31 May 2011

Nearly A Week Into Summer Vacation

I have been on summer break for almost a week.  Here's what I've done:

Camped over the holiday weekend.
Cleaned out/reorganized the craft/workroom. 
Scrubbed upstairs toilets.
Vacuumed nearly every room in the house.
Tidied up downstairs.
Completed all but one load of laundry.
Submitted twenty yearbook pages.
Ordered textbook samples for my college Am Lit class.
Run various odd-and-end errands.
Began and abandoned two books ("Glamorama" by Bret Easton Ellis and "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain)
Begun "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell

Tomorrow looks to be a fairly frantic day - it's The Day Before We Leave For Vacation.  You all know that day, right?  Pure, unadulterated craziness.

26 May 2011

Blue Skies, Green Flora

Today was the last day of school. 

When you're a teacher (or student), the world is seen through an entirely different lens on the last day of school.  I don't care if it's gloomy, overcast, or pouring down rain, things seem a lot brighter on the last day of school.  It *seems* like the sun is out, for sure.

Today, by a matter of circumstance, my children and I walked home from school.  About a five-minute walk, but it was really beautiful.  Bluest blue skies I'd seen in awhile and everything (and I mean everything) was green and verdant.  The laden-down backpack I was schlepping seemed filled with feathers!

Welcome summer!

25 May 2011

The Closing of a Door

After tomorrow, I bid adieu to my public-schoolteaching career...for the time being.

I graduated from college in 1998 and began my first teaching job in August of 1999.  I have taught middle school reading, sophomore literature, freshman English, yearbook, journalism, and more.  With the exception of a few months here and there I took off for maternity leave, I have been in public education for eleven years.

And now, I'm getting out.

It's been a sweet ride, really.  I shouldn't complain at all.  I've made some great friends and had some really great moments.  But, well, it's not enough anymore. 

So, tomorrow, I will be spending my last day with high school students.  It is a bittersweet thing, because really, I enjoy most students.  Yeah, I've got some real chowderheads, but there always are anyway.  But, I've noticed a disturbing trend - those who don't value their education is on the rise - and we've let them, even enabling it in some ways. 

And yeah, for all the technology we're infusing into schools these days, it hasn't improved communication very much.  In my experience, teachers are heard less and put upon more.  I wish more folks could understand this, but unfortunately, most parents are armchair quarterbacks - very willing to call the shots without really having any real field experience. 

And I don't think things are getting better.  Teachers are becoming complacently numb, or they leave the profession.

I am very lucky.  Financially, I can leave the school district and take a part-time job teaching at the college level; I know many of my colleagues don't have that luxury.  Don't think I don't count my blessings every day.

*Sigh*  I've known since late fall I wanted to resign my high school job.  I sent the actual letter in mid-April.  May 26th seemed so, so, so far away, though, at those times.  But, it's not.  It's tomorrow.  My lifepath will take a totally new direction.  All I want now is to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead with optimism, hope, and resolve. 

Those are things I've lose in the last three months.

21 May 2011

Getting a Grip on Graduation

This time of year means the season of graduation parties is among us.  Every year I am awed by the numbers...of people having them, of pounds of food, of cakes being made, invites being given out...everything.

A few teachers and I were discussing this very phenomenon a couple of days in the lounge during lunch.  One colleague wondered if parents would throw such elaborate shindigs for their child's college graduations.  I have no data to support my hypothesis, but I would venture to answer that question with a 'probably not'. 

Which is rather interesting, I think.  College graduation seems much more monumental than high school, I think, and therefore, worth a larger celebration.  However, for an eighteen-year-old, there is no greater highlight to their lives than graduating from high school.

Thoughts like these lead me to even more pensive ones, like: Is this part of the reason why I fear getting old?  Because we as a society seem to prize and place value on youth?  Now that I've graduated high school, college, am married, had all my babies...what else can I celebrate?  What other milestones are there?

