The Colors of Man 

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This is an image that was floating around on my newsfeed today. When I first saw it, it made me angry. I was angry because I have never done any of these things. I have never been in favor of slavery, I have never decided that any people of color are any sort of way. Why is it always all white people?  Why do I get painted by this brush just because I am a few shades pale of the undead? I have never done anything to intentionally be racist or support racism in my life.

I have however, judged people based on their differences before. While it never had anything to do with anyone’s skin color, I nevertheless judged their choices.  Or perhaps I should be clear, I judged what I perceived as choices that I believed that they had made.

I never really grew up with a lot of radical or different sort of people. Yes there were people of color in my childhood, but we didn’t treat each other any differently because of that, as far as I know.

What we did was judge people on their choices. Their branch of Christianity, the way that they dressed, how they lived, their grades, who they hang out with, and what they want to be when they grow up, your sexual orientation… all of these things. Heaven for bid if you didn’t have a branch of Christianity for us to judge. Or that you were in love with your best friend who was of the same sex. Or that you were friends with multiple crowds of people (Goths and Cheerleaders together? Who are you?!).

Almost all of that though, was not a true choice that any of these people made. You didn’t choose what your religion was when you’re a child, it was whatever your parents did or did not teach you. You do not choose, in my opinion, your sexuality. Your sexuality is whatever is presented in your mind by your specific brain, body, soul, being chemistry. Most of the time I didn’t even choose my friends, they were the people who were willing to talk to me when the others would not.

And in class, we learned history from the victors point of view. We talked about the Native Americans suffering in our country during Colonization, but we never talked about how The Country, our country, backed out on promises and treaties.

We never talked about anything as something that was presently occurring, only as something that had been in the past and dealt with. Ended. No More.

I suppose it was very idyllic for everyone.

But in the recent years, I’ve been thinking about how things were quite black-and-white. For instance, when I entered school and they started classifying our races, my parents asked the school what I should be classified as. The school replied that I looked white, so I should put down I was Caucasian. The problem became a few years later, when my sister was born, what she was because she did not look Caucasian. Because I had been told to put down Caucasian,  and we had/have the same parents, she also had to put down Caucasian.

Was that right? I really don’t know.

But that was the sort of place we lived in, and that’s how things had to be.

It was only recently that I discovered that things were not as I had been taught. And at first I was very angry. I was angry that no one told me, I was angry that someone had to tell me, and I was angry because I was ignorant. I was also angry that it was somehow my fault for things I never had control of.

Later, I became sad. Sad that so much of my cultural identity was based on untruths. Thanksgiving is a lie. (No, the sentiments are real. Yes, we should celebrate togetherness.) There were concentration camps on American soil. My grandfather left tribal lands for reasons that should not have happened. Our country can just decide to break treaties with the original inhabitants of our country. I was sad because I realized that a lot of people who look like me did bad things and because they did bad things it was assumed by a lot of people that I must have to. That this evil was in my DNA.  It did not matter that I am only the third generation of my family to live in this country. That my ancestors came over in the 1920s (and became Naturalized in the late 1950’s). The ancestors that did not come over in the 1920s are a part of the original habitants of this continent. As for my mother’s side of the family, as far as I know, they’ve always been too poor to have owned anyone. I do not know if any of my ancestors were racially motivated to behave in any sort of way, or who fought for what side when.

I do know that my father was taught to hand back money to cashiers using both hands as to show that he was not holding a weapon. I understand his father, who was raised on a reservation, taught him this. I was also taught this, even though this is never been something I have ever had to worry about. Other than this, no other struggles were told to me. We did not discuss life prior to the Korean War. For many reasons. (That’s neither here nor there)

After I felt sad about what happened in our country’s past, I became worried. How can I make sure that my son, being a white male, grows up in this country valuing all lives as he values his own?  How can we still celebrate all of these things that are within our cultural identity- Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, the institution of our government and presidential choices, many past presidents who were also honestly horrible people? The people who created our country murdered millions of people. They stole from millions of people. We only have the things we have today because of horrible atrocities. Sure, yes there were good and honest folk and I am not trying to down play the good honest folk that lived here. Yes indeed even bad people do good things. Yes, I cannot possibly comprehend the stresses of the time. But those good honest folk bought land that wasn’t theirs to buy. This is true, no matter how I do or do not feel about it. It is done.

