Displaying 1 - 10 of 218 entries.

Poverty, John Edwards, and the American Dream

  • Posted on August 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

In the beginning of this video from John Oliver he talks about income inequality, you know whether you get your HBO legally or illegally.  I had to laugh from the get go as I have to go to watch John from YouTube because I don’t have HBO.   John has such a way of getting to the heart of things and explaining how we are too stupid for our own good.  It was even funny when he said we have to have some Brit telling us what we probably should already know, and wouldn’t you know it he is a Brit as well.

It isn’t easy for politicians to push in this area because corporations and the wealthy are really driving the political agenda.  The last politician that really talked about poverty and inequality was John Edwards.  His own personal issues took him down, you know having an affair on his cancer stricken wife, and this essentially put a damper on the issues he was talking about, poverty and inequality.  He was going to be the voice for the voiceless.  John’s agenda was the driving force of the 2008 election.  He took Senator Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 trip through Middle America to put a spotlight on the issues of the poor and disenfranchised.  It wasn’t Hillary or Barak that were driving the discussion.  John was the one hitting on Hillary and trying to get Barak to chime in during debates.  John was the one that talked about fair wages and single payer.  John may have been an imperfect messenger but killing the messenger seems to have killed the message.  It really makes me wonder why other politicians can do what John did and survive politically.  Could it be the message that was really the target?

Are politicians today so corrupt and tied to their corporate masters that they cannot see what it is doing to our country?Perhaps they just don’t care?  When I was young, I had politicians that I looked up to, respected, and even idealized.  Bobby Kennedy was one of them.  These are his words, “It is a revolutionary world we live in. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments.”

These timely words could have been spoken today.  Our country is far more concerned about the military machine than the plight of the poor and middle class.  The ideals of my youth have grown to skepticism in my maturing age.  The people that seem to make the most sense about political matters are entertainers like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver.  With the exceptions of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I cannot name politicians that make me feel that sense of respect and admiration for standing up for what is right and just.  There is a gap in our country between the rich and the poor, the powerbrokers and the bottom feeders that just try to be that crab in the basket that wants so badly to reach the top.  Someone at the bottom keeps tugging him down and someone at the top puts a lid on the pot.  In the end, he is cooked into a system that has no freedom because he is stuck to a class system that only recognizes the rich and the connected.  If you have connections, you are going places.  If you are poor, you are probably stuck in a system that is working to keep you down and under control.  I always find it interesting that your credit report can be tied to so many things that help or hurt you.  If you have good credit, you get lower insurance, lower interest on loans, and more respect.  If you are poor and you have a tough time paying your bills, you can now expect even more problems because your credit is going to tie you to a life of debt.  They say we don’t have a debtor’s prison any more but that really is not true.  Students getting out of college soon discover they have a world of hurt when they start trying to pay back their student loans.  Those loans can follow them for their entire life if they are stuck in some low wage job with no chance of real promotion.

I know I tend to rant about certain things but I am an observer in a system that I see is stacked for certain people.  It doesn’t matter where you live today, there seems to be two different worlds:  The world for the rich and connected and the one for everyone else.  If you or your family is “someone” in your community, then you will have a better chance at those connections, even if you aren’t wealthy.  They can lead to jobs, scholarships, and ultimately success.  If you are poor with few or no connections, you are like the crab in the pot.  You have to work extra hard to climb to the top.  Some at the bottom will be pulling you down and sometimes it is through their own lack of understanding the system.  It always amazes me when the poor vote for people backed by the right wing establishment.  These people are controlled through religion and do-goodery.  Yeah, I made that word up, so deal with it.  They are so busy trying to be on the right side of the “Kingdom of God” that they forget about the here and now.  They believe that old Biblical saying about the rich and the camel through the eye of a needle when it comes to heaven.  They are kept stupid by a system that wants to maintain the status quo.  They sacrifice their kids for war because they are inclined to believe that wars really matter.  They don’t believe in global warming because they have been told that these things are cyclical.  They are waiting for the rapture and worried about public schools putting some harebrained idea in their kids’ heads.  Then there are the other poor:  The ones that are so down on their economic luck that they have lost all hope.  They don’t see how they can change anything.  They may not be into religion and surely don’t bother to vote because they don’t have the time to worry about such matters.  They are too tired trying to keep food on the table and their bills paid.  Life for them is just a continuous sucking machine of bad luck and meager existence.

From my perspective, as a nation we seem to be more concerned with the poor in other countries than in our own.  I used to feel that sense of pride in my country and what “we” stood for in the world.  Today I have many mixed feelings.  Maybe I have become immune to the propaganda.  It is hard when I watch protesters screaming at kids on the border.  That behavior is in direct contrast to what I thought we were as a nation.  It is hard when I can remember being a student at Michigan State University back in the seventies and I was full of idealism.  Reality is so much more complicated than that young idealism that I held in my youth.  I worry about the young students I teach today.  What kind of world we are leaving them?  If they are poor and not connected what do they have to look forward to, a world of debt and stress?  People used to be able to live a good life by working for GM on the line.  Today, that just isn’t possible.  Most families need two incomes and if you are poor, you are probably going to need some kind of assistance to have a decent life.  I do not have all the answers I just know that the politicians today disappoint me with their constant representation of their corporate donors and not the poor and the voiceless.

Michael Vey and Glenn Beck

  • Posted on July 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Michael VeyAs a middle school teacher, I am interested in my students.  Our school has devoted the first 15 minutes of the day to reading in an effort to get more students devoted to reading.  I often ask the students what they are reading to see what interests them.  A couple years ago, I decided to read what some of them seemed to like reading.  I’ve read many different books such as all of the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent series.  Recently, many of the students were telling me they were reading “Michael Vey”.  Since it seemed to be popular, I decided to read it.  It actually “Michael Vey:  The Prisoner of Cell 25”.  As I was nearing the end of the book, I discovered something that shocked me.  There is a connection between Michael Vey and Glenn Beck.

I went online shortly before I finished the book to see if it had been made into a video.  It seemed like the logical progression for the book.  Many times, I have read a book and then watched the movie.  It was natural for me to investigate this.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered one, that Glenn Beck has a publishing company and two, that his company, Mercury Ink, published Michael Vey.  Mercury Ink’s partner is Simon and Schuster.

The Michael Vey series is about good, evil, and making right choices.  I actually enjoyed reading the book and could see why students like it.  I am not going to say much about the book, as I don’t want to spoil anything for someone that might like to read it.  I will say it is about teenagers that have a special connection with electricity.  Something happened to them when they were born and now as they are coming into their teen years they have unusual abilities.  Michal Vey seems to have the most powerful ability.  The book takes the reader on an adventure from combating bullying to building friendships and developing an understanding of what makes people good and bad.  The underlying theme is good triumphs over evil and that sometimes-good people do bad things to help.  There is much more to it than the simplistic ideas I am mentioning here.  However, listening to Glenn Beck tell the story should create caution in all of us.

