Monday, May 28, 2007

Teaching in Eugene

I am a bit frustrated. I am not a teacher or the parent of a High school student; I am, however the husband of a high school teacher. Having been the spouse of a teacher for seven years I think that I would be used to the abuse that teachers get and could just be loving toward my wife when she gets home and not be upset about all the stuff she has to deal with.

....No, it is not that easy.

I am guessing that the only people that are reading this blog, who live in Eugene, already know my wife and have maybe heard the story. Please pass this on, hopefully, any parents who have kids going into the public schools will read it.

When I met her she was just finishing up her B.A. In Math education at UC Santa Cruz; not only did she graduate with honors but was well liked by her professors and fellow students. She was passoinate about teaching, especially, to those who did not have much social capital.
She chose to get her credential at Mills College in Oakland; one of the top two teaching schools in California.

She graduated from Mills and went straight to teaching at a middle school in our neighborhood. Though is was difficult she did well and so did her students. She taught there for five years then moved to Eugene. She has been teaching High school for the past year and things have not been going well for her.

Within the first couple of months she had several (seems that way from my perspective) students request to drop her class. She had parents complaining about her banning calculators and that their kids were not passing. This seemed to go on for some time with her coming home feeling depressed and incapable of teaching. She also did not feel that she was getting support from her principle but when asked how her department head felt, she would perk up and say that her department head liked her.

Finally, at some point in January, a retired math teacher came in to observe her class. Her report was that she was doing a great job and is a competent math teacher. That lifted her spirits for some time and things were much better for a few months. Now that the school year is winding down one would think that things would get better. She is having more kids dropping her classes, she has had one really difficult parent conference, and has been coming home in tears almost every day.

Granted, I am not a student in her class, I am biased. The only times that I have directly experienced her teaching is when she helped me with my algebra classes and when she tutored our eleven year old. ( I passed with an A, and my son knows his multiplication tables and is doing well in his pre algebra classes.)

When she comes home feeling like dirt and tells me that her students are just smirking at her because they know that mom and dad will pull them from her class if they blame her for their bad grades; it puts me into a very bad mood. She had one parent insist that she be suspended from teaching.

It just seems so utterly pathetic to me. How can they really be blaming her for their kids failure? If their kids are not doing well they need to look at what their kids are doing wrong and look at what they are doing wrong. Teachers are professionals they have studied what they are teaching and are aware of the standards.

Maybe things will be easier next year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rampant Animal Abuse

Yes, the title does suggest that the end is near, the sky is falling.....( I don't really think that)

What does this article say about our society. Is this an isolated problem, geographically speaking, or is this type of thing something that happens all over.

15 goats in herd grazing on brush shot, killed

The Bay Area has not had a mass shooting like those in Columbine and Virginia tech for reasons I can only speculate about. And the explanations for those events were that the killers were disturbed. Senseless killings happen there, one of the consolations for some of Bay area residents is that shooting victims are usually gang members. Why does it make a difference? Sure if you are not involved in that life you are less likely to get shot. However if someone can just shoot a bunch of goats what is to prevent them from doing the same to people?

What leads people to do this sort of thing? Is it boredom? Lack of self respect? It could be any number of reasons. It comes down to the availability of a weapon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why My Four Year Old Never Sleeps

Me: Ruthie, you look tired!

Ruthie: I can't sleep.

Me: But I saw you sleeping last night.

Ruthie: I was just resting my eye's.

Me: Why don't you like to sleep?

Ruthie: Because it makes my brain die.

Well, there ya go.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Am I a slacker mom?

I did that "what type of mom are you survey?" according to them I am a Zen mom. That their survey found that I am zen was not surprising but I am still not a mom.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers Day

Mothers day at our house is a relatively quiet affair. The kids are still a bit young to really do anything for her and Charlie still does not know that he and mommy are not the same people.

I wish the wife a happy Mothers day then she calls her mom and I call mine.

