Only Two

Where is the horror?  Two innocent people have been murdered… a teacher and an 8 year old child… IN A SCHOOL

If you blinked, you may have missed our most recent school shooting.  It was yesterday, when a man waltzed through the front office, signed in, went into a classroom and opened fire in front of children, killing the teacher, her eight year old student, and injuring a nine-year old.  I heard about it in one on-line story about an hour after the incident and then again on NPR as I was driving home.  By the time I settled down with my glass of wine and grading to do, CNN was covering Trump’s excessive golf habits, the doctor being dragged off of a United flight and the Syrian bombing… I watched for two hours and there was no mention of the shooting… WTF?

I guess domestic violence does not get ratings… not to mention that both the victim and shooter were black, the slaughter happened in a brown neighborhood, and only one child was killed…. I am disgusted to think that we only care about Islamic terrorism, violence that is racially driven, mass murder, or manifestos.  We SHOULD care about this…

They were newly weds, he was a church going blessed man, she was a special ed teacher… but things were going wrong, she tried to leave a man that was scaring her and…  HE HAD A GUN… HE HAD A GUN… HE HAD A GUN…

Where is our RED LINE, our 59 missiles, our repeal and replace of gun regulation, our metal detectors in every school across the nation, our extra funding for mental health (or marital health), our wall against gun violence…

Those two innocents meant the world to the people who loved them… but that crime didn’t play into our narrative of things we need to rally against… really?  Here in ‘Make America Great Land’ you are more likely to be shot by a fellow American either by accident or because he is a bit ‘off’, than you are to be killed by a terrorist… let’s put America first by taking care of THIS business…. domestic violence and access to guns needs to be addressed… the end

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SEX is Not a Bad Word

“Sex is NOT a bad word”… I shouted this… in my classroom… to 6, 7 and 8 year old students…. everyone froze, but only for a flash.  So, I had to shout it again, with just a bit more volume and conviction.

Moments earlier a concerned child told me that a classmate found a bad word in one of our library corner books. ‘Oh, my!’, I said… and I went to take a look.  Being unable to find the word myself (or the book), I instead, found the finder.  They were not going to talk and would not utter the word found, but they did point to a book that was a class favorite.  It was one of our heaviest hardback books, about 12″ x 18” and over an inch thick… a child’s encyclopedia of animals.  It really is a beautiful book, full of colorful, realistic drawings and photographs of all animals from amoebas to humans… it has tons of interesting facts and quite a few scientific words. My students pour over its pages, showing interesting pictures to friends.  It would not be uncommon for three or four students to be gathered around this book oooooing and aaahing for a whole reading period.  I grabbed the offending book.

A buzz was in the classroom, because everyone knew that our class favorite had a bad word in it, most of them had been shown the word, and the book may be put away behind the teacher’s desk (a veritable black hole of confiscated crap and stacks of books and papers) never to be seen again.

Here is how this went:

“What was the bad word”

“I don’t remember”

“You do, what was it?”

“I am not going to say it.”

“You can tell me, what was it?”

“It is a bad word, I am not allowed to say it.”

“It is okay to tell the teacher, you can tell me the word. You are not in trouble.”

“My mom said I am not allowed.”

“Okay, let’s find it in the book and you can show me.”

At this point he turns to an easily found page towards the beginning of the book (he had obviously become an expert at finding it from showing the rest of Room One the offending word).  It was the page on protozoans, sponges, or maybe some other basic sea creature and had a beautiful diagram of one such animal, labeled with all of it’s parts… Right there at the bottom of the page was the word, with a line connecting it to a blob inside the organism… SEX cell… There it was.

Okay… here’s what happened next…

“Ah, I see. That is not a bad word. You CAN read me that word.”

“No, I can’t.  My mom said it is a bad word and I am never allowed to say it.”

“But you can show it to everyone in class? Hmmmmm. I think you can read that word to me, because this is a science book in our classroom and I am asking you to read it. You can do that.”

…. we sat in silence for a long time… My student was set on not reading the word, I read it, I explained what that word meant in the book, and finally, in frustration, I shouted out “Sex is not a bad word” – twice… And then “Everybody stop what you are doing and meet me on the rug! Now!”

Quick as a wink, there they all were, staring at me as I held up the offending book.  We had a big discussion about what that word meant in that context… That humans are born to be either the male sex or the female sex, we all have a sex, and also sex is the word we use for how animals reproduce… then we talked more broadly about words and how many words can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how you use them and who you are speaking to. Words like stupid, hate, ugly, pig, rat and more can be used in a good way or a bad way… It was a deep lesson for young children, but our favorite book was back on the shelf and we have not had a ‘bad word’ incident in a while… No shit. 😉

Disturbing Visit

It may not have gone unnoticed, but it hasn’t gotten the response it deserves.  The very first school our president went to visit was a private Catholic school.   This should have made headlines, drawn criticism from the National Teachers Union, and the separation of church and state should have been part of the discussion around the CNN newsdesk.