 

Is there an underlying agenda from the far right to infiltrate the minds of our youth?  Glenn is trying to find ways to reach the youth and he thinks these books might do it.  I know many students like the Michael Vey series.  Whether these books will have any dramatic impact on their worldview remains to be seen.  My concern is the effort that has been put into public education by the far right in the last many years.  It seems to me that there is a far-reaching goal to control public education and perhaps this is just one more puzzle piece that is being put in place for the greater good of the right’s influence on education.

I always say, “I learn something new every day.”  Today I learned about Glenn Beck’s goals.  I never would have connected him to the Michael Vey series unless I researched it.  I am sharing this because I think we all need to keep one eye open for understanding the manipulations that the media does to our children and to ourselves.  As an educator, I would be remiss if I didn’t investigate and share these things when I learn about them.  It certainly has made me wonder what else have I been reading that has an interesting back-story.

 

Bill Kristol Makes My Mind Want to Explode and Other Thoughts

  • Posted on July 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm

It seems strange that I haven’t been on here blogging in so many months.  My last post was the end of January.  Really?  So, what have I been doing, you may ask?  It would be that teacher thing, my Kindle obsession, and a serious malaise about politics in general.  I will try to get up to speed on what is recently on my mind.

I still watch a bit of Morning Joe, even though Joe sucks!  I don’t know which has been worse the build up for more war or the whole media frenzy about Bowe Bergdahl.  I am tired of watching people who never have any real skin in the game, (You know, their children will not be dressing up in fatigues any time soon.) telling the American people how we must go to war now and by the way, Bowe Bergdahl is a trader.  I cannot get on either bandwagon.

Everyone knows Bill Kristol.

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It has puzzled me why he is invited to be on so many news programs where he spouts his venom.  Why is he so important?  Every time I see him on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, or some other media program, I get a little crazy.  Years ago, I went to a website he was a part of called the Project or Plan for a New America.  The website seems to be gone now but the plan is still out there.  It takes us back to American dominance in the world and that plan developed by Paul Wolfowitz that has to do with pre-emptive strikes.  It later became the Bush Doctrine, which involves going to war before we have been actually attacked.  This strategy was used for the buildup to the Iraq War.  Bill Kristol seems to enjoy going to war.  Fortunately, Katrina vanden Heuvel seems to feel the same way I do.  I came across this clip today and somehow it made me feel better that others aren’t so impressed with this crazy person’s ideas either.  Yes, I know he is the editor of the Weekly Standard but it just doesn’t make him special to me.  It almost seems there is still hope in fighting these neo-cons and their ideas.

 

Another thing keeping me busy is that teacher thing.  This year has been very stressful for most of the teachers I know.  No matter how hard we work or what we do, it seems more is expected of us.  The pressure is out there from politicians that have no idea how to teach, to create classrooms that turn out kids that pass the latest test.  It just doesn’t seem to be about the individual but the test taker.  If a student is good at figuring out and taking tests, he/she will be prized by teachers that are expected to get him/her to pass a test.  Those kids that freak out on tests, struggle in general with testing, or perhaps have social and economic problems are in for a world of hurt as teachers jump through every hoop to try and get them “test worthy”.  Okay, I know I am sarcastic but this is for real.  I work long days trying to do whatever it takes to get my students attention.  I just still think it is strange that my evaluations are attached to reading and math scores of my students.  This is true for all of us.  Teacher evaluations are attached to test scores of students, all students.  Now, most people can see the problems with this.  How will students be selected or tied to individual teachers?  Why is a math teacher tied to reading and vice versa?  How can I, as an art teacher, affect those reading and math scores?  There is constant reworking of lessons and trying to tie in reading, math, and even technology skills as much of the testing is now on computers.  As crazy as this seems to me, it must be harder for the students, especially those students that are not the top reading and math students.

Considering all of this, it is rather amazing how much I have been reading in 2014.  After Christmas was over, I decided I wanted to buy a new Kindle.  I dropped my old Kindle so the lettering wouldn’t work in the corner.  I just had the little cheap model, but I liked it for reading.  I would read on my iPad but I was never crazy about it because it is heavier.  It seemed like I was not reading as much as I used to, so that is why I decided to get a new Kindle.  I bought the cheap HD model that comes with the ads when you turn it on.  I cannot say enough about my crazy obsession with my Kindle and Amazon Prime!  Since getting this Kindle the second week of January, I have read around 30 books.  I even have it read to me when I am doing things like cooking or cleaning.  I love my Kindle and even the offers.  I got a Mr. Coffee Café Latte machine for my birthday for just $20.  Since I have Amazon Prime, I didn’t have to pay any shipping.  I love Amazon Prime as I buy many things through Amazon and I do watch some videos as well.  However, recently the new music cloud has just blown me away.  There is so much music content that I have access to that it is amazing.  I just hope Amazon doesn’t up the rates on me.  I also really enjoy getting my BookBub emails.  Bookbub allows me to buy books for next to nothing or even free.  I have discovered authors I am not familiar with and I am enjoying reading most of these books.  What I really like about the Kindle is how many choices I have at any one time.  I have many books on my Kindle.  I also can get them through library loan although sometimes I have to wait awhile.  I can purchase a new book in mere seconds.  Amazon has made all of this super easy to use and so I keep buying…and they keep making money off me!

Today there is something new on my mind.  The Supreme Court just handed down their decision on the Hobby Lobby case.  Earlier this morning I made a comment on a video on Facebook that gave some statistics on abortion.  I usually avoid any comments on abortion issues, as that issue seems to bring out all of the crazy people ready to comment.  I received many replies to my comment, which I should have known I would.  I believe abortion is something a woman decides for herself with the help of her doctor.  I don’t think it is a decision taken lightly and I certainly don’t think politicians, judges, and the like who are mostly old, white men should be making these decisions for women.  It is rather patronizing to think the little woman isn’t smart enough to decide for herself what is in her best interest.  I personally have a secret wish that decisions like this one can move our country to single payer.  Why should insurance companies and businesses hold all of the special keys to any one person’s medical coverage?  Let’s just get rid of these middle “men” and go to a system where everyone pays a bit in their taxes and health care is guaranteed, Medicare for all or something like it.  If everyone is paying in, than no one group can say they are paying for someone else’s health care.  Everyone pays and all benefit.  It just seems to make sense to me.

Sometimes I feel like I am in some kind of time warp machine.  For every step forward women make on issues there are plenty of people, including other women, dragging and pulling on them to hold them back, keep them down, control them, and generally keep them as less than men.  Why is it that we aren’t hearing cases about business companies refusing to provide Viagra?  Why is it that men can make all of the decisions about their own bodies but women have to be second-guessed at every turn?  It just doesn’t make sense to me currently.  We live in a time when many women are the main or only breadwinner in their families.  They should be able to make all of the decisions applicable to their own bodies.  From my point of view, enough said.

As the summer moves on, I hope to get on here more often and spew my only little mind chatter.  It is different to be me.  I am constantly thinking about many things and sometimes it’s hard to get on the bandwagon of just one thing.  It is how my mind works, so sometimes you may have to adjust to my wandering brain as I interpret the world around me.

