Friday, May 12, 2017

Boys, Pain and Silence

I've raised two boys into young men. I am proud of my sons.
And i thank God that my boys aren't growing up today.
I think of the way our society treats boys from kinder through college and it's a wonder they don't en masse rise up and slaughter us.

This year, through the kismet of computer humor, I ended up with an Art One class of 31 students, 24 of them being male. That's fine. It ends up boisterous and we usually take some odd side trips, but it's okay. What is strange is how some of them have attached themselves to me as a substitute Mom. I've had students do this in the past. It's usually not the star students or the worst of the worst, but instead the average kids who have quirky personalities and interests.

One kid in particular seems to enjoy trying to shock me with outrageous comments. He's a handsome kid, tall, but really goofy. He was complaining about not knowing how to pick out a tux for prom. I told him to get help from his Dad. He replied, "If my Dad actually spent ten minutes with me it'd be a miracle. He's an asshole who left my Mom when I was two months old." It was shocking and I told him I was sorry he had to go through that and his reply was "I'm over it," which of course means, he's not. He's hurting, and badly. Hearing this story, another kid stated," My Step Dad is okay, but I'm pretty much just a replacement for my step-brother who died of an overdose." Wow. So that kid doesn't even feel he's important enough to care about on his own merit. Then another boy talked about how his Mom and Stepfather travel and have missed most of the senior events even though he's heading to engineering school halfway across the country in June. What was strange is that as more boys spoke out, others were having conversations over the things they've experienced-one kid had to run away when his stepfather got so mad over a bad grade that he threw him against the wall. Another had friends buy an airplane ticket to his Dad's home when his Mom and Stepdad threw him out. Others were simply ignored over overlooked or acting out just to get someone to look.

People have talked for years about the pain girls go through in school. But girls, in my experience, are more than willing to tell you about it. Boys generally do not. They carry their pain around until it erupts in ways that are destructive to themselves and to others. Counselors, by and large, are dismissive of boys' problems until they develop to the level where students are shipped to alternative school or juvey. The same people who will intervene for girls when they feel threatened or diminished will rant and rail at boys who are experiencing the same emotions, but don't have the same outlets for their pain. I listen to the teacher next door who nurtures bunches of need girls, but who regularly screams at her class which has many boys in it. I worry because we only have two and a half weeks of school and these boys are showing the type of pain that manifests in binge drinking, drugs, risky behaviors of all kinds. And I fear that the quirky kid who plays jazz and grows bonsai trees or the kid whose father is a radio guy on a large national sports show will do something that will cause me to cry when I see their names associated with some summer tragedy.

Our society, our schools, our nation have failed boys. The push to make things more acceptable for girls has permitted an entire system to ignore the growing problems boys experience. Bullying, learning deficits, special ed and at risk labels are all more often directed toward boys. More boys succeed at suicide. Fewer males than females are in college. We are letting them fall through the cracks.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ack! Spinners!

I want to offer my sincerest thanks to whatever idiot invented "spinners". As if my high school students aren't distracted enough chatting on their cell phones and playing games and movies on their IPads, now I get to contend with the type of behavior I thought I would avoid in high schools.Right on the heels of Pokemon Go, distantly related to the perils of Pogs, Pokemon cards and Tamagotchi, Spinners were promoted as a way to get ADHD kids to stop fidgeting.

It's a lie.

Instead those same populations, AND OTHERS WHOSE PARENTS PERMIT THESE TOYS, are more distracted, more fidgety, less engaged than they were before. I've seen this before when I found Tech Decks in my briefcase. The same kids who come to class with reams of paperwork for 504, IEP's and BIP's are also loaded for bear with every electronic gadget and toys they can carry. It's a wonder our district electric bill hasn't soared beyond all reason.

As a teacher, please, please, please don't buy these stupid things. Don't let your children take them to school. And don't believe any "professional" who claims these are a cure for your child's lack of attention.

