Babies ‘R’ Us

Some people have been going on about the movie Into the Wild as an example of anti-love ethics. I think I found the female equivalent when I was watching Rachel Ray while babysitting. They had actress Leah Rimini on, who apparently was the female lead in King of Queens.

Leah let Rachel Ray’s camera people create “a day in the life” video of her, Angelo (husband), and Sophia (daughter). I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched Leah dote on her three-year-old’s infantile behavior. “Well, of course she’s infantile,” you say. “She’s only three!”

But I’m not just referring to tantrums and crying fits, although there was plenty of that. This 3 ½ year old kid was still on the bottle. She drinks milk and water from baby bottles at an alarming rate, especially at night when she downs six to eight “aqua babas” a night. Oh, and she sleeps between the parents in their bed every night.

She wakes up and cries about every hour, and they shove a bottle in her face to shut her up. An hour later, she’s up crying because she wet her diaper. So they change her give her another bottle, which of course means another wet diaper later. How dumb can you be? It’s simple cause-and-effect. Not to mention you’re being completely manipulated by a chubby preschooler!

At first I was horrified that the show would be promoting such an atrocious approach to parenting. I mean, Rachel Ray might come off a little ditzy, but this was deplorable! But as the program continued, it appeared that Rachel Ray, without ever really condemning Leah, was trying to reform her. They brought in a pediatrician to give Leah a reality check about the how abnormal and problematic a preschooler on a bottle is. Then they had a hardened mother of three try to teach her to say no to her little devil. Not that you need any child-rearing experience to figure out what’s wrong with the situation.

What shocked me most was Leah’s reaction to people telling her it’s a problem. She made statement like, “People tell me my kid’s manipulating me, but I don’t see how she’s doing that. I’m just taking care of my little girl and there’s nothing manipulating about that at all.” Are you for real? Her approach to child health care was also interesting: “I just keep going to new doctors because I want to find the pediatrician who will tell me what I want to hear.” She’s in for quite a search.

Perhaps the thoughts she repeated most frequently best reveal her attitude: “I just think at the end of the day as a parent you have to do what you heart tells you to. And when my little girl is crying because she wants a baba, it just feels so wrong not to give her one.” Listen to your heart, eh? The heart that’s more deceitful than anything else, the heart that’s desperately sick? That doesn’t sound like such a good idea.

And since when is parenting about doing what feels good? I’m not a parent but my impression is that it’s about doing what is actually good for the kid, not what they want, or what’s easy. You should’ve seen how many bottles these people went through in a day. What great lengths they went to just to get their love demands met and to meet their child’s love demands. Another way they indulged Sophia was by letting her draw on their friends’ faces with make-up. “She’s creative and she wants to put make-up on people, and if you come over, you’re just going to have to deal with her putting make-up on you.” Talk about no boundaries! It’s a good thing they had a girl because otherwise their kid would probably beat everyone up. “Well, he just really likes to wrestle so you’re just going to have to deal with the bruises…”

The other thing she kept saying was, “You think I’m a bad parent.” And everyone assured her that no, she’s not a bad parent, and it’s so cool that she was willing to share her experience with other people. Well if she was a good parent why was she on the show for this in the first place? Obviously she wasn’t there as a picture of exemplary parenting. The problem is, she wants people to like her, Sophia most of all, and instead of doing what’s best for others she does what she thinks will make people like her.

But after bad-mouthing this poor deceived parent, I must admit that I do stuff like this, too. It’s just more subtle. I am too soft on people, not because I’m being kind, but because I don’t want to deal with an unpleasant reaction or possible rejection. I better get it together before I have kids!

Babies ‘R’ Us

Some people have been going on about the movie Into the Wild as an example of anti-love ethics. I think I found the female equivalent when I was watching Rachel Ray while babysitting. They had actress Leah Rimini on, who apparently was the female lead in King of Queens.

Leah let Rachel Ray’s camera people create “a day in the life” video of her, Angelo (husband), and Sophia (daughter). I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched Leah dote on her three-year-old’s infantile behavior. “Well, of course she’s infantile,” you say. “She’s only three!”

But I’m not just referring to tantrums and crying fits, although there was plenty of that. This 3 ½ year old kid was still on the bottle. She drinks milk and water from baby bottles at an alarming rate, especially at night when she downs six to eight “aqua babas” a night. Oh, and she sleeps between the parents in their bed every night.

She wakes up and cries about every hour, and they shove a bottle in her face to shut her up. An hour later, she’s up crying because she wet her diaper. So they change her give her another bottle, which of course means another wet diaper later. How dumb can you be? It’s simple cause-and-effect. Not to mention you’re being completely manipulated by a chubby preschooler!

At first I was horrified that the show would be promoting such an atrocious approach to parenting. I mean, Rachel Ray might come off a little ditzy, but this was deplorable! But as the program continued, it appeared that Rachel Ray, without ever really condemning Leah, was trying to reform her. They brought in a pediatrician to give Leah a reality check about the how abnormal and problematic a preschooler on a bottle is. Then they had a hardened mother of three try to teach her to say no to her little devil. Not that you need any child-rearing experience to figure out what’s wrong with the situation.

What shocked me most was Leah’s reaction to people telling her it’s a problem. She made statement like, “People tell me my kid’s manipulating me, but I don’t see how she’s doing that. I’m just taking care of my little girl and there’s nothing manipulating about that at all.” Are you for real? Her approach to child health care was also interesting: “I just keep going to new doctors because I want to find the pediatrician who will tell me what I want to hear.” She’s in for quite a search.

Perhaps the thoughts she repeated most frequently best reveal her attitude: “I just think at the end of the day as a parent you have to do what you heart tells you to. And when my little girl is crying because she wants a baba, it just feels so wrong not to give her one.” Listen to your heart, eh? The heart that’s more deceitful than anything else, the heart that’s desperately sick? That doesn’t sound like such a good idea.

