Archive for the 'parents' Category

28
May
11

Slam!

I made my students do a Poetry Slam. I forced them to watch one done at the White House by a very talented young man and told them to write a poem. What they turned in was crap and I told them so (in nicer terms than this). So I made them watch a few more videos (all COMPLETELY appropriate for the classroom), gave them a lecture about poetry not being all about rhyme scheme and repetition but about a visceral connection to yourself and your emotions. And I made them do it again.  They did, so I did 🙂

I love teaching.  I LOVE teaching and every day I see teachers who don’t.  I see teachers who have lost sight of the student, who are just coming to a job.  I see teachers who blame 16-year-old kids for not giving a crap about their education without stopping to discuss the clear fact that NO ONE in this country gives a crap about their education, sometimes not even their parents.  I see teachers who are more worried about the terms of a contract than the needs of a student.  I see teachers who use all their sick days and personal days, too.  I see teachers who get pissed off when they know they’re going to be evaluated because it means they actually have to teach something.

And I see teachers who are moving from sub job to sub job because they dared to move mid-career or decided to spend a few years at home with their children.  I see teachers with experience and degrees left on the sidelines while recent college grads get the few contracts available because they’re cheaper.  I see teachers trying to find a way to reach growing classes due to a shrinking staff and juggle the modifications from 15 IEPs.  I see teachers become mediators, nurses, counselors, mothers, and disciplinarians all in the span of 60 seconds and hear them turn boys into men in less than a sentence.

I see an industry in serious need of reform on every level and a country that can’t see its way to doing anything other than blaming the teachers.  I see an industry that is ruled by politics and not be knowledge, more interested in money than books, and more occupied with answers than with questions.  I seen an industry that no longer serves the public in the way that it should or could and must be changed NOW.

And most importantly, I see the student, the child waiting to be lead in the right direction.  I see the student whose search for knowledge survives even the worse teachers in the worst schools in the country.  I see the student who finds his own books when his school has none and the student who gets up before 5 AM and rides the bus for over an hour to get to the charter school across town and NEVER misses a day.  I see potential.  I see the future and I DEMAND to be a part of it.  Give me a job!

09
Mar
11

Violence

One of my students was shot and killed yesterday just standing on the corner with his friends.  He was dedicated to turning his life around after making some bad choices as a very young man. Violence is a real problem in America. I believe education is the solution, but I’m open to other suggestions.

19
Feb
11

Education

People travel the world to study the artwork and music of great men and women because of what it teaches them about themselves and history.  They climb mountains and trudge through jungles to seek out the knowledge of one philosopher or another.  They will pay thousands of dollars to hear a lecture by a great  professor.   There are beautiful minds untapped worldwide, and though they may be sparked by the law, by the microscope, or by the Word, they become flames by the work of the teacher.  If society chooses to build stadiums instead of schools and cases instead of classrooms, it has already passed judgement on the importance of what I choose to do.

Without knowledge of law there is chaos.  Without knowledge of medicine disease reigns.  Some teachers sacrifice time and money and energy to teach people to read, but others sacrifice EVERYTHING to teach people to live.  Education has built nations and lack of it has destroyed them.  Knowledge is so revered that many civilizations believed that only the gods possesed it, yet society places so little value on those who seek to distribute it.  If every last being on Earth were destroyed save two, they could recreate the world using our books.  I am human, I am fallible, and all I have ever wanted to do from the depth of my soul is to be good enough to inspire someone else to be great.  I would do it for free and unappreciated every day for the rest of my life.  I believe in education like you believe in God.  Judge me as you please.

12
Feb
11

A Hard Win

I work in alternative education, which means I teach “urban youth” who are coming out of jail, about to go into jail, are on probation, or have been permanently removed from their neighborhood school for fighting, drugs, carrying weapons, etc…  Often I find myself frustrated my a system that doesn’t care enough to provide sufficient supplies and teachers to children they’ve decided to throw away.  As a result, the students aren’t really encouraged to take pride in their education or themselves, let alone show respect for their school, their teachers, or their community.

I started in a new school this week and was appalled at the extreme lack of respect students showed for teachers, and even more so at the administration’s lack of follow-through on rules and procedures, but I digress.  In alternative education, anything you can do to get the students to follow societal norms is considered a “win”.  One of my focuses is to get students to refer to me by name.  In case you are unaware, urban youth show their disdain for “white society” by refusing to call teachers by their name or their title.  For example, if your name is Ms. Smith, the students will refer to you as “Miss” or “Smith” , but will not put them together.  Most teachers chalk this up as unimportant and don’t address it, but I see this a critical issue.  I feel that students should respect me and their education enough to at least learn and use my name.