It’s not like we can just all leave and give it back and everything will be OK.  It just doesn’t work like that. That wouldn’t really solve anything (except the Pipeline, but again, another post).

So how do I teach my son to be a white male in our country?

The only thing I can think of is to teach him that every single person’s life is worth as much as his own.  This is going to be extremely hard concept.  This is going to be extremely hard concept even to myself, because I am so afraid of dying. I don’t think I am worth more than someone else, but I’m also not so sure that I could just jump in front of a bullet or push them out-of-the-way of a speeding vehicle.

I think that’s the part that wounds my sensibilities the most; I am not as selfless as I should be. I am not as worthy a person as I should be. I am certainly not as amazing, deserving, and long-suffering as all of the people in the past that deserve to have lived an equal life.

And yet here I am, raising a white male.

I am now at the point, where I feel guilty. Guilty that I do not do more. The only problem is, I’m not sure what I can do. I know that I am classified as a part of the “We,” purely by accident of birth.

I know a lot of people feel like they’re being told they should be ashamed of their roots. A lot of people I know, who are of the white middle-class, feel like they’re being told that because they are Caucasian that they have done something wrong. That they have done something wrong and they should not celebrate their heritage. They feel like they’re being told that the way they think and they feel is not important because it’s wrong. But this is not what I think the goal is. I don’t think that thinking black lives matter means that white lives matter less. And I think a lot of the people I know, this is what they believe: that they should feel shame over their cultural heritage.

Even though I hope I have never displayed any actions that support any of the things accused in the graphic above, I cannot say that I am doing anything to change the conversation. To add another section that says “now in we are at a point in our history that it has really become OUR history, because every voice matters, because every life is equal, because we all understand that no one is above anyone else, and judgment is something that we should not go dole out based on things we could not have possibly chosen for ourselves.”

I am simply not sure what to do, all I am is aware.  I am aware, and I am listening. I am aware, and I am posting, and reading, and talking about, and trying to understand. And I am wrong most of the time, and I do not always understand. I most likly piss off a great deal of people. Most often, I misunderstand. I understand it’s not all about me and for me. But I am aware. I want to have dialogs with all sorts of different people, not so that they can tell me how to think.  Not so I can shame them or shame myself. Not so I can feel better about my privilege. That privilege is there whether I want to be or not, simply because of the color of my skin.

But again, we cannot help to what we were born.  The only thing we can help is how we live. So I will keep trying to understand and raise a good man.

If I have offended anyone, this was not my intention. I truly would love to have a conversation about this, so that I can understand your point of view and so that I can do better for my son. One of my goals is to leave this world better than I found it.  I don’t have to do something grand, I don’t have to change the world. But I do understand you can change my world so that I may make decisions in my own life that will affect others. It would be better if I make an educated influence instead of a bumbling misinformed one.


Awards Day and Transition Ceremony 


Well it’s done. Today was the last day with students. We did a lot of housekeeping type things at the beginning of the day- double and triple checks to make sure things were set for today.

I had prepared for this day- for band- for months. I had all of my awards, thankfully:


And some lovely person set them up for me!

The parents arrived:


And the students arrived:

Then we started:


And we had awards for Attendance, for Honor Roll, for PBIS, for Improvement, and for Specific Subject Areas.

It lasted a pretty long time, but it was worth it!

There was celebration everywhere:


Then, we had to feed them and send them home, one last time (8th grade and for the year, 5th-7th grade).

During this, I received this email from my husband:


….

My Husband Ry has been… Well for lack of a better word, demoted. He’s tried his best. He’s tried some many things- even I probably haven’t given him enough credit for all he’s done.

He was called in and told, not asked, told, what was happening next year. He hasn’t done anything wrong, he can’t be fired but the one thing he loves is gone. He can’t teach Band. Then, as an after thought:

“Are you okay with this?”

Well what? Did you want my husband to lose his composure? A family man with responsibilities? Is that why you felt you needed 2 assistant principals with you, when you explained the, “New Direction?”

