Sunday, February 20, 2011

Walk Like an Egyptian

First Tunisia fell, then Egypt. Now we're watching Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine, Algeria, Jordan, and Syria. Reports are starting to come out of mobs in Kuwait and Djibouti. (I can only hope that Kaddafi's Ukranian nurses are
safely sequestered inside his Bedouin tent.) On this side of the ocean, twenty thousand marched the state capital to protest the Walker's salary-cutting union-killing budget-balancing proposal. Gutsy timing, Scotty.
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Matt painted up our car with the words "Hey! Walker! Leave those kids alone*." He scraped it off this morning when I pointed out that reframing something as being "for the children" is too disengenuous for him. We aren't concerned about the bill's effect on students. We don't want to lose 10% of our income. We want to feed our kids meat and pudding.
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The rhetoric flying around for all of this is crazy. People talk about what the US would be like if it weren't for unions, bringing to mind pictures of six year old boys in knickers working 15 hour shifts in factories in New York. When I picture the union going under, I picture Matt coming home maimed from a terrible overhead projector mishap, suddenly speaking in an Irish brogue.
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The local news panned over crowds of marchers with the voice-over "Protesters flooded the streets. Teachers are really angry." The next clip showed a soft-spoken teacher from Madison standing in his kitchen next to his wife, saying "If they cut my salary that much, I'll have to start choosing what I can pay for." I picture his Netflix membership ending.
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I don't know why I'm making fun of this guy. We're so steeped in student loan payments for our education degrees that we put our kids to bed at night in three layers of pajamas to avoid turning up the heat - and this is with the current wages paid.
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This is the truth: when the union gets torn apart, we become entirely public servants. You say we already were, but we weren't. We could negotiate for terms, we could have a say. When this goes through, we'll be paid what the electorate deems appropriate. Do you know what Americans think of teachers? That we are given more resources than any other country, and yet produce students who rank abysmally on tests. They think we are terrible. There have charts to prove it. Break apart the union, and politicians will keep promising lower taxes and covering the expenses with our paychecks. Ten percent is a beginning. And Michelle Rhee will be cloned so that she can stomp through every classroom and tell us how pathetic we are.
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Teachers make a pretty little scapegoat.
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Let me tell you why our kids score low: it's because our entire system of education in this country is warped**. Rhee wrote about trying to get her students to sit down and listen. A bee was flying around in her classroom. In a desperate attempt to have a moment of silence, she caught the bee and ate it. The kids gasped, disgusted. She notes with pride that she did what it took***.
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We are expected to eat bees. They say a reasonable man adapts himself to the world around him; an unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. The reasonable teacher walks in every morning expecting disprespect from students and often from the parents. The unreasonable teacher says this is crazy.
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We spend money on Smartboards and laptops and anything that American dollars can buy because we don't want to acknowledge the simple fact that it's not teachers that fail, but parents. I've sat in conferences where I asked parents what consequences they give their children for misbehavior in school****. They look at me, confused. I don't know, they say, what can I do? I tell them to take away his cell phone, lock up his PS2. Hide his laptop. We set up contracts: a yellow mark in the planner means no texting. A red mark means no TV that night. The kids glare at me. The parents tell me this has never ever occurred to them.
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The average teenager spends over 8 hours a day looking at a screen. And yet i11it3R@$y is blamed on teachers. Srsly, not ROTFL.
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They say that only the unreasonable man can change the world. The Arab world is full of unreasonable men today. Here, the closest we can get to voicing our discontent is calling the governor an Imperial Walker. Protesters: do you realize there is something much greater you could want? El General: can you give us a beat? An upheaval of this scale needs an anthem.



*I know, it's "Leave them kids alone." A teacher can't very well drive around with a grammar error on his car though, can he?
**We raise our kids to not be cowed by authority: there is almost nothing more American. The insolence that fuels American exceptionalism is our undoing. And China, with its Tiger Mothers, storms ahead because we can't even get our kids to sit down in class. Matthew teaches at two different schools in a town that's divided neatly by a river: rich to the north, poor to the south. His rich kids get A's not because they're smarter but because their parents expect them to excel in school. This is not to say that rich people make better parents, but that they've taught their kids to value education, and it shows.

