So, remember my anti-bad teachers rant(s)? Only moments ago, H- told me something that *I think* gave me a glimpse of heaven.
She said, “Dad, today I fell asleep at school.”
A bit shocked, I asked, “When? Where were you?”
She said, “While we were watching T.V.”
Yippee!!! Hallelujah!! She’s doing it! Victory!!
I said, “Will you do something for me?”
She answered, “What?”
“Will you fall asleep every time you watch TV?”
(See what I’m doing here?)
So, from now on, if my little ruse works, I’ll have contributed to a problem which proves the problem. I cannot wait for some teacher or administrator to address me about H-‘s sleeping habits at school. The very thought of that moment is, itself, nourishment to my soul.
Good Morning. I don’t mean to always be so somber in my posts these days, it’s just that I’ve had a lot of school work and so blogging takes the back seat. I’m excited to share that I had a theological epiphany today, and a big one at that. Or at least I think I did. We’ll see how my grade turns out. On to the funny.
First, I was reminded today how many times my honesty with women is unappreciated. Two specific cases stand out. First, back over a decade ago, I was a personal trainer/gopher at a gym. Two twenty-somethings were complaining that their diets and routines weren’t producing results. As I felt that I had wasted time on other gym members who never put to use my diet/fitness plans, I asked the pair if they really would do what I told them to do. They said yes. What I said next was said with the intent to return to ground zero, so to speak. Like the way basic training breaks everyone down only to build them back up. But in my case, I just came across mean. I said, “I’m only asking if you’re serious because it takes some time and effort for me to develop this plan. But I will, because what we know for sure is that what you’re doing right now isn’t working.”
(WARNING: Dad, this one has a curse word, but it’s okay because it’s just a record of the past). The second hilarious honesty blunder was when this crotchety old military veteran flight scheduler asked me, “Pete. Why do you think I’m so mean?” I took a breath to demonstrate that I was really going to consider my response before speaking and said, “Well, I’d say it’s because you’re surrounded by a bunch of us asshole pilots all day.” OMG. Only after I saw her reaction and realize that she wanted to know why I thought she was mean, not that she accepted her mean-ness as a conclusion and was curious how she ended up that way. So funny.
If it wasn’t for long road trips in passenger vans, I don’t think I would have ever had a friend as a kid.
Because I only made friends as a kid during long road trips in passenger vans, I don’t know how to make one as an adult.
God has to laugh a great big belly laugh when we simultaneously have a runny nose and have to drop a stinky deuce.
When a certain category of maintenance issue (usually safety of flight related) occurs within a specific make/model of aircraft, the flying community’s response is to ground (no longer fly) all aircraft of that make/model until a solution is discovered.
Viewed through this lens, Super Tuesday’s results can only require all Americans to ground themselves. Evangelicals/Christians-as-a-whole especially need to be grounded. And the only fix is to TURN OFF THE FUCKING TELEVISION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I guess this one isn’t funny except in a depressing way. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher sent an email to all parents asking if anyone had a copy of the movie “The Lorax” based on the Dr. Seuss book she could borrow. She wanted to save a buck during the Dr. Seuss section. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt that she had the children read the books first, the point of Dr. Seuss’ books was to increase literacy, not entertainment as an end. She should be ashamed, then fired, then ashamed again.
I feel like this rant proves my humility focus is going astray, but I don’t conclude so. This is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t know how much more I will take before H- is outta there. Dr. Seuss movies during kindergarten? That’s actively contributing to the detriment of children.
Oh, and while I’m ranting, did you know that the school let’s my daughter buy food during lunch on credit? A five year old. She was so proud to tell me that she did in fact eat her sandwich on the day I didn’t give her the pretzels and cookie that she had been eating instead. She continued to tell me how she then bought a cookie because she remembered her number.
Okay. The rage is building. Time to quit. Happy Friday. (Oh, and for the record, I’m joining the group that predicts Clinton wins.)
My main man when it comes to movie reviews is Bill Gibron. Back around the time that the internet first came to be there was a website called filmcritic.com. I discovered him there, I think. Anyhow, I have always appreciated his reviews and found them to be helpful in deciding whether or not to shell out the big bucks for a movie ticket. Over time I have noticed that he has had a particular love affair with Darren Aronofsky. Because of my esteem of Mr. Gibron, I have desperately sought the same love affair, but never quite saw the “genius” that Mr. Gibron did. I really enjoyed Mr. Aronofsky’s films, I just didn’t fall in love with the man like Mr. Gibron seemed to. All that has changed.