And since when is parenting about doing what feels good? I’m not a parent but my impression is that it’s about doing what is actually good for the kid, not what they want, or what’s easy. You should’ve seen how many bottles these people went through in a day. What great lengths they went to just to get their love demands met and to meet their child’s love demands. Another way they indulged Sophia was by letting her draw on their friends’ faces with make-up. “She’s creative and she wants to put make-up on people, and if you come over, you’re just going to have to deal with her putting make-up on you.” Talk about no boundaries! It’s a good thing they had a girl because otherwise their kid would probably beat everyone up. “Well, he just really likes to wrestle so you’re just going to have to deal with the bruises…”

The other thing she kept saying was, “You think I’m a bad parent.” And everyone assured her that no, she’s not a bad parent, and it’s so cool that she was willing to share her experience with other people. Well if she was a good parent why was she on the show for this in the first place? Obviously she wasn’t there as a picture of exemplary parenting. The problem is, she wants people to like her, Sophia most of all, and instead of doing what’s best for others she does what she thinks will make people like her.

But after bad-mouthing this poor deceived parent, I must admit that I do stuff like this, too. It’s just more subtle. I am too soft on people, not because I’m being kind, but because I don’t want to deal with an unpleasant reaction or possible rejection. I better get it together before I have kids!

Confessions of a First-year Teacher: Meet the Speech Coaches

Speech people are crazy. My high school speech teacher was an arrogant, insane bald man who had a sticker on his door that read, “Caution: Sarcastic and Cynical” and gave demonstration speeches on twisted topics like execution methods.
My college speech teacher was an old, fat guy whom the whole class found utterly idiosyncratic. He was obsessed with outlining and drilled us like fifth-graders. The only criticism he ever had for me was, “Smile!”
When I learned that my student teaching cooperative teacher was the head speech coach, I expected to meet a strange personality. I couldn’t have prophesied with more accuracy. When I met Mrs. Trion, her blonde-died-over-gray hair was piled in an up-do and she donned a Christmas vest over a flowing-collared blouse. She was thoroughly sanguine and indelibly talkative. Her teaching methods reflected this, in a way I admired but her students confessed they found “weird.”
One particular occasion saw her expounding on a personal connection to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
“Have you ever done something irrational because you just felt drive to do it?” she asked with all the theatrics of a drama speech in her voice.
I thought it was a pretty good question, something we can all relate to, but alas!
They were seniors and it was May. Their stupor was impenetrable.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better student-teaching experience. Mrs. Trion was sweet, helpful, and easy to work with, encouraging but never over-bearing. I’m truly grateful that I was paired with such a good teacher and kind woman. She would talk my ear off when all I really wanted to do was grade papers, but it was good for me, because teaching is much more relational than it is functional. And I’m more functional than I am relational. To be fair, she’s one of the most sane speech coaches I’ve known.
My experience in the speech world was limited to judging in one tournament, observing Mrs. Trion coach, and moderating discussions in her speech classes. I consistently resisted my high school teachers’ attempts to persuade me to join the speech team. Spending Saturday at school just didn’t sound fun, even to a nerd like me. So when the head speech coach, Melanie Fitzgerald, called to invite me to a luncheon with the other speech teachers, I figured I knew what to expect.
As I made the long drive to her home, I tried to not think about the social awkwardness I was about to face. She was always so nice on the phone that I wasn’t nervous, but I’m no social butterfly, so meeting new people inevitably put my stomachs in knots.
I passed her house just as I saw her waving to me. She’s going to think I can’t follow directions, I thought, embarrassed. I started to park in the street, but she waved me into the driveway.
“Hi, how are you?” she greeted me in her raspy voice. Her short stature and large head gave her a comical appearance which her voice only enhanced.
“Good, how are you?” Little did I know how many times I would recite this in the coming year. Life demands such pleasantries, of course, but I never delivered this line as frequently or mechanically as I did as I did in the hallways of —– High.
“Oh, you look so nice. You didn’t have to dress up for us,” she said as she noted my outfit. I was wearing a skirt, short-sleeved sweater, and one of the two necklaces I own.
“I don’t mind. I’ve been dressing like a teacher since I was eight,” hoping the self-directed joke would distract from my awkwardness. Admitting my deep and long-running nerdiness probably didn’t help. Actually, I’d deliberated about how to dress and figured that, as the newbie, I’d much rather be overdressed and feel like a geek, than underdressed and feel like a bum.
She laughed and moved on, “I still have to bring the food out.”
I helped her carry enough food to feed an entire English department to a table in the middle of her spacious lawn. She gestured to the large inflatable pool where her kids were swimming.
“That’s our ghetto pool,” she joked. “It keeps them happy and we don’t have to deal with the hassle of a real pool.”
Just then, an SUV pulled into the driveway and a small, wiry woman with blond hair and a serious tan emerged, followed by a boy who closely resembled her, and another one who didn’t. The boys immediately splashed into the pool.
As she approached, I realized I really had overdressed; she was wearing flip-flops, a short denim skirt, and a tank top that revealed a lizard tattooed onto her shoulder. She’s a teacher? I couldn’t help but wonder.
“Hi, I’m Lindsey,” she stuck out her hand and gave a firm shake as I introduced myself. We sat down, waiting for the third and final coach to arrive.
“How was the race on Saturday?” Melanie asked her.
“Oh, it was good. Eli won, but Jonah came in second to last.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, Jonah’s just not as strong as Eli. He’s a beanpole, just like Greg.” She turned to me to explain, “Eli’s my son and Jonah’s my fiancé’s son. They’re both seven.”
“It seems like they get along,” I observed, trying to make conversation.
“Yeah, they have a really good time together. They’re just not good at the same things.”
“Lindsey and her son race BMX,” Melanie elucidated. Again, she’s a teacher?
“When are you getting married?” I asked.
“In June. Less than a year now.”
“That’s so exciting,” I said, trying to sound genuinely interested. For some reason, I never sound excited or sympathetic, however heartfelt my sentiments may be.
“Yeah, Greg’s a really great guy, way better than Eli’s dad.” I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole, I determined.
I wondered if she’d been married before, but didn’t ask. I looked up to see an imposing woman in Capri pants, an earth-tone tee, and bohemian accessories walking toward us. She was at least six feet tall.
“Hey, Sloane!” Melanie greeted her.
“Hey, Fitz!” she called back.
“How do you like my ghetto pool?”
“Looks great.” She reached the table and extended her large hand to shake mine. “Nice to meet you. Welcome to the world of speech.”
“Thanks,” I lied, anything but grateful.
