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.

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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

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

All the Children Left Behind: Why I Lost Faith in Our Public Education System After Just Three Years

sad graduate

When I graduated college with a Bachelor in Science and Education, emphasis in Family and Consumer Sciences, I imagine my thinking was the same as most education graduates and it went something like this:

I’ll never be rich; the paperwork will bury me; people won’t take my subject area seriously, since it’s not science or math… but I’ll make a difference.

Like a disappointingly high number of ed grads, however, I was already aware that my future in traditional public secondary education would be short-lived. During my student teaching, my lunch breaks were spent chatting up the school librarian and filling out my graduate school application. At the time, I’d hoped to teach FACS (formerly Home Economics) for a couple of years, while working on my Master in Library and Information Studies. Then I graduated… and didn’t get a job.

Feeling defeated, I entered the MLIS program, took a steady evening job cleaning weight equipment at the local community center, and signed up to substitute teach. I threw myself into school and work in a desperate attempt to support myself and ignore my crumbling Lifetime Original Movie marriage. Graduate school was going well, the community center had brought me The Guys, substituting allowed me to choose when I worked and when I wanted to lay in bed hung over, weeping about how this wasn’t what I’d had planned. It was a rough semester. The following summer, I likely would have been offered a teaching job, had I not canceled the interviews for my current position in a library. It was at that time that I realized something. I didn’t want to teach. Substituting has its downsides and it’s not the kids. I’m at the mercy of every teacher I cover and if they can’t handle their classes, I sure as hell can’t. There’s not always work and I have to be careful to plan financially for Christmas, spring, and summer breaks. There are no medical benefits and I sometimes have to teleport from the high school to the library. It’s tough… but it beats teaching, because I have completely lost faith in the Lord of the Flies experiment that is public education…. and here’s why:

College Bound Curriculum for Everyone

climb this tree

Make no mistake as to my feelings toward Family and Consumer Sciences. I still strongly believe in the life skills that courses such as Parent and Child Development, Personal Finance, and Nutrition instill in our students, when properly taught. One of the main reasons I decided not to teach, however, is because oftentimes, the administration disagrees. As far as most principals are concerned, I’d just be there to break up the day with a little cooking and sewing. I’m nowhere near as important as the people teaching Calculus and Shakespeare.

Why is that, when the percentage of high school graduates in this country is 85.4%, however only 28.2% of adults have bachelor’s degrees?* Associate’s degrees naturally fall in between at 41.1%.* That’s less than half of this country that’s even putting all of that Calculus and Shakespeare to good use. I was one of the 10% who actually graduated from a four-year college four years after high school. How much do I rock? None. I rock none, because I made my life choices and other people made theirs. Or at the very least, I rock no more than the man who dreamt of being an HVAC guy and made it happen. There is nothing wrong with choosing not to go to college and, in fact, many professions that require no college degree pay far more than mine ever will. My brother is a contracted electrician making six figures. I will never make six figures.

My state actually has a great Career Tech program with tons of financial support… and we still act like it’s for the kids who couldn’t make it through Algebra II. That’s not fair. I’m pretty sure I’d suck as a mechanic, because this conversation has happened more times than I can count:

Jay: “What kind of car was it?”
Me: “Red.”
Jay “You don’t know what make it was?”
Me: “It was really low to the ground.”

I know shit about cars and they bore me. I do write a mean paper on the information seeking behavior of young adults, though. Everybody has their skills and our education system not only pushes its students in one direction, but stigmatizes the other. A professor once brought up a great point when the idea of a “career path” and “college path” curriculum was suggested. “Ask a high school freshman if they’re going to college. Now ask their parents. What percentage said yes and what percentage actually do it?” That shouldn’t be the case. We tell our kids they can be anything they want to be, except a mail carrier or a plumber or a hairstylist, none of which require a degree from a traditional university. Then we send them to public school with kids from all walks of life, going in all different directions and still we tell them they have to be nurses or teachers rather than welders. We push the full 100% toward college when only a quarter of them will get any real advantage from this direction. I’ve heard the argument that there’s something to be said for a well-rounded education, but our high school seniors who want to be plumbers? They aren’t likely paying attention to Hamlet and we shouldn’t expect them to do so, just as Jay shouldn’t expect me to pay attention to his damned Chevy spiel. We have eight to nine years before high school to give them the well-rounded material.

