Category Archives: education

Good Versus Evil in Today’s World

Innocence, Purity, and Courage are Good

It is the goal of those who write humor to reveal truth and make you laugh about it. Unexpected truth is funny. It is also the main reason that far-right political kooks have no sense of humor Simply put, for the evil and stupid people who are taking over this country, truth is not funny. It is the enemy.

The fact that so many who are quick to argue cannot be quieted by a joke anymore means that the conversation can’t end until they’ve owned the libtard, or punched him in the face… or worse, shot him dead with their beloved Second-Amendment Rights.

And a source of that evil is the whole conservative-bubble propaganda wheels that never stop turning on Fox News, Breitbart, One America News, and Stormfront publications.

They take up arms against the things they fear. And they fear those people that their propaganda wheels identify for them as the “other.” That means people of color, Democrats, liberals, ANTIFA (which stands for anti-fascists, and as far as I can tell are mostly fictional… which prevents me from joining them,) and intellectuals (meaning anybody that is smarter than they are… specifically me.)

Yes, White Priviledge is real, though they will complain you’re being racist if you say it out loud.

The most frustrating thing about the armies of evil is that they are made up of good, basically God-fearing, fine-hearted people who would do anything for you if you are identified as a member of their group by the color of your skin or your support of their glorious leader Don Cheetoh Trumpaloney. Unfortunately the consumption of propaganda from their fear-centered and conspiracy-theory-prone propaganda wheels stimulates the fear centers of their amygdalas (also known as their lizard brains) and suppresses their natural empathy to the point of being able to do violence in the name of leaders who are basically robbing them, conning them, and laughing about it behind their backs.

Enthusiasm for an idea like this… good or evil?

And the leaders who are doing all of this, they are the primary beneficiaries of corporate greed and control of politics to the point that they can make more profits than ever from fossil fuels at a time when the planet is dying from green-house gasses that cause fires in the western States and the ferocity of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

So, what are people who would rather see good happen than have the world die in fire and a hail of bullets going to do about it?

We can vote. Here are the names of some people who support evil ideas and have made lots of money in their respective offices; Ron DeSantis (Mickey Mouse’s new nemesis), Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott (Evil Emperor of Texas,) Marco Rubio (enemy of immigrants everywhere,) and basically anyone who rules with a Maga hat on, or calls himself a Trump Republican.

We have to keep fighting for public education, fair and equal and well-funded, free of book banning in school libraries that target classic works of black authors, gay authors, truth-tellers, and authors of science books that include climate change and evolution as scientifically established, and willing to treat kids as valuable learners no matter what color, religion, ethnicity, culture, or sexual orientation they are blessed with. Kids are kids and deserve love and respect (even the naked ones, though I am not advocating for nude schools… that’s just a joke.)

We have to treat the aggrieved and fearful members of the evil armies not as evil, but as our misguided brothers and sisters, neighbors, useful members of society, and people who can be reminded that they do have good hearts, and only cold-hearted lunatics and despots are truly evil.

And I will continue trying to open eyes and hearts with humor. Hopefully the kind that brings smiles and laughter. But also the kind that brings tears and self-examination as necessary. (Of course, I can’t promise to be good at it. Funny is in the brain of the laugher after all.)

1 Comment

Filed under angry rant, education, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, kids, politics, red States

My Favorite Cowboy

When he walked through my classroom door for the first time in August 1988, the start of his seventh grade year, Jorge Navarro was a tiny little third-grader-looking thing. But one of the first things he ever told me in English was that he was a cowboy.

He had two older brothers. Sammy was an eighth grader that year, and Jose was in tenth grade. So, I already knew his brothers. Big strapping lads. They didn’t speak English really well and couldn’t read. But they were smart in a pragmatic, workman-like way. They all three came from a ranch down in Encinal, Texas. Fifteen miles closer to the Mexican border than where I was teaching in Cotulla, Texas. But they were not Mexicans. Their grandparents and parents were born in the USA, and their great grandparents, and possibly further back than that had lived on the same ranch-land all the way back to when everything South of the Nueces River was Mexico. These were Tejanos. Proud Americans from Texas. Hard-working, dedicated to the ranch owners who paid them to do what they loved, getting the most agricultural benefits possible from the dry South-Texas brush country.

