Friday, March 5, 2010

Writers and Teachers Block

I haven't finished a post in about a week. That's kind of a long time for me. I write almost every day and when I'm not writing (or mommy-ing) I am reading. The past week has been a little tough for me in the writing department. With WP out of the house I have to do a lot more driving, which leads to less time writing (although I spend more time thinking.) What has happened is that I am not in front of my darling laptop when I want to be writing and I can't get to writing much when I am sitting down. This is driving me insane. Or maybe, it is returning me to insane. Since I started releasing my inspirations about two months ago, I have felt so much better inside and out. My thoughts are clearer, my focus is better, and I have a better grip on the roller coaster inside my head. I never knew how beneficial writing would be to my overall well being. Every day I don't write seems to stack up on each other until I am able to release it all.

What occurred to me is maybe this means I am finding my calling. I never knew that I wanted to be a writer, at least not seriously. I had a great time in school with essay and creative writing assignments, but no one ever approached me to say, "You should really write more!" It never occurred to me that it could be something other than a school assignment. But, the joy, release, and therapy I have felt through writing has been a wonderful inspiration to keep on doing it. So, I guess am facing a decision that a lot of people do, I think I might be facing it a little later in life than others, though. I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

For a long time, I wanted to be a teacher. In the past year, I realize I might not be cut out for that. I love kids and I don't even mind other people's kids all that much, but when I am forced to raise stranger's kids (past the toddler age, anyway) I don't have a lot of patience. With my kids and my close friends' children, I know where they come from. For the most part, I know what their home life is like and I know that when they are left in my care I can treat them fairly and enforce boundaries that are necessary to proper development. In a school situation, I would be given a room full of strangers at least once a year. I have to follow strict guidelines and restrictions. In fact one of the reasons I decided against teaching as a profession is because some of those restrictions.

Don't get me wrong, I know why the limits are there and I support them -for the protection of our children. My own children are in the public school system and they have also been in a handful of daycare schools around the area. I have seen first hand what happens when those limits and rules are ignored or broken. My heart breaks to know that some of the teachers I have met are still in contact with children every day.

I will say that 90% of teachers are awesome, hardworking, intelligent, caring, resourceful, overworked, and underpaid. I have many personal friends who teach and I would be honored to have them teach one of my children. I can't count the dozens of wonderful teachers who have helped inspire and teach my girls over the last 8 years. I have plenty of teachers on my own list of People Who Inspire Me to be a Better Person.

Unfortunately, there is a breakdown somewhere in the teaching system that troubles me. There is a theory called The 10%. It says that 10% of the population make up the collective attitude and create the public opinion of that group. Most often, the 10% is far more negative than the other 90%. It is that 10% that frightens me. I don't want to get mixed in with the wrong crowd, I guess. The minds and emotional well being of our children is too fragile and important to leave to anyone but the best. I am concerned that I would not be able to BE the best.

Politics (inside and outside a school), government policies (that mean well but don't DO well), and just plain mean spirited pettiness get in the way of a proper teaching environment. There is no fool proof way to make sure that every teacher is good for students. Plus, "good" is kind of objective. What might work in one situation would be considered lax in another. What one teacher considers "firm" or "consistent" might be considered cruel to the students or their families. Again, I am not saying that I have no faith in teachers or the public (or private) school system. I have just personally experienced situations that I thought were extreme enough to warrant the removal of a particular member of staff. As a parent or student, I might have been able to do something. As a fellow teacher, I was not.

Here are a few examples to let you know what I mean:

My first Kindergarten teacher called me derogatory names in front of the classroom for being "too smart" and then lied about it in front of the principal and my parents. She was bigoted and racist in her words and her actions. I was able to read at a 3rd grade level entering in to Kindergarten and she felt that I was a show off for it. Plus, I was the only white girl in the class and she didn't like that either. The only white boy in the class was treated very similarly. By the end of the first semester, my mother really started to believe the stories I told her in the afternoons about how the teacher was treating me. Things like stating to the whole room, "I can't wait until you leave this class." Thankfully, my parents believed me, and so did the principal when, during the Parent, Teacher, Principal conference, the lady had the nerve to grab my shoulder and squeeze it every time I was asked a question that she didn't want me to answer. I was pulled from her class. Actually, I was pulled entirely from school until I was able to relocate to a different area. That story had a happy ending for me, but the teacher was not fired. She was moved up to third grade where, I guess, her student would be able to tolerate being called names and segregated by race inside the classroom.

There was LH's 4th grade teacher who decided that asking questions was a cause to deduct conduct points. So was asking to go to the bathroom. She also felt that the class needed a scapegoat, so she often had LH clean out her desk and if any overdue papers were found, the rest of the class had to clean out their desks too. Remember, she was 9 years old and she has a MEDICAL CONDITION which causes her (among other things) to frequently need to go to the bathroom. She also has ADD one the lower end of the spectrum, to be sure, but it is still enough that she needs a little bit more guidance than the other kids. By the end of the year, all of her grades had slipped from straight A's to mostly C's. She also stopped asking to go to the bathroom at school and instead came home wet every day. She was so emotionally beat down from being singled out and excluded, I didn't even recognize her. I had no idea what the problem was, either, because LH was too embarrassed to tell me. By the time she DID tell me, the school year was over and and the teacher had transferred to another school district. Again, she is out there somewhere terrorizing children in the name of education.

The scariest example of People Who Should NOT Be Around Kids was the owner of a daycare where I worked and my kids attended. At first, I felt the job was a labor of love. The school was known for taking the behavioral issues that were kicked out of all the other schools in the area. They also undercut the other schools' tuition by a long shot. The school was filled with mostly low income families and children with emotional and social difficulties. There was also A LOT of students - almost 200 school age students and only about  When a student was especially poor behaved (usually to the point where another child was injured) they were sent upstairs to the office of the owner - alone. There were no cameras there like there were in the rest of the facility. I can't say I know what happened when a child was sent up there, and wouldn't dare accuse someone of doing something I couldn't prove. The kids never said anything one way or the other about him. I know from dealing with him personally, though, that he bordered on being a religious fanatic and that he made a habit of employing single mothers who had no where else to turn. He used his position as their boss to create a dependent situation where he wormed his way into every part of their lives he was able to. As soon as I saw what was going on, I tried to leave and the speech I got scared me to the bone. Some of the things he said to me were, "You are on the wrong path because you are not successful. If you are following your husband's lead, you are obviously on the wrong road. You should be following my lead, instead. I am loyal to my friends and I treat them like family. If someone tries to come between me and my family, I will cut them down with my sword."

Yeah, I quit that afternoon.

These situations left such a bad taste for me that I really don't want to venture into that world again. It wasn't just the other people, it was how I felt having to deal with them. I know me. I would rather use my talents in other ways. Maybe someday it will be in a way that I can actually get paid for!

- Deb "The Un-teacher" Lollar

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