Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Observations on Things that Suck

I'm watching my daddy die.

He's 80.  He hasn't been really well in over 15 years, but he's gotten along ok, able to drive and go to the donut shop in the mornings...able to fix a few things around the house and feel like life has some meaning.

Back in December, we took him to the hospital for a strangulated hernia. He had emergency surgery, and was sent home the next day. From that day, things have gone steadily downhill.

My dad, who was always the strongest person I knew, can barely hold himself up on his own legs. The man who never, ever held back an opinion (even when he surely should have) can't get any words out of his mouth without intense concentration. Most of the time, he can't get them out at all. The father I watched figure it all out can't figure out how to get one foot to move in front of another.The man who could fix anything that was broken is now broken himself.

It's been a very strange transition for me...from daughter who depends on her dad to care taker...My daughter says I am just like a mom to him. I don't know how I can be so calm and patient and caring and sure of myself when I am helping him, but when I drive away, I feel like a scared child.

I'm a little angry about the whole thing...it doesn't seem fair that he should suffer like this.

It also doesn't seem fair that my mom, who has taken care of others her entire life, is now a prisoner in her own home. She is 77, and in very good shape all things considered. But since Dad got bad in December, she has put on 10 years. She is so tired. She is so mentally and physically exhausted. And she is so ridden with unnecessary guilt. She thinks she has to do it all. She doesn't want to upset or confuse my dad, she doesn't want to burden me, she doesn't want to ask someone else to do what she perceives to be her job. And so she carries the weight of it all on her own shoulders and only gets help when we force it upon her.

I just want them to be happy...healthy...at peace with themselves. I realize this isn't possible. I know the rest of my dad's days will be a struggle for both of them. I know that no matter what happens, my mom will feel like she's not enough. I know that no matter how much I want the clock to turn back, time will march on.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Things I Have Heard Today

"Mr. B...do you ever ride willies sometimes? I ride them big ole willies every chance I get." (pregnant pause...) "What, don't you have a bike?"

"Miz Finny, she on her woman troubles...don't you know it's bad luck to be in the same classroom with a girl on her woman troubles? Can't you send her home?"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Angry! Confused! Grr!

I am a big woman. I will take that into consideration as I write this post and I will acknowledge right up front that I may be feeling a bit defensive.

Having made that disclaimer, I now ask you this: What in the heck is wrong with some people?

I just spent an hour talking to a really nice woman. She's as kind as the day is long, looks out for and loves her child, works hard, and takes care of her family. Her husband is a super nice guy to everyone he knows, who works hard, takes care of his home and family, and would do anything for a friend at the drop of a hat. 

But guess what? Her husband isn't happy with her weight...no, he's "disgusted" because she is in a size 6 instead of her former size 2 (mind you, he is no super model...he carries a beer belly that looks about like 7 months gestation).  And because he isn't happy with her weight, she is restricting herself to 900 calories a day. Her hair is falling out.  She's tired, pale, and not feeling well at all. He also wants her to go to a tanning bed because he prefers tan women (I have to ask why he married a red-head).

I am just furious at both of them.

First, what gives him the right to belittle his wife for her weight? If he has concerns about her health, he can find a way to tell her other than saying he is "disgusted". I will never, ever understand men who make their love for their wives conditional on her looks.  I do understand that we are all programmed to be attracted to certain body types and that it is reasonable to expect our spouses to take care of themselves.  What I don't get is holding back affection, sex, or kindness because of pounds.  I don't get cruelty that results in a woman doubting her worth.  I don't understand.

I am just as angry with her for putting up with it. If she isn't comfortable in her body and wants to get in better shape, great. But NO ONE gets in "shape" by starving.  Why does she tie her value to his opinion? How did she let the first comment go by without stopping it in its tracks? Why is she harming herself for his gratification?

I have answers for some of these questions.  I know full and well that part of my self-worth is tied to my husband.  I know that I care what people think about the way I look.  I know that I am more physically attractive when I am healthier, and that I am more physically attracted to my husband when he is healthy. 