“How was your date?”
“It was pretty good. He is so fine,” she said with all the drama of a teenage girl. “I enjoy talking to him, but I think he’s a Democrat.”
“It’s getting harder and harder to find Republican hippies,” Melanie said. I was surprised to hear a debate coach/teacher with such political sympathies.
“I know, I think it’s impossible. I’m never going to get married.”
“Never say never; you’ll find someone,” Lindsay gushed.
“Whatever. Between coaching and grad school, I don’t need any more commitments.”
“You’ll find your Republican hippie,” Melanie reaffirmed, and then reminiscenced, “I used to be a Democrat, but by the time you’re living in a big house and making a certain income, you have to admit that you’re really a Republican.”
“You’re married, aren’t you?” Sloane turned her attention toward me.
“Yes, just since January.” I almost felt like I should apologize.
As soon as we started in on Melanie’s elaborate spread of various sandwiches, salads, veggies, and dips, the kids suddenly lost interest in the ghetto pool and swarmed the table. Melanie’s younger daughter closely resembled her, with thick dark hair framing her wide face. “Mommy, I want a cookie,” she whined.
“You need to eat a sandwich first,” Melanie responded calmly. The girl reluctantly obeyed and ran off with her sandwich precariously balanced on a paper plate. Meanwhile, her older daughter waited patiently, her thin, serious face watching as Lindsey made sandwiches for her boys, who were also more interested in cookies than real food.
“They’re so used to organic, all-natural, sugar-free food that when they see junk they go crazy,” Lindsey explained. Yeah, you do look like the organic health nut type, I thought, noting her muscular arms and trim physique. I hope I look that good after I have a kid.
“I met Samantha on the last day of school,” Melanie chattered. “She’s the other new, young English teacher. She’s going to do the yearbook. I don’t envy her that job.”
Was yearbook really worse than speech? I wondered. At least I wasn’t solely responsible for the speech team. I didn’t really have to know what I was doing with these three around. “She carries herself like a speech person; she’s really cute and confident and outgoing.” I don’t think she could have chosen three better words to strike insecurity in my heart: those were three qualities I desperately wanted, but continually lacked.
“How do you feel about school starting?” Lindsay asked.
“I feel overwhelmed, but I think I just need to get in there and start teaching,” I said, deeply appreciative of her concern.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I still feel like that, even though this is my third year.”
“This is only my second year in this district,” Melanie chimed in. “It’s really different from where I taught before. It’s more demanding, but the kids are better, so I can actually teach more.”
“I’m going on ten years,” Sloane said, “and I don’t play their games. Don’t worry, and don’t listen when people say you’re going to get fired ‘cause you’re new. Just do your job and you’ll be fine.”
In the midst of trying to take this comforting message to heart, I discerned the usual teacher-resentment toward the administration.
“This is going to be a crazy year,” Melanie said. “I really don’t know where the money’s going to come from. We’ll have to do fund raisers and get the booster club to raise money, too. Since the levy failed, our funding was cut, so we’re getting way less money than last year. We have some left in our account from last season, but I’m going to have to talk to Rob about how much we’ll get this year,” she concluded, referring to the principle.
“I just don’t want to see kids who make States or Nationals pay their own way,” Lindsay said.
“I know, I really want to save for that throughout the year, so we can help them out. Rob is really supportive of our team,” she explained to me. “Speech and debate is a big deal here; we were fifth in the state last year. He always wants the tournament results first thing Monday for the announcements on Tuesday.”
“So what are your ideas for fund raisers?”
“I really want to make the kids do the work. It’s their team, and we have enough to do. But I don’t want them going door to door; that just doesn’t seem safe anymore, and I don’t think parents want their kids doing that. The first thing we’re going to do is a garage sale this summer. We’ll probably do some kind of food sales, and maybe an event with a raffle, and have parents donate prizes. I’m going to take care of the organization stuff with fund-raising. I might need your help executing it, but I’ll do all the paperwork.”
I was relieved to hear this, but tried not to show it. I didn’t want to look like a slacker; I’m not a slacker. But I was overwhelmed and definitely didn’t want to deal with more details than absolutely necessary. And I didn’t go to college to run garage sales.
They proceeded to gossip rapidly about speech kids like teenage girls at a sleepover. I tried to move my left arm out of the sun to avoid sunburn. At the same time I felt a headache coming on, triggered by two of my greatest enemies: sun and stress. After this I had scheduled to go see my friend who was home from college, and I was already late. I never thought I’d be here this long. They just kept going and going, and I started thinking about everything I could be accomplishing, the lessons I needed to plan and books I needed to read and questions I needed to get answers to….After about forty minutes of gossip, Sloane remembered I was there.
“We’re probably going to scare her away,” she joked.
I felt like I needed to say something, so I offered, “No, I like listening and getting some background about the kids.” When in doubt, throw out a buzzword. Background seemed to suit perfectly.
But Sloane wasn’t done sympathizing with my shy self.
“We must be too loud for you,” she said.
“No, I know speech people are crazy,” I said. Just kidding. I only thought this, but decided on a more tactful response: “I’m not outgoing, but I’ve always enjoyed talkative people.” I hoped I didn’t sound like I was on a reality dating show.
Melanie continued chatting after we’d carried the leftovers to her kitchen.
“Don’t get overwhelmed,” she reassured me. “You’re going to be fine. It’s a lot at first, especially in this district, but most of the kids are great, and you just have to take it one step at a time.”
“I’m trying to. Thanks.” I appreciated the encouragement.
“We all feel overwhelmed, between teaching and speech and family, and Sloane’s in grad school, and I just need to write my thesis, but I haven’t been able to find the time.”
She should have quit while she was ahead. I was actually starting to feel somewhat reassured. Then I realized that these women, who were years into their careers, were still desperately busy, trying to hold their lives together while their jobs sapped every bit of life and energy from them. I didn’t know what to say, so I waited, counting on Melanie to fill the silence before it became awkward. She came through.
“Rebecca thinks you’re brilliant; she was going on about how you got a perfect Praxis II score.”
“Yeah, that whole testing process is kind of a joke,” I said, trying to take the attention off of myself. “I mean, just because you’re a good test-taker doesn’t mean you’ll be a good teacher.”
“True, but at least it helped you get the job.” And there you have it: they hired me because of the score that I was told didn’t mean anything. I was hired because I’m naturally a good test-taker. Perhaps that is oversimplifying; I knew someone who worked there, and I didn’t blow the interviews. But her statement probably revealed some of the school’s most deep-seated values.
At least it worked out for me.
Or did it?

