These are the questions and my responses for Melanie’s Share Your World this week:
What did you learn the hard way? How difficult teaching was for a person with ADHD.
Which activities make you lose track of time?
Almost anything I’m engaged in! Especially, though, games I play on my phone. Most are word games, but I also have two different Solitaire games, and a “wood block” game, where you fit pieces of different sizes and shapes into a grid. This last game is the most addictive! I could play it, mesmerized, for hours – I don’t know why!
The best thing I can do if I want to accomplish several things in one day is to stay away from these games until I have a lull in the evening, or am waiting at a doctor’s office, for example.
Why do we seem to think of others the most after they’re gone? Sad, isn’t it? Grief makes you linger on the one you’ve lost, and regret reminds you of all the things you wish you had said or done for them, but didn’t. I think we take others for granted. If they are a regular part of our lives, it just seems like they’ll be there forever. I hope the pandemic has taught us that we should value our time with loved ones and say and do everything for them that we can to show our appreciation.
Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first? Hmm, this is a difficult one. Many people claim to know the “truth” due to what they’ve been taught, and they’ve never been exposed or challenged by other ideas. They may have their “truth” confirmed by other people around them who think the same way, but how can they know they are right? If one is really convinced of the “truth,” that person doesn’t feel the need to go beyond that. They just hang onto reinforcement of that truth.
So yes, one can claim to know “truth” without examining that truth, but I do think that only by being exposed to other “truths” and examining them in an objective way (if that is even possible) can one feel secure that the truth is what one believes or has been brought up to believe.
GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)
Please feel free to share your gratitude with everyone! We can all use a boost in spirits from time to time! Here’s a sentiment I can relate to!
On this Monday Memorial Day, Melanie presents us with some food for thought questions for Share Your World.
What activity instantly calms you? Art, both the pictures I create myself, and those that I color. Both are very relaxing and because I’m good at it, it is usually quite satisfying. I attend a weekly art workshop, where women from our senior community go and do whatever they want to do in their artwork. We admire each other’s work and give each other encouragement. There are two retired art teachers who help us learn new techniques.
What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done lately? I can’t remember – my short-term memory is terrible. I don’t tend to be spontaneous in big ways.
If people receive a purple heart for bravery, what would other color hearts represent? (Example yellow heart = cowardice) Red heart = love and compassion for others Yellow or orange heart = optimism in the face of adversity Blue heart = calm, keeping one’s wits about oneself. Green heart = advocacy and contribution toward improving the environment, helping our planet; such as an innovation that contributes to a reduction in plastic waste, for example. White or pink heart = volunteerism Rainbow heart = tolerance, acceptance; extraordinary acts to create diversity in our society
What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done or witnessed someone else do? Another hard question! I guess in my case it would be making the decision (and following through) to change careers. I was comfortable & competent, but bored, in what I was doing for a living. When I remarried, it became possible to think about finding a career in which I could use my skills in a more meaningful way. I went into teaching because I felt that what teachers do is so vital; every time I walked into my son’s school, I felt a surge of excitement, like something important was happening there. I did it in spite of advice from my husband and others, in spite of knowing it would be very challenging and difficult for me due to my ADHD, in spite of a it being a time of great tension in the field of education due to increased pressure to show student success through standardized tests (or losing funding if scores were not at a certain level. Remember “No Child Left Behind?” What a disaster!) Bilingual and special ed teachers were especially stressed because our students tended NOT to get great scores on these tests. We were watched more closely and there was little tolerance for mistakes or non-traditional classroom techniques.
GRATITUDE SECTION (Always optional)
How do you show gratitude to the people you respect? First, by thanking them, hugging them or maybe sending them a card. But mostly by being generous, doing things for them, giving them a gift I know they would particularly like. For example, I have a friend of many years, since our sons were little and playing together. She has been through a lot in her life, including the loss of her husband to cancer and her son to an overdose. She sacrificed much of herself for her son, who had disabilities that were difficult to deal with. She has always worked, and even now cannot afford to retire. She always shows her caring toward others, calling when someone she knows is in difficulty, or visiting someone who is homebound. Unlike me, she has never had a chance to travel abroad except to Canada. She is a very Christian person – I mean strong in her faith, more so than I, so when there was an opportunity to visit the Holy Land with a group from our church, I knew how much she wanted to go, and I paid for her trip. I had the money and the trip was fairly inexpensive. Otherwise, she could not have gone. It made me so happy to see her enthusiasm and awe about everything she experienced while we were in Israel.
I don’t do generous things for people very often, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t remember to do so. Therefore, when I feel strongly that a generous act – something I have the ability to do for someone else – would help a person I love and respect, I do it if they let me.
