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Entry date: 9-22-22 - School Stuff (Cries for help? Not exactly) Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

There is a lot of misconceptions about education out there these days. I read a lot about teacher shortages (not a misconception) and how the pandemic has impacted education (it has, a lot) and teacher burn out and the list goes on and on. One thing I don’t see a lot about is this: There are more children out there than ever before who have parents who slipped through the cracks of the public and/or charters school or did not have any success in school.

This is probably the main culprit in the strangely distant and disaffected attitude in students when it comes to the importance of their education. It also is a driving force in how students treat their teachers. Way too often, I have had students who could have cared less about what I said or what I asked/told them to do. They wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire.

I learned a long time ago in the Casa days to not take what students said or did personally. It’s a tough, but necessary, lesson for all teachers and parents to learn. Harder for the parents, for sure, but still something we have to remember when our children cast those hateful, “How fucking dare you” eyes on us from time to time. It’s not always personal. Sometimes it is just because you ate the last Pop Tart.

Even though you try to let the disrespect and the lack of attention or caring roll off you, it still gets in there sometimes and grows some roots. It’s also heartbreaking, as I know I have written previously, when you figure out that an eight-year-old has learned to game the system already.

But what I really want to talk about is that idea that school is “optional.” If you had never seen the value of school or experienced any success there, it might be hard to be a good advocate for your children. It sucks to write it, but it’s true. I like to think that most parents want a better life for their kids than they had, but “most” might be too strong of a word these days.

My own parents were mostly encouraging when it came to my school efforts. I say “mostly” because I was given a lot of leeway to do just enough to get by in school. I found school boring a lot of the time in grade school and high school. Sadly, school wasn’t geared for my brain type. I like to discuss ideas and let them marinate a bit before digesting them. I also like to challenge the status quo when it comes to how to find and answer. Tell me there is a formula or one way to do something and my mind says, “No thank you.”

I don’t really know what kind of scholars my mom and dad were in grade school and elementary school. Knowing my grandparents on each side, I’m sure they had to keep their grades up and do their part, but I came along when they were both very young and perhaps college aspirations they may have had went out the window. They got jobs and paid the bills, got divorced, and still paid the bills and that was that.

My uncle Allen, who drowned in the canal when I was around 11, went to University of Arizona, but I don’t think he graduated. Out of my other aunts and uncles, I don’t know if anyone went on to get a bachelor’s and I’m guessing it was my generation that started getting post-graduate degrees. I know a few of us have them, though. I was always encouraged to do well in school and take it seriously. I definitely got in trouble for not doing so, as well.

While I did develop the penchant for ditching I have shared in previous blogs in high school, I still knew it was wrong and knew I was fucking up. Some of the kids I have worked with, though, I am just not sure they know they are doing the wrong thing. I have had several parents over the years reach out to me and say something like, “Bobby stayed up late watching TV and won’t be in today” or “Sonia has a dentist appointment and won’t be in.”

If I had a dentist appointment, I was going to school before and after, if possible. I can remember the days of the orthodontist cranking down my teeth (white privilege? Maybe) and still having to go to school and sit and be miserable. I made up for it, of course, by being sick a lot and sometimes I actually was sick. Many times, though, I just had work to do that I hadn’t finished so I quickly developed a cough or bellyache.

Again, though, I knew faking it was wrong. I knew I was supposed to be in school. I knew that it was important for me to learn so that I could learn some more. My parents are smart people. What they may have not gotten in school, they have in common sense and a desire to learn. They instilled in me that being smart was the way to go and challenged me to read and think and grow intellectually.

I feel terribly for the kids who are not challenged to be better and grow and learn. Even worse, I feel terrible for the kids who are resented at home because they have figured out how to be successful and their parent(s) doesn’t understand. I saw this firsthand last year a couple of times where it was clear the parent was jealous of how their child was progressing.

What I think needs to happen in our school system is a method of helping parents understand the “WHY” behind school and why school is so important. Opportunities to help parents grow as parents shouldn’t really be the responsibility of the local elementary school or high school, but it seems like it is going to have to be that way. I spent a lot of time educating the parents of my students last year on the “WHY” of it all and I think it paid dividends.

We need to invest in our future, folks. It’s not sexy and it’s probably un-Trumpian, but it’s important. Doing well in school, as I have learned as an adult, is an amazing feeling. Learning to be creative or responsible or even just good at math, for example, is about the best thing there is in this world. Believing you can take care of yourself and grow and expand out in the universe is key.

See you tomorrow.

This is a great cartoon. It only sums up part of what I'm ranting about today, but still. I've seen that look on the face of students before. Sorry for stilling your cartoon, Buffalo News.

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