 

The TSA and Other Things on My Mind Today

  • Posted on January 31, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I think this is going to be a long day.  I have a stressed out dog, a curious cat, and a backache.  It is the middle of winter and I am getting a new roof.  My animals, especially my poor dog, seem confused by the noise and feel somewhat invaded.  It is early.  I know that this day is only going to get much worse.  Speaking of feeling invaded, I just read the article, “Dear America, I Saw You Naked and Yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.” by Jason Edward Harrington over at Politico.com.  I have to say nothing in it surprised me but it sure reinforces many of the things I had been thinking about giving up our freedoms and all for the sake of safety.  Some of it is just to keep us in line, so to speak.  Nothing more but to make it look like someone is doing something to keep us safe.  The next time you are traveling and have to be personally checked in some way, you might think more about why it is you.  He even suggested there is a special code for attractive women, no real surprise there.  It sounds more like a Frat house party than what we should consider serious government business.

Poor Ann Romney is still whining about the fact that she won’t be FLOTUS.  I am not sure why but I did watch the Mitt movie on Netflix this week during our hiatus from school because of the chilling weather.  The movie was a great, big, warm, and fuzzy fluff piece for Mitt.  Aw shucks people, he is just one of us!  We just don’t really understand what a decent, caring individual he really is.  While I am sitting here trying to comfort my poor dog, I cannot help but think back to another dog that spent a treacherous time on the roof of Mitt’s automobile.  Maybe Mitt is one of us, one of those people that don’t understand those of us that treat our animals as if they are human.  Enough said, but don’t be surprised if Mitt doesn’t run again.  The movie made me think it was a setup for 2016!

While I was home, I also viewed those annoying videos all teachers have to view yearly about everything from blood borne pathogens and sexual harassment, to chemicals in the work place and what OSHA means to me.  I am not sure why I have to view these every year because my memory isn’t that bad.  However, it is just one of those things that some government official thinks we need to freshen up on yearly.  I always find the sexual harassment video interesting.  When I see the young female teacher sitting at her desk with the lecherous older teacher trying to persuade her to get on his team, I can only wonder what female teacher wears a top like that.  It has spaghetti straps and I think she is ready for a party.  I know many young, female teachers and I haven’t witnessed any of them dressed quite like that at school.  If they did, the boys would surely be having much better attendance rates than some of them do.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending an online art conference put on by the Art of Education.  It was an interesting day.  There were many technical problems for people as the video streaming had some issues.  Even though there were problems, I still had a great day.  It was nice to feel like I was part of something bigger as I viewed and participated in conversations with other art teachers from all over the world.  Of course, art is universal and it is truly, a language that all people can understand.  AOE gave us a password so we can view the videos for the next six months or so.  This is great as I remember many times coming back from a conference trying to remember all of the different presentations I attended.  At AOE, I can review the videos and maybe get even more from them.  While they didn’t present enough material at the high school level, I was able to get plenty of ideas that I will be using in my own classroom in the days and years to come.  I really can’t wait until the next one.  Therefore, if you are an art teacher, you might want to look into the Art of Education website for future reference.

Speaking of art and websites, I want to give a shout out to my favorite online art teacher, “The Helpful Art Teacher.”  Rachel Wintemberg teaches in New Jersey and has only had her blog for a bit over three years, but it is jam packed with great lesson plans.  She shares everything and researches whatever she is posting online.  While the site visually may look a little simplistic, it is far from it.  I can spend days perusing Rachel’s blog.  It is just a treasure.  If you are an art teacher, you really need to check it out.  It is really geared for the middle and high school crowd but it is awesome.  I have nominated her blog for the Art of Educations Art Ed Blog of the Year Award.  You are welcome to nominate her as well if you are so inclined.

While I am hearing a lot of pounding, my baby dog, Brodie, has seemed to settle in under my feet, so to speak.  He pipes up once in awhile but he seems to be appreciating my presence near him and is glad that I am calm and not freaking out by the noise.  The geek in me finds this product very interesting and it reminds me of a piece of sculpture.  It could be revolutionary and it is based on an old concept.  How cool is that?

I talked with one of my ten brothers the other night about farm subsidies.  I won’t get into the sum total of our conversation but it had something to do with the concept of socialism and how some people that despise the concept of socialism are the biggest socialists, so to speak, as they get subsidized. So of course, I had to go find the website for myself and it is interesting.  If you would like to know who is getting farm subsidies in your area, just plug in the zip code.  This is for the period of years from 1995 through 2012.  I always find these things interesting because so many people worry about the $133.85 some poor person might be receiving from SNAP.  Maybe we should be looking beyond to the people that really get the lion’s share of government money through special programs, lobbying efforts, and no bid contracts.  Don’t even get me started on those charitable organizations like churches that get government money for “helping” other people.  I always think it would be better if the government just gave the money right to the people.  Think about how the bankers were all bailed out, if the government had just sent that money out to us, we would have gotten the economy going, by spending it.  Instead, the bankers kept it and then made it more difficult for businesses to get the loans they needed.  I am not an economist but something stinks in our government.  We have two parties that get their seed money for their elections from businesses that lobby for special treatment.  The rest of us out in the real world just keep doing what we are supposed to be doing and keep on hoping that something different will be done.  President Obama was going to bring us change but that’s not happening.  Washington is more gridlocked than ever and controlled by special interests that have nothing to do with most of the American people.  The one percent is getting richer and the rest of us continue to hang on….hoping to see something constructive done by our government.  I won’t hold my breath.  I don’t see any real change in anything but education and that’s just because there is money to be made there.

I have had fun writing my little thoughts.  I hope someone finds me somewhat entertaining and perhaps I can get someone thinking, a simple thing this teacher would like to do.  You don’t have to agree with me on anything, but just think.  I’ll leave you with a picture of poor Brodie.  As you can see, he is frightened but sitting under my computer chair knowing I will save him from all that is evil!100_2107

Teaching, Testing, and Creativity

  • Posted on December 31, 2013 at 5:51 pm
Blue Angel Wings by Katherine Svoboda

I encourage creativity in my students. I cannot imagine a life without making something new.

Where I am teaching I see a high emphasis on test scores.  Since I teach in an area that we are not able to “score”, I find that the administrators and teachers don’t really understand the value or creative aspects of art.  Consequently, the course is treated by some as a “filler” so that they can have their planning periods.  If we are to educate children for the future, we will have to begin by first educating the educators. Since there hasn’t been a clear-cut way of gauging creativity, it has been grossly over looked in the schools.  Even the physical arrangement of our classrooms does not support creativity.  I sense that “learning for tomorrow” is learning how to be a creative individual that can handle a variety of situations, whether they be emotional, physical, mental, or whatever.

Strangely enough, I wrote these words way back in the early eighties when I was teaching at my first teaching job and attending graduate classes.  I recently came across an old notebook that I use to write in.  When I came across these words, I couldn’t believe it.  Test scores?  My how things don’t really change after all.  We are living in a high stakes time of testing but the push for testing has been going on as long as I have been teaching.  The thing I find frustrating is how unimportant creativity seems in all of this.