I used to be impatient and often didn’t bother to understand others, but I think that as I have aged, I have become a better person in that way. I wish I were more of a risk-taker, so I could do much more for others, but I’m not; I’m too comfortable and selfish about my own life and what I want. I’m not a person who jumps to volunteer for a big project, but now I look for opportunities to help someone I care about, in some small, individual way.
A new week has arrived and along with it, a new set of questions from Melanie on Share Your World. QUESTIONS:
Do you feel you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know? I like to ask questions. I am very inquisitive and I often go in search of information for answers. If I didn’t ask questions, what would I know? Questioning is vital to gain knowledge. This is why little children ask so many questions, Why this and why that? They have little knowledge and to get more, they have to ask why, although sometimes the adults don’t have answers.
That said, there are certain situations in which I do stop asking questions. If a very annoying person is chatting me up, for example, on an airplane or a bus, and I don’t want to talk to that person, I say what is polite and then turn away. Or when a meeting goes really long, and everyone is fidgeting because they want to get out of there, but I still have a question, I most likely bite my tongue and settle for what I know, with the thought of finding out the answer to my unasked question later or elsewhere.
Asking questions occasionally gets me into trouble; in fact, I lost a teaching job at least partly due to asking a question that my boss (the new principal of the school) didn’t like, because she thought it made her look bad.. She harbored a resentment toward me the entire school year and found fault with me even when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. She ended up not rehiring me and I wasn’t tenured. But I really did want to know the answer to my question and never really got one.
When did you fail to speak up when you feel you should have? There was one incident that I still regret not having spoken up – or perhaps if I had realized sooner to put two and two together. I went to a party at a former coworker’s house one summer. When I got there, I was happy to see several of my former coworkers from the school I had loved teaching at, including the principal who I really liked because she had always been supportive of me. I had lost my job in that school district, because they reconfigured the schools into “grade level centers” and by moving people around, they could dispense with nine teachers. I was one of them because after three years, I wasn’t yet tenured. In Illinois teachers don’t get tenure until the end of their fourth year. I was telling the principal about my new job and how happy I was there, even though the pay was extremely low – I’d had to take a program assistant job, because I couldn’t find a teaching position except for substitute teaching, which I was tired of. The principal asked me several times if I was sure I really liked it where I was working, and I kept saying yes.
A short while later, I ran into the other ESL teacher I had worked with at that school and found out she had just retired. I didn’t make any connection at the time and it wasn’t until a day or so later that my dense mind figured it out! The principal had been trying to find out if I would be interested in going back to my former position, but I didn’t realize that at the time. She wanted me to replace the retiring teacher because they really needed a Spanish-speaking ESL teacher, which they lost when I was cut from the district. They had replaced me with another ESL teacher from another school in the district who was tenured.
I realized I should have said something – although I liked the program assistant job, the pay was so low that Dale and I were having trouble keeping a positive balance in our checking account, and if I could have gotten a teaching job in my former district, where I was really happy, I would have taken it. I thought about calling that principal and asking her if the job was still available, but I didn’t. I had convinced myself by that time that in spite of the low pay, I was glad not to have the responsibility of a teaching job. I could go home after work and not have to do more work at home to prepare for the next day or grade papers. I valued that additional leisure time. Even so, I know I would have taken that ESL position back if it had been offered to me and worked for several more years instead of retiring at age 63, when I acquired an inheritance after my mother died.
When was the last time you felt lucky? A few days ago! Maybe “lucky” isn’t the right word. People have no control over what family circumstances they will be born into. I happened to be lucky to be born into a psychologically and financially stable family. The reason I felt lucky a few days ago is that, when hearing the news of the pandemic, of people who have lost their jobs and depend on the stimulus checks for their financial support right now, for people who have no money, I thought about how lucky I am – a retired, 68-year-old married white woman with a good husband and a wonderful home in a senior community (which most people would be hard pressed to afford). This community provides us with a lot of support during the pandemic and our monthly fee pays for maintenance, snow shoveling, etc. We’ve gotten ahead of others in getting the Covid vaccine, we have a housekeeper who comes once a week, and we don’t have to cook because our meals are delivered to us. We have a beautiful campus where we can walk and see our neighbors (when the weather is good), so we don’t feel so isolated. I thank God every day for my good fortune.
What is a boulder? It is a large rock. When people talk about avalanches, they usually call the rocks that hurtle down the side of a mountain boulders. Boulder is also a city in Colorado, home of the University of Colorado.
GRATITUDE SECTION (as always optional)
Feel free to share your gratitude with everyone! See the answer about feeling lucky above. I am grateful for all I have. While people in Texas are suffering from lack of electricity and water during a freak storm, I am watching their distress on TV in my comfortable home. I am warm and don’t lack for anything. The employees of our community take good care of us.