Confessions of a First-year Teacher: Meet the Speech Coaches

Speech people are crazy. My high school speech teacher was an arrogant, insane bald man who had a sticker on his door that read, “Caution: Sarcastic and Cynical” and gave demonstration speeches on twisted topics like execution methods.
My college speech teacher was an old, fat guy whom the whole class found utterly idiosyncratic. He was obsessed with outlining and drilled us like fifth-graders. The only criticism he ever had for me was, “Smile!”
When I learned that my student teaching cooperative teacher was the head speech coach, I expected to meet a strange personality. I couldn’t have prophesied with more accuracy. When I met Mrs. Trion, her blonde-died-over-gray hair was piled in an up-do and she donned a Christmas vest over a flowing-collared blouse. She was thoroughly sanguine and indelibly talkative. Her teaching methods reflected this, in a way I admired but her students confessed they found “weird.”
One particular occasion saw her expounding on a personal connection to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
“Have you ever done something irrational because you just felt drive to do it?” she asked with all the theatrics of a drama speech in her voice.
I thought it was a pretty good question, something we can all relate to, but alas!
They were seniors and it was May. Their stupor was impenetrable.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better student-teaching experience. Mrs. Trion was sweet, helpful, and easy to work with, encouraging but never over-bearing. I’m truly grateful that I was paired with such a good teacher and kind woman. She would talk my ear off when all I really wanted to do was grade papers, but it was good for me, because teaching is much more relational than it is functional. And I’m more functional than I am relational. To be fair, she’s one of the most sane speech coaches I’ve known.
My experience in the speech world was limited to judging in one tournament, observing Mrs. Trion coach, and moderating discussions in her speech classes. I consistently resisted my high school teachers’ attempts to persuade me to join the speech team. Spending Saturday at school just didn’t sound fun, even to a nerd like me. So when the head speech coach, Melanie Fitzgerald, called to invite me to a luncheon with the other speech teachers, I figured I knew what to expect.
As I made the long drive to her home, I tried to not think about the social awkwardness I was about to face. She was always so nice on the phone that I wasn’t nervous, but I’m no social butterfly, so meeting new people inevitably put my stomachs in knots.
I passed her house just as I saw her waving to me. She’s going to think I can’t follow directions, I thought, embarrassed. I started to park in the street, but she waved me into the driveway.
“Hi, how are you?” she greeted me in her raspy voice. Her short stature and large head gave her a comical appearance which her voice only enhanced.
“Good, how are you?” Little did I know how many times I would recite this in the coming year. Life demands such pleasantries, of course, but I never delivered this line as frequently or mechanically as I did as I did in the hallways of —– High.
“Oh, you look so nice. You didn’t have to dress up for us,” she said as she noted my outfit. I was wearing a skirt, short-sleeved sweater, and one of the two necklaces I own.
“I don’t mind. I’ve been dressing like a teacher since I was eight,” hoping the self-directed joke would distract from my awkwardness. Admitting my deep and long-running nerdiness probably didn’t help. Actually, I’d deliberated about how to dress and figured that, as the newbie, I’d much rather be overdressed and feel like a geek, than underdressed and feel like a bum.
She laughed and moved on, “I still have to bring the food out.”
I helped her carry enough food to feed an entire English department to a table in the middle of her spacious lawn. She gestured to the large inflatable pool where her kids were swimming.
“That’s our ghetto pool,” she joked. “It keeps them happy and we don’t have to deal with the hassle of a real pool.”
Just then, an SUV pulled into the driveway and a small, wiry woman with blond hair and a serious tan emerged, followed by a boy who closely resembled her, and another one who didn’t. The boys immediately splashed into the pool.
As she approached, I realized I really had overdressed; she was wearing flip-flops, a short denim skirt, and a tank top that revealed a lizard tattooed onto her shoulder. She’s a teacher? I couldn’t help but wonder.
“Hi, I’m Lindsey,” she stuck out her hand and gave a firm shake as I introduced myself. We sat down, waiting for the third and final coach to arrive.
“How was the race on Saturday?” Melanie asked her.
“Oh, it was good. Eli won, but Jonah came in second to last.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, Jonah’s just not as strong as Eli. He’s a beanpole, just like Greg.” She turned to me to explain, “Eli’s my son and Jonah’s my fiancé’s son. They’re both seven.”
“It seems like they get along,” I observed, trying to make conversation.
“Yeah, they have a really good time together. They’re just not good at the same things.”
“Lindsey and her son race BMX,” Melanie elucidated. Again, she’s a teacher?
“When are you getting married?” I asked.
“In June. Less than a year now.”
“That’s so exciting,” I said, trying to sound genuinely interested. For some reason, I never sound excited or sympathetic, however heartfelt my sentiments may be.
“Yeah, Greg’s a really great guy, way better than Eli’s dad.” I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole, I determined.
I wondered if she’d been married before, but didn’t ask. I looked up to see an imposing woman in Capri pants, an earth-tone tee, and bohemian accessories walking toward us. She was at least six feet tall.
“Hey, Sloane!” Melanie greeted her.
“Hey, Fitz!” she called back.
“How do you like my ghetto pool?”
“Looks great.” She reached the table and extended her large hand to shake mine. “Nice to meet you. Welcome to the world of speech.”
“Thanks,” I lied, anything but grateful.
“How was your date?”
“It was pretty good. He is so fine,” she said with all the drama of a teenage girl. “I enjoy talking to him, but I think he’s a Democrat.”
“It’s getting harder and harder to find Republican hippies,” Melanie said. I was surprised to hear a debate coach/teacher with such political sympathies.
“I know, I think it’s impossible. I’m never going to get married.”
“Never say never; you’ll find someone,” Lindsay gushed.
“Whatever. Between coaching and grad school, I don’t need any more commitments.”
“You’ll find your Republican hippie,” Melanie reaffirmed, and then reminiscenced, “I used to be a Democrat, but by the time you’re living in a big house and making a certain income, you have to admit that you’re really a Republican.”
“You’re married, aren’t you?” Sloane turned her attention toward me.