However, my perspective on creativity has never really changed.  I have always felt that the most important thing for learning is creativity.  Students need to have time to explore when they are learning.  This exploration needs to involve the student in ways that force him/her to create something new, to come up with new ideas, to think outside of the box.  Most people are not aware of the many known cases of creative people that were not recognized in regular school education, but somehow through their own creativity became successful.  Of course, Thomas Edison comes to mind right away.  However, are you aware that people like Ben Franklin, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, John D. Rockefeller, George Burns, Colonel Sanders, Charles Dickens, Elton John, Harry Houdini, and Ringo Starr all quit their formal schooling at young ages?  Some went back to school, like Einstien, but others flourished by finding something they really were interested in doing.  I think the way we school students today we do not allow children to discover what truly interests them.   If you can find something that you are interested in doing and you spend countless hours perfecting your abilities at getting better at it, you may become an expert in that field.  I often think about the first time I threw a pot on a wheel.  Of course, I could hardly center the clay, let alone create a worthy piece of pottery.  It actually took years before I felt like I was somewhat of an expert, and even that meant that I could not necessarily throw huge pieces of clay.

Why have we, as parents, allowed schools and government to take our children and push two subjects at them as though that is all that is important?  It is reading or it is math.  These two areas count for everything these days.  Of course, I think these subjects are important and obviously, if you cannot read, your opportunities will be limited.  However, the next Einstien may be sitting in a classroom where a teacher thinks he is “slow” or dim witted because he doesn’t score well on government-mandated tests.  Seriously, we are messed up as a society, when all we care about are test scores.  As human beings, we are more than our last test score.  The measure of a man or a woman is not what they scored on their ACT or SAT but on how they live their life.  I worry about our society as we elevate the students that score well on tests and ignore the students that may be daydreamers or late bloomers.  We cannot discredit the different ways people learn and we should not treat students as a one size fits all mentality.  We should embrace their differences and encourage creativity and original thinking.  People that are willing to make mistakes and try something new will be willing to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.  Those new ideas may be the next invention or innovation of an old idea.  No one knows what the future is going to hold.  I didn’t have a clue almost thirty-five years ago when I wrote that paragraph about testing that it would hold true today as well.   As a society, we say we appreciate creative people but we try to put square pegs in round holes every opportunity we get when we ignore the natural creativity of children.  Ken Robinson explains in this video how our formal education system does everything it can to undermine children’s creativity.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

In the end, we must teach our children to discover their interests and really follow their dreams.  What is it that is going to take to make them better people?  What is going to make them reach their full potential?  Should it be just about making money or is there something more?  What is going to make them truly happy?  We all want to produce something.  We want to feel joy and nurture our interests.  I have to agree with Alan Watts when he asked a simple question:  What do I desire?  What if money were no object?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_sbcSRMsOc
As a society, what are we teaching our children to value?  Is it all about making money or is it about something more creative than just that?  How do we stand out in a world where we are asked to all conform to that square peg?  The artist in each of our children wants to stay an artist.  Why are we happy when our children put away what we deem to be “childish” things such as art?  Art is our humanity.  It is what differentiates us really from all other life forms. We should embrace our creativity, nurture it, and develop it.

 

 

A Day in the Life of an Art Teacher

  • Posted on November 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm

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I was thinking this morning that most people would not have a clue of all of the different things I have to do on any given day as an art teacher.  Today I decided to give people a glimpse into my life as an art teacher.  I arrived at the school around 7:20.  On any typical day, I usually arrive anywhere between 7:15 and 7:25.  On Thursday mornings, we have a delayed start for the students, so I have to be in the library by 7:00 for our PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting.

Today, I greeted my assistant principal, checked my mailbox, and headed down to my room.  I booted up my computer and got the other six started as well.  Next, I checked my email and loaded all of the programs I would be using during my classes.  These are Power School, Class Dojo, my web page, and a Word document with images of scratch art projects on it.  Next, I wrote on my whiteboard the agenda for the day for all of my classes.

By this time, my mentor students started arriving.  I immediately tell them to make sure they have any homework they need to complete and their reading book.  I assign students that are not finished with their blogs from art class to work on the computers.  The end of the marking period is Friday, so this is the last chance students have to complete any missing work in any of their classes.  I have told my students that most of this work needs to be completed by Wednesday, as all teachers must have their grades submitted by Monday morning.  During Mentor class, I check the grades of the students I am most concerned about failing.  I confer with them about what they need to be doing to get their work turned in.  I remind students to work and not talk.  I give class Dojo points to students for working.

Immediately after class a sixth grade student comes in to tell me an 8th grader had shown her some head phones that he just took from my class.  I thank her and tell her I will take care of it.  I look up the accused student’s schedule, and call his next teacher to explain the situation so she will send him back down.  As I am calling, a woman from the Service Production company peeks in at me to talk about their products and service.  She had called the day before to find out when my planning period was so she could talk with me.  I visit with her and the student shows up.  I tell him I want my headphones back and he tells me he found them.  I tell him I saw him wearing them but I didn’t take them away from him in class because I knew he was working.  He tries to lie some more about the headphones he has taken.  I tell him to stop lying and that I am disappointed that he would steal from my classroom and that I now find it difficult to trust him and he will have to earn my trust back.  I add that my mother always told me, “You lie, you cheat, and you steal.”  I told him I expect more from him and he should head back to class.   The Service Production rep says she used to teach years ago and she remembers times like that when you have to let the student know the jig is up.  I visit with the rep and she assures me that she can match Nasco’s prices.  I tell her I will look at the catalog she has left with me.  After she leaves, I get my scratch art materials ready for my classes and cut some paper that I know some of the students may need that are behind on other projects.  I organize my desk so I have all of my materials ready to go.  I notice it is almost the end of the hour so I quickly go use the restroom and fill my water bottle.

Third hour begins and I explain to the students that we have three things going on today.  First, students that are behind with their projects have to work on those.  Second, I will pick six students to use the computers to complete their blogs.  Third, students who have everything done will begin a scratch art project.  I show students scratch art projects on the computer and real samples that I have teaching them about composition, the use of pattern and texture with scratch art, and making good choices with my drawing books and pictures.  I also teach them each step to the process of creating a scratch art.  I make sure students understand the instructions, assign students to the computers, and get the rest working.  Some students want me to print a picture of something they can’t seem to find in my books.  As class goes on, I am helping students with their blogs, scratch art drawings, and trying to motivate the ones that are behind.  I talk with one girl about staying after school to be caught up.  I let her call home to see if she can stay.  One little boy has moved away from his assigned seat so I have to deal with his off task behavior.  He happens to be the most behind and I am not surprised, as he likes to talk more than work.  I move him by himself so he can get something done.  At the end of class, students have to clean up and organize the supplies.  They show me their pencils so I know they’re all put back in the boxes I provide for them.  Students are released and it all starts all over again.