I haven’t participated in Fandango’s Provocative Question lately, but I’m back! And #104 is a good one for me, because I am a former teacher and education has always been an interest of mine:
Today’s provocative question is about formal education. We all have our opinions on how best to educate and prepare our children to succeed in today’s highly complex world. So this begs the question:
What do you think is the one subject (or thing) that should be taught in school that isn’t?
Oh, there are many answers to this question! Students today don’t learn about half the things they should nowadays, and especially in the U.S. Therefore, I cannot just name one, but three, but grade level may determine the priority given to each.
Life skills: this includes how to maintain a bank account, how to treat others in a civil society, how to live on your own, conservation, the responsibilities you have as an adult, parenting, managing a household or a budget, etc. This encompasses a wide range of topics, which are always changing (for example, in the past I might have said “how to balance a checkbook” but young people don’t use checkbooks anymore). This should be taught in middle school and high school. In middle school it could be more about decision-making, civility, and diversity. The curriculum should be somewhat fluid, because different communities might have particular needs and students have different needs. High school students maybe even should have some input about what is taught.
Historyshould be a required subject every year of high school, and also middle school. One high school year is not enough to learn all of U.S. history, which is always being added to. And standards for teaching history include many things that we weren’t taught when I was in high school, such as Native American history, and minorities’ contributions to our society. (When I was in school, it was mostly about leaders, dates, etc. We had Black History but it was a separate subject and not mandatory.) At least two years should be dedicated to U.S. history, possibly three, and at least one year should be world history.
Starting in elementary school, from kindergarten on, all students should learn a foreign language. This is a very rare thing in American schools and most Americans are not only monolingual but woefully ignorant about the rest of the world. Even high schools don’t always require it. All research shows that the best time to learn another language is before the age of 12. My local school district in Des Plaines used to have Spanish classes as part of the curriculum in elementary school but only once a week and this program was discontinued along with the dual language program when budget cuts had to be made. It should be as important a class as math or English. One of this country’s major shortcomings is ignorance of other peoples and cultures. We are a large country and a world power but so is China and all their students learn foreign languages starting in elementary school. In fact, BECAUSE we are a world power, we should be more knowledgeable about the world . If other nations can teach these things, why can’t we?
One good way to start elementary school students to learn another language is to implement a dual language program. Many school districts have bilingual programs, but that is not quite the same. Each school would select a foreign language that is predominant in their community and hire teachers fluent in both languages. Then the regular curriculum – math, reading, science, social studies, etc. could be taught in both languages from the beginning! Instead of trying to figure out how to find the time to teach foreign language, just integrate the foreign language into the regular curriculum. This would have the benefit of teaching children academic as well as social language. There are some good examples of dual language programs in the U.S. (which in some cases have replaced regular bilingual programs) and Canada has had them for a long time. But it isn’t a priority here, so therefore, unless you live in an enlightened district, it won’t be done. I have taught in a couple of dual language programs and it is definitely the best way to teach children a second language.
You may wonder, how on earth is it possible to add all these extra things to the curriculum? I don’t know about life skills, but these other subjects (language, national history and world history) are part of the regular curriculum in most countries and judging from recent studies, the major industrialized countries are all doing a better job at educating their kids than American schools. I remember learning that in a typical British school, kids may have up to 11 regular subjects each year! (If you are in Britain and reading this, perhaps you can verify if this is still the case.) In the U.S., we have for too long emphasized the teaching of subjects that are part of standardized testing, so social studies and foreign language became less important or even ignored. Learning about other countries – history, geography, politics – and their languages is so important in the world we live in today, and I think we do a great disservice to our students by not giving these subjects the emphasis they deserve.
Oh, and by the way, ALL students should have, as part of their regular school supplies, an iPad, tablet or laptop computer. Yes, all this costs a lot of money, so why not budget more for education and less to build weapons?
What should you get rid off, that would make your new year better, and why? (Don’t say Covid-19, we all want to get rid of the dang virus.) Stress. I am a worrier by nature, but I wish I didn’t have things in my life that cause me a lot of stress. I should meditate but I don’t take the time. I don’t mean the virus, which actually isn’t a source of stress for me right now. I’m used to it. The most stress I experience is dealing with my son. He has a lot of problems due to mental illness (depression, anxiety, extremely low self-esteem) which has led him to “self medicate” – i.e. getting drunk and taking drugs. Right now, he is struggling to stay sober. He has trouble holding jobs because it is hard for him to get up to go to work, and when he’s depressed, he sleeps a lot and misses work altogether. He has applied for disability but it will take years for him to get it.