But I also know that my weight does not change Chris' love for me.  I know that he loves my heart and my brain and my humor and my body.  I know that regardless of the package I am in, he values me.  But if he didn't, I also know I would leave.  I would not allow him to belittle me into harming myself. I know that I would not let him teach my kids that it's okay to emotionally damage your wife.  I know that I would not teach my kids that they are only beautiful if someone else thinks they are.  I know.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's 2012 After All

So my last post was an expression of my frustration at my students perception of gender roles.  I should clarify that MOST of the jobs on the "Women Should Do" list are fine jobs and work that anyone should be proud to do.  What struck me most profoundly (besides the obvious "hooker" and "stripper" answers) was that most of the jobs "Women Should Do" were related to the arts, child care or home economics in some way.  Even the teaching positions were arts related and not technical.  These are wonderful professions to pursue; I even pursue one of them myself.  However, I am surprised that none of these kids thought of women in non-traditional roles.

In my shock and frustration, I decided to poll my two of my own children in the car that evening.  Paige, who is 13, and Jeremy, who is 8, had some answers that were more in line with the current times.  They still had some traditionally "female" jobs listed, but they didn't let those gender roles drive their answers.

Photo Journalist
Food Reporter
...and the list goes on.

Penguin washer at the zoo
Car builder
Lego designer
Pooper Scooper
Wrastler (that's how he said it)
...and the list goes on.

I especially like "Penguin Washer".  When I asked them what jobs women should NEVER do, they both asked me a question: "Why would there be a job a girl couldn't do?"  I have to tell you that I am very relieved that my children see the whole spectrum of possibilities that  await them.  I will do my level best to ensure that they never feel trapped by their sex, their socioeconomic status, or any other thing if they have a dream they want to pursue. 

The only job a woman CAN'T do, in my book, is sperm donor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Year Is It, Anyway?

Ok, it has been a while since I've been here. I'd love to say it's because I have been so busy (I have) or that it's because my kids and my job and my husband and my home need me more than you do (They do).  Sadly, though, it's just because I haven't been FIRED UP enough about anything to write.  Well guess what?  I'M PISSED!

I am doing a unit at school on gender portrayals in the media.  As an opening activity, I surveyed my students on two questions: "What are jobs that women should do?" and "What are jobs that women should not do?"  18 students took the task, 11 boys and 7 girls, aged 12-19.  The results made me weak.

I expected there to be some gender bias answers...because although we live in 2012, there are some stereotypes that prevail.  What I didn't expect was the OVERWHELMING "keep her in her place" responses that I got.  I had to ask myself, "What year is it, anyway?"

Here is the list of jobs my students said women should NEVER do:
*science teacher
*math teacher
*gym teacher
*truck driver
*factory worker
*lawn care
*police officer
*pro athlete
*cab driver
*business owner

Here is the list of jobs women SHOULD do.  Some answers were only offered once, some many times, and a couple EVERY single child offered.

* retail clerk
*home ec teacher
*day care provider/babysitter
*grade school teacher
*English teacher
*art teacher
*teeth cleaner (hygienist)
*flight attendant
*hair dresser
*nail tech
*fashion designer
*school counselor

Only one student said women should be pediatricians.  EVERY student said they should be strippers.  All 18 of them.

I feel sick to my stomach.  I can't imagine how it is 2012 and these are the attitudes this group of young men and women have toward gender roles.  I'd be interested to see how this list would look in another town...with another set of kids.  Is it the same? I'm not even sure my daughter knows that being a stripper is a job option for her (IT ISN'T!) or that someone out there thinks she should not consider going to medical school because she is a female.  And I guarantee you that my boys don't think it's acceptable for their sister to be a hooker.

