Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Venting about Balance in Education

First of all, I teach high school. That should tell you something about my sanity level. Add to that the fact that my son attend high school in a neighboring district. And that he's dyslexic and just coming out of Resource English. Add to that yet another in a long long series of self-righteous teachers who is "doing this for his own good" despite the fact that the kid has turned in all assignment, asked for help and is STILL FAILING. The CM teachers have no idea what this woman wants. And now, the day that grades are due, and three days after she had assured my son that if he "relaxed and turned in everything, it'll be okay...." we find out he's failing. And this when three weeks ago he had a 78. And we found out not from a progress report or the teacher in question, but from his choir director who is panicking because now he can't go to competition. Add to that, we now will lose over $300 because when he asked if he could do anything to help his grade-the teacher flat out blew him off. Now I teach the same age group. And since my class is an elective, I have far more IEP's and 504's to address on a daily basis, but I do it because IT IS MY PROFESSIONAL OBLIGATION TO DO SO.....

Why doesn't this teacher have any responsibiltiy to contact my son, or me or let us know what is going on? Because the teacher in question is pregnant. So she's "tired" and "cranky" and "had to rest" rather than grading the papers on a timely basis and keeping students and parents informed.
Sorry, but this is BS.
This is the same kind of lame complaint that has kept women out of corporate offices for decades. And yet the administration is oozing an collective "awwwww" and giving her a pass on this. If this had been the first time, or even the fourth or fifth time, I would let it slide. But every year since second grade, there has been one or another uninformed, steel minded, self-serving person who doesn't apply the IEP unless I raise seven kinds of hell and call ARD's every week. I am not asking for the moon. I expect him to do his work, but what I don't expect is to come home after a day of teaching and having to virtually reteach every single lesson. When I ask him to go to tutorials, he says that every time he has gone her AP students take first aim and the students in her one regular class are ignored. I requested a class change in January, but it was denied. I requested monitoring of the situation, and that obviously hasn't been done. She only modifies if she think an administrator will look. And she lies to me and to the ARD committee to our faces. I know this sounds like a vendetta, and I don't mean to sound that way because I have been on the other side of an ARD and I have called parents with bad news, but BY GOD, I do everything within my power to help kids to learn. Even the scruffy ones and the ones who sass back. Because I thought that is what I was supposed to do. I guess not every school adheres to that belief. In the meantime, although I still support public education I ache for those kids whose parents don't question the status quo, who don't ask why they failed and who always blame the kid even when it might not be his or her fault.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


It's truly a shock to wake up and realize that somewhere along the line you have lost 30 years of your life. That is thirty years of potential, thirty years of effort....thirty years missing. I say that not as someone with a soap opera case of amnesia, but as someone who on the verge of 50 (!!!!) finds that they haven't done one remarkable thing in their lives. In that I am not alone, but I don't think others mourn the loss so much. At twenty, I had the world by the tail. I was young and talented and had no limits. I could have been anything. But times and circumstances and my own personal past seem to have created barriers. I never had a one woman show. I never got an award. Heck, even though I volunteered at my kids' schools and was a Girl Scout Leader, I was never the one being recognized or applauded. Even within my own family, I seem to be the one destined to sit in the audience while others perform and succeed. Is it too late for me to pursue dreams? I hope not. I hope to write. I think I have a pretty strong outline for a novel. And I am going to take a painting class, not to learn, because I TEACH art for heaven's sake, but in order to make myself DO SOMETHING. My whole life has been filled with great ideas that I have been terrified to capture. But at fifty (!!!!) time is getting shorter. I don't want my life to be without reason. I mean, I love my family and I have raised my kids into great human beings that I hope to remain close to for the rest of my life. But there has to be more....doesn't there???

