Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “career”

Education and Innovation

For a long while, we’ve been in a rut where we’ve tried to shove a metaphorical square peg into a round hole. The way most kids learn today doesn’t look tremendously different from how I learned in the 80’s and 90’s which didn’t look all that different from how my parents learned in the 1950’s. That is both good and bad.

By nature, I am a traditionalist. I believe in the importance of canonical literature, for example, but that is a very controversial and (these days) unpopular opinion. I can’t help it, though. I can’t help but see the value in art, history, philosophy, literature, and a whole mess of other stuff that has kind of been pushed aside. I’m an English teacher and these days this means “get your kids to pass a standardized test” and “get kids to have basic literacy skills and that is all they need” (in other words, if kids can read, that’s good enough). There’s long been a push (at least as long as I’ve worked in the industry) to help kids gain “21st Century” skills, but I am not sure everyone is on the same page as everyone else on what that actually means.

Original Artwork by Casey Reynolds

My anecdotal conclusion is that when folks generally think about 21st Century skills, they think about technology. Cool. Yep. Technology is completely important and fundamental these days. No doubt.

But, I’d like to argue that real 21st Century skills are not so black-and-white.

I’m not sure it makes much sense to divide up learning into separate subjects like we’ve always done. I’m not sure that Readin’, Writin’, and ‘Rithmatic are all that different or should be all that separate anymore.

Educational startup, Edalex published a cool infographic that demonstrates the most-often needed skills in modern-day workplaces. They include the following soft skills:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional Intelligence

The Edalex website also includes these “hard” skills:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Cloud computing
  3. Analytical reasoning
  4. Artificial intelligence
  5. UX design
  6. Business analysis
  7. Affiliate marketing
  8. Sales
  9. Scientific computing
  10. Video production

You might notice that, indeed, the “hard” skills mentioned are tech-heavy. But, one thing I notice is that NONE of the skills on either list is a class taught to teenagers and only some are taught at colleges and universities. So, my argument is that “English I” and “Algebra” and “American History” and “Chemistry” aren’t necessarily best-suited to exist within their own little corners of education alone. They need to be a part of a larger conceptualization of learning where multi-faceted problems must be solved by considering a variety of lenses, areas of expertise, and “subjects.”

In the biz, we refer to this as “interdisciplinary” or “cross-curricular” education. It isn’t the norm in most places, though there is a cadre of organizations doing this sort of thing online. Most brick-and-mortar schools still have “periods” in a day where student shift from one classroom to another doing work that is largely taught as being completely separate from what they learned in any other classroom that same day.

But, the world doesn’t typically exist within these confines. If I need to plan community infrastructure or evaluate best practices in marketing or build programming for veterans or create solutions to political conflicts, I won’t just use “math” or “English” or even “engineering.” I’d need an interconnected and collaborative team of folks who have more than just niche knowledge in a sub-subject. So, why do we pretend, still in schools today, that music class and geometry class and biology class are so…different?

When I was in school, I was “not good at math.” I was, instead, “good at English.” But, what does that even mean? Now, as an adult, I realize that it meant, at the time, that I struggled to conceptualize theoretical figures and information and that visual forms of data were easier for me to digest. If I had not had English and math separated out and instead had curriculum that intertwined them, imagine how different my understanding would have been not only in those subject areas, but also in my own sense of self-worth.

I encourage you to look more into organizations who are innovating in education. I am not suggesting that you pull your child out of public school right now and send him to a fancy and brand-new cyber academy. But, I mean, you can if you want. But, I actually very much believe in the power and importance of society-building public education. I just wonder if the long-held beliefs about how the public school system as a whole operates might not benefit from taking a look at some alternate ways of doing things.

Some cool folks to check out:

  1. Astra Nova
  2. Prisma
  3. Remake Learning
  4. You Media Learning Labs Network
  5. Quest to Learn
  6. Fuse Studio

Grrrrrrrr…

Today I hate people.

Admittedly, most days I hate people.  I’m an introvert and I like quiet.  And, you know, NOT being around…people.

And, if this is your first time visiting this blog you might be surprised to know, given my general distaste for humanity, that I am a teacher.  Of teenagers.  Pretty much the worst people of all people.

I actually really seriously dislike children.  I mean, mine are cool, but yours suck.  No offense.

