Teenagers are Starved

… for attention, structure, and loving authority figures. It’s not always reflected through school shootings, stabbings on behalf of Slenderman, or torturing animals in YouTube videos, either. Those are just the most sensational stories. No, more often than not, it’s young girls sending nude photos to boys, so they’ll keep talking to them. It’s 5th grade boys vaping so the older kids will think they’re cool. It’s widespread porn addiction, because they don’t understand how their bodies work or what these feelings mean and they have all the stimulation they could possibly desire in their pockets. It’s indiscriminate sexual experimentation, before they’re old enough to handle the physical and emotional complications. It’s the expectation that the latter will look like the former, because no one is talking to them.

While many have spent the past week, arguing about gun control with strangers online, as opposed to… I don’t know, looking at cat videos and posting photos of their coffee, like they do the rest of the time, their children are still floundering. The country is positively baffled as to why kids act the way they do and not one of them realize that we’re so busy arguing with each other, that none of us are actually guiding teenagers. Adolescence is one of the most confusing times in a person’s life and it always has been. The hot debates of gun control, bullying, and sexual education aren’t new. Mean Girls and body shaming aren’t new. Teenage boys using teenage girls and telling the whole school isn’t new. What is new, is the constant distraction in the lives of everyone who is supposed to care for these kids.

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Today, if parents aren’t too busy swiping left and right on dating apps, rediscovering themselves after the divorce, then they’re on Facebook, debating car seat safety and vaccines with someone from high school that they don’t even know or like. They’re thumbing through Pinterest recipes in the drive through line, instead of talking to their children about their day while sliding a frozen lasagna in the oven. It’s not entirely their fault, either. We live in a society that shares everything from day altering information, such as school closures, to life altering information, such as engagements and the deaths of loved ones, via social networking. If you delete Facebook and Pinterest, you’re considered antisocial or an isolationist, and I should know, here in my fourth month without either.

Dad: “You know your uncle’s mom died, though.”
Me: “Nope… not on Facebook”
Dad: “Oh, that’s right! Well, your uncle’s mom died.”

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It’s not just parents who’ve detached, either. Teachers, once a source of love and affection, are now so petrified of ending up on the news, that they won’t even hug their students… and that’s if they even have the time to connect with them emotionally, after the ludicrously detailed lesson planning, IEP meetings, and professional development days. The same is true of youth ministers and counselors and even librarians. Keep the door open and keep your hands to yourself or risk destroying your life.

As a result of our collective detachment from our youth, teens test boundaries, just as they always have, but… they find none. They use their phones in class and their teachers don’t dare confiscate them, for fear of parental wrath. Whereas once it was enough to be able to call the school and leave an important message for one’s child, we must now have instant access to everyone in our lives, just in case we realize they’ve deleted our DVR’d episodes of The Bachelor and we want to share our unhappiness. The reverse is true as well. Even 10 years ago, a child who forgot his homework would have to beg his teacher for an extension and ultimately learn to be more responsible; now he can text mom and beg her to drop it off on her only break. If she doesn’t, then lord have mercy on the teacher who dares to grade him down for it, teaching him only that there are no limits, no consequences.

It’s cyclical, even. We’re all so very exhausted, because we refuse to acknowledge the emotional energy expended in keeping up with 153 friends, and 12 different news feeds, that we relish the moments the young ones in our lives are distracted by technology, plugging them in the second they can respond to an iPad, in part because it’s a societal norm. As a result, we don’t see what it’s doing to them until it’s too late and we feel powerless to police their usage after years of such access and the privacy that came with the adults not caring what was on the screen, if it would only keep them quiet. As a result, such personal technology has become ubiquitous in middle school and beyond, so the parent who does refuse to gift their child with a smartphone, hobbles them academically, when every other student in class has internet access and therefore, the lesson plans begin to require it. No exaggeration, I never used my undergrad to teach in an official capacity, but I substitute taught in over 100 different classrooms in six years and increasingly saw kids without devices at a clear disadvantage.

This past Christmas, my five-year-old nephew spent all of dinner longing for Minecraft on his iPad, completely disinterested in the prospect of family time or even presents, because of technology and that’s the norm, with kids and their parents. We are wasting our lives staring at screens and teaching children to do the same. We spend hours a week keeping up with people we neither know nor care about, arguing with people whose opinions will never change, occasionally even finding ourselves in affairs with our marriages in shambles, as a result of an effort to feel another superficial connection, because we have no real connections in our lives and while we’re undoubtedly suffering as well, our kids are most definitely suffering. I say ours, because they are ours. Every society is judged on how it’s weakest and most impressionable members are treated and while we argue with each other online about the ways we’ve failed them, we are continuing to fail them.

I’m not asking anyone for perfection or even claiming to know what that looks like. I’m not insisting you can’t have a healthy relationship with technology, simply that many do not and the teachers, youth ministers, librarians, or other supportive authority figures aren’t capable of truly picking up the slack. Restore the balance, put down your phone/tablet/laptop, and ask the kids in your life about their day, because the general struggles of youth aren’t new, but being completely ignored by the adults in their lives who are supposed to care is… and perhaps if our children can go home from a hostile environment to a warm and involved one, once again, they’ll learn to cope with their emotions in non-hostile ways. As an advocate for teens and a former neglected teen, I am telling you, no matter how flawed we might all be, the most important thing we can possibly do for these kids is be present and force them to be present.

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Cheering for the Underdog: the Frustrations of a Teen Librarian

I’m a married, thirty-year-old woman, with a degree in education, who has every intention of having her own children… and I don’t like kids.

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That statement is usually met with confusion or melodramatic horror. How could you not like kids?!?! Well… like this.

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I substitute taught for six years and I work in a public library. Children are trying, yo. At best, any cuteness they possess is canceled out by the fact that they talk incessantly about things that do not interest me in the least and they don’t understand my sense of humor. I simply can’t relate to them. At worst, they’re loud, demanding, rude, have no respect for personal space, and everything they say is spoken through a whine. I’m not allowed to correct them, even when they’re disrupting the entire library, because it’s assumed that everyone thinks the above is adorable… mostly by the helicopter mom with her $200 blonde bob and insistence that the only reason her angel is screaming like Veruca Salt, while tearing books off my shelf, is because she has “extremely high functioning Asperger’s.”

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That’s not a legitimate diagnosis in the DSM-5 and hasn’t been since 2013. You Googled that. Poorly.

In fact, in defense of children as a whole, I understand that they’re still learning: to cope with their emotions, to use their manners, to moderate their voices. I get that it’s completely normal and healthy for a child to have a tantrum at the grocery store, because they can’t always have their way; at church, because sitting still is hard; at Christmas, because they’re just overwhelmed. I don’t hold that against children and it I’m still confident I want my own. I just don’t want to be around other people’s children; and I do hold it against some parents that they have a complete and utter disregard for the fact that there are absolutely settings in which it is entirely acceptable to assume they will require their children to behave or remove them, such as at a nice movie theater or restaurant, the ballet, church, the library. I’d estimate that a good third of my frustration with children can actually be blamed, not on the fact that they’re present, but on the fact that no one corrects them. Regardless of my reasoning, if I tell you that I don’t like children, I’m a monster. You know who everyone’s allowed to vocally berate at top volume, though? Teens.

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That’s right. I’m expected to understand that children are precious little gifts from God, no matter how much they annoy me. I’m supposed to get over it if your child starts screaming at the ballet, because babies exist and for some reason they have to do it near me during The Nutcracker; something I guarantee I will understand even less when I’ve gone through the trouble to get a sitter of my own, so I can enjoy some child free entertainment. In the South, I’m a biological disgrace to my gender, because I haven’t had “baby fever” for the last ten years… but the rest of American society gets to hate on teenagers, like they’re white millennials wearing leggings as pants and drinking pumpkin spice lattes, while they read Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s cool to hate teenagers… and that is complete and utter trash.

My dream job has always been teen librarian. My title has not. I began my first full time supervisory librarian position specializing in adults and so, when I stepped down from management, it was an adult position that was available for me at the Jackson branch. Sadly, it seemed my ship had sailed on teen librarianship… that was until our grassroots restructuring, last spring, when a specialization was demanded from everyone, and I threw my own managers for a loop by taking a chance and adamantly declaring that teens, not adults, were my jam.

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Since then, I’ve been the teen librarian for all five of our satellite libraries, primarily stationed at the central hub of the Cherokee branch; and I’m admittedly under-qualified for the dream job, into which I was mapped and transferred. I have wonderful mentors, but I can’t deny that, if I had actually applied for such a position, I wouldn’t have even been interviewed, with only my substitute teaching and bachelor’s degree as related experience. What I can affirm, however, is that my passion for teens would probably have ranked higher than that of most applicants. Whereas everyone else thinks the Ramona Quimby’s and Scout Finches are just precious, I love teenagers; from Carrie White, to Hermione Granger, to Ponyboy Curtis, to Cher Horowitz, to Regina George, I love them all… and just like the Little Orphan Annie’s and Matilda’s they need a champion, because when you’re a teenager, most of the adults in your life are jerks.

When they come to me, my library kids have just started middle school. They’re excited for the pending teenage years, when they suddenly realize, the understanding that was demanded on their behalf just three years ago, has completely vanished… but only for them, not for their younger siblings or the other kids in the library, the Eric Cartmans screaming in the children’s area. When they were four and terrified of the dark, everyone understood that this was the first time they really felt fear and coddled them for it. Yet, for some reason, now that they’re 11 and feeling every adult emotion for the first time, no one cares. To them, there’s seemingly no catalyst. They went from cute and clever and generally adored to gawky and mouthy and generally despised and I am telling you, they feel every bit of this dislike and they understand exactly none of it… and it’s the lucky ones who have only this struggle.

