Wild Women and Mad Men: Bite the Change

mouth
mouth (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

Since Saturday, I’ve been upset and I didn’t want to write about it because I knew it would’ve been unfocused. I also don’t want this to be a place for readers to have to endure endless rants. So, I’ve been reading fellow writers’ posts while attempting to sedate the anger I still feel. But, as I was browsing the blogs I follow in my Reader, I came upon the Daily Prompt: Be the Change. It asks the question:  What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

After quelling my initial outrage over a long-awaited yet horribly disappointing Saturday, here’s my answer to this question.

This blog should change every reader’s perspective. What you once thought to be true or real should change because you read about a strange but inspiring moment. You should laugh like a mad man or a wild woman and do something spontaneous. You should find solace in it all because you feel comfortable being different and take pride in yourself even if others won’t ever see it.

In short, this blog should inspire resilience. Without it, you’re doomed.

I write this now, two days later, more clearly and focused, well, because of the prompt and because of the distance from Saturday.

On Saturday, November 10, I got up at 6 a.m. to drive across town to an Idea Expo for teachers. In a fog of fatigue after teaching all week, I told myself this was too important to miss. I did find inspiration in the Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools Alberto Carvahlo’s well-delivered speech. It garnered a standing ovation from the audience of teachers.

But, that was it.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat in a boxed room with a teacher sharing a lesson on Dracula, one of my favorite classics, which she purportedly teaches to middle-school students. I thought, okay, I’m gonna like her because that’s daring.

But, I didn’t like her.

I wanted to bite her.

Instead, I bit my lip and left for the day. She would be the next speaker for the next presentation, and I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut for that long.

Here’s why. She showed us a sample of the lesson she prepared for her students. She showed us a prompt about horror, which we had to answer. Fair enough, I thought. It was when she asked us what controversy meant that I flinched for the first time. She told us she was modeling the lesson for us. Okay, fine, I’d heard that before. I didn’t like it but okay. Then, she asked for responses, which we gave. After that, she said, if her own students couldn’t answer the prompt, she would let them copy off the student next to them.

I flinched again. I few curse words flew through my mind.

Then, she showed us her list of vocabulary words and said that she didn’t believe in letting students struggle with words because sometimes they mispronounce them. Fine, fair enough. Again, I just needed to give this a chance, give her a chance. She’s a teacher. She deserves my respect.

As she reviewed the list of words, she said, “Aqueese.” Just like that. Aqueese.

I jerked my arm and stabbed my paper with my pen. I shut my packet.

The word was acquiesce.

I make a lot of mistakes. I encourage my students to correct me if I misspell something on the board. I’m a writer, so I know how misspellings happen. But, if I’m teaching pronunciation then I’d better get it right. If I’m teaching spelling and I suck at it, I’d better study those words or admit my weakness.

It was too much to bear. I grew up loving literature so much that I passed my days in the library. I skipped science class, not to go to the beach, but because I snuck into the library to read. I lived inside these books, and she had proceeded to mutilate what I loved.

English: Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York.
English: Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I left.

I walked to Starbucks and listened to Billie Holiday belt out her piping-hot tunes. I pretended none of this just happened and settled into the sounds around me.

But, the anger lingered.

The fumes gathered and swirled.

I looked at my own children and myself as a child. So many teachers had disappointed me the way this woman did that day. So many teachers have handed my children misinformation on a silver platter and lauded themselves while doing it.

I could and can only think:  Resilience. Laugh out loud, relentless resilience.

The only regret I have is that I didn’t speak my mind. In an effort to be polite, to tame the fire in my belly, I bit my tongue.

And, in honor of Dracula, I should have bit her.

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28 thoughts on “Wild Women and Mad Men: Bite the Change”

  1. Yikes. Copy off another paper? I don’t get why asking what controversy meant fits with teaching Dracula. In any event, that sounds very discouraging. My kids are in 4th and 1st grades and so far we’ve had great teachers. I’m hoping that continues, though as a parent I know I can’t rely on the schools to educate!

    1. I agree. This is why I spend at least two hours a night and a large portion of my weekend teaching my own kids. However, my children were lucky enough to have some excellent teachers, which is why I was willing to give this one a chance. I just gave her one chance too many.

    1. I have contact information for the Expo. I plan to give my opinion to them. I think part of me always can’t believe it’s really that bad when I’m right in the middle of it. Then, I kick myself for not trusting myself.

