Monday, February 28, 2011

Who Do you See?

I know that I am often guilty of ignoring the people around me, while being "social," via some technological device. I know that at times the ringing of phones and clicking of keys has replaced the family sitting around and chatting, or playing a game, or even just making eye contact.  I wrote this poem when I was feeling especially frustrated by my own choices, and especially invisible to the people I live with.

The heavy woman steps
off the curb
in front of the car
and you scream, "Mad Cow Alert!"
"Hey, Get Out Of The Road!"
and you never know
that today
she wiped the butt of her
and lost her job
for taking yet one more day off work.

The teenager who lives,
under your roof
and once grew under your heart
sits sullen and silent
through dinner
and you miss the flash of humor, 
the twinkling fingers
send out via a text to anyone
but you

The dirty, grizzled man
approaching in the parking lot,
you dart past
with eyes averted
out camping last weekend
another, dirtier man
walked up to your camp, carrying a hatchet
and you smiled a welcome
the setting,
and being "out of service"
defining how closely you look.

Do you see me?

Sometime you passed my way
under the florescent lights
of the grocery store
and saw a germanic hausfrau
a tired teacher
no-body interesting
so you forgot me.

Sometimes you turn away
from the people in your house
eager to hear what I have to say
curious how I will reply to your post
where we share dreams
and hopes
common experiences
and individual fears

You don't know my name
or even suspect
I might have been the cow
who blocked your car.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I can recharge my batteries, but can our kids?

 I think of myself in a lot of different roles and a lot of those are roles that drain my energy and exhaust me.  I am a Mom, a wife, a teacher, a daughter, a friend, a writer, an artist, an Aunt, a pet owner . . . and the list feels like it doesn't stop.  But when I feel emptied and listless, those are the same roles that turn around and give back to me, until my joy and energy are filled to the brim and ready to be shared out once more.

When I can't think of a new thing to teach, or another detail to put in my story, when I pick up my pencil and swirl it listlessly across the page and toss both the pencil and paper away, When my sons seem to generate one call after another from frustrated school administrators and my Mom is sick and so is the dog

That is always when I suddenly walk down a new path and come face to face with wonder.  When a child makes me laugh and a giant wave makes me reach for my camera as it floods my vision and my imagination

There is a waxing and waning of energy.  I give and receive it so often that I usually don't notice exactly how often I am met with the very thing I need.

  so what am I concerned about?  I have always been around schools.  i was a teachers daughter, a student in public schools, a college student, then teacher and a mom. My focus and my life flows to a calendar that begins the year around labor day.  But schools change, slowly they shift back and forth along a pendulum, responding to the needs of the students, the values of the community, the budget, etc. 

I don't like the changes I see lately.  I see the same things a lot of you do. There are concerns with anger and bullying and defiance.  There are budget shortages and teacher cut backs and huge class sizes, and huge and out-of-shape students.

 I love the kids I work with, but I caught myself breathing a sigh of relief that my own children are not just starting school.  I wouldn't want them to face the sad state that I see ahead of so many students in the lower grades now.

     Recently I was asked to come in and talk to some middle school classes and some upper grade school classes about my novel.  Instead of coming in as their teacher, they saw me as a writer, and there was a degree of fascination and awe in the way they talked to me, and a different set of topics than I talk about when I teach them.  I was saddened to hear their response to my questions about "Have you ever taken play dough and rolled a snake or a ball, and then flattened it?"  Of course they had, Right?


And in a kindergarten room, I pulled out a box of water color paints, In JANUARY, and the first response was the universal one, "What's That?"    Half way through kindergarten and they had never painted?
I looked at the kids and asked if they could tell me where the music room was, and no-one under 5th grade knew.

I look around my house, at walls overcrowded with my kids paintings, and shelves of amateur pottery and I remember the delight in singing Raffi and Hap Palmer songs for the millionth time.

They told me they wanted to be writer's and artists, but their teachers tell me they have to follow scripted lessons, heavy only on the subjects that will be tested.  The teacher who spent a year in Japan leaves her Japanese items at home because it won't be tested.  The former soccer star, never takes her class outside, because the day follows the script provided by the publishers of the textbooks.  The field trip to the marine mammal rescue center, no longer has time to happen, until those last two weeks, when the tests are finally over and a bit of real education can slip in.

We all know in our hearts that the things we loved in school were the creative moments.  We dreamed of painting, or doing experiments, or singing, or winning Red-Rover, (Can't play that, someone might get hurt) or spinning on the merry-go-round, (those are too dangerous too).

We didn't long to go to school to sit packed in rows of desks and recite formula learning, so that we could vomit it back out onto the scantron bubble test answer form.

And in a lot of ways, we are failing our kids by focusing so Damn much on if they can pass!