Uncategorized

Stop looking for the “Quick-Fix”

So, today I pulled out my soapbox because I’m pissed off.  The original intent of this post was to just show you that schools and teachers think about this day in and day out, and it’s about time the rest of the country did as well, so we can all do what needs to be done to stop this mass shooting epidemic that is killing Americans every day.  But, as I started writing, I started feeling everything that bothers me about this mass shooting cycle we seem to have found ourselves in.

 

I’m part of a few online professional communities for educators, and since the events in Florida, there’s only one thing the teachers are talking about- how to keep your children safe.  So, I’d like to now include snippets of that conversation, so maybe you can see that teachers across the country are trying to save your kids and will GLADLY die and leave their families behind in order to make sure you get to keep your child.  That’s the most magical thing about teachers; they will lose their lives for kids they only get for a limited period of time.  If only the rest of society was as dedicated to their well-being and success as teachers, maybe we wouldn’t be here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I tried to keep them in order, but with soo many, I know I probably mixed them up.

Either way, the message is still the same- your child’s teachers are prepared to defend them and lose their lives in the process.  Your child’s teachers have prepared them how to handle this situation as best as possible.  Your child’s teachers will not run and duck for cover leaving your children at risk; they will hide them all and pretend the classroom is empty, so they are the only victim.  They will push them into classrooms and lock the doors, so the gunman is satisfied with just killing the teacher and moves on leaving your baby unscathed.  And, after every shooting, we teachers get back online to our communities and begin to have conversations again like the one above.  We study aspects of the previous school shooting to create new plans to deal with new unforeseen possibilities.  Day in and day out we are plagued with this possible situation, combing through every last thing that could go wrong.  We say our prayers and silently thank our loved ones for our time together because we never know if the day will come that it will be our school and our kids, and it doesn’t matter if it is because we’ve already decided that a gunman will kill our (your) kids over our dead bodies.

 

But, after every school shooting, we follow the same “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

And it’s starting to get tiresome.

 

First, we are shocked and surprised (I literally don’t know why you are shocked or surprised- for me, this is normal American behavior, and that’s a problem).  Then, we are quick to find a reason behind it all (because people need a reason)- ‘oh he was severely mentally disturbed’; ‘he must have snapped because of ‘x-y-z reason”.

Then, everyone has a solution!

More guns.  Fewer guns.  Arm the teachers.  Employ veterans to carry arms on campus and defend students.  Do something about mental health.  Get rid of violent video games and movies.

Everyone always seems to find their voice after any mass shooting, but as quickly as it comes, it disappears just as fast.

This is because we only get ‘sort of’ angry at lawmakers for doing nothing to pass laws to protect Americans since the last massacre.  And it’s only ‘sort of’ mad because we wave our signs and talk to reporters about how angry we are, but then no one marches on Washington making demands for anything, and we all go back to our own lives and await the next time and location that we get to do this little dance again.  And we will do it again… that is an American guarantee.

And through all of it, people are quick to make suggestions like the ones above (among many others), and they always act like their suggestion is the one true answer that will save us all.

It’s not.

There is not 1 answer to save us all, and frankly, with the direction this country is headed, it’s going to take a complete overhaul of our thinking and beliefs before we ever find an answer that will minimize the number of deaths we have because of mass shootings.  We cannot eliminate mass shootings- we’re too far gone for that- but, we can start working on something now to hopefully lessen the number of incidences and casualties in the future.  Maybe by being fully committed and proactive, we could eliminate them, but I’m not entirely hopeful on that.

Anyways, the reason your little solutions don’t work is that they’re targeted at one reason or flaw or situation that caused the mass shooting in the first place.  For example, someone with a mental illness bought a gun and committed a massacre at whereever- now they can’t buy guns (well, I guess not anymore… sigh…).  Either way, that’s great and all, but that is one group of individuals, what about everyone else with undiagnosed mental illness?  What about those that wish to harm churchgoers simply because of the color of their skin?  What about angry employees who are borderline unstable and at any moment could snap?

What checks do you have for those people?

 

It’s not a gun problem.

It’s not a mental health problem.

It’s not a video game problem.

It’s an American social problem.

 

Until we decide to set aside all loyalties and have an honest to God conversation with one another about how to fix it, it will continue to happen… over and over again…

 

More or less guns are not going to solve the problem that people today have no compassion for others or human life, and it will not solve the problem that we do not have adequate services and specialists for troubled people or those with mental health issues.  Having more people with guns on a campus does not stop people from coming to a school and killing them anyways.  Arming more citizens does not stop them from holding and acting on racist beliefs.  More police officers do not equal schools having adequate resources to deal with troubled youth.

