Sunday, August 21, 2005

Pastafarianism is where it's at.

I was made aware of a WONDERFUL letter a man has written to the Kansas School Board, regarding their adoption of "intelligent design" as a curriculum requirement in science. As "intelligent design" has no factual data to support it whatsoever, it is very difficult for scientists to accept it as a scientific theory.

The wonderful letter, therefore, asks the Kansas School Board to consider an alternate theory. According to their own words, they should also offer his ideas as scientific theory. In fact, his theory goes beyond intelligent design in that it has scientific data (i.e. a graph).

Check it out. Wear depends. Oh, and support public schools remaining public by shooting down any whiff of intelligent design. Please.

Read the letter here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I wonder what has happened.

I used to be an artist.

I used to wear all black, all the time. Seriously. I wore it because it was easy. I didn't want to worry about fashion or "matching" or anything like that. There was a point in my life when I could do 3 loads of laundry, and it would ALL be black.

Wearing black does not make one an artist.

It was a part of me, though. A person's style is a part of who they are. I didn't want to worry about my clothes because I was too busy being an artist. I went to poetry readings. I stayed up in all-night diners writing poetry. I created masks and wrote plays. I performed in "open stage night" at the local university theatre. I spelled "theatre" with an -re.

What the hell happened? I woke up one day and had an art room full of unused stuff. I woke up and barely saw myself in the mirror, because I was up at 5am to get ready for work, and the sun wasn't up yet. I woke up one day, and had nothing more to say. I had no poetry, no plays, no ideas.

I don't think I've ever felt as depressed as I did on that day.

And now everything is affecting me badly. I watch the news and see mothers protesting the war because their sons died there. I listen to Ben Folds sing about how he took his girlfriend to the abortion clinic. I sit around at work, hating the stupid part of the work I have to do, and loving the "with kids" part. I sit around and think about how it just isn't worth it to waste your life doing what you hate.

But what do I love?

Do I love art? Do I love creation? Or do I love forming words and phrases into thoughts? What do I want to do all day?

All of the answers come back to my daughter. The art room stopped when she got busier. She is growing older, and is demanding more and more time. I feel compelled to teach her how to be a good person. This compulsion tells me that I am a good mother; I have no problem with this. However, all the things I used to love, the things that took up so much of my time, have fallen wayside, because I want to spend time with her.

The dilemma, then, is this: How can I teach her to be a fabulous, intelligent, deep-thinking person if I'm not behaving that way? I can't do all the things that (I thought) made me the person that I am, because I'm spending time with my child. How can I reconcile this?

And do you know, this started four years before she was born? That's because I started graduate school. That's when all the art stuff went out the window. I had absolutely no time for it. And right after I graduated, I became pregnant. And then she was born. And that was it.

Since I went back to work, which was 2 years ago, I've been consumed with making money. I need to make more money so I can be with my family. To make more money, I have decided that I need to be self-employed. Trading my time for dollars isn't working; there aren't enough dollars in the coffer. If I am self-employed, there is no limit to the dollars, if I pursue it intelligently.

The risk is much greater, however. At which point I have to ask myself: which is the greater risk, losing oneself and being a horrible example for my daughter, or taking that risk and showing my daughter what great things can happen if a person takes risks? I've been thinking far, far too small, lately. Far, far too small.

It doesn't matter what kind of person I was. What matters is that I now behave as the person I want my daughter to admire.

I'm working on it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Where's That Other Shoe?

I was dreading going to work today. 'Twas the first day back for us teachers. I was dreading the meeting I was supposed to have. I was dreading looking people in the eye, people whom I have no respect for whatsoever.

Turns out, I needn't have dreaded it. Actually, I'm in awe. Our administrators actually respected our time today, by scheduling only a couple of meetings. Tomorrow, they are respecting it even more, by meeting with all teachers in groups, in 1-hour increments. If we aren't a part of the group, then we needn't meet. We will have the rest of the day to plan. What a concept!

Furthermore, they didn't try to sideswipe us with something on the first day back. The past three years, I've been ambushed by some thing or another, which always turned out to be some way to crap on me. Not this time.

Oh, and I talked to the principal about a touchy subject, and he didn't freak out, either.

Where's that other shoe?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Just go there with me, ok?

Okay, here we go:

If we invert the perceived power structure in our school district, and teachers become the highest eschelon of employee (as far as perception and delivery of services is concerned), then the following things will have to be accomplished:

  • re-train administrators (pricipals and assistant principals, to serve teachers. They should make eye contact with every single teacher in their building, every single day, and make sure those teachers' needs are being met. They need to make sure they listen to the teachers, and make sure they are happy. The administrators should do everything in their power to avoid asking teachers to do extra duty. They should do it themselves, to free the teachers to do their jobs. If subs are in short supply, the administrator should teach that day, instead of asking the teachers to do it on their planning periods.
  • re-train upper administrators, so that they serve building administrators. The building administrators will balk at their training, because currently they are accountable to upper administrators. They have to answer to them about test scores, curriculum, etc. Remove this from their duties. Building administrators are too busy serving teachers to compile data and fret over curriculum. The upper administrators need to do that job, or make sure it gets done. They need to serve the building administrators, instead of the other way around.
  • re-train the super higher-ups to serve the upper administrators. The higher-ups should serve the uppers by providing them with what they need to do their job. These are the people who get things done, but don't necessarily do it themselves. They instruct others to make things happen, toward the benefit of the upper administrators.
  • The highest ups, the Gurus, need to answer to all of these people, of course. They need to gather the experts to think of solutions for problems, and implement them. They need to listen to all sides of all stories, and make decisions that will support teachers.
It's all about support of teachers, because teachers are the people with the direct contact with the students. Teachers are the people with direct contact with parents, with the public. If we support the teachers as they should be supported, then great lessons and fabulous learning will follow. Increased test scores will follow.

How can we support teachers?

  • Pay them by merit. The current system that is being implemented is a nice first step, but it is not enough. This school district needs to be the first district in the nation to pay a teacher $100,000 on merit. If that happens, people will start lining up to work for us. We will then be able to choose among a vast talent pool, hand-picking the best teachers for our district. This will result in even better instruction, better experts from which to choose for staff development, etc.
  • Provide them the support that current higher-ups enjoy. This may take the form of a copy service, for starters. Office assistants may need to be re-trained to serve teachers, as well. They can make phone calls to parents, arrange meetings, organize their calendars for such meetings, etc. Certain positions in the district that now seem superfluous could be turned into office assistant jobs for teachers. These folks might also be able to provide the copy service. Hmm.
  • Provide teachers with a say in who their administrator is, and let them have a say in evaluating that administrator's performance.
  • Provide small, random motivational gifts to teachers, to show our appreciation of them.
  • Re-institute the Teacher of the Year idea, with teachers nominating each other, and have an awards ceremony every year, with very real prizes. The prizes and ceremony, etc. will be donated. The ceremony should be black-tie. The ceremony itself could be a fund-raiser for the district. Red carpet, paparazzi, everything.
I'm running out of steam for ideas. You comment now, and add to the list. Make it long and detailed.