Oh, Boy! by Pete Springer

Who knows when I first met Pete Springer? The guy is amazing. Not only was he an educator for 31 years, he’s published a book on teaching (that I read and reviewed!) and is working on publishing a novel for young adults. In his free time, he continues to influence and praise the work of teachers, administrators, hairstylists, family members, waitresses, and a stray dog that looked like he needed a pat on the head.*

Photo of Pete Springer

His only fault was trusting me, Chel Owens, to write a post over at his blog. At least he was gracious enough to repair some of that damage with a post of his own, below.

I give you: Oh, Boy! by Pete Springer

First, I apologize in advance for the list of stereotypical comments that are about to come. I detest making sweeping generalizations about anything, except lima beans—they all suck! When you’re a guy, you can get away with saying stupid and crude remarks like, “this sucks,” because the bar is set so low, and no one expects us to utter anything resembling intelligence.

Boys? I’ve seen my share of them over the years. After all, I’m the youngest of four boys. I also taught elementary school for 31 years, so I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the biology and maturity of boys and girls.

Photo Credit to Cleyder Duque on Pexels

What people say about girls maturing faster than boys is generally true. I taught in grades 2-6, so I can provide many first-hand accounts to support that opinion. The difference between 2nd and 3rd-grade boys and girls is enormous. (We’re talking Grand Canyon.) I often laughed to myself, looking out at my sea of faces. Most of the girls were attentive and would do anything asked of them.

Meanwhile, boys were often wiggling and unable to sit still. Several times a year, this involved falling out of their chairs. I recall calling a parent once to tell him that his child got injured at school, falling out of his seat.

Just because males are slower to develop than our female counterparts, we must not overlook their creativity. For example, 2nd and 3rd-grade boys don’t look at pencils as tools for writing but as objects to fly through space while making sounds like “speeeesh.” One of the techniques that usually gathered my students’ attention was to stop talking. Awakened from their slumber, they’d look around to see what was happening. “Now that Springer has stopped yammering, maybe I’ll pay attention.” A select few were so oblivious that they didn’t notice the quiet and continued their Apollo space missions while I looked on in wonder.

Speaking of pencils, boys take special pride in sharpening pencils to tiny nubs. I have no idea why this is just a guy thing. Some of my boys would walk up to me in the middle of class to show me their tiny pencils, thinking I’d be impressed. I was not, and even less enthralled when several times a year, they’d get them stuck in the classroom pencil sharpener. My college professors from teacher prep classes neglected to tell me I’d become a skilled surgeon in extricating pencils from the sharpener.

Photo Credit to Pixabay

As boys move into upper elementary school, they become fascinated with jumping. While they no longer fall out of their seats, they have a curious habit of jumping up whenever passing under a doorway. My theory of why this happens is that as boys mature physically, they constantly want to test their bodies. For guys, it’s always about lifting more weight, running faster, and jumping higher. Since I’m declining in all those areas, I look for ways to hang on to my glory days. One of my bedtime rituals is cranking out 40 pushups to prove that I can still do it. 

Another truth for most elementary-aged boys is they love to laugh whenever someone farts. I’ve watched a classroom go from zero noise to uproarious laughter in seconds when someone passes gas. Some 6th-grade teachers like me were brave or foolish enough to take their classes on end-of-the-year sixth-grade campouts as a means of recognizing the end of the elementary school experience. Several times I had to sleep in the same cabin with my boys. With nearly 100% certainty, there came a time when someone would fart, and the rest of the group went into hysterics. What followed predictably was another “accidental” flatulence, and the cycle repeated itself until I instituted a “no farting” rule so that we could go to sleep. It was all rather pointless as there was no way of knowing who the offending parties were in a darkened cabin with twelve boys and no realistic way of enforcing such a stipulation.

People frequently ask me what my favorite grade was to teach, but the truth is there is something extraordinary about every age. I preferred teaching the girls through fourth grade because while the boys were all over the place, the girls were usually eager to please and respectful. By sixth grade, the boys had finally matured (minus the farting), but many of my 6th-grade girls became impossible and downright cruel to one another. While the boys could get quite competitive and sometimes lose their tempers during recess games, there seldom was any carryover once they’d calmed down. By the next recess, everybody was friends again. Unfortunately, such was often not the case with my sixth-grade girls. They had a habit of hanging on to grudges and not being able to let things go quite so quickly.

Photo by Norma Mortenson on Pexels.com

Our upper-grade classroom took on a rather distinctive odor when spring rolled around. I’d describe the smell as a combination of wet dog, vomit, and rotten eggs. The boys, especially those who hadn’t discovered deodorant, were usually the culprits. That was the point I broke out my award-winning hygiene lecture. (Add that to the laundry list of items my college professors failed to communicate.) Upper elementary students are not known for their sensitivity and uttered phrases like, “God, you stink!” to one another. Without fail, some boy would overcompensate by bathing himself in a half bottle of Old Spice aftershave. We all know how brutal that five o’clock shadow can be in 6th grade.

