Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Random self-indulgent ramblings

ABDMom has a lovely piece on the joys of her daughter. I was reflecting on it today, driving home from my own daughter's preschool, where I had left her red-faced and screaming with rage and despair over my departure. I don't usually take her to school, but with Spring Break, I'm available and, by God, I am her mother, after all. I know the staff wanted me to leave more quickly, and I'm well aware that her tantrums subside almost immediately (both from their reports and my own surreptitious surveillance), but somehow it goes against the gut impulse of parenthood to walk away from my child when she so desperately pleads with me to stay. Now the part where she toys with me by insisting I pick up the items she intentionally tosses on the floor is not nearly so gripping...I can say no to that sort of manipulation, at least most of the time.

I think ABDMom captures so many of the things I, too, found unexpected about motherhood:
This is what I have learned from being her mother: it's so much more fun that I ever thought it could be, and I like her so much in addition to loving her.
[. . .]
I know these things sound small; that's because they are. But again, I completely underestimated how much I would love these small moments. Watching her sleep so peacefully next to me, seeing the enjoyment she gets from the dog licking her fingers, hearing her feet pound the floor and her scream of laughter as BH chases her...I never imagined how much enjoyment I would get out of those moments. Before Pistola arrived, I truly thought life with her would be drudgery (no wonder I was reluctant to have kids!), and I am just amazed by how she proves me wrong about that every day. Not that she doesn't try my patience at times--neither of us are saints! And it's not that there isn't a lot of grunt work to child-rearing--there is. But the rewards are just...well, amazing.

There's a lot more--read it. I feel the same way about my daughter; the surprise is not how much I love her, but how much pure enjoyment she brings. I was well-prepared, intellectually, for the difficulties. And there are a lot. I've yet to find that fabulous balance my academic friends boasted of, wherein they completed their dissertations or wrote articles in the 2 hour nap gaps because that's the time they have. I'm no more efficient, and still seem to require ten hours of computer time to do 2 hours decent work. But what still surprises me is how much I enjoy those days off when I am just her mother. Don't get me wrong; after a few days of that, I'm eager to get back to blogging, teaching, writing, and conversing with adults. But she does add a dimension to my life that is, if not completely unanticipated, an ongoing epiphany. There's something about loving someone this much that really has (gulp) made me a gentler, kinder person (pointed pedagogical disclaimers aside).

I recently heard this report on NPR about the Call Me Mister program at Clemson University. The goal is to get more black men into elementary school classrooms. I thought the piece and the program provided an interesting corollary to the Lawrence Summers flap. [I also liked bell hooks's reply to a Seattle newspaper columnist about the Summers debate:
hooks is a mixture of sweetness and brutal candor, possessed of a keen intellect and eager to offer an opinion on just about everything. When I met her for coffee, I had a long list of topics we might discuss. She said she was going to be talking about men and patriarchy that night at Town Hall, so I asked her about the recent conflagration over Harvard's president.

"There's nothing interesting about Harvard," she said. That was not the answer I had expected, which is often the case with hooks.

"Typical of the way our nation organizes its hierarchy, we make too much of these institutions like Harvard. The most interesting place of education in the United States is the public school and our failure to create excellence there.

"I think people would rather talk about Larry Summers than talk about why as a nation are we failing when it comes to creating public schools where children of all classes and all races and all languages can effectively learn to read and write. There is no hope of poor kids going to the Harvards of the world if they aren't getting a basic quality education, which we should all be able to get in the public schools."

"Look at somebody like me growing up in small-town America. My mother working as a maid, my father working as a janitor, seven kids.

"What is the space of possibility that comes into my life that allows me to become bell hooks. The space of possibilities were two public institutions that I support with my whole being ... the public school and the public library."

I like that she neatly skewers the public's institutional bias, and our preference for personal and specific targets over the more substantive but difficult-to-grasp problems. I don't think that the Summers brouhaha is irrelevant, but I do wish we could work up similar public outrage/ enthusiasm for these broader issues.]

But to get back to "Call Me Mister." I found myself applauding the program, and the young men who saw themselves as important role models among communities particularly at risk of lacking male role models. My daughter's preschool has one male teacher, and I was horrified at how surprised I was to see him. On the one hand, I want to resist the idea that male teachers automatically bring something to the classroom that women don't; on the other hand, having seen my friends' sons display behavior that appears innately male, I have to wonder. Certainly I can evade the question with a reference to social conditioning; kids of both sexes learn to read adults according to the general sex categories, and to respond in ways that are socially dictated. But I then worry that such a position plays into the hands of those who insist that the only "appropriate" family consists of a female mother and male father. On the other hand, until we have a perfectly gender-equitable society (not gender neutral, but collaborative and fair), it makes a lot of sense to me that kids need male role models early and often--whether at home, at school, or both. And too many don't get that.

