Parenting is tough, but I’m glad. Kind of…

Parenting is the most challenging parkour I have ever attempted. Out of all of the races I have completed or even started, all wrestling matches I have competed in, track meets I have attended, or any Football field I have played on parenting takes the cake. Some days it is a breeze. My kids can be the kindest and most considerate humans on the planet. These days I genuinely believe I have this parenting thing figured out. On other days my kids are assassins. Able to slay me with a look or a snide remark that cuts me so deep I do not think I can recover. I lie there bleeding out as they laugh and point. I am the one who did not see it coming, blindsided by my spawn.

I try to use the education I have paid good money for to outfox my kids. I use all of the tricks of Cognitive Coaching, Love and Logic, Leader in Me, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment to change the paradigm. My kids see right through all tricks, and my fear of what is to come is shown. I am defeated before I even start. My daughter is lethal with her words, and they cut deep. My son uses the newly found power of hormones to turn on and off emotions at the drop of a hat. They are more powerful than I am because I love them no matter what. That is why it hurts so bad when they attach.

The struggle is not felt alone. I have to believe all parents have these battles. Facebook and Instagram would make me think others have perfect families and no troubles with their kids, but I have to believe others are survivors like me. The ones who continue to live to support and love our kids.

All joking aside, parenting is harsh. I, like many parents, try daily to connect with our kids. We listen to hours of Fortnite content, watch Garfield cartoons, and drive to countless appointments to help our kids. We feel like this will never end, but we miss this current time when it does. I believe that no matter the feedback I receive for all of the time I spend supporting my kids, they will appreciate the effort. Maybe not now, maybe in the future, perhaps when they are in my current shoes as a parent. No matter what, I will be there for them because I am their parent.

I write this not as a solution or even a rant. I write this to say you are not alone. It is tough to raise kids, it is tough to keep them safe, it is tough to keep them entertained, and it is tough to allow them freedom. We want the very best for them all of the time. For this to happen, we can not forget about ourselves. Our mental health is key to their mental health. Take time for yourself; this will allow you to be the best for them.

Your partner in education and parenting,
Douglas Greek EdD

Fitness for Physical and Mental Wellbeing

This is what I do to balance mental health. It may not be the best, but if it helps one person it would be worth the effort.

This is where I feel most competent, not so much in the mental area but in the physical aspect. I used to compete at a high level in cycling. I even competed in the 2003 National Championships and 2004 Olympic Trials. I did not do as well as I would have liked, 42nd out of 8o+ competitors, but that is better than never trying. The process to get to this level was tough, not only the training but the mental preparation was essential to any level of success. I did have days I struggled to get out of my head. I would do 5+ hour training rides solo. This allowed for a lot of headspace and deep thought. Some days this was good; others were not. If the day started good, everything in its proper place, I would have a great ride. If I struggled to get out on the bike, the struggle would follow all day and keep me up at night.

The mental aspects of a cyclist are very complicated. You do not have a coach and teammates with you every day. You have to be self-motivated to get up and train every day. On top of this, you have the physical fatigue that causes you to doubt your fitness and competitiveness. I had days that I did not want to get up and go outside to train. One day I remember I had to do a 5-hour training base day when I was racing. This is where you go out and ride leisurely tempo and it was snowing. I decided to ride to Branson, Missouri, from Battlefield, Missouri. This way, I could ride out for 2.5 hours and be forced to finish the ride to get home. The weather was so cold that I had to place my water bottles down my shirt not to freeze. This played major tricks on my mind. I can not tell you how many “deals” I made to finish the 5-hour ride in freezing weather.

We make deals with ourselves every day. If I can get up, if I can finish this, if I can make it one more hour, if I can just complete this one assignment, and the list goes on and on. In life, we have milestones that we mark as accomplishments. Some of these are self-induced, and others come from outside factors. These milestones can also cause stress and anxiety. As a male, I like to act like nothing is wrong and “push through” the problems to achieve these goals. In some cases, I am successful, and no one knows the struggles behind my smile. Other times my stress comes out. As a male, this is what I struggle with the most. What others see and how I am perceived.

Let’s look back at cycling to explain how I deal with my anxiety and panic attacks that happen from time to time. In cycling, there is an event that is called a Criterium. In a Criterium, you ride around a short circuit with 25-100 other cyclists at speeds well over 36Mph. At each corner, you have to turn on tires that are no wider than half of an inch while maintaining the 35+Mph speeds with having other cyclists on your left and right doing the same. The acceleration and heart rates jump. During this hour-long race, you have to calm yourself and breathe so you do not implode and get dropped. Every lap, this happens multiple times. I made so many deals with myself to make it to the first corner, just 15 seconds more, 10 mins, 20 mins, 40 mins, then the final lap. In life, I use this method on day-to-day tasks that may feel overwhelming. Deep breaths and focus do help me most of the time. I do have the ability to calm myself when I have anxiety attacks or get upset. This is a skill I have learned through exercise and competitions. This practice may not work for you. You may need to talk with someone, do yoga, take a break, or consult other resources. All I am saying is you do you and do not let others tell you to “calm down” or “this is best for you.” The reality is, you know what works for you. If you don’t, here are a few ideas that may help.

Final Thoughts:

As a husband, father, educator, and athlete I have to find a balance. Time is a resource that does not renew. Decide what and how to use this gift. In the famous words of a very notable scholar, “Life Moves Pretty Fast. If You Don’t Stop And Look Around Once In A While, You Could Miss It.” — Ferris Bueller.

Take a break sometimes. This is precisely what the/a doctor would prescribe.

Your partner in education and parenting,

Douglas Greek EdD

Balance is critical in most situations.

Balance is key. In education, we try to find the fine line between frustration and learning. If you search this topic, you will find, “The zone of proximal development (sometimes abbreviated ZPD), is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept developed by Soviet psychologist and social constructivist Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934).” If the ZPD is not found, a student can get to the point of frustration very quickly and shut down. In a perfect world, students would come to us with a “tag” that states what their ZPD is and the directions to follow in the quest for academic growth, not the case. So, what can we do to meet each student’s individual needs? Technology can be the answer (in some cases, not all).

Technology allows the time needed to assess each student then prescribe the needed resources to scaffold the student to their ZPD. Most programs that have Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration will adjust the difficulty of the questions based on how the student answers the delivered questions. An adaptive assessment may take 20 minutes to complete, but it can take that much time for each student in a classroom. This technology does NOT take the place of a well-informed and connected educator. Taking the data from the AI and comparing it with anecdotal notes and teacher observation is how we can support students best. I can already hear your thoughts! If the teacher has to do the work, why would they ever use technology to arrive at the same conclusion?! If you have ever evaluated 25+ students over a week, you will have to admit you get tired super quick, and the stories or math evaluations haunt you in your dreams. We are human; computer programs are not. This is why balance is essential. What does this look like in the classroom? In the next section, we will explore two resources of MANY. The two I have included here are, in my opinion, the best place to begin. I hope you find them helpful also. ReadingIQ is a fantastic resource that allows you to choose how the reading levels are reported and allows students to take a placement test. This is a FREE

This is a FREE digital resource in both fiction and nonfiction from Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic, and others that students will love to read. This is a great resource for teachers and meets all of the safety measures that are expected in our classrooms today (COPPA, CIPA, FERPA). Resources available in Reading IQ include all Disney products. 

With audiobooks and graphic novels, students of all ages can benefit from this excellent resource, and it is FREE. I know there are a bunch of other resources like GetEpic, Tumblebooks, and many many more. This resource has built-in differentiation through the assessment and different reading levels. Finding one resource to meet all of your students’ needs can be difficult, but with this one and your small group reading practice, and written material, you will give your students options that are engaging for them and you. In math, I like Prodigy Math, and before you start yelling at the computer that all students do is play games, read me out on this one. If you assign practice to your students based on what you know about your students, this is the program for you. First off, it is 100% free and easily navigatable for most. In the planner area of the program, you can assign activities to individual students or the whole class. When assigning activities, you mitigate the loss of time while using the program. There is no placement test, but in this instance, your knowledge as the teacher is more valuable than a placement test. 

If you are not assigning activities to your students in Prodigy, you SHOULD NOT be using this program. It is a waste of time if you do not spend some time. This is a powerful program, and with great power comes great responsibility (Uncle Ben, Spiderman). 

Final Thoughts

The vital aspect of any technology usage is a balance. Without balance, we will either not use technology at all, which is not an option for our students, or we will lose the personal connection that is also something our students need to be successful. Don’t place a student in front of a program and expect them to learn in the absents of the teacher and a personal connection. Students need to learn in their ZPD, and technology can only help. You, as the teacher/parent, need to use your professional judgment in choosing the right tool, digital and non-digital. 

Your partner in education and parenting,

Douglas Greek 

Parenting is Tough

Who am I and what knowledge do I have?

My name is Doug Greek and I am a parent with an Education Doctorate. My Doctorate is in the area of leadership and curriculum and I have been a teacher for 15 years (as of 2021). I believe I am both book-educated and life-educated when it comes to child development. I am a first-generation college graduate as well as a first-generation educator. I have had all of the “classes” of theory and practicality in the area of child development and education BUT this all went out the window when my wife and I had our first child. We were married for 14 years before having kids, so I thought we were ready. Even after 26 years of marriage, we are still learning. 

*I fail on a daily as a parent. The goal is to learn every day and in the famous words of the Arendelle scholar, “Let it go.” 

What to expect from this Blog? 

Definitely not answers, I am not that kind of a doctor. I do have practical situations that you may relate to or identify. I believe people post all of the “great and sweet” things too much. Where is the struggle that we all feel when raising kids and trying to make a living in this world? Mental health is a real thing we should all acknowledge and I feel being real is a great place to start. That is what you will see here, real-life stories with possible support and links to sources that are way smarter than I am. 

Now, let’s get going!

Being a parent is not easy. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the toughest job on this planet, and you spend your days juggling kid-related responsibilities with work and life in general. If you’re like most parents out there, then you want to do everything that you can for your kids but don’t always know what to do or where to turn for help. This blog post will provide some tips on how to make parenting easier by sharing struggles and solutions from real parents just like yourself! Being a parent is rough. But, it’s also beautiful.

I’ll start by mentioning that parenting is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I love being a father but it can be extremely frustrating at times. Having kids means you are trying to do two full-time jobs at once while never getting enough sleep or exercise. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Take Care Of Yourself First! You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t first take care of yourself! Eat well, get exercise, get adequate rest and carve out some time for yourself each day even if only temporarily where you can recharge your energy levels. This is especially important when your child gets sick or has an accident which can always happen. I jokingly say, “my sick days are for my kids.” It’s a constant struggle to balance convenience and self-care.
  2. Learn as much as you can about what your kids like. If you are not in the know then they will run the house. If your kid is into Fortnite you should also know Fortnite. This is a major struggle for me because I do not see value in the “thing” but I do see value in the connection it forms with my kids.
  3. Learn how to use a schedule. I have a weekly schedule that lists out what is going on in our lives for the upcoming week so I can plan ahead. This helps me prepare for any inevitable meltdowns which always happen when you least expect it especially when you are taking care of others! If dad has a meltdown, everyone else does too.
  4. Don’t feel guilty about saying “No.” This is something my life as an educator has taught me from day one and even to this day. You DO NOT have to do it all and the world will not implode if your kids miss a practice or play date. You
  5. Get ready for the spotlight to be on your parenting. Everything is a “moment” in time and we will analyze that over and over. Don’t get me wrong, I have learned how truly special my children are, but even the simplest everyday things could cause a meltdown. Give them time markers, “we will leave in..” or “internet will be off in x minutes” these are all reasonable.
  6. Dig deep down inside yourself and find the energy to go out in public with these little people who take up all your time, patience, and sanity. When you look at others you might see dirty messy hair, clothes that don’t match, torn pants because their sister stepped on them, etc., but trust everyone deals with the same struggles.

Life is not easy when balancing kids, marriage, and career. The best advice I can give is to love each other and yourself. Life will be a struggle but whatever you do, don’t forget the reason why you both work so hard. It’s for those two little humans who make your life worth living and fighting to improve daily.

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