I try to stay upbeat and encourage him. Lately there’s been reason for hope but he could fall back into depression any time triggered by the smallest things. The other day he got angry at the cashier at 7/11, who was rude to him. This is something we all encounter and just have to deal with it. But he gets so upset that he can’t calm down right away. Yes, he has learned techniques in rehab to help him calm down, but he forgets about them at the moment he’s becoming angry and anxious.
I just want to have my retired life to enjoy with my husband. I love my son, but he is always a source of stress.
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Zip-lining in Costa Rica. I’ve written about this before. So I will say, changing careers. When I was in my 40s, I was bored with my job and wanted to do something more meaningful, to contribute to society. I decided to go into teaching. I didn’t think it through well enough, but on the other hand, I didn’t really know what the state of public education was by the late 1990s. Talk about stress!! I struggled because I wasn’t great with classroom management, but I had other strengths, such as being bilingual, being enthusiastic and intelligent, and having compassion. I got my first teaching job when I was 50!
The main problem is that after I started teaching, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I’ve always had it, but never knew what it was, until I was having my son diagnosed and realized that I had all the characteristics of ADHD. Symptoms are exacerbated as people get older and due to a heart condition, I cannot take stimulants, which are the most successful medications for ADHD. People with ADHD tend to get distracted easily, have difficulty multitasking, staying focused and remembering all the things a teacher needs to remember throughout the day. I wrote detailed lesson plans, very well thought out, and put all kinds of helpful hints and reminders to myself in them, but when I was in the classroom, I would sometimes lose my lesson plans or forget to consult with them. A major characteristic of ADHD is forgetfulness.
At the same time, administrators were putting a lot of pressure on teachers because of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind policies. Success or failure were determined by standardized tests; schools that were not performing well lost their funding (which makes no sense – those are the schools that need the funding the most). So principals were hyper critical of every little thing and I had the bad luck to have really terrible principals. Not all the time – my most successful years I had wonderful principals, but these were not the majority. When you end up with a resume that has a lot of jobs listed, that is a red flag for administrators when they are hiring. At the end of my career, I could no longer get teaching jobs, so I worked as a substitute for awhile and then took a low-paying job as a program assistant. I found that financially I was able to retire when I was 63. I decided to retire because the pay was so low, it was hardly worth it. I had been working mainly so that I would have health insurance. So my plan was to take the school district’s COBRA insurance for 18 months, then get insurance through the ACA until I turned 65 and could get Medicare.
I confess that I do not miss teaching at all. I don’t miss the kids, but I do remember them fondly and am proud of my accomplishments and successes.
Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken? Not really – but if we did, it would be something like “a pun for every occasion.” There is never an inappropriate time to use a pun! I didn’t used to be a punster, but my husband is notorious for his bad puns, and it has rubbed off on me. I grew up in a family with a particular sense of humor. My father always loved puns and jokes.
On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are? (this does not mean ‘smell’ or looks; because this is a judgment free blog!) If 0 is not funny at all and 10 is the funniest, my husband informs me that I am a 7. That is pretty good – I would give myself a 5! Sometimes I am too serious and need to lighten up. On the other hand, I see humor in little things or situations and as I said above, I’m learning to be a punster!
Tell everyone something that you found personally lifted your spirits! I know I said this last week, but this time I have a photo – orchids blooming in winter!
I have strong feelings about this week’s topic for Truthful Tuesday by PCGuyIV, so I have a lot to say to answer these questions, based on my own experience!
The old adage says, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Today’s questions stem from this bromide. Don’t worry if you aren’t currently working. The questions can easily be answered, and are likely better answered from a reflective standpoint.
Do you now or have you ever been employed doing what you love? The first 20 years of my working life, I worked in clerical positions, primarily in export shipping and freight forwarding. I didn’t love these jobs, but some were better than others. I enjoyed being able to use my skills, such as being able to use one of the two foreign languages I speak, and there were some other things I enjoyed, but usually I was somewhat bored and I felt I wasn’t really contributing anything meaningful to myself or society. That’s why I decided to change careers and become a teacher.
I would say that I actually loved my job for about three years out of my entire working career. These lovely three years occurred primarily when I was teaching and I had the ideal working environment: my principal liked and supported me, I got along with co-workers and they respected my opinions, I was working with small groups of students that came to my classroom, and I was doing what I best at. Sometimes I would be at school preparing for the day, and as I wrote on the whiteboard the schedule for the day, I would have a feeling of exhilaration: there I was, writing the date in Spanish and English, something simple like that, because I was good at what I did and I loved using Spanish in my job as well as teaching English to Spanish speakers. This feeling of exhilaration would sometimes wash over me when I was sitting at a table working with three or four kids on reading. I felt like I was really making a difference, I was doing something to help those kids by teaching them to read! When I saw a child make progress in an area difficult to him or her, teaching was the best job in the world!