“Yes, just since January.” I almost felt like I should apologize.
As soon as we started in on Melanie’s elaborate spread of various sandwiches, salads, veggies, and dips, the kids suddenly lost interest in the ghetto pool and swarmed the table. Melanie’s younger daughter closely resembled her, with thick dark hair framing her wide face. “Mommy, I want a cookie,” she whined.
“You need to eat a sandwich first,” Melanie responded calmly. The girl reluctantly obeyed and ran off with her sandwich precariously balanced on a paper plate. Meanwhile, her older daughter waited patiently, her thin, serious face watching as Lindsey made sandwiches for her boys, who were also more interested in cookies than real food.
“They’re so used to organic, all-natural, sugar-free food that when they see junk they go crazy,” Lindsey explained. Yeah, you do look like the organic health nut type, I thought, noting her muscular arms and trim physique. I hope I look that good after I have a kid.
“I met Samantha on the last day of school,” Melanie chattered. “She’s the other new, young English teacher. She’s going to do the yearbook. I don’t envy her that job.”
Was yearbook really worse than speech? I wondered. At least I wasn’t solely responsible for the speech team. I didn’t really have to know what I was doing with these three around. “She carries herself like a speech person; she’s really cute and confident and outgoing.” I don’t think she could have chosen three better words to strike insecurity in my heart: those were three qualities I desperately wanted, but continually lacked.
“How do you feel about school starting?” Lindsay asked.
“I feel overwhelmed, but I think I just need to get in there and start teaching,” I said, deeply appreciative of her concern.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I still feel like that, even though this is my third year.”
“This is only my second year in this district,” Melanie chimed in. “It’s really different from where I taught before. It’s more demanding, but the kids are better, so I can actually teach more.”
“I’m going on ten years,” Sloane said, “and I don’t play their games. Don’t worry, and don’t listen when people say you’re going to get fired ‘cause you’re new. Just do your job and you’ll be fine.”
In the midst of trying to take this comforting message to heart, I discerned the usual teacher-resentment toward the administration.
“This is going to be a crazy year,” Melanie said. “I really don’t know where the money’s going to come from. We’ll have to do fund raisers and get the booster club to raise money, too. Since the levy failed, our funding was cut, so we’re getting way less money than last year. We have some left in our account from last season, but I’m going to have to talk to Rob about how much we’ll get this year,” she concluded, referring to the principle.
“I just don’t want to see kids who make States or Nationals pay their own way,” Lindsay said.
“I know, I really want to save for that throughout the year, so we can help them out. Rob is really supportive of our team,” she explained to me. “Speech and debate is a big deal here; we were fifth in the state last year. He always wants the tournament results first thing Monday for the announcements on Tuesday.”
“So what are your ideas for fund raisers?”
“I really want to make the kids do the work. It’s their team, and we have enough to do. But I don’t want them going door to door; that just doesn’t seem safe anymore, and I don’t think parents want their kids doing that. The first thing we’re going to do is a garage sale this summer. We’ll probably do some kind of food sales, and maybe an event with a raffle, and have parents donate prizes. I’m going to take care of the organization stuff with fund-raising. I might need your help executing it, but I’ll do all the paperwork.”
I was relieved to hear this, but tried not to show it. I didn’t want to look like a slacker; I’m not a slacker. But I was overwhelmed and definitely didn’t want to deal with more details than absolutely necessary. And I didn’t go to college to run garage sales.
They proceeded to gossip rapidly about speech kids like teenage girls at a sleepover. I tried to move my left arm out of the sun to avoid sunburn. At the same time I felt a headache coming on, triggered by two of my greatest enemies: sun and stress. After this I had scheduled to go see my friend who was home from college, and I was already late. I never thought I’d be here this long. They just kept going and going, and I started thinking about everything I could be accomplishing, the lessons I needed to plan and books I needed to read and questions I needed to get answers to….After about forty minutes of gossip, Sloane remembered I was there.
“We’re probably going to scare her away,” she joked.
I felt like I needed to say something, so I offered, “No, I like listening and getting some background about the kids.” When in doubt, throw out a buzzword. Background seemed to suit perfectly.
But Sloane wasn’t done sympathizing with my shy self.
“We must be too loud for you,” she said.
“No, I know speech people are crazy,” I said. Just kidding. I only thought this, but decided on a more tactful response: “I’m not outgoing, but I’ve always enjoyed talkative people.” I hoped I didn’t sound like I was on a reality dating show.
Melanie continued chatting after we’d carried the leftovers to her kitchen.
“Don’t get overwhelmed,” she reassured me. “You’re going to be fine. It’s a lot at first, especially in this district, but most of the kids are great, and you just have to take it one step at a time.”
“I’m trying to. Thanks.” I appreciated the encouragement.
“We all feel overwhelmed, between teaching and speech and family, and Sloane’s in grad school, and I just need to write my thesis, but I haven’t been able to find the time.”
She should have quit while she was ahead. I was actually starting to feel somewhat reassured. Then I realized that these women, who were years into their careers, were still desperately busy, trying to hold their lives together while their jobs sapped every bit of life and energy from them. I didn’t know what to say, so I waited, counting on Melanie to fill the silence before it became awkward. She came through.
“Rebecca thinks you’re brilliant; she was going on about how you got a perfect Praxis II score.”
“Yeah, that whole testing process is kind of a joke,” I said, trying to take the attention off of myself. “I mean, just because you’re a good test-taker doesn’t mean you’ll be a good teacher.”
“True, but at least it helped you get the job.” And there you have it: they hired me because of the score that I was told didn’t mean anything. I was hired because I’m naturally a good test-taker. Perhaps that is oversimplifying; I knew someone who worked there, and I didn’t blow the interviews. But her statement probably revealed some of the school’s most deep-seated values.
At least it worked out for me.
Or did it?

Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture

What does it mean to shake the dust from your feet?

a. A necessary practice before entering your tent when you wear flip-flops in Florida.
b. Giving up on unresponsive outreach.
c. A cultural insult for first-century Jews.
d. A dance move from the same family as “Shake it like a Polaroid picture!”
e. Insulting your unresponsive outreach.

Two of the above are correct in relation to the New Testament meaning. It’s not that hard to spot the obviously wrong answers, but what exactly does it meant to follow Christ’s dust-shaking command? Is it ever appropriate to call it quits on someone who doesn’t want God’s grace? The disciples’ example unlocks the confusion regarding how to apply this strategic principle.

Jesus said “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:10-11). This command is found in all of the synoptic gospels. Jesus was referring to the Jewish custom performed when leaving Gentile territory: the Jewish person would remove all the dust from his feet and clothes, symbolizing dissociation from the pollution of a pagan land and its coming judgment. Just imagine how shocked the Jews felt when the disciples, fellow Jews, practiced this cultural insult when leaving unresponsive towns. They were in effect calling God’s chosen people pagans and warning of God’s judgment if they didn’t repent and believe.

Let’s see when and how the apostles applied the principle in Acts:

“But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the learned men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:50-52).

“But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6-7).

It’s clear in both cases that Paul and company were being persecuted. Were they just giving up when the work got tough? Or were they applying the Master’s command appropriately? We know the apostles endured much persecution, from shipwrecks and beatings to imprisonment and ultimately death. If all but one of the apostles were killed for their faith, it seems silly to assume they gave up too soon in these passages. Rather, the people’s response indicated total hostility toward God. It wasn’t Paul or Barnabus they were rejecting, but God’s authority.

Shaking the dust should never be applied to someone who does not understand the gospel. It is for those who can clearly communicate the gospel message and yet willfully reject it. I’ve heard people say, “I’d rather suffer in hell forever than be in heaven with that kind of God” or “I want to pay for my sins by myself.” Unresponsive people may show outward hostility, such as reviling Christians or denouncing God. Others are passive about their opposition and may roll their eyes, stop listening, or quietly avoid the relationship. In any case, be sure the person is not a genuinely confused seeker. Determining this requires prayer, discernment, and input from other Christians. Time is also an important factor because many people who are initially hostile, perhaps because of bad experiences or misconceptions of Christianity, will become curious and open over time.

Implied in the literal meaning of shaking the dust is an appropriate cultural insult. To “shake the dust” is to insult an unresponsive person or people before moving onto someone else. It is a concept important in harvest theology, which says that we should evaluate results to determine effectiveness and future methods. In specific, we should work with those who respond and let those who are hostile know they’re wrong. The equivalent insult in our culture is essentially saying, “You’re wrong,” in an emphatic but loving way. This meaning can be expressed in a number of ways, but it’s important to warn of God’s judgment, as the original gesture implied. Ask “When you stand before God one day, what will you say to him?” or make a statement to that effect.

In the end, shaking the dust reflects a healthy respect for free choice, a key theme in the Bible. Jesus illustrated in the parable of the soils that many times, the seed of the gospel is lost before it comes to fruition. In Matthew 7:14 He said “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Humanity’s pride and Satan’s deception so often prevent people from entering the narrow gate to the Kingdom of a God who graciously paid for all sins, but respects the choice to reject such forgiveness.

Shaking the dust is not the same as giving up. It is the only method with the potential to effect people who are hard-hearted and unwilling to respond to God’s grace. In the long run such a seemingly harsh measure is the only approach that might penetrate their hearts and stimulate responsiveness to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. There is no indication that shaking the dust means we should never return to that person, but it may be years before his/her heart changes. We should continue to pray for the Spirit’s promised conviction regarding their sin, God’s righteousness, and consequent judgment.

Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture

What does it mean to shake the dust from your feet?

a. A necessary practice before entering your tent when you wear flip-flops in Florida.
b. Giving up on unresponsive outreach.
c. A cultural insult for first-century Jews.
d. A dance move from the same family as “Shake it like a Polaroid picture!”
e. Insulting your unresponsive outreach.

