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.