Miss Cardigan's Blog

Instilling Catholic Values, One Middle Schooler at a Time

The dreaded parent phone call… October 18, 2010

Filed under: Modesty,My girls are too young for this...,Teaching — misscardigan @ 1:50 am

I’ve recently had to have two very difficult moral conversations with individual students.  I needed time to digest the incidents leading up to the conversations, and the conversations themselves, but am now ready to share and explore my thoughts…

A few weeks ago, on a Friday, a co-worker came up to me and told me that she needed to discuss something that happened with my students, which was setting them a bit on edge.  Great, I thought to myself, Bring it on.  See, this class is wonderful, energetic, charismatic, and out-going, but they are a little different than my previous classes.  This class is a little more worldly, has had some bullying issues, and developed a very difficult reputation last year because they seriously clashed with one of their teachers.  I’ve been approaching the year as a “great and successful” one…but some days its more difficult than others.

Finally, the co-worker and I were able to find 5 quiet minutes in my classroom for her to tell me that she heard through a student that Darling told a group of girls that she had…let’s just say done something very…advanced…with a boy (again, I teach 8th graders…and yes, we’re talking something more serious than kiss).  Wow, I replied.  I thanked her for letting me know and told her I’d figure out a way to handle it.

My principal (who is fabulous) always tells me how she hates Friday afternoons, basically because that is when the sh** hits the fan (my words, not hers), and it is really difficult to resolve anything because it’s Friday afternoon and everyone is heading out to the weekend.  My co-worker and I talked at about 2:50 on a  Friday.  My principal is very wise.

I finally find my principal after dismissal and say to her “You know how you love Friday afternoons?” Her: “Yeah…” Me: “Well, can we sit and chat for a minute?”  Her: “With that intro, I don’t think I want too.”  As I think to myself…no, you definitely don’t want to, but come on now.

So we sit, and I tell her the whole saga. about Darling.  Long story short, we have to figure out if it is for real, or if it was just said for attention.  She tells me I have to call Darling’s mother.  Gee, thanks!  Just what I always wanted to do: tell a mother that her daughter perhaps isn’t as innocent as one would like to think her daughter is.  Thankfully, mom didn’t attack me and we both agreed that we’re here to help Darling and we need to figure out what is going on and why this was said.  I hung up feeling much better than I had felt as I was dialing, which I considered to be a success.

Monday finally pulls around and Darling comes up to my desk, wanting to talk to me.  We set a lunch date.  I’m hoping against hope that she wants to talk to me about something related to school.  No luck.  “So Darling, you said you wanted to talk to me…what’s on your mind?”  “Well, I know that you talked to my mom on Friday…”  Ahh yes, so we ARE going to have that talk.

What resulted was actually a very nice conversation, where we were both open (well, appropriately open considering she is a student and I am a teacher) and had a mature discussion on what was going on.  I learned some background information, and she learned that perhaps I’m not as antiquated as they make me out to seem.  I also learned that she, mom, AND DAD, had a pretty difficult, but open conversation over the weekend.  Dad cried (which I think pretty much sums up WHATEVER could have been said in the conversation).

So this basically left me thinking…HMMM.  Darling is struggling for whatever reason which a lack of self-confidence and a need to prove herself around boys.  Need to think of ways to do handle this and support her in making life choices.  And part of me was thinking that she would perhaps need a little different presentation than what I normally do regarding boys, choices, chastity, and sex.  But as I’ve been observing her in class, things seem to be okay.  I don’t hear her making immodest comments, etc.

And then?  Then, this past Friday occurred…


The Beginning September 28, 2010

Filed under: Clothing,Middle School Dance,Modesty,Teaching — misscardigan @ 8:50 pm

There is one day, at the beginning of each year, which I have learned to love and dread all at the same time.  It is the Friday of the first dance at a nearby boy’s school.  See, I think that it is my duty as the girls’ religion teacher to give them a pep talk before the dance on how fabulous they are and how they should make good choices.  I saw some former students on Friday afternoon and explained how it was the first dance talk…they nodded their wise heads and gave me a knowing look…”ohhhh.”  I had to laugh as they either had it last year or the year before—it’s not like we are talking years and years ago here.  But anyway.