Two of the above are correct in relation to the New Testament meaning. It’s not that hard to spot the obviously wrong answers, but what exactly does it meant to follow Christ’s dust-shaking command? Is it ever appropriate to call it quits on someone who doesn’t want God’s grace? The disciples’ example unlocks the confusion regarding how to apply this strategic principle.

Jesus said “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:10-11). This command is found in all of the synoptic gospels. Jesus was referring to the Jewish custom performed when leaving Gentile territory: the Jewish person would remove all the dust from his feet and clothes, symbolizing dissociation from the pollution of a pagan land and its coming judgment. Just imagine how shocked the Jews felt when the disciples, fellow Jews, practiced this cultural insult when leaving unresponsive towns. They were in effect calling God’s chosen people pagans and warning of God’s judgment if they didn’t repent and believe.

Let’s see when and how the apostles applied the principle in Acts:

“But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the learned men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:50-52).

“But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6-7).

It’s clear in both cases that Paul and company were being persecuted. Were they just giving up when the work got tough? Or were they applying the Master’s command appropriately? We know the apostles endured much persecution, from shipwrecks and beatings to imprisonment and ultimately death. If all but one of the apostles were killed for their faith, it seems silly to assume they gave up too soon in these passages. Rather, the people’s response indicated total hostility toward God. It wasn’t Paul or Barnabus they were rejecting, but God’s authority.

Shaking the dust should never be applied to someone who does not understand the gospel. It is for those who can clearly communicate the gospel message and yet willfully reject it. I’ve heard people say, “I’d rather suffer in hell forever than be in heaven with that kind of God” or “I want to pay for my sins by myself.” Unresponsive people may show outward hostility, such as reviling Christians or denouncing God. Others are passive about their opposition and may roll their eyes, stop listening, or quietly avoid the relationship. In any case, be sure the person is not a genuinely confused seeker. Determining this requires prayer, discernment, and input from other Christians. Time is also an important factor because many people who are initially hostile, perhaps because of bad experiences or misconceptions of Christianity, will become curious and open over time.

Implied in the literal meaning of shaking the dust is an appropriate cultural insult. To “shake the dust” is to insult an unresponsive person or people before moving onto someone else. It is a concept important in harvest theology, which says that we should evaluate results to determine effectiveness and future methods. In specific, we should work with those who respond and let those who are hostile know they’re wrong. The equivalent insult in our culture is essentially saying, “You’re wrong,” in an emphatic but loving way. This meaning can be expressed in a number of ways, but it’s important to warn of God’s judgment, as the original gesture implied. Ask “When you stand before God one day, what will you say to him?” or make a statement to that effect.

In the end, shaking the dust reflects a healthy respect for free choice, a key theme in the Bible. Jesus illustrated in the parable of the soils that many times, the seed of the gospel is lost before it comes to fruition. In Matthew 7:14 He said “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Humanity’s pride and Satan’s deception so often prevent people from entering the narrow gate to the Kingdom of a God who graciously paid for all sins, but respects the choice to reject such forgiveness.

Shaking the dust is not the same as giving up. It is the only method with the potential to effect people who are hard-hearted and unwilling to respond to God’s grace. In the long run such a seemingly harsh measure is the only approach that might penetrate their hearts and stimulate responsiveness to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. There is no indication that shaking the dust means we should never return to that person, but it may be years before his/her heart changes. We should continue to pray for the Spirit’s promised conviction regarding their sin, God’s righteousness, and consequent judgment.

True Confessions of a Tribal Sissy

After re-reading Keith’s article “Time to Grow Up!” I realized what a sissy I am. I grew up in a tribal home where love was largely defined as compliance. While my parents instilled in me a number of important permanent love values such as responsibility, a good work ethic, and contributing in the family, I found myself completely unable to function socially in the world outside of home. I also suffer from the first-child syndrome: my parents, despite their best efforts to warn me against the idea, left me thinking that I am the center of the universe.

Sissy Meets World

This problem’s first clear manifestation occurred at my preschool program, where I sat revealing my three-year-old panties and sucking my thumb instead of singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and similar fare with the more well-adjusted children. The finale of my performance saw me hurl my carpet square off the stage, an act which was imitated by one of my classmates. Best of all, my parents had the foresight to preserve a video record of my public debut for posterity.

Perhaps my shy nature is mostly to blame, as my more outgoing younger sister did not have the same difficulties. In fact, she gained the title of social butterfly at my kindergarten graduation since she “made more friends there than Kalie did the entire year,” as my parents observed. To what extent nurture and nature are at fault I cannot say, but my inability to relate to others clearly marked me as a tribal sissy from the start.

The situation did not improve over the years; rather I found myself a lonely and isolated teenager who thought myself above befriending brain-dead adolescents. Never mind that hormones left me just as brain-damaged as the next fourteen-year-old. I was different; I was not high school—a noun which became the ultimate adjective-insult in my vocabulary. Thus I found myself alone and lonely at the end of the torment commonly called high school.

Many of you already know the story of how God transformed me from a scared-but-willing college freshman who cried before parties, to a person who cared enough about others to at least carry on a conversation. But the remnants of my tribal sissy past still haunt my relationships and ultimately my sense of significance. I see it in every area of my life: I want to be loved and that means gaining others’ acceptance, approval, and affirmation. I think this often concerns me more than what is good for other people. That’s why I’m too soft on people, while I silently judge them in my heart. It’s why I’m often ineffective at disciplining people, despite my self-righteous convictions that they are so very wrong. When boldness is required, I’m more likely to back off because I fear others’ response to me.

I’m sure this contributed to my failures in discipleship, including but not limited to Missy, Kay, and Jen. And while they each ultimately made their own decision, I think I offered too little too late (especially in the first two cases). I am so scared to repeat these mistakes—I literally have nightmares about it—but if it’s still fear that drives me, I’m doomed for failure again. Because half the reason I’m scared has nothing to do with the well-being of my friends, my cell group, or my home church, and has everything to do with what people will think of me. Once again, I’m after what I falsely define as love, namely, recognition for a job well done.