While I like many things about boys, I think it’s time to admit that men have managed to screw up the country after numerous chances. Let’s give the women a chance. Besides, that will provide us with more time to yell at the television during sporting events, drink more beer, and improve our belching and farting skills.

© 2021 Pete Springer


Pete blogs over at https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com His very helpful and interesting book on teaching is available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Mom-Difference-Elementary/dp/1977200052.

Photo of Debbie and Pete Springer

*I have no evidence that Pete patted a dog on the head. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, though, and even took that dog home and gave it a warm meal.

Safer at Home Journal For My Kids, by Kat

From the mind of a far better writer than I, here is Kat of The Lily Café‘s beautiful perspective of this Coronavirus year, in a journal letter to her children:

Dear Kids,

We had so many plans at the beginning of 2020. Museums, beaches, lots of time with your grandparents, a trip to see some cousins up north, zoo visits, and Disneyland at least 3 times. There was Kindergarten graduation, a fun summer, and the start of compulsory school for Brother to look forward to (the last more for Sister and Mom than Brother). It was going to be a fun year.

And then something happened at the end of last year. People in China were getting sick from something unknown. Kids, it turned out to be the coronavirus. Since we have friends and relatives in China, I kept a close eye on it. I watched it spread in Washington and then Northern California. It was only a matter of time before it hit us in L.A.

We had a month and a half before people started to worry, before cases here started to be due to community spread in early March. Our school district was the first to shut down. Honestly, I was ready to pull Brother before then because Dad works with people who travel a lot and I was afraid of infecting his classmates and teachers. Thankfully, the district decided to close for at least 2 weeks.

It turned out to be a lot longer than 2 weeks. It was the rest of the school year. It broke my heart hearing Brother and all of his classmates ask when they were going to be able to go back to school. Back then, school was weird. We were given a list of assignments to complete each day and class was only 30 minutes twice a week. Though it was fun to watch them prepare for graduation. Still, being home instead of the classroom was rough.

The week after the school district closed, our mayor shut down the city. The county and the state followed. We weren’t just doing school from home, we were also stuck at home. It was eerie to see the streets so empty. Weird that Dad took the freeway to and from work because there was suddenly no traffic. Strange to not be able to go to the market every week. Bizarre that Dad had to wait an hour or more outside stores in a long line before he could dash in and get one thing.

March turned into AprilMayJuneJulyAugust. I’m sure it’s the 200th day of March by now. Not really, but it feels like it sometimes. Masks started making their rounds and people couldn’t hug or shake hands anymore. Inside, it got louder with Brother home and Sister becoming more vocal and active as she turned 3. Sister’s was our first pandemic birthday in our family and it was weird to do it over Zoom, but we did get to see relatives who live far away, so there’s one silver lining to this whole pandemic thing.

Summer was almost agonizing. Restrictions started being lifted, reopenings began to roll out. More people emerged from their homes. And then the protests started. Protests for racial justice. Protests calling for police reform. Protesters gathering with and without masks. It was inevitable that cases were going to rise, the deaths were going to rise, the hospitalizations were going to rise. And they did. They all did. Public Health seemed to freak out, and back into our homes we were forced.

Not that it changed much for us. Dad still went to work on a modified schedule and the rest of us just stayed home. No beach trips, no Disneyland trips, just weekly Zoom sessions with family. Since we live in a densely populated area, even going out for walks freaked me out. Being high risk just made me want to stay inside and press myself against windows to soak up every bit of sunshine instead. But it did help that it was just too hot to go outside.

But, with the rise in cases, reopenings turned into more restrictions and closures. And more protests to protest that. We did manage to go out for dinner in early July, near the beach, but I spent the next two weeks anxiously waiting to see if any of us developed symptoms. It was too exhausting, so I decided we were never doing that again.

School started in late August. Fully online. Zoom classes 9-12 Monday-Friday. Asynchronous (school work) became our new least favorite word. Though I have enjoyed getting a bird’s eye view into class for Brother. I love knowing exactly what he’s doing, what he’s supposed to be learning. I hate that he’ll only do his asynchronous work as long as I do it alongside him. I feel like I’m back in First Grade, but that’s kind of okay because I don’t even remember being in First Grade. I’ve loved seeing Brother’s progress. It’s been hard on Sister, though, because she has to keep quiet and I keep going back and forth between her and Brother. She does like to try to get involved in class, though, and I wonder if she’ll remember any of the things Brother is learning. She keeps saying she’s ready for school and wants to go to First Grade. First on the list, though, is becoming fully potty trained. Oh yes, distance learning and potty training have been a real ball. Kids, I do not recommend this. If you remember your mother being a complete nutcase, this is why.

