Gun Control — An Idea

It should come as no surprise that I’m more of a “liberal” girl.  As such, I am an advocate for gun control.  And before you get your knickers in a knot, you should consider that GUN CONTROL is not the same as TAKE ALL YOUR PRECIOUS GUNS AWAY FROM YOU AND VIOLATE YOUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS.

Jesus.  It’s like the joke about how the NRA isn’t willing to let one law pass because it’s seen what has happened with abortion.

Instead of seeing this as BLACK (NO GUNS WHATSOEVER!!!!) and WHITE (GUNS FOR EVERYONE EVEN THAT TODDLER WHO SHOT HIS MOM IN THE FACE!), I think we could actually come to some sort of gray area where compromise is made, but the spirit of the 2nd amendment remains intact.

How about we simply get rid of all secondary gun sellers who lack a Federal Firearms License?  Because we already know that Chicago’s gun control laws are easily circumvented because people can buy guns outside of Chicago or bring guns in and sell out of their homes or cars, I say that Chicago should allow the sale of guns.  However, only by dealers with Federal Firearms Licences.

Why?  Because that thing can and will be pulled for illegal activity.  Because you can then charge people who give or sell guns to people who aren’t SUPPOSED to buy them with aiding and abetting criminal activity.  Because you can charge illegal sellers with whatever crime was committed with the gun.  How about we get rid of the people who THINK they’re good, law-abiding citizens, and actually just nail them for the criminals they are?

Guns should also be registered because CARS ARE.  It does no harm to register your firearms and for a federal database to be kept. Sure, people are going to ignore it until it’s too late, but you can’t stop apathetic people from being employed.  You can, however, charge the idiot to whom the firearm was registered with the crime even if they weren’t there.  IF you’re lucky enough to have the weapon, but that’s another issue.

Furthermore, people who legally purchase weapons should be mandated to take classes in how to own, operate, and shoot the weapon.  Way too many people buy guns without any idea how to take care of them and how, in a situation where shooting a criminal would be necessary, to actually SHOOT the person and be willing to KILL the person.  There is no good use in owning a weapon you have no clue how to properly use.  Why?  Because we have driver’s ed. That’s why.

And last… Any weapon made for WAR needs to stay with the armed forces.  We really don’t allow people to walk around with grenades, canons,  or bayonets, so I think we can safely add assault rifles to this list. We don’t need them in civilized society.  Or, if we do, then canons, grenades, and bayonets should be allowed to sold as well. (Actually, I don’t know if there are ANY laws against them.  It just seems weird for someone to be walking around with them).

We can, as a country, enact safe, sane, and satisfying gun control laws without everyone flipping his or her wig.

And to give a little more perspective… If the number of young white men killed or incarcerated was equal to the number of young black men who’ve been killed or incarcerated due to gun violence, we’d probably see a change in the conversation.  If your point of view is that only criminals die or go to jail, you clearly don’t understand the issue at hand.


The Unthinkable

This spring I resigned my position with my school district.

It is, unquestionably, the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.  The lack of job security at my age, the change in benefits, being unemployed, and searching for a new position are all scary.

I feel off kilter at not checking out the back to school sales in order to stock my classroom with supplies for my students.  Currently, I don’t have any.  I feel weird that I’m not planning curriculum or figuring out how best to refine my lessons.  I don’t know what grade I’ll be teaching when I find a job.  I feel lazy and un-moored; yet I recognize that this is one of the first summers where I’ve placed a premium on seeing friends and expanding my friendships.  It feels weird and wrong and uncomfortable, but I’m learning to focus on other priorities in my life.

As I continue to apply for positions closer to home, I am also realizing how STUCK I was.  I could honestly say I hadn’t moved forward as a teacher — implementing new ideas or trying different things.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to take on tasks that promoted school climate and community.  This lack of innovation makes me feel self-conscious when looking at postings.  Sure I know HOW to do the work, but it’s been 4 or 5 years since I’ve actually done it in the classroom.

I know that one of the things I’m looking forward to in changing positions is learning new methods, ideas, implementations, delivery, and design.  I want to continue to learn and grow in my profession, and the only way to do that is through change and discomfort.

With that in mind, boy am I accomplishing that goal!

Apathy & Accountability

Education, as a profession, is distinctly unique in that the people who are most responsible for student success (teachers) both love and hate being teachers.  Generally teachers love teaching.  They love learning and implementing new ideas.  They enjoy collaboration. And they even find joy with the most difficult student.

However, teachers, as a rule, HATE the administrative part of teaching — data mining, enforced team meetings/collaboration/site/staff meetings.  They hate the work of advocating what’s best for children only to be bound by red tape and double speak.  Teachers dislike being given curriculum with no clear direction, only to be told later their attempts at implementation are all WRONG.