Jorge was, at the start, a little man with a big voice in a small package. He was smarter and could read better than either of his brothers. He could even read and translate Spanish, which, of course, was his native language. And he had strong opinions that you could not argue with him about. He was a cowboy. That was opinion number one. He not only rode horses, he fed them daily, curried them in the morning to loosen the dirt and stimulate the production of natural oils that kept their coats shiny, and he even told me about the times he bottle-fed newborn colts when their mothers were sick.

And he strongly believed that a boss, or a teacher in my case, should never ask someone to do something that he didn’t know how to do himself. That was opinion number two. And he held me to that standard daily.

You should never use bad language in front of a lady… or a teacher, was opinion number three. He had a temper though. So, unlike most of the other boys, on those days when he lost it, he apologized as soon as he was back in control of himself. It made the girls giggle when he apologized to them, but that was an embarrassed reaction. He impressed them. They told me so in private afterwards.

He had a cowboy hat in his locker every day. You never wore a hat inside. Strong opinion number four.

And when he was an eighth-grader, he almost doubled in height. But not in width. He was what they call in Spanish, “Flaco,” skinny as a rail. He was taller than me by the time in mid-year when he started competing like his brothers in rodeos. And he was good. Something about the way his skinny, light frame could bend and twist under stress allowed him to stay on a barebacked horse longer than his brothers, or even the older men. He was pretty good at roping steers too. But it was the bareback bronc riding that won him trophies.

This is not a story about someone overcoming hardships to succeed. It always seemed like Jorge was blessed with it from the beginning. But it was the fact that he did what was needed every single day without fail. You could depend on it. He had a code that he followed.

The drawing that started this story is one that I did for him. I gave him and every member of his class that asked for one a copy made on my little copier at home.

And he taught me far more than I could ever teach him. Jorge Navarro was a cowboy. And you couldn’t argue with him about that.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, Cotulla, cowboys, education, heroes, Paffooney

The Wolf in My Dreams

wolfgirl

Rosemary Hood was a bright, blond seventh grader who entered my seventh-grade Gifted English class in September of 1998.  She introduced herself to me before the first bell of her first day.

“I am definitely on your class list because my Mom says I belong in gifted classes.”

“Your name is Rosemary, right?”

“Definitely.  Rosemary Bell Hood, related to the Civil War general John Bell Hood.”

“Um, I don’t see your name on my list.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be there, so check with the attendance secretary.  And I will be making A’s all year because I’m a werewolf and I could eat you during the full moon if you make me mad at you.”

I laughed, thinking that she had a bizarre sense of humor.  I let her enter my class and issued her copies of the books we were reading.  Later I called the office to ask about her enrollment.

“Well, Mr. Beyer,” said the secretary nervously, “the principal is out right now with an animal bite that got infected.  But I can assure you that we must change her schedule and put her in your gifted class.  The principal would really like you to give her A’s too.”

So, I had a good chuckle about that.  I never gave students A’s.  Grades had to be earned.  And one of the first rules of being a good teacher is, “Ignore what the principal says you should do in every situation.”

But I did give her A’s because she was a very bright and creative student (also very blond, but that has nothing to do with being a good student).  She had a good work ethic and a marvelous sense of humor.

She developed a crush on Jose Tannenbaum who sat in the seat across from her in the next row.  He was a football player, as well as an A student.  And by October she was telling him daily, “You need to take to me to the Harvest Festival Dance because I am a werewolf, and if you don’t, I will eat you at the next full moon.”

All the members of the class got a good chuckle out of it.  And it was assumed that he would. of course, take her to the dance because she was the prettiest blond girl in class and he obviously kinda liked her.  But the week of the dance we did find out, to our surprise, that he asked Natasha Garcia to the dance instead.

