Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I'm not a pessimist or a doom-and-gloom guy. I am a realist. To suddenly land in an urban middle school with high hopes and dreams is akin to Russian roulette. Ten days deep into this school year, those new to Hood Middle School will find themselves aghast at the avalanche of paperwork, amazed by the total lack of respect they receive from roughly half of the students, and astounded by the realization that the teacher is the lowest form of life in the urban ed gene pool.
By the end of the year, they will be beaten down physically and emotionally, wondering why in the world did they trust their idealistic instincts. So sad. And it explains why we no longer get the best and brightest as teachers. One of the most disturbing phenomena I witnessed in my final teaching years was the influx of teachers who weren't very smart and tended to be misfits. Another problem was hirees from west African nations...bless their hearts, they don't speak English well enough to be understood. Pity the poor students these days.
Oh, yeah. That other group of teachers...the oldies. I used to be one. Those are the ones who are pretty much locked in - they're there because they have no recourse. They are beaten down as well, but hang around because there are no better options in their lives. They wish they were somewhere else, and because of that, their teaching is substandard...many times, disturbingly substandard.
By now, I know you're convinced that I'm a bitter old man. Honestly, I'm not. But I have witnessed what I've described over and over again. In many cases, those who've been chewed up and spit out at Hood are wonderful, lovely people. But those qualities don't often work in the classroom anymore. In order for me to survive all those years, I almost had to adopt a different personna. I had to be tougher, more assertive and aggressive than my usual nature...all the while not compromising my Christian faith. In the end, I retired sooner than I wanted to. In the end, the environment won out, eroding my will to stay even though I was at the very top of the DISD pay scale.
Is there a place in America for someone who wants to teach? A place where they can truly teach and feel fulfilled at the end of the day? Sure! I've dropped in on the middle school down the farm-to-market road from us. No one is wandering the halls looking for trouble. When I peer into the classrooms, I see teachers teaching and students learning. No distractions, no danger. So I assume that if one moves away from the urban areas, situations like this can be found all over America. And, of course, there is the private school option. The only such operation with which I'm intimately familiar is Dallas Christian. I can truthfully say that the only singular way DC was like Hood is that both could be referred to as "schools". My three kiddos used their DC educations as a springboard to successful college careers and ultimately successful professional careers.
So now I'm mostly detached from the Hood environment, connected only by the fact that I drive a school bus there. I let the students off the bus and joyfully drive back to the bus lot, leaving the challenges of urban education to those who aren't as fortunate as I. God bless them.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
About five or six years ago, the eleventh plague descended upon our little patch of real estate out here in the country. When it finally abated about three years ago, I would almost rank it up there with loss of the firstborn. Of course, I'm referencing the dreaded grasshopper.
Back then the little critters were voraciously eating everything, especially the line of photinias that separate us from the property to the north. Walking out to the road to get the morning paper became a forced march through enemy territory as scores of 'hoppers jumped toward you, some landing on your clothing and bare skin.
I simply don't know why God created them. They have caused billions of dollars in crop damage in the past 100 years; probably billions of drachmas back in Egyptian times, too, or whatever their currency was. They're ugly, too.
I scarcely noticed them this year until I finally got around to putting in a flower bed in front of our house. A couple of weeks ago, I planted 208 vinca and about 4 days later, word spread throughout the grasshopper community that dinner was served. So, with powers vested in me as commander-in-chief of my property, I've declared war. My first weapon was Howard Garrettesque - diotamacious earth...a powderly white substance that makes microscopic cuts in the skin of insects and vermin, thus killing them over the course of 3 or 4 days. I would head out to the garden in the heat of the day, a time that the hoppers like to spend sunning on the bricks next to the flowers. I got 'em good, too.
But now, reinforcements are arriving. Not content to let these fresh guys live more than a couple of hours, I'm blasting them with straight shots of insecticide. It may be a protracted war that I'm getting into. I can't let the enemy get the upper hand.
(Do you really think that Albert Schweitzer picked up every ant that got in his way? Neither do I.)