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Monday, October 8, 2007

Love songs suck and fairy tales aren't true...

The title actually has nothing to do with the post, but it's a song by Bowling for Soup that I totally adore, and since I can't shake it, I'll just share... (I especially like the line 'she's all I can think about/so I must not be gay/she's my lunatic/I'm her psychopath'--doesn't that sound like a rockin' relationship?)

Anyway, I'm riding the high of having had an entire 30 minutes quiet in my own head--I know, I know--it's too much, my cranium will explode...but I'll go happy.

I was telling Mate that the frustrating thing about work right now is that we are not expected to have any down time. It's not that we used to sit back and, I don't know, write novels or anything when the kids were working but...but it used to be okay for us to e-mail each other or play solitaire, or, (my personal favorite) enter grades or correct papers while the kids are working quietly, but no more. Now we always have to be engaged, always have to be wandering the classroom, and heaven forbid if some kid is falling asleep while we're yakking away at the front of the class, because that would be our fault entirely.

Or at least, that's what I have gathered from the sudden appearance of my most vainglorious prickweenie in my room today to open his nifty-spiffy laptop to the screen labled "engagement matrix". My kids, Goddess bless them, all thought they were in trouble, so they acted like angels. As soon as he left, of course, chaos erupted and they went back to being the little bastards I wish would drink alum (remember, those old cartoons, where the mouths and heads would shrink and no sound would come out? Yeah. Like that.) but while he was there, I was blessing their children, and their children's children and all the increase of their house. But the problem with this whole "How many hoops are you jumping" style of teaching is that the kids don't know how to do anything without us. Do you guys remember analogies? The staple of SAT's for years, kind of analogies? Well, as pat as they were, they were sort of a necessary skill for, I don't know, critical thinking, interpretation, integrating vocabulary smoothly into your preexisting lexicon--that sort of thing.

My kids don't know analogies. My kids may never know analogies, because analogies actually take a moment of silence inside your own head to make the connection, and we are not allowed to give them that. Every day is a constant wrestle with the walkman and the cell phone and electronics with names that I don't even know, with the threat of physical violence if you confiscate them (yes, I've been threatened, why do you ask?) and when they don't have that going on, there's conversation, acres and acres of mall-speak about nothing important and when you ask them, "do you get it?" "No. It was too hard. Explain it six more times and give me the aswers and I might." And the thought, the god-forbid thought, that what they actually need to do is put their pen on their paper and listen to the silence of their own head is heresy, because if we make them work so quietly we have time to do something else, we're not doing our job.

So, my kids could listen to that song (Love songs suck and fairy tales aren't true, and happy-ever-afters are just not for me and you...) and never get the connection between the title and the relationship in the song, or the irony, or any of it, because when they listen to it, they're only listening to the simple visceral part that engages them, and not to the words. It's like their heads are a giant download manager, and there's too much shit on the download manager for them to pull up what they need, and we've been denied permission to hit the fucking clear button.

Maybe I'm just jealous...they're talking to me all day, my kids are making noise in the car in the way home, and when I get home, Chicken and T are so busy talking to me that I can't even summon the quiet in my head to surf the net...and every time I get a single thought in a row, I'm interupted with something really important--like the fact that the Cave Troll needs a bottle to sleep (six of them, tonight because dinner was not to his taste) and Chicken's sudden desire to analyze the political/social impact of this morning's episode of Handy Manny. (No, I'm not kidding about that last one. Not. At. All.) Maybe I'm jealously angry because here I am, giving them some time for that contemplative silence in their own heads--something I'd kill to have, by the way, and they're pissing it away. I mean, I've been doing this job for fifteen years--I don't know why I'm all surprised and pissed off that they blow me off at this point in the game.

Maybe it doesn't hurt as much if we're given a little personal space to ignore it. And to that end, let's all hope the master prickweenie stays the fuck away from my class room for a little while, because I'm thinking that he and his "engagement matrix" can jump into the Terrible Trivium sandpit of faceless doom and rot.

I'm going to continue to keep 'Heroes' on hold and write a little more, myself--because when the house is this quiet, I can feel where greatness is.

9 comments:

Coach Susan said...

OH, these are the same A-holes who think it's a great idea to take recess away from grade schoolers so they can do more math worksheets in class. They're the bastard stepchildren of the school budget committee members who "can't find" money for music teachers because they have to hire more math teachers to supervise those worksheet activities... Hel-LO!!!

My SIL has a great technique for those confiscated electronics. School rules allow the kids to retrieve them from the office after 4 pm. Unfortunately, SIL "forgets" to take them down there until after 4 pm so the student is 2 days without confiscated electronics. She claims it works the first time.

Netter said...

I was sad when they pulled analogies from the SAT, and not just because I loved them. Don't your administrators read the same media articles I do about how this current crop of college kids can't do anything for themselves? By making you be constantly engaged with them, we'll have another group that needs constant supervision and ego massaging. I feel vindicated for trying to make my 3-yo entertain himself.

NeedleTart said...

Also the same A-holes who dump social studies and science because the annual testing of math and reading levels is about to start. Heh! This year our school is going to be tested on its science abilities. How do you think that will go? (We have dumped science in favor of math for the last three years. Catch up anyone?)

Siercia said...

God, you are so entirely right about students and the need for the kids to learn to be inside their heads and listen to their inner voices and to have the quiet moments to make connections that you just can't make when you're constantly surrounded by the constant buzz of other people.

I swear, every time I talk to or read posts by the teachers I know, I am so so so glad that we can afford to send my little girl to private school. Public school is so important, but the way they are run seems like their goal is to not-teach. And I don't blame teachers, but the people who are insisting that your classroom can be measured by an "engagement matrix".

And I so feel you on missing your own chance for quiet space. Between a constantly chattering 6 year old and a husband who is incapable of stillness, most days I would KILL for 15 minutes of peace and quiet.

Roxie said...

On the other hand, I know teens who speak not at all, answer direct questions with shrugs and monosyllabic mumbles, and never, ever make eye-contact. There has to be a balance in there somewhere. I understand when mothers need to spend 45 minutes on the toilet. It has nothing to do with physical functions. It's the only place they can get a little peace. Bless your heart, my dear. I wish you a sliently meditative hour this week.

KnitTech said...

Yeah, I hide in the bathrooms at work. Its the only time, I don't have someone trying to "download" information from me.

TinkingBell said...

I love quiet - there are days when I refuse to let my children turn on television - I make them play!!! I don't own an Ipod - my mobile phone is never on (it's only carried in case I break down and it's nearly 10 years old!) and when my kids are old enough to read I'm going to do what my parents did and make them look it up first before I will answer questions! I used to force my students (university and technical college) to research - and they didn't know what it was!!! All because they have to be stimulated the whole time - If we'd done that top Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and CS Lewis we'd have no literature (and if we did it to Ursula le Guin, and Charles de Lint and David Eddings and George RR Martin we'd have no books to read!)

Galad said...

Have you all been hiding out at our house listening to our discussions about what is happening in education these days? Keep a good thought for my son who is in his first year of teaching 8th grade civics. He firmly believes his job is to develop critical thinking and research skills for future success. We too were the parents who made our children look things up (when they still had to use encyclopedias!)

Donna Lee said...

Analogies were the best part of the sat's. They were the hardest sometimes and they can't be taught, they have to be figured out. Of course, you have to be left alone to figure them out....I think people are afraid of Quiet. If things are quiet, you might have to think and we are not teaching/allowing our young folks to do that anymore. They don't know how to amuse themselves. I can't count the number of times I said "find something to do or I will find you something" when my girls were small and I never had to follow through with the threat.