No, no my husband is not the fool you may want him to be. He will take your job offering because he has a family. Responsibilities. Character. He’s not going to flip out on you, he is a professional.

A professional.

Are you, okay with that? What about that direction?

If anything ever cemented the feeling of, “It’s time for a new job,” this does.

These are my views. The end. I am outraged on behalf of my husband. I think this could have been handled better (this “news”).


Resumes, Video Courses, and Dreams

Well… I’ve been barely hanging on folks. It’s like, the second I pull myself out of a dark mood (depressing), I am savagely dragged back in.


Don’t I look nice? At our spring formal I wore this. It’s a long gown by Lane Bryant. The back dips down to 5 inches ABOVE my bra. The front allows no cleavage. There is a slit in the front that stops mid shin (wow huh?).

What’s my point? I was pretty covered. So much so I was wearing a tank top and long shorts underneath – just in case. (Kids like to reverse pants or up skirt people, dunno why) Covered.

I was told by multiple adults that I was dressed like a slut. Why? I wore the exact outfit to the pageant and some of the same people praised my “elegance.” I can’t really go into the details but suffice to say, people were upset at policy and I was an easy target.

Should parent’s talk to teachers like that? I spent 6 hours helping to decorate the dance. I spent another 4 to 5 chaperoning. I was actually covered, the dress wasn’t tight and when I offered to change? They muttered non committal things (Like that wasn’t necessary). I was just a convenient target. The end.

The students have been yelling, whining, disrespecting, acting a straight up fool for the past month. Teachers have overstepped boundaries, and when plainly told, “no,” without explanation (which is what they tell me to do in order to be a successful, no-nonsense teacher) I am “rude.” I’ve been dressed down by everyone. I’ve been mocked, I’ve been laughed at.

So I started to pack.


Let’s see, 50K in debt for school.

Money spent on Praxis 1, teaching license, credit renewals, school supplies for myself, school supplies for other people’s kids, trophies for kids…

ASWs, Meetings, State Standards (aka prove your worth or you’re fired) reports, write ups, 504 meetings, late night dances, football games, basketball games, volleyball games, baseball games, concerts, parades…

Then kids, 10-14 years of age can cuss at me? Adults who are professionals can just decide to take their bad days out on me just because? Community members disrespecting me and talking to me almost yelling, Rumors, disrespect, parents who cause me to change my cellphone number….

Sorry, all that stuff in the paragraph above combined with the other two… that’s above my pay grade.

“What are all of those boxes Mrs. G?”

“Well, when you leave a place, you take your stuff with you.”

*looks of disbelief from students*

When you treat people badly, they go. When you continually piss on all the good things that they do, and then ask you to prove why you matter, using the things that have been pissed upon; ITS TIME TO GO.

So I typed up my resume. Sent it off to my fantastic, smart, tech savvy, savant of a friend M and said, “Help me.”

It’s been 5 years folks. iPads did not exist for regular people at the time I got this job. I had my first gen 1 smart phone when I started this job. My students only had iPods when I started this job.

Technology has vastly changed in the past 5 years and so has the art of resume writing.

M graciously gifted me temporary access to his knowledge of resumes – sending me to watch video after informative video of how people today make themselves stand out.

Holy cow folks. It’s a lot more than, “I’m alive, I made it through school, this is my degree, experience, hire me please?”

Now you have to leave off references. People can now steal identities with your resume! What the cluck man?! (🐔🐓 <– chicken emojis)

You list achievements and memberships and it matters where you put each section of information depending on your level of experience.

It’s brutal.

But it looks good!

I have a tag line now, because that is a thing:  “A creative innovator in the educational industry, content integrator, and growth oriented, I am seeking an opportunity to engage students using my advanced skills, education, specialized training, and years of experience can be fully utilized.”

And a professional NEW un-stalker known phone number (and voicemail), email, and all that.

I think the course really helped me out. I think the resume is ready to send!

I know. Teaching anywhere will have its difficulties. I get that truly. I feel though, if I moved towards the city, any city, where people don’t have time for kids acting this way… Where maybe I will be treated as a professional…

I just feel it. It’s time to go, to my bones. Maybe I’m keeping someone from their dream job. Maybe there is someone fresher, more giving, more worthy of my kids. Maybe my dream job is just an upload and submit away.