I didn’t think anything more about it until, the day after the next full moon, Jose didn’t show up for class.  I called the attendance secretary and asked about it.

“Jose is missing, Mr. Beyer,” the attendance secretary said.  “The Sherrif’s office has search parties out looking for him.”  That concerned me because he had a writing project due that day, and I thought he might’ve skipped school because he somehow failed to finish it.  When I saw Rosemary in class, though, I asked her if, by any chance, she knew why Jose wasn’t in class.

“Of course I do,” she said simply.  “I ate him last night.”

“Oh.  Bones and all?”

“Bone marrow is the best-tasting part.”

So, that turned out to be one rough school year.  Silver bullets are extremely expensive for a teacher’s salary.  And I did lose a part of my left ear before the year ended.  But it also taught me valuable lessons about being a teacher.  Truthfully, you can’t be a good teacher if you can’t accept and teach anyone who comes through your door, no matter what kind of unique qualities they bring with them into your classroom.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under education, horror writing, humor, Paffooney

Recognizing What is Good

We have to have a reason to keep going from day to day. Sometimes people you would never expect to give up, real balls of intellectual energy and cultural importance give up and end their own lives. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Robin Williams come to mind with no mental effort..

There has to be an undeniable goodness hidden somewhere in reality that makes life worth living. The real question, then, is how we find it. And in order to find it, we need to be able to recognize goodness when we see it.

A problem arises, though, when we realize that even the worst villains in history see themselves as the good guys, the heroes of their own stories in the annals of history. ,

There are many things in life that are seen generally as bad or evil that can, over time and with factual input come to be seen as a general good. I was more or less taught as a boy that if you masturbate, you are doomed to go to hell when you die. I was taught this after I had already been sexually assaulted and tortured. I tried really hard to completely resist the urge, going so far as to burn myself whenever I felt a desire to do the deed. But when the Methodist minister told our confirmation group the actual facts of life, he also taught us that masturbation is a natural function for both boys and girls. And that it was necessary to learn how your body actually works. And how to approach it with maturity and the realization that in later life you will probably need that practice to maintain a healthy love life based on mutual love, respect, and desire. And as an adult, I would actually reach an understanding that that particular practice was a useful thing for maintaining prostate health, avoiding depression, and helping both your immune system and your sense of satisfaction with life. It is a good thing that is hard to recognize.

I would also learn in my role as a teacher, especially when I taught middle school kids in their “Wonder Years,” that there really are no bad kids or evil kids. When they act out in class, being defiant, disobedient, unruly, inappropriate, and every other kind of stinky behavior that kids do, you can’t just throw them on a trash pile and get rid of them. That only leads to more of the same and a trash pile of monumental size. Rather, every instance of misbehavior has a root cause. And if you take the opportunity to talk to the juvenile offender, you can get down to those root causes where you can solve problems, extinguish bad behaviors, and instill good behaviors. You get to know the kid for who they really are. And I have to admit, by the sixth grade, some kids are so damaged by life there is literally nothing within your power to heal what’s wrong. You can still work with those kids, though, and benefit them in the long run. I had some amazing accomplishments with some kids that other teachers had on their trash piles. There is startling good in some of them, if only you are willing to search for it.

So, what is my reason, as the insufferable know-it-all who is giving you this unasked-for advice about life, for getting up and going on every single day?

Well, I am a pessimist by philosophical habit, and yet, I find more really good and worthwhile things to pursue in this life than bad things to avoid or arm myself against. In fact, I can focus on the good things and ignore the bad (at least until I have a bad week like last week where multiple terrible things happen all at once and screw up everything. I fear that may have been what happened to Robin Williams.)

I can see good coming from all the things the former orange-skinned leader of our government is doing or has done that are basically evil. (There is real evil in the world.) He is busily leading all the evil lemmings in the Republican Party off a cliff that will go a long way towards cleaning up corruption in Washington.