So, perhaps these classes that break up the day with practical lessons, such as managing finances, job orientation skills, public speaking, healthy sexual choices, and basic nutrition are the only classes that truly are pertinent to all students. Additionally, maybe our administrators should stop being such snobs about the idea of accrediting students with technical certificates, when the well-being of said students is supposed to be our focus. We want productive members of society and not all of them need to be able to write a bitchin’ research paper or wow people at a cocktail party, even if the guys making the decisions on education reform can.

Blow Off Classes

sleeping in class
We place such high emphasis on college-bound curriculum, that our kids don’t take any other curriculum seriously. When they do take practical courses, such as Healthy Life Skills or First Aid, they blow it off… because we let them. Blow off classes shouldn’t even exist. If the course is Communications, students should be learning public speaking and interview skills. They should be practicing to become sociable and charismatic individuals, taking part in service activities, writing papers or doing presentations on leadership, learning to have an educated debate without getting upset. That First Aid class should actually leave them certified in First Aid. These courses should be just as difficult as an English course, because the skills learned are equally important and even more so if these students aren’t planning on going to college.

My high school FACS teacher once told me that a student’s mother called her, angry that her child had a B in the class. “This really is the kind of course where everyone should have an A.” Why does she think that? Is it because finances are so easy or because child psychology is so easy? Perhaps it’s because nutrition is so easy. Tell me, how many calories per gram are there in alcohol? Carbohydrates? How many Americans are in debt, abuse their kids, or are overweight? Clearly it’s not that rudimentary. If these course are taught properly, they can be quite challenging and quite useful; if only everyone would stop expecting them to be easy and passing that assumption onto their children.

Parents

crazy parent

Why in the hell would you ask your child’s teacher why they were daring to challenge their students? I understand if there’s a concern that the work is more difficult than it should be at the assigned level. For example, if my child were in a Physical Science class that expected advanced Chemistry skills, fine. We’ll have a sit-down and maybe this isn’t the course for them. However, my high school Psychology and Sociology teacher rarely handed out A’s, and I will totally brag that I got two. This was an elective, which is often, by definition, a blow off class. I had more homework in this teacher’s Psychology and Sociology courses than I did in my AP classes. He had high expectations and he got great results. He also got in trouble for mouthing off to parents.

Why would a parent make excuses for their child? What benefit could there be in doing so? Why do we allow it? I know that these parents pay the taxes that fund the schools, but they’re doing so with the end result of lazy and ineffectual members of society. You give an inch and they take a mile. If you allow the parent to talk the child’s way out of detention or a low grade once, they’ll do it an eleventh time. Yes, teachers should be held accountable, but we’ve gone too far. Where’s the accountability for the parents and students? What option do we have? We can expel the offenders. I’m not suggesting expulsion for being tardy for class, but if the parents and students refuse to adhere to the rules and punishments for doing so, fine. Kick them out for the remainder of the school year. The parents can have a grand ol’ time finding them a new educational environment. We do have a right to a free education in this country and that’s wonderful. Why does that education have to take place alongside the kids who do respect the rules and consequences for breaking them? Free internet access is available in 98.9% of public libraries and k-12 education is now offered online. If that sounds like a pain in the ass to pursue, then pick your kid up from detention or make sure they follow the rules.

Mine is a secondary education standpoint and I know there are other issues in early childhood, like parents getting angry that their kids have homework. A common question: “I’m paying you to teach them. Why do I have to help them with their homework?” Because you brought them into the world. That’s why. Perhaps they wouldn’t struggle so much if you worked with them for thirty minutes a night. You don’t have time, you say? Horseshit. Turn off the T.V. The average American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television and that doesn’t include your DVR time.* Even if you genuinely just cannot manage this, teach them to employ YouTube tutorials or check out helpful materials from the library. You know… give a shit.

The Props

texting in class

That 34 hour statistic is referring to the average American over age two. The average age for first cell phone is 11.6 years old.* Our kids are so saturated with media that they can no longer disconnect. Because of the aforementioned parents, we’re not allowed to make them, either. So in a typical classroom, students are texting, watching videos, listening to music, posting pictures on Instagram, Facebooking, and doing anything but learning the subject content. Having completely castrated the teachers in this country, we can’t touch a student’s property, be it a cell phone, tablet, music player, or hat. We’ve told them they have the right to dress as they please and have been rewarded with the distraction of fish net stockings and yoga pants with words on the butt. In a private school, a parent agrees to follow the rules or get their child an education elsewhere. Why not in public school, though with less strict guidelines? You want to show your camel toe in English class again? Fine. Get your education online. This is just another issue of power and how the teachers have none. If we tell a student to put up the phone, he moves it to his lap. If we take it from him, his parents call and yell that they’re the ones who paid for it. If we send him to the office, he “forgets” about detention. WHY THE FUCK ARE WE EVEN HERE?!?!?! Oh, yes. I remember. They need someone to blame for this child’s failing grade.