Essentially teachers dislike those people in education who seem to be there for the wrong reasons — you know, like those plaques that read “June, July, and August.”

The fact is, in many districts across the United States, there are teachers being dragged under like they’re toddlers at Disney World only without the warning signs.

The very people many districts are employing to support student education are not supportive.  In fact, it appears that their only job is to question what happens in the classroom without managing to be supportive whatsoever.  And when questioned, the pat answer lies in, “You’re a professional; that’s your job to figure out.”

I believe quite firmly that if these “educators” were forced to re-enter the classrooms and to be accountable for student achievement on the same level a classroom teacher is, they would probably do what should have happened a long time ago. They would QUIT.

Just like the dirty little secret about how teachers rarely read, there’s the dirty little secret about how many “educators” don’t care about kids, achievement, or being support staff to the people on the front lines.  Many educators have found they can make the same, or better money, not dealing with kids, parents, colleagues, principals, or evaluations with far fewer headaches and the same “time off”.

If we’re really to advance education we should start looking at the number of “teachers” in a district who don’t actually teach and hold them accountable for the growth of the district as well.  I think we’d find that we’d save a lot of educational dollars ridding ourselves of apathetic educators who have no interest in being accountable.

In other words (and rather racist ones at that) — We have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

Bills Before Wills

I readily admit that I’ve been more than a bit scattered since my Mom died.  As such, I don’t feel that I fully grasp information, or even that I’ve gotten the full picture.  Because of this, I’ve asked the same question over and over, and I worked to get my family to slow down on distributing things from Mom’s house.  As such, only two “things” were exempt from the will, which meant everything else belonged to the estate.

This is where things got rocky from the start and caused a major earthquake sized “FUCK YOU” in my last childhood sibling relationship (the other one being dead; and the other 3 not having grown up with us). I finally, last Sunday, got the FINAL WORD on what to do.  It was, yes a sentimental item or two can be taken and can be overlooked (provided it’s really not valuable).  Aside from that, everything else belongs to the estate and, as the executor (read: Estate’s Bitch/Pip/Minion) it’s my job to sell them to pay of the deceased’s debts.

Yes, friends.  BILLS BEFORE WILLS.  Although it is LISTED in the will that the executor can, and indeed may need to, sell the personal items to try to settle the estate, I wasn’t really sure to what extent that was necessary.  It’s pretty necessary since I have to list pretty much EVERYTHING, where it went, and what it went for. Which means that I can be sued for mismanaging the estate’s assets.

You’d think with information like this, that my family would lighten up on me.  Instead a full-fledged attack was waged on my character and actions.  Since 90% of this was on Facebook, and I was pretty busy trying to clean up my Mom’s house to put on the market, I missed it.  That said, people who had a glimpse of the vitriol prior to being blocked were stunned.  I’m guessing it’s hard to be considered the victim and good person when you’re writing amazingly hateful things about someone on a public forum.  Then again, there is the small blessing of business combined with a lack of smart phone that kept me from knowing, partaking, or even commenting on said campaign.  Which is good, because, in the immortal words of Chris Trees, “Don’t engage the Trolls.”

Since this whole thing began, it’s been a huge issue that I would have to sell my mom’s possessions to satisfy her debts.  Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how people can think that I WANT to do this.  As if, of all the options in the world, selling things to satisfy bills was my idea of fun and entertainment? But then it finally dawned on me, we aren’t talking about people of integrity or honor to begin with.  After all, the same people who would readily allow my mom to live in filth; borrowed large amounts of money which were not repaid either a) at all, b) in entirety, or c) in cash, or d) all of the above; and who accepted lavish gifts of dinners, items or bill paying placed on her credit card were not the kind of people who would feel that following the law was a priority.  After all, they don’t pay their bills so why should the estate?

You’d think after all of this, I’d be broken and wounded.  Instead, I feel relieved.  Now that the rest of the family refuses to have anything to do with me, I’m free.

Just as soon as I settle this estate.


I Decided EFF It

I’d been pretty good about deleting crazy shit received via email and text.  Hell, I even shut down my Facebook account ’cause I didn’t really want to have a bitchfest on-line and further alienate people.  After all, I’m supposed to be a grown up.  You know, the kind of person who actually does turn the other cheek and takes on thankless tasks like truly cleaning up someone’s estate.

Then I decided “FUCK IT”.  I’m no Buddha, and certainly not Jesus Christ.  In fact, I’m human, and as such I’m pretty tired of being blamed by some spoiled rotten brat who exploited my mother for her own gain because of (insert whiny bitchy obnoxious lack of perspective reason here). Revenge, we’re told, is a dish best served cold.  Moreso, we’re told it does more harm than good.  It’s not god for the soul to engage in it.

