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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A New Twist On An Old Story



Is Naked

In Case

You Haven't Noticed....

So said the child.

The child who had yet to learn to tell a lie.

Welcome to the world of continuing education. Where, even at my advanced age, learning new things is still possible. However, while learning is still strongly encouraged, the rules are rapidly changing and common sense has left the building. 

The first rule of Writing 101. 

Write what you know. 

It is important to Give and to Receive. 

I have done both. 

I have stood in front of the classroom
AND sat in tiny chairs at Back-To-School night. 

Progress reports and grade cards. Given and received. 

Homework assignments. Given and received. 

Failing grades. Given and received.

Certificates Of Achievement. Given and received. 

A member of the staff. A parent in the PTA. 

I have street incredibility

I am standing next to a child at the parade as the Emperor strolls by, naked as a jaybird, puffed up with self-importance and smugness, and am waiting for someone my size, my adult size, to point a finger and shout. To point it out. This man is not only silly, but making fools of us all.

Don't you see?

The crowd replies...oohhh and ahhhh

Have you people lost your minds? 

This must be IT.

The moment I have awaited with great dread, all of my life.

I have become my Mother. I sound just like her and am somewhat grateful that she is not here to see this. 

I must apologize and tell you that I saw this coming. I was there. I participated. I had to do it, because I needed the paycheck. I had to do it, because I wanted my kids to pass Chemistry.

I feel badly. I truly do.

I should have put my foot down and NOT my red pen. 

The red pen was the first to go. Red is an "angry" color and makes children feel bad. Seriously. 

No exchanging papers when correcting homework in class.

This is an "invasion of privacy".

The little stone that could, started rolling down the hill and before long was so covered with moss, that what was once an innocent little rock was now a huge green boulder. 

A boulder that eliminated Halloween parties and metal swings on the playground, Christmas decorations and homemade cupcakes, dodge ball and kickball, honor roll, coined the name "crisscross applesauce", outlawed hugs, and evened the playing field so completely, that no one played on it unless it was a coed game on a surface made of recycled rubber tires and everyone took home a blue ribbon, not for "winning" but for "participation".

I, who am older, and a bit wiser, need to tell you a secret. This is NOTHING NEW. Turn back the clock. Okay, turn over the hourglass, and watch the sands of time, as we reminisce about the late 1960's. Teachers with degrees in hand, could show up on the doorstep of any school in any district anywhere in the country, apply for a job and get it. 

Four years later, I stood in line with EIGHT THOUSAND applicants for the same ONE AND ONLY job. In those four years, education revenues fried up and withered away. 90% of the education students in my graduating class, never ended up teaching. 

I was one of the lucky ones. In the right place at the right time. 

And definitely not a good time to question authority. So I did as I was told. And I was told if I needed to discipline a student, I was to take said student into the hallway, out of earshot of the other students, and in a quiet and non-threatening voice, explain in detail my concerns, then comfort the student if I caused any sinking of self-esteem. Meanwhile, my thirty-five remaining fifth grade students, were left unsupervised and by the time I stepped back into the classroom MY self-esteem was out of control and so were they. The offender simply slid back into his seat and gave a thumbs up to his pals. 

I think it was his thumb. 

It was this same class of thirty-six students, I carefully collated into eleven separate reading groups based on ability, from 1st grade level to 9th, and taught by myself, simultaneously, without any aid. I take that back. This was an "experimental" year and the district encouraged parent volunteers. I had one. A parent partner. She was very nice. I gave her a red pen. (Remember these were the "good old days". Red was not angry, yet.) Her job was to correct papers. I was ahead of my time and did not let students grade one another. One small problem. My parent could not spell well. Math her weak suit. Therefore, every night I would cross out her red slashes and replace them with purple corrections in the margins until the papers resembled abstract art. 

There is a moral to this story. Where many educational morals are found. 

On the playground. 

I asked each of my eleven reading groups to give their team a name. An amorphous title. The Eager Readers. The Phonic Frenzy. Etc. Etc. I was absolutely sure, as I stuffed my arm into my Emperor's New Clothes, that no one, no one would be able to tell which group excelled and which group struggled to learn. I paraded onto the playground for my day of duty, and to my surprise and dismay, a First grader pointed her finger at her older brother, a student in MY class, and said, "The Phony Frenzies Are Dumb". He looked back at her, smiled and gave her a thumbs up. Yup. Same thumb.
As I the Emperor surveyed my kingdom, it was very clear, that I was the fool. That in less than five minutes, these kids, these wise and unpretentious kids, looking at the world the way it IS, had it all figured out. Without a red pen. Or a teacher's aide. That world, that world from long ago, is exactly the same today. I know it to be true and so do you. From the first play date, to the first pick up game of soccer, to the size of your stroller, the brand name on your shoes, your address, apartment or home, who picks you up, who rides the bus, kids have it all sorted out. Give 'em a Rubik's cube with all your personal data, and a click click click, they know who you are. Where you stand.

Who's better or worse. Rich or poor. Bully or pal.

They size each other up. 

Children can be very discerning. Foolish but not easily fooled. 

Children are toddlers who fell and banged their heads and bumped their shins learning to walk. 

Children are babies who babbled and cooed and made funny noises learning to talk. Children do not catch the ball the first time it is thrown. They practice. Children do not build muscles standing still. 

They run and jump and leap. They want to read. To learn. To grow.

To do it all by themselves

Children walk a tightrope.

Between wanting to fit in and longing to be unique. 

Children know the Emperor is naked.

They speak the truth until we teach them otherwise. 

We should speak the same language.

The world is NOT fair. That's the bad news. 

No two people are the same. That's the good news. 

The best news is that competition is healthy.

Because no one ALWAYS wins. 

And everyone LOSES at something. 

When a child succeeds, his hands are free to help another up. 

When a child fails,

our job, is to let him know, show him how,

to get up and try again...

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