Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Day Musings: There Was a Time...

... when I looked forward to starting school again. I loved getting ready -- planning the authors we'd read; developing lessons that were fun and creative; searching for new video clips or ideas to incorporate into my classroom; and, seeing students grow and learn about themselves in a new way.

That feeling is gone.

Now, lest you think I am wallowing in self-pity, I am not. Okay. Maybe a little. But, more than that, I am thinking about why the anticipation has been replaced by dread.

It comes to this.

Education has become a one size fits all. Instead of decisions being student driven, it is motivated by funding, government rules, or political beliefs. It has become a forum for making "everyone feel good about themselves" rather than challenging one to grow beyond their comfort level. It has become yet another forum for pop psychology instead of one of standards and the recognition that we need garbage collectors AND doctors. (Frankly, I adore my garbage collector every week; my doctor, well, a few times a year. Both have their place and role. One is not better than another, yet, in academia, there is a snobbery that the garbage collector has unrecognized potential and should aspire to more.) This is yet another reason the passion is gone; the failure to acknowledge that there are limits to ability and that some folks, to be honest, just aren't college material. And, by the way, that is perfectly okay.

Reporting - completers, retention, financial aid, assessment, recruiting -- are just a few of the ways an institution can spend time looking at itself and find ways to self-aggrandize as well as a way to avoid confronting the real issues -- academic freedom, academic standards, not to mention faculty salary and professional standards. Those instructors who are most popular carry teaching loads twice their colleagues, yet those colleagues remain mediocre because they tick the right boxes politically or through their academic rhetoric. There doesn't have to be substance, just compliance.

The jargon, the philosophies are more important than the ability to effectively meet a student where they are and lift them. Gatekeepers to programs or student goals impede success rather than inspire it. No one can say what power human desire and motivation can have over a low placement score or underdeveloped critical thinking skills. This hamstringing of weaker students destroys potential and, ultimately, deprives society of perhaps the next Einstein or Emerson. Neither were stellar students either, by the way.

And, so, here I am, one day from reentering a world that I feel I no longer belong, in which I feel I am a minority. I want to teach and be left alone by all the outside distractions. I want to spend this first week back on campus meeting with students, working on lesson plans, building enthusiasm for my content. I want to have my time respected. I want to feel appreciated, necessary, in a meaningful manner rather than spending my time checking the box for seeing so-and-so video or attending such-and-such meeting.

Teachers have a saying that, "what really matters is what happens when you close the door to your classroom." I am trying to hold on to this thought, this belief. I feel what a drowning person must feel. I gasp the air, hold my breath, and push up again.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Things I've Learned This Week...

My sister and I contracted with our parents to paint the interior of three rental houses this week. On day three, my Sissie awoke with a softball-sized MRSA infection. So, I have plugged on solo. Following are the things I have learned this week:

10. Break the ice. Go ahead and drop the open paint can. On the carpet. Without paper towels handy.

9. If there is still a little ice to break, step back into the paint tray. It is always good for a laugh.

8. Make sure one ladder is only five feet tall. That makes reaching the nine-foot ceilings even more interesting as well as a great work out for your abs and shoulders!

7. When painting the kitchen, walk on the counter tops, moving the ladder along with you. Then, when the ladder tips over, you can enjoy the challenge of dismounting without spilling your paint. Again.

6. Always start by painting the closet trim. That way, when you back out, you can back into the trim and have a lovely white stripe on your backside. But, don't worry. It will match the white spill down the front where you dismounted from the kitchen counter.

5. Never select your own painting tools. That way you will have the pleasure to spending a day with a roller on an extension handle that spins every time you start to roll the ceiling OR put paint on the roller. Now, your hair will match your shirt and paints.

4. When working as a team, be sure to avoid any communication of what each of you are painting. That way, when you finish washing your brushes for the day, you can enjoy the discovery that you each thought the other was painting the attic access. Yay! One more time up the short ladder!

3. If you sing together, be sure to know who can carry a tune. That way, when you are belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the less talented singer falsetto's into "Let me go!" , you won't be caught with your arm over your head when you burst into laughter nearly slinging yourself into the floor with the paint. Again.

2. Always turn your shirt wrong side out when driving home. After all, you have dismounted a counter top, stepped in paint, dropped a paint can, and backed into wet trim. You don't want to get paint on your car.

And, my personal favorite...

1. When stopping at the grocery store on the way home, shirt wrong side out, paint on most of your body be prepared for the, "Are you painting?" question with a witty response, "No, I was painting my toenails and got a little carried away."

Don't you wish you were me?