The problem runs deeper in the South, as many problems do. In a region where it’s assumed you’ll marry and have children by 22, most adults don’t really get a time to be young and selfish. Your twenties are the time when your primary focus should be yourself, figuring out what you want from life and how to make it happen. Your twenties are the best time to find a career path, decide what kind of friends you want, what kind of person you want to be with, if you want marriage, and if you want children. People don’t often live deliberately, around these parts, though. They follow the path laid out for them, by parents who never considered another path for themselves.

While this works out for many and happens to be exactly what they want, many others find themselves in their mid-thirties, trying to recapture this time in their lives, backtracking while they feel they still can. They look at their spouse and children, a decision they made at 22, that was really no decision at all, simply a default, and wonder what might have been. They finally admit that they’ve been unhappy for the last 10 years, but they’ve stayed for the children, so they wouldn’t miss those precious, adorable, early years and they just can’t anymore. The kids are older now and don’t need them as much, they rationalize, because feisty has turned into bitchy, and they aren’t as devastated by the idea of missing this phase. It’s time to think of themselves again… except it isn’t. Their teens’ brains are still just as different from adult brains as they were when they were five years old. They’re not done, even if they aren’t as fun to be around and they still need their parents. That’s when they come to me… when everyone else, often including mom and dad, hates them… and I’m left cheering for the underdog, while people stare in confusion.

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Last week, a man who lives catty corner to the library, started yelling at my teens for existing near his back yard. They weren’t even on his property and he started yelling obscene and racist things at them, so they would leave. Because teens are impulsive and reckless, one of them started throwing rocks and the man called the police. Naturally, they believed the 30-year-old’s story and arrested the 18-year-old rock thrower, as they should have done, because you don’t get to throw rocks at people. I spent 30 minutes on the back patio talking to one of the other kids, 16 years old, angry, and confused. I convinced him not to pick a fight with the guy, to avoid his lawn, and stay out of trouble. The man came to the library later that night and yelled at my manager for allowing “white trash thugs” to exist… “thugs”, I might add, who were do nothing inappropriate until he started screaming at them.

It was just the next day that the same kid I talked down came into the library in tears, because this 30-year-old man got a group of friends together and jumped him. For all his threats and bluster, from the previous day, he was just a hurt child, wanting an adult to care about him and I’ll tell you, I did. In the middle of a program, I invited him and his friends to sit down and eat pizza. I assured them that they would always be safe inside the library, that we wouldn’t let anyone hurt them and I apologized on behalf of all of the adults who look at his hoodie and baggy jeans and write him off, for the collective teenage hate that leads to this sort of violence.

I admit that teens can be mouthy and impulsive and disrespectful. They’re often confused and angry, because being a teenager sucks. They don’t know how to cope with the Mean Girls, the adults who make no secret of the fact they don’t like them, their parents who are suddenly too self-absorbed to care what’s happening in their lives, all their new and strange feelings that they’re told to simply not have, and they lash out. Sometimes it’s downright unpleasant for even me to be around them, but the only way to get them through that phase, is to provide them with loving mentors who care about them, like they had for the first half of their lives.

I get that sometimes whatever takes a parent away from their teenagers is unavoidable, be it divorce or remarriage or a new job, but when a twelve-year-old girl sits across from me and tells me her dad is moving to Puerto Rico for fun, I want to dick punch him for fun, because he is not done raising his daughter and he won’t be for six years! No matter how loudly I cheer for the underdog, I can only make so much difference and more than once I have gone home in tears, because of that fact. Even some of my coworkers villainize my teens, insisting they should know better, but why?!?! If you don’t take the time to teach a teenage girl how much physical affection is appropriate to show her boyfriend in public, she’s not going to know, especially not in the abstinence education capitol of the world! If you don’t teach a teenage boy how to control his emotions, he’s not going to know how to deal with the pain of his first breakup! If you don’t teach a 13-year-old what to share and not to share on social media, she’s far more likely to jeopardize her future! If no one is there for them, they’re not going to thrive, because they’re still kids.

Ultimately, if I have to put up with your screaming baby banshee throwing a tantrum in the children’s section, “because they’re just kids,” you can put up with the laughing teens in the young adult section, because “they’re just kids” and I will never stop cheering for the underdog.

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Why Our Education System Fails, by a Fly on the Wall

After six years of substitute teaching, it’s quite possible that I’ve “taught” my last class. I use quotations, because I’ll readily admit that I was a moderately compensated babysitter. Sure, my bachelor’s degree was in education and I have a current teaching certificate, which raised my daily pay by $10, but my job has generally been to take attendance and make sure no one sets anything on fire.

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I jest… a little. I did just recently announce to a table full of teenage girls that they were going to have to change the subject, because I could hear every detail of their sex lives. There was also that time I didn’t really stop the teenage boys from paying each other to eat dead flies…

… but hey, they were quiet.

 

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I’m practically Dumbledore.

It’s not that I was a bad substitute. They knew my limits. I just also knew theirs. I dare you to go into a public high school classroom and tell everyone to put away their phones, when their teachers let them use them every day. Go ahead. Report back. I’ll wait…

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… which brings me to my point. As a substitute teacher, particularly one with a degree in education, I’ve had the privilege of a unique perspective. You see, no one really pays attention to a substitute teacher. No teacher worries that I’m observing the daily anarchy that is their class, as long as they get a good evaluation from their principal. No student worries that a substitute teacher is going to overhear them discussing their cheating methods. I have truly been a fly on the wall for the past six years, in a wealthy public district that scores quite well on state report cards. For this reason, I can declare, with certainty, that our public schools have hit a downward spiral, and here are my top reasons why.

Cell Phones
Zetus lapetus, what a cliche am I, lamenting the tragedy of youths with cell phones.

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Fine. It’s cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason. I won’t even focus on that time “53 percent of boys and 28 percent of girls (ages 12-15) reported [viewing pornography]”, or that “four out of five 16 year-olds regularly access pornography online”*, or discuss those who’ve been prosecuted as child pornographers for taking naked pictures of themselves*.  For the sake of this post, I’ll limit my rant to school specific issues.

Every day, even the best parents send their child to school with a cell phone, where their teacher competes not only with it and all of the information, entertainment, and communication it contains, but with 24 other devices in the classroom seven times a day. Most people hear the opening statements of my rant on this subject and interject with “They’re allowed to have them out in class?!?!” Do you have any idea how exhausting it is to monitor whether or not 25 people are using their phones for 55 minutes? I’m only speaking from my experience giving tests. The teacher is actually trying to teach what’s on it. If he stops every time he sees a phone, demanding someone put it away/put it on his desk/go to the office, he’s going to accomplish nothing, particularly since he has to uphold this standard throughout the year, because as Sebastian the crab says, “you give them an inch, they swim all over you.” For this reason, most high schools have gone “technology friendly.”

Technology friendly simply means that we’ve given up the fight. If we forbid students from bringing the phones to class at all, their tax paying parents insist they’ll need it “in an emergency.” Keep in mind, these are the same parents who use said phone as a bargaining tool and confiscate it every time they get ticked off, despite the dread of these vague emergencies. The result of this is students discussing the fear that they won’t be able to pass their end of semester Spanish test, because they’ve been using Google translate all year. It’s students watching Netflix on the affluent school’s WiFi, because they know how to get around the safeguards. It’s teachers making the assumption that students will have the internet in their pockets when assigning work, because heaven forbid they create a thought, as opposed to regurgitating ones they find online. It’s students asking to be dismissed from class for a moment, because their parents are calling them. What, might I ask, is so important that you have to call your child’s cell phone, when you know they’re at school?!?

Ultimately, cell phones have created an environment where students are not learning.

College Preparation
My bachelor’s degree was specifically in family and consumer science education – occupational and career technology. Translation: I could teach at a career tech (vo-tech) center as easily as at a high school. Unlike most teachers, my degree focused a great deal on those not going to college. Here are the facts, according to the US Census:

86.8% of Americans have a high school degree.
28% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree.

Why the fuck are we teaching 100% of our high school students as if they’re going to earn a college degree!?!?! 

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This is a blatant waste of funding. You can argue all you want about a “well-rounded” education, but why can’t we redefine what “well-rounded” means? Why does it have to mean five core subject classes and two classes that potentially prepare students to immediately enter the workforce? Why aren’t we allowing students not planning for college to sign up for two hours of core classes and five hours of real world skills? In my state, we have an amazing career tech program, but it’s poorly promoted. We encourage the kids who aren’t “smart enough” for college to take advantage of the free welding, nursing, and computer programming courses and that’s ridiculous. There are skills involved in auto mechanics that I don’t know that I could ever possess. I couldn’t tell a carburetor from a… I CANNOT EVEN THINK OF ANOTHER KEY CAR PART.

We need to end exclusively college preparatory public high school. We need to have real discussions with students about their interests and capabilities. We need to admit when they aren’t suited for a four-year degree and stop implying that that means anything other than that every person has different skills and capabilities. I have a master’s degree. I sit in a temperature controlled library and offer customer service all day long. I have a dozen uncles who lay pipe in subzero temperatures. Could I do that? NO. Could they smile politely when a man hurls a DVD in their face? NO. Does that make either of us less intelligent? NO.

The problem with the current system is that a good 50% of students feel public school curriculum is entirely irrelevant to them. They enjoy their career tech courses, if they’re in them, but get nothing from literature courses. They’ve found a use for marketing class, but chemistry has been a complete waste of their time. So, why are we funding it?!?! Is our society any better for the Shakespeare forgotten by your plumber? NO.

 We’re Wasting Instruction Time
I would vote for a complete removal of funding for art classes in my district.

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I know. That statement doesn’t make me popular, but you substitute a middle school or high school art class and tell me what you see. No matter the instructor in my A+ school district, art class has always been a total waste of time from my vantage point. It’s not because what they do accomplish isn’t worthwhile. It’s because they accomplish so little of it. I get it. These are the Freaks and Geeks, the kids of Empire Records. They’re the outcasts and this is the only place they feel they belong. I wore overalls all of sophomore year. Believe me, I get it.