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Election Night Jitters

Tonight is primary election night in my state.
And for the first time in my adult life, I didn't vote.
I am not particularly proud of this, since I think abdication of the responsibility to vote is basically giving voice to those that can sway the population with smoke and mirrors, but honestly, I am tired. I am tired of political oneupsmanship. I am tired of negative campaigning and professional politicians who don't see this as a mandate, but instead see election as a job interview. And like many job candidates, most look good on paper, but fail to please down the line. Yes, I know this sounds cynical. But honest to God, I don't think the extreme end of either or any party has the best interests of most of their constiguency in mind. They load bills down with secret porkbarrel. For every "Bridge to Nowhere" there's a "Tunnel to China". For every military base closed to save money another one is opened because some senator's backbone and resolve are not as strong as their local moneylenders. In my state, Texas, I find myself either supporting a Republican party that wants vouchers and the defacto dismantling of the public education system or the Democrats that want the school and staff to be virtual parents for the extended life and day of every single child. There has to be room for compromise. There has to be some sort of middle ground. But instead of true statesmen and women who work out the details and try to do the best for the most, we are stuck with people who go to Austin or Washington or Baton Rouge and learn how to line their own pockets before they make a move. And the longer they stay there, the less they do. Look at the professional politicians in our state. Despite the fact that many teachers are living on little from their retirement system-due to the Windfall taxes that take money from part time jobs but don't give it back when we retire-the politicians voted themselves a raise. And Washington cohorts have done it as well. Isn't it about time that we unelect these lifetime politicians and send them back to find REAL JOBS and deal with REAL LIFE ISSUES? And by that, I don't mean just the Democrats or just the Republicans, I mean EVERY SINGLE INCUMBENT NEEDS TO GO HOME. Send Ted Kennedy back to find a law job. Send Grusendorf back to his "investing" job. Send Pelosi back to San Francisco and Frist back to the operating room and let some new people with NEW IDEAS have some room. I am tired of dealing with people who are so entrenched in party infighting that they forget what they were elected to do. Our borders our porous, our government unresponsive and as far as I can see, there would be nothing lost by sending all of the politicians packing. So here's my chant

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It's Oscar Night

How is that they bill it again? A Night of Stars? I won't be watching. And it isn't because of any particular movie or any particular political axe that I have to grind. It is simply that I haven't really gone to see a movie for a couple of years. Other than the Harry Potter movies-which I will watch on video so that I can see it without accompanying kid squeals, there isn't any real personal need to go to a movie. I feel no connection to the movies. But I think much of this has to do with the fact that movies in particular and most entertainment venues in general don't seem interested in capturing my imagination or attention. Although I am personally fairly conservative, I am open minded enough to at least listen to new ideas. But if I am going to spend eight bucks on a ticket, I expect to be amused. I realize this puts me in the same limelight as a monarch with a court jester, but really, I am old enough not to need lectures. And by and large, that seems to be what the entertainment community is intent on. It's been my experience that when a movie lectures, it's promoting something, even if it's just to be nice and smile more. I don't need lectures. I am a pretty decent person. I have too many animals and I generally am considerate and I work on my own time for causes I find worthy, such as Salvation Army, local food bank drives, and water conservation. As I get older, I realize that lecturing without action does little good. Many times I have heard people use the term "it's for their own good". I ask myself, is it really for "their" own good, or is it just another example of socially acceptable bullying. I get that same feeling when I watch many current films. Although the messages are worthy, the entertainment value just isn't the bang I expect for my buck. I find myself gravitating more and more to films aimed at kids such as "Chronicles of Narnia" and Harry Potter films because A. They still have a sense of wonder and that it is possible that the world is magical and changeable in some way and B. I don't cringe when I watch them with my kids. My kids are 21, 20 and nearly 17, but I shudder to watch the graphic violence, sex and general bad behavior that some movies and TV shows portray as "normal" and "acceptable". I don't know about others, but I seldom find a need to discuss other people private body parts and private body functions outside of a doctor's office. The subject just doesn't come up all that often. And the twin Hollywood disfunctions of Moral Superiority and Sniggering Immaturity leave a vast area of the population unserved. I read a good deal. I like a good story. I like a song that I can hum to myself and people that I can at least understand. I don't understand cowboys that lie through their lives hurting others, I don't understand -or want to-suicide bombers or the people that support them. But Hollywood wants to ram it down my throat. And I am not going to let them. Have they looked at the profits on movies that past few years? I would go see a movie with a good story line that AMUSED me rather than LECTURED me. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" "North by Northwest" "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" even "Chicago" were all great movies with enjoyable story lines and great actors. I just haven't seen their likes recently. And until I do, I probably will stay at home or wait until something comes out on DVD. I have heard "Walk the Line" is good, but I also have heard it's a longshot for any awards. I think that disparity between what the public enjoys and what Hollywood wants to make is the perfect example of not supplying the demand and the failure of many studios to turn a profit.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Middle America

