relax before hitting their next subject). Such a practice is immensely helpful to children like Hannah who have ADHD. Her new school allows only 3 minutes to switch classes and only 15 minutes for lunch. I'm guessing the idea is to keep students out of trouble by limiting their "free" time. Hannah calls it "not trusting students" and she's probably right. That's the really sad part...that they probably *can't* trust their students. It's a completely different student demographic than what she's used to, and she's terrified of getting bullied, called out in front of people, excluded, and a thousand other things.

We've tried to reassure her that things will get better and give her strategies for making sure she's successful in class and in making friends. Overall, though, it seems that middle school is a shark-infested cesspool of delinquency and immaturity. Most of the boys act like morons and most of the girls are catty little bitches. I really am shocked by how bad the school culture has gotten here, and I'm terrified of what it will become my the time my youngest two are in middle school.

I closed last week with a day-surgery to remove an inclusion cyst...lots of fun, I know. It was a delicate procedure that required general anasthesia, so I was sore, groggy, and out of it for most of Friday. Hubby was really great about helping me rest and making sure the girls didn't smother me and cause any undue pain. I tried to take it easy over the weekend, but it turns out that I'm not good at taking it easy. I am feeling better now, though, so it's back to the grindstone.

Hubby and I start classes this Wednesday, and I've finished syllabi for my courses. The job season is officially upon me, and I'm hoping the MLA job list turns up something good. There is a full-time spot open at a very good local university. It's a renewable 3-year contract, teaching first-year writing and literature courses. The bad news is that most of the people who currently hold these positions have PhDs from places like Columbia, Boston College, UC-Berkeley, etc. And these aren't tenure-track spots! I'm going to apply, but I won't hold my breath.

Right now, I'm just trying to get course materials and handouts developed so that I won't have as much prep to do during the semester. Because we're carpooling to campus and I have no campus office, Hubby is graciously letting me stake out some space in his office to work while we're on campus. It's a TINY space and we are not tiny people, so I don't know how well this scenario will work, but it's the only option at this point. I don't work well with distractions and noise, both of which make it hard for me to concentrate if I'm doing anything other than grading. This means that common spaces like the coffee shop aren't good options for me. The library might work in a pinch, but the problem is when I need to be near my books--all of my books--not just one or two.

So, I have no idea how things are going to play out with work space and schedules, but we'll adapt, I'm sure. Work continues on the house, as I try to make progress in my home office/guest room, and I meet with the carpenter this week about renovations to the kitchen. We're finally getting settled in just as new work & school routines kick in. And every week I have college football, which makes me very, very happy!

Happy Fall everyone!

ETA: I have no idea why Blogger keeps adding spaces between paragraphs, but it's really annoying and I'd love to know how to fix it. I've tried editing the post several times with no luck. Ideas?