Art class, however, should be a place for self expression. You don’t have to let students come and go as they please, without a word of explanation, just because you want them to feel accepted. If this is a place of creativity, then they need to be doing something creative. I know I was only substituting these classes and I didn’t get the most accurate sample, but never have I taught another class where students just followed their whim to walk out. Never have I seen them blatantly watch Netflix as I have in art class. They do this, because it’s okay with their teacher and that is not okay. Creativity and productivity are not mutually exclusive and it’s harmful to suggest otherwise.

Art class isn’t the only place I see wasted instruction time. Remember when I stressed a need for strong life skills courses for those immediately entering the workforce after high school? Well, those exist as electives. Leadership is a great example. What a wonderful course to teach, even to those pursuing college. Or so I thought, until I subbed it and my students informed me that all they’d been doing for the last three weeks was painting banners to hang around the school.

A leadership student should be gaining public speaking skills by delivering presentations on effective leaders through history and the impact they’ve had on the world. They should be finding ways to be leaders in the community and possibly spending the occasional field trip volunteering at the local food bank or running winter coat drives. Leadership students should be presenting the awards at ceremonies and taking part in presentations on real world issues that effect teens, such as the consequences of texting while driving. Leadership students should not be spending three weeks painting banners. In fact, that’s actually a great activity for those art students!

Perhaps you’re thinking I’ve just proven we don’t really need those elective courses. You’d be right, were it not for the fact that this regularly occurs in core classes, as well. Because we don’t want to admit that some students aren’t cut from Shakespeare reading cloth, our high school English classes are paced for the mean, or average. If four students can finish Othello in a week and two need three weeks, we write the curriculum for two weeks, which leaves four students playing on their phones for a week and two in tears, because they don’t understand this Shakespeare Shit. We even add whole class blocks for “study hall” or “advisory”, which end up essentially being recess. Kids sit, talk, play cards, or play on their phones. At best, students spend four hours a day learning and another three waiting to learn.

We’re So Top-Heavy
There are a lot of reasons I never taught in a traditional setting and I’ve just outlined three. Another, however, is that my state has nearly the lowest teacher pay in the country. It’s still a living wage, but I make about $16,000 more as a librarian and the benefits are substantially better. Our cost of living is also astoundingly low, but even those states with a lower cost of living often pay teachers more. The result is a few days a year, when teachers rally at the state capitol over the injustice of it all, which I categorize as fitting into the previous heading of a waste of instruction time.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying teachers shouldn’t be paid more. I’m simply saying that they’re protesting at the wrong location. While we could certainly use a little more state funding, the problem is primarily a district one. I just counted my district’s administrators and came up with an astounding 34. If I average each of them at $80,000 per year, that’s over 2.5 million dollars. If I’m averaging too high and it’s closer to $60,000, it’s still over two million dollars in a suburban school district with low teacher pay.

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What if, and this is a crazy suggestion, we actually give the teachers the ability to discipline their students so we don’t need as much on-site administration and enforce consequences more effectively, overall? Why do we allow repeated problem students, particularly when they’ve reached the state’s legal dropout age of 16, to continue coming to public schools? If a student ditches detention X number of times, why not tell him he still has his right to pursue an education, but he’ll now have to do it, either through another district or online schooling? Over 98% of public libraries have Internet access. If that’s inconvenient, so what? They had their chance and got plenty of warnings. Should their behavior impede the learning of other students, add stress to their low paid teachers’ day, and create a need for a more top-heavy district as a whole? NO.

I’m not talking about basic discipline problems here, to be clear. I’m talking about the student who punches his teacher, repeatedly gets in fights or makes threats toward other students or staff, or gets a designated number of detentions for other behaviors that disrupt class. I’m talking about a decision made by a panel, with the opportunity to appeal in one calendar year. Perhaps, in this case, the parent would suddenly care that their child was misbehaving, were they faced with the possibility of having them at home all day and being responsible for helping them pursue an education until age 16. Why don’t we expel students anymore?!?! When we do, it’s always for something that doesn’t effect the big picture or anyone in it, such as a student having a buck knife in his truck, because he forgot it in his truck after his hunting trip or a girl who carries her asthma inhaler on her, even though it’s not allowed. Let’s kick them out, regardless of their lack of previous discipline problems, but nooooo, not the guy who screamed at his teacher that he was going to set her cat on fire.

If the major problem students were gone, usually a very small percentage of the school and a very large percentage of the discipline issues, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to cut administration. If my district cut half its administration, we could afford to raise every teacher’s salary by over $11,000. Carry on with your protests at the state capitol, though. Maybe they’ll designate an administrator to teacher ratio.

Citations

http://www.internetsafety101.org/pornographystatistics.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/21/n-c-just-prosecuted-a-teenage-couple-for-making-child-porn-of-themselves/

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

How You’re Empowering NO ONE

I don’t call myself a feminist. I don’t call myself anything. I just don’t think that respecting other people’s decisions and hoping for the same needs a title, especially not one with such vastly different definitions… most notably, it seems, ones that completely contradict this statement. Gaily, now… Gaily loves the word “feminist.” Gaily has a tramp stamp of the word feminist. The semester she took a women’s study course, I wanted to push her out of her ’97 Bonneville… but that’s because she was insufferable, not because she was wrong. See, Gail! I SAY NICE THINGS!

Gail sees feminism as an expression of female empowerment to truly do whatever we want in life… only with a lot more words, citations, and angry ranting.

As much as I provoke her, though, we do generally agree on this topic. I’m down with her definition and the many people who share it. I am not, however, down with the ACLU’s definition that I can’t have a dissenting political opinion without discriminating against women.* I’m not down with Wendy Luhabe’s claim that it’s empowering to stay-at-home moms to suggest their contribution is worth exactly 10% of their husband’s earnings and every family needs to follow the same financial model.* I’m not down with the gals who think LEGO is anti-women for creating gender specific toys*. I’m not down with a lot of “empowering” statements made in the name of misguided, so-called feminists. For instance:

Educating women on keeping themselves safe is not vicitim blaming.

If you keep up with current events at all, I’m sure you’ve read about the nail polish that was created to prevent date rape. Pretty simply, the polish will change color when it meets a laced drink, warning the wearer not to sip. That’s great, right?!? No. Apparently, not. According to some, this effort is completely misguided. In fact, one activist responds to this development by stating that “we need to think critically about why we keep placing the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on young women.”* Waaaait, a minute. Did you just tell me that it’s anti-woman to protect myself? We prepare men to defend themselves all the time, usually starting with some kind of exotic personal combat lessons at age 4. Teaching a man how to ward off a bully or a mugger is commonplace, but women? Noooo. We should use passive, ladylike if you will, methods to teach people not to attack, instead of taking our fate and safety into our own hands. Women have been taken advantage of, as the generally physically weaker sex, since the beginning of time. FINALLY, someone has stumbled upon the brilliant idea to ask that bad guys just not be bad anymore.

Victim blaming is a disgusting tactic. Telling your teenage daughter that she shouldn’t have been alone in that boy’s dorm room, as she sits on the exam table crying, is horrible and you should have your mommy card revoked. There, however, is nothing wrong with a freshman orientation that warns young women about being in dorm rooms alone with strange men. Encouraging women to take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray, use a gun, wear detective nail polish, is no different than teaching a man to prepare and protect himself. You are not moving us forward or building us up by fighting these things. You are weakening us, by teaching us to put the responsibility for our safety on others, male or female. Yes, it is important to teach young men that no means no, but why can’t this be done alongside a discussion about watching your drink and not walking home alone? Can we not both empower men and women? Did I wake up in 1954 where only the boys get to take karate lessons? Are you fucking kidding me?!?! 

It is not empowering to tell me that my vagina makes me easily susceptible to brainwashing.

Recently Mayim Bialik posted an article about why she hated Disney’s Frozen.* To sum things up, she felt it wasn’t as feminist as people claimed, because there was a love story and that it was even guilty of man-bashing, because the villain is male.* This is hardly the first anyone’s ever heard of the irrevocable harm of Disney Princess movies. It seems every mommy blog has an opinion on the subject. That’s not all, though. Little girls are also in danger from Barbie, LEGO, and shirts from The Children’s placePsychology Today even published an article about the damaging effects of the Twilight Saga. As a society, Americans are just petrified of the influence our female children are getting from the entertainment industry.

Hold on, just one second…

he man

liono ninjaturtles goliath_gargoyles_by_jrmcleod-d5hpkiz

There. I’d like to introduce you to the men of my childhood. Up top, there’s He-Man. Next, Lion-O. Then, of course, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello (not pictured: Leonardo). Finally, Goliath. Did you, perchance, notice any commonalities here? Yes, yes, indeed, I think there might be one. What could it be…? Oh, there it is! Even the gargoyle looks like he’s got roid rage! Do we care? Are there any Time magazine articles on the dangers of 80’s cartoons on male body image? No. I’d love to say that the reason is because we’ve found other, more admirable traits, in these characters. They’re heroes, y’all! Who cares what they look like, when they inspire our boys to want to save the world?!?! But the same can be said for Barbie’s career success, Cinderella’s work ethic, Bella Swan’s literary fascination. So… what’s the difference? Why, we’re women, of course. Our fragile pink brain matter is just so susceptible to the negative influences of toys, that we need a national boycott against LEGO.