  2. As a parent of 5 children I have had some Teachers that deserved a portion of my 401K they were that good. then there are those who fall into the category of this teacher, inept. To teach one must be prepared, spelling errors are not in that category. It’s a good thing you did not bite her because you may have ended up like her through the blood 🙂

  3. Lisa I love that you have this passion for education, the kids you teach are lucky. Teachers have such a huge job and I have the utmost respect for the good ones that inspire and engage my kids. I once drew my son’s 3rd grade teacher as a super hero standing before her class – she loved it – I should put that on a post and ping back to this post. Keep on with the good work!

  4. You must be a good teacher. I almost became a teacher myself, and I was motivated by the poor teachers and generally poor education that my sons received. I figured I wanted to try to make a strike a blow for the good guys. Alas and alack, I didn’t get a teaching job, and so returned to social work, and it’s turned out well. But our kids need good teachers. Keep up the good work!

  5. It’s at times like these that I know for sure I’m a good teacher. I try not to get too caught up in the upset over the bad ones and use it as my drive to help kids. I’m sorry your boys received a poor education. That’s what upsets me so much. It’s also what will make me work harder. Wishing you strength in your work as well. Social work ranks right up there with teaching.

  6. I want to give you a hug for your passion, devotion and love for your vocation as a teacher and conscientious parent. I want to give you a hug too, for the ordeal you must have been through. It sounded painful.

    I hope you are able to wind down on the weekend/in the evenings, perhaps with “The Descendants”? 🙂

  7. You stumbled into the education Twilight Zone where bad is good, up is down, instruction becomes de-instruction, and one,s emotions take on an unusually sinister edge. These forays into an alternate reality often take the form of faculty meetings.
    You are holding the line of excellence my esteemed colleague. Sometimes you read or see things about educators that make you cringe. You make me proud to be a fellow teacher.
    Warmth and peace

  8. I am so grateful for educators like you. I can only say thank you. When I grew up it was different, mostly though I had some terrible teachers in middle school our classes were small and these teachers were weeded out pretty quickly by engaged parents. When my kids were in school, it was harder. My youngest son especially had such a difficult time and I battled a few of his teachers in middle and high school for their lack of skill and pure ignorance. Of course, in some cases I found they had inherited the ignorance having themselves come through the Texas school systems.

    My mother was a teacher. My daughter in law has just finished her teaching degree and her mother is also a teacher. I honor anyone who wants to teach in our horrifying Texas system today.

    1. I’m so sorry that your son and so many kids have to endure terrible teachers. It’s rough, but it’s just plain wrong. When I transitioned to teaching, I had no idea how much stupidity I’d encounter. I had been a part of the business world, so I didn’t understand the snail’s pace at which the system moved. Then, I rediscovered the terrible truth. Even though I’d received a partially private education, those teachers were just as bad. I still believe that if teachers were paid their worth, they’d be forced to perform like overpaid athletes.

  9. I just started homeschooling this year due to our relocation and my desire to keep the family together. I am not a teacher and never have been. (I have a business degree and my career was in Public Relations). I doubt myself on a daily basis even though my kids are progressing at such a rapid pace, I will need to order the next grade level books. Your post reminds me of why I am currently doing what I am doing. Thank you! And hats off to you for showing self restraint…not sure I could have done it. 😉

    1. LITTLEMISSWORDY your efforts will pay great dividends. The education of your youth is the greatest investment you will ever make!

  10. Did you see any other participants flinch when she said “acqueese”? I cannot believe no one said anything! Nice word, when one pronounces in properly. I shall have to find an excuse to use it at least once today. 😉

  11. You’ll love this — and by love I mean hate, so read on with caution — the banner on the front of my school last summer read: “Now excepting students.”

    … and they didn’t replace it because “it’s just semantics” and “budget constraints.” (BITTER TEARS)

  12. I don’t know if I would have bit mine. You’re correct. She needs to be too and get her words right. How did she get through school or have our standards been lowered to such an extent, it doesn’t matter.
    Call her out, nicely. If someone does, she may become more astute in her planning, her lessons and choice of words. We can expect this of a layman, but not a professional. Unleash your tongue. I would be mad too. Could this be why we’re now ranked 26th in the world , when we used to be one of the top three?

  13. Wow! I stumbled upon this blog by accident actually and find I was unaware that people are so enthusiastic and caring about the education of children. Mine are grown and were home schooled, I have long disliked “government” schools. The Federal gov’t needs to get out of the education business in my opinion. There are few things they get right and this definitely is not one of them.

    Everyone here is so encouraging.

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