H- just began to learn Peter Tchaikovsky’s epic Swan Lake theme on the piano. It is a force of nature even when played with just one note at a time. In any case, this event taken together with a real desire to give Mr. Gibron’s passion one more go led to me viewing Black Swan for a second time. This time around I finally see the genius. Black Swan is the story of a ballet dancer who is trying to be the best as would be indicated by her dancing the role of the swan queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in some hot shot’s revision of Swan Lake. So it’s a movie about a revision of a very famous ballet that includes themes of sacrifice and pressure to perform etc. But it’s not! It, Black Swan itself, is the revision of Swan Lake for movie-going audiences! And that’s why Mr. Aronofsky is a genius and deserves our attention. He cuts through all our defenses and serves up Tchaikovsky’s timeless story in a new way that forces us to reckon with all of our notions of love and happiness and truth and sacrifice. It’s an amazing film. Watch it. Watch it again.
Perhaps some of you think I am too hard on public school teachers. Here’s something to consider. A public school teacher with an amazing (if any divorce blog can attain such a title) blog mentioned that she finds herself teaching “frustration management” to her students. At this point, I would like to call my roughneck friends to the discussion. You see, when I was working in the oil fields, there was work to be done. Manly work. And yes, I mean that in the gender specific way. Work that men and only men can accomplish. For instance, every time we finished drilling a well, we had to move the rig to a new well. One of the things that this move required was the tightening of nuts onto bolts. The nuts were about the size of a woman’s fist, and the bolts were just over a foot long. The way we tightened these nuts was by swinging a sledge hammer as hard as we possibly could against a hammer wrench which was placed around the nut. Out of a twelve hour shift, how many minutes do you think we were given to not swinging the sledge hammer in favor of discussing how to deal with how frustrating the task was?
Do not hear me say that learning is not frustrating. And remember that I am the one who quit being a “teacher” because I refused to buy into the “be the change” mantra that schools with poor performing students chant. Instead, hear me calling public school teachers to realize that they are making the weather that they are complaining about. No other group–no other group–who controls their destiny does it in such a poor fashion as public school teachers. That’s what frustrates me (and I think most non-public educators).
By way of example, guess which specialty runs the Air Force? Pilots. Guess what pilots do for each other in the Air Force? Take care of each other. They ensure the flying is safe and smart and everyone is compensated well. Public school teachers, on the other hand, cite chapter and verse about all the limitations and massive time requirements etc. that they have to operate within and never once consider that just like Air Force pilots they are the one’s who write the book. Spending time teaching kids how to deal with the fact that learning takes effort? That cannot but be a disservice to the child–and I think teachers know that. So stop doing it. Kids need to learn to hit the hammer wrench as hard as they can and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after the task is completed and completed well. And the only way to learn this is for teachers to tell the kids that the nuts must be tightened by a sledge hammer. As it stands, the only thing kids are learning is that the nuts don’t need to be tightened. Maybe teachers agree.
Long-time readers know of my, how shall I put it, no-love-lost relationship with public school teachers. Yes. That’s a fair way to describe the romance. Of course, it is a difficult thing to critique people who do thankless jobs. However, because teachers are adults and I know what being an adult feels like, I won’t hesitate to critique them.
This morning I went to help the kindergartners read. They each have a reading folder which contains an appropriate skill-level book and a sheet of paper on which data is recorded, data like book title, date, skill level, and the like. To give feedback to the teacher or next volunteer, there are three boxes to choose from which describe the contest between student and book: Just Right, Too Easy, Too Hard.
(New readers: My daughter is in the class.)
Anyhow, the teacher is setting me up at my spot just outside the classroom and she actually told me, instructed me, to not mark any “Too Easy”. (Pause for effect.) How could she possibly know the future?
More than that, she emphasized heavily that everything should be positive feedback and that I wasn’t to use the word “no” or say “that’s not right”. More than that, she gave me the okay to give the student the difficult word rather than have them sound it out.
If my daughter was overly shy and unkempt and occasionally had bruises that she hurriedly covered up and could not ruh-ruh-ruh-ree-add, then maybe I could see the need to talk to me about the nature of teaching the skill of reading–maybe.