I am still fundamentally a pessimist, but I do recognize;

It is far better to live in the sunlight where you can see what is good and what is evil than to try to hide yourself in the darkness and hope the wolves that are hunting you simply never sniff you out.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, empathy, humor, kids, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Found Poetry

by Sergio Aragon├ęs

Found poetry begins with three found things

Picked up at random

Like three pictures from my internet gallery

Plagiarized from somebody’s fandom

oil painting by Maxfield Parrish

And then you have to sit and have a thought

About how it fits together

To make a stupid poem you’ve wrought

That’s not about the weather

Movie image by Woody Allen featuring Woody Allen

You must pretend the very best you can

There’s sense in what you’ve found

And it fits together as if you had a plan

That was always quite profound.

———————————————————————————————–wow!-a-weird-divider————————-

Writing a found poem

Okay, this is the essay part. That first part is a terrible poem written by me to illustrate how to make your own found poem. Of course, you should know that I was not a natural-born poet. I am among the lower percentages of America’s worst-possible poets. Right there somewhere between the poetry books of Farley Bumbletongue and the Collected Musings of Hans Poopferbrains of Snarkytown, Wisconsin.

But I take great pride in my abilities as a terrible poet. You see, what I mainly was, truly was, was an English teacher of middle school and high school kids. And found poems were an activity in the classroom intended to teach writing skills, creativity, and an appreciation of what a poem actually is.

I needed a large usable picture file cut out of Christmas catalogs, Walmart advertisements, newspapers, magazines (“What are those?” is the most common comment you would get out of today’s classrooms,) grocery-store bargain flyers, outdated calendars, and any other non-pornographic picture sources available.

I would hand out three random images pulled out of the picture file without looking at them to each student (or small groups of students) and then require them to create a poem of at least twelve lines with an optional rhyme scheme and rhythm.

I would have to remind them not to eat the pictures, even if they were pictures of food. And with middle school students I would have to have extra pictures for the next class to replace the ones they ate anyway.

I would tell them there was a time-limit, specified to be much shorter than the actual time I planned to give them, and then let them create horrible poetry. Near Vogon quality in its horribleness.

When all of this was done, we would have a good long laugh by sharing the pictures and poems, and find out who the truly wacky and perverted poets were.

Now, don’t go telling parents that we teachers are wasting their children’s precious learning time this way, but it is not I lesson I created. Simply a lesson I used at least once every year.

But the real question on my mind is, “Given three random pictures, what kind of poem would you write?” Feel free to share.

Leave a comment

Filed under education, humor, kids, poem, poetry, teaching

A Memorable Day at School

**Please note** This is a fiction story. It absolutely did not happen in real life. So, no real-life school administrators should be fired over it. And the author is a RETIRED school teacher, so it is not necessary to hire a hit man to protect future students from evil ideas like the ones presented in this story.

Rudy was miserable as he sat in the counselor’s office staring at the note from his teacher. Miss Nactarine. the sympathetic young counselor, sat behind her desk praying silently that the poor boy would be able to overcome his extreme shyness for long enough to explain what the problem really was.

“Well, um… you see, Miss…. I, uh…”

And then, once again, he simply stopped talking. She waited for several minutes.

“Rudy, just take a deep breath and let it all come out. You were sent here for sleeping in class. Tell me why that happened.”

“Okay, Miss. I been having bad dreams.”

“Oh? They’ve been keeping you from sleeping at night? What are the bad dreams about?”

“Um, well… In my dreams, I keep forgetting to put my clothes on before coming to school. I end up having to give a speech in Miss Burkett’s class standing naked in front of everybody. And the girls were laughing.”

“Oh, I see. Hmm. And what do you suppose is causing these dreams?”

He didn’t hesitate even for a moment. “P.E. Class!”

“Why P.E. Class?”

“Well, because… when it’s over, sixth graders have to take a shower. You have to get naked and go into the shower room where everybody can see.”

“But there are only other boys in there.” She knew as soon as she said it why that didn’t matter to Rudy. Even as she said it, she could see this shrinking-violet child trying to disappear in his chair.

“What do you think we should do about this problem?” She was thinking swim-suit for showers or something.

“Can we cancel P.E. Class?”

