Friday, August 10, 2012
What made me write The Flats Teacher's Test?
Well in answer to that question you would have to understand my relationship with and pride I take where my daughter is concerned. If you've met my wife, this becomes a clearly understandable statement.
My wife is that rare breed of intelligent woman who decides what she wants for herself, knows how she intends to live her life and also takes no crap from me. With a combination like that why wouldn't I dream of having a daughter?
I've got to admit that I was less than thrilled when my daughter started growing into a beautiful young woman. I felt she should've set her sights somewhat higher than some of the low life types of cretins(none of whom were good enough for her I'll add) she dated. My nasty wife would remind me, that daughters tend to date boys like their fathers. This is not true of course and I will hold the gentle, loving, hard working man(only guy she ever dated that I now like) my daughter married as an example of just why this isn't true.
Sis became enamored with school at age four. We lived in Marine Corps housing while I was stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. The Department of Defense elementary school, which served the families stationed at MCRD Parris Island and the nearby Marine Corps Air Station of Beaufort was located two blocks from the base house we were assigned. I can't count the number of times my wife would force our two sons out the front door for school only to find Sis had already left out a window or the back door heading the same direction as her brothers.
Left with a wagon loaded with "her" books, pencils, crayons and of course a snack.
I watched as her dream of becoming a teacher took root, grew, and became a reality. I observed her work through a few bad educators, more than one tenured professor and several courses in college she hated in pursuit of her dream. In the process she never lost sight of who she was, where she was going and what she intended to do after she got there.
I also watched her battle cancer and pursue her Master's Degree at the same time. How can you not be impressed with that type of desire and drive?
I spent the entire time after she started teaching teasing her. The forward of my book fairly describes some of the alleged abuse I heaped on her. She's as tough as nails and gives as good as she gets; no man will ever brow beat that woman.
I spent my last tour of duty in the Marine Corps as a Recruiter. That's much the same as saying most mothers put me in the same category as "Chester the Molester." It also required me to visit every school in my area(did I mention I had three counties?) regularly.
Once Sis threw out her challenge(it's in the forward of the book) I decided to take what I knew already and add to that knowledge, just to prove her wrong once again.
I really wish I had been right and will admit(but not to Sis!) that I wasn't.
I combined the most common tales I was told into fiction based on facts. I was reminded that we still have some great folks beating their heads against brick walls in an effort to make a difference. In the process they are forced to swim in the cesspools: of politics, violence, stupidity, parental apathy, and government constraints that all but doom them to failure.
If you can get a teacher to tell you what is really going on in our schools, you'll hear horror stories that make vampires, murder mysteries and war stories seem like a five year old child talking about their last birthday party.
Do I paint with a broad brush? Yes I do and will admit it. What I will also admit is we have some school systems that work, you just have to search to find them. Even the good ones have deadwood they can't replace, until after the deadwood retires. The problems I found are over simplified in my book and I know that.
What I also know is the deadly triad of unions, government and local politics are a major understated part of the problem.
The solution is easier said than done: fire the failures, let the true teachers do their jobs and stop telling ourselves everyone can or should go to college. Schools today are partly rated on their percentage of students to college, not how many of that number really go on and earn a degree. Also not considered is how many who do receive a degree are able to make a living with their expensive education.
We look at the percentage of a school's population who do pass some sort of state assessment exam as the benchmark for how effective the school really is. This practice forces school systems to stress(and sometimes teach to) the test. There's more...much more that goes into why our schools are failing and will get worse in the future if things aren't changed.
Parents and communities are the only answer I think could make a real change and turn our schools away from the brink of failure. But most parents won't even set down and check their child's homework "if" the child was assigned homework. Most high school students are shocked when they start college...shocked they have to do much more than attend classes and pass a few test.
The PTSA's and School Boards are mostly filled with the same folks. Compare a PTSA meeting to the Band or Athletic booster clubs meetings and then tell me which have the most parents attending. You can get more folks to attend a school play than parent/teacher's conferences. If you doubt that statement ask any teacher.
At the start of this ramble, that more than a few will find contain grammar mistakes, I talked about my daughter. Will She ever become an educator waiting to collect a retirement? Not a chance in hell could or would that ever happen. But I've watched her go from a starry eyed first year teacher to a seasoned professional. What scares me is there aren't as many folks with the drive and determination she has teaching.
When she says, "I'm thinking about leaving teaching"...well this nation is in deep Kimchi.
If we destroy the desire of teachers to teach (note I said teacher and not educator) we have lost more than we'll ever know.