What do I really know about my Mother? She brought six kids into the world; she wanted more.
She wanted to be a full time homemaker but by the time her last child was 3 years old she had to get a job.
That was disappointing to her for several reasons; She really believed that her place was at home making sure all six of her kids and her husband had an orderly place to live and healthy food to eat. From my perspective that is not such a bad thing to want even though her choice was heavily influenced by her religion, that is part of why it was devastating for her to have to work full time.

I was not a particularly bad kid; I always went to school, I would not have ever dreamed of missing church, i n that way she never really had to worry about me. What did cause her concern was that despite my good attendance at school my grades were always really low. (If you have read enough of my postings you may notice that my ability to punctuate is suspect).

Things got harder as I entered my teens. I struggled with depression and my (pop-psychology moment) self-esteem was low. I am not sure how much of this she was aware of. Moms, even dads, are pretty aware of how their kids are; it is what to do when your kids problems seem more complex than just hungry.

As I aged I became more interested in dance clubs, doing funny things with my hair and wearing black; I am positive that this made her worry. I don't know that she suspected it, but I do know that my school principle and maybe some people at church thought I was doing drugs. (I never tried anything until I was about 21.) By the time I was 16 my mom seemed pretty overwhelmed, not just by me, but by the demands of her other kids, my dads depression and suicide attempts, her job and probably by her wish that life would just go the way a faithful Mormons life should. (husband makes decent money, mom does not have to work out of the home.) Mom seemed to weather all of this fairly well. There were times when I could tell that she was sad; mostly, when there was bad news she would sigh and keep going.

When I did not go on an L.D.S. mission, I am almost positive that what insulated her from disappointment was that she must have realized that her kids were going to do what they chose regardless of what anyone else wanted. And the best that she could hope for, for me, was that
I would end up a happy, ethical, person with kids who she could visit. I have happily provided this for her and I can tell she is happy because when she visits she does not give me that disappointed look then sigh and walk away.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Reply For The Alpha Mom

I have been thinking about the wonderful comment you left in reply to A View From The Non-Alpha Male.

At the end of your comment you asked: "Why are people so quick to judge."

I said that the Register-Guard article rubbed me the wrong way then did not articulate the reasons. I just went ahead as any bully would do and just put in that I would like to vandalize your house. My reaction was more to the article than it was to you so, maybe I should just puke on it. (it went into the recycle bin like all the other old papers)

From the article I perceived you as being someone who feels as successful as a parent as she felt at her career. Careers and parenting are, as I am sure you well know, completely different areas; not even comparable. The article suggested that you have pulled this parenting thing off with the help of technology and the ability to make play dough (Do you have a recipe for this? Is it edible?). This is why I judged you the way I did, that you commented the way you did, so early in the morning, makes me doubt my judgement.
To feel successful or even to have the appearance of being a successful parent is one that many parents covet. The marketing companies and diaper fabricators and the television companies know that and want to exploit it so that they can continue to be profitable. In my small family I have found that there is nothing that anyone can sell me that will make me feel on top of things. In fact technology tends to limit those precious parenting moments when you ...(gotta change a diaper) say " ahhh all is right with the world lets sing Khumbayah. " (We really did sing that yesterday)

Once you feel like you have a handle on things the rules change. One year Dr. Sears tells you that everything is fine and don't worry about your 6 month old's cough; then suddenly you are sitting in the principles office wondering why your 4th grader mouthed off to the teacher. (That happened; not with the same kid. There is nothing that can really prepare a person for parenting, I agree that some things can make it easier on a person: foolhardiness, confidence, a relaxed attitude, (yes the house is a wreck; but hey my kids are happy), someplace to get away from the house and relax (a good meditation hall works well for me).

With two kids at the ages of 1 and 4 (Same as mine) I am sure that you know quite well what I am talking about.

Two Wheels.....No, Four Wheels Good

Today, as I was riding my bike with the kids in the Burley, I had a flashback. I was ten it was June, I was riding my bike down some road in West Jordan. I felt free like only a kid can feel.

In reality (yes, thats right, reality rears up it's ugly head) when I was ten I would not have been pulling a bike trailer with two kids whose combined weight is somewhere around sixty pounds.