During my three best years, I did projects with my students that were really enjoyable, and as long as I taught the curriculum and my lesson plans fit the standards, I could expand on it as I wished. I was great help and a good resource for the classroom teachers that my students were in. The kids felt comfortable with me because most of their day was spent in a classroom with native English speakers and that could be intimidating, even when they were competent in spoken, non-academic English. Although I did encourage them to do their work in the language of instruction, with me it was okay if they preferred writing in Spanish at first instead of English. I also tried to make connections between the two languages and we drew on their native culture whenever possible. I told all my students to be proud to be bilingual and not to give up their native language even if their academic work was mostly in English. I told them that being bilingual would help them get a better job in the future. (If I had not been what is considered bilingual, I doubt I would have ever gotten a teaching position in a public school system.) It was clear that I loved and respected their culture, and knew something about it.
These feelings of contentment sometimes happened outside of those three years in which I was truly happy, but three years out of 12+ years of teaching is only 25% of the time – the teaching profession is brutal these days! The other years either I had a principal that didn’t support me or didn’t care, I had either too much to manage or too little control over what I did, and/or I felt that I wasn’t appreciated or respected by the administration or my colleagues. I was only a mediocre classroom teacher – there were too many things pulling on me, I had to keep track of more tasks and more kids than I could manage well. With small groups, especially when they came to me in my classroom that was set up for their needs and mine, I was a better teacher and happier too.
But I have to say, when I was able to leave the profession and retire, I was very relieved and grateful. I hardly ever miss teaching.
Do you agree with this saying(If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life)or is it a bunch of poppycock, and why? Doing what you love is still work. Even those three ideal teaching years, I worked very hard – late nights planning and grading papers, early mornings preparing for the day, and I only allowed myself one day on the weekend to completely get away from my work. Ask the health care workers on the front line taking care of Covid-19 patients if they don’t consider what they are doing as work! Most people are not lucky enough to spend their working life doing what they love, and even when they do, it’s still a lot of responsibility. You can’t just take the day off because you want to. Sometimes you will be doing that part of your job that you love, when something you don’t enjoy so much imposes itself on you and you have to take care of it because that’s part of your job too. I don’t believe there is anyone on Earth who loves every minute of every day of their work – not even workaholics!
In an ideal world, we would all work less hours, have more leisure time, and the work we did would be fulfilling and a contribution to society. We would be respected for our labors. However, living in a country which values work so much that there isn’t even a law requiring employers to give their workers vacation time, this adage has even less chance of ever becoming reality!
When was the last time you tried something new? How did that go for you? This would have to be before Covid.
Last year, our library book club read a book called The Lager Queen of Minnesota. It was about three generations of women in a family who get involved in brewing beer. I don’t like beer but I learned a lot about different kinds of beer from the book. On the day of the discussion, the moderator brought some of the types of beer featured in the book and I tried a couple. One of them was actually tolerable: it was an infusion, made with peach. I can’t remember its name and don’t recall ever seeing it again, so I kind of forgot about it. And I still have no interest in drinking beer.
What’s the most sensible thing you’ve ever heard someone say? Donald Trump isn’t fit to be president. It’s not that he refuses to handle the job – he CAN’T handle the job. Psychologists (including his own niece) have declared him to be a pathological narcissist. I don’t know if this is the most sensible thing I ever heard from someone (many someones, actually) but it’s what’s on my mind lately.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? I’m not sure how to answer this question. Perhaps if I had come from a society that didn’t have a calendar or keep track of time beyond day and night, I might think I was really old because in such societies life tends to be harder and people die earlier. However, in terms of my mind, although my body is aging, I still feel that I am the same person I was at 25. No, cancel that – my mind has deteriorated to some extent as I’ve aged. So if I had to guess how old I was (because I was isolated and didn’t keep track), I’d probably pick some age close to my own, mid-60s.
Lastly, I’ll be doing one “Halloween” themed question per week during October. Those who don’t observe the holiday are welcome to answer or to ignore it as they wish.
Fun CREEPY Halloween Question:
Have you ever seen a ‘fresh’ corpse (aka dead body)? Not in person, no. Just on TV or in movies. And I tend to cringe and hide my eyes behind my hand when I see something gory. But the ones in the morgue are easier to look at. I have seen dead people at open casket funerals, which I don’t like at all. I would normally choose not to look at the body, but in the case of my sister I had no choice – I was seated in the front row. My brother-in-law was so distraught that he let the funeral home director make all the decisions. I feel sure he would not have chosen open casket if he’d thought about it. It’s not what my sister would have wanted either.
