Category Archives: Public Education

Back to School, Part 3

If you’ve kept up with this blog for any length of time, you may remember my posts about Secret Teacher Insights – Schooled and Schooled, Part 2. Well, with Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and this being my first V-Day out of the classroom, I’ve been thinking. Last week, someone asked me if I missed teaching. My honest answer? Sometimes. But the ability to go to the bathroom whenever I want during the work day totally outweighs any sadness at beign out of public education. Seriously. If you’ve never taught, you won’t get this one. So think about it – teachers can’t just drop everything for a bathroom break whenever. It takes planning. And time, which is something teachers have very little of. But that one simple question got me thinking about other possible topics for my book. Want a taste? Ok, here you go…

If you teach long enough, kids grow up. This one seems like a no-brainer, so hear me out. Remember how weird it was to see your teacher away from school? Like at the grocery store or a restaurant? They just didn’t look right. Especially if they were in shorts and a t-shirt. Well, that goes both ways, folks. Happened just the other day. I had to print off resumes for the day’s interviews at work, and I recognized a name. Looking closer, I realized that it was a kid I taught WAY back in the day. I ran to my boss and excitedly told her, and she asked if there was anything the Head Honcho should know before the guy came in to interview. Hmmm… Should I have told her that he was the kid who sat with his hands down his pants through my entire first official observation? That’s a tough one. Of course I told her. But I made her promise (after she picked herself up off the floor laughing) not to pass that one on to the Head Honcho. Still, it was weird to see this tall young man in a business suit come through the office. I couldn’t for the life of me erase the vision of the kid with both hands busy in his wind shorts.

Teachers hear everything that goes on at home. Case in point: the kindergartener who told me his mom would be a few minutes late picking him up from school. When I asked why, he plainly told me that it was because she needed extra time to move around. “My mommy’s having trouble bending,” the wide-eyed cherub said. “Is she OK?” I asked with concern. “Yeah, but ever since she got the ring in her belly button she has trouble bending,” the cherub replied. I kid you not. I’ve said it before – I can’t make this stuff up!

Some parents can be overly sympathetic. This is a funny one here. Just warning you. One of the schools had very strict rules about class parties. It was a newer school, and of course the administration wanted to do what they could to preserve the carpets, etc. So the rule was – at parties – that every kid had to remain seated until all of the food/drink/sugary stuff was cleaned up. Sensible, right? Not for one mommy. She rounded on me in the middle of the room and lambasted me for not allowing her sweet little daughter – who didn’t like Sprite – to get up and drink some water. For goodness sake, the mom yelled said, the poor darling was going to get dehydrated. I stood my ground. Of course, the forty other parents stood around and watched this happen.

When it was over and the mommy had stormed to the office determined to confront the principal on this one, another mom sidled up to me and whispered, “Strawberry or Apple?” My natural reaction was to look at her like WTHeck?? And I’m sure I had that ‘deer in headlights’ look of a teacher who’s just been yelled at. She was nice enough to clarify. “I can be back in five minutes. The gas station has Boone’s, and I know you need it after that. So, strawberry or apple?”

Like I said, I’m not creative enough to make this stuff up!

School nurses really can work magic. My first year teaching, I had an adorable girl named Annie in my class. Annie was the sweetest, most loving child. She always tried her best. But she was one of those that you’d just look at and think, ‘Bless her little heart.’ In southern-speak, that translates to ‘she’s just not the sharpest knife in the drawer.’

One afternoon, Annie went to the bathroom. For a really long time. In fact, she came back just as we were packing up to get on the buses to go home. And she looked panicked. She told me that she had lost her tooth. Being the new, good teacher I was, I tried to reassure her and get her a treasure box for her tooth. ‘That’s the problem,’ she sobbed, ‘I swallowed it.’ She was hysterical. I sent her to the nurse. Just as we left for the bus, Annie came back, smiling and happy with a fresh treasure box proudly held in her hand. She told me that the tooth was inside.

Huh? I marched my happy self down to the nurse after school and demanded to know what she’d done.

‘I got it out,’ the nurse told me. ‘The tooth. I got it out.’

I believed her for about ten minutes until she finally busted out laughing. Who says ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary?

I’ve got many, many more tidbits here, folks. What do you think? Should I keep this up and turn it into a book? There’s millions of gems stored up in my head!

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Field Trips, life lessons, Moms, Public Education, Teachers, Teaching, Uncategorized

Soapbox Time

What in the world has happened to education around here? Oh, right. It’s a business. First and foremost it’s a business, and that means that the focus is on money. Focus on test scores so that the kids will score high enough that the districts get money to pad their ever-shrinking budgets.

And what is lost? I’ll tell you – here in H-town, it’s kids’ exposure to the arts. I’m not talking about middle and high school orchestra, band, choir and theatre. Nope. Those are alive and well. But where do those programs get their numbers? Kids. Little kids who grow with an interest in the arts. And if they’re not exposed to it at a young age (by a teacher with a clue who shares their own love of the arts), then secondary programs are doomed.

I don’t get it. Back when I first started teaching, every kid in most districts around here had at least one opportunity during their elementary school years to experience the performing arts up close and personal – a live performance, trip to the museum, you name it. But here? That was the first thing to go when the budget started getting tight. It burns me up. No more field trips, no more excursions to the museum or the symphony. At least not in the districts around my ‘burb.

What are people thinking?? Obviously they haven’t read or considered this excellent article from The Washington Post. It’s not just the arts programs that suffer – it’s the whole child. What do we want as our society’s legacy? Constant connectedness through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – or a lasting legacy of fine art. Consider this: we base our opinions of ancient societies based on artifacts and literature left behind. And right now our legacy of Tweets and status updates is becoming the norm.