I'm also delighted at a program that targets men for so-called "service" positions, and appeals to them on the basis of making that proverbial difference in society. On the other hand (I have a lot of hands here, and they're all pointing in different directions, like an "I Dream of Jeannie" episode gone haywire), it concerns me that once again the ranks of teachers are being pulled from among the socially marginalized. It's well documented that in professions like teaching, the influx of women has coincided with decreasing prestige and economic rewards. My elementary school had several male teachers, who supported families on their salaries. Now schools have fewer and fewer men, and the positions are filled more and more with women whose incomes are "secondary" (their characterization, not mine)--supporting things like vacations, college educations, and other "luxuries."

I just worry that programs should also exist to target white college men. And I'm not proposing some counter-discrimination argument here. I just think we need to see public schools and the students they serve as a central part of American culture--not as a fallback for those who can't go to private schools. We need ways to feed some of that social prestige associated with male teachers back into our classrooms. To do otherwise is to risk turning many of our schools into the socially marginalized serving the more socially marginalized, while the real social and economic power is more and more firmly vested in wrinkly old white male hands.


At 5:22 PM , Blogger Laura said...

My son wants to be an elementary school teacher (he's only 9, but still I think the desire is genuine). I think he really likes this age group and the variety of things they get to study. I talked to him about how there's not many men teaching at that level. He thought it odd (there are no men at his school). Diversity everywhere is a wonderful thing.

I really like the bell hooks stuff. She is so right.

At 2:22 PM , Anonymous personal development said...

Neurolinguistic Programming

In the early 1970s in America Richard Bandler, then a young college student studied the work of Fritz Perls and later Virginia Satir and found that he could reproduce their high-level therapy skills to a degree that even surprised him. Bandler seemed to have a natural ability to mimic (model) the language patterns by Virginia and Fritz.

At the University of California at Santa Cruz, Bandler who was well versed in the teachings of patterns in mathematics and computers teamed up with a college professor, John Grinder to help him understand the processes that were at work. Soon Bandler and Grinder, who used what he knew about patterns in linguistics, created a new model for personal growth called NeuroLinguistic Programming.

Bandler and Grinder had set out to model the hypnotic skills of Milton Erickson. They had astounding results. They built a communication model about human "thinking" and "processing" and used that model of how we see images, hear sounds, reproduces smells and tactile experiences in our mind to track and model the structure of subjective experiences.

Sounds very complicated but really it works very simply. Here is an example as used by Paul McKenna - probably the best & most successful hypnotist in the world.

Close your eyes and think of a negative memory. Become involved in the situation as best as you can. Feel the emotions that you felt, see the things you saw and hear the things you heard.

Now take that memory and project it onto a mental screen seeing yourself in the picture. Put a frame around the picture and view it as if it is an old photograph. Next drain all the colour from the picture and shrink the screen to the size of a matchbox.

Have the feelings associated with the picture decreased in any way?

Another good example of NLP involves Anchors. Have you ever smelt a certain perfume or aftershave and had it remind you of a certain person or situation? Gone to a certain place that brings feelings long forgotten flooding back? Or been in any situation that creates emotional responses that would not normally be associated with it? Well if you can answer yes to any of these then you have experienced anchors. Some anchors are associated with positive feelings and some with negative emotions. However, you should be aware that anchors can be consciously installed or already existing ones altered. Here is an example:

Think of a time when you were really happy. If you can't think of one then imagine something that would make you feel really happy. See what you would see, hear what you would hear and feel what you would feel. Really get into the picture and try to experience it as though it were happening now.

Now brighten the colours and make them richer. Increase the volume. Make the picture bigger, brighter, louder. That's it and more and more....

Now press your first finger against your thumb and fully experience your happy feelings. Do this everyday for 2 weeks and you will create an anchor that will instantly recreate these feelings. Whenever you want to feel like that again just press your thumb and first finger together and wham the feelings will come flooding back! Don't believe me? Just try it and see!!! hypnosis

At 7:01 PM , Anonymous Jodi said...

Many people know the importance of self confidence and try to boost their own by using many different personal development models. Self confidence to most people is the ability to feel at ease in most situations but low self confidence in many areas may be due to a lack of self esteem. Low self esteem takes a more subtle form that low self confidence. So if you are tired of feeling not good enough, afraid of moving towards your desires and goals, feel that no matter what you do it is just never good enough, then your self esteem could do with a boost.

