Saturday, September 08, 2018

Mindfulness

I am tired of the push for "mindfulness." I
I hear it at work, in the media, in the news I read and hear.
My sisters in law live by this invisible mode and some of my children adhere to it as well.
They believe they are being thoughtful-a sort of spiritual worship of all the hands that have touch every single product they encounter.  I honestly don't know how they make it through the day, much less a meal.

I am appreciative of farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, packers, butchers, cooks and people who give us the ability to live such abundant lives. That being said, I do not want to spend my life contemplating the meaningfulness of every single aspect of my life. I don't want to make choices based on agendas. And if I should choose to wear mismatched sock, dowdy sweaters or a silly hat, that is MY choice.

Frankly all this mindfulness strikes me as a rebranding of narcissism. "Ooh look at me, I'm choosing my gluten free cruelty free organic soap" So what? Does it work? If it doesn't, it's a waste of time AND money. And if we are really "mindful" shouldn't wasting energy and materials to produce a substandard product count as NOT being mindful?

Let's apply this to cars. Environmentalists have pushed for measures to make car more fuel efficient. To do so, manufacturers have to make cars more streamlined as well as lighter. This means less metal, more thin metal and plastic. It also means making cars smaller. This wouldn't be a problem if we all had these cars, but we don't. Many of the larger SUV's are so raised off the ground that their bumper level is at the head level of new smaller cars. That means what in earlier generations would have been a mere fender bender will now be an accident with serious, perhaps fatal, injuries. People rant over possibilities of medication and procedures which are far rarer than the fatalities causes by the disparity in size of vehicles. Shouldn't this require mindfulness to either stop insisting new cars be smaller or at least all cars should have bumpers the same height?

Mindfulness goes far beyond this. There is a book out there talking about how you should get rid of all the things in your life that you do not love. So how's that going to work for married couples or large families? Can Mom simply throw away all the laundry? Can Dad donate his lawn mower? Can the kids jettison all the old records and yearbooks from their parents previous lives? I personally believe having to deal with things you may not love builds character. Nobody was promised a perfect life and I don't think individuals should be forced by the nature of "mindfulness" and then false doctrine of perfection to avoid those irregular things in our lives.

I will admit I am more absent minded than mindful. I may have, at times, worn mismatched socks and possibly I've worn some sweater backward. Does that change me as a person because I am less than perfect? Indeed this is the crux of mindfulness, helicopter parenting, cooped up bored kids sentenced to a lifetime of computer screens over the outdoor is an unreasonable fear of being less than perfect. We have to let our children learn to fail in small ways or we risk as adults seeing them fail epically with no possibility of a rebound.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Friendships

I envy people who have lifelong friendships. I've never experienced that situation. We moved a great deal when I was a kid and as a result making friends was a frustrating experience. I remember when I was in fourth grade we moved from Metarie LA to Dallas, TX. I had been a long time Girl Scout and my mother had been a scout leader. The troop at my school wouldn't even let me in. I moved in the middle of the school year and when I tried to have a birthday party in the spring, only two girls came. Nobody called, nobody let us know. That pretty much set the tone for my teen years.

I tried to make friends. I wasn't as willing to risk getting in trouble as others, so I was often left out as the goody goody girl. Every girl I knew either made up gossip or stabbed me in the back. One girl I knew from seventh grade would wait until she knew I liked a boy and then deliberately go after him. She even tried that our senior year with my boyfriend, who is now my husband of nearly 40 years. But I tried. I did the things they did, wore the things they wore, went to the parties and dances, although not my prom. But I was always on the outside of things-wallpaper in the room.

College came and due to my family's financial situation, I had to stay in town and go to community college. Sure, I wrote to my friends who went to Austin and Lubbock and other far away schools, but nobody wrote back. They would come to town and never call me. I would run into them by accident listening to their feeble excuses. They were more than willing to ask me for a favor, but not so much to treat me like a person.

As an adult it was more of the same. I don't play those games so many women use to tear down others. I never did. Yet more than once because I was trying so hard to be a team player, I was the one who ended up losing out in the end. Even as a young mother, I would try to socialize with the other Mom's, but I didn't go to the "right" church or attend the "right" meetings. As a result I've gone through most of my life without a real friend other than my husband.

I've tried, but frankly people are mean. I would be a good friend. I would back up other people. I would go out to lunch. I would watch your house when you were gone and visit you at the hospital when you were sick. I would back brownies for your bake sale when your oven was broken. All I ever wanted was a friend. Somewhere deep inside this crusty 62 year old body is a little girl who just wanted someone to play with. It's really kind of sad that so many adults seemed to see my flaws first.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Conspicuous Technology Consumption

I've taught for over 20 years and I think I've nailed down how school districts make money. You will notice several prominent urban districts are once again pleading and demanding money even though they seem to regularly pass bond issues and get more money for facilities that have little to do with learning. I know it's not getting in teachers' pockets.

