Reschool Yourself

Latest Posts

New Forum, Video Hiatus

1. New Forum

If you’ve wanted to share your own classroom memories, the things you’d still love to learn, or ideas for Reschool Yourself, you’re in luck. The Reschool Yourself forum is finally up and running. Thanks to Stephen for helping shape the forum topics, and to Darren for prettifying the page.

I intend for Reschool Yourself to be not just about my experience, but about all of us grown-ups who find ourselves limited in any way by our schooling. It’s for all of us who still want to learn and do challenging new things — like learn to do a cartwheel at age 28 (yes, I plan to do this) or travel to Egypt after age 70, like my friend Sally. To share ideas and memories, please post your comments on the new forum. I hope that by developing an online community, we can inspire each other to process our experiences of education and move beyond them.

See the Forum page for full descriptions:

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Second Grade, Here I Come

I’m entering my third week of elementary school. So far I’ve spent:

  • 3.5 days in one kindergarten class, beginning with the first day of school
  • 5 days rotating through five first grade rooms, spending the morning in one class and switching to another in the afternoon

I’ll spend this Tuesday through Thursday in second grade, and Friday through next Tuesday in third. (Yes, I’m moving quickly! The teachers think I may be a prodigy.) There are a couple of major changes I want to make:

1. Participate in the kids’ activities more than teaching them as a volunteer. So far, I’ve been experiencing my return to the classroom from an adult perspective, whereas the point is to reconnect with the joy, wonder, and intuition I had as a child. I can go volunteer anytime, anywhere, but this is my chance to learn to be a kid again. I plan to roll Play-Doh, read kids’ books, run around at recess, and build with Legos.

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Exchanging A’s for Cash Money

I’m feeling a bit queasy after reading the ABCNews.com story “Some D.C. Students to Be Paid for A’s” from 8/26/08. Here’s an excerpt:

Will middle school students hit the books, show up on time and be on their best behavior if they’re getting paid?

As Washington, D.C. students start back to school this week, that’s the thinking behind a new program just launched in the district. As early as October at 14 of 28 D.C. middle schools, students will get paid to perform as part of a pilot program that rewards kids for good grades, attendance, and behavior.

Kids could rake in up to $100 per month, getting paid every two weeks through the program.

Behind the program is D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who’s getting a lot of press for her new approaches to old problems. I’m all for new approaches, if they happen to be better than the old ones. Here’s the comment I posted on ABCnews:

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A Fat Guy By Any Other Name Would Still Be a Dicker

What a dicker.

What a dicker.

I think I just hit a goldmine. It will be a boon, at least, for those who want to make fun of my last name not just in English, but in German as well.

For me, this discovery is the most amusing reschooling in etymology, foreign language, and genealogy that I could ever want. Tonight I felt inspired to look up the German translation for “Dicker,” my last name, after reading my future brother-in-law’s blog post about Andy Dick’s recent arrest. Dick accosted a 17-year-old-girl and urinated in public outside a buffalo wings “emporium,” which sounds like a classy joint for a classy guy. The incident just provides further evidence for what I already know: Having “Dick” as part of your name may correlate with a life of crime (Exhibit A: Mr. Cheney). Before you know it, you not only have profanity on your birth certificate, but you also have a permanent record and “Dick” as the fitting caption beneath your mug shot.

My sister Gill and I are proud of our dad’s German heritage and family. We are also staunch feminists. However, since we were little girls, we have dreamed of the day we could get married and change our name to something a little more….humane. Next January 17, Gill will achieve that dream and become a Burgess. I, on the other hand, expect to relive the playground teasing and the “Is that really your last name?” disbelief as Reschool Yourself takes me into the upper grades. (When substitute teaching 4th grade years ago, I found that the kids were still innocent enough to turn my last name teasingly into “Miss Sticker” or “Miss Tigger,” and nothing more. I just about hugged them.)

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A Colorful Cast of Young Characters

Turns out that my hand is twice the size of a first grader's.

Turns out that my hand is twice the size of a first grader's.

It’s been one week since I kicked off the classroom phase of Reschool Yourself, and I have so much to share. The challenge lies, as always, in time. I’ve been busy adding features to the site and will post more writing this weekend.

As I mentioned in the video log, I finished up in the kindergarten on Monday morning and began rotating through the five first grade classrooms. I prefer staying in one class, to build relationships with the kids, but the first grade teachers each needed my help. There are a few benefits of rotating, such as observing different teaching styles for the same age group, getting to know all the teachers — they’re a cool bunch of women — and meeting a variety of kids.

I do miss my kindergarteners! Since I was part of their very first school experience, they seemed to get as attached to me as I did to them. On Friday, due to another meeting, I came late to school (no, I didn’t need a pink tardy slip). When I walked into the kindergarten, several kids bombarded me with hugs around my waist and exclamations like “Where were you?” and “You’re heeere!” With those long eyelashes and baby-toothed grins, those kids turn me into putty in their hands.