This next group is a difficult class.  There are 25 boys and 6 girls in the class.  Most of the boys don’t want to be in art class and frankly would rather be home playing video games, if they had their choice.  They struggle in school and many are poor readers.    I begin the class by taking away a phone as one of the girls has her phone and has several students following her trying to see what is on it.  She lies to me and says she doesn’t have one.  Of course, I saw it and made her give it to me. … More wasted time.  She brings up her notebook and some boys have drawn some poor images of penises on it.  She says that is why she had her phone out.  More disruption!  Just know, if you are a middle school teacher, you will have witnessed crudely drawn penises in a book, on a wall, on a table, somewhere in the school.  Strangely enough, I have talked with the janitor and the boys are even smearing feces on the wall of some of the bathrooms.  Note to self, keep washing my hands because you just don’t know what the students have been doing.

I have had enough and I want to start class.  I assign six students to the computers and spend most of the next hour dealing with off task behavior in between helping students with their blogs, drawings, and cutting paper for those that are behind.  I send two students down to the interventionist so he can work with them on their behavior.  After the two boys are gone, things are better but I still have to deal with some students out of their seat and wasting time.  The last twenty minutes are uneventful until one table has a problem.  It’s right at the end of class.  One of them has spilled glue all over the table and on one of the student’s folders.  These students are friends and some are even cousins.  They continually like to pick on each other, just for fun.  I dismiss all of the students but the one table and make them do a thorough job of cleaning up the mess, that none of them of course, created.  This takes time away from my short lunch as they think I am going to give them a pass so they seem to be tasking their sweet time, until they realize the pass isn’t coming.  By the time I get my soup can and apple around, I have 17 minutes left for lunch.  Those 17 minutes are precious time.  I spend it with three other teachers that are hilarious and lighten the day for me.  I feel renewed in spirit because I know they understand what it is like to deal with off task middle school behavior.

I head to my next class of sixth graders with my apple in hand.  I get the students working and I have that one little boy that doesn’t want to do his project.  He isn’t going to do it and I can’t make him.  He is right.  I can lead a horse to water but I cannot make him drink.  He proceeds to take some pen on a string and starts flicking it at other students.  I tell him to sit down and get to work.  He tells me he doesn’t want to do that project.  The aide for another student makes some suggestions to him.  He doesn’t like her suggestions, as I knew he wouldn’t.  What he really wants to do is get on a computer, not necessarily to blog, but to do anything but what he is supposed to be doing.  This little boy has been a joy in class until the last couple of weeks.  I don’t know what is in his head but now he doesn’t want to do anything and it is frustrating.  I have tried reverse psychology, making suggestions, trying to get him to make it something special for his mom.  Nothing works.  He wants his way and that is all he will do.  In my mind, I am banging my head against a wall because I don’t know what else will work with this child.  I know he likes me but there is something making him not want to produce anything right now.  I try to ignore his protests because I am hoping he eventually will give up and work.  Class ends uneventfully.

My seventh graders come in and I repeat much of the same process.  I have one boy that is the class clown.  He interrupts my instruction many times and announces that he needs to go to the bathroom now.  I have a procedure for this and it is not when I am giving instructions.  After his many interruptions, I send him out to the interventionist.  The rest of the class is wonderfully uneventful.  I help students with their blogs and scratch art designs.  I print images for some of them and we have a good day.  I look at student blogs and give them feedback so they can improve them.  Clean up goes well and I move on to the last hour of the day.

In between classes, the girl that had her phone taken away earlier in another class tried to get me to give it back to her before the last hour.  Lessons need to be learned.  I wasn’t going to have her interrupting someone else’s class with her antics. She said she would miss the bus.  I told her she could take the short cut out of my exit doors.  She left feeling frustrated but came back at the end of the day.  She didn’t miss her bus.

My last hour is a class with all girls because it is my advanced art class.  These are students, which really love art.  I have both seventh and eighth graders in this class.  I assign some to the computers and a couple have to finish projects.  The rest are busy working on drawings for scratch art and scratching techniques with their scratch art projects.  One little girl has finished her scratch art and it is beautiful.  I suggest that she could make another if she likes as I have many different scratch art papers.  She seems thrilled by this and busily gets to work.  I make suggestions to students to improve their drawings.  Midway through class, the students prompt me to put on some music.  I put on Pandora.  This class is truly amazing.  I love the end of my day, as these students are very trustworthy, sweet as can be, and highly motivated.  It is a joy working with them.

After I dismiss my class, two sixth grade students come in to work on their projects after school.  I get a hug from the one that I had let call home earlier in the day.  She seems happy to be able to stay to work on her project.  I see a different side to her after school.  Shortly after her arrival, I hear my name over the loud speaker to come to the principal’s office.   I am wondering what is up with that and I think how funny it is because when a student is called to the office, all of the other students make  a “Ohhhhh” sound.  My principal has called a sudden meeting with some of the exploratory teachers.  The administration has started a program by pulling students out of our classes so they can go work on missing assignments for their core classes.  He tells us we have to make sure the students show up.  Evidently, two of the students on my list showed up only one day.  Many other students didn’t show up from other exploratory classes.  After some discussion and clarification of exactly what my principal wanted, I went back to my classroom to tie up the events of the day.

I answered all of my emails.  I made two referrals for the homework intervention program.  By now, it was nearly 4:00, so I told my two girls that they would have to clean up soon.  One girl got a phone call and left but the other one that had hugged me, cleaned up and stayed to chat a few minutes.  She told me her mom wants her to try out for the talent show.  I asked her what she wanted to do and I encouraged her to consider it, but if she was scared to try to get a friend to sing a duet with her.  I think she liked that idea.  She left and I finished shutting down all of the computers and finally left school around 4:15.

I know this day may sound boring to some people, but what I think is amazing, is how little time I actually spend on teaching.   I spend much more time on parenting, being a mentor, being a friend, encouraging, cajoling, and trying desperately to get students to care about themselves enough to do the right thing and try to do their best.  Teaching can be exasperating, frustrating, but also joyful.  Teaching art has moments that are just brilliant like watching a student grow and develop and yet heart breaking when I see a student give up on himself or herself.  When I go home, I am still thinking about the next day and what I have to do.  I am on the internet working on more plans for my classes.  I sometimes have to call parents.  The day never is really done and the students are often on my mind as I try to devise ways to motivate them and encourage them in art class.  Today I am thinking about an order I have to place and my budget.  I am looking at what I still need to buy for my classes.  As an art teacher, I have to work on everything from a budget, to organization, to discipline, to instructional strategies and delivery, and even time management.  There is a lot that has to be done by me that most people don’t probably realize.  I have to be able to speak to adults kindly about their children even when they are naughty.  I have to be a diplomat for the school and an advocate for my program.  I have to be a team member that works well with the other teachers and a leader in ways that I am able.  I have to be tech saavy and always aware of my surrounding and those of my students.  Teaching today seems to me to be ever changing.  The amount of technology I use in my classes is tremendous.  I consider myself to be far ahead of most teachers in the area of technology.  I am always learning and trying to share what I know with other teachers.  There is no time to be stagnant in my program.  I feel that art and technology go naturally together so it can be a great marriage of two diverse worlds.  Since my students are busy working on their blogs, I am going to share a link to them so you can see for yourselves how the two are married together.  I think most are doing a fabulous job on their blogs.  Some are still working on them but check them out, you may be surprised at the blogs they have created.  Of course, you will also witness the students that just don’t care.  Luckily, they are in the minority.  http://sturgisps.org/Page/4558

There are over a hundred blogs so just scroll down and look through them.

