Thursday, August 12, 2010

Melancholy is Better Than Consumption

Dear Secret Blogiary,

Sometimes it is okay to just be melancholy and nostalgic. Sometimes one just needs to indulge in an emotion that is not befitting the occasion. It happens. And if I choose to curl up in a fetal position on my and cry until I dry heave my brains out, well, just let me. And for Pete’s sake, don’t coddle me. And if my fit should coincide with a specific day of birth and run into a monthly problem, I swear it will go away on its own.

I don’t need my blood let or my brain trepanned. I certainly don’t need medicine. So please, please, please Big Sis and Little Miss, please stop worrying. Yes, I know that you have been trained to “watch out” for me. I know that your Daddy and Grandma have taught you signs to look for in case my one serious medical condition should surface again. But clots have nothing to do with tears.

I know you worry, but I am the grown-up (most of the time) and I promise that I will hie myself to the doctor should anything be really wrong.

I promise.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm Sure It Isn't In My Head

Dear Secret Blogiary,

You know how easy it is to tell someone doesn’t like you? Well, I’ve been saying for years now that my boss, Mr. Master of His Own Little Universe, does not like me. I know this to be true although he has never said anything. I wish I could say I was being paranoid but I am really not.

Case in point: Went into work yesterday to start setting up my room and Mr. MoHOLU, glared at me when I walked by his office. Actual exchange:

Me: Good morning, sir, how are you?

MoHOLU: Fine. (rolls eyes)

Me: I’m going to work in my room for a bit.

MoHOLU: Fine. (turns his back to me in dismissal)

Me: (cheerfully) Ok. See you.

I worked in my room for a few hours rearranging furniture and berating myself for forgetting necessary supplies to do more. During set up I found that I had a number of broken chairs and made arrangements with the custodians to remove said chairs.

Conversation with custodian:

Me: Can I borrow the dolly to get rid of these broken chairs?

Custodian: Don’t know where it is. I’ll find it and take the chairs for you.

Me: Thanks! That would be great. I appreciate it.

Custodian: No problem. You know, a lot of the teachers have broken chairs. Really broken ones that could hurt the kids. You know with the metal sticking out and the plastic cracked and jagged.

Me: Yeah, I know.

Custodian: Mr. MoHOLU hasn’t ordered chairs. In fact, there haven’t been chairs ordered since I’ve been here and I’ve been here for seven years. Someone should talk to him about that. (meaningful look in my direction)

Me: Yeah…

Around lunch time I gathered up my belongings and made my way back to the office. Mr. MoHOLU was in his office obviously not doing anything (really, not even being sarcastic there) so I stopped by.

MoHOLU: Yes? (rolling eyes)

Me: How was your summer, sir?

MoHOLU: Fine. Busy. (exasperated sigh)

Me: Oh. That’s…um, I was talking to the custodian about the chairs-

MoHOLU: And. (pointed stare)

Me: Many of the teachers have broken, unusable chairs. I was wondering if-

MoHOLU: I suppose I can look to see if we have some money somewhere to order some new ones. (turns his back to me and begins shuffling through papers)

Me: I –

MoHOLU: Good day.

Me: Oh. Ok. Um, see you tomorrow!

MoHOLU: (grunt or maybe it was a snark)

I am sure that this behavior indicates a dislike. The man has always been rude and condescending to others. Truly he does not have a large fan base. But, I have never treated him with anything but courtesy and respect. He is my boss after all and he is older than me and my mom raised me to be respectful.

I won’t deny that I will question decisions and actions if they don’t make sense to me. I do it as non-confrontational as I can and always phrase my concerns as me not understanding rather than he is an idiot (of which I am now thoroughly convinced). It makes sense that if I don’t understand a “new” policy or procedure, the best way to get me on board with it is to help me to understand why I’m doing it and what result it should have. If I am expected to explain to 13 year olds why they have to learn to write, than it goes that I should get an explanation as to why a procedure that has worked for three long years is suddenly changed and then eliminated altogether.

So for my questioning I am branded as a trouble maker, as insubordinate, as one who deserves less respect and more condescension. What this leaves me thinking…

Oh, this is going to be a long, long year.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aside from Bill Gates and a few others, who isn’t having money trouble right now?

Dear Secret Blogiary,

I know that this is a cry echoed around the country right now, but it is hard to hear the cries of others when my ears are ringing with my own cries.