The self-help section of the bookstore tells me: Life.  I'm supposed to find peace at this time of my life, and stability because I'm getting mature and wise.  I'm supposed to worry less about things and more about people, and I'm supposed to become reflective and discover who I am on the inside.  I know that it's not about getting what I want, it's wanting what I've got.  I'm supposed to remember the idea of perspective and that things could be worse.  There are a lot of books, magazine articles, websites, blogs, etc. that remind us that we don't need to envy the younger set...which makes me wonder why we're trying so hard to convince ourselves.

It's a process - I understand.  I do think I'm getting there (to wisdom).  But, I'm straddling that fine line, too, you know?  One foot here, one foot there.  I'm growing, and maturing, yes, but I'm also leaving things behind.  I'm finding it a bit painful.

16 May 2011

Today's News

Today's Headlines, courtesy of Yahoo!

Shuttle Endeavour fueled for next-to-last shuttle launch

Police seek evidence of sex attack from IMF chief

Calm and prayers help steer flaming plane back to Singapore

Palestinian border protests: 'Arab Spring' moves to Israel

War crimes prosecutors seek Gadhafi's arrest Rebels gain

Boehner ready to cut budget deal as U.S. nears debt limit

I acknowledge my unworldly disinterest when I say that only one of these headlines remotely interest/affect me - the last one.

Instead, here are the ones I really care about.

Long-term Sub Job Ends in Nine Days

Family of Five, Parents Depart for Alaska in Eighteen Days

Family Patriarch Continues Job Search After Receiving Masters Degree

Summer Scheduling Reaches Pitch Frenzy Over Weekend

One Soccer Season Ends; Mother May Actually Have Time to Prepare Dinner

Bring it on, Monday!

13 May 2011

Oh, Education!

In this post, I will attempt to tackle the juggernaut that is American education...

And we begin...


The task is insurmountable.  It is futile.  First of all, there are so many issues to battle, where would I even begin?  Second, everything I say here is probably being recorded somewhere for posterity and probably will be held against me in a court of law.

Thus, I will comment on a small, little issue and I will use generalities and vague phrasing so that I avoid as much trouble as possible.

I know of a student here in this place I work.  S/he it receiving zero percent in a class, because a.) s/he has a serious attendance problem and b.) does nothing for makeup work.  S/he has made it clear that s/he will not be making up the missed work; also, s/he will not be completing any future assignments.  I suspect her/his behavior is consistent across the board, in all classes.

I would like to believe that school and education could be of some value to her, because generally, I feel, in academia, there is something for everyone...if the student is open-minded enough to believe it.   However, in this particular case, this student is extremely closed to learning and working towards any academic goals.

But...s/he is a "mandatory attender"...meaning that s/he is compelled to attend.  S/he is supposed to be here and law enforcement can make her be here.  Now, that definitely begs the question: is that really a good thing?

We've all heard the expression "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink", yes?  As Roger Sipher notes in his article "So That Nobody Has To Go To School If They Don't Want To", we utilize that phrase in all areas of life, but fail to apply it to education.  Teachers can show all the movies and play all the games they want, but they cannot make children want to learn.  I don't care what new initiative the Department of Education throws out there, I cannot change children's desires and wishes if they are dead set against something.  The most I can really do is calm them down (or excite them) long enough to get receptive to my teaching.

I feel, at present, public educational institutions have become less about educating young people, and more about cranking out psuedo-caring and intelligent citizens.  Suppose we get rid of "making children come to school" and provide a true service to those who show up and want to learn?  Discuss this amongst yourselves.

Back to the student I was discussing earlier.  It's very obvious s/he is not interesting in learning, and is only attending school because of coercion.  It's a lose-lose situation.  The kid loses because s/he gains nothing of academic value and a general sense of apathy (or worse, animosity) towards schools - which s/he will likely pass down to her/his children.  The cycle continues.  Also, the teachers lose because this student is a drain on their morale and optimism.  Now, a teacher's energy is spent dealing with the lethargic student - instead of instructing the kids who did what they're supposed to, and came with the enthusiasm in the first place.