However, I feel that sometimes one’s nasty words should be placed out there for everyone to take in.  Especially when these nasty words are delivered by someone who immediately started taking things.  And, when she reads this, she should consider GIVING ME MY GOD DAMNED RING BACK BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT ANYTHING LET ALONE A RING I BOUGHT FOR MY MOTHER WHICH MATCHED A RING MADE FOR HER BY MY FATHER WHO IS NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER.  Just saying.  In a ranting, immature, go take some Adderall kind of way.

So… without further fanfare.  Today’s nasty gram.  Courtesy of the one who allegedly loved my mother best and took care of her the most.  Which explains her dying in a filthy house filled with animal hair, alone most of the time, paying people to take care of her needs, and sleeping in a bad without sheets because her dogs had destroyed them.  OK.  There was fanfare.

I hate you. You took my place to go to when I needed a break from life.  You can sell everything in that house because the materials items were never what I wanted.  You will never know the true meaning of grandma house.  You are a selfish horrible person.

All sent to me because the lawyer I hired for the estate told me I had to lock everyone out to keep the asset safe.  Mainly because it’s the only thing left.

Oh, did I fail to mention that my Mom retired in 2004 with $300,000 in pension/retirement?  Did I mention that she was penniless as of 3+ years ago?  In fact, in 2010, she only had $38K of it left?  Did I mention that said caring person who ALWAYS put her grandmother first “borrowed” money from Grandma’s account to pay for her bills, and SOMETIMES paid Grandma back?  Or that in 2007 she borrowed about $7K, most of which was NEVER repaid and of which, said LOVING GRANDDAUGHTER told her Grandmother she no longer owed her due to the fact that “She took care of her when she was sick and after she was hospitalized.”  Yep, picking up your grandmother, feeding her at your own home, and doing some of her laundry for less than a month amounts to a $7,000 loan forgiveness act.

Perhaps someone doesn’t want anything because she’s already taken it all?  Yet, I, who am bound by LAW, am the horrible, selfish person.

And yes, I get this is childish and inappropriate.  I’m sure I’ll return to being a responsible grown-up soon.

A Lot Has Changed

It’s amazing how much has changed since November 4th.

That’s the day Mom died.  In that amount of time, I’ve come to realize that death really isn’t the kind of thing that brings out the best in people.  If anything, I find that her death has made everything challenging in a new way.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that making a family member executor, especially to a family as dysfunctional as ours (we do have a royal flush, my friends), is really a bad plan.  You’d think that sometime in the past 27 years, I would have geared up for this marathon challenge.  Instead, I went along living my life as though I’d never have to run it.

I am an idiot.

Mind you, there’s really nothing to execute.  She was $33,008 in debt to the IRS, and another $46,000 to credit cards.  My only task is to do my best with what’s left to generate enough of a revenue stream to satisfy the debts. As executor, you protect the deceased and her heirs from financial fraud and exploitation.  That’s a hard one, and a little late if you ask me.  This seriously needed to be done while she was alive. I’d say my other task was to keep the family happy, but that flew out the window as soon as I wasn’t able to do just that.  You can’t execute an estate and keep people happy.  That’s an impossible task.

As always, I don’t feel much has been learned other than I can be hated greatly for denying everyone what they want while being responsible for paying the bills and taking care of business.  After all, when it comes down to it, I’m the dad of the operation.  I don’t count.

Flipped Instruction

and a flippant question.

If homework is such a HUGE issue in education with parents being pretty much against it, then how, exactly, does flipped instruction work?  You see, watching a video and making sense of it is STILL homework.  This just seems… weird.

I guess I find it strange that what we’re teaching is SO LARGE it has to go that far outside the school day.  Why not just slow down, lecture, practice, refine, coach, compare, collaborate, etc.?

Honestly, as a teacher, I have an issue with outsourcing my job to Khan Academy so I can, allegedly, act as a coach.

Spoiling Our Kids & Blaming Them For It

I admit that I don’t ask much of my child.  In part because I don’t run my house as my parents did, nor do I have the same financial issues or job requirements.  In short, I’ve given my child very few responsibilities, and, I’m sure, it shows.

From time to time, he’ll get snotty with me, and when I go off, I mention how I would never have done this as well as all the responsibilities I was expected to fulfill as a child.  I don’t know why I do it because it’s obviously not effective in getting what I want.  Probably because I don’t know what I want at that moment in time. I’m guessing I want him trained like I was; however, I’ve not taken any time, given any attention, or been willing to be consistent in training him.  His “failure” is really MY failure.

I’ve always known that when there are kid troubles that we should look to the adults.  It’s our job to model for them and act as guides.  Thing is, we’re really not that interested in doing so.  We want to TELL them what to do, we expect it done to our satisfaction, and then we’re mad when it doesn’t happen.  That’s just crazy, and it’s the best recipe for having poor relations there is.  After all, look at all the romantic relationships that fail due to communication and expectation issues.  Duh!