I have a job. Mister W. has a job. We own a home that is worth 60k less than when we bought it. We had to take two mortgages and high interest to afford it. We shouldn’t have bought it but we were young, trusted our real estate agent and the mortgage company she recommended. At the time our toes were on the edge of a giant chasm and we held hands and leaped.

Big Mistake.

But isn’t that part of life? Making mistakes makes us stronger, wiser, more determined, right? Well, with the high interest we almost walked, but were assured that within three years we could refinance at a lower rate and all would be ok. Made sense. Mister W and I both thought and agreed that three years was doable. Throw in a HOA fee and our monthly payments topped out at $1850 per month. Twice that of what we paid in rent. But we said, we had some credit bumps and we knew we were going to take a hit.

Three years of tight living went by. It took my entire paycheck to cover the mortgages, the HOA and my student loans. Mister W’s check paid for everything else. We had no savings, no backup, nothing. We went without. But we did it.

Three years later we were ready to refinance and then the bottom of that chasm we leaped into flew up to meet us – the market collapsed, banks failed, Mister W’s commission based job went into a sharp decline. He didn’t lose he job, but the paycheck took a sizable hit. We contacted the mortgage company and asked for a refi. They laughed. Your house they said is worthless than what you owe and therefore you are ineligible for a refinance. I tried the bank. I tried third party mortgage companies.

We were like lepers. No one would touch us. Months went by and we kept paying, hoping that the market would recover. And when it became obvious that recovery was a long time coming, we talked to friends and neighbors about what we should do. On the advice of one such neighbor, we stopped paying the mortgage. They claimed that if for three months you didn’t pay the company would then work with you.

It sort-of worked. We were able to complete a temporary modification of our primary mortgage; this after a frustrating and humiliating battle with a “finance manager” who expressed disbelief at our “outrageous” grocery bill (she claimed that for a family of four we should spend no more than $400 per month on groceries. Right, because I don’t like to eat fresh food or make lunches for my kids for school). Our second mortgage would not help us and demanded that we get caught up immediately.

We ended up lowering our mortgage payment by about $150. Then the HOA fee went up from $312 to $450, an increase of $138. Great.

So what happens now? Well, for the past two years we have wanted desperately to get out of the house. Can’t sell it since it is still upside down. Can’t make improvements since we are still living paycheck to paycheck. Can’t rent it because we couldn’t get what we need to cover the expense. Can’t walk away because we don’t want the black mark of foreclosure on our record (besides, it goes against how I was raised to renege on debt).

That leaves us stuck. We fight because we are stressed out about money and the house. We are miserable because we have no money in which to do anything and we are fighting. And we are scared, because we don’t know what might happen next.

It makes a nice mix, right? Just like a good chef salad. Fights, stress, misery, scared…what is this dish missing? Oh, I know, let’s toss in with a nice vinaigrette of both cars need to be replaced. Oh, some crunchy slivers of Mister W’s dad is sick and needs us to be closer to him (he can’t move in with us as we literally don’t have the room and we cannot afford to make the place handicap accessible).

Oooo! This salad is tasty!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hey! Is anyone out there?

Dear Secret Blogiary,

Starting a blog is a sure sign one wishes to communicate with the outside world. In my case I wanted anonymity but at the same time, feedback. Kind (or unkind) souls floating out there in the black that that could connect with my thoughts and tell me I am dead on or clinically insane. Either would be fine. But the way to get readership is to tell people about my blog. I certainly don’t want to tell people I know as that would defeat the whole purpose of having a Secret Blogiary. The other way to gain readers is to post comments on other people’s blogs and hope that my witty words would draw people to my blog. And in that, I have to admit, I’m a little shy. But I’ll certainly give it a whirl.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rage Against the Establishment

Dear Secret Blogiary,

Now, maybe I have been jaded by my years as a teacher to the most destructive, vicious, deceitful, heartless age group imaginable: 8th graders. Maybe years of trying to understand a group of people (though I really use that term loosely as it is my theory that teenagers are not people) for whom disrespect and defiance are second first nature that has caused my heart to cool and harden. But it is now as the summer thrashes about in a death throe, and I have to contemplate returning to the classroom, I realize that going back is something I have come to dread.

It didn’t start out like that, my first years as a teacher I eagerly looked forward to the start of a new year. Of the smell of freshly sharpened number 2 pencils, compositions creaking open for the first time, decorating my room, planning lessons and reviewing data…I joyously embraced all of it. But then I started to notice under the shiny veneer of a new year, was a system of catering to state tests, a system that had moved away from tried and true methods of teaching and embraced a crunchy granola, holistic, “love the child and it will learn” method of teaching.

