From Pumpkin head to Confident Teacher

Pumpkinhead at the age of 3

I literally “woke up like dis.” Look at my hair.

In a recent post I introduced you to my colleague Lady Snark or Maria M, if you want to be formal. Remember she came up with the winning entry for my winter cold comments?

Let me tell you a bit about Lady Snark.

She is a Brooklyn native, writer, technological wizard, and cock-eyed optimist. And a darn good teacher who cares passionately about her students.

She also blogs about education and her experiences in the classroom.  Check out Maria’s blog.

Before you head over to Maria’s blog, read her guest post below about her transformation from a Pumpkin head to competent and confident woman.

Pumpkin head. That was my nickname.

I grew up ugly. Actually I was born ugly. All babies are supposedly cute, but my grandmother nailed it. “Pumpkin head.” I had a huge noggin and fat cheeks and was a rather big baby. And I looked like a boy until I was age three.

Things didn’t improve until much later: age twenty-five. I went through bad teeth, big glasses, unfortunate haircuts and the fashion of the 1980s and 1990s.

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up so fashion was not a concern my parents took too seriously. And my dad’s family insisted on baptizing my matrilineal Jewish three-year-old behind, much to the chagrin of my mother’s family. (But it did not negate my Jewishness.)

As I approached my quarter life, I did not go through a crisis, but a transformation.

I moved out of my parents’ home, got hired as a teacher and began to forge a life for myself. I began taking control of my life and my image. I dressed better, put more care into my appearance and looks…for ME.

In my predominantly religious Jewish neighborhood, I am an old maid. I should have married years ago and be on my third child by now. Even my accountant, who congratulates my success, laments the lack of a “nice Jewish boy” in my life. I smile politely. I check my shoulder for an expiration date. None exists.

No ill-conceived baptism or lack of nuptials negates my femininity. Or Jewishness. I am an independent Reform Jewish female.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I stopped caring about others’ opinions.

Maybe it was when I found my apartment on my own, while working a $300-a-week job.

Or when I realized that having two degrees by age twenty-three was an accomplished feat.

Or when it was when I bought and assembled my own furniture.

Or when I found my first teaching job (in the South Bronx) without any connections.

Or when I decided I wanted straighter teeth and paid for it in small increments thanks to insurance and a steady paycheck.

Or when I decided I am beautiful and comfortable in my own skin.

Or  when I decided to not get angry with the naysayers, because I wanted to be better than that.

Or when I got out of a miserable relationship that was weighing down my very soul and knew I could do better.

Or when I decided in my fourth year of teaching that the feeling of hopelessness I felt four months into teaching was not how I wanted to experience my career.

Or when I finally found a school that makes me happy and made me fall in love with my profession all over again.

Or when I decided I determine my own happiness as a [single] woman, a Jew, a teacher, and a human being.

As Robert Frost said: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” And I will go on, embracing positivity and using my newfound power to make others and myself happy.

Summer Boy vs. School Boy

182One of the beauties of blogging is coming across blogs/blogger whose story you can relate to. This is true of today’s guest Kelly from My Twiced Baked Potato

Kelly, whose blog I have been following for some time, has a son who has some similar challenges to BR.  Therefore, I often find myself being able to relate and empathize with the blogs posts on My Twiced Baked Potato

Another similarity is education. Kelly is a working elementary teacher with a MA in Curriculum Development.  She is passionate about literacy, gifted education & working so that all kids can be successful in school!  She started her blog as a way to share information about twice-exceptional children and discovered a community.

Read the post below to learn more about her son and how he feels about the approaching school year.

As I turned the calendar from July to August, I sighed aloud.  This signifies the unavoidable transformation of my son from “Summer Boy” to “School Boy.”


Summer Boy has freckled, sun-kissed cheeks, a relaxed body and a grin from ear to ear.  He moves without careful consideration of his surroundings and is confident and funny; he asks questions that spark further investigations and reminds him of previous games or stories.

130The slower schedule with less “have tos” are a contributing factor to his happiness quotient.  He reads and practices math skills with little re-teaching necessary.  In between the computer time, academics and a few chores, he loves technology and his self-taught skills which he proudly shares.

Summer Boy feels good about himself; he breaks into spontaneous song or dance and periodically spends significant energy making others laugh.  He loves July because of his birthday, Fourth of July and the freedom that accompanies this special month.

Once August begins, it is as if someone turned a giant hour glass timer over.  As the sand steadily pours out, Summer Boy is forced to morph into School Boy.


This transformation happens before Labor Day. He takes on noticeable physical changes, as obvious as the color change of an Arctic Fox.  He wears hunched shoulders and his eyes look down.  There is less laughing and sharing and more tightness in his arms and legs.

Many are first turned off by School Boy’s unexpected behavior, poor social skills, and sarcastic wit.  He appears arrogant to the untrained eye, and his definite opinions and inability to take suggestions well make it hard to approach him with an open mind.

When you co-exist with the recently transformed School Boy, there is a lot of walking on egg shells and carefully choosing your words so that he doesn’t implode.  The torture of adjusting to new policies, new environment, new classmates and a new teacher challenge School Boy and his loved ones.  Even with careful monitoring, School Boy needs weekends and after school hours to refuel and recover.

In first grade, there were frequent visits to the principal’s office and daily emails listing the poor choices and infractions from the day.  This transformation went on well into January.

In second grade, the progression was smoother and only proved to be hard until October.  Each year, thankfully, the transition seems to grow shorter!

School Boy turns into “Settled Boy.”


Settled Boy is not convinced that school is a place for him.  He gets used to the work and most days are tolerable for him.  At times, he sees moments of importance and even shows a bit more of his gifts to a select few.

I’m sure that I’m not alone at questioning the acceptance of Settled Boy and his desire to just “get through the school days because nothing is interesting to me!”  This might be the very reason why some families home school.  Could that mean that “Summer Boy” would be present all the time?

Today we returned from the last vacation of the summer, and I saw my precious boy looking at the calendar.  He is fully aware of his own transformation and the difficulty that the beginning stages of “School Boy” takes on him and our family.

Now that it is August, what does the transformation from summer to school look like in your home?  Do you yearn for more days with Summer Boy?