"The alleged mental benefits of the toys have helped fuel their sales, but even a cursory look at the nonexistent science — and the history — of the spinners makes it clear that these claims are specious at best. Fidget spinners weren't created by behavioral scientists with a deep knowledge of intellectual disability nor were they created by experts in a lab; they were first patented by an inventor from Florida named Catherine Hettinger who wanted to promote world peace. She began imagining the spinner while visiting her sister in Israel. What if the young boys throwing rocks at police officers played with something calming instead? she thought. Hettinger's spinner never took off: Hasbro passed on it, her patent expired in 2005, and the spinner toiled in obscurity until earlier this year, when a series of YouTube videos featuring teenagers doing tricks with them went viral."~Time Magazine

Spinner History

Spinners' Questionable Science

Friday, May 05, 2017

Throwing Shade

I've taught for a long time.
I've taught kids who were rich and kids who were poor.
I've taught kids from trailers and kids from mansions.
I've taught white kids who thought they were black, Asian kids who claim to be Mexican and Hispanic kids who are really Americans.
But we have a problem in this country and it comes when anyone thinks how they look entitles them to be treated differently. I'm sorry if this offends, but there are reasons that African American  kids are in trouble more is because in too many cases whatever good lessons they get at church and home are undone by the music they listen to, the movies they watch and the examples they see in their own homes. How can we stop violence in schools if at home it's the norm? How can we expect to see respect given to us from kids who don't even respect each other?

Today, during the misbegotten period known as Block Lunch, I asked several students who were lying, yes you read that right, lying on the floor of the hall blocking the way during lunch to move to allow people walking to pass. See for some reason even though there are ample seats at tables and desks around the building, kids prefer to sit and eat on the floor. Why? No clue. I asked them to sit up and one young man decided to respond, " I don't have to listen to you." Oh really.....it was the wrong day to pick that fight. Then he got others the chime in. I seldom write up kids, mostly because it does no good, but this type of Lord of the Flies gang mentality is disturbing. Kids take up causes for other kids they don't even know based on God knows what evidence. What is more, because of this, teachers and other students are intimidated into tacit approval. I watched these same kids blocking the hall from one of our special ed students who is wheelchair bound. It appears that intimidation is seeping down from universities of high schools.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Origins of Selfishness

It has been a tradition in our area to offer an all night after prom party as a safe alternative to parents renting out a hotel suite open to whatever debauched imaginations of teens can compose. Usually these events were held at places like Main Event or PinStax which offer generally wholesome activities like bowling, laser tag, arcade games, etc. It was a nice way for kids who either couldn't afford prom or who didn't go for various reasons to still enjoy a rite of passage.

Traditionally it has been a function of some group on PTSA to make arrangements for this event. Reservations, raising money for scholarship and door prizes take awhile to assemble.  Generally speaking, even if prom itself was stuffy and overly dramatic, most kids enjoyed the after party. Parents appreciated it as well, knowing their kids would be less likely to get in trouble.

Our prom was officially announced. Then it was announced there would be no after prom. Why? As I found out from my inside sources (kids talk...) it was because the PTSA Mom whose job it was decided that since her little babies graduated in January that it didn't matter. I could perhaps forgive this woman if she had been heavily involved in serious work. She's not. She appears to be somewhat of a trophy wife who drives the latest Mercedes and whose children were very, shall we say, elitist.

So if you wonder where this self-centered, I am the bellybutton of the Universe, attitude comes from, look no further than the parents. I feel sorry for the kids still here. What could have been a fun, penultimate and inclusive event is now nothing. It's too late to arrange an event. We're out here trying to teach kids that commitment and responsibility matter and yet their own parents can't even take care of those things they committed to do.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Phone Addiction: It Makes Crack Look Tame

This has been the environment in our home for too long. With three boys and three little machines attached to them like the nuks they held so tightly as babies, I can no longer reach them. Their attention has been stolen by these screens. Their minds so needing the quick fix of their phones, a simple dinner conversation without a flashing screen has become torture.(Article Linked above in first line....)
My response:
I wish more parents were like you. I teach high school. Worse than that, I teach high school in a district that thought it would be forward thinking and educationally sound to have students bring their own technology into the classroom. So whereas phones were forbidden in class except when teachers needed them for online coursework, now phones are on all the time. Students walk down the hallways, earphones snaked under their clothes, listening to what I can only assume is the soundtrack they believe is underlying their daily lives. They secretly text and watch movies in class, necessitating that they have to sit on the floor in the hallways during lunch, with their chargers plugged in, so that they will be able to text during their afternoon classes.

