Archive | September, 2011

No Child Left Behind? Please, That Ship Has Already Sunk

28 Sep

When I was growing up I dreamt of being either a Writer or a Teacher.  In my mind that was all there was to it, I knew that I would be one or the other.  I never wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or an astronaut, only a writer or a teacher or some combination of the two.  My focus all through out school was to prep me for this direction, more emphasis on English and Language classes, honors history, Advanced Placement Government classes, when other students were excited that the hardest teacher in the school was retiring I was lamenting his loss because that meant I wouldn’t get the challenge of his class, his wealth of knowledge wouldn’t be passed on to my generation.  I however encountered on snag along the way in my goal – Standardized Testing.

Testing, the policy that ruined education.  I can say this because I was almost one of its victims.  While my test scores shined in the English and writing sections my Math scores were always lagging behind.  It was this deficit that almost cost me my diploma.  What was so wrong with just teaching?  What was the purpose of all these damn standardized tests anyways?  Originally, standardized testing was used primarily as a tool for teachers to help them determine class placement.  The scores from these tests were used to see which students needed extra help in certain areas so they could be grouped with like students meanwhile not holding back the children who had successfully masted the curriculum and would be detrimental to hold back.  Instead, it has become this very narrow-minded view of, not what children need to be helped, but rather which teachers need to be fired.

In the new documentary, American Teacher, the leaders of the nations two largest teachers unions lauded the film for bringing to light how very hard teachers work and how under appreciated and under paid they are, citing a 2006 National Education Association survey that found nearly 62% of teachers held second jobs and almost half leave the profession before their fifth year based largely on the salary.  However, according the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for a teacher, depending upon location, is between $47,000 and $52,000.  Now, I am a little perplexed by this number, you see, I make a whopping $31,000 a year (gross income of course as I am sure that is the figure that was used by the Labor and Stats people) and yet I have no need for a second job, I can pay my bills and still put money back in savings AND I contribute to an IRA and pay for half of my health coverage out of this money as well.  So, you tell me how someone who makes $16,000 more than me can complain about being under paid.  Truth be known, people don’t go into professions like teaching for the money, that’s like a missionary looking to gain fame by bringing to word of God to the savages.  If you are considering teaching to get wealthy, well, then I sure don’t want to teaching my child.

Teaching is passion, it’s a labor of love.  I wanted to be a teacher so I could impart wisdom and common sense to generations to come.  I wanted to teach so that when I was old and gray one of my students parents would come in and tell me, I had you when I was in ____ grade and was so excited when I found out little Timmy was going to  have you too.  I wanted to teach so I could earn an honest living while still doing something that I was passionate about, touching a life….making a difference.  Now-a-days that is not something you hear too much over all the crying and bellyaching about pay and testing scores.

Here’s an idea!  We are so gung ho for education reform, how about we actually TEACH our children something?  I know! What a SHOCKING concept isn’t it?  Do you want a generation of children who can think outside the box and make a difference in our world?  This is how you do it:

  1. Smaller Class Sizes:  According to the Department of Education, the student:teacher ratio in the United States runs around 16:1.  That means for each ONE teacher there are SIXTEEN students.  Now, we all know these numbers are a skewed, I myself as a preschool teacher was only legally allowed to have for my age group was 15:1 (which was ridiculous for 3 year olds) and I consistently had over 20 every day.  Would this smaller class size mean more teachers?  Sure, but it also means that teacher has more time to devote to her students which means more one on one instruction and a teacher that is better equipped to notice warning signs of problems in other areas of a student’s life.
  2. Return Standardized Testing to What it Was Intended For:  There is absolutely no reason that any child should be denied the honor and privilege of walking across the stage with their classmates and taking that diploma in their hand, especially if the reason is a failing test score!  Testing should be used how it was meant to be used, to aid teachers in the placement of a student and to monitor progress.  However, with testing, attendance and effort should be taken into consideration as well when considering advancement.
  3. Education is not just the 3 R’s:  While the main focus should be on the basic skills, children need the opportunity to explore creativity.  Art and music classes are just as vital to an education as reading and math are.  Return art and music into the schools, without them these students have nothing to write about.
  4. There is More to Life Than Money!:  Quit being greedy already, it’s so unattractive.  Instead of instilling in our children a desire for more and more material possessions how about we teach them compassion and empathy.  We should not be producing a generation of Donald Trumps, we should want our children to worry more about making an impact in society than their pocketbooks.  Teach them that they should grow up to want to be anything they want to be but not because it will bring them wealth or fame but because it will make their world a better place.

It Gets Better

22 Sep

Another life gone.

Another child bullied to death.  Why?

I don’t understand it, I’ve never understood why bullies exist.  What purpose they serve, what satisfaction they find in their taunts and jabs.  I’ve never understood why no one stands up when they see it.  I know they see it, the teachers….the parents….the “friends”.  There is no such thing as a blind eye.

Why?!?!

Growing up I was bullied, not for the same reasons, although I suspect that it would be a different case if I was a child these days.  Oh, how glad I am to not be a child in these times.  The fat jokes were bad enough but I don’t think I could have taken the dyke jokes on top of it.

But, I made it through, sometimes hiding just far enough out of sight to still know what was going on, sometimes from just good old-fashioned acting.  I knew the drill, always scared that someone would find out.  Even now, having to keep up airs around certain people for family sake.  Not that I hide much these days, I think everyone knows now, even if it is a unspoke understanding of silence.  Most days I live my own don’t ask don’t tell, but the truth is there at the surface.