It Takes a Village and Other Thoughts

  • Posted on October 5, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I have deliberately not spent much time writing about the politics of D.C. this year because it is just so depressing.  However, I must clarify that the D.C. is not really the District of Columbia when it comes to politics; it is disastrous corruption.  This week, it appears we are on the brink of disaster once again.  The focus now is on the blame game, but I am tired of the unreality of the Tea Party movement.  If you just do a little reading on the internet, it is not hard to see that much of the financial backing of this “movement” is from the Koch brothers.  What is going on in politics is about money, not from the little people but from big business and influences that have nothing to do with the masses.  We are fed information from corporate owned media that wants to perpetuate their own purposes.  I notice on Facebook the Tea Party is alive and well, infiltrating and rotting the minds of people by making them more concerned about some person on welfare than the corporate welfare that permeates Washington.  There, I got that off my chest.  Now, I can write about what is really on my mind and that is children.

Global Children

Let’s Embrace the Creativity in our Children

 

I recently reread Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village” and I feel a need to share what I am thinking about politics, children, and how it all fits together.  Hillary wrote this book long ago and some of the data is outdated, figures are probably even worse today, and of course, she wrote it before the technology revolution of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iPads, iPhones, and everything else that kids are exposed to today.  I have a couple of brothers that think “It Takes a Village” is funny and they have made sarcastic remarks to me about this, but I don’t think most people understand how important it is that we all are part of creating the next generation of adults.  I think if we start at the top, and I mean the politics in Washington D.C., it isn’t hard to see how uncivil our country has become.  How could this hatred and bullying not permeate down into the minds and thoughts of our children?  People seemed shocked when some kid takes out many people at a mall, theater, school, or any place else where an opportunity is presented.  I think it isn’t hard to understand the pain and the suffering that these young people are going through.  Mental health is just not there, but mentally is there anything right with what is happening with the politicians that are in Washington supposedly leading our country?  I believe the political discourse has much to do with all of the negative things that are happening in our country.  Since Barack Obama became president, there has been an unprecedented amount of blatant racism.  Obama was not my first choice by far, but he is president and he was even reelected.  It is time that the party of “no” started to understand that what they are doing is destroying this country.  As far as the “Affordable Care Act” goes, it is now the law of the land.  I say, “Get over it.”  I wanted single payer.  I didn’t get my way but it is now time to see how it works.  The Tea Party Republicans have turned into nothing but bullies.  They want their way and nothing else.  They don’t really care about people, it is just about the next election.  Seriously, I care about my job, just like the next person.  However, I am not going to destroy some children in order to get what I want with the ones that are going to help get me a better evaluation.

It’s time our country started caring about their most important resource and that is our children.  Politicians battle it out while kids are suffering in homes where stressed out parents are out of work, where money is a constant source of frustration, and where affordable, good daycare is difficult to find.  If these politicians would focus more on getting the economy going instead of worrying about who can cut the most fat out of the budget, we would all be better off.  These are the same people that in one breath tell you, “You can pry my gun out of my cold dead hands.” but in another will be telling a woman whether she can have birth control or not.  If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is.  The Tea Party wants less government control but actually, they want to control everything that happens in our lives.  They want to keep the government out of their lives but want it when they want it for their own gains.  They can give government funds to churches to feed people but not to people to feed themselves.  Our children today are growing up in a society filled with hate, so if they hate, it is understandable.  I am the most positive person I know and truthfully, it has caused me pain at times because I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe that’s naïve of me but I think I’d rather have a heart than be heartless and I see the Tea Party Movement as a heartless, soulless, creature that cares for no one, least of all the children.

When I was a kid, I became involved in politics because my family was into politics.  My parents were FDR Democrats.  I can remember some very heated discussions with different members of my family.  Many of my brothers today are staunch Republicans.  I think my parents would wonder how they could be so far from their roots.  However, we know our children are not cookie cutter reproductions of us, so it is understandable when some change from their roots.  What I don’t understand is how today there is so much hatred for both parties with each other.  There is a lack of respect for the president and the Democrats and there is a lack of respect for the Republicans.  I think the Tea Party Movement has brought out the worse of both parties.  They have decided that they are not going to negotiate anything which means absolutely nothing is going to be done.  From my point of view, it seems like there should be more being done to get this economy moving.  All that is happening is fighting.  How much money has to be wasted on the countless number of times the House has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act?  I’ve lost track of how many times they have voted on it.  It must have cost many trees and hours of work for that legislation to be re-voted on in the House.  They don’t mind wasting that money but as for some person out of work hoping to get an extension on unemployment well, he/she is just a lazy bum looking for a handout.

Our children deserve better.  We had a better country when I was young.  We cared about each other.  I went to college and my school loan was $3600, something I didn’t have to kill myself over to pay back.  Kids today come out with unbelievable stress from school loans that would break the back of anyone.  It seems that education is for only the rich these days or those willing to live in a debtor’s hellhole for most of their lives.  We promise them that if they do well in school, they will get a good job when they get out.  Then we send those good jobs overseas or bring workers here because “We don’t have enough qualified people to do those jobs.”  Most of us know that this is just another way for business to get cheaper labor.  We send our kids off to fight wars that are made up of faulty intelligence only to act like, “Oh, my bad!”  Peoples’ lives are manipulated, so when one of them comes back and shoots up something, should we really be surprised?  Our children deserve better.  We send them off to school, which used to be fun, but is now turned into some kind of testing nightmare, should we really be surprised when they’re turned off and tuned out?  Our children deserve better.

We put kids under an unbelievable amount of stress from the constant talk about being fat, to what not to wear, to how they are constantly failing in schools, and how we were so much smarter than they are today.  I am so tired of the way we treat our children.  We tell them that they don’t measure up at every turn.  “Oh Johnny, your test scores really do suck.  I didn’t mean to say you are stupid but…..”  When does this abuse of our children end?  When are we going to look at children and see them as the gift they are?  When are we going to look at a child without measuring how fat or thin, or stupid or smart, or whatever other label we have deemed to put on them but as a person to nurture and help grow into a productive adult?  If we want a better country, we had better start taking care of our children.  We cannot simply drop them off at daycare or at the school door hoping that something better will appear.  We have to all nurture these children.  If you are a storeowner, do not act as if that child is there to steal from you.  Show some interest in the children in your community.  If you are a teacher, try to figure out why some children are misbehaving for you, maybe you will be the only real friend they have that day.  If you are a politician, think about how your actions are destroying our country and causing the nightmares of today for countless children across this country that go to bed hungry, poor, and tired, and wake up to the same nightmare they had when they went to bed.  I feel strongly that if a child lives with hatred, he/she learns to hate.  Do you remember this poem?  It is time we thought about how to take care of our children.

CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE

Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.