I am not against private school or private religious schools. If parents want something different than their local public school and a non-secular education based on agreed upon standards and curriculum, they can pay for it and make that choice.  They have the choice to take their child to a public school out of their district out of their area and still have that education paid for. That is very different than our government paying for private schools. His  visit sent me, a public school teacher, a clear message. Our president is going to follow Betsy DeVos’s lead and work to funnel some of our meager education dollars into private religious schools. Where is the separation of church and state?

The idea that somehow this will make education better, that the students of my little rural school will reap the benefits of this potential change in policy is ludicrous.  Unless the parents of these children are willing to drive  their child long distances each day they will be educated in their local school.  Who are those parents willing to make  that drive? Families who can afford the gas, families who care deeply about their child’s education, and parents who are involved.  Not to say that many lovely families who value education will choose to keep their children in their local school…but there may be an exodus of many of the best and brightest to schools where they can screen out children who struggle to behave, are low academically or demand too much attention from a teacher.

Who will be left in public education? If Trump has his way, I fear for public education, where we will have to make do with less and less while educating an increase percentage of those most difficult to educate.

This voucher system has not been thought through, but someone needs to start doing some serious thinking and stand up for our children, all of our children… and in standing up for all our children we ARE standing up for public education.

This disturbing visit should have sent shock waves through advocates of public education but instead we were freaking out over 3am tweets.  Don’t let him shift our focus on what really matters…if we become caught up in his distractions we may just miss what is really happening…

Watch Those Chickens!

I am so very disappointed in the Republican senators… 50 of them voted to put Billionaire Betsy DeVos, devout private school graduate, business woman with a BA from a private religious college, whose children have never stepped foot in a public school, in charge of our national public school system!  I am appalled that they are putting their trust in her and I am saddened that they didn’t have the guts to stand up and say we can do better and we must do better for our children and our education system.

I should not be shocked.  Is it possible that the republican senators who voted her in are worried about the wrath of Trump… they could possibly be the subjects of his next tweets.  These same people have decided that someone with no political experience, no diplomacy and absolutely no decorum will rule THEIR roost… I applaud those two Republican senators who broke with their party and voted against this nomination… but two was not enough to make a difference. It is shameful, but now SOP, for this new administration… we are now ruled by billionaires… November 2018 can not come soon enough.

I wrote emails to Senators.  What else could I do?  I sat and watched the news as our public education system was turned over to someone who does not believe in public education.  Much like Trump’s pick for other departments and agencies, she does not believe in the very thing she will now be in charge of?!?  I am sickened thinking about someone with no vested interested in public education leading reform… I am horrified that someone with no educational experience or teaching degree will decide matters of the utmost importance in public schools.  I am worried that my little rural school will suffer financially because of her misunderstanding of all things that have to do with what happens in public schools on a daily basis.  I am fearful that science will no longer be taught and that the cry for prayer in schools will become louder and stronger.  I worry that good talented teachers will decide that enough is enough and that they will take their talents to another field.

Let’s shake things up, they say.  Let’s put fresh eyes on this issue… A new sheriff is in town… but really it’s the fox guarding the hen house.. .

What is our next move?  A nationwide strike – by parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff?  Am I even allowed to suggest that? If it is led by parents and students would more people listen? Where are my fellow pussy-cap marchers? There must be something that can be done!

Wow, what a crazy time we live in… you better hold on to your chickens!

The State of the Union

It has been about 2 1/2 weeks since we elected the most incompetent person ever elected to the highest, most powerful office in the whole world.  His promises lay scattered on the floor of the Trump Tower lobby, he is slowly compiling his team of the smartest, best and experienced people.  He is.  He is surrounding himself with success, with people who have good brains, and people who he trusts to tell it to him the way he wants to hear it.  Because if they don’t, they won’t last very long… we all know how he treats people who disagree with him.  The huge problem is that what he considers success is very different than what it takes to be a successful leader.  He is putting multi-millionaires and billionaires in those positions.  That does not mean they are the most intelligent, well educated or best informed about the position for which they are being chosen… it just means they have money, a lot of it, and they know Trump.   If that is your measure of success then I guess you are happy with the people he has chosen.

So much for standing up for the working class and little guy.  These leaders have never been the ‘little guy’ and up until this point they have worked to amass wealth for themselves, their shareholders and their families. They have fought to make the guys at the top stronger and they have stood against unions.  Unions are what give the working class a voice, strengthen their position and try to ensure good working conditions and wages… Unions are for the working class and those coming into power now are against them.  They are against teachers and public schools, against science, and against treating people who are different than you the way you want to be treated. Draining the swamp? They ARE the swamp!  Your child’s school will not get better under a Trump government… they will lose money and good people.  You think it is the teachers that are ruining education?  What is ruining education is not what happens in the classroom, it is what happens at home, and no penalty or threat of privatization is going to change that. A lack of respect and value for today’s teachers, by ordinary citizens and people who govern, is what is hurting the students of America… It doesn’t matter how many times a week you say the Pledge of Allegiance, or if you say it at all, that will make your child a successful student or patriotic American… that is on you.  If you think that school choice is someone standing up for the little guy, you are wrong.  If you think that doing away with the Common Core will somehow save education, you really have no idea about what the Common Core says, you are just buying into more b.s. by the biggest b.s.-er of them all. He has made outrageous promises to people who have no clue about why they really are in the situation they are in.  So what if he is surrounding himself with successful people…that does not mean they are the best and brightest in their field.  Just because you watch football every Sunday doesn’t mean you are ready to suit up and step onto the field.

