This is not gonna make me many friends

So, I woke up yesterday, Friday morning, around 7:00 am.  Decadent.  In the life of a high school  teacher being able to sleep until 7 is unheard of….and you wake up at 5 for so long, that even holidays and weekends find you looking out the window at 5ish….

So, anyway.  I woke up at 7 am. and was immediately, IMMEDIATELY hit with the realization that it was, for my still-teaching friends, the last real day of their spring break.  Of course they still have today and tomorrow, but those don’t really count.  Everyone will be going to the grocery store or doing laundry or unpacking those Spring Break Vacation suitcases, longingly tossing their flip flops into their closets. (Because, Lord knows, you cant be an efficient teacher in flip flops, gotta keep those toes covered to keep the knowledge from sliding out your toenails…but I regress.)

So, it hit me that  yesterday was their last day.  And then I cracked up.  Laughed out loud.  Called my husband ( at work, poor sap) to tell him that “this time last year I was probably in a deep funk thinking about how I had to go back to work in three days”. Seriously, this retirement gig has turned me into a giggling idiot who can’t believe her good fortune.  I don’t have to go to work on Monday!!!!

Now , don’t hate me.  Money is an issue, a little bit.  The retirement pay is okay, but I still have to supplement income so we don’t have to make too many lifestyle changes (I am not giving up Friday evenings on our favorite pub’s deck with a mojito and nachos) . I have found two “post retirement careers” that allow me creative license and flexibility.  I am employed by a wonderful non profit that allows me to continue my passion for advocacy for children’s issues  and by an art and science workshop that challenges me to develop activities that inspire creativity while at the same time teaching core science concepts ( that left brain-right brain thing).

But, man, I am so stoked that I don’t have to put on my big girl panties and go to school on Monday. 

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catching up

Since Ive retired ( four weeks. woo hoo) Ive kept in touch with a few workfriends through social media and telephone calls.  The calls usually start with them calling me a five letter word — rhymes with witch — because I dont have to get ready for work the next day and they do….but we quickly move into a discussion about the mess that is public education, today.  I taught for 23 years in the state system, and did a couple years in private schools too.  I remember when it was fun — the kids learned, the admins did their evaluations,  I wrote lesson plans, spending Saturdays with my papers spread out in front of me on the family room floor –my peers and I went to happy hour and did secret santa swaps.  we made each other Christmas Presents and had High Tea one dreary day each year, in March, when nothing of any excitement was going on.  We brought in guest speakers, we took trips, we wrote three page permission slips to take the kids to see the remake of Romeo and Juliet, and Rudy, and to the imax theatre to see roller coasters…

You get the spin here.  Learning was all encompassing.  We touched, smelled, tasted, listened to and looked at everything.  Incidental learning occurred throughout the day — sometimes you could see the lightbulbs over their heads when they saw something, processed it and really understood.

Teachers met in the lounge during break.  some of them smoked.  We drank soda and brought in leftover birthday cake and Mardi Gras Beads….When the internet came to our district we researched woodstock and made crossword puzzles. We got excited when they called for snow —

It was fun.  It was a lot of work, but it was fun.  The kids sat for testing once a year.  The scores mattered, but no more than their daily performance, their scores on teacher generated assessment.  Teachers walked the rows, checking for notes written on hands or calculators stuck under desks. 

 

Somewhere along the line something changed.  Businessmen began to tell me how to teach.  What to teach.  programs came into being where someone with a degree in engineering could take a few classes and be a high school math teacher.   There were shortcuts to everything — attendance was mandatory, but not really. students were expected to do homework, but we couldnt count it as a grade.  Noone has to stand up as we say the pledge of Allegiance.  Testing starts in October and continues through May.  Teachers are evaluated based on test scores of students they may not even teach.  Expected to develop growth goals with a cadre of kids, and held accountable for their progress towards the goal.  Kids move in and out of a school three or four times a year.  Parents take them out of the country for birthday parties or to “see my aunt, shes sick”.  Teacher observations are held and computer generated based on 4 or 5 components…The dreaded improvement plan is a vehicle for firing a teacher — administrators are told that there has to be areas of improvement noted on every analysis.  Its like starting with a zero and working your way up, when we all know that starting with 100 and being responsible for maintaining works better.

Administrators at the main office make decisions that have nothing to do with best practices, or they come into a building with grand plans and ultimatums and then they drop the ball on follow through.

Call me a b—- if you must.  but I got out.  I left mid year.   I dont miss it. 

loss

As i ponder the events of the last couple days i am left with a sense of emptiness, loss and, deep in my core, fear.  My family, my little cocoon, hasnt experienced any crisis, blessedly we are all intact, coherent and with the ones we love.  But, here in little Delaware, where everyone knows someone who knows someone, a tragedy unfolded, or I should say, added another layer — at the courthouse — and way too many people that I know and care about have been affected.  And I weep as i realize that guns and mental illness and unthinkable actions do affect just normal little people trying to live their lives.  And I realize that, although I always tell my students to trust that doing the right thing nets the good ending — it is, sadly, not true.

 

I am leaving teaching because I couldnt continue to lie to my students.  Politics and bad administrators had made that decision fairly easy.  But what do i do with this message of mine, this belief that good things do happen, that faith and perserverence and fighting the good fight will pay off in the end.  I feel deflated.  Even though this situation has nothing to do with me — I feel like my base has been shaken.  How do I teach young people to steal themselves against harm when this random, yet so predictable incident, occurs.  They look at me, scared young women, trying so hard to believe my message of doing the right thing, and taking the high road — as I try to talk them through the tragedy that their friend has just lived through  — losing her mother to this crazy man– and I realize, that I have nothing to say to make this make sense.  And as I admit this to them, as I tell them that all I know is that I love them, I want their world to be safe, I will always be here if they need me–I see them age a bit, harden a bit — and that scares me even more, i mourn their loss of innocence, of hope.  And I marvel at the card they make for their friend, at their attempt to gather baby clothes and text messages.  I am proud of their ability to push on.  I am saddened that they have to see this, to feel this.

A crazy man shot the mother of his grandchildren, in the courthouse.  She died.  Her friend died.  Two police officers were injured.  then the crazy man shot himself.  end of story.

But, the ripple effect continues on and on and on.  Children left without their mothers.  A beloved granddaughter left with out grandmoms hugs.  A teenage girl, trying hard to do the right thing, left to raise her baby and help with her sisters — left to twist in the wind.

It really is all about the message…

I had a rather unpleasant experience with an unnamed organization dedicated to supporting families in the fight against eating disorders. I and this unnamed org. had spoken for months, and i repeat MONTHS about my taking on a leadership role, they were looking for new blood, someone with similar principles and ideas , but with new ideas and energy. I fit the bill. Until, alas, when I attended the national conference and was told “dont introduce yourself as a board member, we havent told everyone yet” my bubble burst and I realized that the last thing I needed was to become involved with a group whose major concern was “appearances”, not advocacy.
So I moved on, mutually agreed upon decision: this wasnt gonna work.

Today I read a posting on facebook regarding BMI testing in schools. Damn, why is this still considered a good idea? Why does it sound like a good thing to have kids announce their weight or bmi in front of a crowd? Are you kidding me?

So anyway, the old advocacy beast reared its head again. I am retiring from public education in March, which gives me the perfect opportunity to start banging on doors to advocate for eating disorder awareness. And since I havent found a “club” ( I never was a clique chick) that I fit in with, I guess I will have to begin on my own… any takers?