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Day 4 Video Logs: Classroom Update & Childhood Journal

Here’s an update on what I’m up to in the classroom this week. Fingerpaintin’, here I come!
(FYI, this was recorded Monday afternoon, 8.25.08)

In the second video, I read from my journal at age 5, to remember who I was at that age. Having spent a lot of time with 5- and 6-year-olds this week, I’ve been trying to piece together what I was like myself. I bet you’ll never guess my answer to “If I could be any famous person, I would be…” (answer at 2:12)


Class photo, 1985-1986

This week I’ll post about:

  • My 6-year-old admirer and other amusing pint-sized characters
  • Kids’ creative answers to “What’s the name of this letter of the alphabet?”
  • Recess, the cafeteria, P.E., and other elementary school memories
  • Wise words from a kindergarten teacher

If you have journal entries or keepsakes from your school days, share them here or on the new forum.

Reschooling Tool #2: Find the Opportunity in Every Challenge

Tonight I broke my digital camera. I had the lens extended to take a photo, and I dropped the camera on the kitchen floor. The lens wouldn’t move, and I reacted as follows:

1. Swore at the top of my lungs.

2. Googled “Fix Digital Camera.” Followed suggestion to hold down the power button while twisting the lens outward. Managed to push the lens back in, but it still wouldn’t extend.

3. Ate half a bar of dark chocolate. I always default to this when at a loss for what else to do.

4. Decided that breaking the camera might be a blessing in disguise.

5. Resolved to use my parents’ camera until I can get a new one.

I’d wanted a different camera anyway, since my camera takes terrible low-light pictures and has recently started shutting itself off randomly. It also has one of those ridiculous docks to download photos, instead of a cable. Since I’ll be documenting my reschooling and travel experiences through photos, it’s essential that they’re good quality and easily transferred. If I hadn’t broken the camera, I probably would have continued to get by with my old one and compromised the quality of Reschool Yourself. So even though I’m still annoyed at myself for being Miss Butterfingers, I choose to believe that the mishap opened up the opportunity for a better quality camera during the early stages of the project.

I can’t say why this is so, whether the universe has some kind of master plan. All I know is that it doesn’t hurt to think that things happen for a reason, that there’s a hidden opportunity in every challenge or mistake. For example, if you miss your flight, consider that perhaps that plane might have had a serious problem, or lost your luggage. Perhaps you will meet someone on your new flight who will become a close friend or romantic partner, or connect you with a job. Maybe you’ll inspire someone or pass on a life-changing recommendation. The best part is that you may not ever know what opportunity arose from a certain challenge, but you can assume that one did — or will in good time.

When things don’t go according to plan, brainstorm the wildest and most positive possibilities that could result. I don’t know yet why I dropped my camera today, but I have some ideas. Maybe it’s so someone will donate a Sony Cybershot camera to the project, ya think?

Update: Through some generous donations, I was able to buy a Sony Cybershot in October. Thank you!

Construction Site

If you’re using Internet Explorer, you may have noticed that the navigation menu and logo on the Reschool Yourself site look all jacked up. The problem is apparently with how the software displays web pages. Explorer is known for its bugginess, so I’d recommend downloading Firefox anyway. It’s free, and apparently available in languages like Belarusian and Gujarati if you happen to speak them.

You’ll notice that the website continues to evolve. I started it knowing very little about web and blog design, and I’ve been improving it a little each day by teaching myself or asking Darren’s help. I’m happy to report that my technophobia is on the decline, and in the last two months I’ve learned a bit about the following:

  • WordPress & other blogging software
  • Transferring files using an FTP site
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Digital filmmaking with iMovie & YouTube
  • Widgets, plug-ins, themes, feeds, and other blog fancifiers
  • Google Ads & Analytics
  • Adobe Photoshop basics

To my fellow tech dinosaurs: If I can learn these things, you can, too. It’s amazing how many how-to’s you can find on the Interweb, and how much your friends can teach you in a few minutes.

If you have requests for features that would make the site easier to use, let me know. For example, some of you have suggested integrating Digg and ClickComments. They’re on the list, so stay tuned. By December, I plan to have reschooled myself in technology and communicate exclusively in binary.

Flickr Creative Commons image courtesy of billjacobus1.

Reschooling Tool #1: Victories & Gratitudes

For all of my adult life, I have kept daily to-do lists that are much longer than I can ever possibly complete. Even though I realize this, I still get upset with myself for not finishing every task. “You didn’t change phone plans, send out resumes, cook dinner, or catch up on emails. What DID you do with your Saturday?”

In order to appreciate what I DID do, I began to write down a list of victories — little and big, as many as I could think of — before bed each day. I found that celebrating even boring accomplishments like “Scheduled dentist appointment” helped me focus on what I had been able to check off the list, rather than what still remained to be done. Recognizing myself for my efforts made me happier and more energized to tackle the next day’s To-Do’s.

Eventually I expanded my “Victories” list to “Victories & Gratitudes,” to include little things that I was grateful for that day: “Amazing chocolate cake,” “Rock Band on PlayStation,” or “Naan ‘n’ Curry” (at least half of the gratitudes are usually food-related). On even my roughest days, I felt pleased about the happy moments I’d been lucky enough to have.

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