Monday, December 10, 2007

Still Learning

I've never been the type of person who gets the "big picture" about everything. In fact, most of my close friends and confidantes will describe me (kindly) as a late bloomer. Narrow vision, not much spiraled schema starting from my own little world reaching out to the grander view of it all. My naïvité, lack of exposure, and lack of awareness that there are many things out there about which I should become more knowledgeable got me into some hot water as a college student, a young newlywed, a new mother. As a friend and a teacher as well. Thankfully I had caring, tolerant if not patient, forgiving family, friends and colleagues around me who were terrific resources as role models, sounding boards, guides, and shoulders to cry on. I even managed to learn lessons from those less-than-ideal situations and people I encountered. Better late than never, I learned that effort, focus, and endurance were required to live life peacefully and enjoyably with fewer surprises coming out of left field. Timing was everything as it turns out, since I ended up falling in love with a military man.

Moving every year or two as a military dependent has helped to expand my view by effectively throwing me into the deep end of our country's pool, forcing me to sink or swim, though sinking is never really an option. Before we explore, it's been important to me to quickly set up house, set up home. Home-base is our safety zone with its routines, chore lists, established family time, even predictable decor. Our traveling foundation is what enables us to feel like we've got a safe starting-off point as we navigate the new posts, towns and states in which we get to live. We navigate cultural situations and exchanges, educational experiences, and observe and are affected by local political ills and issues. It's been difficult to invest a lot of time learning all of the history about each new post and locale when we know we're leaving again in a year. Instead, we find treasures, places we like to go, bits of the local flavor we'd like to pack and take with us, and try to build new friendships.

The issue that seems to affect us most no matter where we travel with our little corner of the universe is education. I'm a teacher and we have school-aged children. My big-picture-schema has indeed, been spiraling. Being the late bloomer, I have observations, not solutions. More questions than answers. This will probably bother educational and social activists, but hey, we are where we are.

    In regard to public education:

*There are poor families and students in every state to which we've moved, the "haves and have nots." No matter how wholesome, how diverse, or how religious a community claims to be, there is always some version of "them versus us" affecting behaviors and decision-making.

*Every neighborhood, each street, each church, school, school board, and each town council have their own view and focus of what's important, what should be taken care of and how, and those diverse views rarely produce anything other than debate. Unproductive debates turn people off, are felt to be a waste of time. And not every group has a voice at the table with which they can advocate for themselves and their children.

*In the emotionally shell-shocked environments of many places in this country, people are DONE. Done going to meetings. Done reading the paper. Done finding out more info, seeking out multiple viewpoints to find their own balance. They accept what is mandated to them and are paddling like mad just to keep afloat. Why question? Push on, and try to make it through.

*Those parents who aren't done are eager for reassurement. Many are distracted by the bells and whistles of ribbons, seals, medals, banners, and accolades schools vye for each year to show that they are quality places of learning.

*Parents wonder if their childrens' teachers are partners in education, or the enemy, deserving of immediate criticism, complaints and badmouthing. Many of them suspect the latter, even when just starting out sending children to kindergarten. Here in the bordertown, articles or newsblips about principals who are clueless that teachers aren't using provided textbooks, school board trustees taking bribes, and teachers crossing the VERY OBVIOUS line between personal and professional interactions with students help to fuel this fear. Issues are found and reported in every state, at every grade.

*Parents (and teachers) fear for their children and students. Teachers and administrators fear for their jobs. School board members fear for their seats (in more ways than one). Those people who do question, who do ask, who do seek out answers by digging if necessary, fear what will happen when (IF) the masses figure out that this:

is really just this:

Nothing like being immersed in exhaustive fear and distraction- hmmm....almost like it was planned. In the ebb and flow of things, I'm wondering when, IF, we'll ever truly come to consensus about the tide. In February, we'll find out where home-base will be moved to next. Something tells me that while we'll experience new flavors and events in cultural diversity, societal "diversity" will reflect many, if not all of the characteristics mentioned above. More questions, more wonderings, more learning to come in the months ahead.

Ancora imparo.

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