Oh and another thing. One little girl was pouting because her dad’s finger accidentally touched her cheek as he got her out of the car. After sending the little girl to the nurse to get some ice, the same teacher looked at me knowingly and said, “Sometimes all it takes is a hug and a little ice.” All it takes for what? What exactly is the predicted/anticipated/desired future for indulging that kind of behavior? If you’re less than fifty and have kids I blame you. It’s probably against some policy somewhere to tell a 5 year old human-in-training, “Stop crying. You’re not hurt. Move along” because either you or parents you knew complained that a teacher with your child’s best interest in mind was being a meany.
“She has to know, right?”
“I don’t know, man. Does she? Know what?”
“Know that her words are very flattering. Very, very flattering.”
“I mean, sure she’s your teacher and we’d all like to believe teachers are more aware than their students, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s thinking like you think she’s thinking.”
“I’m not saying I know how she’s thinking. I’m just saying that it has been a long time since anyone has said I’m fascinating, endearing, and an enigma.”
“Whoa, slow down buddy. She didn’t say you were fascinating, endearing and enigmatic. She said your writing was.”
“Hey, don’t ruin this moment for me.”
“So what do you think my next play should be?”
“All I know is that she’s your number one contender right now.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“You said she reads your blog?”
“She said she does. She even used the word ‘wildly’ to describe an aspect of them. ‘Wildly’. I like that.”
“You told me that she said your blog was ‘wildly different’ than your discussion posts for class.”
“Like I said, ‘wildly’.”
Those of you who left the world of academia long ago might be unaware that there is a debate raging about the humanities. Are college students interested in majoring in the humanities? Are they not? Would they like to, but their practical mind says, “Don’t be a fool. There are no jobs for humanities majors.”
My question is why is this debate even happening? I suspect that students who major in vocational type degrees get their long-sought-after jobs and live happily ever after. Just like students who major in the humanities or liberal arts degrees don’t get jobs related to their degree and live happily ever after.
There is some notion that accompanies attending college which goes something like, “If only we all do this right, we can achieve heaven on earth.” Is that what we (humans) really think?
I say do what you want. I wanted to get good grades and learn about why people behave they way they do. So I majored in sociology. Some people want to become very rich, so they major in fields that lend themselves to making money. Other people want to paint, so they major in art. I don’t see why this is a discussion. Am I missing something?
I want to be the best that I can be. Isn’t that enough? Why do I have to conform to your utopia? How about this: You just do your best rather than worry about forecasting what will happen if nobody studies English or History anymore. And I’ll do the same. And then we’ll see what happens.
In the classic children’s book A Fly Went By, Mike McClintock harnesses the The Great War’s lesson and with perfect eloquence tells a story that frees children from fear. With Fritz Siebel’s poignant illustrations as the glue holding a child’s gaze, McClintock’s repetitious prose etches its way into a young listener’s mind. The story is simple: a boy sees a fly go by, and asks him, “Why?” We soon find out that the fly ran from the frog. But the frog isn’t chasing the fly; he “ran from the cat, who ran from the dog.” The boy continues his search for the thing behind all the running, and in perfect metaphor to life, it turns out that a man was the first to run, and he ran from sounds of unknown origin. The chain reaction resulting in all the characters running in fear thus began. We soon discover, though, that these sounds were caused by “a sheep with an old tin can.”
Like any toddler whose parents read this book to them, apparently I had the big finale memorized before I knew how to read. It wasn’t until after college, though, that in reading the book to a nephew I realized the lesson that stamped itself on my person. Have no fear. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Be brave. These sentiments and more are captured within McClintock’s fun little book. It is a sure winner for parents who are looking for ways to teach their children a timeless truth–without the children knowing class is in session. A life without fear is a life worth living and a gift worth giving. Give children freedom from fear. Share with them the story of a boy who “sat by the lake, and looked at the sky.”
McClintock, Marshall, and Fritz Siebel. A Fly Went by. [New York]: Beginner, 1958. Print.
The students took their standardized test. Everyone waited to see if they had learned anything over the last quarter of school.
When asked why a student’s performance decreased tremendously, the student replied hopefully, “Does that mean I’m out of your class?”
When told that she scored higher than her end-of-year growth goal on this the second assessment, the student says smiling sheepishly, “Oh. That’s because I didn’t really try on the first one.”
Weirder still is that if an observer wasn’t told the students were the lowest performing in the entire country, the observer would never have guessed it. Most students had no clue what the test scores were “out of”, yet they proceeded to celebrate and congratulate each other in precisely the same manner as the highest performing students do upon receiving grades.