I've been teaching a long time. Instead of increasing depth of knowledge, the impact of phone addiction (for I truly believe that is the nature of this situation) is that students lack social filters and many are incapable of carrying on a rational conversation, much less a supported debate. They are less articulate, less able to write intelligently and are essentially lacking in the ability to focus. The irony is that the imposition of technology is viewed by the educational hierarchy as something to be supported because it can be quantified. What they have not considered is the impact down the road.

Consider this. We now teach young children to read using electronic screens rather than printed books. Electronic screens are constantly moving, causing eyestrain. In prior generations, most children with vision problems were caught in first grade, when they started reading. Young children have no word for eyestrain, they only know that reading makes their head hurt. It's basic operant conditioning that explains why our kids are reading less, thinking less, doing less. I promise you that those kids in China, Russia and Denmark that are kicking our kids rearends in educational benchmarks are not learning this way. It's lazy. And it's turning today's kids into ready consumers for whatever popular fake news comes down the pike.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This Says It All

I read the following article and found it true. Our students are protected from the consequences of failure by well meaning, but wrongheaded parents, counselors and administrators and as a result we have young adults who are devastated when proven wrong. I believe this fuels much of the angst on college campuses as the main actors would rather die than be shown to be wrong. American Students Don't Know How To Fail

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Culture Impacts Everything, Even High School Art Competitions

I just finished helping put on a regional competition at my school. Nowhere else do you see what is going on in our society so clearly as at a show where kids are getting prizes. This was a regional juried art show that leads to a state competition. I wish it was as prestigious as it sounds.

First, for some reason visual arts is the only group that exists in our state that has a state level competition outside of University Interscholastic League-which means to most administrators we are virtually invisible. In order to counter that, some teachers in Houston organized a regional competition under the umbrella of Texas Art Education Association. It started out as a simple, good idea. It was an outlet for students at the high school level to show off their artwork and perhaps experience some interesting workshops.

But, as with all good things, it has outgrown it's original purpose. Just like our Federal government, many of the same officials who began the organization are still in charge. They have moved up the food chain to become Art Coordinators and are thus far removed from what is expected in the average classroom today. And just like any other administrator, they pile on more expectations without considering the endgame.

Secondly, there's the website to consider. This website was drawn up and created about eight years ago. In internet terms, it's a dinosaur. There are countless links, drop down boxes, and mazes of vaguely labeled pages. This is the first clue that things are not as simple as they seem. Just finding the correct page to print a list of names requires the investigative skills of Sherlock Holmes. Trying to use them, since they were all composed with what appears to be a Windows 95 mindset, requires the patience of Job.

In a world where we are urged to move to paperless solutions, we, the hosts of the competition, went through no fewer than 20 reams of different colored paper to print labels, forms, judging forms, teacher forms, disqualification forms and more. The website, which I already mentioned was outdated, glitched and printed three of every single form. Three. So we had to spend about three hours Friday night removing and discarding duplicate forms, then filing them alphabetically. Needless to say this was time consuming at a time when we had many other things to do.

Did I mention in my district we're virtually invisible no matter how well we do? Only two out of 70 art teachers from our district and five out of 200 teachers in our school signed up for paid positions to help us. We asked, we cajoled, we begged, we gave them free lunch...not even our district art coordinator-who's paid far more than I am-could bother to show up to say hi at a regional event that included every single high school she allegedly coordinates. It's like we're the Wallendas and there's no net.

Worse still is that students must have forms on the back and their teachers were clearly informed of this fact months ago. Yet, probably 20 percent of the teachers came wandering in to ask about printing entry forms and even reference resource photos on site. Isn't it bad enough that our current students don't read directions--do we really need instructors modeling that type of behavior? But I digress

Third, is the behavior of the teachers was overall okay. But as with anything ten percent of the people cause ninety percent of the problems. I've already mentioned the problem with forms. Forms have been on the website since November. There's no excuse for people to show up for a regional, 2000 student plus event sans the required documentation. Yet, there it was. I was running the control room from the library and I had no less than ten requests to print multiple forms, images and such. What is more, on work that should have come from photos taken by the student, teachers were actively changing the images! But, because they whined and because the state president was there, it was insisted we print everything. No personal responsibility there.