Several of my peers with similar credentials and years are barely midrange on our districts salary levels although most of us are retiring within months. How does that work out? It is because the district uses a skewed method of comparing teaching fields to "real world" compensation. By that reasoning anyone in humanities is paid less than anyone in the desirable STEM subjects. That may sound favorable, but I'm not really sure even those teachers are being as highly compensated as the usual folks: coaches, administrators and the mid level bureaucrats that school boards deem "necessary" for the districts to achieve accolades.

So where is the money coming from and where does it go? It's no secret that Technology is one of the buzzword topics politicians find so attractive. They like Technology because it's something they can quantify in number and dollars for votes. So politicians sign off on billions of dollars in programs and hardward intended for nebulous STEM programs. Here's where the fun part comes in. Administrators will often be sought by producers of hardware and programs so that those providers can become preferred vendors. Now I'd like to believe no money changes hands, but seriously do you believe that?

Listen to this timeline:
2007-When I first began working my district we had PC's. When I tried to write a grant for Apples I was told by our school and district IT departments that they would not support any maintenance.
2009-A new superintendent takes a job and almost immediately he moves to have EVERY STUDENT from K-12 issues an Apple IPad-that's issuing 50K+ IPads plus every teacher was issued a Power Macbook and IPad. So we had to shift all our programs to a new paradigm. What was ironic is while we made this costly move, when we had problems with our browsers (although we had Apple products we were using Google Apps so we had to use Chrome) we were told to download free virus scans. Suddenly we saw staffing for IT being cut in half. Hmmm
So we dithered about for seven years-kids gradually stopped paying the meagre $35 insurance fee because they could do as much on their phones plus many of the devices ended up broken or hacked thanks to the downloads of movies, games and such which were played during class all the time.
2016-We're using Apple devices, Chrome browsers, Google apps and Microsoft Office. This situation with multiple platforms would continue until.....

.....2018...we were issues new Apple Airs-good thing since my down button had stopped working and my e and r keys had become unidentifiable. The Air's didn't work like the Power Mac's and the procedure to save 19 years of documents, presentations and lesson plans didn't fully work for anyone. So most of us are starting nearly from scratch to rebuild some very complex programs. But that's not all-not content to gift us with a new learning curve for devices, our Fearless Technology Leaders also decided we need to learn an entirely new method of presenting classes with their work. So now we have to learn Canvas from scratch. It is bulky and not at all intuitive. I have nine shells-some for multiple classes and multiple shells for others. There is no easy fix to align them meaning that rather than uploading material once, I will have to do it NINE TIMES. This is not efficient and there was no reason for it since most of us had finally settled into Google Classroom last year.

In this story is the answer to how districts make money so they can pay ridiculously high salaries to star players-coaches, administrators, band directors. They get grants from politicians for the sake of votes, then the administrators cozy up to potential vendors to get sweetheart deals and possibly kickbacks and to perpetuate the "need" for new software, the leads of Technology ALWAYS advocate for changing the software, because that means someone will have to install, introduce, teach and remediate for those programs UNTIL THE NEXT ONE COMES ALONG. So all that money for "Education" never gets to classrooms or Teachers. Instead it creates a new ruling class of highly paid administrators who can retire early on lucrative buy outs while the rest of us are lucky if we see $2000 a month after we retire. Read it through, look at your district--you know I'm right.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Butterflies and Moths

When I was young I used to classify the bubbles of anxiety as either butterflies or moths. Butterflies came before something exciting, such as Christmas or a birthday. Moths were caused by concern or fears. Right now I am not sure if I am harboring butterflies or moths or perhaps a mix of both.

I had major surgery earlier this summer. My recovery was supposed to take eight weeks, but my school year officially starts August 6th with a week of In-Service. I talked my doctor back to seven weeks and will return August 13th, giving me two prep days before students arrive. Any teacher knows prep time is precious.

But even though I have prepared and am continuing to populate the Yet Another New Platform for my classes, I am very uneasy. I can't sleep. I found myself in tears the other day. This is not excitement, it is fear. I'm not a fearful person normally, but honestly the increasing hostility of students and some peers is created a pit in my stomach that can't be explained away by surgery.

To be fair, even as a small fry, I was always nervous in anticipation of school. But now, as a teacher, knowing how our administration likes to change things on a whim for what largely seems the sake of change, I'm concerned that they will take this year to work me to death. Also, in full disclosure, I am tired-very tired. Teacher is not a job for low energy or the timid-and right now I feel like the poster child for both.

