Saturday, September 12, 2015

Fourteen Years Is Evidently Too Long To Remember

The reason we have forgotten 9/11 is that someone decided it was too painful to remember. So children were not exposed to the stories and images. While their zealous teachers and professors have made sure they were shown every conspiracy and controversy laced version of 9/11, the images shot by French videographers who just happened to be a Ground Zero as the towers were hit and fell and hell started breaking loose, were banned from TV after just one showing. Someone decided we weren't strong enough. So now I teach high school seniors who have never seen the footage. They talk bravely of progressive issues and archly judge earlier administrations, clueless of what we as a nation went thought and heedless of why the actions taken after 9/11 were taken. They talk distastefully of war, ignoring that for a long time after 9/11, we were waiting for the next attack. That it has not happened on the scale of 9/11 is more in the nature of a happy accident than of real security. We have a current administration that is actively ignoring what happened 14 years ago. They label obvious acts of terrorism as "workplace violence" and roundly criticize anyone who echoes the fears we felt 14 years ago when we say we want to know who is in this country and we do not want people coming here from known terror sponsoring states. While those of us who remember still stay vigilant, too many others ignore the peril. And so it will happen again. I don't know where, I don't know when, and I pray it is not as bad as it could be, because with the allowances this administration has made for rogue nations in the Middle East, I fear it could be very bad indeed.

Friday, September 11, 2015


I can't do this anymore.
I didn't get into teaching for fame or fortune.
I didn't even get in there to be Teacher of the Year. I always considered those types far more interested in their own welfare than the welfare of those they teach. As hokey as it sounds, I got into teaching because I like kids. And I teach art because in a world that is so often ugly and unfair and art isn't like that. You don't have to be rich to be creative. You don't have to be popular to be good. And I guess I had hoped at some point that teaching art would make the world a little bit better place. I hoped that kids would learn to appreciate what they have and seek to make better those things that are broken.

Yes, I was an optimist.

After today, I simply don't know anymore. I've endured the countless cases of the most disabled kids being parachuted into my most advanced classes and although I've complained, I've survived. I have kids with criminal histories, deviant behavior and even a kid so violent he had to be walked to and from class because he was so delusional that he would believe the very walls were attacking him. But today was the last straw.

I've worked very hard to build an AP program that was both flexible and rigorous. I gave the students projects in much the same way a client hires a graphic designer. They are free to do what they want. The projects are designed to build up their portfolio Breadth. I'm not clueless-many of these project have gotten my students into schools like School of Visual Arts, Kansas City Art Institute, Ringling and Rhode Island School of Design. Yet today an AP student-one who bailed on AP portfolio and our state competition last year, leaving the department stuck paying the fees, accused me of having a class that was holding her back. It seems she wants some sort of "open portfolio" class where all they do is whatever work they feel like doing. My experience with that is you get two kinds of artwork: Utter crap and Nothing. This one page rant went on and one.

My take, after discussing this with other department teachers, the girl's counselor and her AP is to let her go into another class, which is fine by me. In a way I think this may be calling her bluff. She expects me to back down and let her do whatever she wants. Instead I'm essentially of the mind not to kick her out, but to let her go. I understand the only class open that period is Personal PE. I hope she enjoys that.

But on a larger scale, this is a problem that is growing. I don't know if this is a problem with me, the kids , the school or all of the above. From the overweaning burden of testing to the sophomoric level of favoritism (by the faculty no less!) teaching just isn't much fun anymore. It's become a job where status is real, income is nebulous and based on how much you brown nose and the daily grind has become literal. I come to school each day with hope, only more often than not to see it dashed on the rocks. We live in an age when gratitude is a rare commodity. I'm not sitting here waiting with my hands out, but a thank you would be nice now and again.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Imagine this

As I predicted, our students came into school this year with a marked chip on their shoulders. I wish I had dared take photos of some of the things I've seen. Like the girl with leggings with the word "Dope" trailing down her leg. Sure, I know what it means in current slang, but had you seen her wearing it, you would have nodded and said "Yep." Then there's the overendowed African American girl wearing a shirt saying "Hands up, don't shoot" with the hands right over her boobs. Seriously.The last straw was a group of boys leaving trash in the hall. We had a horrid mouse problem last year and I don't want to deal with that again. When I asked the group who left the trash they named a kid and said he was in the bathroom, but his backpack and phone were there. So I took his phone and told them that I needed to talk to him and he would get his phone back after he cleaned up his mess. He banged on the class door and shouted "I want my phone. You can't take my phone" I replied "It was in plain sight on your backpack, you weren't around, it could have been anyone." He started fuming and said "I'm getting an AP." I said "Fine." Before the AP could say a word I explained AGAIN how I would return the kid's phone after he cleaned up his mess and that I took his phone because nobody was watching it and he needed to talk to me. No problem. I'm tired of kids behaving like we are servants. That attitude comes from parents.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


This makes sense. And if you don't understand then you've never had to try to speak over the texting, movie watching and instagramming of today's youths.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New Year, New Cheerleaders, Same Old Songs

My second day of in-service leaves me tired, panicky and disillusioned. Once again we hear the praises sung of the same folks-largely folks who get a great deal of attention and support from all concerned. Once again we hear new mandates including programs that seem likely to make kids who aren't G/T or 504 or SpEd even more invisible than they are now. If you're a teacher you've probably seen this illustration of equality vs. equity.
Now in this scenario what is desired is for the participants to say that by taking the box from the tallest student and given a second box to the smallest one, it's providing "fairness for all." But as one of the faculty members pointed out, our data shows that we have almost equal numbers of G/T students and Special Needs students while 73% of our students aren't involved in any way at all with additional support or contact. Anyone who has had special education students parachuted into an already large class knows what happens next. The needs of the SpEd kid come first in every circumstance. Then ESL, 504 and G/T. Pity the average kid who isn't on the top or the bottom of anyone's list. If they get time at all it's usually for goofing off or acting up because that is just about the only way they get face time.