Let’s not stop with toys and movies, though. Nope. According to the National Organization for Women, “persistent stereotypes that steer women and men toward different education, training and career paths” are a true threat to our livelihood in general. They’re actually the entire reason I make less money than a petroleum engineer! I haven’t favored care giving careers my entire life, such as when I wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, and finally a librarian, because of my choices and individual personality. It’s because I’m weak-minded and was busy doing my nails, reading Teen Beat magazine, and desperately trying to work up the courage to ask Danny to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. Gail didn’t choose not to go to college, because she didn’t want loans with no clear career path. It’s because she was never told that she could be a paleontologist or a computer engineer.

paleontologist barbie

computer software engineer barbie

Hmmm…

Even when presented with the statistical facts that the wage gap is closer to 5 cents on the dollar than their reported 21, NOW is there to remind me that I’m not really in control of my own destiny, because I’m a woman. Wow. I feel so empowered. Maybe, Barbie is just a doll. Maybe, Repunzel is just a story. Maybe, some women want to be stay-at-home moms, or nurses, or dare I say… librarians. Maybe, if your daughter is getting the wrong ideas from Disney movies, Barbies, and our society as a whole, you just need to spend more time with your daughter.

My political opinions are not anti-woman, just because you disagree.

You can disagree with my libertarian, pro-life stance. We can even still be friends. We all have different values and opinions and that’s fine. That goes both ways, though. You cannot insist that, because I don’t think the government should regulate healthcare, I want to hold women back by refusing to pay for their birth control and abortions. If you’d ask before making these assumptions, you’d realize that I’m just as against paying for teeth cleanings, back surgeries, and biopsies for anyone. You cannot tell me that, because I acknowledge that science considers a fetus a completely unique life form, I am anti-woman. My pro-life stance is entirely scientific, not religious, and I resent the implication that I can’t form an opinion without a priest telling me what to believe. I have not quoted scripture on this issue and I will not. My argument is secular. Your disagreement does not equal my sexism or religious intolerance.

Similarly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, if I believe that a private business, which does not receive any taxpayer dollars, does have the right to discriminate for non-life saving services (baking a cake, printing a t-shirt, hosting a ceremony), it’s because of my church attendance.* It couldn’t possibly be that I don’t think the federal government should be micromanaging private business. There’s no way I’ve considered all angles, like the fact that a car dealership could refuse my service because I’m a woman. Except… I have. Nowhere in the constitution was I granted the right to a car. It’s not there. Nor was I granted acceptance into an all male university or service in a restaurant where someone thinks my dress is too short. If a business employs completely despicable tactics, such as these, I simply do not feel that the U.S. government has the right to play recess monitor.

It’s alright if you disagree with me on these issues. I’m not looking for a political debate. Your insistence that I have, once again, been brainwashed by men or faith… that I have no right to my own opinion without joining some kind of war on women, though, is offensive. No matter how vehemently you disagree, you cannot decide what my motivations are or insist that I just haven’t thought these issues through. I am a strong and intelligent person and refusing to acknowledge that and my right to my own mind is not empowering.

In short, I am not opposed to the word “feminist.” I am simply opposed to anyone who tries to “empower” women by telling them how to live and think, while calling it feminism. It is not empowering to tell women to leave their protection up to someone else. It is not strengthening the female cause to declare that little girls can’t play with gender specific toys without their fragile minds crumbling to the influence of a patriarchal society. It is not building anyone up to insist that any woman who disagrees with your political viewpoint is the victim of male mind control. Perhaps, instead of tearing each other down for our self-defense classes, Cinderella obsessions, or voter registration cards, we should work on building each other up… you know, empowering.

https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/13/living/mothers-salary-wendy-luhabe/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/09/lego-friends-triples-sales-to-girls-despite-feminist-critique/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/26/students-develop-nail-polish-to-detect-date-rape-drugs/

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/08/25/3475190/date-rape-nail-polish/

http://www.kveller.com/mayim-bialik/mayim-bialik-why-my-sons-and-i-hate-frozen/

http://www.sparklingadventures.com/index.php?id=667

http://newsfeed.time.com/2014/02/06/barbie-lead-designer-blames-moms-not-dolls-crazy-proportions-for-girls-body-issues/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/09/lego-friends-triples-sales-to-girls-despite-feminist-critique/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychologist-the-movies/201111/relationship-violence-in-twilight

http://time.com/3222543/5-feminist-myths-that-will-not-die/

https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate

Lessons in Parenting from Social Media

I don’t have children. For the time being, I don’t lament that fact. I, however, do work with children and have a bachelor’s degree that required quite a bit of child development and child psychology. As a research-oriented person, a Ravenclaw if you will, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to read up on the latest case studies and articles on child development, such as the effect of technology on children, effective rewards and punishment strategies, how to deal with bullying, even color psychology. Things get cray up in here on a Friday night.

So, unlike many single twenty-somethings, I really don’t mind the constant Facebook updates from my mom friends. It’s a lucky thing, too, because in Shetland, that uterus has a much earlier sell by date than it would in say, any place that exists in 2014, as opposed to 1964. Fortunately, this allows me access to real time parenting research. As a result, here’s what I’ve learned about parenting from social media.

The names Prezlee, Ecstassi, Vyce, and Rebel will look great on resumes.

If he’s not old enough to drive, he needs to be in a rear facing car seat.

If I vaccinate, my baby will die.

If I don’t vaccinate, all the babies will die.

Walking through the room of a child in possession of Legos is like taking a barefoot stroll through the cobblestone streets of hell.

Leaving an infant alone for any period of time is extremely dangerous… unless it’s with an aggressive breed dog, in which case it’s adorable.

If I don’t breastfeed my baby for one year, they’ll probably die. If they survive, they’ll never truly love me.

If I breastfeed for one year and one day, they’ll picture me on their wedding night.

There are men who intentionally leave their toddlers in cars on a hot day. There are women who snap and drown their babies. Neither of these will compare to the day I call my daughter a princess. Surely, she is now doomed to grow up with no sense of self worth, no goals, no knowledge of the world beyond what her overbearing husband allows her.

God doesn’t know how to make children. I must help him via copious amounts of Photoshop. If no one’s wondering about my child’s glowing blue eyes and porcelain skin, I’m doing it wrong.

My toddler can have a concrete sexual orientation, but only if he’s gay.

If my kid doesn’t get a certificate or trophy, I should have one made, so he’ll feel accomplished, even when he isn’t.

If my child doesn’t have an iPhone by age 8, I’m depriving him of an understanding of modern technology and he’s likely to be kidnapped, because he was unable to call for help.

Teasing is not normal. If someone teases my kid for being short, there should be an assembly, a news story, and possibly a national campaign to ban the word “short.”

If my daughter plays with Barbies, she’ll develop unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty. The best way to combat this is by making her feel confident in her sexuality as young as possible.

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Three Ways Public Education is Doing Your Child a Disservice

Gail: So, remember how bored you were earlier?
Me: Lol. Yes.
Gail: Maybe you should’ve read some blogs. I have a GREAT one I’d suggest, but it’s only been updated once this month.

Gail, you hear these stories in person. You have a problem… says the woman who has watched nearly 30 hours of One Tree Hill in the last three days. GO NALEY!

It’s summer, y’all. Finally. That means no more 60 hour work weeks, usually opening with three 12 hour days in a row, where I’m required to be pleasant and awake. It means I have time for all of the car trouble that ended, literally, two days before the last day of school. It means I can sleep (… or not… GO NALEY!). I can cuddle and walk the dog after he doesn’t even blink an eye when I scream about how cute he is while running half naked through my apartment and ninja kicking nothing. And you know what?

I am so… fucking… bored.

I’ve cleaned my apartment, crocheted two hats, read two books, gone grocery shopping twice, developed a disturbing Flappy Bird addiction, had Niki over for one of our crochet and junk food nights, organized the kitchen cabinets, and washed every sheet and article of clothing I own… in five days. That’s in addition to The Great One Tree Hill-athon of 2014.

Sooooo… I’ll tell you what I’ve been telling the aforementioned dog (other than “I COULD JUST EAT YOUR FACE RIGHT OFF!!!!!!! HIIIIII YAH!”):

“I’m sorry I’ve neglected you, but now that school’s out, you are going to get sooooo sick of me.”

Speaking of school…

… as schools all over the country let out for an antiquated three months that were originally intended for tending the family farm, but are now just utilized in unlearning any real progress made during the school year… I bring you Three Ways Public Education is Doing Your Child a Disservice.

Now, if you read my blog, you know that not only am I a librarian, but I also have a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and substitute teach daily. Those are my credentials for this rant. Do I have a proposal to fix our public education system, as a whole? No. I really don’t. At least, I don’t have a solution beyond the exposure of each individual problem; because the more aware we are of the issues, the better we can combat them. For example…

Smart Devices
I know, I know. Kids these days and their phones, amiright? It’s an issue on everyone’s mind as they just send that one text message really quickly.

I’m not even going to suggest that the issue of device distraction is one confined solely to the younger generations. Just Monday, I was at lunch with my dad and actually said “Yeah. My generation is the problem. Dude, put down your phone!” Gail once compared the average first world relationship with technology to talking to someone in a crowded hallway, but I feel the need to add to that. It’s more like talking to someone in a crowded hallway, where there’s an orgy going on, and an adorable kitten trying to jump from one impossible destination to another, and 14 of their very best friends from high school telling them all about what they’ve been doing with their lives, but more importantly, fawning over your friend as he shoves picture after picture of his cat, his flat tire, his lunch, and that trailer for 22 Jump Street in their faces. My point?

Why are we allowing this as we teach our children?!?! I’m a substitute teacher, so I have it pretty easy. I only have to demand the attention of my students for the first five minutes of class, as I call roll and explain the expectations for the day. Regardless, you know what I constantly hear?

“He’s here. He’s just wearing headphones.”
“What page is this on?”
“Is this due at the end of the hour?”
“Wait. What worksheet? We have a worksheet?”