I kid only sort of.

On a serious note (for once), I actually tremendously love working with high school students.  I like talking with them.  I like helping them with their ridiculous dramatic bullshit.  I like talking to them about Star Wars.  I like watching them “get it” for the first time.  I seriously fucking love my job.  I am truly an introvert and I prefer quiet to parties, but my favorite thing of all of the things is discussing Hamlet with a group of hungry AP English Literature students.

But, today, I had to cover a 7th grade Math class.  Just let that sink in:  I hate numbers more than I hate people.  And, remember I hate children, but not teenagers.  Seventh graders are CHILDREN.  Don’t talk to me until you’ve made it at least one full day past your 14th birthday.  Even then, I don’t really want to talk to you for very long periods of time until about halfway through your freshman year of high school.

Seniors?  Give me all of the seniors all of the days.  Love ’em.  Lazy sons-a-bitches.  Those kids are my jaaaaam.

Sure, my piss-poor attitude today is colored by the fact that by 8:00 this morning, I had dealt with two students who were ethnically intimidating a Middle-Eastern refugee student and one student who told another to “eat balls.”  This week, I have been trying to stop a small group of boys in their attempt to mercilessly and evilly bully a weaker kid.  I’ve been failing at this miserably since the bullied kid is so bullied that he is too terrified to admit to the bullying so we can proceed with assistance for him.  I’m trying desperately to get a student scheduled into all of her appropriate classes for her junior and senior years because her parents do not speak English and they cannot advocate for her at school here.  So I do.  I’m trying to encourage a kid I’ve been mentoring for four years to finish all of the credit recovery programming he’s been working on so he can have enough credits to graduate in June.  He probably won’t make it.  I’ll be devastated when/if he ultimately drops out of high school.

I’ll go home today to a car with only three working tires.  My kids will need help with their homework.  I will have to cook dinner — from scratch because I am trying desperately not to pour a bunch of food additives, processed garbage and sugar into my family’s bodies.  I’ll care for my aging dog who was diagnosed yesterday with cataracts.  I’ll probably not get to the gym though I consider this a “gym day.” I’m not trying to get into a bikini or impress anyone, but I am trying to get stronger and healthier and today that will have to wait.

It is hard to be a working mom.

That’s it.  This is hard.  And I hate people.  And I’m tired.  And this is hard.  And I love it.  And hate it.  And…this is hard.

 

Is it June yet?

Tgood teacheroday, I shall further my rant about teenagers.

In case, you haven’t caught up with my blog in a while, or…um…ever before, you might not know that I am a high school teacher and a proud momma of two little ones.  I have always said that I do not understand kids at all until they turn about 13.  Most other parents likely cringe at the thought of their children going through the teen years, but I honestly have no idea what to do or say to most 3-year olds.  I just don’t have that piece of DNA in me that makes me want to sit on the floor and play with Play Doh.

I “get” teenagers.  I don’t always like them.  But, I get them.

However…

It is nearly June.  And, if you have never taught you don’t know how much you just kinda want to get away from these kids by this point in the year.

I spent some time in a “real job” in an office.  I hated it.  HATED IT.  But, I have to say that I never wanted to get the fuck away from my coworkers with quite the same desperate passion as I truly want to get away from students after 9 months together.

Indeed.

Indeed.

My coworkers never complained that “someone farted.”  And, they never broke my box fan during a before-class wrestling match that involved a disagreement over a purple pen.  They also never surrounded my desk and yelled my name at me over and over again even though I was clearly talking with someone else.  Their parents never called me to scream at me, threatening to have me fired since they “pay my salary.”  I never broke up a fist fight between my coworkers.  My office was always air-conditioned.  I got an hour for lunch at my office (not the 12 minutes I end up with by the time I microwave leftovers, find something to drink, go down the hall to the lounge and sit down).  I could pee whenever I wanted.  I never had to repeat what I wanted others to do, like, a MILLION times.  My day started at a normal time, not 7:06.  No one ever threatened to slash my tires.  No one ever looked me in the face and said, “I am going to fucking kill you, bitch.”

