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Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Luckeyfrog....

(I now refer you to the most recent comment on "Dear Wendy....")

Dear Luckeyfrog-

I congratulate you on becoming a teacher. From the sounds of it you are new to the field and therefore still maintain much of your enthusiasm. I applaud you for that and hope to God that you're able to hold onto it for quite some time. And yes, I read Wendy's comment quickly and do realize she asked me to read and comment on it. In fact I gave her comment as much attention as she obviously gave the content of my blog posts.

I had optimisim and idealism once when I was 18 and started teaching. Yes, I started teaching at the age of 18. And yes, there's a story behind that. Back in the day I attended public schools where early on they dicsovered that I was a little quicker on the uptake than most kids in my quiet little suburb. I was placed in a "gifted and talented" program until I hit high school where I began taking AP classes and getting ready for college. You know what happened my junior year of high school? I was so miserable- between being bullied and being generally bored- I told my parents to figure out how to fix my public school experience or else I was going to drop out.

Cue my high school graduation at the tender age of 17. That fall I started college. Where I was teased unmercifully for being the youngest person in the freshman class. However, that allowed me to start teaching under a waiver at the age of 18. I am now almost 30. You do the math.

Now, after you have taught special education for 12 years, then you and I can talk about optimism. We can also address your comment about "strong, motivated teachers" because I'm not sure I appreciate the subtext that perhaps my cynicism comes from a lack of motivation. Au contraire. My motivation has guided me through two BA's, an MED, and an MAT. It guided me through a year of guardianship of one of my students who didn't have parents and needed someone to help make decisions about her IEP and give her Christmas presents. It guided me through the suicide of one of my students. It also helped me return to work the day after one of my students jumped me and broke my nose with a sneaker.

Many of my old stories that are posted on this blog are humorous. However, there lurks beneath the humor the true struggle of helping a special education student learn to value themselves as well as their education. You're right Frog, you can't do it all. We as educators do indeed have to take the little victories as our own and hope that at the end of the day that can be enough to sustain us as professionals. (Sidenote... Nicholas started college at Porter and Chester Institute this fall and moved into his first apartment!)

In the end I will say to you one thing and one thing only. I have earned my cynicism and my option to rant. I will stand by what I said: If you stopped me on the street and asked me for one good reason to become a teacher, at this moment in time I wouldn't be able to give you one. Until I see teachers like you held up and encouraged to continue to be optimistic and idealistic, I will have a hard time believing in educationt the way it was meant to be when formal education was developed.

I hope that in ten years you are able to email me and tell me about your teaching experience and that you have nothing but positive to share with me, thus making my cynicism largely unwarranted. However, until that day comes, I reserve my right to tell you I personally wouldn't wish our education system on my worst enemy.

Love and kisses,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear Wendy....

(I refer you all to the most recent comment on "What Ails You")

Dear Wendy Graham-

I appreciate your comment on my recent blog post however, I have to ask Wendy... Did you even read my blog before commenting? The article you're asking me to consider contributing to is meant to be a positive, encouraging one with 100 reasons to become a teacher. In case you haven't noticed, I can no longer even come up with ONE!

Right now, after everything I've experienced in the last few years in both public and private institutions, I can see no good reason for any rational human being to become a teacher. Consider our current society. From almost day one children are encouraged to find entertainment in mind numbing video games and borderline inappropriate television shows. Parents spend more time shopping on EBay than reading to their kids. The average middle school student can't place the state of Massachusetts in national geography let alone tell you anything about contemporary history. High school students are graduating with the minimum of useful knowledge, having learned more about the continent of Africa than about the American Revolution. Teachers are governed by curriculum frameworks and standardized state testing, both of which are inherently flawed, being designed to essentially sap teachers of creativity while making it impossible for them to effectively pass on the love of learning.

Yes, I plan to spend the summer teaching a college course. I plan to teach college students who have chosen to sit in my class and soak up every word I say. However, I will teach each class knowing that the number of students continuing on to college will decrease incrementally year by year. I will also keep in the back of my mind the thought that many of my future students will have no idea about the history that effects the subject I will be teaching. Will they know about the Holocaust, who Hitler was, how the United States Eugenics movement contributed largely to Hitler's doctrines? Most likely not. Will they understand that just a few short decades ago there was no such thing as special education or disabilities advocacy? That some of them, if dyslexic or maybe hard of hearing, would never have been allowed in my class? Definitely not.

Today's students feel entitled to an education but they don't understand what education is supposed to mean to us as individual human beings. They attend school simply to make social connections that they may or may not use appropriately. Some will unmercifully bully others until the one being bullied takes irreversible action. Others will spend their days texting, updating their Facebook status, and planning the next big event. They see the movie instead of reading the book. They use Google instead of an encyclopedia. They download magazines instead of going to the library. They want everything at the speed of light.

And don't get me started on special education. At the risk of putting myself in a position where I will be blackballed from special educaiton until the year 2056, I will say that the diagnosing of special needs has gotten out of hand. On the other side of the coin though, the ill treatment of those with a true disability is abhorrent. Special education is an oxymoron. There's nothing special about it. And there's no education involved.

Before I rant to the point where my head explodes, let me wrap this up by saying, show me a teacher that isn't counting down to retirement and maybe I'll be able to think of a reason to get into the profession in the first place. In the meantime...

Reason #1 to Become a Teacher: Summers Off

Love and kisses,