But people have become tired, restless, and disgruntled. As an introvert, I love not being obligated to be anywhere, not having to socialize, and, honestly, neither of you have really complained. But not everyone is like us. And not everyone likes wearing masks. Or keeping their distance. As the year winds down, we’re in a really bad place. Look, my asthma makes wearing a mask difficult. I can’t wear one for more than 30 minutes before I start feeling lightheaded. My inhaler is my accessory. But I’d rather suffer than be infected or infect someone else. So I get mad when I see people not wearing masks, hear people gathering, watch people get close to each other when they don’t live together. I suffer because I want to survive the pandemic, and I can’t help but feel people are too self-centered to do the things that actually protect people, loved ones, so I get angry, and now we’re in trouble. I’m sorry if all you remember from this time is me complaining about people. It’s been so hard keeping both of you inside and I’m sure you’re dreaming of playgrounds, but just thinking of all the unsafe things people are doing when Dad and I are both high risk makes me too anxious.

Deep breath. Kids, as I write this, we’re basically back on lockdown. Our governor, idiot and hypocrite though he is, has divided the state into regions and decided that, should the percentage of available ICU beds drop below 15%, the whole region will go back into a stay at home order. That happened in early December for us. The last number I had was 5% of ICU beds in the Southern California region were available. That was December 12th. We wear masks, stay home, and keep our distance in order to protect our healthcare workers. Part of me wants to be mean and hope people start going to the hospitals, only to find there are no beds available and not enough healthcare workers to take care of them. But that is a terrible thought. Instead, I’m wishing, hoping, and praying we can finally do what we need to do in order to actually save lives.

We broke 10,000 cases in one day on December 6th; 12,000 on December 10th; and 13,000 on December 11th. That was our county alone. It’s been climbing. Hospitalizations are at an all time high. Deaths are starting to creep up. There is absolutely no way we’re going anywhere any time soon. Dad is even working from home more often now. This is so much worse than it was over the summer, and, honestly, I’m scared. What if Dad and I do become infected? We’re both high risk and we would both end up in the ICU. If there are beds left. At this point, getting infected would be a death sentence for us. And we’d leave both of you orphans. It’s scary, and it makes me mad. It makes me want to lash out at people. I’m scared silly of leaving both of you alone, and I’m hoping that, as you’re reading this, I’m still alive and well. And I’m hoping I’m not scaring you too much, but, well, this is what life is like right now. History in the making, I suppose.

Kids, right now, you’re 3 and 6. Both of you are homebodies, so not much is new. Yes, you miss the zoo, beaches, museums, and Disneyland, but I’m so proud of Brother for being so aware that it doesn’t actually bother him. Sister is just too young to realize things are different. Dad and I aren’t hiding anything from you, but we are doing our best to protect you, protect ourselves. I’m hoping your memories of this time are hazy, and you’re focusing more on Christmas right now than how bad our country is. And, oh, yeah, this was an election year. No real clue what’s going on with that, but I’ll update you on January 20, 2021.

But some good things have happened. The US is back to sending astronauts to space from American soil. We got to watch the last SpaceX-NASA test flight with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins via Zoom, as well as the first actual crewed flight to the ISS in mid-November. If anyone asks, the astronauts were in quarantine before leaving Earth, and we’re pretty sure the ISS is the safest place for humans right now.

My darlings, I wish things were different. I wish things were better. But, most of all, I wish you don’t remember this by the time you’re old enough to read this. I especially hope you don’t remember my fear, worry, anger, and frustration, but, if you or your kids have a history project on this point in history, yes, it was really rough. On the bright side, a vaccine is rolling out (shipped December 13th!), with widespread availability by the summer. As scared as I still am, I can’t help but have my fingers crossed you’ll both be in school in the Fall. Safely, of course. Otherwise, if you end up being homeschooled, this is why. If I’ve learned anything this past year, life is all about those silver linings, the little bright spots, and I hope you’ve learned that, too. If not, better hop to it! Mom’s orders.

Love always,
Mom

©2020 Kat of The Lily Café

Photo by Jan Kopu0159iva on Pexels.com

Kat is an intelligent, analytical, creative, thoughtful, honest, and caring writer. She blogs about everything from book reviews to ratio baking to her detailed approach to motherhood to her own serial story, Queen of the Garden Girls. In her spare time, she promotes other bloggers and reads and comments on their work. Kat is also a wife, and mother to two beautiful children. I’ve had the great pleasure to know her since stumbling across her site with my mothering one. Thank you, Kat.