I’m grateful that I have never seen a freshly dead body.
GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)
Do you enjoy any seasonal traditions around this time of year? Not anymore – when my son was young, I would take him trick-or-treating and I’d put up some lame decorations on the door. I had a cool witch figurine that made spooky sounds, but one year I put it outside to entertain the kids on Halloween and it got stolen. Another thing I did with my son is make jack-o-lanterns. The problem was that the squirrels would attack them – what’s the point of making jack-o-lanterns if you can’t leave them outside?
However, the one time of year I really miss teaching is at this time of year. The kids got so excited about Halloween. I’d dress up as a witch and we’d have a class picture taken dressed up in our costumes. There would be a parade around the school. I had a lot of fun, Halloween-themed educational activities that I did with students. Since I was a bilingual teacher and my students were mostly from Mexico (or their parents were) we would always celebrate Day of the Dead. We did some really cool projects and shared them with the whole school.
To what degree have you been able to control the course that your life has taken? Or is being in control of your life just an illusion?
I watched a science program the other day that discussed unanswered questions posed by quantum physics, such as the possibility that everything that happens in the universe was predestined at the time of the Big Bang. Other people see it in religious terms, that God has control over us and sees our past, present and future, that God can decide whether to make something happen or not. I don’t believe God controls my life and quantum physics is too confusing for me.
We as human beings don’t have total control over our lives. We might be born in a wealthy, powerful country or in a poor, underprivileged country. Within that country, we are born into a particular race and class, both of which have repercussions in a society – culturally, politically, socially, economically. Within that race and class, we are born into a family that is loving and supportive, one in which there is abuse and violence, one which values education, or one that does not. Then there are individual limitations: inherited or nurtured. We have talent for something but our limitations hold us back. Within all these parameters, we have choice, or a modicum of control. Will we choose to develop our natural talent or pursue a more difficult course? Will we let our physical or mental limitations hold us back or will we overcome them or at least find coping mechanisms?
So yes, I do believe I have had SOME control over my life but a lot has been given to me by being born white, upper middle class, in the United States of America, which in spite of its faults, has provided me with privileges unavailable elsewhere. My parents had the money for me and my siblings to go to college and in our family we never fought over money because we had enough (not an excessive amount, but enough). I have been able to travel due to this. My parents encouraged all of us to pursue careers: whether we were girls or boys, they had the same expectations for us. They did what they could in terms of love and support to make us happy. I was also given intelligence, which is probably largely inherited, although it took motivation to develop and use it to my advantage, something I have not always done. I am lucky to be reasonably healthy, and I can control whether I stay that way – by eating healthy and staying fit – but I can’t control the fact that I have a heart problem inherited from my father. However, having the knowledge of this problem gives me control over how I deal with it. The more education we have, the more knowledge we acquire, the more we can control our lives. I was able to get a master’s degree in teaching and also have acquired knowledge in the ways of the world.
BUT, I did have limitations and caused disappointment for my parents because some of the choices I made were because I was afraid to challenge those limitations. I have often been afraid of decision-making because I have trouble making decisions, so sometimes I made NO decision (which was a decision in itself). I didn’t have to marry my first husband, for example, I shouldn’t have – that was a disappointment; but the second time around I chose a much better match. I chose to have a child with that first husband, who inherited mental illness as well as abuse from his father, which has greatly impeded his life. I chose to change careers in my late 40s, and decided to go into teaching, which in the end was probably not the wisest choice but I did the best I could. Many of the hurdles were beyond my control – discovering I have ADHD, trying to complete as a 50-year-old woman with a master’s degree with 25-year-olds with a undergraduate degree, the emphasis on high stakes testing, bad administrators who weren’t held accountable, the low esteem that our society seems to hold in general for teachers, the negative view of bilingual education (which was my field), etc.
Besides choices, there is attitude. I have always been a more or less optimistic person, believing in positive outcomes, but I am also skeptical by nature because I analyze everything. I try to figure out the “why” of mistakes I’ve made. Not everyone can or will do this. I want to fix problems but within the limitations of my own life, I do control what I choose to do about problems that plague a wider world. I try to get people in my community here to recycle, for example. I can’t control if they actually do it, but I can make myself heard to encourage it. I write letters to people to encourage them to vote. I may be demonstrating in the streets if Trump tries to undermine the results of the election. But I could choose to do none of those things and just live my life doing the things I prefer doing – reading, writing, drawing, etc. Within my own patch of the world, I do have some control.