Parents, I know that you take a lot of blame for what’s wrong in public schools today, and honestly, that’s not fair. It is not your fault that your child, who has an aptitude for math, cannot seem to finish Hamlet. It is, however, your fault that your child brought their smart phone to class. It’s your fault if your child has 24/7 Internet access in his pocket, which he can use to access pornography (oh, yeah, that’s happened in class), watch Netflix (often shows he shouldn’t be watching), and ignore every single instructor to listen to his music and chat with his bestie all day long. 

I understand that Columbine and Sandy Hook make this a scary world. No. Really. Try spending a day in a public high school that’s just close enough to the country to know that at least 75% of these students have access to guns, but also just crowded enough to know that at least 50% feel like they don’t belong (also, just because it’s high school), without planning your reaction to gunshots. However, parents can contact their child just as easily with a phone that only has the ability to call and text. It does not need 24/7 Internet access, which a child does not need to learn. Unless…

Teachers, I know that you take a lot of blame for what’s wrong in public schools today, and honestly, that’s not fair. It’s not your fault that this student refuses to do his work, because he knows his parents will wreak havoc if you even try to confiscate his phone. It is, however, your fault if you create an assignment that requires the use of a phone. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a teacher leave a note explaining that the students are allowed to use their phones to look up information. God forbid you ask them to create something original, from their own minds, rather than regurgitate a Google search. Wouldn’t it be terrible to ask this of every student, rather than it being a perceived punishment to those with parents who’ve chosen not to allow their children to even own smart devices or those who can’t afford them? So yes, some parents are part of the problem for allowing students to bring these devices, but many teachers exacerbate the issue by creating a need for them. This need for smart devices makes a moot point of any efforts to control their usage. At this point, most schools have simply given up. The handbook now says phones are allowed. Students have the wifi password. They legitimately cannot concentrate without music playing…

… and teachers accomplish nothing. 

A Lack of Autonomy
During the last week of school, in desperation for the largest paycheck possible, I did the unthinkable. I substituted first grade.

It was horrible. My tubes tied themselves.

While I love the smart-assed, foul-mouthed, know-it-all teenagers, I just don’t get the appeal of small children. They tattle on each other incessantly. I can never figure out why they’re crying. They can never figure out why they’re crying. Even though they don’t even know me, they want to hug me and desperately want me to like them. They’re loud and sticky and it’s just too much pressure!

One thing that didn’t really phase me, however, was that these seven-year-olds had to be guided through everything. Each and every assignment they completed had to be checked by me, personally, before it was turned into the right box, which I repeatedly had to point out. All of the directions had to be read aloud. I had to answer numerous questions for which I knew they could find answers. Despite the fact that this was the only elementary school class I substituted all year, however, it was pretty par for the course.

When I substitute high school, I have to wait a few minutes to take attendance, or I’ll have to send a minimum of three students to the office, to let them know that they are, in fact, present. These kids know what time class starts. Most of them have their own cars, because Shetland’s a reasonably wealthy suburb, we have terrible public transit in the South, and children are just too fucking entitled. They have to be at the same place, at the same time, every single day. Regardless, principals walk through the halls and call out for students to get to class.

These students are, at most, four years out from having to file their taxes on time, submit that college application, or turn in financial aid forms. Still, I have to remind them when their papers are due and tell them exactly where to put them. They’re expected to read street signs, but ask for instructions, that are written on their papers, repeatedly. A third of them can join the armed forces, but they get daily reminders to hand in their enrollment forms.

I’m going to take off my teacher hat and put on my librarian hat for just a minute, y’all, and tell you that is no wonder I got several calls after April 15th, asking if we had tax help. Tax day is the same every year. It’s not a surprise and the W2’s you get in the mail, not to mention the hundreds of television and radio ads, are glaring reminders.

Customers want someone to stand next to them and guide them through every step of a job application. They don’t even want to try to work the copy machine, by themselves.

My good pal Ward actually asked me how to do laundry one day, at 22. 

I know we want to guide and protect children, but this is going too far. This ridiculous coddling of America’s youth is creating adults who cannot function. When you combine this with the problem of each child carrying a device that they think has all the answers, they feel there’s just no need to retain anything. We need to set higher expectations for our older children. I should be able to tell the difference in autonomy from a seven-year-old to a seventeen-year-old. One has more than 10 years until he enters the real world and the other has less than one. A corporate boss is not going to politely ask anyone to put the phone away six times per shift. She’s not going to wait five minutes before considering her employee late. The federal government is not going to let an overdue “assignment” go without a penalty.

Ribbons/Awards for Everything

I actually graduated from Shetland High School. On my graduation day, I even wore the Valedictorian cords… along with 23 other people. That’s right. The honor that used to be reserved for the individual who worked the hardest, is now bestowed upon a couple dozen, who also did well. I got a plaque, too.

If you Wikipedia millennials, we’re also referred to as “Trophy Kids,” because we pretty much coined the “participation trophy.” The other day, I was watching the basketball game in a bar, when a man across the room cheered for a free throw. I drunkenly shouted “Did you just cheer for a free throw?!?!” and my company informed me that I’d be paying for an bar fights I started. So, I redirected my ire at the screen, where the crowd was also cheering for no reason.

“Stop cheering! We’re not even doing anything! Fucking trophy generation!

Even drunk, this is one of my pet peeves. Now, don’t misunderstand. I am firmly in the millennial generation. I, too, received trophies for showing up. My dad just promptly informed me that that wasn’t a real trophy, because I didn’t win. I also received red ribbons for remaining drug free, at six years old.

What the hell, America? Why does a six-year-old get a red ribbon for remaining drug free? That’s like giving me a medal for not drawing social security. Why did we ever start awarding everything? It makes it all the more crushing when these kids don’t get awards for mediocre, because they always get awards for mediocre. Just last week, my cousin proudly posted on Facebook about how her son was the only kid who didn’t get an award in his second grade class. He was so crushed, that she went home and printed out two fake awards for actual accomplishments and told him the school had forgotten to give them to him. So, the kid who refuses to read, now has an award for reading. That was the perfect opportunity to explain that, if he wants something to signify hard work, he’s going to have to work harder. Not only does this cause these children to grow into the kind of adults who expect raises for the bare minimum level of work, it dwarfs genuine accomplishment.

“No, but I was the real Valedictorian,” isn’t a sentence that should have to be spoken. The title should still mean something. When I was around five years old, I actually remember explaining to my mother that she would be impressed over anything I drew, even if I just scribbled on paper. My dad? Well, I’ve already told you about his favorite sentence, when I was growing up. “That 93 is pretty close to a B. You’d better get that up.” You know what, though? When my Red Foreman Daddy brags about me? I know he’s proud. We owe that to children: legitimate pride.

A Call for Censorship

I am a librarian. Now, most people think that means I shush folks, shelve books, and push my glasses up my nose with my forefinger.

Indeed, I’ve done all of those things, but there’s more to it than that. As I’ve previously mentioned, librarians have a host of responsibilities. We help people fill out job applications, create resumes, send money to their spouses in prison, set up e-mail addresses, download e-books, recommend reading material based on age/interest/reading level, create programs people actually want to attend… the list is endless. We are public slaves… and we love it. One of our major platforms though, is the war on censorship.

No, really. If an angry mom has a tantrum, because a librarian gave her 10-year-old Thong on Fire (click the link! click the link!), it will be explained to her that the library does not censor or police information, but she’s welcome to come in and assist her daughter in choosing her reading materials. We dispense knowledgeWe do not control knowledge. I can no more pull Thong on Fire for its lewd content, than I can pull Heaven is for Real for its Christian content. I stand by this. It is a truly American viewpoint… perhaps one of the only ones left.

All that being said, however, maybe it’s time that we, as individuals, choose to censor ourselves a bit, particularly in regards to our children.

Sunday, the Midwest got a gust of cold wind and a brief flurry. Naturally, we were all stranded. I didn’t even go to Mass, because of how I almost died, last time. Gail, just being off for her one day (because being a mailman suuuuucks), texted me…

Gail: Wanna play a game? I’ll recommend a show and you recommend a show. We each have to watch two episodes.
Me: Okay. Hart of Dixie.
Gail: Bates Motel. The first episode is a little graphic, but it’s really good.

:: two hours later, referencing Gail’s “dark erotica” phase ::
Me: What the hell is with you and rape?!?! It’s like your freaking favesies! You think it’s the best of everything!
Gail: I said the first episode was graphic!
Gail: Which OBVIOUSLY means rape. Lol.

So, for the last few days, I’ve been watching Bates Motel. It’s easily the most disturbing thing I’ve seen since the week I marathoned American Horror Story, while ranting on Facebook about how the entire writing staff is made up of broken souls.

AHS is still in the lead, though I gave up on season 3 for a while.

Jane: What did it for you? The incest or the bestiality?
Me: The bleach enema.
Jane. Spoiler alert! I haven’t gotten that far!

These disturbing epics have gotten me thinking. Yes, they have to be the result of a group therapy effort gone awry, but I’m more interested in effect than cause. Now, I exaggerate a lot. I know that… but American Horror Story disturbed me to my core. I was genuinely upset by the school shooting episode. I work with teens every day and the idea of them being so afraid and alone, waiting for death, having just enough time to process all they’ll miss in life… ugh. I’m done writing about it. It’s too much. That’s also a pretty healthy reaction. I remember Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. Just the portrayal of similar events deeply unsettles me. As it should and as the writers intended. I, however, am an adult. 

I’ve discussed media’s effect on society before, but it’s been of greater concern to me, recently, how children are being affected. Just the other day, I discovered a fun correlation. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11.* The average age for first cell phone is also 11.* I’m not criticizing the idea of giving children a way to call for help. I am concerned, though, that just as puberty hits, we give children limitless and often unmonitored access to media… and that’s the norm. Children have always been curious, certainly; but that curiosity used to manifest itself in stolen peeks at dad’s Maxims or the wrinkled pages of an old bodice ripper found in the garage. Neither medium, however, was acceptably nestled in a child’s pocket at all times.