Skewed Priorities

slutty cheerleader
Tip: Turn on the safe search…

I’m no longer the girl who chose to skip every single high school football game to watch Varsity Blues and mock the popular kids. I get that high school sports bring in money and enthusiasm. Go team go. However, in the hopes of making said money and claiming fame, we spend $60,000,000 on a stadium to seat 18,000 for Texas high school football.* Weren’t we just having trouble buying new library books and computers?

It’s not just the money. It’s the fact that we whore out our children in slutty costumes to sell tickets. My high school actually had a pep rally where the cheerleaders put on a frozen t-shirt contest. I shit you not. Rarely, do we expect our little girls to follow a dress code in uniform that is (ideally) enforced when they’re out of it. What the hell kind of message are we sending children when we tell them that they don’t have to follow the rules as long as they’re hot? Furthermore, what kind of impression do we give by telling them their sport is only valuable if we can see some bare thigh? This is disgusting and it’s all for the love of marketing athletics.

Where we could be emphasizing team work and loyalty and physical fitness, we emphasize money and sex appeal. We turn a blind eye when a football coach gives obscene bonus points for the question “Who won the Super Bowl?” FYI, the answer was not “Tell me what it has to do with our state’s history and I’ll tell you the answer” and that coach didn’t like me very much. Instead, we could hold our football players up as role models who keep their grades high and our cheerleaders as leaders who work hard and practice modesty. I promise their legs go just as high if they’re wearing longer skirts and/or opaque tights. Perhaps we could even put them in sparkly shorts and sequined tank tops? We don’t have to sexualize them to show their form.

My Solution

closeup of a pencil eraser correcting an error

My personal solution is that I hope to send my kids to Catholic school, where I’ll agree to uphold their rules or take them elsewhere and so will the other parents. If my child is being cyber-bullied, all I have to do is talk to the principal/priest (in some cases) and it stops. There’s no discussion about the “rights” of children outside of the school. I don’t have to worry about the kids with “juicy” written across their ass when there are rules about whether or not they’re allowed to wear a scrunchie on their wrist. I used to think it was all too strict, but my Catholic-school-going cousins are all adults now and they’re plenty well-functioning. Frankly, they’re more normal than I am.

Maybe for some the solution is homeschooling. I don’t have the patience or the desire for that one, but I can see how it would be promising. If you’re the one in charge, you know your daughters aren’t being prostituted for a few corn dog sales. You can smash their phones with hammers if you like… or just not buy them their own.

Shopping around for a good, strong, public school district is, of course, an option. These complaints don’t fit all schools ever. There are good districts and I can even name a few. Shetland’s district isn’t even that bad, save for a couple of colorful stores. Asking parents in the district and attending a few events are great ways to get a feel for the morals and values behind an institution. Hell, Google it and find out if they’ve made the news in negative or positive ways.

Undoubtedly the best solution… and this one is pretty far out there… is to give a shit. Talk to your kids about what they want to do with their lives and listen and respond by putting them in the courses they require. Hold high expectations and firm consequences for failure within those courses. Don’t push your own dreams on them and always uphold the school’s rules. Stop blaming the teacher and take your kid’s cell phone away when he uses it to act like a jackass. Don’t buy the pants that say “juicy” and write your superintendent a nasty letter about the pasties he wants your baby to wear to the football game.

In the meantime, despite my adoration for teachers and my love for students, I have completely given up on the general public education system in this country. I will never be a classroom teacher.

Citations

http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/on-numbers/scott-

http://completionagenda.collegeboard.org/about-agenda

thomas/2012/12/wyoming-and-dc-are-leaders-in-new.html?page=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/24/national/24library.html?_r=0

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

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/americans-spend-34-hours-week-watching-tv-nielsen-numbers-article-1.1162285

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100001024/High_School_Sports_Have_Turned_Into_Big_Business

Seven Reasons Why I Avoid Working With Children

I have a confession to make, y’all. I’m Catholic. It’s kind of our thing.

Here goes…

I don’t like children.

Yes, yes, a substitute teacher who doesn’t like children. Could I be more of a Hey Arnold character (or more of a child of the 90’s)? Let me clarify. I don’t like young children. Teenagers, the ones everyone else hates, I adore. They’re funny and sarcastic and I don’t have to worry that I’ll crush their little souls when I snap at them, which I rarely do, because I actually enjoy being around them. I know how to deal with them. I have an undergraduate degree in them. Children, though? Children make me wonder how the species has survived this long when they are so fucking annoying.

public edPublic education looks a little something like this.

