F. Scott Fitzgerald said,

"There are no second acts in American lives."

Most people think he was crazy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Doing the Best We Can

The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards' website has had difficulty posting this years' winners--and I'm not upset.
Last year I attempted to become nationally board certified, which is something many teachers here in North Carolina do. It required a lot of detailed documentation, evidence, and reflection. It also requires an on-line test of content-specific knowledge (in my case, English) and case-study reflection and recommendations.
In short, it's a butt-load of work.

I was happy to do it, because I think I'm a pretty good teacher. I have always claimed to do the best I can with what I have--in terms of supplies, equipment, and kids. I think I bring something to the table that other teachers may not--enough knowledge to integrate information from other content areas--art, history, psychology, business...even science--to make kids understand that everything relates in one way or another and that learning and understanding should never occur in isolation.

But those details--page numbering, word and time limitations, video quality? Those things kicked my ass. And I didn't pass. The things I did well, I did very, very well. But the things I failed, I failed miserably.

So I decided (to the tune of a month's mortgage payment) to re-try. And as I put the last piece of evidence in the envelope to send away to be judged, I realized that it just didn't matter.

On my first attempt last year, I was assigned a mentor, a teacher who was already board-certified, to help me wade through the myriad crap and read my entries. After I had the first entry done, I contacted my point person to see if she would read it and make suggestions. I e-mailed her through our school contact list (she was at another school in my district) and didn't hear from her for nearly three weeks. At that point she apologized, said she'd been out for two weeks, and was just checking e-mail when she saw mine. She explained that she was going to be out again, but that I could send it to her at home and she would read it there and make notes.
I learned in subsequent e-mails that she was fighting breast cancer--in her thirties--with two preschool-aged children and a husband who was as in need of attention as she was, thinking he was going to lose her. She couldn't work, and didn't have the energy to both care for two active children and fight the disease and I wasn't going to add one more thing to her plate. So I told her not to worry about my national boards, and asked if I could do anything for her. She politely declined, said her mom was staying with them, and that was the end of our connection.

I plowed through the plethora of instructions, scheduling and minutia, determined to get the stuff done and in on time, worried less about the quality and more about the rules and put the other teacher's troubles out of my mind. I knew I would have the opportunity to re-do anything that was sub-par and sent it off. I took the computer test, realizing part-way through that I had bungled the first half by not doing the second page of some of the selections and running out of time on other parts and knew that I could take it over if necessary.

But when I saw a familiar name in the obituaries, I knew that the teacher who was to be my mentor was not getting any more do-overs. That her time had been cut short NOT by a computer test, but by a disease that had left two small children without a mother, a scared young man without a wife, and grieving parents without a child.

I am not a great teacher. I hope I am a good one. But if I don't get a passing score, I really won't care. Because now I am less about doing the best I can with what I have and more about doing the most I can with the time I've got.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ignorance is, well....something.

I was chatting with a friend, talking about the latino kids in my classroom. I mentioned how difficult it must be for them to transition between Spanish and English and why vocabulary is keeping them from reaching their full potential. I enjoy having them help me with my Spanish and they have taught me the simple phrases that I can use to give instructions. (I've mastered "sit down," but I'm still working on "get your journals.")

My friend mentioned that she would love to learn Spanish, but she'd rather learn Vietnamese, because then she could listen to the conversations of the technicians in her nail salon. Another friend, overhearing the conversation, said "Your nail ladies are Vietnamese? Mine are asian."

How does one respond to that statement?

I know that geography has taken a back seat to "tested" subjects--reading and math--but if we want to keep up with the rest of the globe, we can't ignore geography, science and history. Because we don't want folks to think we are idiots.

My husband has a story about a VP in his office, talking business with a gentleman from Austria. Apparently, after a drink or two, the gentleman suggested the VP take his wife to Vienna for a romantic vacation. The VP replied that he'd love to go to Vienna, as he always wanted to visit Scandanavia.

WTF? Would you want to do business with a group who doesn't even know where your country is? (To add insult to injury, the VP continued to argue, then offered to beat the Austrian up if he didn't admit that Vienna was in a northern European country. That's what REALLY makes this country great, folks!)

Moving to the common core standards (more about this later) is supposed to take care of the heavy emphasis on the multiple-choice reading and math tests, but what it cannot do is teach kids that there are things you just need to know--like knowing where the people with whom you do business are from--simply to keep from looking like an idiot.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What am I doing now??

It's been a few months since I posted at this site--mainly because I have completely changed my focus. I originally thought I was going to segue from being in the classroom to doing educational and corporate training consultation, but when states had no more money to spend on education and corporations were struggling to keep their doors open, that idea kind of $hit the bed.

Then, I thought I'd go back to my first love: making stuff. Like Martha Stewart, but not as old and huffy. But I need a regular income, and the pay for being a "Lifestyle Guru" is sporadic at best.

Next, I thought "to heck with it all...I'll find something FUN to do for a living!" But all fun has apparently been cancelled.

So I went back to work this fall, my tail between my legs. Meanwhile, opportunities to become that "Lifestyle Guru" have begun to appear.
Mysterious ways, my peeps....mysterious ways.

I have begun a new blog on a new site which provides me with the opportunity to grow as (I hope) my business will. I am continuing to work for my regular income, and this blog, Fifty, will be about education. It will be a compilation of information, ideas, and what is going on in education today: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It will provide insight from the folks on the front lines...the teachers who are trying to do what's best for kids and learning. If you're interested in education, this may be a good blog to check up on now and then!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An open letter to all the folks who won't interview me...

