Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday Letter

I promise to address the below entry. Soon. I think I'm going to need to.

But, I'm trying something new and hopefully it will become a weekly post. The idea came to me because I often say, both seriously and jokingly, "I'm going to write a letter." There have been some situations lately that have me really, REALLY wanting to express a few things. I already have a list. Sometimes they'll need explanation, others won't. This one might.

It's about Joe the Plumber. It's not really about politics or parties. I'm not here to favor one or the other or to change your opinion about anything. I don't even know all that I claim to but this situation irks me.

So ... enjoy.


Dear Joe,

I shouldn't even know who you are but the fact is, I do. I know that you are a plumber, though, not licensed. I was informed that with what you currently make you'd actually be receiving a tax cut under Obama's plan. I also have been told, again and again, that you owe $1200 in taxes.
I put your 'name' in yahoo search: "Joe the Plumber" and 57 million results came up. The first one was a website that posted the following:


Since the debate Wednesday between John McCain and Barrack Obama, I have received: 180,207 hits on my website, over 300 phone calls, and hundreds of e-mails. I have been interviewed for several publications and appeared on Television 4 times, interviewed for the Radio 3 times, made the cover of the Local newspaper twice and met a lot of people and signed two dozen Autographs. All in a three day period.
Joe Lara

Please be advised that I am NOT the unlicensed Plumber from Ohio who was mentioned over 20 times in Wednesdays Debate.


You've gotten so popular that people with your 'name' received a taste of your 15 minutes.

It's been several days and the media has surely calmed down. But, I wonder how your life is now. Are things different? Were you able to just laugh it off? Do you regret that day? Has anyone approached you about a reality show?

It won't matter, you may be absolutely delighted with your new found fame, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry that all you did was ask a question, utilizing your right to free speech, and then you get slammed from every direction. At first you were practically a hero, then you were the butt of jokes from Letterman to Conan. It isn't fair and it makes me mad. Your name has been mentioned everywhere - from late night to early morning news. In debates, on the radio, in the paper ...

Somehow it has become okay, a new second nature, to joke about you, to bring you up in conversation, to use you to get more votes. Yes, this happens in some form on some level all the time - but not this way. You dont get your face plastered on screens across America, your name mentioned over and over by two men vying for the presidency. Why couldn't you just ask a question, have it answered and then go home to make your decision?

But, what gets me most is no one knows who you really are. Are you married to the love of your life? Are you a fan of the Cleveland Browns? Do you tuck your child into bed at night after reading a favorite story and saying I love you? Are your parents still around? Are you even registered to vote? Are you mad that things have been brought up about you? Have you been hurt by this? We don't know. We, apparently, don't care about all that. We just wanted to chew you up, have a laugh, and spit you out.

What kind of freedom is this? What message does this send? Poke fun of, make jokes about, find flaws in everyone? Is that what it is to be American? Is this who we are?

It kind of makes me sick.

For all its worth and for whatever this may have caused you, I'm sorry. And it was a really good question.


Friday, October 17, 2008

What's Keeping Me Away

My sister's on my case about writing a new blog - I started this whole venture into the bloggy world with big ideas and grand dreams of writing every day. Yeah, that didn't happen. It's a treat when I write twice in one month.

I have so, so much to say though. Lots to talk about. Silly stories, serious tales, and frightening experiences. I have thoughts in my mind that keep me awake at night as I stare at the ceiling wondering what I could have done, what I should do or where my next move might take me. I have these ideas from watching the news, reading facebook, and listening to my students chatter on.

I just don't share. Though I want to. Though I should. Though it would be good for me. Though it may be good for you.

I have no real reason I don't, either. I'n not preoccupied with toddlers using my body as a jungle gym. I'm not kept at work for yet another late night because work's piled up. I'm busy, but I have time.

I just can't share my stories. I think it's because there's this one story that looms over my head that once I write it, I have to let it go. And I'm not ready yet.

I'm about at the point where there's so much else to say that I'll find my way to writing again but I just needed these few moments. I'll share soon. I'll even share the story that's keeping me away. Soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No Teacher Left Behind

Right now, I am solely writing as a teacher.

And I am pissed.

I am burning with anger, frustration and irritation.
It started off with a spark and now it's blazing. I am engulfed in this.

At the same time, I am drenched with sadness. And I feel hopelessness creeping into the back of my mind.

I feel as though I was asked to compromise my integrity today.
Because I was.
But I won't.
Not today.
Not tomorrow.
So, please, don't ask.

I teach high school English. Freshmen. They are rambunctious and silly and intense and funny and NOT funny and everything you remember being when you were there ... times 10.

I love what I do. When I was just five years old I knew this was my calling. And over 20 years later, I'm nearly five years in. It's changed me, it's affected me, it's taught me and I love it.

And I believe in it.

In November, the candidates' plans for education will have a direct impact on my vote. I don't hate No Child Left Behind because it's trying to do something to better education. An education gives you power, freedom, intelligence, confidence, hope. It can provide you with opportunities and knowledge that you couldn't get just anywhere.

And one of the most integral parts of it all: the teacher.

So, wouldn't you expect him or her to be "something special?" Or at least have a drive to educate your children, your employees, your future.

Or is it enough to just have someone who only exists in the classroom, breathes in the air around them and goes home?

I say no.

What's this all about? My student teacher (ST). He's year older than I, embarking on career #2. It's not even him directly at this point though he has caused me much greif and confusion. You see, I've rarely met a man, not only without a fire underneath him but no spark to even light a fire. His lessons have disengaged all of my students. My students have so, so much life in them but this man has drained every last drop with, not only his lack of ability, but enthusiasm, interest, desire, passion ... He claims to be a lover of English but this has yet to be seen in the slightest. Perhaps it's just lost in his mumbles (yes, he mumbles) over grammar, and as he stumbles through Of Mice and Men. I don't see it, but this I do: Teachable moments go untaught. Symbolism goes unrecognized.
Remember Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Take that and add 38 cups of boredom.

Yeah, it's that bad.

You might say, "But, rjtrue, this man is just getting started on his journey ... he's just learning, cut him some slack."

And I have. I have sat down with him, pointed him in the right direction, even walked the first few steps with him. He has not improved. I don't even believe the attempt was ever made.

And then ...

I met with his university supervisor (UnSup), along with ST's other mentor who also happens to be a dear friend, and we explained our frustrations and expectations. The lack of interest, follow-through, classroom management. We discussed how lessons were mundane and continued to be. We shared with him our concern about his future in teaching.

I basically got told to pass him anyway. And, based on what we shared, he'd pass him as well. UnSup told us both that perhaps ST was just not someone we'd choose to work with but we had to remember that he's not like us. He said that maybe he'd fail once in the profession but that shouldn't hold us back from letting him get through this experience.
He went on to tell us how he himself had once passed a student worse than ST and then wouldn't recommend her when the call came in.

I lost it.

How in the hell do you put someone out into this field that you do not have faith in? I was appalled by this man and it took everything in me not to reach across the table and shake some integrity back in him. Something that he so obviously lost long ago. That he wanted me to lose.
Absolutely not.

I believe in what I do. I believe in the people that do the same thing that I do. This is NOT a fall back profession. This is NOT an easy job. This is NOT for someone who does not have some sort of love for it. This is NOT for someone who does not want to give it more than nothing.

How does someone in the field have so little respect for it? Would you put a surgeon in a hospital who repeatedly screwed up surgeries? No. Would you let a man into the police force who could barely shoot a gun? No. Would you allow a pharmacist to work if she couldn't tell the difference between medications? No.
Then why are we letting people who can't teach become teachers?