Sunday, March 04, 2012

Daughters and teachers--and who's in charge of the schoolroom?

Across the nation, the educational crisis is a major concern, though I'm not certain how to define this crisis. But here in Texas, where the crisis is very real, it has to do with major budget cuts, teacher layoffs, and teacher fatigue/burnout/whatever you want to call it. In Fort Worth, the ISD is offering early buy-outs to teachers, which is good in that it avoids layoffs--but wait, we need more teachers, not fewer!
I have now seen the Texas educational crisis up close and personal when I was in Houston last week. My daughter-in-law, Lisa, teaches math and science in a Houston-area school district where, as she delicately puts it, the kids aren't real interested in learning. Lisa is a creative teacher, recipient of several honors. She is full of ideas, new ways to make learning a challenge kids want to accept. For instance, she went with her own daughter on a school field trip one day last week and came home saying what a great classroom the outdoors would make. You could teach kids about ecology and environmental issues, weather, insect and animal life, geography and geometry. Her mind was busy.
But Lisa comes home every night head-in-her-hands exhausted. Some days it is after six before she's home, and she's in bed by 8:30 or 9:00, totally worn out. She's out the door by 7:30 in the morning. One day she said to me, "Those kids just wear me out." She's aware that her exhuastion is not fair to her husband, my son, or to her two children, ages seven and almost five. She doesn't want to come in the door, crabby and short with everyone, no time for fun. Yet some nights she can't help herself. I said something tentative about needing a life out of school, and she agreed, said she had resolved to do only what had to be done at school. And she did tell me that she and her daughter, Morgan, spent yesterday gardening together--preparing beds, going to the nursery, planting. A great day for mother and child--but probably too rare. Lisa knew she had a stack of projects waiting to be graded. Her students were clamoring for their grades.
Lisa is also fortunate in her choice of husbands, not just because he's my son but because he's a patient, helpful guy. He does the dinner dishes--albeit not till morning, which drives me crazy. But Lisa simply puts her dish on the counter and walks away. He often does laundry, and putting the kids down for the night is a cooperative project. Lisa freely admits she doesn't know how teachers do it without someone helpful like Colin.
How long will Lisa continue to teach? I have no idea. Right now she still loves her work, but the day may come when she throws her hands up in the air and gives up. We'll all be the losers if that happens.
She's been talking a lot about education to my other daughter-in-law, Melanie, who is upset at the slim attention paid to the gifted and talented program in her youngest daughter's school. Her oldest daughter--my oldest grandchild, brag, brag--is an outstanding athlete and gets all kinds of support from the system, from equipment to extra time. The youngest gets 90 minutes a week out of the regular classroom. (See Raggedy Madness, "Fast Food Education Nation," , ) Melanie and Lisa have been designing the ideal school they'd run. I wsh it could be more than a pipe dream for both of them.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to ; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty."  We seem to have lost track of the importance of education in this country, and I f ind it scary. When the politicians, not educators, make policy decisions (including textbook choices), when the easiest budget to cut is education, when a politician calls a liberal education a threat to the country, when we pay our sports hero but not our thinkers and teachers, we are in great trouble. I hope my two daughers can make a difference, but they need help, folks.


Carole said...

You might like this poem about mothers

Anonymous said...

All of our educational woes can be traced to a single thing: lack of discipline.

Judy Alter said...

Is that you, Charles, talking about discipline? As usual we disagree. I don't think it's that simple.