My closest friends have retired. They left early and there are few teachers that seem to relate to the concerns I have. I'm at the point that even most of the administrators are younger and it doesn't help that the AP in charge of my department seems especially manipulated by younger teachers. I am hoping to retire this year-I hope this year doesn't do me in.

Monday, May 21, 2018

And Again....this time Santa Fe, TX.

I look at these shootings and shake my head. 
I look at my students and I shake my head.
Situations which used to be resolved with shouting or a fistfight are now resolved with online bullying and deadly violence.

What happened?

First, as of 2011, more than half of teens had cell phones. Parents bought them in fear, ignoring the side issues of clandestine friends and activities. For some reason parents thought that in an active shooter situation, a cell phone would keep their children magically safe. Is that magical thinking or what? Cell phones are now drifting down to elementary levels, opening up an entire world where not only can they call for help, but predators can find them without their parents knowing. Want proof? Read:
Student abducted from high school

What is horrendous about this story is that the girl's family had moved her to a new school because she was going to testify against a sexual predator who had victimized her while she babysat his children. She had her information on her phone including her internet access. The predator pretended to be a cute guy at her new school who wanted to meet her for a cup of coffee after school. She didn't tell her parents because kids often hide such things from parents. She waited until the crowds thinned after school and got into the car that drove up without looking. It was the predator who raped and killed her. Her parents had no idea she was meeting anyone because teenager use their phones as walls to prevent parents from seeing their real lives.

These stories go on with bullying and suicides, drug deals and sordid parties. One kid had an affair with a teacher and although there was plenty of evidence, he was a high ranking athlete and the parents didn't want his phone history used for fear it would reveal drugs use that would eliminate those hefty athletic scholarships. Had he not been stupid and posted his entire text messages on social media where his girlfriend found it and printed it off, sending a copy to the principal, nobody would have been the wiser. He hid it all on a phone.

I find kids secretly trying to charge phones in my classroom all the time. When one student had hers stolen, the parents tried to blame the teacher-me. After that a couple of times I found phones and upon trying to find out who they belonged to, saw a desktop image that included provocative and borderline salacious photos of one of my students. At that point we have to include the FBI and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to assure them these images, which are now in a database in Washington DC, are not of a kidnapped and exploited child. Images like that from dumb little girls are bought and sold on the Internet daily. Their parents probably bought them phones to keep them safe. I guess they never read about Pandora. So now I don't even look, I just turn in the phone and leave someone higher up the food chain to make those calls. 

My seven year old grandson knows how to get to the internet and access game sites that he should not be using. If a child that young can get that far away, then what are older kids doing? We already know that texting has eroded the ability to hold conversations- which may be why people spend far too much time yelling at each other on Twitter. We know that too many kids think that "getting famous on YouTube" is a viable career path. And many of them are willing to do literally anything to become famous or infamous. This is a very dangerous path when a kid can buy the supplies and find the instructions for making a bomb courtesy of Reddit or any anarchist site. And if you don't think Antifa is part of that "freedom", think again because I hear their platitudes expressed almost hourly.

So what is my point? My point is we are bombarding young brains with a Wild West of technology without having properly prepared them for its use. As a result they are open to all kind of abuse. If some dirty old man pretending to be a teenaged boy can convince a 15 year old to send him nude photos, is it really that outrageous to think that a shy teen immersed in violent games, movies and imagery could be desensitized enough of other people's humanity to blur the lines between violent games and violent reality? I'm not making excuses, but we are seeing an escalation and now it's not about just guns because this kid studied Columbine's methodology and tried to build effective IED's. You don't buy those at Cabela's. 

This is the endgame of a mantra of "don't judge." We're supposed to not have absolutes and to blindly accept ever aberration regardless of how menacing or strange. 
Why did nobody ask why this kid was wearing a treanch coat in Texas spring heat? 
Why did nobody ask why Cruz had the police at his house 30+ times?
Why do we still not know the content of the minutes of the Newtown shooter's last ARD?
Why is the Vegas case being buried?
Why did the Aurora shooter's parents move three states away and why did college officials suggest rather than mandate therapy?
It goes on and on and on and the bottom line is that political correctness, those gut instinct that tell us to duck when a missile is coming, have been eliminated from our kids. Instead they cling to cell phones like pontoons ignoring that their very lack of attention may be giving these attackers a chance to act. 