“Honey, that’s State-mandated curriculum. You can’t pass to the seventh grade without taking that class.”

“Can we cancel showers?”

“Young men in the sixth grade begin to have body odor. You know how that smell would affect learning?”

Rudy was dissolving in front of her.

“You are a vary brave young man. The best way to overcome this problem is to simply make up your mind not to let it affect you. The next time you have to take a shower, just face your fears head on. Take your clothes off and act like you want everybody to see you naked. Once you have endured the worst that can happen, you won’t have that bad dream anymore. You will know that you can do anything by being brave enough to try.”

Miraculously, Rudy seemed to brighten up, as if he had finally come to terms with the problem.

“Thanks, Miss. That helps a lot.”

As she dismissed him back to class, she couldn’t help but congratulate herself on saying the right thing at the right time.

The next morning, as students who walked to school from the neighborhood gathered in front of the school, Rudy showed up striding purposefully towards the front door wearing only a hat.

Most of the girls squealed in response, and then broke out into laughing conversations.

One of the most popular seventh-grade cheerleaders said loudly enough for everyone to hear, “I think he looks really cute like that! I wish all the boys were brave enough to come to school like that.”

“We would if all the girls did too!” hollored some invisible boy from somewhere in the back of the crowd.

Principal Eirohnee quickly brought both naked Rudy and Counselor Nacterine into her office.

Rudy was very comfortably nude as he stood in front of the principal’s desk and explained.

“It really cured my problem,” Rudy said. “From the time I made up my mind to do this I have felt nothing but confidence. If I can come to school naked, I can do anything!”

“Intend to go to all your classes today naked, do you?” asked the Principal.

“Yes, if you let me. If you don’t, it was still worth it.”

Full of pride for her part in Rudy’s transformation, the Counselor said, “I think we should allow it.”

“Well, isn’t that precious. Why don’t we just change the dress code for the day and have everybody go to school today naked?”

“I’d be willing to try that,” Miss Nacterine said.

**Author’s note** You could argue that the Counselor was fired for not understanding what sarcasm was, but, more likely, it was because of how the majority of the students showed up the following day.

Leave a comment

Filed under dreams, education, humor, kids, nudes, Paffooney, satire, strange and wonderful ideas about life

How Good Things Grow from Bad Things

In the deep woods of the Pacific Northwestern portion of the United States, a great tall pine tree is struck by lightning. Of course, the threat of fire in this day and age is very real. But luckily, this time as the tree falls in flames and ignites the brush around where it falls, the sky opens up and a deluge of rain extinguishes what the lightning has ignited.

Time passes as time always seems to do. The burned area heals. The slain giant is broken down by bugs and heat and bacteria and rot. And before you know it, flowers begin to bloom there. The tree’s carbon-based flesh has fertilized the ground. And where the tree once created shade, there is now a hole to let the sunshine in. Life gets wildly busy growing.

Because of what the tree suffered, the forest floor, especially the part of it where flowers bloom, got its chance in the sun.

The same sort of rule of nature happened in politics in 2016. Bozo the Crime Boss got elected because the wave of pus and anger he surfed into power on had been festering under the skin of the country since Reagan brought judgemental, self-righteous, and fear-mongering rich-types into the political power pinnacles in 1980. The boil finally burst. De-regulating environmental protections has been a Republican priority since Ronnie Ray-Gun put James Watt in the job of Secretary of the Interior just so the forests in National Parks could be opened up to logging and oil exploration. And we have seen in the past few years how badly those changes in policy have affected our lives. The environment is on fire. We don’t have enough trees to absorb all the carbon dioxide that is causing the warming. Most of this country’s fresh water is now contaminated with an industrial waste of one sort or another. But Don Cheetoh’s recent implosion is threatening not only to wither the poisonous fruits of Republican policies but fundamentally destroy the evil-making machinery that the Republicans have worked so hard at maintaining for decades. We human beans who actually value human life over money thought 2016 was a deadly disaster. But it may instead have been more of a lancing of the boil as the twice-impeached Prexydent of the Disunited States did all his high crimes and misdemeanors in the public eye and then was routinely given a pass by Republican leaders in Congress. It reached a point with the stolen presidential documents that his crimes can no longer be covered up. The poisons may well be draining out of the holes the spoiled mango of a man poked into the very skin of our government. Look at how much climate-correction legislation was recently passed by the new, non-Cheetoh President. And look at how polls are suggesting that Democrats might not have to endure the traditional punishments for doing something good for the people that Republicans were so looking forward to. Good things are seemingly growing where the manure of the previous Republican administration has been spread.