The danger does not only lie in obvious sites, either. Today, smartphones have numerous apps that parents don’t even consider a threat. Tumblr seems harmless enough, sure… until you combine the words “naughty” and “gif.” The same goes for the Kindle app. Maybe between Harry Potter books, your curious 13-year-old is also absorbing The Erotic Dark. YouTube is just a bunch of cute kittens, you say? Search for “ass kicking.” Just the words SnapChat are enough to make me want to home school… and all of these things are available from the very device that was given to them to keep them safe.

My question is, what is this media doing to children? What will the case studies look like in 15 years? When I was younger, video games were the primary concern. In fact, I firmly believe that video games are still an issue. Don’t get me wrong. Grand Theft Auto V’s protagonist, Michael De Santa, did not shoot up a movie theater in Colorado. Are we harming developing young minds, however, by normalizing this kind of behavior through media? Ten years ago, we didn’t even have all of this new access to media and we were still asking this question. Today, Netflix is a beautiful thing… until your nine-year-old makes it through half a season of Sons of Anarchy, before you even realize they’ve been watching it. This used to (primarily) be the plight of the neglectful parent. Sure, I was watching Sex and the City at age 12, but that’s because my mom was more interested in being my bestie than an authority figure. Now, what kid doesn’t have a smart device?

While the expanse of this problem lies mainly with electronics, even beyond that, erotica is publicly acceptable.For realz yo, my sister-in-law had a “Laters Baby” sticker on the car she drove to her job as a 7th grade reading teacher. That’s a 50 Shades of Grey reference, for anyone who didn’t catch it. At the height of its popularity, that book was all over Facebook. My sister-in-law wasn’t even the only teacher posting about it. Additionally, the covers of books in that genre used to be anything but subtle…

bodice ripper
Wait. His chest is disproportionate to… everything else. No, really. The gun looks tiny.

… today, the trend has shifted to the completely innocuous.

the gambleIn this one, he essentially holds her captive until she think it’s sexy…
like in The Beauty and the Beast.

So, even when you aren’t reading something on a Kindle/Nook/iPad, no one has to suspect that you need to change your panties, anymore.

Aunt Glenda: “Is that a Kindle, Belle?”
Me: “Yeah. It’s a Paperwhite.”
Aunt Glenda: “Can I see it?”

It took me an unexplainable amount of time to find any book that was appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner, before handing it over.

I reiterate that NO library will deny these books to anyone.

I’m not proposing that we all pretend it’s 1986. Technology is a beautiful thing, with many benefits and self-control can only be taught with moderation. I’m also not suggesting we, in any way, police the media consumption of adults. They’re old enough to compartmentalize and separate fantasy from reality. That’s no one else’s responsibility. Children, however, are the responsibility of society and, most importantly, their parents. We’ve entered this age where we’re so afraid to tell kids that they can’t do something. We’re terrified of setting limits and I see that in the students in my classrooms who cannot get through a single hour without some form of electronic media, be it music or texting or social networking. I see it in the kids who watch violent YouTube videos on their phones and the 6-year-old boy shouting “BITCH!” at the computer in the library. This is all happening right now. Children are becoming addicted to pornography, The Walking Dead is completely desensitizing them to violence and gore, little girls are sending pictures of their breasts to boys (22% ages 14-17)*, teens are encouraging self-mutilation and eating disorders, and no one is doing anything about it. We will see the day when a presidential election is compromised by a sext. So, my suggestion? Start telling children no. The library certainly won’t do it, because it’s not our place. Nor is it the place of Netflix, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, SnapChat, Tinder, Samsung, and iPhone.

We don’t have the luxury of rating systems anymore, as we did when video games and movies were the scariest things out there. We have to create limitations ourselves. I’m not saying that I have the perfect answer for what those limits are, despite the fact that I see no reason anyone under the age of 18 needs 24/7 internet access, but they have to exist. Parents need to set limits that work for them, and find a way to enforce them. Schools need to reclaim the power and ban cell phones from sight. Parents should back them. Children should never touch a single electronic device in church, ever. The phone should be put away during mealtimes, and that goes for adults as well.  Perhaps an extension of the problem is that we’re too busy with media to take notice of youth. We can’t protect kids from everything, especially in this digital age, but that doesn’t mean we have to banish them to the town from The Children of the Corn, either.They need guidance. They need our effort. They need a little censorship… because things never work out so well when children run the show.

children of the corn

http://www.citizenlink.com/2012/01/27/the-new-normal-%E2%80%93-youth-exposure-to-online-pornography/

http://www.theonlinemom.com/secondary.asp?id=1981

http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-sexting

Money Management for the Little Miss

When I was four years old, I remember my mother driving us somewhere, even though my dad was going. Wait. What?!?! Women can drive even when a man’s available?!?! When I was five, I realized that there are actually women who drive pick-up trucks and they don’t belong to their husbands!!!!! Incidentally, this was around the time I decided to give peeing standing up a go and my brother kept getting yelled at for his aim. No joke. I felt a little bad, but I also giggled.

It’s no real secret that the Midwest is a sexist place, but it was only in the 90’s that I thought penises operated F150’s, the man always makes more money, and was shocked to find my third grade teacher was a boy. I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, people. I can see my suburban town’s water tower from where I sit and I am only about 25 minutes away from several major cities. The Midwest just happens to be the land that equality forgot.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being a girl. I like traditional men and their pick-up trucks. Not having to ever open a door, due to a combination of my genitalia and geographical location is the shit. My undergraduate degree is in home ec. For the most part, when my dear, dear, feminazi best friend goes on a Vagina Rant, I just pat her on the head, tell her she’s cute, and ask her why she isn’t in the kitchen. My Gramma fought for my right to make my choices so I wouldn’t have to do so. I’m pretty content. However, even I am still appalled by the photo Gail sent me of this local technology center’s curriculum advertisement.

math for women
Could y’all, like, use some pictures instead of words… and maybe a little pink glitter?

pinkmoney

OH! It’s like money, but for girls!

It’s hard to type over the distracting sound of my own retching.

“A Woman’s Perspective”
I don’t like math and that is apparently the fault of my clitoris. However, from what I understand, those people (I mean men) who do like it, find it appealing that there is only one answer. It’s all the same… whether or not it’s done on a Hello Kitty calculator. What precisely will I get from “Money Management: A Woman’s Perspective” that I won’t get from “Money Management”? Based on this advertisement, I can only assume it’s shorter columns of smaller numbers.

“Designed Especially for Women”
Okay. Let’s get one thing straight. If I sign up for this class and I don’t get a choice of pink or purple feathered pens on the first day, I am going to be pissed. If you Google the above phrase, you know what you get? Medicine and shoes, both of which must be designed for women, because their bodies are different from men’s. Math is 114% about the mind. Get it? I said 114%, because I have boobs and I’m stupid. Is this class physically designed for women? Are there special ergonomic chairs built for the female form? Or is it just that the problems themselves are more feminine?

Q: If the average menstrual cycle is 28 days long and Maria’s period began on day 1 and ended on day 7, on what day will Maria need more tampons?

Now ladies, I know you want to answer “chocolate”, but really think outside the box on this one.

“Understand the Basics”
Is the class for women, because it’s rudimentary? Does the men’s class start with division and multiplication while the women start by counting the horn on a bedazzled purple unicorn? Were we just too busy giggling about boy bands over our copies of Teen magazine to learn about that math stuff?

“Learn Where You Stand Financially”
Well, you’re apparently $29 in the hole for this ridiculous Numbers for Your Vag course.

I can only assume this is referring to the money coming in versus the money going out. That’s budgeting, y’all. Even an incredibly specific budget is going to be categorically gender neutral and the amounts vary from person to person regardless of genitalia.

Oddly Specific Budget Categories for Women
Body glitter
Make-up
Gynecological Appointments
Shoes

“Where to Put Your Money”
“Why, that’s just silly! I put my money right here, in my purse!”
“No, no, sweet thing. We’re talking about investments.”

Why would a woman’s best investment choices differ from a man’s? As Gail put it, in what tampon company should I invest? Money is money. It doesn’t matter if you make it off of Women’s Apparel or Viagra. It doesn’t matter if you’re using it to buy lipstick or tools.

“What to Do Right Now!”
Apparently, these little ladies might start thinking about funneling some of that babysitting money into their daddies’ dowry funds. One goat just won’t do these days.

Again, what choices should a woman make about her money right now that a man shouldn’t? She should plan a budget. Oh, wait, so should he. She should have three month’s income in savings. Oh, wait. So should he. She should start thinking about retirement. Oh, wait…

That Condescending Exclamation Point
Let’s get these ladies excited about numbers!!!!!! If there’s one thing the women understand, it’s lots of exclamation points!!!!! Can we maybe heart the i’s as well?

“You know what? How’s about we cut this short and she can just let him take care of the money?”
“OH EM GEE! That’s totally what my final paper was about!”

I know that men and women are different. Not only do they differ physically, but they tend to think differently and act differently. I don’t have a problem with that. How much of that is biological and how much is environmental, though? Does any woman benefit from being taught a gender neutral subject in a gender specific way? Is telling a woman that she needs to enroll in “Math for the Gals” any less harmful than telling a little girl that it would be more realistic to play nurse than doctor? I understand that you have to split the contact sports up based on stature to even the playing field, but should my old high school still be calling our girls’ teams the Lady Broncos before we send them off to take Calculations for Chicks?

I’ll help you broads out, here.

It’s unknown, but this isn’t helping
No.
No.
Absolutely not.

* Reblogged from December, 7, 2012.

Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!: Why I was a bully.

When I was little, I had many of the personality characteristics I have now. I was determined, prideful, creative, intelligent, funny, competitive, and obsessive. I was and am very much my father’s daughter.