I cover basically the same topics in each speech, although I did tweak this year’s a bit to better fit the personality of the class.  Here’s a general cover of what I discuss:

I open by telling the girls that this is a day we have all been waiting for (I really try to build it up) and go on to say that they are now my students and as such represent me.  As I am fairly involved in the Catholic community in my area, I have connections at most of the local schools, so I remind them of this and encourage them to be aware that I WILL FIND OUT (although most often I find out from them…as they think I am deaf and won’t hear it if they talk right in front of my desk.  Yeah, right.  I’m 24, girls—I HEAR YOU!).

Then we go through the 3 Bs (this class also got 2 extras…no bellies and no backs).  We briefly discuss that they don’t need makeup, but if they and mom decide they can put it on, less is more (don’t want them looking like they belong on a street corner somewhere!).

We cover that they aren’t engaged to these boys, so if the boy dances with them, and then dances with someone else, there is no reason to take it personally.  He’s obviously not THE ONE and they should just talk to someone else, not get angry with the girl.  Of course, there is also a conversation on how even if I am not at the dance (I only chaperon our dances), God is everywhere and God sees everything and that God will see them.  That they should leave room for the Holy Spirit, as he guides us in making good decisions and if we leave him out, how will we be guided into making good decisions.  And that leaving room for the Holy Spirit is not just a mental thing—it is also a physical thing.  There should be actual SPACE in between the bodies.  My favorite is when I talk about inappropriate dancing…and how we just don’t do it.  I’m not sure if they don’t think I know the word grinding, or if they simply think I won’t use it, but I do and they are always shocked.  I figure that if I’m up front and direct, there will not be any room for questions or discussions.

I end by simply telling the girls how fabulous and beautiful they are, and that I firmly believe that they will change the world.  I remind them that they are perfect just the way they are and that they don’t need a boy, especially not one who will make them feel bad.  I try to stress how special and wonderful they are so they will go into the dance feeling great and confident (so they will feel strong in making good choices).

How do you talk to your kids about dances and making good choices?


Glimpses of Success July 17, 2010

Filed under: Modesty — misscardigan @ 2:50 am

Today I went to a local town fair with one of my best friends.  We enjoy spending time outside and spending little money, and as this was outdoors and free (minus our ice cream–totally worth the outrageous price!) we thought it was right up our ally.

The one thing about going to local events is that they are local.  Since I teach in a local school, it is always possible that I’ll run into students.  Tonight was a popular fair night as they had fireworks.  So, as to be expected, I ran into several former students, from both this year and two years ago.  It’s always great to see former students and tonight was no different, although there was something special about it.

My friend and I have similar thoughts on our faith, particularly in how we live out our faith.  We are both very social justice oriented and try to present ourselves in a conscientious (read: modest) way.  We’ll often go out and comment to each other that we can’t believe some of the clothing choices girls, teens, young women, older women choose to make–specifically in the cleaveage they show and the short length on shorts/skirts/dresses.  As I’ve indicated in previous posts, I try my best to instill some of these values into my students.  I always wonder if they are worth it…

Tonight was no different for my friend and I.  As we walked around, we saw plenty of cleavage and too short shorts.  We shook our heads as we tried to think what was going through theirs (if ANYTHING was going through theirs) when they got dressed.  Then it dawned on me: my girls were dressed appropriately.  Their shirts were not necessarily anything I would have worn, but I saw no butts, no bras, and no boobs.  Apparently they remembered the 3Bs.  Success.