While I look forward to teaching middle school and high school, I do everything I can to avoid substituting elementary school, short of not paying my rent or starving. I have literally and purposefully waited until the last minute a job was posted to accept it so I could get paid the same money for less time with young children. I am not cruel to them, by any means. I’m actually quite sweet to them and would never wish them harm. A bystander might even dare to think I’m good with them and maybe I am. I wouldn’t know, because as they’re hugging me and I’m hugging them back, I can only think “Ew. Stop touching me. It’s cold and flu season.” I, of course, love  the children that I’m required to love by blood, but I still avoid them between ages seven and eleven and here’s why:

1. They all like me.
Not only do they all like me, they actually care whether or not I like them. This means I have to be super conscious of my temper when they are driving me fucking insane. If I slip and snap at them, because I’m in a room with 22 attention starved human puppies, I could absolutely crush their little egos. I swear there are people who go into early childhood education, just so someone will love them, because these kids do. They want you to compliment their coloring (it’s just fucking coloring), they want you to listen to their stories, they want to draw you a picture, they want to hug you.

2. They have boundary issues.
Yeah, that’s right. They want to hug you. People are dropping dead of whooping cough (somewhere, I’m sure) and this little seven-year-old wants to sit on my lap and wrap his arms around me. Sweetie, I’m calling you Sweetie, because I don’t even know your damned name. Get off me… and why are you sticky?

3. They’re disgusting.
Seriously, kid. Why are you sticky? No, I do not want to see where your stitches were. Please stop wiggling your bloody tooth in front of my face and wash the hands that you just had in your mouth. Now wash them again, because you just wiped snot all over them.

I would rather have teenagers inquire about my vagina again than be faced with a hoard of young children who desperately want to show me their wounds.

4. They’re hypochondriacs.
If they don’t have wounds to show me, that’s quite all right. They’ll make some up.

“My head hurts. I can’t breathe. My neck hurts.”
“Mine does, too. Yes you can. That’s because you’re squeezing it.”

This went on for the whole damned day. The eight-year-old hypochondriac actually exists and it’s even more obnoxious than the twenty-eight-year-old one, because of the added whine and the fact that they’ve said it 93 times. Maybe this just works really well at home and they get coddled and kissed for it, because they’re all spoiled.

5. They’re all spoiled.
I live in the same white suburban middle class town I grew up in and it’s only gotten wealthier. Just recently, four eight-year-olds told me they own a Northface. Why the hell do you own a Northface?!? That’s a $150 coat and we may get snow this year! I own a Northface, because I work two jobs and I’m not going to outgrow it in the next year. You, however, are growing up in an obesity epidemic and about to hit a growth spurt. It makes about as much sense for you to own that coat as it does for you to own that pair of Uggs. Those are $200 boots, worn by someone who doesn’t even know what $200 is.

6. They’re repetitive and redundant and they just say the same thing over and over again.
Yes, I know you have a Northface, because you told me 14 friggin’ times! Your little friend there has told me five times that you went to P.E. yesterday. The girl to his left has told me seven times that you saw your teacher at lunch. The child with her hand in her mouth has mentioned her loose tooth forty-six times. Please go sit back down before my frustration inadvertantly showers you all with my brain matter.

7. They are little jackhammers of inquiry.
“Where’s our teacher? Why’s she gone? Is that your phone? What time do we go to lunch? Are we having indoor recess or outdoor recess? When do we go to the library? Can I leave my paper on my desk? When is lunch? Is that a Nook? Are we going to music today? Are you going to be here tomorrow? Is our teacher coming back tomorrow? Why is she gone? When is lunch? Why does it say we have P.E. today when we had it yesterday? Are we taking AR tests today? Can I read my book? When do we go to music? When do we go home? Why do you keep rubbing your head?”

Don’t worry. If you just stop answering, they’ll make sure to repeat it at least thirty-nine times.

Maybe one day I’ll get over my whopping committment and baby issues and I’ll have my own kids, because I’m stupid and think babies are cute. They’ll be absolutely fucking adorable until age seven and then I won’t love them anymore until they’re eleven. My Gramma has actually suggested I “farm them out” once they hit this point and take them back a few years later. I always knew she was brilliant.

In the meantime, note to self: Do not substitute elementary school on the first day of your period.