My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN (and Noah, too, actually)

I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever in my life seen flooding like this. My back yard is a lake. The roads are full of standing water. And we're a good block or so from the water. I can't imagine what it's like down there. And it's raining so hard, I can't see the water from here. I can't even see the house next door! It was so bad about 4:00 this morning that Chris and I got up and online to see what the heck was going on. It sounded like a tornado. The kids did go to school (which I cannot believe) although on a two hour delay. I can't believe the bus driver drove in this monsoon. I'm starting to wonder if there's a Noah around who simply ignored the missive, decided to keep on keeping on instead of building that boat. Which is his business, of course, but he could have given the rest of us a little warning, right? And of course, of ALL DAYS, my son forgot something at home that I absolutely HAVE to take out to school. But I can't complain with all the teachers and busdrivers who have already driven in it this morning. God bless the busdrivers. So anyway, that was the weather report from Edenton, NC. Back to you, Al.

When it's rainy like this, I like to snuggle up with a good book like THE PERFECT STORM. Open right to the middle and read a few chapters in the middle of a storm like this one, and you've got some good reading. But stop before it gets sad.

SO...I wanted to talk about Waiting for Superman. The movie isn't even in wide release, but it has already created such a buzz. Even if people never see it, they can't help but get caught up in the nationwide discussion about our public schools in America. It's such a great and necessary debate. We all need to be reminded that the future of our country rides on the education of our young people. And even if parents choose to educate their children in other arenas, we all have an interest in the public schools. As a public school teacher for many years and a parent of public school students (I have two in public and two in an independent school), I know that the key is parent involvement. OR at least that's how the system is set up right now. But we KNOW that a huge number of parents are NOT involved, so those kids are falling through the cracks. We can't just shrug our shoulders. But we also can't expect our schools to handle what is truly a social problem. The thing about this movie that I already love is the dialogue. Raising awareness always helps to educate, encourage, and shed light on a situation--THAT is the first step toward good solutions.

So what IS the biggest problem in public schools today? Irresponsible parents sending kids to school who aren't prepared to learn? Poverty? Drugs? Violence? Class size? Expectations? My vote is for the latter. I think we have greatly relaxed our expectations of students over the past twenty years. Because of all the other problems, we make excuses in our heads for why these kids can't learn, but the reality is most kids can do a heck of a lot more than they are doing. The New York Times website had a question online for students to answer. The question was about book censorship, do you think books should be censored? I was astounded at the number of times the answer was simply: I don't care. I don't read anyway. or I hate reading. or I just use CliffNotes or the internet or some other way to basically cheat when they should have read the book. It made me kind of sick. Because education is not just about school, it's about finding solutions for problems and improving yourself throughout your entire life. So if kids can't buy into the value of reading WHILE THEY'RE IN SCHOOL, then we're doing something very wrong.

Has anyone out there seen WAITING FOR SUPERMAN? It's only run in a few cities so far...but I plan to find it as soon as it's close. In the meantime, I'll keep rooting for our public schools, supporting our public school teachers and leaders, but praying for a revolution. For the kids. Because they sorely need one. We can't afford to have a disposable generation.


Anonymous said...

school district and also a non-union school district, I have witnessed both the good and evil of unions. They do not exist for the children, period. That is not what a union is for. The union exists to protect the rights of teachers. And I will say the one I paid dues to did just that. I earned a decent salary that was negotiated every year. I had an excellent medical plan. Every time administration asked staff to do extra duties above and beyond, it was negotiated and we were compensated for the time. Everything was right there in our contract...all laid out for us in black and white. Cover a class for another teacher? Paid. Duties at night? Paid. Tutoring after 3:30pm? Paid.
This all sounds pretty good so far, right? Well, these things had to be fought for, and that made for a constant and ever present tension between administration and staff. Admin. and central office was always "the enemy." It just wasn't very pleasant. Then you have the hard core staff who KNOW THEIR CONTRACT AND KNOW THEIR RIGHTS. Ah, know where this is going. Never stayed past 3:31 because the contract get the picture. It's not very professional. I do not have time to describe it in detail, but I will say I worked in a district that went on strike. It was ugly and horrible and things were never the same after the strike. Contracts were negotiated, yes, but colleagues barely recovered from the hostility that ensued.
Years later I move and begin working in a non-union system. Salary much lower, but that is ok because the working conditions are so pleasant, and the surroundings such a delight. A MUCH nicer place to work. That is worth it's weight in gold, I say. Everybody worked their tails off for the kids. Lots and lots of extras...hours, out of pocket expenses, anything, really. Anything for the kids. It's admirable and heart warming. There is a downside, and here it comes. As budgets get cut, and cut and cut, staff is asked to take on more, and more and more. No compensation. The result can be burnout. The staff was being taken advantage of. It wasn't the kind of thing where central office was sitting in board rooms laughing at what they were getting away with. Not at all. They WISHED they could offer more. But they couldn't, and the job needed to get done. I do believe, however, that my colleagues and I really needed to fight harder for more compensation for all the extras and stand up for ourselves. That is when union intervention is handy.
So that's my take on THAT!
What is wrong with education today? That is the million dollar question and there is not enough room on this blog for all the possible answers. Too complex. I see children coming to school not prepared. So many parents leaving too much up to the educators. It's got to start and end at home. The bar needs to rise both in the classroom and at home. What we expect our kids to achieve must be higher across the board. I am generalizing, of course...there are a lot of parents that do just that. But as an educator I cannot tell you how saddened it makes me when I learn of some of these kids
home lives. Tragic.
We need to get rid of the tenure system so that we can fire bad teachers. Yes, there are some REALLY rotten teachers out there. They stink. They need to go away. I hope that I am being clear here? :) That is a minority, however. Most teachers I have worked with are some of the most amazing and dedicated people on the planet. Who else would work for that kind of salary with advanced degrees? Use their own money for "office supplies?" Work nights and weekends and early mornings hoping to make a difference? A great MANY teachers, that's who.
Start at home, raise the bar for both students and for those who teach them. That's a start.
Phew.. I need to go start dinner!!! If you made it this

Liz said...

COMPLETELY agree with the above. Can't wait to see the movie either- call me when you find it Donna and I'll go with you!


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