And, this will continue to happen until we, as a society, change how we raise and the services we provide our youth… because from what I see of America’s youth today, the mass shooting epidemic is only going to get worse if we don’t do something to stop it.

All kids demand instant gratification, and when they don’t get it, they get mad.  Now, it all comes down to what they do with that anger that is different because they were all raised different- my parents taught me how to cope with my anger and how to treat others with respect and humanity which is how I’m raising my own child.  I learned how to fail and what the consequences were when I did.

Other parents, however, stand behind their children when they act wretched and claim that it had to be someone else because there is NO WAY their precious snowflake could ever do anything wrong.  “You must be lying that he/she acted that way because my baby would NEVER do that.”  “You’re certainly out to get him/her because you don’t like him/her.”

WRONG.

YOUR PRECIOUS SNOWFLAKE IS A COMPLETE REFLECTION OF HOW YOU RAISED HIM/HER.

If your child throws a fit to get something, and you cave and give it to him, guess what we teachers see at school- THE. SAME. BEHAVIOR.  If your child feels entitled to things at home, they feel entitled to them everywhere, and when they don’t get it, they lash out, and you come to their defense thus exacerbating the problem.  And, the teacher knows who these parents are within 2 weeks of school.  We know because your kid acts a certain way, and it’s not good.  You and your kid are the ones we warn the teachers about for next year.

We see your kid who constantly disrupts class because “this is boring”, and we see him/her when they cuss us out.   We see them when they demand you take work weeks after it is due because ‘they can’t fail’ because they’re on the football team, and when we say no, here you come emailing and calling wondering why we won’t accept the work.  We do see you, parents, when you call and email, and we see you when despite repeatedly telling you that the work is over 2 weeks late, you gave their child 2 days in class to do it, and they played on their phone the whole time despite being told to put it away, you still can’t seem to understand why we’re ‘being so unfair’.  And we see you when you go to the administrators who understand that we followed policy, but also are trying to keep you happy (because we don’t want you going to the Superintendent at all).  So, they compromise that an alternative assignment will be given, and we, the teachers who were trying to teach your child about responsibility and consequences all along, stare at everyone in disbelief that we are saddled with extra work, all because your kid couldn’t be bothered to do the original assignment in the first place and you, the parent, couldn’t be bothered to help teach him/her a valuable lesson.

IF YOU ARE THIS PARENT.

STOP. IT. RIGHT. NOW.

YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

I constantly stare in disbelief as I listen to parents claim their child never did this or said that.

If your baby is a star athlete or your a well-connected member of the community, you can best believe that kid will walk through school untouchable to discipline.  Look, if you’re one of those parents who entitles their children, I’ve just given you the keys to success in American public schools.

I have seen so many things that I often wonder if I am in The Twilight Zone.

And it won’t change until society changes.  Until we deem human life more important than money received, connections, or sports, and until we as parents and educators step up and teach our children the true meaning of respect, responsibility, and hard work, NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

Children need to fail, and we need to let them.

Failure is the best teacher, and we are robbing children of that opportunity.

Children need to be taught the value of human life, decency, respect, and responsibility.

They NEED it.  SO STOP ROBBING THEM OF THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN IT.

 

It sucks to say, but I know we’ll have another mass shooting in less than a month (if that- probably 2ish weeks) because no one wants to do anything about it except blame everything but themselves.

Blame the guns.  Blame the mental health.  Blame the parents.

Blame whoever and whatever you want.

But, whatever you do don’t blame yourself!

NO.

WE ARE ALL TO BLAME.

This is an American problem, and we are all Americans.

It is our job to fix it. Together.

 

So, while I know I don’t have all the answers, I do know there is one OVERWHELMING PROBLEM with America’s youth today that we can start to do something proactive about.

We, as adults charged with making sure we have future FUTURE generations, need to:

Have conversations with our kids about what it means to value human life- let them know that real-life is not Call of Duty, and if you pull that trigger the consequences are permanent.  Teach them to understand that you CANNOT have everything you want in life and how to COPE with that.

Be proactive about it.

Prepare your children to be functioning, successful, accepting members of society.  Prepare them to cope when life doesn’t go their way or they fail.  Prepare them for how to deal with the unexpected, so that when it happens they don’t go off the deep end (teach them a contingency plan and for Christ’s sake have one! especially if your child has a mental illness).

Teach them that taking human life is not the answer.  Teach them to be responsible, independently-functioning members of society.  Teach them that just because someone is from a different country or culture than you, does not make it wrong.  Teach them the meaning of coexisting with other humans and being respectful that views and beliefs are different, and THAT’S OKAY.  Teach them that if they forget their lunch or their homework, then they need to learn how to make that work, and DO NOT BRING IT TO THEM (the cafeteria will give your child food- make them buy their lunch and then pay you back for it).  Make them get a job and pay for things themselves.  Teach them that guns are not toys and taking it to school to show your friends is a BIG NO.