All alternative paths in life I could have chosen maybe play out somewhere in the universe. But here in 3 dimensions on planet Earth, I look back on my life with some disappointment but mostly with gratitude.
Right now we are living in a very scary time – in the middle of a pandemic with a president who is threatening to overthrow democratic norms in order to make himself dictator or king, as well as all the other things happening – strained race relations, climate change as evidenced by out of control wildfires out west and hurricanes down south (I am fortunate, I guess, to live in the Midwest where neither of these things are happening or are likely to happen), the numbers of people dying from Covid-19 increasing at an alarming rate, etc. It’s easy to think we have very little control over our lives right now. Yet I admit I am pretty secure in my life. But I don’t kid myself that I have total control – it’s only a matter of attitude and choice in how I respond to things that are beyond my control that I have control. Self-control, that’s about it.
The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is the word lies. There is a lot I could write on this topic (for instance, most of what happened at the RNC these last four days). But I was just made aware of a John Oliver (I love this guy!!) show from a few weeks ago that is very relevant in the wake of the recent tragic events in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the protests and looting that have been going on all summer around the country. Why is this happening? Why is there so much racial unrest? Why are they saying black lives matter – don’t all lives matter? Everyone has an opinion, but too often their opinion is based on ignorance or downright lies.
A few weeks ago – around the time John Lewis died – John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight talked about how Americans learn history wrong. Maybe it has gotten better, but there are still some (any is too many) white people around who say stupid stuff like, “Slavery was bad, but those people were lucky to come to a great place like America.” (Meaning being a slave here was better than living free in African societies.) Textbooks for young children dumb down history, saying things like the colonists “brought slaves with them to help with farm work and chores.”
“Washington freed his slaves” is another myth. Instead of teaching kids lies like George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and then confessed to his father, saying, “I cannot tell a lie,” why can’t we teach kids that yes, Washington was the ‘father of our country’ and he should be honored for being the first president, but he also OWNED SLAVES and he DID NOT free them when he was president (or afterward, either)! I admit, I never learned a single negative fact about Christopher Columbus or George Washington until I got to college. Why can’t students learn both the positive and the negative – i.e. the FACTS about these historical figures?
Well, don’t we need heroes? Yes, but kids, even elementary students, can understand that people can be both good and bad. Acts of heroism don’t erase the rest of a hero’s life. I’m not dissing heroes. I just think we need to be honest. And although any history teacher knows that one year in high school is not enough time to teach all of American history, we shouldn’t ignore important events that are more convenient to ignore than to teach our students. (American history should be taught for at least two years, or part of it every year.)
As a result, many Americans graduate from high school ignorant about American history (and forget about world history). We need to help students understand why racism continues to survive. We need to connect the past to the present, help our students make the connections, so they can understand what is happening now.
This is an excellent video that is worth spending the 28+ minutes to watch.
I need to say here that I do not necessarily approve of taking down statues of people like George Washington. But the idea of the so-called “cancel culture” is a topic for another post.
Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is a topic being debated in the news lately. Our non-leader Orange Man wants all the kids to return to school and virus be damned. Many, if not most, districts have been saying that online learning has had mixed results so far. I can easily believe that. Fandango’s question is:
Do you believe that students should be required to return to school for the new school year? If you are a parent, are you at all concerned about sending your children to school? Or are you relieved to get the little rugrats out of your hair?
Fandango acknowledges this question is one of the most dire dilemmas in the countries where covid-19 is out of control, such as the United States by giving these stats:
He continues, “And with between 60,000 and 70,000 new cases each day and 1,000 or more deaths each day, the virus shows no signs of abating anytime soon.
“Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is trying to pretend that everything is fine and that we need to reopen the country and return to ‘normal.’ To that end, he is demanding that schools physically reopen in the fall, even as the coronavirus pandemic is surging through much of the country and is threatening to overwhelm many health care facilities in the hardest hit areas.“
Being an American, I am coming from this perspective. I am going to answer from the point of view of a former K-5 teacher, whose students were in the majority low income and whose first language was not English.
The question of whether or not to send kids back to school next month is really a dilemma and let me first say that I am very glad right now that I retired from teaching five years ago. “Distance learning” is OK, possibly even desirable, for college students and to some extent, high school students. Much of the debate we hear is geared toward high school when solutions are proposed, such as having the teachers rotate classrooms instead of the kids.
I say, YES, students should go back to school but with some major changes. Here are some things I foresee.
