Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Scene: This morning, in the living room, Bachelors 2 and 3 are watching Big Cat Diary because they woke up early and the house rule is you have TFT (Total Free Time) before 7:00.

Mr. G:  I wish I was a leopard.  Then you could just sleep all day.

Mr. B:  And go hunting anytime you wanted.

Mr. G (enviously) :  And all you'd eat all the time would be MEAT.

Yeah, leopards.  They have the life.

In other news, I'm digging through my basement file cabinet and throwing away outdated or useless (often both) teaching resources.  This morning I discovered a print out of email correspondence related to one of my more miserable experiences as a teacher.  Why on earth did I feel compelled to save this stuff?  Reading through these emails dredged up a bunch of bad feelings and terrible memories.  I haven't thought about the incident in years.

But now it's front and center in my memory today.

Years ago I taught a course called "Teaching Multicultural Curriculums" or some variation on that course title to teachers through a university.  One year it was offered in my district for credit and some of the staff taking the course acted unprofessionally (that's an understatement, actually).  (I'm going to say right now that there's a huge disparity, sometimes, in how high school teachers behave and how elementary/middle school teachers behave.  It is often the result of their building leadership, but in this particular district I had a really tough time drumming up much respect for my elementary/middle school colleagues.)  The grand finale was when an associate principal and the police liaison officer escorted a particularly unruly elementary school guidance counselor out of the classroom during one of the final nights of the class.  OH THE DRAMA.  Because we were talking about race.  And because many of the people working in the district had complete job security (thanks to the union) no matter how badly they behaved.  And, perhaps, because I was too young and too passionate and too idealistic to be teaching said course to a group of tenured teachers signed up for what they perceived to be an easy 3 credits intended to slide them further up the salary schedule, as opposed to educators signed up because they had an inherent interest in addressing race and identity in a productive way in their classrooms.

Anyway.  I look back at that experience and realize how much wind it took out of my sails.  I became a less trusting, more jaded and cynical person.  I wonder now how I'd have handled the men who bullied me during the class.  I wonder now what I'd say to them and, more importantly, how I'd say it.  Back then I felt vulnerable and responded more emotionally than I probably should have.  

I'm not proud to discover that I harbor some bitter feelings towards some of these people after all of these years.  It was a perfect storm of hot topic, poor administration, youthful idealism, lack of accountability and ignorance.  Today I'm wondering how much I shy away from talking about the dangerous subjects because of how badly I got burned almost 15 years ago.  My view of college coursework is more skeptical now than it was back then, too.  It seems that much of those courses are still red tape and hoops to jump through.  Do "teaching credits" required today have any greater use or meaning than they did back then?  Or is it still an easy money-maker for universities with almost no quality control?  It's rare that I hear one of my friends rave about the excellence of a teacher education course they're required by law to take.  Usually these courses are something they endure to keep their license current, and the colleges don't really evaluate the instructors or curriculum as long as people keep paying tuition and signing up to take them. 

Who knew one dusty file cabinet in my basement could raise so many questions this morning?

I wish I were a leopard.  Then I could just sleep all day and think a lot less.


  1. You've no idea how much I'd have liked to sit in that class, just to see what happened...


  2. Leopards have it made.
    Sounds like a most awful experience. I sometimes wish I could go back to my earlier years and show my younger self how to handle situations better.

  3. What a terrible experience for you. Perhaps you should burn or shred those papers, rather than just throw them out. It could be quite therapeutic.

  4. You got a good blog post out of those old emails, although I am sorry you were bullied when you were trying to teach.

  5. I love the conversation about leopards. But leopards have to sleep in trees, don't they? Or maybe that's some other big cat.

    It's very hard to relive difficult situations like the one you were in so many years ago. Perhaps you kept the correspondence on it to remind yourself that, as uncomfortable an experience as it was, you were in the right. I remember when I decided to start a bible study, my Mom (a veteran teacher of urban junior high kids AND adults) told me how to deal with a disruptive person in an adult class. I was lucky - I never had to use her advice. I'm convinced it takes training, skill and experience to learn how to deal with adult bullies and disruptive people.

  6. One of the things I often joke about with my colleagues is how our syllabuses get longer and longer for each year we teach. It seems like each year our students come up with some new way to act badly in class, ruining the environment for all the other students, so we have to add yet another paragraph to the class contract. It is so hard to deal with the behavior correctly the first time you encounter it, and so frustrating when you don't nip it in the bud, and then over-react.

    But I think the worst teaching situation in the world is where you're teaching to teachers who do.not.want to be there! Burn those papers!

  7. Negative experiences can stick with us throughout our life in one way or another. Either as a positive learning experience or something that causes us to harbor a grudge. It sounds as though yours was the prior. :)

  8. I understand your disappointment and bitterness. We expect more of adults, especially the ones we employ to teach our children. No matter how hot the topic.

    Back then you didn't have a black either. Just sayin'...

  9. A black belt. BELT! Darn it. Messed up the whole thing.

  10. Don't even get me started on the rediculous classes for the required 6 credits every 5 years. I looked into those classes when I needed license renewal and thought that it was all just a joke, which is why I started my first masters degree. It's also one of the reasons I am getting the 2nd masters degree...I can't be ok with spending money on credits that get me nothing useful. While a LOT more money, at least my masters in History will help me actually be a better teacher.

    When this masters is over (only 2 classes left! huzzah!) I'm thinking about going for my National credits for 10 years!

  11. Oh, been there done that with those feelings. I spend all my life trying to repress things, and then some idiot brings them all back up again. Grrr!

  12. I wish I had been there just because it would be bloody

  13. Life sometimes can take the wind out of the sails. But I like the idea of continuing education - especially in tech stuff. Teachers should keep up - or at least try to stay current. Or how can they teach . . . except for maybe only history...? ;D

  14. Leopards and cats have their lives made in general. This was a really nice post.

  15. I was trying to comment on your new crush but it kept kicking me off. Anyhow I loved what he had to say.


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