For the most part, teachers don't lose sleep over students like this on a daily basis...but yeah, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit our hearts and psyches didn't suffer some kind of minor laceration because of it.  Furthermore, the institution in general loses its integrity and meaning.  School is one of the only places I can think of that has no requirements or criteria for getting in - and yet, a school's responsibility is so important and revered...shouldn't potential students possess certain qualities before entering through the doors?  Such as a willingness to learn and do what is asked of them?  Since when did that become a radical thing to ask?

So, this student I've been talking about obviously wants to be somewhere other than school.  I say let them.  Give her/him the responsibility that s/he so desperately seeks for her/his own education...or lack of.  If s/he comes back to school, then it is of his/her own volition.  Maybe s/he will find schooling more useful.  If s/he never comes back to school, they still receive an education of some kind.  True, they won't receive a diploma or make six figures, but they'll still get some learning:

That they are entitled to nothing.  Nobody owes them any favors.

09 May 2011

After Two Decades, A Visit From Erato

Erato is one of the nine Greek muses; those writing lyric poetry would invoke her and ask for her divine help in expressing their deep emotion and love.

I have not written love poetry for well over twenty years, and so I don't know why Erato chose to visit me yesterday...during a skating rink outing with my daughter, no less...

But I heed the call anyway.  Here goes:

Mostly these days, I
answer to demands
of home, family,
and a tiresome job.
I read labels, plan
sensible dinners,
write checks to the
PTA.  To most,
I appear upbeat,
these things?  Diversions.
They occupy a
restless space.  You see,
when there are no more
cupcakes to bake, or
errands to run, or
people to amuse,
I think of freedom,
a life of color.

You wait for me in
the near-dark before
you tumble forward,
like air, like rain, like
sun.  Your eyes read like
a book - one that brings
me comfort and love.
Whispers in the dark,
sounds I've known always,
bring me to your arms.
I long to feel real,
unencumbered, free.
Me, but yet, not me.

Your hands move where I
wish them to be, your
lips say words newly
formed in my brain, you
smile just a heartbeat
before me.  Time stops.

I want to feel as
if we created
time, space, earth, life.  Then,
I want to believe
you would give up these
as well, if I asked.

What matters most here?
Jobs?  Obligations?
No.  None of these are
without passion or
purpose or meaning.

Thus, I am impelled,
bounding, towards you.

ευχαριστώ, Erato.

04 May 2011

The Midnight Oil Tonight

Short nights lead to long days.  I know this.  And yet, it's 12:34 a.m. and I am not quite ready for bed.  This is probably due to a couple of things:

1. Consumed two cups of coffee around 8:00 (not decaf!  egads!)
2. Watched Gothic horror film "Dorian Gray"

After engaging in a lively discussion about religion with my husband (circa 10:45), we prepare for bed.  I'm lying there, thinking about all the things I didn't get done today, and how tired I really am NOT.  So, I jump up and spring into action.  In the last hour, here's what I've accomplished:

1. Calendar for my Speech class done for rest of year.
2. Calendar for my English 9 done for rest of year.
3. Assignments ready for printing and copying tomorrow.

By all rights now, the candle should be burned at both ends.  Surely the caffeine effects have worn off and now I've got enough schoolwork done to set my mind at ease for tomorrow?  Nah.  Got a bit of steam left for one last final sprint here.

So.  It probably won't be the first time you hear me say this:  the next three weeks cannot move fast enough.  Three weeks from today is the last day of school.  I am tired of the constant tiresome battle to keep my sanity together.  Energy and morale is quite low, and I feel as if sheer willpower is getting me through the days.  My diet and exercise is off, my leisure activity time is off, my social/friend bar is off - and, in the words of Friar Laurence, "I am strain'd [nearly] beyond the compass of my wits."

Tempt not a desperate (wo)man!