This is your duty as a parent, friend, educator, administrator, citizen, American.

It is not your job to be their friend or cater to their every need.  It is your job to make sure they understand that the rules apply to them.  It is your job to help them understand what it means to get consequences and fail and how to come back from that.  It is your job to make sure as absolute best you can that your sweet innocent babe does not grow up and decide to execute people.  It is your job to give them the tools necessary for them to understand NOT TO KILL PEOPLE WHEN THINGS AREN’T GOING YOUR WAY.  It is your job to provide them a safe and loving environment, so they don’t have the urge to lash out and destroy lives.

It. Is. Our. Job.

And, if your not up to that job; then sorry, but I think you should enlist someone else to do it for you.  Someone who is willing to put every last bit of energy into raising a human being that is not going to cause another statistic.  If you are not willing to have the tough conversations with your kids and raise them to understand that things in life aren’t just given to you, then you probably shouldn’t be having any.  Being a parent is not supposed to be easy; the kids are not the ones who are supposed to be in charge- you are, so act like it.

And, this isn’t the complete whole answer because there are people out there who are sociopaths and enable their children to do awful things, but this is a step in the right direction.  Instead of constantly trying to find ways to blame objects and brain functions, why not provide schools and parents with more resources and funding to deal with troubled youth and people with mental illness.  Why not shell out the extra dollars to create programs for these kids to find focus and drive in a positive way?  It seems like we’re willing to spend money on a lot of things, but not our kids and they’re who we’re leaving this world to.

 

My heart goes out to all those in Florida.

What happened in Parkland should have never happened.

My heart breaks for everyone involved.

 

And then my heart gets pissed off.

Pissed off at the senseless loss of innocent life.  Pissed off that children who had so much to live for and accomplish will never get to see their dreams fulfilled.  Pissed off that teachers who sacrificed their lives, so that a child wouldn’t have to die, had to do it in the first place.  Pissed off that we’ll hear about this for about a week, and then the people of  Parkland will be forgotten until another comparable school shooting occurs.

And you should be pissed off too.

Get mad.

Because then you might be finally willing to fight for something to change.

March on Washington.

Let those who make laws understand that they cannot continue to think with their pocketbooks if they want to continue to represent the American people.

Let them know that we need support in arming America’s youth with the tools needed to cope and manage in life rather than arming or disarming more Americans with weapons.

 

What happened there was yet another terrible tragedy, like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and everywhere else (here’s a list), and it will continue to happen until we, as a society, make the decision to change, and have honest and open conversations about this epidemic.

We need people to stop suggesting ‘quick fixes’ to this (reactionary laws, misrepresentations of mental illness, banning violent media).

There is no quick-fix, and there won’t be, so stop looking for it.

The problem won’t be fixed overnight but over time.

It took us many years to create it, and it will take many more to fix it.

So I think it’s about time we get started.

Uncategorized

Loose Lips Sink Ships

It’s important to note that I didn’t really edit this… I just kind of went with it.

Living in a small town can teach you so many things about life and human nature; if you ever get the opportunity, you should try out that rural small-town living.  It really is magical to just sit back and take in all the peace and quiet a small town has to offer.  I would definitely live in a small town again especially now that I am much wiser…

When I was in college, and for a short time after, I lived (and I mean LIVED- coexisted with the locals and everything…) in the ‘oldest town in Texas’, good ole’ Nacogdoches.  Weird name, indeed, but a place that will always be special to me.  I learned many things growing into adulthood in Nacogdoches, but, and almost most importantly, I learned something that I have taken with me long after I left my beautiful 2nd home.  That is, as the title tells you, that loose lips do, in fact, sink ships, and they do it exponentially faster in small towns like Nacogdoches.

You see, when you’re a local, or immersed with the locals, in a small town, everyone knows everything about everyone’s business even if they don’t know them.  The shows are not exaggerating this fact- this is 100% legit and something I never really experienced growing up.  I lived IN Dallas (yes, actual Dallas- Plano, Garland, Frisco, etc… are NOT Dallas), and while sometimes things got out, the chances of you going to Kroger and someone looking at you because they know your secrets are incredibly slim, like almost impossible.  When you live in a big city, running into someone who knows all your business, and may or may not have beef with you and that business, is a true surprise because you honestly didn’t expect to see them there because the city is just so dang big.  But, in a small town, oh you better believe you won’t just see one person who knows everything about all of your comings and goings, you will see every. last. one of them.  They literally appear out of nowhere as if a homing beacon was sent out the moment you left the house.  And this was something I was ignorant to until my comings and goings soon became topic among the locals as well (it’s what happens when you have a volatile relationship with one of them).  Everywhere I went, there was someone who knew something, and they just glared or sneered or whatever it was that made them feel good, and it started to make me uncomfortable because it was unfamiliar.  Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am used to getting dirty looks- I have a nasty of habit of ruffling feathers- but, in a city of over a million, you at least get a reprieve.  There is no reprieve in a small town.  You are at the mercy of town gossip; it spreads like wildfire, and once it has started, you best believe you won’t be looked at the same again which it sucks.