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I 100%, without question love my work.  There is absolutely nothing I would rather be doing.  I did some soul searching while at that terrible office job.  I bought a book called “What Should I Do With My Life?” in the hopes that it would tell me what to do with my life.  It didn’t help one damn bit.  But, I did end up back in a classroom and it was the best goddamn decision I have made in a very, very long time.

ftsMoms and dads may complain about their children.  This does not mean that they do not love them.

I happen to have 102 children.  I complain about them all the time.  But, I do still love them.

But, now it is your turn to deal with them for a few months.  Get me outta here.

Who am I?

 

Trent Reznor made me understand  today.

While coming home from the grocery store, my Sirius/XM memory alert thingy ding-donged and let me know that one of my favorite songs was on another channel.  I absent-mindedly switched over.  

Then, I suddenly found myself alone in my car, radio blasting something from Pretty Hate Machine, singing as loudly as I could.  I was 16 again.

My Sirius is almost always tuned to Lithium.  I often hear them say, “You used to Rage Against the Machine.  Now you just rage against the washing machine.”  

THEN.

That pretty much says it all.

NOW.

Remember just having to worry about whether or not your parents UNDERSTOOD you?  Remember not even having to pay for your own gas money, even though your parents swore that you’d have to pay for all your own gas if you borrowed the car?  Remember knowing that you were going to graduate, go to college, get a degree, get married, have a kick-ass career, have a family, live in a house with a driveway, own a dog who could catch frisbees, and then eventually retire to Key West?

Neither did I.

Thought you were angsty, lost and uncertain when you were in 8th grade, though?  Try becoming a parent.

I realized today that one of my biggest struggles as a mother has been figuring out who I now am.  I thought I knew.  And, as I left my twenties and entered my thirties, I felt like so much more of myself and I was thrilled to leave a naïve, self-conscious young girl behind to become a strong, independent woman.  But, then I became a mom.

Everything I thought I understood about the person I was becoming -who I hoped to be- had changed. 

I had been driven in my career – focused, interested in moving up, begging for more responsibility.

Now I wish they’d let me just work part time.  Or telecommute.  Or just pay me to stay the hell home and do as little as possible.

I had been independent.  I enjoyed nights when my husband would work late because I’d take a long, hot shower, watch my favorite TV shows, read a book and eat Ramen noodles for dinner and drink a glass of wine.

Now I am pissed when my husband has to come home late because I am left by myself to deal with screaming tantrums, a family dinner he may or may not get home in time to eat, pureed peas in my hair, a pile of laundry, a stack of work to be completed for – you know – the people who PAY me, and a bank of shows in the DVR that might be watched  sometime before the summer of 2064.  And, you know, just walk away from your desk and come home, jerkface.  I can’t just stay at work whenever I want for however long I want.  Why are you special? 

When I was in high school, I knew exactly where I was going.  I didn’t need a guidance counselor to help me figure things out.   Now I just wish I could find someone to help me sort out my life.  Since I was born with a vagina, I have to choose now between primarily being a parent or being a careerperson.  There aren’t many ways to be both and to do both jobs as well as they can and should be done.   Interestingly, men don’t seem to have to make these kind of decisions.

Though I always figured that I wanted to have children, I never really knew that doing so would make me feel as though I had lost myself.  I am probably not ever going to get that PhD. I had always wanted now.  I will likely not, conversely, make it to every recital, meet, match, game, concert and event in which my children are involved.  Truth is, I don’t really know who I am anymore, and I don’t know anymore what I want to be when I grow up.  But, trying to be a supermom isn’t working out that well.

There’s a whole lot of animosity between stay-at-home moms and working moms.  Many working moms don’t respect the stay-at-home moms.  And, the stay-at-home moms don’t understand why the working moms want their children raised by nannies or institutions.  We should all start banding together and demanding more of American culture – demanding better workplace-based childcare, opportunities for at-home moms to be a part of working society, job flexibility, job sharing opportunities, more paid time off for family sick leaves,  and more mom-friendly business practices in general.

Though I found a little piece of the 1993-me I thought I had left behind today, I am glad not to be a teenager anymore.  I do really love my children and I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate.  I just wish that I could retreat for one afternoon, listen to Liz Phair on my Discman, paint my toenails with Revlon Vixen polish and watch reruns of My So-Called Life.  Just one afternoon is all I ask.  Maybe it will make me feel a little better…

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