Every day we make decisions based on our level of self-esteem. We also exhibit that level of self esteem to those around us through our behaviour. 90% of all communication is non-verbal - it is not what you say but ho you say it that matters! Your body language, tonality and facial gestures can all tell a completely different story to your words. It is our behaviour which influences others and people react to us by reading our non-verbal communications. Have you ever met someone you just didn't like although on the surface they seemed polite and courteous, or you met someone who seemed to speak confidently yet you knew they were really frightened underneath and just displaying bravado?

Parental and peer influences play a major part in moulding our level of self-esteem when we are children and in our early years of adolescence. The opinions of the people closest to us and how they reacted to us as individuals or part of the group was a dominant factor in the processes involved in forming our self esteem.

As adults we tend to perpetuate these beliefs about ourselves and in the vast majority of cases they are ridiculously erroneous. It is time to re-evaluate our opinion of ourselves and come to some new conclusions about these old belief patterns.

Ask yourself some serious question:
Is your long-held view about yourself accurate? Do we respect the sources from which we derived these beliefs? Most of the negative feedback we bought into as we were growing up actually came from people we have little or no respect for and as adults we would probably laugh their comments away! Yet the damage to your self esteem was done when you were very young and you still carry it with you to this day.

Is it possible that even those people you respected, who influenced your self-worth, were wrong? Perhaps they had low self esteem also.

As adults we have the opportunity to reshape our self-esteem. Try to judge accurately the feedback you receive from people you respect. This process will allow you to deepen your understanding of yourself and expand your self-image. It will also show you were you actually need to change things about yourself and were you don't. Many people are striving to better themselves in areas where they are just fine or actually excelling and it is only because they have an inaccurate picture of themselves in their minds due to low self esteem!

Setting small goals and achieving them will greatly boost your self-esteem. Identify your real weakness and strengths and begin a training program to better your inter-personal or professional skills. This will support you in your future big life goals and boost your self-esteem and self confidence to high levels you didn't existed!

Learn to recognise what makes you feel good about yourself and do more of it. Everyone has certain things that they do which makes them feel worthwhile but people with low self esteem tend to belittle these feelings or ignore them.

Take inventory of all the things that you have already accomplished in your life no matter how small they may seem. Recognise that you have made achievements in your life and remember all the positive things that you have done for yourself and others. Take a note of your failures and don't make excuses like "I'm just not good enough" or "I just knew that would happen to me", analyse the situation and prepare yourself better for the next time. If someone else created success, regardless of the obstacles, then you are capable of doing the same! Remember everyone has different strengths and weakness so do not judge your own performance against that of another just use them as inspiration and know that what one human being has achieved so can another!

Surround yourself with people who respect you and want what is best for you - people who are honest about your strengths and will help you work through your weakness. Give the same level of support to them!

Avoid people who continually undermine you or make you feel small. These people are just displaying very low self esteem. As your own self esteem grows you will find that you are no longer intimidated by another's self confidence or success and you can actually be joyful for them! Do things you love to do and that make you happy. A truly happy person never has low self esteem they are too busy enjoying life! By getting busy living your life with passion and joy you will not be able to be self-consciousness.

If you find yourself feeling self-conscious in any situation focus on the fact that others can tell and many of them will be feeling the same. Be honest. People respond to someone better if they openly say "To tell you the truth I'm a bit nervous" rather than displaying bravo or fake confidence that they can see right through. Their reactions to you, will show your mind at a deep level, that there was actually nothing to be frightened of and everything is great. If someone reacts to this negatively they are just displaying low self esteem and very quickly you will find others noticing this! Really listen to people when they talk to you instead of running through all the negative things that could happen in your head or focusing on your lack of confidence. People respond to someone who is truly with them in the moment..

Breath deeply and slow down. Don't rush to do things.

Stop the negative talk! 'I'm no good at that' or "I couldn't possibly do that" are affirmations that support your lack of self esteem. Instead say "I have never done that before but I am willing to try" or "how best can I do that?". Which leads us to the last point - the quality of the questions you ask yourself s very important.
When you ask a question it almost always has a preposition in it. For example, "How did I mess that up?" presumes that something was messed up, a better way of phrasing the question would be "what way can I fix this quickly?", as this presumes you can and will fix it. Or "How am I ever going to reach my goal?" could be rephrased as "what way will lead me to my goal quicker" presumes that you are going to reach your goal! Get the picture? Change the quality of your questions and your results will change!

Practise these techniques and watch your self esteem rise day by day. personal development


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