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When did THAT happen?

I am not sure exactly which book it was that I read that made me think, “Holy CRAP, this is something I love to do”.  Ok, I probably didn’t say “crap” because I have been reading since I was 3.  I know that as a child, there were several books that spoke to me even at a young age.  I can remember reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and being very moved by the love and loyalty Mike had for Mary Anne.  I know that was a book that spoke to me as a child, but I don’t know that it was “The One”.  I know I loved Dr. Seuss, Peggy Parrish with her Amelia Bedelia stories, Ramona Quinby and her sister Beezus by Beverly Cleary, Bunnicula and a list of others.  I remember as I got older Judy Blume was there to assure me that everything was ok and every other girl or boy my age felt about the same away I did.  I know the same copy of Forever floated around Dreher High School.   I read classics.  At ten, Wuthering Heights was a favorite.  It seemed very romantic to my unexperienced mind.  In 7th grade I think I was the only person who checked out Little Women, and I read it multiple times and enjoyed it each time.    I have had books taken from me at the dinner table.  I have walked to and from school with my nose in a book, oblivious to traffic or others around me.  I have ridden thousands of hours on the city bus reading each mile and, if I was not on a bus with a regular driver, I would often miss my stop.  Books were my babysitter.  They are what kept me out of trouble throughout school.  “Just let her read, and she won’t disturb her classmates” was written about me each year to the new teacher in elementary school.  Thank God for amazing teachers.

In high school I was a total nerd and read ALL TEN selections each summer on my summer reading list.  We had to choose two. That was where I found Ethan From, The Catcher in the Rye, The Sun Also Rises (with one of my favorite literary heroes, Jake Barnes, who I sort of fell in love with that summer) and so many more I can’t even remember.  I actually read books in high school that weren’t assigned.

Reading was, and still is, the only time I felt calm and relaxed.  I can sit and read a book for hours.  I can’t do much else for hours.  I become intrinsically attached to  the characters.  I have cried with and for the crazies in the series Flowers in the Attic.  I sobbed during the last 50 pages of Where the Red Fern Grows and was so thankful my 7th grade Reading teacher told me to stop on page so and so and finish it at home.  I have cried with Harry Potter, Woodrow call, at least one character in every Pat Conroy book, Lennie, Granger and Montag.  I have hated characters (most recently nearly every character in A Game of Thrones series).  I have loved characters.  I have cussed out characters. I have thrown books.  I have read and forgotten more books than many people will ever read or even know about.  I have read amazing books (To Kill A Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove).  I have read shitty books (Twilight all of them, The Notebook  – luckily, I never read anymore past that tripe), but I would read a shitty book over not reading ANY books.

I have met some of my favorite authors.  In first grade Peggy Parrish, who is an SC native, and the author of the Amelia Bedelia books came to my school.  I was STARSTRUCK.  I met Pat Conroy, more than once.  I couldn’t even SPEAK.  Anyone who knows me knows this is a grand feat in itself.  I met Frank McCourt.  I met Robert Olen Bulter and Fred Chappell. These are all authors I hold in high regard. I have met other as well. I volunteer at the SC Book Festival each year, just on the off chance I get to meet someone.

But, no, I can’t tell you the minute or the day or the book that made me a lifelong lover of books and words.  I only know that once I started, there was no stopping me.   Nothing speaks to me, touches my soul, consoles me, entertains me, evokes every emotion on the spectrum nor delights me to no end like reading a book.  I have used books as a way to escape reality and procrastinate dealing with problems, but I have a crazy brain that might be doing one thing, but in the background it’s creating a solution to a problem or dealing with an issue. Reading is just a catharsis that allows my brain to protect itself as it purges the negativity out.  I would sooner lose a limb or my hearing that lose my sight or the ability to read.  Reading is such much a part of me that, as a teacher, it seems like it should just be as natural for everyone. I find it very challenging to teach reading.  It to me should just come naturally for everyone. I don’t remember when I couldn’t read, so my own personal reading history and experience can actually work against me as I try to teach others to read and instil the same love for it that I have always had.   Luckily, I DO have successes. It excites me to no end to find books that my kids love.  I love to see a kid who has always hated reading because no one really took the time to help him choose books that he might actually ENJOY.

If I am lucky, I will die with a book in my hand.

Tonight my nephew and I were riding to a friend’s house to go walking to the park. While we were driving we had the following conversation:

K (me) – Mattie, do you have a girlfriend?

M – No, but Riley does

K – He does? How do you feel about that?

M – It’s okay. Do you have a boyfriend, Kitty?

K – No.  What would you think if Kitty got a boyfriend?

M – It would be good.

K – So you would like that?

M – Yes, we could all hang out and watch Transformers.

K – Oh, is that what you want us to do?

M – Yes.  It will be fun. I will get a girlfriend when I am ten.  I want to get a girlfriend and marry her and have children.  Then we’ll move out and live in our own house.