Maybe I should be more careful about drawing young ladies in the nude. This is not a sexualized depiction, but not everybody who sees it will judge it that way. Many Texans are convinced nakedness is always a sin.

My own life is also an example of how something terrible grew into something good. As a victim of childhood sexual assault, I spent many years grappling with trauma. But the incident made me a school teacher, determined to fight dark things like sexual assault, violence, and a will to do harm to others with the power of education, empathy, and love. As a retired teacher, I have fully embraced naturism, and am nakedly honest about many things. One of those things is that you really need to endure some badness in your life to truly understand and appreciate the good that directly comes out of having survived that evil.

I should be very clear about the fact that when I was a teacher, I was not also an active nudist at the same time. I never suggested that any child should be naked in public and never saw any of my students nude (a feat achieved by never being a coach of athletics in charge of monitoring behaviors in the shower room after events and practice.) My nudism is entirely practiced after I retired and mostly at home by myself. But it is also a good thing to grow out of the badness that occurred before. It is a chance for me to finally be at peace with who I am inside my own skin (hopefully free of boils.)

Looking out at the end of the drive at our family farm in Iowa.

As I am now a Medicare recipient, I have to face the badness on the horizon that comes with reaching an age considered a fully-lived life. There could be heart attacks, strokes, and possibly Parkinson’s in the near future. I could lose so much of my mental self-control that I end up being charged with drawing child pornography (though I don’t believe I have done any of that. Former President George HW Bush didn’t believe he sexually harassed any young nurses from his deathbed either.) But whatever badness comes, I do believe there will be some mitigating goodness that follows because of it.

5 Comments

Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, education, fairies, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Teacher Crisis

This is a class exercise moment, not monkey-house behavior.

Schools are starting this school year with too few teachers to adequately do the job. I got a call asking if there was any way I could come back to work, even as a substitute teacher. But it just isn’t possible. I am still alive, but far short of well enough to teach for even a single day. And I have spent the entire week watching teachers on YouTube telling the world why they have quit. It’s complicated. I have watched teachers tell angry stories. I have watched teachers cry. I have watched teachers make jokes to keep from crying. And this isn’t just the same old thing about low pay for an extremely difficult job. Chuck Todd says the problem is a 280,000 teacher shortage nationwide.

A painting of my first year as a teacher

Kids’ behavior is surly, rude, and out of control, but nobody explaining why they quit as a veteran teacher named this as the reason for leaving . They still love the kids. Nobody who becomes a teacher and lasts for more than five years does the job without at least secretly loving their students more than money, fame, and peace of mind. Realistically, if the kids don’t eat a teacher alive by the time five school years have passed, they secretly love that teacher too.

As an experienced middle-school teacher, I realize that every kid with their hand up in this picture got a candy bar after the photographer clicked the photo. And the empty seats in the back would be filled except the principal doesn’t want the actual class sizes revealed. Floor sitters and window standers have also been removed.

The biggest roadblock to veteran teachers in red States is interference from the radical MAGA governor who wants to burn some of their school library books and edit what words come out of the teacher’s mouth over things they have basically made up like, “Critical Race Theory,” “Don’f Say Gay ,” or “Sex is something that exists.” And this comes with additional threats at school board meetings, school assemblies, or sometimes even surrounding the teacher’s or administrator’s home with torches, signs, and AR-15s because MAGA parents don’t just get angry, they do something about it.