Next week and on, we’ll see.

Dreams are worth a little discomfort, yes?

Reflections 

It has only been 5 days since school has been out for the summer, due to that, I tend to be reflective. One of our standards says as teachers we must be “Reflective Practitioners.” This means of course we must analyze what we teach and how the lessons go, we must reflect in order to do things better.

A month ago, I had an upset at school. It changed how people think of me and it changed something inside me. When I look back at what happened, I can say with absolute clarity, that while the 3 youngsters in question most certainly fed off one another while they bullied me, I did not apply the above philosophy. If I had, I believe things would have gone differently.

My very first year teaching, I yelled a lot. It accomplished nothing, and I had a sore throat constantly. I stopped yelling 5 months into my first year. 

Then I started to explain myself. Why students must do certain things. Why we should behave why we have to do whatever it is. Even worse, I allowed student free reign to explain their point if view. I thought if they understood my motives, they would see the need to do certain things. They also shared what they thought too. Ever ask a 11 year old to give you a good reason for attacking someone else? Why they think they shouldn’t fail a test? Just don’t. Takes up a ridiculous amount of time.

Then I think I was okay with things unless someone managed to get me angry. Emotional outbursts just don’t belong in a classroom. Period. Sure you can have emotion but extreme emotions are just not appropriate.

As I evolve as a teacher, I realize absolute authority does not explain itself. Absolute authority does not need permission to lead. Absolute authority does not hesitate to follow all rules and precepts and carry out the consequences attached. Absolute authority doesn’t get emotional over things that are out of line. It is swiftly delt with.

So silence, when warrented, is not weak. Clever quips are not the save all, humor cannot guide you all the time.

Silence can be deafening. Silence makes people uncomfortable. Just ask Whovians about the Silence. It’s no joke.

I plan to utilize silence to its fullest next year. Perhaps, I will still have students testing my authority. Why should that change? I however, believe I have changed my outlook. I believe I can make many positive changes for the upcoming year.

Teaching: Why I Loathe “Free Days”

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(Image Pinterest)

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(Image Pinterest)

I loathe free days. You would think, a free day for students, to reward them for hard work, good behavior, or to rest their over tested minds- would be a good thing. Perhaps even a helpful thing.

It’s not. At all.

Now I know the adage “All work and no play makes anyone a dull person,” I tend to think dull as in unfocused and unable to think creatively. Breaks are very needed in anyone’s day. However, let me share with you why freedays are horrible, evil things.

They Never go as Planned

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Every time I plan a movie day, a 30 minute lesson on a fun instrument (like drum set), allow students to have computer time as a group- something goes wrong.

  • The DVD won’t play.
  • The Speakers break THAT DAY.
  • The Internet is out and I can’t stream something.
  • A student breaks the item in question.
  • I plan the day and Administration moves tests to that day, reducing the free time. Once that happens I have to move the free day or extend it, because during testing we can’t have band; but I must still “watch” students so the core teacher can have a break. May I mention often, Encore teachers go from testing straight into classes, often with no break.
  • I get ill and go home and students are split up into 3 groups and divided among other Encore teachers. They get no break and when I return and am ready to go… They aren’t.

Students go Insane

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  • The idea of a free day causes the class to go mad. They try to test the boundaries of what they are allowed to do. Free day means, “I can do what I want” day. Only not.
  • School rules disappear, or they think they do.
  •  If the teacher walks 5 ft away from the group, this is a cue to jump up and rush the teacher at least 5 at a time, all with personal stories, being belayed at the same time.
    “Mrs.G this weekend I—”
    “Mrs. F I have to Pee I haven’t gone in hours and Ms.L is so mean and I just don’t know why she never—”
    “I broke my instrument yesterday. I left it in the floor and my brother stepped on it! It’s not my fault, he’s 6 but he shouldn’t be in my room–”
    “Mrs.G this movie is Dumb I want to watch American Horror Story instead.”
  • They become irrational for no reason. “He’s looking at me! Make him stop or I’ll beat the crap out of him. How dare his eyes work!!!”