So what can be done?
First. kids under the age of 15 don't need full internet access on their phones or at home, Period.
Second, we need to spend at least one tenth of what we don on athletics on making schools safer.
Third, students don't get to duck out and say they don't want to cooperate with security measures. I have to fight every day just to get kids to wear a photo ID. Whether it is clear backpacks, limited parking, no off school lunch, wearing uniforms or whatever-it should be stressed that this is for security and that those who won't cooperate will be removed.
Fourth, out high schools are too big in the name of competitive sports, performing arts and such. It's time for schools to be small enough that counselors, teachers and administrators know them.
Fifth, we need to start recognizing that not all kids are academic. We need to offer them a way out-whether it's dual credit or vocational programs they enjoy. We need to make schools be a place for kids from all kinds of backgrounds.
And finally, we have to go back against the ADA and stop allowing seriously mentally ill kids to be mainstreamed into classes where they disrupt and victimize at will. In most cases, not this one but most, the increasing delusions of the seriously psychotic occur as they reach the end of adolescence. I've had kids like this-kids who have histories of violence, who have spent time in mental health wards, who are on thorazine and it's ridiculous that they are in regular schools under the guise of being fair.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

America, We Have a Problem

Perhaps it is because I teach high school that I am somewhat more aware of the secret social mores of teens. Every generation of teens has had it's own preferences, rituals and rites. Many of these were hidden from parents and the very forbidden nature of such activities made them all the more attractive. In earlier generations it was things like smoking, drinking, sex (always sex) and as time wore on drugs because a cult of secrecy for some teens. Earlier generations chose to be oblivious. There would be references to boys "sowing wild oats" or to "boys being boys" the assumption being that girls were the gentler sex and would act as governors on male behavior.

Then the world changed. Suddenly it was easy for young women to BE easy with impunity. Other than the social stigma of community or culture, young women could avoid pregnancy in spite of multiple partners. Women could choose to marry, or not. And that was fine as far as it went. There was still a thin fiber of limitations-things that we hoped our young people would avoid or at least delay. Of course the AIDS epidemic put a damper on the more hedonistic behavior, but there was still this idea that they could have it all and what is more, that they deserved it all. "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it people like me," was their mantra This generation, the teens of the 80's, the kids whose self-esteem matter more than their final product are now the parents of teens and twenty somethings. They have been led to believe that simply by trying to be good parents that they are successful  It is not going well.

As teens, the kids of the 80's grads used first pagers and then cell phones to give their parents the illusion of supervision without actually acquiescing to supervision. These kids would avoid their parents and knew how to get away with partying to the point that they had special ring tones and friends who would vouch for their presence at vetted houses rather than let parents know where they really were and what they were really doing. What is more, parents GAVE these kids these devices under the wrongheaded idea that by doing so they were "parenting." What they were really doing is giving teens the tools to set up entire networks of underground social media and the associated behaviors of that kind of network. The upside of this is a sort of Ferris Beuller fantasy, but the reality is that too many kids began to isolate themselves from reality. Suddenly their social network of countless friends became more necessary that their real family or even their real friends.

The truth is that if you have a teen right now in your home, and that teen has a cell phone, there's a real likelihood that they sleep with their cell phones. Delaying gratification or even refusing to talk or text someone is viewed as a social faux pas. Teens who use their cell phones to text are 42% more likely to sleep with their phones than teens who own phones but don’t text. Try taking a cell phone away from the average teen is akin to torture. I don't exaggerate when I saw I have had far more threats of violence flung at me for the simple act of taking up a cell phone in class than any other action. Cell phones in class have become a disruptive invasion of privacy. Student film teachers and others surreptitiously to post on social media without consent and often along with disparaging comments. The bullying capabilities are exponential as a child can be bullied at school, at work, at home and even on their phones. It is a situation that can appear inescapable for teens who often have not developed real world social insulation. It can lead down some serious and dangerous paths.

That teens have a secret social network should be no secret, but the intensity of that network and the demands that alpha teens place on their lower status peers can force less sophisticated teens into social situations beyond their control. Far too often it's not if they will engage in sex or drugs or drinking it is when. The kids who party know which parents will turn a blind eye. The kids who party are not necessarily the stereotypical druggies-they are just as often student council members, cheerleaders or band members. The days when you could spot the bad kids by what they wear are gone. Instead you need to look at what they post.


Here are a series of social media posts from teens:
1.
RT @fukunurhoexxx: #youthetype of b*tch that give up your p*ssy for free and think its cool #p*ssyaintfree #fb
RT @TheSoleManSB: We in need of some trees … Wea tha weed man
RT @MisunderstoodC_: Get high to balance out the lows
RT @___xMaxDee: I got game for you young hoes, don’t grow to be a dumm hoe
RT @Bombshelll_: “@La_VidaBella: I’ll beat the pu**sy up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up up”
2.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What Have I Been Saying?

This article, written by a Millennial, says everything I've been saying for the last eight years.

Finally!

Quote: