Planet of the Apes

I went to the movies with my son who wanted to see The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Not my first pick, but I went and figured if it made him happy…

Well, I loved it. Not the violence but the plot. It had good vs. evil, compassion rivaled by greed, self preservation competing with societal advancement, and integrity contending with ulterior motives.

There is a conflict that spirals out of control between two of the apes, Kobo and Caesar. The character Kobo was a victim of violence, hatred, and abuse (by humans) so he only saw the bad in the world and in people. He did not know love or feel a connection to humans, and he even doubted his fellow apes. Due to being raised in a lab where he viewed his life as a prisoner to the scientists, (being tested by humans) he only knew the side of humanity which hurt him repeatedly. Therefore, he himself never grew or formed the kind of bond needed to develop trust and love. He also was a master manipulator, which also stems from his lack of nurturing and his innate need to survive. Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in our society, with people.

The current leader of the apes, Caesar, grew up in captivity living with and learning from a “good man” as he called him. He trusted humans and knew they all were not bad. He knew how to connect to humans as well as to apes and was a strong, intelligent, and caring leader. His downfall was to trust Kobo, not realizing the depth of his hatred and anger.

After a physical altercation between the two apes to establish dominance, Kobo was hanging from a tower of wreckage holding on to Caesar by the hand (which was used as a symbol of trust throughout the ape kingdom.) Kobo used the mantra the apes lived by, “Apes don’t kill apes”, Caesar replied by saying, “You are not an ape,” and let go. You see, the hatred inside of Kobo from all of the unhappy and ugly things that happened to him caused him to turn on everyone, apes and humans alike.

We say people have pure evil in them when they do things so heinous and inhuman that there is no other explanation. Often we look for reasons. In this story it was obvious; sometimes in our own lives it isn’t. Life parallels the moral struggle of good vs. evil. Some people spend their entire life trying to make this world a better, kinder, more peaceful place. Others do nothing but suck the life out of the world by being hateful, ugly, and violent. (Did they also grow up feeling like an abused prisoner similar to Kobo?)

I liked that the plot compared humans to apes, showing how some human beings are more like animals and some apes are more like humans. Pretty deep and interesting stuff, don’t you think?


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Parents are supposed to be caring supporters who display daily unconditional love to their children. But what happens when they themselves were not raised in a loving, caring, and accepting home? I have discovered that many adults are walking around with huge voids in them, left there by childhood memories or experiences.

Some adults go to counseling, read self-help books, marry a more stable spouse, and vow to not repeat the same mistakes. Sometimes the dysfunctional parenting skills show themselves but are not allowed to become out of control. This is a daily internal battle. Unfortunately, when these wounded adults have children, they must be cognizant of the battle and tread lightly every day. How exhausting. (And many others who don’t realize that their own parents were weak or wrong in some of their parenting tactics, will inadvertently repeat them. The cycle will continue…)

So imagine being a child of one of these parents and you are sitting in a classroom where the teacher constantly talks at you and does not take the time to get to know you. During our professional development classes, Lori and I stress that one of the most effective tools educators can use is creating an authentic relationship with students. Everyone requires the sense of belonging and the need to feel loved. Students will perform much better for you if you show them you care in a compassionate and appropriate way.

In the classroom it is easy to get frustrated with students when they do not live up to your expectations or put forth the effort you think they possess. Sometimes students get overlooked by teachers who think they are lazy or unreachable, allowing them to remain invisible. These are the students who might have so much darkness in their lives, who need you to be that unconditional loving person, showing them they do have worth by being their “light in this dark world”. It is much easier said than done. However, if we want to not only educate our students but build strong stable adults, we must include relationship building into our daily plans, and mean it!


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Some Parallels

I now wear glasses…..all the time. I started noticing that I couldn’t see road signs so clearly anymore. The teaching manuals we use became hard to read, even with my reading glasses or cheaters as some like to call them. I also found that wherever I looked another pair of cheaters showed up. I think I was honestly up to 12 pairs of glasses located throughout my house, in my purse, my car, and in my classroom. Something just was not right.  Well, I did it. I took a deep breath and I went to the eye doctor and she said the dreaded B-word. Actually, I have trifocals.