All of these characteristics, however, occasionally manifested in negative ways. In fact, as an adult, I can see that there were definite times when I was just a bully. The very word “bully” declares my behavior excessive, of course, but nothing I did was newsworthy. All of my antics were relatively standard teen movie moments, but it was still cruelty. I’m not proud of it. I don’t tell those stories to get a laugh and I know people who do. I, however, analyze what made me act the way I did, particularly when I hear story after story after story of children pushed to the brink over bullying… because bullying ain’t new, folks. Cain bullied Able for crying out loud. Perhaps, since the act hasn’t much changed, maybe the reasons behind it haven’t either. So here it is, from a former (occasional) bully.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????

I thought it was funny.

I grew up in a really sarcastic family. Just a few years ago, my cousins (who are my age) spent a good 20 minutes encouraging one of the little kids to blow out a candle that was battery powered. They thought it was hilarious.

battery powered tea light
They were so totally right.

The same little kid was informed that if he acted up, all of the mounted animals in the house would come alive and eat him.On that note, I had to have been seven or eight when I figured out that the rest of the deer was not, in fact, on the other side of the wall, as my dad insisted. When I was little, I would cry when the horses died in westerns and my dad would laugh at me. This is the same man who convinced me he was driving me to the orphanage to leave me with Miss Hannigan from Annie when I’d act like a brat in the car. For realz, yo. I was raised by sadists.

scary deer mount

We’re still all like this, and for some reason, we expect the kids not to pick up on said meanness and sarcasm and think that’s what funny is. That’s precisely what I did. Why, exactly, was it funny when my dad pushed me into the pool, but not when I shoved my cousin without warning, only for her to fall against the side and remove a layer of skin off her leg? Why was everyone so mad at me? Why wasn’t it okay when I went through my weird pinching phase, even though my dad and uncles did that kind of stuff all the time? How come I couldn’t call people fat when my aunts could? Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!?!

Not only do we tease each other relentlessly, we’re also really open with criticism, some worse than others. I once watched my aunt stand directly outside her 9-year-old daughter’s dressing room and loudly tell my grandma Kay that her little girl was “getting a belly on her.” We have a ladies-only party called The Water Buffalo, every year, because all of the women are big. My grandma Kay told Bea, just last Thanksgiving, that my hair “looks more interesting” than hers, because of the highlights. I adore my family and I think we’re all fucking hilarious. It’s not that anyone’s trying to be cruel. That’s just how we interact.

As an adult, I take these things with a grain of salt and acknowledge that none of this is how normal people interact. I save my barbed humor for Gail, Jane, and Niki and have no other female friends. As a child? Well, I didn’t quite get why I couldn’t tell someone those shoes were ugly or that that hairstyle looked stupid. Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!

I was bullied.

From about the second grade on, I wore a target on my back. Not only was my humor mean, but with divorcing parents, who were too preoccupied to keep track of my personal hygiene, it’s no surprise that I was the smelly kid for awhile. The day I realized I needed to wear deodorant was the day my dad snapped “God, Belle, did you not put on deodorant today?!?” In his defense, we were very much the household where the woman had that discussion with her daughter and the man with his son. As time went on, I was left in charge of my own eating habits, so I put on weight. I was an even bigger target… see what I did there?

I once cried in my Gramma’s arms for hours when a popular boy, who regularly called me fat, upped the ante by laughing at me, because my parents were getting a divorce. I’d never done anything to him. This kind of thing had made me intensely defensive and sensitive. I remember a pair of popular boys whispering in the lunch line, when I was in the fourth grade. I got really upset and yelled at them to stop talking about me. They insisted it wasn’t about me and I only got angrier and angrier. Who doesn’t want to be friends with the emotionally unstable, fat, smelly kid?

crying girl

By the time middle school hit, I had resumed regular hygiene, but was still surly and sarcastic, with a terrible self-image. So, when the popular boys in my neighborhood started throwing rocks and bricks at me when I walked by, I took that anger out on other people; as I also did when a popular girl sang Who Let the Whales Out as I walked down the hall. That chick did not even know my name. In retaliation, I made fun of everyone that was considered popular, even the people who were never mean to me. They could’ve been my friends, but that would’ve required I risk more rejection and I’ll tell you right now, a chunk of brick to the thigh does not cause strictly physical pain.

So, my hostility toward anyone popular lasted, quite frankly, straight through high school. If everyone liked these people, it must be because they were putting on a new persona with each of them. After all, everyone liked the people I just mentioned. No one believed they would do those things. At this point, it was really just me keeping us from being friends. While I still had the same fucking 6th grade bully on my back in my damned senior year – I just looked him up on Facebook and jeez, he is still a dick – the majority of popular people didn’t refuse to be my friend. I just wasn’t that approachable and pretty much refused to talk to them, because I assumed they would be mean to me. I isolated myself with Jane and Gail and a handful of other loser friends dressed up in tiaras for an AP English class. Fuck those other kids. We were having a spinning contest at lunch.

I had a lot of creative energy.

I was the smart kid. You wanna know a quick way for all the juniors and seniors in your chemistry class to think you’re a kissass? Study with your AP friends and get a 93 your sophomore year, when everyone else is failing. Even better, walk across the gym to receive a certificate for having the highest grade. Yeah… those kids were mean to me, especially considering the fact that I was completely mute in that class. Come to think of it, they did the same thing in geometry… and French… and history. Huh. Maybe that’s why I decided to start a blog with my friends, targeting my hometown of Shetland.

nerd girl at computer

Now, do not misread that last sentence. I did not target people I didn’t like. I targeted the town. I quoted people I didn’t like. I will say that most of these people had actually bullied me, but it still wasn’t a very nice thing to do. No one wanted to kill themselves over it and the people who did get really upset were being melodramatic, because no one had more than one quote. I am certain. More than anything, I wrote stories. I wrote a story about the drug bust during Red Ribbon Week, the time the little person did jumping jacks as a novelty during the assembly, the hypocrisy of the cheerleaders being allowed to break dress code. I had a voice and people were listening to it!

Today, I realize that this showed some real potential. I didn’t just like to write, I was fucking great at it. I made well thought-out arguments and I was funny. If someone had helped me channel that creative energy properly, perhaps with a school discussion board, a school newspaper, a debate team, I could’ve not only saved some hurt feelings, but honed a skill. But, no. We didn’t have those things at my high school because our funding went to football, cheerleading, football, soccer, and football; despite the fact that our academic team went to nationals and we had one of the best bands in the state. Welcome to the Midwest, y’all. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I decided to start a blog with my friends, targeting my hometown of Shetland.

No one corrected the behavior. 
When I was in the 6th grade, I got my first real crush. His name was Nate and he was friends with everyone, including the rock throwers. He was so nice, though, even to me. I figured it must be because he was madly in love. Alas, I was wrong. Utter heartbreak. Soooooo, naturally, I responded by telling everyone that he was an asshole, throwing things at him at lunch, and instant messaging him constantly. With encouragement from a friend, I even played a part in dousing him with soda at a school dance. What?!?! THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE BOYS LIKE YOU, BITCH!

carrie blood

This is the absolute worst bullying story in which I played the antagonist. dread the day my child has any interaction with someone who has my mother for a parent. My treatment of Nate got so bad that his mother called mine to tell her to get her daughter to back the fuck off. She only did so after getting on Nate’s AOL account to message me and warn me that she’d be contacting my mom. I actually told her “She’ll take my side.” I wish I could apologize to this lady today, without sounding like a total lunatic. I was awful. You know what? I was also right. My mother did take my side.

What the fuck?!?!?! Why on earth did she let me treat someone that way?!?! I was 12 years old! I was a child. I didn’t understand that was the bully in this situation! I thought this boy was just another kid sitting on a roof and hurling rocks at me and my dog. It hurt a lot more this time, though, because I had a crush on him and thought he’d liked me back. I thought he was being intentionally cruel and had told everyone he knew that he’d turned me down. I was being rejected again and handling it poorly. At the very least, it should’ve been made clear that I was to have no contact with Nate ever again after my letter of apology. Honestly, some counseling would’ve been the best result. The aforementioned reaction to “nah, let’s just be friends” is a sign of some deep emotional trauma. I clearly had severe self-image issues and should’ve been put in an environment with kids my own age, where I felt consistently safe, like a religious class. Church youth group, a once a week visit with the school counselor, and a demand that I never treat another person the way I treated Nate may have kept me from taking up cutting myself that year. Guidance. That’s what I needed. I was obviously ill-equipped to figure that shit out myself.

My home life… sucked. 

My mother was either extremely hands-off or extremely hands-on. The former was a joke about neglect and the latter was a joke about abuse. Told you I was funny.

You know what I had to look forward to after a long day of middle school kids throwing things at me? A mom who either set absolutely no boundaries or tried to set boundaries by hitting me in the head with a step ladder. Those were her two settings. To this day, I can’t believe the neighbors never called DHS. It would have been for the best if they had, because my father would’ve gotten custody. As it was, I either did whatever the hell I wanted or I got dragged across the floor with a dog leash. That shit happened. If I had gone home from a day of fat jokes, to a place of warmth, where I knew I was safe and loved, maybe I wouldn’t have been such a shit to everyone else. People my age talk about how much they hate being adults and I think it’s the bomb. No one hits me as an adult. That’s almost guaranteed. How fucking awesome is that?!?!

My point is, if hadn’t had to defend myself at home, perhaps it wouldn’t have been my default at school. Maybe I would’ve been more willing to subject myself to the vulnerability that it takes to make new friends. Maybe I would’ve known how you’re supposed to treat people you value. Maybe I would’ve been okay with the idea that someone didn’t like me if I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that more people did. I needed support, structure, and protecting, because I was a child, damn it!

