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November 2016

Last Night's Movie: Don't Bother!

What a disgusting experience I had last night at the movie theater! I've been stuck in the house all week with strep throat, so going to the movies was a big outing for me, and I was really pumped. We ordered our tickets online, and when we got there the seats beside us were still empty. I could barely contain my excitement because I have been feeling awful all week, and now I was out in the world again, somewhat recovered. Finally, right after the movie started, this couple in their forties or fifties sits down beside us. She takes the seat next to me, so she is on my left, and my teenager is on my right. Since you have to reserve your seats online at this theater, moving was out of the question.

We were there to see Allied with Brad Pitt, and the plot is rather romantic because these two adventurous spies become lovers and get married. As soon as the Nazi spy gives birth to a little girl, this incredibly sappy and sentimental woman beside me starts clutching her overly protective, 1950's-style husband's arm, and leaning into him she starts crying happy tears. It was awful. I was in this surreal situation, almost like the phony acting, overplayed characters had moved off the screen and into the seats beside me. First of all, the movie just isn't that great. The whole plot is quite predictable and not really all that exciting, and I have little or no sympathy for traitors and spies anyway. Since both main characters are spies and traitors, the movie really lacks a cool hero. I can't understand why anybody would identify with spies and traitors, but the weepy woman sitting beside me last night certainly does. 

This got me to thinking about the superficial lives some people live. Maybe this woman just needs to read more, or get out of Houston. Maybe her life is too easy and simple. And, obviously, she is spoilt and overprotected. I couldn't believe how her poor husband was acting. I lost count of how many times he had to get out of his seat and walk in front of us to go grab her some tissues, or get the waiter. He obviously felt like his identity was somehow tied into her overreaction to a somewhat dull movie because he was so sappy solicitous. I honestly thought he was going to start lifting her beer glass up for her and start giving her little sips. The whole display was disgusting.

This couple was well-dressed, and in good physical health. She didn't come into the movie acting emotionally distraught. When she sat down, she seemed unhappy with her seat, like she didn't want to sit beside me, but I just ignored her--well, until it became impossible to ignore her.

They ordered a lot of food, and we had already been served pizza and popcorn. She made me so nervous, I could hardly stay out of the popcorn, and I even found myself nibbling on pizza crust just to relieve my anxiety. I felt sicker, in more numerous ways, when I got home just because of what I endured at the theater.

Honestly, I guess I am rather offended by artificial and overdone displays of affection, and I really believe that was the situation last night. I was sitting beside a woman that had probably never done a single thing on her own. It's possible that she had never lived alone for any significant amount of time. She probably never travelled alone, studied alone, or thought her own thoughts. Her "family" was probably her entire life. I know some will disagree, but I think total dependence is a wasted life. If you are that moved by a mediocre, Hollywood movie, then your emotions are out of balance. You are at risk of looking like a fool, and learning that strangers are embarrassed for you.

I know lots of couples that have lived together forever and had kids, grandkids, and enjoyed their lives. But I have only known a few women in my lifetime that have been completely dependent on a man for every decision, every dollar, and every activity. 

I am grateful that the men in my life encouraged me to get out and do things on my own. Maybe the techniques they used were tough, and maybe some of them didn't realize they were actually helping me, but I am proud that I am not the kind of woman that crumbles during a silly movie. Especially not this just isn't very meaningful, and it lacks depth and sincerity. Much like the characters in the seats beside me...they were totally inconvenienced by each other's dependence. It was sickening! 

I need another week off!


The Notion of Never Enough


Miserably counting out her coins,


but short in quantity,

these medallions of supposed success,

these tokens of meager food and unpaid rent,

there were too few of them to count, for not enough were earned,

circulars given over to greed and petty claims,

and loved even as they slipped away.

Me the Teacher/Writer

No doubt, I have been an audacious teacher/writer. Not only have I burned numerous flimsy bridges with my writing, but I have also managed to make the nebulous appear obvious. Maybe this is why districts, an outdated and secretive, protective and nondemocratic, typically top heavy structure, do nothing to support the teacher/writer. But recently the value of the teacher/writer is recognizable, districts are starting to loosen up, and the right to self-express is beginning to get some support. 

Obviously, the silencing of teachers, as they perform their duties and recognize ethical failures, has been a feature of the education reform movement. The promotion of highly unqualified people into leadership positions has been a frequent topic of the teacher/writer as reformers use excuses and business models to circumvent regulations and place nonprofessional educators into school environments. I wrote extensively about my 28-year old high school principal, my elementary educator instructional coach, and other nonprofessionals that had been placed in positions that should take a minimum of 7 years of teaching experience, and an advanced degree, to even begin training for. 

Many of my comments, my posts, and my opinions have been shared, and this ability to discuss and affect policy has helped me improve my writing and feel as if I am part of the movement to salvage relationships between administrations, teachers, and the public. But most importantly, the teacher/writer can help return the well-trained professional to the administrative role. Instead of trying to devalue the teacher currency and create an intellectual deficit, districts are beginning to recognize the importance of ethical and responsible leadership.

For example, I feel as if I am shortchanged as a teacher if my instructional coach has not earned his/her stripes in the classroom. Someone that has been teaching no longer than myself should not be placed in a leadership role. Teachers, in their writings, complain about unethical behavior stemming from unprofessional discussions--hallway discussions, gossip sessions, and misinformation that creates a hostile work environment. Having been a recipient of drama-queen-fabricated-nonsense myself, I can report about the devastating outcomes from a first-hand perspective. True professionals recognize the legal and ethical consequences of engaging in disparaging, negative behavior. 

I have witnessed a long parade of teachers come and go from the English classroom, many of them with degrees that have nothing to do with the teaching of literacy skills. I have been privileged to know the business communications major, the journalism major, the accountant, the foreign language guy, the business major, and a whole slew of other types of people that did not write themselves, and rarely cracked a book. Clearly, the teacher/writer is needed in public school. Clearly, the State of Texas at least, needs to find a way to better vet teachers and match them to appropriate positions. 

Just yesterday, I received a very disturbing email from my child's high school. He attends one of the state's most highly rated schools, and his principal is a true professional. But the district superintendent retired, and now a new one is in charge. The new superintendent appears as if he is trying to fix something that is not broken. He is asking students to spend valuable class time to fill out a survey about certain aspects of their school experience.

Some of the questions that have been revealed to parents concern school safety and other matters. But the full list of questions has not been released, and the email was posted after hours yesterday. You can opt your student out of the survey, and I am sure some parents will. Student surveys, even parent surveys, are often fraught with faulty data. The best way to enact change in a district is to attend the school board meeting, listen to concerns, and have your voice heard.

As a teacher, and a parent, I totally disagree with allowing students to answer these types of surveys. This is a useless waste of valuable instructional time. I can just imagine some of the answers...we are asking students (teenagers) to give adult like answers in an open forum. Think about that. Anyone that has a teenager, anyone that teaches teenagers, and anyone with any child development background can already speculate about the quality of this data.

And so, with that in mind, I am writing today about the teacher/writer experience. I am also trying to decide between two books: The Teacher-Writer by Christine M. Dawson, and Coaching Teacher-Writers by Troy Hicks et al. Until teacher/writers are nurtured and supported, institutions of higher education will continue to complain about the quality of student writers, the skills of literacy will continue to diminish, and English departments will continue to welcome nonprofessionals into their classrooms.