Masks:Uniform masks should be supplied to all students free of charge. They should be replaced every day. The first thing I thought of when mask wearing was proposed was all the wiggly, fidgety K-3 students I have dealt with over the years I spent teaching. I could visualize them playing with their masks – pulling on the elastic, putting their grubby little fingers all over the cloth surface, trading masks with other kids, or throwing them at other kids. I can see it even becoming a fad to have the “coolest” mask. The kind of thing that was so distracting that I had to ban certain fad items to keep the kids from fighting over them or showing them off, trading, playing with them, etc. I don’t know if little kids can really understand the importance of wearing a mask and some of them I am sure will not be able to get used to them. In a child’s cognitive development, empathy and the ability to think about something from someone else’s point of view do not really come into play until they are 8 or 9 years old.
Physical distancing: Students should be divided so that some go in the morning, some go in the afternoon, and if necessary, restrict the number of in-class days to 2 or 3. As for physical distancing, this too can be hard. Part of school is learning appropriate ways of interacting with other children. Plus, little kids are really into hugs – they LOVE to hug! Especially their teachers, but also their best friends or to comfort a crying classmate. Many, especially the youngest students, would find it unnatural and difficult to adjust to a strictly hands-off policy. But having fewer kids in the classroom at any one time would help.
Another proposal that could be included in this would be to expand the school year to year-round. There are already many schools that have year-round schedules, but this maybe could become the norm. This would make it more viable for the students to be in the classroom longer, because they could be rotated in this way too. So, for example, half the third graders in School X would have spring break in the third week of March, while the other half would have spring break in the fourth week of March. Of course, this will probably draw objections from teachers and from parents who have children in different grade levels with different schedules. These are problems that will have to be worked out by each individual institution or district.
“Virtual” classrooms:Some distance or virtual learning will be necessary, probably close to 50% of the students’ school time.Students will be required to participate in the distance learning activities and submit whatever work the teacher requires. Virtual school can only do so much. Some children don’t have access to computers at home, so they’d have to spend their day in a library, probably in close proximity to others doing the same thing. (And how would they get to the library if no one is home to take them?) Also, as I said before, face-to-face interaction is important especially when the students are young.
Entire curricula for online learning will have to be developed and designed; teachers will need extra inservice and professional development days to learn the programs and set up their virtual classrooms, and then to tweak the programs later on. I have no doubt there are plenty of educational supply companies that would love to find a new source of revenue designing, refining, and updating these curricula. The companies themselves might even be willing to train the teachers to use the programs, but probably not all the ongoing training and updating throughout the school year.
Where would the extra revenue come from? There would need to be funds spent on infrastructure (in some cases), equipment, staff (including an increase in the number of teachers), training, curricula, the expenses involved in keeping schools open for longer periods of time, etc. Would governments, however, be able and willing to spend a lot more on education than they currently do? How many referendums for increased school spending would be approved by voters? Because no matter what kind of solutions will be found and agreed to by school boards and parents, it is going to take MONEY, honey!! Beaucoup bucks! Mucho dinero! Too often, way too often, governments impose new requirements with good intentions, but do not provide funding for them. Schools and districts have to stretch their budgets to incorporate the new requirements.
First, they will have to supply everychild with an iPad or laptop computer to use at home. (It will not work in the end if kids have to share their portable computer with siblings.) Sometimes these items will be abused, broken, lost or stolen. It should work pretty well in affluent suburbs, but what about in inner cities? If something happens to the iPad/laptop, whether or not it is the student’s fault, will (s)he be supplied with another one?
I see this as a necessity for any of the solutions being proposed. Even before covid-19, school districts were already making the decision to supply (or not) all students with iPads or laptops, because computers have become vital to all of our lives and kids need to know how to use them and learn on them, whether they have physical school or not. Poorer districts, of course, do not have the means to do as much of this. Inequality enhanced by access to technology will become a greater problem than it already is. And what about rural areas where internet connectivity is spotty? Is the federal government going to provide the infrastructure to correct that, so that every single citizen of this country has equal access to the internet? I’m not optimistic, no matter who is elected in November.
Increase in teaching & support staff: Placing the additional burden of both in class and distance learning on the current staff at any given school will cause more stress and higher rates of attrition. Therefore, creative solutions will have to be found. Team teaching is one good solution, in my opinion. Perhaps new positions could also be created for tutors (who would help the struggling students at home, for example). But I guarantee, a commitment will have to be made to hire more teachers, so that the student-teacher ratio can become more like 15-1 than the current 25 to 30 students per teacher.
I know this is a long-winded answer, but I wanted to make it clear that I don’t agree with just sending students back to school without drastic modifications and a commitment to spending more on education. As a former teacher, I also wanted to lend my expertise to my answer. I know there are a lot of issues I didn’t cover or even think of. Thanks to everyone who read this entire post!