Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Talk To Me...

To Parents of Children in Public Schools:

Don't talk to me about how bad your school district is because of the low test scores and tightly stretched budgets. Don't tell me that teachers are overpaid for the poor work that they do. Don't complain to me that your kid's teachers aren't actually "teaching" them because they have to do so much paperwork. If you try to get me to commiserate with you about the poor quality of public education in the United States, TOUGH. I will not join you in your ignorant rantings and instead I might just tell you off. 

A few weeks ago my chiropractor admonished me that since I was in a certain school district I should either home school or private school my daughter. News flash: MY HUSBAND TEACHES IN THAT DISTRICT. By telling me that the school district where my husband teaches is "horrible" and will result in the "poor education" of my daughter you are directly insulting me and the hard work my husband does and you are showing your utter stupidity.Yes, I said stupidity and here is why:

It bugs me to no end when people complain about all the time teachers waste documenting rather than teaching, as if teachers have a choice. Parents are the ones primarily responsible for educating their children and it is because they have abdicated this responsibility that teachers have to document "results." If parents were involved as they should be, there would be no need to know how their kids are stacking up to others because the parents would know intuitively. Too much blame is placed on teachers by parents who willingly give away the right to educate their children to bureaucrats who care of little but test scores and bottom lines.
I wrote that in response to an article posted on facebook that asserted that the reason that teachers don't teach exciting lessons is because they are too busy recording results. Guess why they have to do that? Because parents WANT to see results. Tax payers want results. They want to know that their dollars are making a difference. Test scores show only a small portion of what others find meaningful and in my opinion they mean jack squat. I was an honors students and I still randomly filled in bubbles on the standardized tests we were forced to take every year for days, and days and days. I did it because I was bored and I know I was not alone. What makes you think that children today are any different?
The real teacher of any child is the parent. Plain and simple. If you do not like how your child is being educated, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I have observed that while people enjoy complaining about teachers and school districts on blogs, facebook, grocery stores, in mommy groups and even in chiropractic offices, none of them seems willing to step up and take their child's education fully in their own hands. I knew before I had a child that I was willing to be my daughters teacher if that was what she needed and I stand by that.
I also reject the notion that going to a "bad" school will destroy your child's chance at getting into a good college. I went to a bad school with low test scores in a bad area and had a few stinky teachers, but guess what? I also had great ones, the vast majority actually. When I struggled in math class my mom stepped up and helped me herself. I graduated at the top of my class from high school and college and continue to have a love of learning. I consider my education a success, however I know that the foundation of my education did not occur in a classroom.  My education was fostered at home from a young age and those principles I learned as a child helped me through the under qualified teachers, drugs and violence, and ridiculous time wasting standardized tests of that "bad" school. The key is being fully involved, knowing your child's educational needs and a willingness to do whatever it takes to meet those needs even if it means teaching them primarily on your own.
As the daughter and wife of educators I have seen how hard my mother, husband (and yes, even his coworkers) work. They are passionate about what they teach. They are just as frustrated as you are about not being able to spend time preparing and teaching great lessons because they have to spend such a huge chunk of their time with paperwork, documenting student's "progress" and being trained on how to write lesson plans using complicated charts and buzz words to satisfy the bureaucracy. But parents are what it comes down to. You are your child's first teacher and it should always be that you are their PRIMARY educator. No matter how great the teacher, they will never make up for you, the parent.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Today is my D-Day. Today, had my pregnancy gone as hoped I would have been 40 weeks. Maybe I would have already had a baby right now? Maybe I would be huge and uncomfortable wishing desperately that labor would begin and doing everything that I could possibly imagine to get it to start? Today there are lots of "maybe's" and "what-if's" and still the old "why me, why anyone?" I think it was appropriate that I announced our foster parenting plans on our family blog today and it also helps that today is sunny and warm in the middle of February; a day that makes me think of the coming Spring and life and renewal.

I think today might be a good day to get out and spend a lot of time enjoying the beautiful moments and then tomorrow life will continue as usual, the cold winter weather will resume, and I will look forward to a future which is not what it could have been.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Do You View Yourself?

I have been really quiet lately in the blog world. The slow pace of my life in winter has that effect but the lull also seems to be extending into the realm of the internet usage. For example, I quit a web forum that I had been actively participating in for a few years now, stopped reading so many blogs and making comments and haven't been as active on Facebook. For whatever reason I feel the need to make my interactions count and I have been feeling that my interactions on the internet are mostly shallow. On the flip side I have been writing more thank you notes and trying to encourage others.  I have spent a lot of time knitting and consequently pondering on my life, blessings and struggles.

One of the things I have been learning on this journey of introspection is to stop viewing myself in relation to others. It is a constant struggle for me. Probably the most difficult thing is seeing the families of my friends grow while ours stubbornly remains the same size. The other day my friend asked me if I would be fulfilled with having just Ravenna. At the time I said "yes" but added that of course I would still like to have more children. Later a familiar nagging thought crept into my brain: "But if I don't have any more children I will never be a real mother." This doesn't come from nowhere, people. I have often been told in conversation with mothers of many children (Have you ever said this?): "Oh, you will understand when you have x many kids" which I took as meaning that I could never understand because I don't have as many children. What a way to feel shafted in the kid department! While my days are full and steady with my one darling child, often I feel guilty because I have so much more time than these women with more children but also guilty because my child is missing out and that is my fault.

Here again we come back to me learning not to view myself in relation to others. I will never understand how those women with such and such number of kids feels because I am not them and they are not me.  If I had five children I might be able to have empathy for the shared struggles of another mother who has the same number but I will never understand how her life is. My life is my own and learning that requires constant reminders to myself that what I accomplish and what I do not has nothing to do with anyone else. I am a real mother if I choose to see myself as one, period.

Motherhood is just one aspect of my comparative inadequacy that I have been dwelling on lately but really this applies to anything in my life: Am I a good enough cook? Does my house look tacky? Is my conversation boring to people? Do I not read enough books? Is there enough romance in my relationship? Do I have a strong enough testimony? All of these questions are about some idea of perfection that does not exist. They have to do with how I perceive other people and their talents and abilities. It isn't bad to want to emulate someone and to be better, but what I need is to be comfortable with myself as I am now and build my questions/goals around that: Do I enjoy the food I cook and does it nourish and sustain my family? Does my home fulfill its purpose? Do I do my best to uplift and connect with people in conversation? Am I getting enjoyment and education out of the books I read? Am I doing my best to be a supportive and loving wife? Am I making an effort to build my relationship with God every day?

The internet is a fabulous tool for self-depreciation. One only has to spend some time blog hopping to see where we just aren't "enough" compared to others. Getting an inferiority complex from viewing Mormon Mommy Blogs may just be my problem so take this for what you will; I have found that taking a step away from the internet to gain perspective on how what I was viewing was affecting my perception of myself and others was a great eye opener and well worth the missed status updates. I want my life to bring me, my family and others joy, so that is what I will focus on from now on. I can promise inferior quality photos, general corniness and probably a lot of stuff that will make you roll your eyes. Enjoy!