Oct. 21st, 2015

olmue: (me sketch)
I just sewed on the seventh different council patch on my son's scout shirt. If I even knew where they all were, I'd take a gigantic photo. There should seriously be some kind of merit badge for moving. The last place we lived had great local leadership, but the district level kind of had an attitude of weeding out all but a few when it came to Eagle projects. Both as a parent and as a scout committee member, I often felt discouraged. Kids would come up with a project and either the district would shoot it down, or the lower levels would have been burned so many times that they'd already know it wouldn't fly. My oldest tried to come up with a project before we left, but there were so many additional things hung on it to guarantee he could push it through the district that he never had time to complete it. (Also, we didn't know where or when we were going until quite late.) And now his 18th birthday is approaching and while the scout leaders here are VERY diligent, I just don't know if it's going to happen. When you don't know an area at all, it's hard to think up good ideas for benefiting that area. And of course, you should never ever wait for your senior year to do this! There are just too many things going on that year that you HAVE to take care of. But when you move every two years, it's really hard to find a time when you CAN. I hate the fact that in so many ways, it looks like my kid has been doing nothing. And yet, all of my kids have had to expend twice the energy to keep up as any "regular" kid who hasn't had that upheaval in their lives. I was reading Cynthia Lord's latest book, A Handful of Stars, while in the DMV the other day (waiting on my almost-18YO who was FINALLY getting a chance to take his drivers' test and get a regular license). It's about a girl who makes friends with the daughter of some migrant blueberry pickers up in Maine. And man, that book should have come with a warning--Do Not Read in Public--because I'm sure the people around me were wondering why I was so sniffly. But I realized that while we might not be in agriculture, but we ARE migrant workers, thanks to the universities' destruction of the tenure system.* And that is HARD.

On the positive side, I'm proud of the hard work my kids HAVE done throughout it all. And glad for all the teachers who have worked with my kids. Herr Zündt, my son's math teacher and principal at his German school, just retired this year. He reached out to this kid who didn't even understand the language, and saw that he was good at math, and gave him a voice through numbers. Coach Allan, who gave my older kids a lifelong guide for personal excellence and the importance of teamwork. Mr. Hansen, who took in kids who joined orchestra late--really late, like YEARS late--and helped them catch up and excel. I'm hoping my kids can somehow write this moving experience into their college entrance essays. Because it takes just as much effort to move frequently, catch up with the weird educational theories du jour in each new place, make new friends, change sports/music, have dreams interrupted, have to build respect from teachers all over again, etc. as it does to be captain of your cheer squad, or be student body president, or whatever the Very Important Extracurricular Activities that applications want in order to Prove You Are Special!!

So when you see new people show up once everyone else is already well established, please reach out. Please remember that while they might be new and time might be short, they probably have something to offer, too. Even if they're just "the rental people." Or the migrant workers. Or the I-don't-know-what-the-parents-were-thinking-to-move-senior-year family.


*Nearly 70% of current US university faculty are now contingent. This doesn't mean the absence of cushy tenure positions where a horrible professor can do no wrong. This means severely, dangerously underpaid positions that come with an end date stamped on them the first day you show up. It's bad for the professors, it's bad for the students, and it's bad for academic freedom.

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