The Mall March 22, 2010

Filed under: Clothing,Modesty — misscardigan @ 1:39 am

Today I went on a much needed shopping adventure with a friend.  It was a long week at work, and we had both decided that a trip to the mall was in order.  Let me just say-it was perfect and exactly what I needed.  But there is something about the mall these days, which always makes me realize how …inappropriate…so many clothes are.

It is hard to try and teach young teenage girls how to dress modestly (and beautifully) when it feels like all they are shown are skimpy outfits that barely cover anything.  On Friday, I had a conversation with one of my classes regarding clothing and how we present ourselves to the world.  Nothing Earth shattering here…pretty basic “Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit” so we should respect it and present it to the world as a place where God dwells along with “We all make snap judgments about a person” so let’s make sure we are sending the world the correct message about ourselves.  We discussed three girls: Girl A is modestly and attractively dressed, is clean and put together.  Girl B is grungy in baggy sweats, has stains, and obviously hasn’t showered in a while.  If Girl B is “overdressed” then Girl C is “underdressed.”  She is showing too much skin, her pants are skintight and her makeup is out of control.  We discussed how Girl A has a positive self-image and is a confident young woman.  Girl B has a low self-image and does not care much about herself.  Girl C also has a low self-image and doesn’t believe she can do better (she probably also has poor interactions with young men—but that is a conversation for a different day!).

And yet, none of this is the hardest part of the “clothing” talk.  No, the hardest part is addressing the fact that sometimes it is their MOMs who are bringing the inappropriate clothing into the dressing room for them to try on.  This year, I handled the Mom card like this: “Girls, Mom’s are great.  And usually, Mom’s have really great ideas/opinions on clothing and aren’t going to lead you to anything inappropriate.  But sometimes…sometimes Mom’s forget, too.  They are only human after all, and sometimes they get wrapped up in what is presented as stylish and fashionable.  And sometimes, girls—you are annoying, so mom feels like it’s easier to just give in to you, then to fight with you.  So a couple things.  If you see mom looking at a shirt that you KNOW would make Miss Cardigan cry, tell her you don’t think it would fit you properly.  And save yourself a battle, by not attempting to bring clothes you KNOW are inappropriate into the dressing room.  That way, you won’t be annoying and mom won’t have to fight you on a piece of clothing everyone KNOWS is not okay.”

Who knows—perhaps the moms will learn something out of the “clothing” talk, too!


The 3 Bs March 19, 2010

Filed under: Middle School Dance,Modesty — misscardigan @ 8:31 pm

When I was in college and sorority recruitment time rolled around, my sisters and I always spent a lot of time discussing how to best interact with the Potential New Members (PNMs).  There were three things that were off-limits, so to say—the 3 Bs: Booze, Boys, and Brands.

So last week, as I was preparing to host a 7th and 8th grade dance, I revisited and updated the “off limit conversation list” of my sorority, and applied it to inappropriate clothing choices instead.  A few days before the dance, I presented my students with a “Clothing Check List:” 3 Bs: No bras, no boobs, no butts.  It seems logical to me, a confident and moral woman in her 20s, that we should not show our boobs, bras, or butts in the middle of a dance, but I understand that this is not always the message that is presented.  So I set my standards and expectations.

Fast forward to the night after the dance, when I went to a local high school musical and ran into several of my former students.  I explained to them my new check list and said that I wished that I come up with my check list when I still had them.  They got a kick out of it!

Monday afternoon I checked my email and realized that I had received a message from one of the girls I saw at the musical and had been telling about the 3 Bs.  She sent me a link that they had been told about in Theology class—a link she believed would go along with my 3 Bs and that I should share with my girls.

It was a link to Pure Fashion, which is (from my understanding) similar to a Christian modeling program.  It encourages/requires its participants to dress in a modest way.  Although I disagree with some of its requirements (I mean, come on—there are plenty of strapless dresses that show no cleavage—and I personally think there is a time and place for them), overall I think it is a very positive idea.

Here is a link to the Pure Fashion Modesty Guidelines (the link my former student sent me).