Dear Sillyheads,
I have been led to believe that one of the reasons you will not honor me with an interview is because I am over fifty. Not much over fifty, but still over fifty. As if the fifty is a line you refuse to cross.

Oh, I know it's ILLEGAL to discriminate on the basis of age, but I'm no dummy. You use terms like "up-to-date-technology" and "energized workforce" but I know EXACTLY what you mean. You mean you think I'm too old to work for you.

Let me tell you something, Bukkoes--I have a hell of a lot more to offer you than someone in her twenties, thirties and forties. Not that you're going to let me prove it or anything, but here's the lowdown:

1. I have more energy to dedicate to my work than someone younger. I know! Hard to believe, isn't it? The old broad can focus more energy on work! Why? Because she isn't focusing her energy on her kids! My kids are grown! They don't need me to read to them, or help them with homework, or chauffer them to the myriad activities. I'm not staying up at night, waiting for them to come home from whatever-the-hell teenagers come home from. Nope! I can put that "kid energy" into my job.

2. I will be honest when I need to be, but will be gentle in that delivery. I won't ignore or gloss over a problem (unlike the terminally vapid Katie Holmes on the finale of "So You Think You Can Dance), but I'm not gonna verbally kick you in the balls, either. If there's a problem, I'll let you know. And I'll also offer ways to fix it. Because that's what mature women do--it's in our nature to help fix problems.

3. I will not have to take maternity leave.

4. Or move to be with a man.

5. If it's EXPERIENCE you want, then who better than a fifty-year-old woman? We have experience. A whole lot of it. I've driven home just in front of a tornado and not pi$$ed my pants, so you know I can handle an irate co-worker. I've spent the holidays on a broken foot with two kids under 12, so you know I can work through minor inconveniences. I got my Masters degree while working full time, raising those same two kids under the age of 12 AND taking care of a household with little help from my spouse so you know I can organize. Throw it at me. I'll handle it.

In reality, I think you are chicken$hit. I think if all women over the age of fifty got together, we could take over this entire country. And we would not play your silly games. You would have no other choice than to straighten up and fly right.

The fact that you are afraid lets me know that I am right.
Your loss.
I'll take my wonderful self elsewhere.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Who Put the Poopyheads in Charge?

One of the things I've noticed lately is that there are a whole lot of folks who have their own agendas. (Kind of like our representation in Washington.) While I am a big proponent of goal-setting, I feel as though one's right to extend one's arm stops where that arm would interfere with another's body. Unless, of course, that arm was invited.

There has been a lot of discussion about the economy as of late. We could be moving into a double-dip recession, and times are difficult for a lot of people. And while I'm not suggesting we should all become Communists, I do think that the people who have agendas need to stop, take a breath, and think about how their personal desires might impact other folks.

I hate to admit it, but people my age tend to be a tad soulless when it comes to...well, just about anything. I'm not talking about individuals, but of the collective. "Stuff-worth" has replaced self-worth, and we love our stuff. McMansions, expensive automobiles, Coach handbags, and gourmet meals...we have replaced what should be intrinsic in nature with extrinsic trappings. I'm not saying that we should all live in cold water flats, but we have our priorities skewed.

According to the AFL/CIO (okay--I'm going to get a lot of flak here for using their data, but please hear me out), average total compensation for a CEO in a Standard & Poors top 500 company is over ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. That's for ONE YEAR, people! Even if the AFL/CIO has inflated the amount to double the 'real' amount, it's still over $5.5M for a year's employment.

Think about it.

I know that CEOs work hard. Some of them are very well-educated. Some of them give up a 'normal' life in order to get to the top of their respective fields. But many of them are irresponsible, buttholey folks who will think only of themselves and not of the people whose daily lives are impacted by the decisions they make.

Oracle Packaging is one of those companies. The CEO of this small, privately held company has basically used the company as his own personal bank account, taking all profits for himself and not reinvesting or saving it as working capital. Multi-million dollar mansions? Check. Expensive gifts for various cronies? Check. First-class travel? Check. 350 employees who will be out of work when the creditors come knocking? Check.

Where do we find leadership with common sense for the common good? Certainly not in business. Not in Washington, either. And for a lot of us, it's not in our social circles. But we have the power to turn this tide, if we so choose. For some of us, it's time to quit looking outside for our self-esteem, and start looking inside. I think we can do it if we all work together.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life is Hard, Then You Die.

...that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Okay...not really. Actually, I have been incredibly fortunate. My parents were awesome, my hometown idyllic, I have life-long friends (truly--from shortly after birth, right Hoop?) and everything was relatively easy. I did what I was supposed to do...graduated from college, found a great guy with a bright future, had the good fortune to be able to to stay home with my two awesome kids, and went back to work at a job that (up until recently) I love.

But life doesn't always go according to plans. Sometimes, $hit happens and you have to steer onto a different course. My peeps in Wayne County would call these "character building opportunities."
I call it "maybe losing my house."

But I also look at it as an opportunity. It's a timely topic: professionals who are without their incredible salaries and who are cast afloat--without the "Greed is Good" lifeboat they had assigned themselves to.
Oh, yes...I see so much potential.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When Do I Get My Turn?

There are people out there who assured me that my fifties would be easier than my forties. Like an idiot, I believed them.

Other people seemed to believe that in this decade of life, I would be able to do those things that I really WANTED to do...not just the things I had to.

Things I want to do, but can cross off my list 'cause it'll never happen:
*be a movie star
*marry a prince
*grow three more inches
*make a zillion dollars
*live in a big city
*be one of the 'cool' people.

Any advice from the youngsters?