Another huge factor comes from the way that schools are funded… or not funded as is increasingly the case. Back when Rick (I’m smarter with glasses on) Perry was Emperor… err… Governor of Texas, he had a multi-billion-dollar rainy day fund at the same time when school districts in Texas were all suffering from a lack of funds. Rainy day, right? Not according to the Emperor… err… Governor. While he fiddled with presidential-run preparations, he let schools cut arts programs and lay off teachers and increase class sizes. Teachers were encouraged to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets. Teachers were required to do more with less.

And then there was the pandemic. My time as a substitute teacher came to an end as teaching became potentially a death sentence for me. My wife got the opportunity to teach kids by Zoom calls, and then teach both in the classroom and by Zoom calls at the same time… for which no additional pay was offered, though the added requirements for the teacher’s efforts were all mandatory.

So, education in America is in extreme crisis. You can go be a teacher if you have some college hours in any subject area. and you can be a substitute if you are still alive. I don’t know if they would accept a zombie or not.

And it looks like everybody is soon going to get everything they deserve… except teachers, of course.

Leave a comment

Filed under angry rant, education, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, red States

Why School Should Be Cool

Cool School Blue

I was a school teacher for thirty-one years, and in spite of the immense amount of brain damage that builds up over time, especially as a middle-school teacher, I think I know what we’ve been doing wrong.

We need to take a look at an education system where things are working better than they are here.

Now, I know you probably didn’t click on the boring video about school.  Heck, you probably aren’t even reading this sentence.  But I can summarize it and put it in easy-to-understand words.  Finland does not have to educate as many poor and disadvantaged kids as this country does.  The video gives five ways that Finland does it better, but all of them boil down to the basic notion that the country is more homogeneous and uniformly middle-class than ours is.  Still, we can learn things from them.

The first of the five ways that Finland does it better is a difference in government.  While U.S. governmental safety-net programs blame people who need food stamps for being lazy (even though some of them work 40-hour work weeks in minimum-wage jobs), Finland gives a huge package to parents of everything they might need as soon as their child is born.  As long as the child is in school, the government does many things to support the family’s efforts to educate them.  Imagine what we could accomplish here if we invested some of the vast fortune we give to corporations in subsidies into educating poor black and Hispanic children instead.  Children have a hard time learning in school when they come to school hungry.  If we could only feed them better, the way the Fins do, we would revolutionize our classrooms.

The second point the video makes is the biggest suds-maker every time I get on my teacher’s soap box.  They don’t give kids homework and they only give them one standardized test when they leave high school.  I have recently covered this topic more thoroughly in a post in which I was able to ridicule Florida governor Rick “Skeletor” Scott.  (Boy, did I enjoy doing that.)  But I won’t go into all of that again here.

The third thing is respecting teachers.  In Finland they treat teachers with the kind of respect that they give to doctors and lawyers.  How cool is that?  In Texas, calling someone a teacher is an epithet.  If a teacher is liked or even loved by their students, administrators are encouraged to keep a closer eye on them to figure out what’s wrong.  Students are supposed to hate their teachers and sit all day filling out mind-numbing test-preparation worksheets.  Imagine what it could be like if teachers weren’t the scum of the earth.  They might actually have students convinced that learning goes on in their classrooms.

The fourth point is that Finland does not try to cram more and more memorized details into young brains so they can spit it all back out on a test.  They take students thoroughly into the subject of study, and at a slower, easier pace.  They dive deep into the river of learning instead of wade through the wide and shallow parts.  All questions get answered.  And by that, I mean, student questions, not teacher questions.  The learning is student-centered.