What advocates want us to say is that taking from the tallest ( or most gifted) kid is fair because then everyone is level. But in reality taking away advantages from the G/T kid actually is the same as taking away hearing aids from a hearing impaired student. Why should G/T kids get less in terms of funding, attention and time than Special Needs students who already get the lion's share of education budgets? I am shocked the parents of G/T kids aren't screaming. And they should be. This type of false parity not only limits the improvements of our best kids, but gives false appearance of achievement to the lowest achieving group.

In reality what happens is that in order to give the lowest group the appearance of "success" the supports and encouragement that could elevate the average and above average learners into bigger and better things are removed. In short, we are on a path to limit the best and brightest in order to appease the parents of those kids who will never work outside a shelter environment, indeed, if at all.
Idiocracy is real.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Killing Childhood

Below is my response to what I think is a very important organization. We have parents who are too involved in their kids lives in very unhealthy ways. The most obvious activity is sports, but other activities have their problems too such as when a girl not ready for pointe shoes due to her lack of ankle strength and muscle tone had her mother yell at my daughter who is degreed in dance and familiar with what a young dancer must do to prepare for the often challenging move to pointe shoes. It's just one example-I have many more.....

Here's the blog:
Changing the Game

Here's my response:
Whether it is dance, football or basketball parents have gotten way too involved in their children's lives and not in a good way. I've seen members of the PTA climbing the backstop at a LIttle League game screaming at the umpire. I've seen parent coaches claim that kids they knew were years older were younger for the sake of winning all the games. In one case, on my son's under 14 soccer team during a tournament, I watched as the father of the team's star player paced the field shouting commands often in direct conflict to the coach. The son, a truly skilled player, ran down the field heading for the goal and then his dad shouted. The kid stopped, glared at his dad and kicked the ball to a player on the opposing team. That kid never played soccer after that year. My own son, not a star, but a solid player, still plays as an adult and watches games whenever he can find them. Which player would you rather have on your college team?

And this is the problem. Parents are trying to game the system. They hold kids from Kindergarten in hopes they will be older, bigger and faster as a 19 year old on the football field. They sign kids up for multiple sports like the girl in my third period who had either select soccer or select volleyball practices or games every single day. It starts in grade school. Parents have 'activities' every day. There's no chance for playing with neighborhood friends without making an appointment. As a result, kids don't know how to create games on their own. It's a problem.

It is not that sports or dance or whatever your kid competes in is a bad thing, but in life it should not be the ONLY thing that defines your child. I think it is so sad when we have kids who are gifted artists or writers or performers who can't take those classes because their one focus is something else. Do we really want our kids to be so limited in life? One of the saddest cases was a beautiful girl who was an amazing artist and could have gotten a full ride at any of the elite design schools. She loved art. But Mom wanted her to play golf-a game she didn't like and wasn't very good at-because Mom read she could get a scholarship. This same Mom forced the girl to go to nursing school when the poor kid had no interest in the profession. Ten or so years down the road, this kid will burn out.

Kids need variety in life. This is the only childhood they will have. Parents need to stop living vicariously through their children. I hate the excuse "this is the child's choice' because children want to please their parents. Our children should not be held to the Victorian ideal of being tiny adults. As one of my athletes who was a competitive skater said "This is not my life, it is the life my parents want for me." She would be at the local rink from five to seven every morning and five to nine every night. We fought against child labor-but please tell me what the difference is with this kind of schedule?

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Race Industry

A commentary on a much lauded book of complaints by Tahnesi Coates.

Coates seems to be the epitome of the Liberal Victim, constantly seeking a single source to blame for his problems in life. There's not enough hot water-blame Whitey upstairs. There's no seats left for a Broadway show he wants to see-blame Whitey with money. There's black kids on the street vandalizing his car-blame Whitey. After awhile the habit becomes a litany and white people become the Judas goat for every thing he-the self appointed representative of Blacks Everywhere-has suffered in life. How he manages to blame being bullied and beaten by other black kids on white racism is about as logical as the use of N-word by rappers and wannabe thugs. Excuse me as a white woman for not caring anymore. While I will always seek to actively help individuals, I will risk the microaggression of not particularly caring about their ethnicity other than in an observational way. Also, I am personally tired to death of the assumption by black activists that there's some secret grant that all white folks get. I worked my way through school. Contrary to the John Hughes film imagery that seems to fuel Coates' ideas on how all white folks live, that is not reality. My dad worked until the day he died at age 75. Right now my husband has been unemployed for more than a year. My kids worked two or more jobs in college and are grossly underemployed considering their degrees. Yet somehow Coates, who I'm sure got a nice advance for his book of complaints and is compensated well enough to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, believes because not everyone in the world smiles at him daily, he can blame entire swaths of humanity for his problems. I'm suffering from Grievance Fatigue and frankly cannot take time to worry about whether the feelings of wealthy black men are hurt because the white grocery cashier-whose feet and back probably hurt from standing for hours on end-didn't give him a cheery high five with his purchase.