If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.

If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.

If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.

If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.

If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.

If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.

With what is your child living?

 

Earth Without Art is Just “Eh”

  • Posted on September 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Sometime this last year, one of my previous art students, who is now in college, posted on Facebook:  Earth Without Art is Just “Eh”.  It made me laugh and think.  Ultimately, it became the inspiration for this painting, which I created for my art classroom this summer.

The "Earth" Without Art is Just "Eh"

With all of the emphasis on testing at my school and across the country, the arts tend to be ignored by educators and administrators trying to get students to pass a test.  However, art is an integral part of our world.  Art is all around us.  We cannot escape it.  We are constantly choosing the beauty we allow into our lives from the clothing we wear, to the home we live in, and to the car, we drive.  Color and beauty surrounds us and inspires us.  Life without some form of art, in my opinion, would be dull for most of us.  Most people are inspired by the performing arts, especially music.  We cannot wait to listen to music.  It can both soothe our soul on a tough day and motivate us to action on another.  We can view a painting and be mesmerized by both the detailed brushstroke or loose, fast, moving strokes.  I can remember seeing a Van Gogh painting back in my twenties that I swore the wheat was moving in.  Of course, it appeared as though the wind was blowing and it was just paint, but it was fascinating to me.

When I was young, I grew up in a very large family.  We really didn’t have time for art.  We worked hard and we just were not exposed to the arts in a way that many are today.  The fact that I became an art teacher is somewhat puzzling.  I didn’t have an art class all through my K-12 years.  I had a pencil and paper and I liked to draw.  I didn’t have room in my schedule in high school for an art class until my senior year because I was all college prep.  I didn’t take art.  I took choir.  I really like to sing but the truth is I figured I would be a failure in an art class.  I had never had art, so how could I possibly take art as a senior?  I knew I could sing a bit so I figured that was a safer bet.  However, during my senior year I remember staying up late and drawing.  One time I got out the encyclopedia and drew a picture of JFK.  Of course, I just happened to leave it on the kitchen table so my parents would see it in the morning.  I don’t remember their response but I did keep on drawing.  I went on to college as an undeclared major.  I loved college.  I took many different classes from psychology to philosophy and of course all of the other required courses and I kept on drawing.  Other students encouraged me to take an art course after seeing a drawing I did of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”.  I don’t even remember how I discovered that painting but I wanted to draw that beautiful girl.  I thought my friends were nuts, but somehow I found myself signing up for a drawing class.  I was scared to death.  When I went to my first class, the other students were talking about how stupid it was that they had to take this “dip shit” drawing course before they could take anything better.  I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?”  I talked to the professor after class and he asked me if I would faithfully come to class and do the assignments.  I told him I would.  He told me that I would be fine, not to drop out, and to watch as some of those students do drop out.  He was right.  When I took that first class, I knew I had found my home, my center, the place where I felt complete, like I never had before.  Art gave me courage.   Art gave me purpose.  Art made me feel I was part of something bigger in this world.

Even though I missed some early art training, I have never looked back.  I know I made the right choice for me.  I love making art and I love teaching art to my students.  I feel earth without art is just “eh” for sure.  After changing my major to art, I discovered clay.  Throwing on the wheel became a passion so I spent many years supporting myself with that passion.  I truthfully only went into teaching because of my parents.  My mom wanted me to have my teaching certificate to fall back on.  Both of my parents were teachers.  When I first graduated, I taught art at Fowler, Michigan and I loved it but I still wanted to make pottery.  When my husband took a job in Oklahoma, I gave up my job and focused on my pottery.  In a few years, he left and I had to make a living for my son and myself.  I did it with my pottery.  It was tough because I had to make a lot of pottery, not just the things that most inspired me.    However, I did well enough to move back to Michigan and buy a home.  When my son was in Kindergarten, I went up to the school with my pottery wheel and some clay for his class.  I had so much fun working with those little kids that I started thinking about going back to teaching.  It appeared that in order to do this I needed to update my teaching credentials, which meant more schooling.  I had taken courses in Oklahoma but they were all pottery courses with Montee Hoke.  They wouldn’t count towards that update.  It was going to cost about $6000, so I thought I can’t do that!  Of course, with parents like mine, that was not going to happen.  They said they would loan me the money.  When I told them, it had been awhile and I might not do well, my mom laughed and told me I was a good student and I would do fine.  Of course, she was right.  I went to Central Michigan University.  My son started second grade at Glen Lake and then went to CMU with me.  We lived in married housing, which he loved!  He loved it because it was a small apartment and other kids were there.  He ended the year back up at Glen Lake.  I’m lucky he was a smart kid and easily adjusted to the situation.  I remember telling him we were going on an adventure!

That was well over twenty years ago.  After CMU, I taught art at Manistee part time for a year.  Then I was hired at Sturgis.  I have taught twenty years at Sturgis.  What I find amazing is how excited the start of a new year remains for me.  I spent much of this summer working on classroom management, creating art for my classroom, and creating new lesson plans for my students.  I totally revamped my classroom and discipline plan.  I made art to inspire my students.  I have a passion for teaching art.  I want to inspire everyone I can with how important art is in our lives.  Art gives children an opportunity to express themselves.  It can make a child feel like a super star.  It can even do that for adults.  Art can transform people and even nations.  Art is a language that we all can understand.  It can speak to us in quiet ways or loud.  It can teach us to care.  It can help us understand each other.  The earth without art really is just “eh”.

 

Wisconsin Protests

  • Posted on August 12, 2013 at 11:52 am

It has been a fairly quiet summer, or so I thought.  I just realized that protests at the Wisconsin state capital have continued for a long time.  I thought they had been shut down long ago by Governor Walker and his austerity plan for unions.  They just haven’t been getting the national coverage they got when the “Ed” show managed to showcase them on MSNBC.  I watched daily on Big Eddie’s show to see what was going to happen.  Of course what happened was the same thing that happened here in Michigan.  Unions took a giant hit with Republican legislatures and governors.  Here, in Michigan, we became a “right to work” state which loosely translates into a “right to work for less” state.

As an art teacher, I saw the pinch of what all of this means immediately last fall when I had to have my union dues taken out of my bank account and not out of my paycheck.  They can take money for other things including charities, but union dues, not so much.  It really annoys me and I do my own form of protest for this.  It was set up this way to really try to break the union by hitting them in the pocketbook.  Who knows?  Perhaps some teachers have opted to not pay their union dues, thinking that they aren’t getting anything for their money.  However, I am not willing to go back to the dark ages of no representation other than who you know and how popular you personally are with them.  It is sad really as this past school year was the most stressful that I have witnessed in all of my years of teaching.

The stress was caused by all of the legislation going on at the state level.  Most interestingly is the way teacher evaluations are configured.  All teachers at my school have a portion of their evaluation tied to a group of student test scores in reading and math.  This means I have a mentor class that I see for 35 minutes each day that I must nurture so they can perform on a standardized test.  If they improve, I get more points on my evaluation and get to breathe for another year.  If they don’t, well, in time it means I’m a lousy art teacher I guess.  This group is not handpicked by me or any of the other teachers.  Although, if an administrator was so inclined I suppose they could give a teacher a tough load just for fun, to drive them crazy, or to try and get them to retire.  So, we have our own little hell here in Michigan.  What I didn’t know was that Wisconsin union workers have continued to protest.