Fourth, at Qualifications, where the size, media, artist name and forms are verified a girl's drawing, which was good, was disqualified because she told the worker she got the image from a Google image in direct opposition to the rules stating "all photo sources must be original to the student or directed by the student." Even old family photos are no longer acceptable. (I know-draconian measures but we've had SO MANY PEOPLE plagiarize copyrighted works that there was no other option.) The girl ran off with her form to her teacher who then pulled off the photo, said it was his mistake it was on there and that it was an image "from her mind." Jeez. Students were supposed to go to Forms first-to check their forms and then Qualifications to check their image. This was outlined to teachers via emails,  maps and signs. Many students simply skipped Qualification because they and their teachers KNEW their documentation would be DQ'd. This meant that at the input level, we underpaid wage slaves in the control room had to chase down images to get them requalified.

All these things take time. Did I mention the website was outdated and glitchy? After getting the scoring forms, the scores had to be in put into the official website. The website would be fine for a few minutes then go down for no reason. Since I was in control room I was filling in wherever logjams cropped up. Input was slow but steady. As we finished that job, the score papers were separated into stacks by teacher. Also artwork that was not going on to Area competition, which was the afternoon segment, was being returned to designated areas for teacher to retrieve later at a specific time. This was stated to the teachers, who were supposed to sign up for Remind-a texting messaging program. So why were teachers showing up, taking papers,  before the time? What happened then was we found that some of the runner had not turned over scoring papers to the input people. So we needed to go back through the stacks and find them so we could balance the number of works scored with the total number by adding in the DNA's. We had a list of forty artworks where no papers were found. I suspected one teacher, a particularly unpleasant sort who complained about one of the nicest judges and who had a parent try to file a lawsuit last year, of taking papers from her stack and showing them to the students before authorized. Four of her pieces were on the list of missing scores. This will be important later.

We finally made it to Area judging. I never got to see a single piece. While this judging is going on teachers are picking up other works and their papers and I'm organizing for them to pick up medals. The database prints a medal count supposedly in real time. It's getting later and later-I've been at the school since 5:30 AM. The administrator in charge is antsy to go and starts locking doors, shutting down restrooms and hallways. She insists we move my entire medals set up to the cafeteria. I need a printer to get the latest print out of receipts with medals. She finds one and I'm told that Area judging is nearly done. Because we have three buses of kids still hanging out, I opt to print and get as many medals as possible and send the rest to them this week. Most teachers understand. But the teacher mentioned before gets all huffy to the point that she has our principal copy the eight sheets showing her kids got a certain score which is not reflected in the receipt I have because not all the data has gone through. THOSE PAGES WERE THE ONES WE WERE MISSING BECAUSE SHE TOOK THEM WHICH IS WHY THE NUMBERS ARE SCREWED UP! I have never before been so tempted to punch a woman in the face.

We bag medals with help of a few kind souls who see there's no way one person can do this. All the other paid staff bailed at 6:00PM and it's now 8:00. If we don't want to be there until midnight the numbers have to be taken NOW. So I tell people, give me your contact information on the receipt and I'll contact you and get you the medals. The same people who brought every single one of their students (more than half the total at the event) are the ones who bitched the most. They are also the ones who repeatedly produced the most problematic and questionable works. They go out the door and we four teachers spend the next two hours taking down signs, picking up trash, moving the art that is advancing to a safe space.

At the end I am so tired I can't feel my feet. What should be a fun, exciting experience for students and teachers was neither. I not only don't want to put on this event again, I don't even want to urge students to participate. I don't want to go to the state event in San Antonio and I certainly do not ever ever ever want to see the self-serving teachers who made this such a miserable event . We worked so hard. We got food trucks, on site macarons and ice cream, snow cones and more. We did it without our administration doing much and in fact coaches and directors actively tried to stop us. What should be an honor for our school is tarnished because nobody, NOBODY in this district or this organization give art teachers the same kind of support they give every other subject. I was so tired I was too tired to eat or sleep. All I could do is sit while my legs ache and my heart is so heavy because it is evident that no matter how hard we try or I try, we are taken for granted.