Catchy title, eh? But really people, what in the WORLD is going on here? I live now not too terribly far from where I grew up. I don't recall the world being as sordid and full of what my Mom calls "meanness" as it is now. Perhaps I've wrapped my childhood in a rosy glow, but for the life of me I don't recall some of the things that my kids take as everyday life. Below is a short list of things that appall, repel or disgust me. While some of these things perhaps existed say 40 years ago, I don't think it was to the extent we suffer from them today-
-Teachers and other authority figures that abuse kids without guilt or appropriate punishment AND the people who support them. As a teacher, I physically cringe when I hear yet another story of some over-sexed bimbo playing house with a student. I mean, really, when you see most of these women they are dressed like their students and act like their students. You would think some buzzers and bells would go off somewhere....but, I have also seen these situations be ignored because of several different reasons mostly dealing with letting the kid get past the situation. Strangely enough, in the few I have known of, it's always a woman with a teen boy. Why is that considered "okay" when if the genders were reversed, the man would automatically be in handcuffs-and not voluntarily!?
-Socalled religious leaders that use their sway from the pulpit to push political goals. This is for both sides. If they are going to spout politics instead of grace then tax their places of business and lower my taxes.
-People who complain about public schools, homeschool their own kids, then when they discover they can't do the teaching or that their child has disabilities, they turn right around and demand that the school hop to it to fulfill their needs.
-Parents who are so in name only. The created the kid, but don't establish rules, and support such things as drugs, drinking and sex as long as they do it in the "safety of the home". You may think I am crazy, but I have heard these words from parental lips.
-Politicians who use religion as a cover for their sneaky acts and who shed blame like a duck does water when they get caught. I also really really REALLY do not like the blame game as it is now played in the political forum. State your cases, get your ideas out in public, but if they can't stand up without nasty underhanded political games, step aside and let someone with real problem solving capabilities take over the situation. ARE YOU LISTENING BLANCO AND NAGIN??????
I would write more but it is late and I am tired, since I spent all last night putting up the district art show. There are not enough chicken nuggets in the world to keep me awake...

Light Within: Me Plagiarist, Prove it?

Light Within: Me Plagiarist, Prove it?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Oprah Worship and You

First of all, let me say that I admire Oprah, who as a poor Southern girl with little family background or wealth, made very good indeed. But I have a problem with the large segment of the population that have elevated her status to sainthood. First of all, she started in the newsroom, not a plus in my book. Then her show early on was actually the springboard for the likes of Jerry Springer and other domestic trainwrecks that have graced our televisions for the past ten or more years. I don't watch that kind of stuff. I can see that same level of intelligence on the local evening news. I don't need counseling and play by play repartee with it. Then there was the EPIPHANY. Oprah didn't want to do "that kind of show" any more. So she changed. And while it is change, I am not sure exactly if it is positive. For one, there are items pushed upon weakminded folks that are luxury beyond what the average person would even consider spending. I mean, sure a week at a spa is nice, but it's the old issue of Wants vs. Needs. What seems to be the prevailing theme in all of these "Best of..." and "Oprah's Favorites..." is not that we need these items, but that no matter what the cost, we are ENTITLED to these things. I've always tried to teach my kids the difference between Wants and Needs. You NEED food to survive, you don't necessarily need the finest sirloin. You NEED water to live, but it doesn't have to be bottled (If you see Jerry Seinfeld you might tell him that, because I have it on authority that at a charity performance in Las Vegas, he spit out bottled water that wasn't to his liking. So I guess he isn't really acting when he's being annoying and vain...) The few times I have watched, or been virtually forced to due to the overwhelming influenece of relatives, I have noticed this glassy eyed vehemance in the audience's attitude that I find frightening. Is life really all about getting the "best"? And who, exactly, gets to make that decision? What if the brand I like isn't the "best"? Does that make me less of a person? And what about this worship of Oprah? It makes me uneasy the way that her power and wealth can swing fortunes into and out of someone's reach based on her opinion. Sure, she got fleeced by the writer, but in supporting him blindly, she helped him to fleece others. There's a lesson here about following blindly those who are not necessarily more informed or smarter than you. So please, tell me why so many people are willing to give their time, money and lifestyles over to the whims of this talk show host....