What really takes the cake, however, was the “lead” teacher’s reaction to the generally positive test results. In an email to the principal she asked:
“Do we have money we could spend as rewards for the students who are proficient or who have growth on the assessment? How about $5 in “school cash” toward a school colors shirt/hoodie?”
Yep. Kids who hate the–admittedly ridiculous and difficult to enforce–dress code (only really concerned with preventing the kids from wearing gang colors) that leads them to choose to just wear school t-shirts and hoodies; kids whose parents have failed to create in them any appreciable amount of dignity or self-respect from which they could base an internal motivation to succeed at anything academic; these kids are going to be happy to have earned a ratty t-shirt.
One day and a wake up left. Pray for me.
The principal responded “yes” by the way.
The bell rang. “Alright everyone, we’ll pick up here on Monday. Be safe this weekend.”
“Finally,” he exhaled, “I have a moment to prepare for the rest of the day.”
After one last glance making sure the hallway was clear, he closed the classroom door. Inside, he sat alone. He cleared his throat.
“Do your work,” he said. But he wasn’t pleased. He tried again.
“Do your work.” He still thought something wasn’t right.
“Do your work.” Eek! Too much Batman. He chuckled to himself before continuing.
“Do your work.” Getting better, but still not perfect.
“Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work.” It was subtle, but he heard improvement. Looking up at the clock, he saw his prep period was almost over.
“One last time,” he said to himself.
“Do your work.” He smiled. “Perfect! And just in time.”
The bell rang. Getting up to go stand outside his classroom door, relieved, he said to himself, “Okay, I’m ready for the students.”
“It is simply a matter of time. Quantity over quality,” he told his boss, the principal, as he resigned. He had never been so torn in his entire life.
How does one give up on a child?
He felt like crying.
The first step in solving any problem, he knew, was identifying it. The school district wanted high performance on standardized tests. The start of his resignation began when, as an outsider looking in, he surmised that the powers that be thought there was a direct correlation between the amount of paper on classroom walls and high performance on standardized tests. Finding himself in vehement disagreement, he wouldn’t support this doctrine. Remembering, or rather, not remembering there being much paper, certainly not much memorable paper on the walls of his childhood classrooms–save an attempt to show Pi’s irrational nature and a few motivational quotes–he couldn’t help but laugh at the sick joke.
In dealing with 13 year old’s who didn’t know their times table (and didn’t care to learn it), he recollected something he learned in college. He recalled learning that the notion of a juvenile, that is a 13-18 year old human, is man made. The theory goes something like, “until relatively recently puberty marked the coming-of-age of a human.” Puberty marked the entrance to manhood. It marked the entrance to womanhood. In at least Western civilization, however, we have something in between childhood and adulthood. We have the juvenile. For the deserving, this truly is a privilege. The deserving, those 13-18 year old’s who possess an ability to appreciate this extended grace period, should reap a benefit from past generations diligence. But the undeserving? What should happen to them? No matter whose fault it was, the undeserving should be placed where they’ll be placed in a few years anyhow–the adult world. “Don’t want to learn? Work. Find the simple joy of labor. Or, regret with a vengeance the stupid decision to not want to know how to think for yourself.” Either way, they’d be better for it.
Alas, frustratingly, even if he identified the problem as a misunderstanding of human biology, he only opened the door to another problem. What could have been done to teach 13 year old’s to value a readily available, free, and rigorous education? The answer? A home where education is valued. A better home school.
In his short tenure at the school he refused to call any of his student’s parents–for their protection. He wasn’t trying to protect the students, but the parents. He knew once the conversation began he wouldn’t be able to stop. “How could you raise your children with such carelessness? How could you not read to your children? How could you not ask about school and homework? How could you not demand the highest standards of behavior and performance? How could you reward their poor behavior with enabling feigned as ignorance?”
His own achievements convinced him of the simple truth that no expectation was too high. His own achievements began with the fear of earning a mother’s scorn. No way would she, or his father, have let his school advance him to 4th grade without doing his best in 3rd grade–and having the grades to show for it. His student’s parents though? Ha. They weren’t human beings. They were jokes.
How does one give up on a child? Most adults avoid situations which might result in needing to answer that question. He finally saw why. The answer was simultaneously unthinkable and the right thing to do. He cried.