***You think I'm crazy for thinking people want her cloned? You should read the letters to the editor that come in any time a magazine runs an article about her.
****I'm talking about not being called a motherf---er. Not having books or chairs thrown. Not having kids joke about raping me. And I'm asking for more: for kids to do their work. To try, to live up to an ounce of their potential in the classroom.
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photo cred: the Flaco

10 comments:

-l- said...
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rolli said...
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Lisa said...

As a teacher with over $100,000 in loans as well & staying at home with 3, almost 4, kids my heart goes out to you guys! Although, I also worry for the loss of collective bargaining as there will be no one to stand up for teachers. Let alone the fact parents rarely advocate for their own Child's education. I so wish our state learns to compromise through this, but I have a feeling our schools will soon resemble those in Waiting for Superman! (if you've not seen that yet - it's worth $1 at the red box)

Anonymous said...

jen, yeah, it's a huge mess-- a slap in the face and definitely makes all of us as teachers feel devalued. that being said, i think the problems with american schools are complicated, not quite as black and white as you said- although i do agree that teachers make excellent scapegoats. we're expected to change the world and yet not valued for the lives that we do impact... but it's encouraging that as christians our worth doesn't come from the world and what the world thinks of us- it comes from Him. and He has been faithful and provided time and time again- not matter what scott walker chooses to do. -kel

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well! I've heard that you teachers drive cars with both AM and FM, is that true? Do you really need both??? Actually I stole this idea from the Cobert Report...but it's that good.
Love you girls!
Pa'

rolli said...
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rolli said...

Less diary than before, but just as long....

In empathy: It is so painful to be drowning in evil words: I couldn't imagine dealing with it coming in through forms that don't have ears to hear your immediate defense. I've never heard anyone say that poor students have to do with teachers and yet I've heard teachers blamed via implication. It is ridiculous, it is simple, it is parents who are to blame; then the ridiculous amount of media they consume.

People like to gossip/complain about others the harder they work. It's their very absence from gossipy-meetings, due to work, that makes them subject to it. It's sickening and ridiculous. It makes you want to scream and pound on their doors and somehow threaten them into understanding by the sheer force of your distress. It never works to give those words tangible weight by response. People love that kind of control, they are sick for it, like an addiction.

Amazingly and awfully, these words stick better to the recipients (who know them to be untrue better than anyone) than to their creators, which soon have flit onto the next hot topic to inflict their unwitting damage.

And I've only just learned (oh belated maturity) via a Spirit not my own, that friendly words weighed carefully to be kind and thoughtful, even in friendly disagreement, if made at the wrong time, can be made painful or unkind by their timing alone, no matter how carefully each word is placed. If I was facing what you are, even with my philosophies unaltered, I would not be able to face it in good cheer and friendly banter. No one can, everything, every input, every word, is altered in the face of distress; in the eyes of the children you wish to be raised in love, good food, and warm shelter.

Everything I wish to say publicly at this point can be wrapped up in these few, but immense, words: Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." And so we have cried :( . Our hearts are with you (and everyone in this) in prayer, prayer and more prayer. <3

rolli said...
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rolli said...

As an over-cautious-honesty-nut: I don't want to mislead anyone about my own thoughts. As your friend: I thought some Mean Talkin' Blues by Woodie Guthrie give you a good laugh.
<3 Maybe give you an idea for an anthem. <3

The Goodfellas said...

kelly- i agree that it's not nearly as black and white as i've made it out to be. there are so many things that should be scrapped, undone, reassessed. most of the people who go into teaching are people who loved school; we don't necessarily see what's wrong with it, what frustrates kids who don't like it.

rolli- thanks for your sweetness. this is more of an epiphany than anything else, that maybe it's okay to think bigger than any of us had dreamed (in regards to seeing things improve in our schools and in our country in general.) i read a quote in a joel klein article a few months back that said that we're "mired in mediocrity while china steams ahead." this isn't cold-war thinking but merely a desire to see our country address some very real problems. it's like someone with a short leg always having his twisted back pulled at rather than giving him a raised shoe.