Friday, February 08, 2008

Personally, I Vote for HOPE

It's February, but there is something I'm *not* loving at the moment... the all-encompassing FEAR that many/most (if not all) of us have felt for quite some time now. Fear of terrorists, fear of our children "being left behind," fear of immigrants, fear of gender, fear of race... interesting how we've allowed ourselves to be steered in this direction.

Living in the Bordertown gives me visual reminders of fear everyday:

Now these homes aren't in bad shape, nor are any of these located in what's considered to be a "bad" neighborhood, but their prison "look" is representative of the rest of the community at large. In my opinion, it doesn't matter if your gates and bars are painted a complementary color to your home, or if you add swirly curly-q's to them, or try to make them architecturally interesting by making their line follow the architecture of scalloped walls: you're still locked in behind those bars, and you're trying to lock everyone else out. Sure, we outsiders see your fence of fear (oh I know, the manufacturers call it a "security fence"), but you know what? When you're looking out of your window, so do you. Must be a great view.


Somehow, we can deny entry into our country to any music star who might have a drug conviction, but we can't keep terror cells outside of our own borders. And just when you try to return to Mom, baseball, and apple pie, someone somewhere decides that 9/11 footage should be shown AGAIN. How's your adrenaline?

Blanket statements about immigration ignore those newbies to our country who came here the "right way," legally obtaining citizenship. Instead, we're fed information from a different slant. Many statements (usually racist) made about how all of "our" jobs are being lost, our school/health/welfare systems are overburdened by non-citizens, etc. Riled up yet? Oh wait, is that....adrenaline again?

As a teacher, I resent the fact that many people in this country have bought into fearing me, fearing that I might "leave your child behind." In twelve years of teaching, somehow I've morphed from trusted guide and awesome kindergarten teacher to "She-Who-Must-be-Doubted-and-Feared." No, my intense interest in finger paint, glue sticks, and songs by Raffi is actually not an indicator of substandard or inappropriate teaching practices. Really. Surprised?

I value my ability to put food on my childrens' plates, clothes on their backs and someday, Uncle Sam willing, a long-term roof over their heads. I've spent a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of effort obtaining knowledge from a college I didn't have to attend in order to learn how to teach well. I complement my educational expertise with ongoing training in child/parental psychology, health and nutrition guidance, nurse/EMT training, multi-cultural awareness, sociology and communications, technological advances, and a slew of other areas of specialty, again, so that I can do my job well. I utilize developmentally appropriate practices and I believe children are very different from adults (and should be allowed to be so).

In my classroom you'll see children BEING CHILDREN, learning through experience and exploration, expressing themselves, sharing, laughing, singing, and yes full-day-kindergarten-advocates, taking naps. Sorry folks, but no matter what politicians or testing company CEO's try to tell you, duct taping students' fannies to their chairs multiple times per week to assess their knowledge gained actually results in kiddos spending less time participating in activities and experiences that enhance and facilitate their learning.

Stop. Think. Breathe. You can understand this one, really. If you have to take your kids to soccer, then to the store to get new pants, then over to the dentist's for an appointment, then over to the bank to deposit a check, how are you putting your family's photo album together at home? And when? If you keep taking kids away from their teacher, and keep making them spend extra time on math and reading in isolation in order to pass a single test, when are they going to learn how to play an instrument (which by the way, would offer yet another way for a child to have an "a-ha moment" in regard to both math and reading!), have time to explore literary genres, or learn a foreign language and exercise their bodies? After school? Uh, honey, check the newest after-school activity list: here in the Bordertown you won't find band, babysitting, or computers. You'll find TAKS TUTORING. When did you decide that it was okay to no longer value your child's creativity? His or her inner song? Interests? Gifts? Mental, physical, and emotional health? Did you learn best by sitting in a chair, day in and out, in a room filled with silence, or are your most vivid memories of learning filled with sights, sounds, textures, smells, exertion, emotion, and interest?

Someone told us to be scared. And we bought it.

What other messages of fear have you been fed lately? Which ones have you gulped down, hook, line and sinker? And to whom has it been of benefit?

Questions to ponder... I know, they'll tick some of you off:

What's the big threat, really, of having a president whose anatomy includes breasts and a vagina? Same goes for a male president whose family tree doesn't solely include ancestors who were Elmer's Glue "white." A president represents his or her entire nation, all colors, sexes, creeds, and beliefs. In order to do so, s/he must have a diverse background, advisers who are paradigm shifters, and the ability to understand that the most honest answers (and best solutions to problems) will come from going straight to each horse's mouth. Please stop talking to CEO's and other salespeople about how I should be doing my job. Talk to child advocates, other teachers, parents, and children. Fame does not equal credibility. Donald Trump and Bill Gates may be Googled more than I am, but that doesn't mean they could do my job better than I do it. Their business models are MODELS FOR BUSINESS, not for teaching and guiding young children in ways that will enable them to lead enriched, expressive, generous and tolerant lives.

Presidents aren't perfect, they're human, and will make some mistakes. But isn't it time to have hope again- hope that our president will stop serving a single agenda, and stop steering us with fear? We're not just a nation at war. Americans are starving, we are homeless, we are displaced. We have no health care. Our environment is suffering, a lot of people are depressed. And we are allowing ourselves to be herded like sheep with scare tactics.

Eek! A woman! Eek! Someone with brown skin! Eek! Someone who isn't a teacher has told us to be afraid of education! Eek! A Republican! Eek! A Democrat! Eek, someone whose marital decisions entitle little ol' me to judge them! Eek, a veteran! Eek, a non-veteran! Eek, someone whose religious practices don't match my own! Eek, a person who doesn't photograph well! Eek, change!

Any idea why our nation's enemies find us so deserving of their attention? Why we are viewed as predictable and easily-targeted drones? Oh, go ahead spin doctors... our nation is the strongest in the world, our American way of life is awe-inspiring, so other countries and cultures fear us and our strength and our divine right to demand compliance from them, er, our desire that they accept our generous gift of democracy, yadda yadda yadda...

Sweethearts, I'm an American woman with a multi-cultural background who teaches students in our public educational system. I'm a mother, and I'm the proud wife of a United States soldier. Members of my father's family are considered "indigenous" people, meaning they were here on this continent, living on the land that is part of our present nation, long before my mother's family arrived on the boat. I would be proud if my children chose to serve in the military, and I would proud if they chose to become doctors, mechanics, computer techs, non-fiction writers, woodworkers, or rocket scientists. I appreciate the fact that it is your tax dollars that move and house me and my family with each new military assignment my husband receives, but I also know that it's my family's tax dollars moving and supporting us too.

Hope isn't frivolous. Hope isn't a fad. And regardless of what you've been told, Hope isn't going to bring our enemies "into our backyards." We can be a nation of hope, and have a strong, capable, and appropriately equipped military to defend it. We can be a nation of hope, and provide our children with the best education possible (once we stop taking money away from our students to give it to corporations- yes, I said "students,"not "schools"). We can be a nation of hope and require that all immigrants join us legally. We can be a nation of hope and of health and provide for ourselves as much as our political-correctness inspires us to demonstrate care for others.

It's time hope returned to our nation. I VOTE FOR HOPE.

Candidates, please deliver, regardless of your political party's affiliation. All of America is your party.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! The more I read, the more I smiled. This election season has given me more hope. Ideally that will continue as we head toward November.

    And you're right about listening to experts. I wouldn't ask a CEO to advise me on my health. Why do we assume they know about education?


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