Finally, the video states that Finland simply has fewer social ills in their country to get in the way of good quality education.  But even though the work is harder in this country, the potential is really there to go far beyond what Finland is capable of.  We have a natural resource that is totally untapped in this nation.  We don’t develop the minds of a majority of our children in any meaningful way.  And I can tell you from having done it, you can teach a poor or disadvantaged child to think.  You can give them the tools for academic, economic, and personal success.  You can make them into valuable human beings.  But you should never forget, they are already precious beyond measure.  We just ignore and trash that inherent value.  So, the information is out there about how to do a better job of educating our children.  We need to follow through.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under angry rant, commentary, education, humor, insight, teaching

Being Ignored

I have never been an attention-seeker. In the Elysian Fields of modern society, I have never really been the honeybee. I have always been the flower. I had a reputation in high school for being the quiet nerd who ends up surprising you immensely in speech class, at the science fair, or at the art show. I was the one they all turned to when everybody in the conversation had already had their chance to strut and pontificate and say dumb things, and they were finally ready to get the solution to the problem being discussed, or the best suggestion on where to begin to find it.

When I became the teacher of the class instead of the student, I had to make major changes. I had to go from being patient, quiet, and shy to being the fearless presenter, forceful, sharp as an imparter of knowledge, and able to be easily understood, even by the kids whom you couldn’t legally call stupid, but were less than smart, and not in a pleasant Forrest Gump sort of way.

Shyness is only ever overcome by determination and practice. The standard advice given is to picture your audience naked so that you are not intimidated by them. But if your audience is seventh graders, you have to be extra careful about that. They are metaphorically naked all the time, ready at a moment’s notice to explode out of any metaphorical clothing they have learned to wear to cover the things that they wish to keep to themselves about themselves. And while you want them to open up and talk to you, you don’t want the emotional nakedness of having them sobbing in front of the entire class, or throwing things at you in the throes of a mega-tantrum over their love-life and the resulting soap operas of betrayal and revenge. And you definitely don’t want any literal nakedness in your classroom. (Please put your sweat pants back on, Keesha. Those shorts are not within the limits of the dress code.) Calling attention to yourself and what you have to say, because you are being paid to do so, is a critical, yet tricky thing to do. You want them looking at you, and actually thinking about what you are saying (preferably without imagining you naked, which they will do at any sort of unintentional slip or accidental prompting.) The ones who ignore you are a problem that has to be remedied individually and can eat up the majority of your teaching time.

I trained myself to be fairly good at commanding the attention of the room.

But now that I am retired, things have changed. I can still command attention in the room, which I proved to myself by being a successful substitute teacher last year. But I no longer have a captive audience that I can speak to five days a week in a classroom. Now my audience is whoever happens to see this blog and is intrigued enough by the title and pictures to read my words.

Now that I am retired and only speaking to the world at large through writing, I am ignored more than ever before. Being ignored is, perhaps, the only thing I do anymore. It is the new definition of Mickey. Mickey means, “He who must be ignored. Not partially, but wholly… and with malice.”

I put my blog posts on Facebook and Twitter where I know for a fact that there are people who know me and would read them and like them if they knew that they were there. But the malevolent algorithms on those social media sites guarantee that none of my dozens of cousins, old school friends, and former students will see them. Only the single ladies from Kazakhstan and members of the Butchers Union of Cleveland see my posts. Why is this? I do not know. Facebook and Twitter ignore me when I ask.

My books, though liked by everybody who has actually read and responded to them, are lost in a vast ocean of self-published books, most of which are not very good and give a black eye to self-published authors in general. I recently got another call from I-Universe/Penguin Books publishers about Catch a Falling Star, the one book I still have with them. They are concerned that my book, which is on their Editor’s Choice list, is not performing as well as their marketing people think it should. But to promote it, I would have to pay four hundred dollars towards the marketing campaign, even though they are already subsidizing it by fifty percent. They tell me they believe in my book. But apparently not enough to pay for 100% of the promotion.

I have decided to invest in a review service that will cost me about twenty dollars a month. But my confidence is not high. The last time I paid somebody to review a book, they reviewed a book with the same title as mine from a different author. That service still owes me money.

But the only reason it is a problem that I am being thoroughly ignored these days is that an author needs to be read to fulfill his purpose in life. Maybe pictures of pretty girls in this post will help. But, even if they don’t, well, I had their attention once upon a time. And since my purpose as a teacher is already fulfilled, perhaps that will be enough for one lifetime.

3 Comments

Filed under artwork, autobiography, education, humor, Paffooney, publishing, teaching