Tag Archives: Teachers

Free Dumb Reigns

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I have never been afraid to fly

At nine, I flew in a

150 year-old stunt biplane

Open cockpit,

Leather helmet

Flowing white silk scarf

 

My second flight ever

Was at age 17

In the pilot seat

Of a Cessna 172

My dad was the co-pilot.

I flew …

before I could drive.

 

As I got older

I started collecting stamps

On my passports,

And riding elephants

Through ancient cities

and up Asian mountains

People share pictures of their

Grandchildren at birthday parties

And their pets sleeping

I have pictures of my preschoolers

Eating meat on a stick

And giving Santa directions

To our new flat in Shanghai.

 

So when you tell me

I don’t fit your definition of what

a divorced, middle-aged, American,

cancer survivor, teacher,

single mother of two

(Insert label here)

You are right.

And I’m ok with that.

Fortune Telling

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Each card was slowly turned over.

The first revealed change.

the second was fortune,

and the third showed reward.

So I said to him that there was

This great opportunity in China…

“It’s dangerous.”

The money is four  times what I’m making now…

“People disappear.”

I’m being actively recruited…

“The state department has travel warnings.”

I will have a prestigious position in a huge company

With amazing benefits…

“You’re not thinking about your daughters.”

OK.  GLOVES OFF.

What?

Explain anything you just said

That doesn’t apply to America

–or anywhere.

I have been sexually assaulted –twice,

Robbed in my sleep,

And beaten right in my hometown.

I have had my wallet, 2 bikes, a TV, camera, 2 phones, and lots of money stolen.

I know 2 college boys who have mysteriously disappeared,

Different years, different states, different circumstances.

There have been three mass school shootings in the metro area.

Hell!  Ariel Castro lived just blocks away!

And it’s the state department’s job to issue warnings

For EVERY country:

Pick-pockets, internet scams, faulty contracts…Cookie cutter

Every country says the same

Except the UK

–check that one out.

Three times the warnings…

(Note to self

–don’t go to the UK

—oops, too late!)

“I thought you said Thailand was going to be

all ‘wine and roses.’” He said.

This position, this possibility, this opportunity wasn’t even

In my realm of understanding.

And it’s being handed to me.

And then, my closest,

oldest friend of about 35 years

unfriended me.

What I really wanted to say was “take the plank out of your own eye

Before you try to fix the speck in mine.”

But instead, I say this:

“Hold out your hand.

One day, you will be given a gift,

A complete surprise, that will bring you joy.

Be prepared to accept it.”

I don’t want to be the one

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I am at this place in my career

My life,

My motherhood,

Where I am at a loss.

I’ve been a teacher for 22 years

And a student my whole life.

I love research.

I love history, anthropology, religions, literature….

I love digging deep into people’s lives

And how they live or lived.

What was it like?

I don’t read —

I DEVOUR books!

Especially history.

I wrote a paper once about how awful it was

That Bloody Queen Mary beheaded Lady Jane.

I mean, everyone knew she was just a teen-aged puppet

And had no interest in the throne.

I sited 10 sources on the injustice.

And my professor wrote,

“You’re too sentimental”

across the top of my paper.

I hated him.

To me, history wasn’t dead and removed.

They were living, breathing people with experiences

I could share,

understand,

empathize…

And I’m home-schooling my girls now

–which I love.

–which I’ve dreamed of

–which I’ve planned for

–in my head –

for years.

But I am at this point

After 22 years, that…

I don’t want to be the one

Who tells them they are different.

That they have a different history than I do.

I find that I avoid certain movies and TV shows

Because I don’t want them

to question why

people don’t like them because

God colored them with a tan crayon.

(That’s what my little one says).

You see, to them,

It’s not black and white,

it’s shades of tan and peach.

I don’t want to explain

Slavery

The underground railroad

The Trail of Tears

Reservations

Jim Crow

segregation

Freedom Riders

Trayvon Martin

Oppression

Suppression

How arbitrary it is that our last name is Womack

Just because it is the last name

of the last white man

Who owned their great-great grandfather

Before the Emancipation Proclamation

And he didn’t bother to change it.

This name,

handed down through years and generations

Means nothing!

We live in Thailand and China

And they are different

Because they have curly hair.

They are different

Because they are foreign.

They get their pictures taken by strangers

20 times a day.

They are like movie stars.

When we buy groceries,

When we eat out,

When we walk around,

“Stop a minute, this lady wants a picture.”

“Stand next to his daughter there, he wants a picture.”

“The waiters want a picture before we go, girls.”

Mostly, the Asians just want an excuse to touch their hair.

So “different” to my girls, means “Special.”

It means beauty.

It means people love you for how you look.

–Shallow, I know.

But I don’t want to be the one to tell them otherwise.

I don’t even want to put the idea into their head

That there IS an otherwise.

I don’t want to be the one to tell them

That once, they could have been killed for how they looked.

Once, they could have been taken away from me.

That before 1967,

their father and I couldn’t even get married.

That even now,

Especially now,

In this second Civil-War-divided country,

people might think

Or say bad things about them

Even though they don’t know who they are.

That not everyone thinks they are beautiful.

I don’t want them to be naive.

And I have ALWAYS been honest with them.

But, I don’t want

To be the one

To teach them this.

Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic

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I heard two interesting statistics in separate stories the other day on CNN.  Eighty percent of all of the schools in the country are making big cuts in their staffing for the next school year because of financial problems.  And America has 5113 nuclear weapons.  Where are our priorities?  The government throws all of this money into bombs that can destroy the earth many times over –because obviously one or two are not enough.  Would anyone even be around to press the button on number 5113?

But the bigger question is why we are so quick to cut our education system that is already so poorly funded as it is.  It’s not as if we are Singapore, Hong Kong, or Korea, and we are on top.  We are above Indonesia and Iran, but is that the best we can do?

We never have to vote on war levies or military levies.  We have no choice over what or how much comes out of our income for that, and yet, in an economic depression, we are asked if we can pay more for schools.  Why is it even a question?  Who set the system up this way?

Cutting 10% of the education staff including teachers and administrators (like what is happening in Cleveland, Ohio) hurts everyone.  The teachers are out of jobs, and collecting unemployment and any other assistance they may qualify for.  Their spouses and families, most likely will not have health care.  The teachers who still have jobs, have much more work for that same pay (of course raises are frozen).  And students who are already spilling out of rooms, are even more packed in, meaning a lot less personal attention.  The graduation rate in Cleveland is at 33% percent right now.  How is cutting staff a solution for anything?

There is an experimental charter school in Washington Heights, NYC that has been proving the theory that paying teachers more can make a better school.  They believe that one fabulous teacher is worth more than all the technology and low student numbers you can provide.  So far they are right.  They pay their teachers a starting salary of $125,000 with bonuses.  They work longer days, and have many more responsibilities than an average inner-city, but they are the best of the best.  Eight teachers were finally picked out of 600 resumes.  If you are regarded as part of a dream team, you will rise up to the bar.  We haven’t been able to see the long-term effects yet, but I heard the waiting list for this public school is very long.

So, dear government, could we reassess our priorities, please?  Let’s shift some money around, and focus on our primary education system, because at the risk of sounding cliché, it really is our future.