I hurt, all over again, for the children, babies still in some senses, that will never get the chance to know that it does get better.  They all cried out for help but no one was there to answer that call.  I wish that I had been there to answer that call.  I wish that I could have imparted some words of comfort and wisdom on to them, taken a piece of their pain and bore it for them for a while.

But now they are gone, Jayme, Raymond, Trevor, Aiyisha, Tyler, Justin and so many, many more who will forever just be another face, another name, another child.  Dead.

And for what?  So that the zealots can save face and look righteous to a God who said not to judge, to not hate, to not condemn.  A God who told us to love each other.  But, as is the often the case with zealots, they see what they want to see and choose to ignore the rest.  I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to pass laws to protect each other because we just did it anyways.  I wish we lived in a world where everyone’s differences were celebrated, instead of shamed.  A place where, even though we didn’t share the same believes or views that we still respected each other.  But we don’t….we probably never will.

If you are reading this, it does get better.  You may not see that light at the end of the tunnel just yet, but it is there, I promise.  Just please, don’t give up!  You may be the ONE, the one vote that passes that law, the lawmaker who pushes for the legislation, they activist who saves a live.  You make the world a better place just by being here, just by being you.  And if you ever feel like you are all alone and unloved, you are wrong.  To that one person who is reading this right now, the person who needs to hear it, needs to feel it, you are loved, because I love you.

It does get better, just you wait and see…..

American Apperal or Absolute Asses?

16 Sep

As my late father, who was in the woman’s apparel industry for over 45 years once said, a clothing company is only successful as its designer and since most designers have no idea what the average woman in America wants from their clothing they design it to suit their egos.  His words rang true to me this evening when I heard about the recent model search held by American Apparel to tout their new line of plus size fashions.

American Apparel, the largest clothing manufacture still located in the United States, has been providing the world with soft core pornography under the guise of modeling for over twenty years but it seems as of late that they want to jump on the bandwagon with the likes of H&M, The
Limited and Forever 21 in expanding their vision to the plus size demographic.  However, in this fat girl’s opinion they fell a little short of the goal with the size 12-14 plus size “XL” line.

Enter Nancy Upton, a size 12 Dallas based blogger, who entered “The Next Big Thing” model search submitting photos of herself scarping down a whole chicken while gazing longingly at us from a pool, hiding her nether regions behind a cherry pie while displaying her ample bosom in a blue gingham bikini top, bathing in a tub of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  To Upton, the photos were a commentary of sorts on how the media portrays fat woman and how retailers market to us, however the public loved it.  So much so that they voted Nancy Upton the winner of the AA contest.  American Apparel failed to see the humor in the photos and despite winning the vote have declined to allow Upton to appear in the campaign stating that they…., “decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.”

In a letter to Upton, the Creative Director of AA, Iris Alonzo, scolded her, saying “It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language”.  Positive intentions?  Really!
I see nothing positive in a clothing line that calls sizes 12 and 14 “
natural – and completely normal –
full-figured women”. 
As a size 26/28 woman I take offense to a company who claims to be making a conscious effort to change to be more accommodating of the “full figured woman” but continually falls short of making the grade.

Not so surprisingly are some of the remarks that Upton is getting from the general populace about her “stunt” to bring attention to a problem that most still would like to keep swept under the rug.  Responding to a blog on the Huffington Post, AveryT replied by saying,

“First, I’ll put my bias on the table. I’m thin. I wear 29″ jeans. I
do not find this women even remotely attractive­. Indeed, I find her the
opposite of attractive­.
From a business perspectiv­e, AA made the wise choice. Its brand image is
thin (although, AA models are a lot bigger than runway models). Also, AA images
(maybe not AA copy) has no sense of humor at all. It isn’t ironic at all. It is
very serious about being sexy in a trashy way. It contains no parody at all.
The Gap went with the Gap body campaign. However, The Gap has almost gone
bankrupt.
Having plus sized models may seem like a way to attract a wider demographi­c.
However, people buy a brand, because they like its image. My hunch is that plus
sized women who buy AA do so in the hope of looking more like the thinn(er)
models in the photos. The clothing makes the woman. Changing (or widening) the
image would hurt the brand, I think.”

I’ve heard this notion before that clothes make the man (or woman in this case) but I think, instead, that attitude makes the woman, after all, when you feel booty-ful you carry yourself differently, you exude a confidence that can make all the difference.  As far as hurting the brand
by widening the selection, I think what would really hurt the brand is when the waifish twigs that shop there realize they aren’t really a size 4 since most designers have tweaked the numbers and that 4 is really more like an 8 these days.

Kudos Nancy Upton, I applaud your efforts to bring attention to a topic that most find incredibly uncomfortable and some find unpleasurable.  What it boils down to is a right, our God-given right to equality.  We are humans, people, with needs and desires and wants just like everyone else and though it might seem trivial to some, we desire to be fashionable along with everyone else, we want to be able to find clothes similar to our skinny sisters, not because we want to be skinny but because we could rock them just as good as the Rosie Huntington Whitley’s of the world (and in some cases dare I say better).  Nothing worth fighting for was ever easy to talk about but when a picture is worth a thousand words
yours spoke volumes.