What really brought this home for me was a blog post that my cousin, Tiffany Heth, posted to her Facebook wall.  It’s called “Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make”.  Now, we all know I’m not Christian, nor is my child a teen (yet).  However, that doesn’t mean I might not find something worthy and valuable in the article.  And indeed I did.

The article points out that spoiling kids isn’t just about access to money, it’s also access to too many opportunities.  I would include in that giving them experiences that aren’t age-appropriate.  We give and do for our children as a matter of fact, but then we’re pissed when they EXPECT these things.  Yet, if we really look at it, we are the ones who created the problem.  Remember, start as you intend to go.

One of the issues of the “modern world” is that kids today have too much.  This has probably always been the case.  But it seems that we never consider that parents these days GIVE too much.  Perhaps we should reflect as to why we do this.  For if we truly want to make changes, shouldn’t we start with ourselves? I would venture to guess that I’m not the only one with self-discipline issues.

Or is this where someone throws out “picking my battles”?

Common Core, 21st Century Skills & Kindergarten

In the last few years there was a shift in education from state standards to, essentially, federal standards.  These are referred to as Common Core State Standards. As soon as they were adopted by states, there was immediate feedback and criticisms about the standards from both parents and teachers.

Thing is, whether you love them or hate them, there are a couple of KEY flaws to the standards themselves.

The first, and more salient one, is kindergarten.  What most people actually don’t know is that kindergarten is NOT a legally required step in education.  Education begins with FIRST grade.

You might be asking, “So what?”  Well, kindergarten is the new first grade.  However, without all of the skills once taught in kindergarten, we’re setting up our educational system for failure.  In fact, I think if we looked at educational statistics in the last 30 years, we could, at the very least, set up a correlation for why we haven’t seen the expected gains.

During the last 30 years kindergarten has moved from being part of a day to a whole day.  Skills like learning to actually write (SERIOUSLY, hold a pencil), coloring to fine-tune motor control, following directions, and learning to solve problems were shoved aside to teach ACADEMICS!  After all, we need our kids ready!

However, we can’t have academics without first building the foundational skills.  This USED to happen in kindergarten.  Now, however, it’s addition and subtraction fact families, sight words, and writing paragraphs.  All this from a grade that’s not required.

Now, don’t take this to mean let’s make kindergarten legally required so we can start, day one, making 5 year olds sit still for 5 hours filling in worksheet after worksheet.  Instead, let’s return kindergarten to the foundational skills students will need in order to be successful over the life of their academic careers.

In short, how do you teach creativity, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication if you don’t start in kindergarten and actually LAY that foundation?

If there is to be an educational revolution, and we seriously want to follow a business model, remember that businesses focus on VERY FEW GOALS.  Part of this process is choosing fewer goals, refining the model, and then delivering an excellent product.  Those businesses that tank often took short-cuts and went off half-cocked.

With that in mind, let’s restore kindergarten to kindergarten and focus on laying the foundation of 21st century skills by teaching students HOW to use tools and then allowing them to demonstrate that ability.  Yes, let’s give those kids scissors. Let’s act like the standards as a suitcase or an outfit.  Look at it and automatically remove 10% of what’s in the suitcase or one piece of jewelry.  Too much is too much.  Finally, let’s push all the of the standards up at least one year.  This means that what we expect from kindergarteners NOW we would expect from 1st graders instead.

You might think your kindergartener will be bored.  That he or she already knows all of this.  However, I think you’d be surprised at how much slowing the pace and allowing confidence will make a difference.  After all, is your kid REALLY bored or are you just in a hurry to prove how smart he/she is?


The 5-Year Thing in Teaching

I’ve never seen statistics on this, so I don’t actually know if it’s true.  However, there is this “theory” in teaching that many teachers exit the profession by their fifth year.  I’m sure there’s an amount like “half the teachers quit before they get to year 5” or some such stuff.

However, this idea popped into my head the other day because it occurred to me that MANY of the district office teachers and coaches are teachers who WERE NOT IN THE CLASSROOM FOR VERY LONG.  In fact, many of the principals we have WERE NOT IN THE CLASSROOM FOR VERY LONG.  All of a sudden I have this different view of they are LEAVING the classroom, not necessarily QUITTING the profession.

I think this is actually a far more chilling statistic if it’s true.  Having people who lack classroom success dictate and determine the fate and future of teachers and students is horrifying at best and probably some kind of malpractice at worse.  There’s something really, really wrong about having a leadership that knows little about the battlefield they’re sending their soldiers into, and criminal about leadership that would NEVER set foot on that battlefield because they hated it.

In real war, we tend to feel confident about our generals because they’ve seen real battle.  Well, this is real.  Why are we promoting the least qualified among our ranks to lead?  Moreso, why aren’t we questioning WHY they left the classroom but not the profession?