A Affection. I tell my son that Mommies never run out of hugs and kisses. I don’t think you can tell a child “I love you” too much. And I apply this belief to my students. Even after teachers are told not to touch their students, I do. I hug them, kiss the tops of their heads, share high-fives, and give a pat on the back or a shoulder squeeze during a lesson. Children are children, and I believe there is great comfort and reassurance derived from the human touch.
B Books. I have been a book lover for as long as I can remember. I remember escaping into the worlds Beverly Cleary created for Ramona and Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High. As a teacher, every classroom I have taught in has a designated library corner, complete with comfy pillows and an abundance of books. I believe every child should own new books, I believe books make wonderful gifts for every occasion, and books should be treated carefully.
C Coupons. I watched my mom shop with coupons out of economic necessity. When I moved out on my own, I followed in her footsteps. My finances are much better now, but even so, I don’t grocery shop without my coupons. I work too hard for my money to over-pay for salad dressing or paper towels.
D Dinner. Dinner isn’t fancy in our house, but it is a family event. I start my day earlier than my husband and son. Lunches are spent at work. But dinner is our chance to sit as a family, and as much as we can, we do. Whether it’s chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, most dinners are eaten together.
E Education. As a teacher, and life-long student, I think the most important thing we can do for society is educate ourselves. All things fall apart without an education. Somehow, someway, someone (hopefully) will realize that education is a domino effect - and once you start cutting education, all aspects of our society will suffer.
F Family. Over the years, my family has changed. I’ve lost some relationships (silence is powerful) and gained others (my four-year-old son). For my family, those I am in contact with, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. I would step in front of a train for any of them.
G Guns. I am strongly anti-gun. I just don’t see why most people need one or what good can come from owning one.
H Hate. I don’t like the word. It’s an ugly word, especially when used to express your feelings about a person. In my classroom, we don’t say the word - whether we’re discussing social studies, Hitler, or a classmate. We “strongly dislike.”
I Identity. I was never a person who wanted to be like everyone else. As an adult, I don’t want to be the woman who looks like all the other women walking through the shopping mall. I am proud to have my own identity, to be me.
J Jewelry. My parents have pictures of a preschool-age-me wearing a plastic necklace, plastic clip-on earrings, and plastic bracelets. The material has changed, but I’m still the same jewelry-wearing-Wendy. I own a multitude of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. I take pleasure in matching my accessories to my outfits.
K Kids. No child was asked to be born into this world, and once they are here, it’s our responsibility to take care of them, nurture them, provide for them, and support them. Child-related charities receive regular donations from me.
L Love. I don’t think you can tell someone you love them too often. For those I love, I tell them, always. I tell them during phone conversations and in person. I write it on emails and cards.
M Manners. It seems so simple, yet they are so often over-looked. Saying “please,” “Thank you,” and “excuse me” really do make a difference. People respond more positively when you interact with them in a more polite manner. I am constantly reminding my fourth-grade students to ask for things, “May I please get my bottle of water” rather than “I forgot my bottle of water.”
N Not smoking. As an asthmatic, smoking wasn’t an option. I didn’t like the smell, didn’t understand why people wanted to smoke. I saw it as a waste of money. It made your breath smell, your clothes smell, and your lungs turn black. Then, I fall in love with a man who smokes. He did quit thirteen years ago, and I am adamant that my son will know why we don’t smoke and why he shouldn’t smoke.
O Obeying rules. You can call me a “goody-goody” if you want, but I really do believe that most rules should be followed. When the sign says “no left turn,” that means everyone. When a parking spot is designated for the handicapped, a car should be displaying the proper placard, and there should be someone inside the car who legitimately needs the placard.
P Pattern, practice, routine, schedule. Call it what you will, but I have one. For many areas of my life. I have a pattern for planning my weekly meals based on what’s in my kitchen, what’s on sale each week at the market, and what coupons I have available. I have a routine for paying my bills each week. I have a routine for tucking my son into bed each night. Life is so unpredictable, so uncertain, that I like to give myself the illusion of some sense of control over certain situations.
Q Quality time with my son. As a teacher, I generally leave the house before my son awakens. By the time I come home, I’m craving time with my son. Our time before dinner is our time - our time as dictated by Ryan. Sometimes it’s puzzles. Sometimes it’s playing pretend, sometimes it’s reading the same book over and over. Whatever it is, it is he and I. Me showering my son with hugs and kisses, telling him I love him, I missed him, and how glad I am to see him.
R Respect. That was the only rule my eleventh-grade chemistry teacher insisted on. It encompassed all areas of classroom behavior. It’s what I try to instill in my students on a daily basis. I’m not as interested in a child’s test scores as I am about a child’s character. The world would run so much more smoothly if we all just treated others the way we’d like to be treated.
S Safety. With my son and my students, I am big on safety. Shoelaces need to be tied. Helmets worn. Seat belts buckled. We walk facing forward. We sit with our chairs flat on the ground. And, it’s not just our bodies we need to keep safe. It’s our feelings too. So, we don’t say mean things, things that make others feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves.
T Teaching. As much as I complain about it, I am passionate about teaching. I believe every child has the potential to be respectful, to be honest, and to demonstrate progress. My frustrations are with parents who don’t support the work I am doing, with a government that doesn’t acknowledge that everything begins with education, with indifferent children, and with people who have never taught wanting me to be held accountable for how well a child bubbles in a multiple-choice test.
U Understanding. As much as I can, I try to explain to my son and my students the reasons for my “no.” “No” you can’t stand on the chair because you might fall. “No” you cannot go outside without your shoes because you might get a “boo-boo” on your foot and then you won’t be able to play and jump and run and walk. I know I tend to respond better when I’m given an explanation instead of a flat-out refusal.
V Vacation. I think I anticipate vacation more than my students do. By the time summer rolls around, I’m exhausted. Teaching is not a job that ends at 3:00. It doesn’t have clear-cut days off - my mind is always lesson planning, thinking about something I have to prepare or purchase for my class. Vacation is my time to slow down. Focus on my family and myself. A time to sleep, a time to spend more of my days doing things I really want to do.
W Writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing, always dreamed of being a writer. It’s only been within the last few years that I’ve begun to consider my writing career more seriously. I attend classes. I write several times a week. I submit my work. I publish a weekly blog. I ordered business/contact cards.
X X-mas. Christmas isn’t a religious holiday for me. It also isn’t an excuse for me to go into debt. Instead, Christmas is cinnamon-scented pine cones, a fresh-cut tree decorated with my son and husband. A gingerbread house with icing dripping down to the side. Thinking of thoughtful gifts for those close to me. Holly wreaths, twinkle lights, and a sense of magic in the air.
Y Yearly and monthly pictures. I got the idea from my sister, who used to take her sons to the portrait studio to take their pictures each month and then each year on their birthday. Working full-time, that plan didn’t fit into my schedule, but I still wanted to document my son’s growth. Each 30th of the month, a new picture of Ryan is taken and hung up. And each year on March 30th, I update his “birthday frame” with his latest.
Z Zero tolerance. Most people would describe me as patient, understanding, and forgiving. And, I like to think I am, for the most part. But, when it comes to someone hurting a child, then I have zero tolerance. I can excuse certain thefts (a parent has to feed a child); however, I have zero tolerance or forgiveness for an individual who would willfully inflict pain on a child.