It makes me miss home even more, because obviously schools and school administrators up in Big D have their heads on straight. Those kids still get the field trips to the arts, and many also get weeks spent in outdoor classrooms experiencing science firsthand. WHAT’S WRONG WITH H-TOWN?? IT’S THE FOURTH-LARGEST CITY IN AMERICA, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! Maybe it would help if our parents and teachers were more vocal – oh, wait, arts teachers continually lobby for greater presence. They’re already doing that. But to no avail.

Can you tell I want to move home today?

And just a side note – I hope some homeschooling parents read the Washington Post article too. I had a conversation about homeschooling just the other day with a friend who actually gets it – and does the deed properly, putting their kids first and foremost.

But the arts are still lacking for those kids too – unless they have exceptional parents who place a high priority on the arts, they’re not getting it. Those kids may be lucky enough to learn biology from a biologist and history from a medieval scholar – but that’s not the whole child. Listening to an iPod 24/7 or finger painting three times a week do not constitute exposure to and education in the fine arts. And the arts are a necessity for every child.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Agree with me? Leave a comment. Disgusted with and ready to shoot me? Leave a comment. My point here is to make you think, and inspire some kind of action. Because I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want humans three hundred years from now to think our greatest accomplishment to the world was the Tweet.

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Filed under Arts Education, Budget, Field Trips, Houston, Performing Arts, Public Education

Schooled, Again

As promised, here are a few more tidbits from the lesser-known inside world of public education:

Skillset? Whatchyou Talkin’ About??
This one gets me every time. And it usually gets TO me as well. Last year I left the world of public education – at least, as a career. I’m still in it as a parent and that’s a WHOLE other ball of wax. Anyhoo, during my job hunt I was really amazed – amazed and discouraged – at the number of corporate types who view teaching as irrelevant or non-experience in the business world. That’s just dumb. Skillsets? Please. I’ve got skills to spare. You just have to look at the facts. For example:
Technical writing? I learned this one through the process of The Office Referral. The Golden Rule here? Be Specific. So, yes, I can write with brevity, specificity and direct quotations. “Johnny chose to look at a friend, shout ‘You smell like ass!’ and climb on top of the coat cabinet.” That’s a direct quote, people. Or this one:
Sales skills? Again. Please. YOU try sitting in on a conference with Protective Mama Bear and try to put a diplomatic spin on the fact that her little darling – who has never done anything wrong – thought it would be funny to paint his name on the restroom wall – while peeing. Mama Bear’s argument? ‘Are YOU a boy? YOU just don’t get it. Sometimes they just can’t aim.’ No, I’m not a boy, but I get the fact that, when I’m standing outside the boys’ room and four boys exit laughing with EXACTLY the same story about Jimmy peeing on the wall – there’s probably some truth to that. But it takes excellent sales skills to get Protective Mama Bear to admit it.

Growth and Development is Even More Horrifying as an Adult
Oh my. I learned this one the hard way. A couple of years ago, during my Master’s work, part of my degree was and on-the-job internship. My mentor suggested that I needed to step up and be the ‘go-to’ person when anything was needed. So when the ad went out for extra female chaperones during the Growth and Development film I eagerly – and naively – volunteered immediately. This was going to be my Path to Administration. And the end result? I was horrified. Back in my day, the Growth and Development film for girls was some old – really old, as in on a reel-to-reel projector – film about the marvelous changes to your body. It was probably filmed in 1965. So I wasn’t prepared for the up-close-and-personal diagrams – really detailed diagrams – of a woman’s hoohah. Labeled and everything. I’m pretty sure my gasp of horror was louder than any of the girls’. Chaperone Fail.

Strength and Agility Drills? Check.
During my second year teaching in The Hood, I lost my classroom to another department and was sent out to a portable building. A quarter of a mile from the building. Bathroom emergencies? Forget it. Anyhoo, this also meant that administrators were less likely to come visit – because they just didn’t want to walk that far. This was also a bad thing more than once. Take, for example, the time that Montell or Montrell – I can’t remember which – got upset about his behavior card and decided to run away. From school. He was out the door before I could catch him. Keep in mind that my portable backed up to a busy urban street. If he ran out there, he’d get squashed like a bug. So I grabbed him just as he tried to jump the rail around the stairs. Got a teacher’s aide to call the office. There I was, dangling a 55 pound kid over a rail five feet off the ground with one arm. And the office replied that the higher-ups were all in a meeting and could I just handle it this one time? Sure. No problem. Same thing on the day the kid decided to use me as target practice with his shoes. And other small objects he found in the room once he ran out of shoes. Heck, I could win a dodge ball tourney just with the skills I learned that day, folks.

Some Administrators Get It
And finally, here you go. A fairy tale in a world where administrators sometimes get a bad rap. A colleague of mine got a surprise visit from our district supervisor one day. As music teachers, we had the normal on-campus principal evaluations but also the regular district-level walkthroughs. So anyway, our supervisor came by to visit my colleague. After class I asked her how it had gone, and she replied, ‘Not that great. Kids were awful and he only stayed three minutes. I’m probably gonna get fired.’ Later that day, guess what? The same guy popped in to watch my class. Stayed the whole time and even lingered to visit afterwards. He was in a good mood, so I ventured to ask about my colleague’s visit earlier that day. His response? ‘Oh, I’m going to email her and ask when I can reschedule. And offer to buy her a drink.’ Huh? I was confused, and said so. Told him she thought she might lose her job. His response??

Wait for it.

“Lose her job? Please. I’ve seen lots of things, but Jesus Himself could not have controlled THAT classroom on THIS particular day.”

And that, folks, is just a snapshot of Public Education!

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Filed under kids, Moms, Public Education, Teaching, working moms