So here’s how I did in 4 days what the other teachers haven’t managed to do in 5 months:  On Day 1 I introduced myself as Ms. Smith.  When students refered to me as Miss, I add the “Smith” before answering them or granting their request.  When students refered to me as “Miss” on day 2, I reminded them that my name is “Ms. Smith” and required that they say it before answering their question or granting their request.  On day 3, I pretended not to hear students until they say, “Ms. Smith”, which inevitably pissed someone off given the population I work with.  When that happened, I simply said, “I’m sorry ______ (insert name), but I’ve already given you enough respect to learn and use your name and I expect you to learn and use mine.  If you’re not going to do that, we have nothing more to say to each other.”  Then I continued with my lesson.  By day 4, most of my students were using my name.  At some point during that day, one of the “hold-outs” tried to get my attention and I ignored him.  Then he said, “I’m going to call you Ms. S…..Okay?’, and I say, “Fine.”  I have just won.  While it’s true, the student is not referring to me by my full name, I have forced them to see me as a person rather than a nameless authority figure just like every other authority figure they’ve come into contact with.   Our teacher/student relationship has finally begun.

14
Jan
11

Active Parenting

One of the reasons why some of my friends have respect for me a s a parent is because I spend so much time doing things with my kids.  I don’t mean I spend time with them.  ALL of my friends, mostly stay-at-home moms, spend nearly all of their time with their families.  My friends who work, and I hope to be among them again one day, spend all of their non-working time with their kids.  But not all of them are DOING things with them.

My daughter and I sing songs every day.  She’s still a baby, so we mostly focus on the basics.  She rocks the Alphabet.  My son gets Circle Time almost daily.  There’s the calendar, the money count, books relevant to what he’s currently interested in, pre-reading games, geography, and a variety of other activities.  We do arts and crafts, science experiments, and play extended games of hide and seek.  In addition to that, we stay current with what’s going on for cheap or  free, or (thanks to my awesome parents) with a membership to the Zoo.  Every Saturday we have some sort of activity – community days, walks in the park,  a LONG drive to the National Museums to see dinosaurs, air planes, moon landers (all on separate trips, mind you!), etc…  We plan things together as a family  based on what my son wants to learn about, and we try to make sure his sister is as included as a young toddler can be.

I believe strongly that active parenting must be ACTIVE.  The relationships we build with our children from such a young age determine our relationships with them for the rest of our lives.  Their father and I chose this path because we wanted to be included in their learning process and we wanted it to be only natural to want to spend a day in the park instead of an afternoon watching ___________ (insert sport, TV show, movie here).  The only way to foster that is to model it.  I don’t understand what that’s not evident to most of the parents I know.  We’re well aware to watch our language around the baby because we’re modeling speech.  Why aren’t we also aware to model active lifestyles around young children because we’re modeling LIFE?

17
Dec
10

Indirect Censorship

The Parent’s Television Council has decided to “scold” various TV shows for their representation of teenage sexuality.  Most of the shows they chastised were geared towards adults, shows that young teens shouldn’t be watching anyway.  Of course, whether or not a child should be watching a particular show should depend on the maturity of the child and the decision of their parents, not a Parent’s council.

Indirect censorship groups are gaining way too much power.  Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are censoring the release of Jon Stewart’s new book, Earth, for unknown reasons.  Blockbuster and other video stores decide what they want to release to the public, and it’s usually based on the owner’s morals rather than actual inappropriate content.  The rating system for movies in the US has absolutely no rhyme, reason, or rubric.

American’s are allowing their information, their books, their TV shows, and their movies to be censored with no knowledge of why or how.  They put bling faith and trust in an agency without knowing the true purpose of the censorship.  I’m so tired of being told what to watch, what to read, what to think…  Even though I choose not to listen to these agencies, I find it more and more difficult to gain access to the information they don’t want me to have, even if it’s just a little sex on Glee.

09
Apr
09

Having a Girl

Throughout this pregnancy I have been terrified that I would have a girl.  Despite the remarkable advances made in the 20th Century, this is still very much a man’s world.  I’m reminded of that every time I pull into the parking lot of my company and see the men’s cars, more expensive and more kept up than the women’s because they are paid 30% more on average, even though they do a hell of a lot less work than I do.  I’m reminded of that when I look at photos of the United States Congress, The United States Senate, the United States Supreme Court, and the Presidential Cabinet (though huge props to Obama for moving us a little further along).  I’m reminded of that when there is a gathering of the heads of major universities and major corporations.  I’m reminded of it when I look at my health care plan and see that there is 80% maternity coverage, no birth control coverage, and no coverage for pap smears and mammograms.

I see the way women are still treated in today’s society, still objectified, still ignored.  I see “women’s professions” being considered less important, women’s sports being covered less, women’s issues being glossed over in the media, and women’s bodies being legislated.    I hear young women talking about the way they should behave in relationships – how to bite their tongues when their partner is angry, how to dress to please a man, how to cook to please a man, and how to clean to keep their partner’s happy.  I see little girls wearing clothes tat are too old for them because they’ve learned early that the sexier they dress, the sexier they dance,  the more a boy will like them.  I see women putting on themselves the majority of the housework and the majority of the childcare because they can’t rely on their partners to help them.

Having a girl makes me nervous.  I can only hope that her chances of being truly equal improve as she grows.




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Disclaimer

I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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