Archive Page 2

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.

02
Feb
11

Change the Label, Change the Law

I have decided that I will no longer refer to the man I married as my husband.  From now on, he will be referred to as my life partner.  I have made this decision in support of my gay and lesbian friends who cannot legally call their partners their husbands or wives, yet those people deserve no lesser title.

We are so hung up on titles and labels and the definitions of one thing or another.  We want to be able to categorize each other into neat little boxes.  We forget that people are complicated.  Life is complicated.  Let’s just decide to make this one thing less complicated.  What is a husband or a wife but a partner in all things?  If we have made a committment to someone and invited them in to every part of our lives, does their gender truly matter? 

Maybe if we change the label we can change the law.  If we allow the words “life partner” to mean the same thing as “husband” or “wife”, we take the power away from the words, lessening their meaning, and enabling people to feel less defensive toward them.

01
Feb
11

Walk Like an Egyptian

I marvel at the courage of the Egyptian people.  Granted, their courage is spurned by 30 years of oppressive rule, but it is more than a little impressive.  Mumbarak has no hope for continued rule, and I can’t imagine he’s doing more now than trying to find a way to save face while stepping down and trying to maintain order, but the political repercussions are not what this post is about.  I am awed by the power of people, any people, to stand up to something much greater than themselves and refuse to back down.

So many times as people we have a “can’t-win-don’t-try” mentality that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We bend over and take all kinds of crap from invasions of our privacy by advertisers to the most corrupt of politicians and continue to do nothing about it.  Even when our nation’s government is completely deadlocked due to the inability of a few “men” to reach any type of compromise we sit back and simply chalk it up to “the-way-of-the-world”.  It’s ridiculous!  The Egyptians and Tunisians demand change in oppression that did not come overnight, but crept up on them slowly over a number of years as they watched their freedom erode and their government grow more corrupt.  Sound familiar?

30
Jan
11

Fast Food Crazy

I cannot for the life of me understand why people who have access to nutritional information still eat at Fast Food restaurants.  I’m not talking about people for whom this is the most affordable option for dining-out or people who choose to eat at one fo these places a few times a year.  The people who baffle me are the ones who know that books like “Fast Food Nation” or movies like “Supersize Me” exist, and yet they choose to remain in the dark about what it is they are putting into their bodies.  I really can’t complain if they know and continue to eat it.  Free will is a great and powerful thing.  But to CHOOSE not to know.  Or to know and not care, like those who are reading about this Taco Bell lawsuit and commenting that they don’t care if it’s meat because it’s delicious.  How can you not CARE?  It’s unfathomable.  To not be interested in what your putting into your body and how it effects your health makes absolutely no sense to me.

29
Jan
11

The Kindle Debate

A debate with a friend over whether or not I should buy a Kindle sparked a deeply philosophical discussion over the necessity for one.  Up until now, my objections were mostly tactile, but the more I think about, the more this question bothers me: Do I really NEED a Kindle? 

I am beginning to feel as though technology is complicating our lives in a way that is unnecessary and unnerving.  What happens when every book is available on an electronic device or on the internet?  Will we begin to close libraries?  What will we do with all the books?  Will there be arguments made about their storage?  Their usefulness?  Their destruction?  Will it turn into another way to keep the poor uneducated, with no libraries and no money to access technology?

Granted, I’m going a  little COnspiracy Theory here, but how is all of this technology actually BENEFITTING us as human beings, if at all?  Aren’t these things supposed to be “connecting” us to each other?  Then why are we all in our separate homes having coffee at our separate computers “talking” to each other through status updates and blog posts?  I don’t think I can contribute to that any more than I already do.  Plus, the mingled smell of coffee and printed paper still makes me swoon.

18
Jan
11

Arizona

I haven’t posted about the Arizona shootings because I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  I have been grately affected emotionally by the tragedy, and considering I don’t personally know anyone involved, I’ve been trying to figure out WHY it bothered me so very much.

Blaming Sarah Palin seems easy, and as much as I dislike her, I don’t really think that she can be blamed.  Her Crosshairs ad was certainly inflamatory, and many commented about the wording and the visual image.  It does SEEM to promotre violence against members of the government, but more importantly, it makes a pretty strong statement about the nature of politics in America.  “Eliminate the competition” seems to be the accepted solution to political tumoil for the Republican party.

Maybe this guy was influenced by extremist rhetoric.  He was certainly insane.  But we have to take a good look at the media and the extreme way politicians communicate when a mass shooting happens in Arizona and the general response is, “Well, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later”.  Is that really where we are right now?  Are we seriously at a place where we can’t blame an insane man for being crazy because the outside influences are so extremist and violent that it’s possible he might have been influenced by a game, a TV ad, a movie….  Is this the world we want to accept – a violent. extremist, society in which this very thing can happens and we shrug our shoulders and keep our heads down?

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?




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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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