This worked in my tribe. If I did my chores, practiced my instruments, and didn’t fight with my sisters, I was received as a good daughter. But I misinterpreted my parents’ acceptance for love, and that based on conditions. This is why I was so shocked when they expressed love even after I messed up big time (i.e. “secret car” incident). Their loved turned out to be unconditional, or at least much less conditional that I thought. But this demonstration couldn’t undo nineteen years of my twisted view of love.

Now my sissy self gets discouraged at the slightest hint of defeat because I feel threatened. And I react with ugly immaturity, sometimes sophisticatedly masked and sometimes not. Like a child who throws a fit after losing a game, I metaphorically suck my thumb and throw my carpet square by crying and blurting stupid, proud, fatalistic statements. While I know my tantrum-declarations aren’t true, my feelings overwhelm and conquer me in a classic example of infantile behavior.

Tantrums--cuter on kids than adults

While I’ve become more mature according to the world and can now initiate conversations, build friendships, and maintain even difficult relationships, I’m still far from spiritual maturity. I want to be able to serve with humility, no longer seeking others’ approval and admiration. I want to disciple with authority, fervently and boldly pursuing what is best for the other person regardless of her reaction. I want to stop fearing failure, take my identity from Christ, and remember that I answer to God. I want to stop demanding to be loved the wrong way, whether it’s with tantrums or subtleties, and start loving the right way, God’s way. And although my negative sissy self whispers that it’ll never happen, I’ve already experienced God’s victorious love output in my life, and I know that He can continue to lead me in a life of love that conquers.

True Confessions of a Tribal Sissy

After re-reading Keith’s article “Time to Grow Up!” I realized what a sissy I am. I grew up in a tribal home where love was largely defined as compliance. While my parents instilled in me a number of important permanent love values such as responsibility, a good work ethic, and contributing in the family, I found myself completely unable to function socially in the world outside of home. I also suffer from the first-child syndrome: my parents, despite their best efforts to warn me against the idea, left me thinking that I am the center of the universe.

Sissy Meets World

This problem’s first clear manifestation occurred at my preschool program, where I sat revealing my three-year-old panties and sucking my thumb instead of singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and similar fare with the more well-adjusted children. The finale of my performance saw me hurl my carpet square off the stage, an act which was imitated by one of my classmates. Best of all, my parents had the foresight to preserve a video record of my public debut for posterity.

Perhaps my shy nature is mostly to blame, as my more outgoing younger sister did not have the same difficulties. In fact, she gained the title of social butterfly at my kindergarten graduation since she “made more friends there than Kalie did the entire year,” as my parents observed. To what extent nurture and nature are at fault I cannot say, but my inability to relate to others clearly marked me as a tribal sissy from the start.

The situation did not improve over the years; rather I found myself a lonely and isolated teenager who thought myself above befriending brain-dead adolescents. Never mind that hormones left me just as brain-damaged as the next fourteen-year-old. I was different; I was not high school—a noun which became the ultimate adjective-insult in my vocabulary. Thus I found myself alone and lonely at the end of the torment commonly called high school.

Many of you already know the story of how God transformed me from a scared-but-willing college freshman who cried before parties, to a person who cared enough about others to at least carry on a conversation. But the remnants of my tribal sissy past still haunt my relationships and ultimately my sense of significance. I see it in every area of my life: I want to be loved and that means gaining others’ acceptance, approval, and affirmation. I think this often concerns me more than what is good for other people. That’s why I’m too soft on people, while I silently judge them in my heart. It’s why I’m often ineffective at disciplining people, despite my self-righteous convictions that they are so very wrong. When boldness is required, I’m more likely to back off because I fear others’ response to me.

I’m sure this contributed to my failures in discipleship, including but not limited to Missy, Kay, and Jen. And while they each ultimately made their own decision, I think I offered too little too late (especially in the first two cases). I am so scared to repeat these mistakes—I literally have nightmares about it—but if it’s still fear that drives me, I’m doomed for failure again. Because half the reason I’m scared has nothing to do with the well-being of my friends, my cell group, or my home church, and has everything to do with what people will think of me. Once again, I’m after what I falsely define as love, namely, recognition for a job well done.

This worked in my tribe. If I did my chores, practiced my instruments, and didn’t fight with my sisters, I was received as a good daughter. But I misinterpreted my parents’ acceptance for love, and that based on conditions. This is why I was so shocked when they expressed love even after I messed up big time (i.e. “secret car” incident). Their loved turned out to be unconditional, or at least much less conditional that I thought. But this demonstration couldn’t undo nineteen years of my twisted view of love.

Now my sissy self gets discouraged at the slightest hint of defeat because I feel threatened. And I react with ugly immaturity, sometimes sophisticatedly masked and sometimes not. Like a child who throws a fit after losing a game, I metaphorically suck my thumb and throw my carpet square by crying and blurting stupid, proud, fatalistic statements. While I know my tantrum-declarations aren’t true, my feelings overwhelm and conquer me in a classic example of infantile behavior.

Tantrums--cuter on kids than adults

While I’ve become more mature according to the world and can now initiate conversations, build friendships, and maintain even difficult relationships, I’m still far from spiritual maturity. I want to be able to serve with humility, no longer seeking others’ approval and admiration. I want to disciple with authority, fervently and boldly pursuing what is best for the other person regardless of her reaction. I want to stop fearing failure, take my identity from Christ, and remember that I answer to God. I want to stop demanding to be loved the wrong way, whether it’s with tantrums or subtleties, and start loving the right way, God’s way. And although my negative sissy self whispers that it’ll never happen, I’ve already experienced God’s victorious love output in my life, and I know that He can continue to lead me in a life of love that conquers.