We as Americans are more divided than ever before.  I have been on an emotional rollercoaster since the election.  One day feeling hopeful because Trump has walked back many of his most offensive promises, the next feeling angry over his behavior and tweeted statements, and finally scared by some of the people Trump is choosing to surround himself with.  Those advisors are really scarier than Trump himself… those advisors are going to have Trump’s ear, they will not have your best interest at heart.  They know that their time in power will be short lived and  throughout their careers they each have had two goals in mind… how to amass their wealth and how to spread their form of hate/control on the most people. In the end it will be the little guy, the working class and our children who will suffer if we don’t wake up and speak up.  Facebook posts are just the beginning… they are where we may start… they fuel the flames that lead to financial support, speaking out, political action and eventually change.  Where will your passion take you?  Be the change and be the action you want to see…

Remember to Look for the Joy!

Okay, I am not happy with the outcome of yesterday’s election… I was planning on opening a bottle of champagne as Hillary announced her victory.  I did not start out as a Hillary supporter – I was a big time Bernie fan…But, I wrote postcards to people across the country asking them to vote for Hillary. I wrote blog posts, many blog posts, touting the failings of Trump and the virtues (okay, that may be too strong of a word) of Hillary.  But, here is the thing… Trump will be my president.  Like it or not we are saddled with him for the next four years.

This morning when I woke up hoping beyond hope that something miraculous had occurred while I slept, I decided to put on my cheeriest outfit… brightly colored, flowery and topped it off with giant heart earrings, I left for school and my classroom full of lovelys.  We had voted in class yesterday and of course Trump had won… a landslide 16-6!  The children were buzzing as they came in the classroom, some were happy and some were scared or upset.  My class learned a lot these past few days… about truth, not believing everything people say, about voting, the three branches of government, and the electoral college (they are only 1st and 2nd graders!).  We learned about the difference between the popular vote and the electoral votes.  It was really amazing how engaged they all were.  Now that the election was over I told them who I voted for, but even though I didn’t vote for him,  he would be my president, too.

Later in the day we decided to write him letters.  They were great – some of our best writing.  Most congratulated him, hoped he would be a good president, some gave advice, some wanted him to keep our country safe but all were positive.  I wrote a letter too.  We all had hopes for the future.

Comforting me was the fact that over half of the country voted AGAINST Trump.  Those people will not be silenced, they will become more passionate about their vision for our country and hopefully they will become more involved and organized.  We are learning how to grow as a nation and growing is not easy.  There will be a lot of hard work and steps backwards… we will have to prove that America will not be defined by Trump.  A class of letters is just a beginning… each of us has to step up, wear our best outfits with giant love earrings showing that WE will trump hate… we will continue to hope, to dream, and to fight for what is right!

Do not lose heart… there are so many in this country who are only just waking up to the reality that we all need to stand up for what we believe… this is our wake-up call!  Wake up… there is hope for the future… he will not be president forever… look for the joy because nothing can change what has already happened only what will happen next.

And So It Begins…

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  But for me, and many of my friends, it began almost three months ago… It began the day we said goodbye to last year’s class of children. Because, believe it or not, we were already thinking about the year ahead, what new things we wanted to try, what worked, what didn’t and the chance of starting it all over again.  As we put away curriculum, cleaned up corners, washed desks, and threw away junk, we also ordered new workbooks and curriculum, tested markers, and put in maintenance requests to prepare for tomorrow.  We spent the summer going to workshops, buying stickers and shopping for bargains on-line and in line.   We made list upon list of what needed to be done… and had more than one dream (nightmare) about not being ready on the first day of school.

This last weekend of summer, while you camped and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine, we were there, at school, working on our days that we could have been with our own families.  We were there because we know that tomorrow morning we will be starting a new family.  We will be spending almost 30 hours a week for the next 40 weeks with some very special people.  Your children will once again become our children…

And in this coming year we will spend countless hours doing everything in our power to help them grow and learn.  We will worry, cheer, sweat, and maybe even cry over their successes, challenges and stumbles.  We will wipe tears, hand out band-aides, give high-fives, and more.  We will try to be fair but kind in all things… Just as you try, we will try… It may not be perfect – in fact, I promise it won’t – but it will be good

When you say goodbye to your child in the morning, think of me… I will be doing my best all year long for my new family… in a weird way, you too, are part of my new family… Welcome!