So what now? How do you begin to change these attitudes in kids who have been raised to believe this?  If anyone has any suggestions, I'm listening.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Geography Bee

My middle school social studies class is learning states and capitals right now, and my high school history classes are doing a refresher on the same.  I realize this is something most kids learn in grade school, but I felt it was necessary to re-teach it because of some comments kids made during the course of our class discussions. After the first 15 ridiculous answers, I started writing them down.  After reading the following list, see if you agree with me that this is worth revisiting.

Statements and questions from students:

"I didn't know Oregon was a state. I thought it was a season."
"What state is France in?"
"The capital of Illinois is Chicago."
"The capital of Missouri is St. Louis."
"The capital of Maryland is Delaware."
"What ocean is in Colorado?"
"Why is Canada not a part of the United States anymore? Two years ago, it was."
"How long does it take you to drive to China?"

Questions I asked, and the answers students gave me:

Me: "What are the regions of the United States?"
Answer: "America, Mexico, Canada."

Me: "What is the capital of our country?"
Answers: "New York City" "Los Angeles" "Chicago"

Me: "What country borders the United States to the north?" 
Answer: "California"

Me: "What is the capital of Mississippi?"
Answer: "Tennessee"

Me: "What oceans touch the United States?"
Answer: "Mississippi River"

Me: "What states border Illinois?"
Answers: "Alabama", "Mississippi", "Springfield", "Missouri", "Idaho", and "St. Louis."

Me: "What is the smallest state?"
Answers: "East St. Louis" "Idaho"

Me: "What states are in the SOUTH WEST region of the United States?"
Answer: "Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi."

Me: "What states are in the NORTH EAST region of the United States?"
Answer: "Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Florida"

(It seems Texas and Tennessee are multi-taskers.)

Me: "What river runs from the top of the United States to the bottom of the United States?"
Answer: "Mississippi River"

(YAY!)  Now look at the follow-up questions...

Me: "In what state does the Mississippi river start  and in what state does it stop?"
Answer: "It starts in Illinois and ends in St. Louis."

Me: "Think about it...in what STATE does the Mississippi empty into the Gulf of Mexico?"
Answers: "Florida" "New York" "East St. Louis" "Chicago" "Las Vegas"

Me: "Name the Continents"
Answer: "Michigan, Brazil, Russia, Australia, North Pole, England"

I think it will be time well-spent...how about you?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Become Rich as an Alternative School Teacher

Most of you know veteran teachers make a decent living, but they work a lot of hours for the pay they receive. My technical work day is 7:45-2:45, but I really work 7-3, and then again at home each night from 9-11 (with Facebook breaks) and another 8 hours or more on weekends, plus lesson planning and curriculum writing in the summer.  When you break it down hourly, my pay is not actually a lot....I'm over minimum wage, but not by much!

Today, I had an epiphany.  If someone had been looking at me at the precise moment this thought dawned on me, they would have seen a little light bulb over my head. I know how to get rich working in an alternative school. It's quite simple, really.  We just need to change the pay schedule from salary to something akin to piecework. I would like to be paid by the "fuck you."

Actually, not just the f-you, but really any curse word or personal insult.  If I were compensated in this manner, at $25 per incident, I would have made approximately $625 today. I don't know how many of you out there are teachers, but those of you who are will agree that that sum is slightly higher than the sum we normally make. Do the math, and you will see that students cursed at me (not around me, AT me) 25 times today. Now granted, it is a full moon, so this was a little excessive. There are days when I would only make $75 or so...but lots of days, I'd be rolling in the dough.

This pay schedule would do more than raise my pay...it would hold teachers in alternative schools accountable.  I have found that in my experience, I get cursed out when I am asking kids to learn something new that they might be unfamiliar with, when I am holding them accountable for some socially unacceptable behavior, when I am pushing them to stay on task, and when I am making them take an honest look at themselves and where they stand in the world. So if you think about it, the best teachers in alternative schools are getting cursed out the most and will therefore reap the financial benefits of pushing their students to be the best people they can be.

I think I will take this plan to the White House.  It's definitely better than No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.