Five-Square Miles

This is one of those writing-to-publish moments I may regret. I am still so romanced and naive about the whole “Internet is permanent” thing that sometimes it takes over my better judgment, what little there is of it. I will rationalize it with this: I am a believer in sharing of credible information, so I will take up that banner, and march bravely on. You will understand in a moment.

This school year, so far, has been amazing. I asked our intrepid school counselor to put as many of my seventh grade students on my eighth grade rosters, and he did, and I am thoroughly enjoying meeting many wonderful new students. Let me qualify “wonderful:” these students have already been freely expressing emotions, curiosity, creativity, and genuine kindness. I have one I am concerned about for many reasons, and one I am concerned about for other reasons, but I can see how building a community can help pull the tide of compassion to all of our benefits. Our new principal is just what I and the school needed: direct, bullet-pointed and logical. It feels refreshing to have data provided and time to work in PLCs to analyze it, because as we all know, data without analysis are rubbish (and yes, data are plural, as in “Data R Us.”) At first glance, “my” reading numbers for seventh grade jumped up (I did not teach seventh grade in 2011-2012, but my eighth grade students were hovering around 55%):

7th Grade Reading
Year School District State
2005-06 WASL 47.2% 56.4% 61.5%
2006-07 WASL 56.4% 63.0% 68.7%
2007-08 WASL 51.6% 60.0% 63.1%
2008-09 WASL 49.2% 51.5% 59.3%
2009-10 MSP 47.7% 57.7% 63.4%
2010-11 MSP 43.7% 54.9% 56.5%
2011-12 MSP 57.6% 69.3% 71.2%

Writing: Not so great. I have a few theories on this, but suffice it to say when we analyzed our students’ writing last year, we spent a lot of time looking at each others’ students, and not our own, and feedback to our own students was starved of time. That was one hill I “died” on, but will continue the discussion if I need to do so.

It was also interesting to note the rise of free and reduced lunches, from around 65% to almost 75%. Well, I say “interesting,” but that is not the word. It’s not interesting at all, or surprising. We are still reeling from the fall-out of Wall Street greed, and will be recovering from that debacle for decades.

Which bring me to yesterday morning. My husband of almost twenty years has Type II Diabetes and atrial fibrillation. He blacked out yesterday morning, and we went to the new emergency room. He’s fine, and will be fine. Ignoring my logic and instincts, because I operate on both, which comes in the form of living in a constant state of asking “Is this foreshadowing in my real life?!”, I had thought to myself I had better get sub plans together, and my desk organized, in case something happened to him. And sure enough, between the 6:30 AM drives to jazz band for our boys, and meetings (see data above to know topic of said meetings) and then my own fuzzy-brain-ness at the end of the day (middle schoolers are an enthusiastic bunch), I didn’t get to it. I have NEVER not had a sub folder ready to go in my room, until of course, yesterday. Needless to say that is one thing I will be doing this weekend. To be clear: I did not share the story of my husband because I am seeking sympathy: I shared it because we are all going through something now, and seem to be on collective survivor mode. This is not good.

So, as I am checking emails and such, a very dear friend was quering me on the state of things in Chicago. Chicago? What? Why? I responded, mystified, and then realized, “Oh! Chicago!! The strike!” I was so self-absorbed in my own little patch of earth, my husband, my students, my data, my whatever, I have barely noticed. And that saddens me. Punching through the radio dial earlier this week, I heard one angry Chicago mother, screaming about the teachers’ greed. I turned to the rock station. I read one of my favorite bloggers, Teacher Tom, and his insights:

and I looked over another one of my favorite teacher bloggers, John Spencer, to see if he had anything to say, but I couldn’t find a specific post.

But here is what I think, and have thought:

  • This is more of the same. Greed, bullying, and disregard for what makes our country superlative: free, public education.
  • We lose that, we lose everything.

For those of you who think that voting for the “rich guys” is going to make you part of their club, that ‘poverty by assoication’ is what you get when you vote for financial reform and ensuring those at the top pay their fair share, I am pleading with you–consider, well, me. I am one of the good guys. I am trying my damndest to education our children. I want our children to be able to articulate why they want to work for your company. I want our children to help make the world better, be it a software engineer, doctor, performance artist, writer, or risk analyst. Don’t believe the bully-spin.

We teachers all know of students whose parents have more than they can handle now. Single moms, more than three children, high unemployment, and their children begin to run feral. They entertain themselves by filming students fighting, or worse. They entertain themselves by manipulating their peers, and using technology to devastate each other. They use media to propogate hate and lies.

Wonder where they learn it?

So, I am going to do some thinking outside of my five-mile patch, and see if I can do some world-changing, too.



Of course, pondering the woulda-couldas, I realized this post was even leaning too much to the bleeding heart side, even for me. I had the chance to review it with my respected friend, who is a genius economics smarty-pants. I do not want to paint too broad of a stroke over the word “greed.” We can point to specific causes, for example the repeal of the Glass-Steagal act. 

But–I am trying to pin down my point of all this: perhaps it’s while we’re all living our daily lives, trying to work, trying to raise families, trying to do whatever it is that brings us joy, we lose sight of our bigger goals. If I’m worried about my husband, and I’m worried about health benefits, then I’m worried if something happens to him, then I’m worried about trying to raise two sons on a teacher’s salary, then I’m worried I won’t be able to pay for their college, and so on, so that when things like the repeal of the Glass-Steagal acts happen, no one is on the watch, no one knows their history, and no one is there to try to keep it from repeating itself. This is squarely my opinion: the wealthiest want us to forget. They want us to not know. They want us to stay ignorant, so that we don’t say “Wait a red-hot minute!” They claim we are the bombastic, the audacious, the entitled and the ungrateful.

I just say –you’re breaking my heart, bleeding or not.