Slowly, teaching became synonymous with “entertainment.” How many training sessions did I sit through listening to some grand new plan where teachers need to “hook” the students into the lesson, to justify and reason why they needed to learn the lesson? They are uncountable. Like a marching army drumming out orders and “programming” the teachers we heard the steady mandate that not only must all students pass, but they must all go to college, the cry that socio-economic background has no effect on a student’s ability to learn, the importance of a single test.

It breaks my heart. It makes me cold. It goes against everything that I believe in.
I believe that every child can learn IF they want to. I can give the information to every student, but I cannot force a student to learn. I cannot hold their pencil and write for them. If a student takes no responsibility in his education, than I cannot be held accountable for the consequences.

I believe that parents need to take responsibility for their children. I have kids, I make sure that they are fed, clothed and loved. I make sure that they know I care. I check their homework every night and I involve myself with their school and their lives. I know who they hang out with. I know where they are at all times. I make sure they understand the importance of choice and responsibility.

I believe that a public education should be free, unless you screw up. If a student is constantly in trouble or disruptive then he should be removed from the class, permanently. It is not fair for the other students in the class to suffer. Therefore, if a student receives a set number of referrals then they need to be removed from public education and either home schooled or sent to private school at the parent's expense.

I believe that up until 11th grade, most of the information learned in school consists of background knowledge needed to lay the foundation of a lifetime of learning. Without background information a student cannot begin to critically think or reason. A classic education, a return to memorization of basic rules of language and facts and figures as well as a solid background in literary culture is the foundation of all higher learning. A student cannot be expected to critically think about Shakespeare unless they understand language, time period and history. It is that simple.

I believe that working under the presumption that every child must go to college is ruining our country. Where have our jobs gone? America has moved from a nation of builders and doers to a nation of service. Most Americans are employed in a service industry while so many jobs are sent overseas or given to illegal migrant workers. Let me say this loud and clear: Not every person is cut out college. Not every person will make it on Wall Street or play for an NFL team. We need to bring back to our schools Vo-Tec programs where students can get actually training that will be useful to them. Or at least how about a life skills class that teaches them how to balance a checkbook or fill out an application?

I believe that without electives, students will stagnate. Learning how to critically think will be useless unless they have something to critically think about. The electives at my school: Gym, Art, Music. No second languages, no home economics, no choir or band, no shop… nothing. Three electives = three teachers. Three teachers who service over 1000 students. You can’t teach art when you have 60-70 kids per class. The kids don’t learn anything at Gym, there are no units, no games; they walk the track once a week and either sit around with friends or play a makeshift game of basketball the rest of the time.

And finally, I believe that is is not the educational system that needs to change, it is society. It is the materialistic, backstabbing, gansta-rap, sex and violence society that needs to change. If it is true that children rebel against their parents then one generation must rebel against the prior. Maybe having a Puritan society for a while would be a good thing or maybe the Victorians had it right. But what I know is that the more "advanced" we are, the more society has declined.

All these issues rage through my mind. I do not want to return to the classroom. My students deserve more than a teacher who is bitter and uninspired. Unfortunately, financially, I have no choice, with the economy still tanked, I need to live and support myself. So how do I work up enough motivation and energy to face the coming year? I think that I answered my self up above: A return to a classic education. If I can merge the district’s “learning schedule” with a basic fundamental curriculum, maybe I can do my part for the future.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Brand New Blog

Dear Secret Blogiary,

Here I am with my very first post. I am so excited that I created you! At last I can blog with freedom. No more worrying about who might see my blogiary, about who might get offended or upset. I can post without fear that if I rant about my family, it won't hurt their feelings. Because as you know, Blogiary, I am very sensitive and empathetic. I just need to be able to express myself and not have it held against me.

Maybe I should tell a little about myself...

I'm a Leo, proud and loyal. I am a mother and wife. I am a teacher. I am full of ideas and grand schemes, but unfortunately, because I am also lazy, I have yet to take over the world. I am in my thirties. I love books, tea, games, camping and crafts.

My hope is that I'll be able to write in my Secret Blogiary every few days, or at least once a week. I have other commitments and time constraints and yet, I really need to make a concentrated effort at posting because it will be a great means of stress relief. And, hey, maybe I'll find out that there are others out there who can relate to my unrelatable bizarre life!