I have noticed myself changing, and not always in the direction I wanted to go. The new glasses are a constant reminder that my eyes have changed. Yes, I can see better more often and I will be able to locate street signs with my glasses. I’ll be able to read menus and dosage amounts on the bottles of medicine. Whatever….I’m different. When my youngest daughter saw me and I asked for her reaction. (Always a bad choice!) Her response, “No offense, Mom. (Here goes) You look like one of the old moms in the neighborhood.” Ouch!!! I’ve come to terms with it. I have a bit of gray hair on my left temple that just laughs at the strongest hair dye. “Too bad lady, I’m here to stay!!!!” Okay, so what? I have arthritis in my feet. Yes I know it was caused by wearing high heals, dance classes, and heredity. Arthritis is still an “old” word. I’ve had to adapt and little by little I have. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Here’s the parallel:

My glasses make me see better, but while I am adapting to the trifocal lenses I have moments of dizziness. I have to adjust my view in the lenses to see reading material, my computer, and down the street. I am doing better, but it still takes some getting used to. I’m willing to make it work. I’m okay with pushing through the sore nose and ear because I want to see the best I can.

Now, look at all the teachers out there and all the changes in the dynamics of their classrooms. We have educators from all walks of life, socio-economic backgrounds with varying personal history, and professional experiences. The demographics in most classrooms are changing. Most of us are seeing an increase in free and reduced lunches, broken family units, and other factors that make children at-risk students. If we don’t open ourselves to these shifts in our classes we are doing ourselves and our students a disservice. Many educators are comfortable with their own teaching styles. Their classes and lessons have almost become a tradition. They use the same activities, notes, websites, and literature. If we stay the same and are unwilling to adapt and change are we being the best educators we can be?

Change is hard. It is for almost all of us. But are your students worth the extra effort it takes to read updated literature and educational studies, make adaptations in your lessons, explore new topics and ways to convey the information?

Will these changes and all this work make you dizzy at times? Sure. But just like it was time for me to visit the eye doctor and admit to myself that I needed more than the cheaters, it is time for all educators with shifting demographics to look at their children with new eyes and finally see them and their needs clearly.


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I think we can give our children everything, let me explain;

Give them…

A home full of unconditional love

Your time

A chance to be responsible

A chance to take ownership of wrongdoings

The opportunity to serve others

A voice to say “No” to drugs, violence, and hatred

Honesty

An open mind without prejudice undertones

A love for reading and learning

A compassionate heart

Allow them…

To fail, and learn from it

To earn their own money for important things they want

To grieve and feel pain

To make friends by being who they are, not for what they have

Show them…

To say thank you and please

How to treat others by your example of kind acts

A solid work ethic

Clothes, cars, houses, and things do not matter, people do

Empathy

How to laugh at our own mistakes

Appreciation of family, friends, school, our country, and each other


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I’m in the theater about to enjoy a fantastic movie starring Dwayne Johnson, when a commercial comes on for a well known shoe store stating that they are not only selling a child cool shoes, but self-confidence. I was appalled. These commercials are being played repeatedly in movie theaters and on televisions continuously because it’s back to school time.

Are we to believe that our children will be super cool and popular if they wear the right labels for the right amount of money? I guess so. If television says it, then it must be true. Are kids supposed to believe in themselves if they see advertisers and popular shows and movies saying that the way to win popularity is by wearing expensive name brand shoes and by being mean to classmates?

We are sadly in an era when cable television tells our children how they are supposed to behave and act. In many movies and kids’ shows I see bullying as an acceptable way to become a cool kid. I watch my girls absorbed in programs where the pretty girls are mean and nasty, but looked up to by the entire student body. I watch these mean girls getting the cute boys and laughing when another adolescent is crying. I see main characters ignoring their parents and sneaking around to a background of cheers and laughter. I can talk to my girls about these negative images, but will they believe me after they see the same cruel scenarios being replayed over and over again.

As a mother I tell my children that these behaviors are not okay. These girls are “popular” (which is a dirty word in our house) because the other students give them the power. They are only cool if we allow them to define cool as mean and ugly in spirit. I tell my students the same things. In school we talk about the lessons of Jesus. My mantra is that we are put on this earth to make people feel better about themselves. I actively listen to my students and confront the bullies and the mean girls. I fight for my students’ rights to be happy, healthy, and proud of themselves. But once again, will my words continue to sink in when they are being constantly bombarded by these negative images?

I wonder when we will not only truly put children first, but put society first. Why must money and greed always win? When will we stand up for our students whether they are being jumped outside of libraries for their shoes and phones, or being led to believe that they need to have the right clothes to feel self-confident? When will we turn off the television and block negative stereotypes? When will we take our classrooms back, say no to high-stakes testing and stop pushing students so quickly through the curriculum that they can’t help but hate school? When will we allow educators to be in charge of education? When will we finally stop looking for scapegoats and start supporting one another?


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