When I retire, which is coming probably next year, I will run off this and send this to every single member of TAEA because until someone tells them what a huge mess they have created, nothing will change. Until then, I'll keep this handy. I want to remember why our schools are the way they are and why our culture is at risk. And a culture where people can simply ignore rules, or worse, set up rules for some that others don't have to obey, is a culture where elitism will always occur. We see that with our government, with power trips around the world. That this organization would allow some teachers to bully others who are simply trying to put on a damned high school art competition demonstrates how low people can go. There's really nothing left anymore but for everyone to be selfish and contentious over everything. I give up. Oh and by the way, if you are a state level official showing up to oversee a regional show, sitting around schmoozing with your besties in the breakroom is not the way to help. Get up, stop making exceptions and HELP.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tit for Tat

I am not sure how the namecalling, the labels and epithets further this national dialogue. How does littering my Facebook page with "liked" articles calling the president Hitler and subscribing those who voted for him as bigots and geeks do anything to knit together this broken nation? For eight years I watched as everything I had done for years-being a mother, being a wife, being a good citizen, being patriotic, supporting our military and police-was called into question. I am not naive enough to believe 100% of any group is good or evil, but the repetitive drone and smears of the Left are making me not dislike them as a group, but avoid them as individuals.

My sister in law lives in a million dollar home on the beach in California. Her husband has a hefty pension paid for by the state of California. Basically they are highly funded welfare cases. She's a liberal. Today she posted on my Facebook a lengthy diatribe calling Trump Hitler and vilifying those who didn't blindly choose to vote for a deeply flawed Hillary Clinton. This daily harangue, some of it deliberate disinformation and misinformation, has legs.

My grandson's mother has half sisters and family in Seattle. Since discovering her family roots, she has decided to embrace a strident leftist tone. She has talked about taking her sons to the local women's march. I know the kind of signs and "costumes" are out there. My grandson can read-because he's smart as a whip. I don't want him exposed to this toxic spew of hatred.

My other sister in law lives in Aurora. Her husband pays all their bills. They spend to the limits of their credit. She's a liberal and also lobs FB bombs at me.

I'm not one who likes launching grudges, but why is it okay for them to throw all of this at me and I am not permitted by the social conventions and something I like to call "manners" from dishing back in kind. So I've dumped them both, coming short of blocking them just in case in their childless states they need help.

I'll dial 911 for them.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A helpful list....

Below is a helpful list of contacts should you be tired of what passes for humor on various shows lately,most notably Saturday Night Live. Feel free to use it and share. Let your opinions be known. Ironically I picked this up from a liberal website.

Both Facebook and twitter accounts are included. Have at it. This is not over.

Kohl’s - https://www.facebook.com/kohls/ @kohls

Campbell’s - https://www.facebook.com/campbells @campbells

State Farm - https://www.facebook.com/statefarm/ @statefarm

Cheerios (General Mills) - 
https://www.facebook.com/Cheerios/ @cheerios @generalmills 

T-Mobile - https://www.facebook.com/TMobile @Tmobile

NBC Sunday Night Football (NFL) - https://www.facebook.com/SNFonNBC/ @SNFonNBC

Lincoln Motor Company - https://www.facebook.com/Lincoln/ @LincolnMotorCo

Toyota - https://www.facebook.com/toyota @Toyota

Sensodyne - https://www.facebook.com/SensodyneMe @Sensodyne_US

Sears - https://www.facebook.com/sears @Sears

Kia Motors - https://www.facebook.com/kia @Kia

Metro PCS - https://www.facebook.com/MetroPCS @MetroPCS

Sprint - https://www.facebook.com/sprint @sprint

Farmers Insurance - https://www.facebook.com/FarmersInsurance @wearefarmers

Nissan - https://www.facebook.com/nissanusa @NissanUSA

Time Warner Cable - https://www.facebook.com/twc @TWC

Lexus - https://www.facebook.com/lexus @Lexus

Korean Air - https://www.facebook.com/KoreanAir.US KoreanAir_KE

Audi - https://www.facebook.com/audi @Audi

Honda - https://www.facebook.com/Honda @Honda

Neutrogena - https://www.facebook.com/Neutrogena @Neutrogena

FAGE Total Greek Yogurt - https://www.facebook.com/FAGE-Total-Greek-Yogurt-Rowse-Greek-Hill-Honey-222475247802872 @FAGEUSA