I want to share a couple video links here so people can become more aware of what is still going on in Wisconsin.  We, as teachers, and other union members, have really taken a hit in the past few years.  We have had changes made to our pensions, pay, union rights, and insurance all because of the Republican power at the state level.  I’m calling it like it is as there is no way this would have happened to this extent under Democrats.  Often I say there is no difference between the two parties anymore but this is really not true. The right wing agenda is about privatization of everything and spreading the word of God as they take away programs for the poor, women, and disenfranchised.

We must be diligent in understanding what is going on across our nation.  We cannot sit back and idly play through the summer months without being more aware of what is happening to unions, the middle class, and the poor.  I am not saying to skip any vacations.  I just want people to be aware of what is happening.

Wisconsin Capital Protestors from the Real News

From Blue Cheddar (They will be doing a live stream today at 12:00 Central time here as well.)

Blue Cheddar Video

Thinking About Ariel Castro, Women, and Equality

  • Posted on August 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm
Woman of Liberty

Woman of Liberty

Yesterday I watched Ariel Castro claim that he is not a monster, that the sex he had with his victims was mostly consensual, and that he isn’t a violent person.  It is not in his character.  When I heard the word character, I could not believe that he could even speak about it.  What could he possibly know about character?  He wanted us to believe that his problem is a compulsion perhaps for sex.  However, I don’t equate rape with sex, so I had a hard time following his form of logic.  I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic as he repulses me, but I think there is a bigger issue in our nation where women are concerned.  I don’t know the name of the woman on the talk show I was watching on MSNBC yesterday but she was upset that Castro hadn’t been tried for civil rights violations.  She talked about the issue of human trafficking and the fact that these women had their civil rights violated for years.  She said that he targeted women, which indeed made it a civil rights violation.

From my point of view, I have concerns not just about this case, but also with the treatment of women throughout our country and of course the world.  Granted Ariel Castro is a deranged person but he felt that he had the right to do what he wanted with these women.  He said his wife would argue with him and he implied that because she touched him first that he had the right to put her in her place.  Something in his makeup, and I think in the way women are treated by many in our country, made him believe he could do what he wanted with these women, including his wife.

Our society, no matter how much we scream and protest about women’s issues and rights, is still patriarchal.  As a country, I believe we look to men for the answers and give them undo regard when it comes to major decisions whether it is at the local, state, or federal level.  We excuse their behaviors, no matter how crude they are, and we still have that “boys will be boys” attitude ingrained in our minds.  I see this even in school when I am teaching.  I don’t have that attitude but it is there for many.   When I tell some boys to clean up in art class, I still have some boys telling me “That’s women’s work.”   In politics, we have many men that exhibit disrespectful behavior to women on a regular basis.  On the far right wing, there is a constant effort to discount women’s opinions to the point of forcing them to have a vaginal probe if they mutter the word “abortion.”  On the left, we still have to hear about Bill Clinton’s Monica moment in regards to whether Hillary is going to run for the presidency.  The woman that sticks by her man, like Anthony Weiner’s wife, is marginalized as though she isn’t thinking clearly and she has been coerced into accepting her fate.  Maybe she has and maybe we don’t know what really goes on in these relationships.  In these cases, the woman is made to be an appendage to the man, just another “helpmate” for the big daddy that is the boss in the relationship.  In entertainment news, we recently discovered that Simon Cowell is going to be a daddy.  The woman involved is a “gold digger” and immoral because she is still married to her husband.  The last I knew, it takes two to make a baby.  We aren’t hearing what a slut Simon is, it is all about his girlfriend.

The point I am trying to make is that we and I think both men and women, still have different standards for the two sexes.  I received an email last night from Credo action to sign a petition.  The petition deals with the fact that a number of colleges and universities across the country don’t call rape, rape.  It is referred to as nonconsensual sex.  This must be similar to the Republican that talked about forcible rape and rape as though they were two different things.  I don’t know how else to say it but rape is rape.  Women are continually demeaned when their voices are not heard and they are treated like a dog getting their heads patted when dealing with serious issues.

The other day I was talking to my sister and I told her about this video I saw which I assumed was staged but was funny.  A person was showing the excitement his cat had for him after he was gone for six months.  Now we all have witnessed the excitement our dogs show us after even very brief periods away from us.  Cats, however, are a whole another being.  I have two cats and one greets me and the other hides.  I have a dog and he’s always anxious to see me.  The reason I bring this up is that I jokingly referred to women as being like dogs and men as being like cats.  However, I think there is a bit of truth to this.  Men can take or leave us as women.  Much like a cat, they are used to being pampered.  They are used to being at the top of the food chain in respect, expectations, and affection.  They expect women to care for them and love them.  They have expectations of what they want and how they are going to get it.  Women on the other hand are starved for affection and will do just about anything to get that pat on the head, just like a dog.  They will jump through hoops to make sure their man is taken care of and are afraid that someone may see them as not being a good caretaker.  Women nurture and when they don’t everyone notices it!  Women have expectations but they often will subjugate their desires for their mate’s desires.  Obviously, there are exceptions but from my point of view, women are always last.

Now you could say that I have a unique way of looking at things because I grew up with ten brothers and I admit this, but I have noticed many things over the years.  We women were the last to get the right to vote!  Slavery was finally ended and blacks could vote but women were still chained to the concept that they were less than a man.  One of my brothers always talks about the Constitution and I just have to laugh because from my point of view, the Constitution is a living document that needs to change and grow as time changes.  So many politicians want everything to stay the same, don’t rock the boat, and just keep the status quo.  If we do this, half of society would never count for anything.  It still irks me that we could never get the equal rights amendment passed.  Those simple words of equality are very scary to some people.

We live in a time of potential great knowledge for all people.  The internet has opened the doors and the minds of anyone that is willing to learn.  Sure sometimes you have to sift through many websites to find the truth about something, but in all reality if you want to learn about any issue or how to do something the internet is a terrific resource.  I think the more people are educated the more we are apt to all be treated equally in society.  I have found the internet a place where I can discuss issues with other women that are interested in politics.  With this blog, I have an opportunity to get others to think about things.  None of us would have known about the small town in Ohio where high school boys raped a girl and nobody seemed to care until anonymous bloggers got involved.  Today I want people thinking about women and their place in the world.  Women are more than just nurturing helpmates for men.  I think until they are taken more seriously, women will continue to see much physical, social, and emotional abuse by men that think they can have what they want when they want it.  Women need to stand up and make things clear to those men that abuse.  Men that are “evolved” need to help move this issue along.  The women that are abused are their mothers, daughters, and sisters.  If we want to stop people like Ariel Castro, we as a society, have to make sure that little boys grow up respecting little girls and that gender roles are not so defined that women think they are less than men and are willing to accept less pay, less love, and less worth.

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