K – Oh? Well, are you going to marry the girl you are dating when you’re ten?

M – yes.

K – Don’t you want to move out of your house before you get married and have children?

M – No.

K – Are you just going to live with Mommy then until you get married and have children.

M – Yes.

K – Well what if you meet a different girl in college?

M – I’m going to college when I’m TEN??

K – No, when you’re 18.

M –  Oh, well I will not have a new girlfriend. Would you like for me to have a girlfriend, Kitty?

K – Oh yes! I would drive you to the park to play together.  Do you want a girlfriend with blonde hair like Annie and Sammie or with hair like Kitty and Mommy.

M – Blonde. Sammie is good.

k – Do you like Sammie?

M – Yes.  I don’t think I want a girlfriend I don’t know, and I already know her. So it will be good.

K – Sammie is pretty, and she’s very sweet.

M – Yes, she is always nice to me. And I know her (apparently that’s his only standard for a girlfriend)

K – What about Annie? She might be jealous. She’s been your girlfriend for a long time.

M – Well, I can have two.  Actually, I will have Annie, Sammie and Claire.

K – Claire can’t be your  girlfriend.  She’s your sister.

M – Ok, well I will just have two then.

K – Girls don’t really like that most of the time.

M – Girls don’t like to share?

K – Not boyfriends

M – Oh, well I will decide when I am ten.

– Tonight, I have a raging headache that I have been fighting for days. I am now drugged up on Benadryl and Dalmane, hoping for some sleep.

– I have had a roller coaster week, and right now I am on a down slope. I can see a little curve up ahead, but I don’t know if that’s going to take me back up or further down.  I’m not sad, so don’t be sending me all these little pity comments. I am just frustrated, confused, broke and ready for good things to happen on a regular basis.

– It has been a shitty year, and I am ready for the next six months to be awesome. The first six have sucked in a major way.   If there was just one area of my life that was AMAZING, the mediocre parts wouldn’t be as oppressive.

– Really, the problem is I am not used to failing at things I attempt.  (Except Algebra)  Somehow, a specific area of my life has proven time and again to be a failure. Please no homey epithets or clichés.  I am NOT a fatalist.  I am realistic and pragmatic.  I am also about ready to throw in the proverbial towel.

– I have always worried about meat going bad in the fridge, but after hours of watching Food Network, and watching them let meat sit in a marinade for 3 and 4 days, I am rethinking this.

– I was a late bloomer, and did not date a lot in high school.  I didn’t for a while, but this year I tried to be more proactive, but I have at least been going on dates pretty regularly this year. I pretty much hate it. I like being in a relationship, but I hate the dating process.  I hate all that wondering and doubting and insecurity.  This is why it’s just easier to be single.

– I am really baffled by people who still vote for bad politicians. I don’t mean bad as in “evil”, I mean they suck at their jobs.  I am not going to continue to vote for someone who is doing a shitty job just because they have a D beside their name.

– As a child and well into adulthood, I was obsessed with bubblegum and blowing bubbles. I have spent thousands of dollars on Bubble Yum, Hubba Bubba, Fortune gum, Bubblicious, Super Bubble.  Once, I start chewing it, it is almost physically impossible to stop myself.

– I need to find some duck fat and cook something in it. It is apparently the culinary shit.

– I also am beginning to think I need to move to a new state or city.   I don’t think I’m a suitable Southern Girl, which has resulted in my chronic singular status.  Although, on occasion I meet someone who makes me think, maybe…. I am looking at options for relocation within the year. Shhh, don’t tell my friends.

– Parents, you should go ahead and tell kids now that life is going to be hard and nothing will go according to plan.  Right now, my godmother is struggling financially, and I think she’s a bit lonely.  When I was younger money never seemed to strap her like it does now, but she was ill and had to quit working for a while. Now she’s trying to find work, but it’s not easy for a women in her 60s to obtain gainful employment, although she is VERY skilled. I am sure this is not how she planned her twilight years to be. I can guarantee that this is not the adulthood I thought I’d have.

– I wish bacon was low fat and healthy.  I’d be in tip top shape.

I was recently talking to a new friend, and I got the impression he didn’t fully understand the love I have for my students. To me, teaching is a calling, much like to the priesthood or convent. I don’t make a lot of money; I don’t get much respect. It is my fault if your child is unsuccessful in school. But there is NO other job I can think of that makes me prouder to claim as my profession.  I adore my students – good and bad, smart and simple.  They are just as snarky as I am.  Many of them overcome huge disadvantages just to come to my classroom every day.  I love my students.  When I am at school, I think of your child as being my child. I want only the best for them.  I want success in whatever form they can achieve it. I have had students go on to be successful in a huge variety of ways, professionally and personally.  I love seeing former students.   I have cried for them, laughed with them, been angry with them, been proud of them, but above all I have loved them.  I may be unhappy with the interactions I have with their parents.  I may be disappointed in their performance in my class or other classes.