Payless ShoeSource - https://www.facebook.com/payless @PaylessInsider

Wells Fargo - https://www.facebook.com/wellsfargo @WellsFargo

TJ Maxx - https://www.facebook.com/tjmaxx @tjmaxx

Yoplait - https://www.facebook.com/Yoplait @yoplait

Subaru - https://www.facebook.com/subaruofamerica @subaru_usa

Swanson (Campbell’s) - https://www.facebook.com/Swanson 

University of Phoenix - https://www.facebook.com/universityofphoenix @UOPX

La Quinta Inn - https://www.facebook.com/laquinta @LaQuintaInn

Olay - https://www.facebook.com/OlayUS @OlayUS

GMC - https://www.facebook.com/gmc @ThisIsGMC

Target - https://www.facebook.com/target @Target

LG - https://www.facebook.com/LGUSAMobile @LGUS

Microsoft - https://www.facebook.com/Microsoft @Microsoft

Subway - https://www.facebook.com/subway @Subway

Redds’s Apple Ale - https://www.facebook.com/reddsappleale @Reddsappleale

Hyundai - https://www.facebook.com/Hyundai @Hyundai

National Geographic - https://www.facebook.com/natgeo @Natgeo

PlayStation (Sony) - https://www.facebook.com/PlayStation @PlayStation

Sony - https://www.facebook.com/Sony @Sony

Johnson & Johnson – https://www.facebook.com/jnj @JNJNews

Jack Daniel’s - https://www.facebook.com/jackdaniels/ @JackDaniels_US

Ford - https://www.facebook.com/ford/ @Ford

Morongo - https://www.facebook.com/morongocasinoresort/ @MorongoCasino

Disney - https://www.facebook.com/Disney @Disney

Disney Aulani - https://www.facebook.com/DisneyAulani/ @DisneyAulani

JC Penney - https://www.facebook.com/jcp @jcpenney

X-Box - https://www.facebook.com/xbox @Xbox
Mercedez-Benz https://www.facebook.com/mercedesbenzusa @Mercedesbenz

GE - https://www.facebook.com/GE @generalelectric

American Express - https://www.facebook.com/AmericanExpressUS @AmericanExpress

Cover Girl - https://www.facebook.com/covergirl @covergirl

POM - https://www.facebook.com/pomwonderful @pomwonderful

Old Navy - https://www.facebook.com/oldnavy @oldnavy

Head and Shoulders - https://www.facebook.com/headandshouldersusa/ @headshoulders

Jeep - https://www.facebook.com/jeep @jeep

Verizon - https://www.facebook.com/verizon/ @verizon

Absolut - https://www.facebook.com/AbsolutUS @absolutvodka

HBO - https://www.facebook.com/HBO/ @hbo

Macy’s - https://www.facebook.com/Macys @macys

Hulu - https://www.facebook.com/hulu @hulu

Axe - https://www.facebook.com/Axe @axe

Tide - https://www.facebook.com/Tide @tide

Aflac - https://www.facebook.com/Aflac @aflac

Kit Kat (Hershey’s) - https://www.facebook.com/KitKatUSA @kitkat

Hershey’s - https://www.facebook.com/hersheys/ @hersheys

Guitar Hero (Activision) - https://www.facebook.com/GuitarHero @guitarhero

Activision - https://www.facebook.com/Activision @activision

Ross -https://www.facebook.com/RossDressforLess @Ross_Careers_ny

El Pollo Loco -https://www.facebook.com/ElPolloLoco/ @ElPolloLoco

Supercuts - https://www.facebook.com/Supercuts @Supercuts

Bud Light - https://www.facebook.com/BudLight @budlight

Grub Hub - https://www.facebook.com/grubhub @grubhub

Amazon - https://www.facebook.com/Amazon @amazon

AMC - https://www.facebook.com/amc @amc_tv
Jack in the Box - https://www.facebook.com/jackinthebox @jackbox

Wienerschnitzel - https://www.facebook.com/Wienerschnitzel @wienerschnitzel

Men’s Wearhouse - https://www.facebook.com/MensWearhouse/ menswearhouse

Hilton Hotels - https://www.facebook.com/hilton/ @hiltonhotels