I digress; on days when I justify using the car I am much more stressed out when I get home. Even driving here is not a big deal but time spent in the car, I find, is not nearly as relaxing or freeing as time spent on bike. In a car you don't get to take anything in, even the unpleasant garbage in the creek, that is not such a problem.

I have railed on cars before (What a waste) I won't do it here. For a few minutes as I was riding the path along the creek I had a sense of Eugene as two separate cities ( of course in a city of 160,000? there are 160,000 different cities.) One that is car based (searching for parking spaces, waiting a traffic lights, buying gas etc) And one that is a little more relaxed; people getting around on bikes. Finding parking is not problem, all you need is something good to eat in order to fuel up. The exercise is usually enough to reduce stress. I know that Alpha is a lot happier now that she commutes to work everyday on her bike.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Daddy My Heart...

"Daddy, my heart got out of my body and went away. It is walking down the street."

The four-year-old told me this after she waited too long for me to read to her and put her to bed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A View FromThe Non-Alpha Male

Alpha Mom?

I hope the link works. You have to read the article before my commentary.....


Did you read it?

Ok this appeared in our little local newspaper, which, is not the NY Times or the Portland Oregonian. It does a pretty good job of giving us the news.

But this article just rubs me the wrong way for so many reasons...... I have to wonder if the guy who wrote it realizes how totally ridiculous it is. My first reaction to was just one of world weary sighs. Then I launched into my usual hyperbole.
A type people bother me anyway and then we have to read about them naturally after reading about this woman's lifestyle (I feel sorry for her friends that the guy interviewed) The best action I could come up with was to go puke on her front porch.

Then I thought about it....I would first have to find out where she lives, then I would have to figure out when I would have time to do such a thing. (seems like a lot of work) Then I would have to figure out a mode of transportation, (take the bike and put the kids in the Burley...oh ya then I would have the kids with me. That would slow down the escape. Or drive the car, I could put the old California plates on the Vanagon) With the kids along I would have to plan to go to the park and bring snacks. Of course if I were to puke I would have to have a recently full stomach and I would be in need of food afterward. If I have the kids we will have have snacks and possibly go to a cafe near the park.

No, puking on her porch is way too much work; I suppose if I were an Alpha parent I might be able to pull it off and even have time to play the wii (whatever that is) afterward, while giving the chef and maid the week off. But I am just a low achiever with no real shopping goals or marketing directions.

Maybe I will just blog about it.

May Day

Happy May day!!!

Go out an support your Union.

Unions are great things.....They gave us the eight hour work day and some of us the 5 day work week. But sometimes they just seem to get in the way.

As at home parent I don't really need a Union, I am almost constantly in negotiation with my bosses. Sometimes I am the unsympathetic Dictator and other times I am just a clueless war monger. (If your brother tries to take your toys, Ruthie, hit him back but I might have to intervene by imposing sanctions. Then when your military is at its weakest I will invade for made up reasons, depose you then.....wait she's my daughter.)

Seriously folks. My only real experience with unions is through my wife. When she started teaching for OUSD(Oakland Unified School District) Things were looking really good for us; The new superintendent was raising teacher pay. Just months into my wifes first year or so, oops! the district discovered that they had lost 100 million dollars!! The sup gets tossed out with the bath water, and replaced with state appointed administrator. The Union says "oh gosh, the teachers would love to help. Here we"ll take a 4% pay cut. But you have to promise and cross your heart that the pay will get raised to present levels."

Of course the pay was never readjusted and the teachers protested and, it seemed, the teachers were threatening a strike for the whole 5 years my wife taught in Oakland. It made me wonder why the union leaders were even there.

Finally, last year, the state administrator and the union came to an agreement. (just before we left Oakland and the administrator moved to SoCal) They would "raise" teacher pay by 6%. My Wife, the math teacher, after looking at the numbers assured me and everyone we knew that they had not really received a raise at all. (of course I realize that without divulging the numbers non of this makes much sense)
Chronicle Article

Again, I think unions are a great idea but sometimes they end up screwing the workers and not supporting them.