A couple of days before my freshman year, I got online and asked someone in a chat room how to make friends. That has got to be the most depressing part of this article. Fo sho. His advice was “You can’t force anyone to be your friend. You just have to be nice to people and it happens.” I had to have someone online tell me to be nice to people if I wanted to make friends. It sounds like such an obvious piece of advice, but there’s a reason I still remember it. I didn’t understand that my humor wasn’t humor to some people. It was just hurtful. No one taught me to fit in with anyoneso I didn’t have a support group of friends until high school. I was creative and didn’t have anyone channeling that interest somewhere productive, rather than harmful. But most importantly, I was the occasional bully, because I didn’t realize it. I never would’ve called myself a bully when I was in school. Granted, no one died, but I either didn’t realize I was being hateful, or I felt that it was my only option for retaliation. No one corrected the behavior, because no one was paying attention to me or providing me with the structure a teenager needs.

So there it is. I guarantee all of the newsworthy results of bullying have the same roots. We like to fancy teenagers as requiring less energy than grade school kids, because we’re all lazy, self-indulgent, and irresponsible. We’re plugging youth into technology to get them out of our hair, only to look up from our own gadgets and see they’ve simply reformatted their normal teen antics. After all, the Mean Girls phenomenon ain’t new. There’s a friggin’ movie named after it. The trend has just escalated because adults have allowed it to do so, by giving children unlimited access to the Internet. That’s the difference. Fewer parents are paying attention.

parents on phones

Note: I may not have my own teenagers, but I do have a degree in secondary education and years of experience working with teens.

Why did I ever go back to high school?!?! : The lamentations of a substitute teacher.

shortalls
Circa Every Day of Junior Year

I graduated high school in May of 2006 and immediately began my undergraduate degree, which I finished in May of 2010, only to immediately begin my master’s degree. I’m graduating in a couple of weeks and a PhD can suck my furry dick. For the last four years of this, I’ve been making ends meet with substitute teaching (primarily high school) and a steadier evening job, which is now at the library. The beauty of substituting is its flexibility. I’m sorry. Let me rephrase. The only beauty of substituting is its flexibility. I work when I want to work, which is pretty much all the fucking time so that I can get through the summer without taking on another job. For the most part, it doesn’t require a lot of actual teaching and is really quite dull. The kids do their work and I write this blog on my laptop. If they’re not going to do the work, that substitute who gets mistaken for a high school student is not going to be the one to change their entire outlook on education. As long as they don’t distract other students, I leave it be. Now that my substituting days are coming to a close, due to summer and having finally finished graduate school, though, I can admit to a fact that I’ve been trying to ignore: substitute teaching kind of sucks balls.

cute puppy thing
I don’t know why this showed up when I Google Imaged “sucks balls”, but it’s calmed my rage. Also… SAFE SEARCH.

I love teenagers. I really do. Everyone else has washed their hands of them, but I adore them. They’re hilarious and obsessive and so excited about life that it just catches. They’re on the cusp of their own futures and someone needs to help them make the important decisions. I want to be that person. That person, though, is not a substitute teacher, regardless of age or life experience. They don’t like their substitute teachers and they aren’t very nice to them. Therefore, I am getting completely burned out on subbing and it’s pretty damned obvious, because:

I don’t see a future in this.

outlook not so good I used to keep this notebook full of detailed information on each teacher for whom I subbed, for future reference. I wouldn’t only include what lunch the teacher had, but also what I thought of their classroom management skills, how rowdy individual classes were, and if the lesson plan included word searches or a real assignment that kept the kiddos occupied. It was a great resource when accepting jobs. I’m not sure when it happened, but the notes got shorter and shorter. Gradually, the full single-spaced page went to a few sentences with comments on how cold the room was, when my planning period was, and whether or not I should accept another job with this teacher. Now? When I bother to take notes:

Mrs. White – Middle school
Hell no

Mr. Smith – High school
Only if you’re going to be evicted

Ms. Smart – High school
Hell fucking no. Just get evicted.

I no longer talk to my kids like a teacher.

cool teacher

Four years ago, I took the utmost care to speak to my kiddos as an authority figure. Now?

I have a favorite student who hangs out with his friends in my apartment complex. He’s a good kid and regularly calls me “girl” and shows me his manicures when I get my mail and I think he’s a total dear. The following conversation took place in front of a classroom of tenth graders.
Student: “Hey girl! I might see you later tonight!”
Me: “Um… that sounds SUPER creepy without any kind of clarification, just so you know.”

I looked up to see a teenaged boy casually massaging the shoulder of the girl in front of him.
Me: “Um… that’s really odd. Could you stop?”

“Okay. Your assignment is on the board. I don’t mind if you talk quietly as long as you do the work. I don’t want to hear your music and if you guys could just not be mean and suck, that would be awesome. Teachers have feelings too, you know.”

“Alright, y’all have a great spring break. I don’t wanna see any of you on the news.”

I let shit slide.

cell phones in class                                                           

I used to be quite strict. Now? Well, it’s not total anarchy, by any means. Just today I lost it when a student told me that making him move seats was “bullshit” and snapped “Then get out. You don’t talk to me that way and you don’t talk to people that way. Go.” However, if it doesn’t hurt or offend or distract anyone, I don’t really care.

Student: “Can we listen to music?”
Me: “As long as I can’t hear it, I don’t care.”

”I’ll be right back. Don’t set anything on fire, please.”

“You guys, stop throwing stuff. I’m not asking for a whole lot here and not throwing stuff is not that hard. See. I’m NOT THROWING STUFF right now. It’s easy.”
They were surprisingly receptive to this.

“Could you please put your pants back on? Thank you.”
He did have on basketball shorts underneath… I think.

Student: “Can I go to the vending machines?”
Me: “No. You can go the bathroom.”
Student: “But can I go to the vending machines?”
Me: “You can go to the bathroom and I won’t pay attention to whether or not you come back with chips.”

I tell teachers when they suck.

Out of control classroom

My bachelor’s degree is in education. I’ve been substituting for four years. I know what poor classroom management looks like both on paper and in actuality. When I started this gig, I’d still hoped to eventually teach, so I walked on eggshells and was careful to leave any bad notes blaming the students for their behavior, not the teachers. Now? I just don’t give a fuck. I’m not going to sub for the teachers with poor classroom management (therefore demonic students) ever again anyway. Still, subbing remains a substantial portion of my income and teachers talk, so I’m not exactly burning bridges, so much as throwing lit cigarettes onto them.

“There wasn’t an assignment to give them, so I told them to work on something from another class quietly. Most classes were terrible.”

“This was one of the most disrespectful classes I’ve had. They ignored me when I asked them to quiet down and wouldn’t quit throwing things.”
This teacher actually punished the class severely for this behavior, becauseof my bluntness. They’re a joy to sub for now.

“They were horrible. I’ve never substituted for such rowdy students or had them be so disrespectful to me. Multiple teachers had to come into the room to tell them to quiet down, along with a principal. I have never had to have a principal come into a room to get the students under control in four years.”
I went to high school with this guy. His wife made a Facebook post a couple of weeks later about stopping by his classroom to find his students playing soccer in the room and how he was the best teacher ever. No. A teacherteaches.

Today, I covered a class with the note on the board saying “Choose a partner and…” I don’t even know what it said after that, because it doesn’t fucking matter. It’s a FRIDAY IN APRIL. The worst thing a teacher can do to a sub is tell the students ahead of time that they can work in groups if they don’t have to do so. The teacher isn’t the one who has to deal with the total fucking anarchy that is a high school class working in groups a few weeks from the end of the school year. So, when I saw this guideline, I immediately erased it. The kids worked quietly for half the hour and when one student asked what it had said, I told them that they could work in groups for the rest of the class.

Student: “So we could have been working in groups this whole time?”
Me: “No, because I decided you couldn’t.”
Student: “But she’s our teacher.”
Me: “And she’s not here right now. She’s not the one who has to deal with it and shouldn’t have put it on the board in the first place.”

Yeah… there’s kind of this unspoken rule that you don’t call a teacher a fucktwat to her students. Oops. Fortunately, I wasn’t her official substitute, didn’t introduce myself and just filled in for the hour, so I was able to anonymously leave the following note.

They were good, but it would be easier to handle if they didn’t already expect to work in groups. It’s a lot easier and more effective to offer that as a reward than as a punishment, particularly this close to the end of the school year. I erased it from the board and told them they could work together after deciding if they could handle it.

This was perfectly polite, but when I went back to cover for the last hour, another sub wrote that I must’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed… because so many female teachers are so fucking catty. I was trying to let her know, nicely, that it’s difficult for a sub when she does this.  I wasn’t rude, but even substitutes apparently have to fall into this Mean Girls teacher stereotype. So, thank you, anonymous substitute for giving me another reason to hate this industry. After four years of substitute teaching, I’ve completely lost faith in public education as a whole. I don’t even know if I want my own children after enough kids have called me a bitch and or announced that I need to get laid. I end most days by ranting to my Gramma or Gail about how I’m going to cut out my own uterus and set it on fire or how my tubes have just tied themselves. I had the following text conversation with my dear little sister, Bea, (who’s a senior in a neighboring town) this afternoon.

Me: You guys are all little bitches. High school students suck. Fuck off all of you.
Me: Love you. 😀
Bea: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

I can’t fucking do this anymore because high school kids are mean, public education sucks, and so many teachers only teach because they never wanted to leave high school in the first place. Maybe I did wake up on the wrong side of the bed, because I work two jobs and I just finished the most stressful semester of my life. Maybe I do want to dramatically look at the sky and yell “WHY?!?!?!” every time my alarm goes off and I have to be at the high school in thirty minutes. So, just in case, I threw away the entire note, including what the other subs had to say, just to be a pain in the ass and channel my own inner fifteen-year-old. I’m not going to be the unpopular girl in this teen flick while the mean girls snicker. I had enough of that in my overalls, turtleneck, black-framed glasses, ponytail, and ribbon-laced combat boots during the first four years of high school. Why did I ever go back?!?!

mean girls