I  want there to be no doubts about how I feel about my job and my children.  I may complain about certain aspects of my job, but who doesn’t?  When one of my students asked me what I would do if i won a big lottery amount, and my answer is the same. Start my own school.  My standards would be high, but my students would reach, and surpass my ideals for them.

time flies

So, my 25th high school reunion is next weekend.  I am going, though I was torn about it.  I feel like I have no accomplished the things I really wanted to accomplish.  I have three college degrees, including my Masters, and plan to start working on my PhD next year.  The first in my immediate family to graduate from HIGH SCHOOL much less college and grad school.

When I was younger, I used to daydream about my perfect wedding, who would be in it, what they would wear, where we would go on our honeymoon, how many kids we’d have, what their names would be, where we’d all go on vacations, etc.  NONE of that happened.  I have never been married, never even been asked.  A lot of my jaded, divorced friends tell me everyone else is envious of me, but the grass is always greener as the overused-saying goes.  I only sort of feel like I missed out on the husband, but I REALLY did miss out on the kids.  I always wanted to be a mom.  And not to toot my own horn, I’d have been an awesome mom. I see all these little teenagers, skanks, and Casey Anthony having kids they don’t deserve, and it stirs a little disappointment.  Yes, I know I can adopt or be a foster parent. Yes, I am close to my nieces and nephew, but it is not the same at all.

It is no one’s fault really.  I spent those years you use courting and breeding to take care of my grandmother, and have no regrets about that decision at all. I would do it the same way all over again.

So, next weekend, while everyone is talking about their families, I’ll just smile and get drunk.

Stronger

If you find yourself wondering why you have to interact with stupid, uneducated, ignorant, and otherwise useless people, please blame school boards, school administrations and parents.  Yes, I said it. PARENTS.  Not all parents, but enough of them.   As a teacher, I have been told to give a student a packet of work and if he/she completes it, give him/her a passing grade. I have refused stating that I have allowed this same student the chance to make up work, re-do work, re-take tests, turn in late assignments. I have stayed after school, given up lunches and come in early.  Yet, I have not once gotten a parent to call me back, attend a conference, email me or otherwise contact me. The school board threatens NO SUMMER SCHOOL every year.  Every year, the students can attend 16 4 hour days and that is supposed to make up for the class they failed. They can do this for up to two classes. I promise you I have seen the worksheets they do, and there is no way they learn anything other than “Hey, I don’t have to do shit all year, and I can come get a free lunch, and they’ll pass me”. Then they get to high school and don’t know shit.

I can promise you when we get them from elementary school, they are already two, three, four years behind. I have had students who are reading on a 1st and 2nd grade level. You can only hold that struggling child back so many times in elementary school before you have to socially promote him.   The same goes for middle school. You can fail them once.  After, they get socially promoted.  For the kids who are “too old”, we now have a computerized program that students take a year or less to complete.  The district and the administration determines which lessons they must complete. NO, it’s NOT all of them. They are taught no research skills, which are higher level, critical thinking skills.  Mind you, if I am evaluated and found to NOT be teaching this skills, I can at the least be chastised and at the most be written up or fired.  Teachers are NOT failing your kids. The “powers that be” are.

I am teaching high school summer school this year.  It is all on the computer. Basically, I, and another teacher, re-mediate as needed.  Otherwise the students are on their own. they must complete a mere 50% with a 70 or better and they can be finished. If they do that in a week, they’re done. If thy do it in five weeks, they’re done. The group we have consists of 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.  The DISTRICT (which I will be happy to remind you is made up primarily of men and women who have not sat in a classroom in YEARS), determined the content.  It is maybe half, MAYBE, of what they should be learning for the year.   I do think it will take most of the students the entire time to accomplish their 50/70 goal, but then what? Next year they’ll be sitting in their next English class completely unprepared.

School boards need to quit letting a handful of high-maintenance parents control them.  They should also be made up of a broader range of stakeholders.  We have a school board member who was a clerk of court for her entire life.  WHAT does she bring to the educational table?  People voted for her, a familiar name, so we’re stuck. There are no teachers on the school board in my district, and it is my understanding that this is how it is in most school districts.  If you think this is only done in my district, you are SORELY mistaken. It is an epidemic in America.   It is why we have fallen behind “lesser” nations.  Our entire school system needs to be scrapped and revamped. I have no problem with computer learning, virtual classrooms, etc. What I do have a problem with is the dumbing down of a curriculum by the district and administration, but when test scores roll in, it will be teachers to blame.  If my students who are with me every day don’t do well on the PASS test or if i taught high school the HSAP and EOC, it will be unspoken that it is MY fault.  So, who is at fault when the student who did NOT pass MY standards in my class is passed along?

Know thine enemy.  Teachers and most parents are the only people looking out for your  children and their education.

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