All the Wrong People Visit

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  • Even though 3 days every semester is not much and is approved by administration, someone from the state, county, or local community chooses to visit.
  • When they visit, and see the lack of educational vigor, it reaffirms that music and band are just for fun.
  • Rumors spread that music is not a serious class and your ability to teach is questioned.
  • Even though other teachers do free days, possibly more frequently than Encore teachers do, Encore is often devalued if even one day is not vigorous.

You Never Give Them Enough

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  • Ever. The always want more. They never have enough time.
  • I am never ever fair enough, find the right things, give them enough of what they want. “Why can’t you buy me a pink frosted saxophone? I want a free instrument, it’s your job to give me what I wannnnnt!”

There is no Time to Complete Teacher Tasks

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  • Put in a movie- start sorting assignments and suddenly they must play the punch game, chase, get in fights; all in the amount of time it takes to walk to your seat. “I think he might have hit me. Maybe. So he must die.”
  • Doing work in front of the children signals the need in their minds to know their grade, right now. Immediately. No matter that you are nowhere near the grade book. You should know it, instantly. Never mind you teach 130 different kids. “But like is it a 93 kind of A or a 95 kind of A? I know that doesn’t show up on the report cards but, I NEED to know!”

However….

It’s okay. They need a break. It’s true I work harder than ever on free days but, having a fun goal to work towards is rewarding. They also, in a roundabout kind of way love you more when they see you go a little nuts.
*Giggles* “Mrs.G, you are so silly.”
“Yes my little jiggly puffs, I am.”
*laughs* “No, you are a jiggly puff!”
“Indeed, get your instrument out!”
*chants puff puff puff jiggly as they return to their seat*

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But if someone asks me if they can watch Frozen again this week, I may have to change my response:

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“Can we watch Frozen?”
“No.”
“But we need too.”
“No.”
“But you promised!!”
*teacher dies from seeing the move 7 separate times*

(I’m kidding completely, my kids have a similar sense of humor. Honest, I’d never hurt any of them!)

I Don’t Understand What You Want From Me

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I’m in the hallway, and a disgruntled teacher hasn’t an idea where the substitute Art teacher is. I suspect that the substitute has either A, read the schedule wrong and was taking a break at the wrong time or B, the schedule was copied down incorrectly for the Art Substitute.

I voice my suspicions because the teacher asks me his or her rhetorical question a second time, to me.

As always, I stupidly use humor to diffuse tense situations. I voice my suspicions, giving the two ideas above as my guess as to where the Art sub could be.

Then I told, what I thought was an amusing story of how one time our Art teacher accidentally copied his lunch break down for the sub wrong, giving the sub an extended late lunch. The sub was confused when no class appeared for 20 minutes and the sub went to question other resource teachers, only to find us all gone. Kind of a Twilight Zone, they’ve been snatched moment, for the sub from the story.

This was obviously a moronic thing to do. My story caused undue confusion, and when I tried to clarify the teacher got upset with me.

I admitted the fault may be with us, the fault may be with the office, the fault maybe the sub lost track of the time. The fault was never the teacher’s. Yet what spewed forth next was the most defensive retort to absolutely nothing I ever witnessed.

What the actual fanoodle do you want from me?

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Next time I am asked where someone is, I am going to mimic this exactly, and shut my locked classroom door, and mind my own damn business:

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They Were Robbed!

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Today, I felt, was a very good day. Students did their work, wrote out their assignments, and reviewed their notes.

I even had a planning period and I was able to get a purchase order done, 3 Holiday songs, a Kwanzaa piece, a Secular Piece, and short carols. The kids were excited to know we were getting a Frozen Medley and they would hum “do you want to build a snowman?” As I walked past them in the hall.

Then I went into my office, a place I leave open. A place we store equipment. A place where I have never worried about things walking away. Sure once out of my office theses things are fair game and if I’m absent from school, stuff could walk away and did once. But these kids, I’ve known for 4 years.

They are thieves. Stole $25 dollars of their fellow band mates cash. Money these kids turned in for new method books.

It’s my fault.

But at the same time, with all of the values they hold so dear, the should have done better.

Such a shame. I have to change.