 

So, what brought all this up…  I am an educator, and every school is just like its own small town.  We have our Mayor (Principal), our City Council (Assistant Principals), the other city employees (teachers, et al), and the citizens (students, duh), and they all make up a little community that functions day in and day out for about 9-ish months out of the year.  And if you ever wanted a phrase to live by when working at a school, it should be this one.  Loose. Lips. Sink. Ships.  Many people especially those in a position of power and/or advisement/support would benefit from letting that sink in (no pun intended) because nothing will sink your ship faster than finding out that a person who was supposed to be a member of your team has turned outside the team to complain about them.  Like a small town, the complaining session was doused in gasoline and set on fire to spread magnificently throughout the school.  And it happens. every. time.  I know more things about people I don’t even really know than I do some of my own friends, and I work with like 150 people.  Is it all true?  Probably not.  But, the point is, it’s out there, and people know, or have heard, and they know have opinions of you which affects your ability to do your job.

A lot of times, I find myself on the receiving end of the complaining and gossip because I don’t say much or really talk about my comings and goings in general (Nacogdoches taught me well)- but, I am a REALLY GOOD listener.  I have co-worker friends, and I love them to death, but even they don’t know much about my life outside of school; I keep myself guarded which some might argue is not healthy, but I’m pretty okay with my introverted self (which I’m more of an introverted extrovert, but more on that later).  Moving right along…. If it’s someone new to sharing with me, they’ll always ask me, “How do you feel about _____?”, and I tell them my honest opinion, and let them decide whether they want to tell me whatever it is they have to say or not.  Most of the time, they WILL tell me because humans are just DYING to know and dish the latest ‘hot story’… they seriously can’t help it.  I’m no sociologist, but I do engage in some pretty intense people-watching, and after about 2 decades of study, it’s pretty easy to pick up on human cues, and I can certainly say that they LOVE interacting and sharing and having connections. They crave it.  I do too, but I keep that for my friends outside of work and the select few at work who I’ve known for quite a long time.  Even then, that’s playing with fire because at any moment, someone can get gossipy and BOOM, suddenly everyone knows that you don’t like a certain person because of x-y-and-z reason who happens to be friends with a higher up and then you’re wondering if they know, then does your boss know, and is life going to start to get difficult for you because now they don’t want you here (and they most definitely can find a way to get you to leave), and how do you sit in a meeting with them knowing that they are the ones who might cost you your job when they don’t even do theirs.  And this is the nature of behind the scenes at a school.  You tread so dang carefully that the ‘city employees’ are afraid to take a stand for themselves to be respected because they constantly fear being pushed out of the classroom and away from kids that need them. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told to file a complaint (myself included), and we all don’t because of fear of losing our jobs.  And sure, the employee handbook says you can’t face retribution or retaliation for filing a complaint, but we all know that there are other ways to get you to leave- constant walkthroughs, nitpicking, focus on test scores and not student growth, etc…  I’ll never forget what a principal I interviewed when I got my Master’s said when I asked him, “How do you handle employees who refuse to get on board with your mission for the school?”  He said, “You find creative ways to push them out- more preps (classes), more duties, extra meetings.  They get tired and start looking for somewhere else to go.”  And that, my friends, is why I come to work, keep my head down, do my job, go home, and continue to not complain against the people who definitely don’t deserve the jobs they have.  Because I can’t afford to not have my job, just like every other teacher out there.  So we take the disrespect and belittling from our superiors and people who claim to ‘support’ us in whatever we need even though we’re ‘ungrateful’ and ‘ask for too much’.  I learned my lesson long before I started my real big-girl job, but it’s a pity that some people have to learn their lesson at the expense of their job…

so, I’m helping everyone out right now-

always, always, always remember:

Loose lips sink ships.

Prompted Writing · Stories

PersonaBots- Creative Writing Prompt 1

Alright, so today, I’m going to do my first off-the-wall creative writing prompt.  If you’d like to play along, you can either write about the same prompt I find or follow the path and choose your own.

Sidenote- I won’t lie.  I definitely rushed the end because I couldn’t get much time to actually focus.  Apparently, the family cannot survive with my constant vigilance… One day they might… One day…

This week’s creative writing “path” (instructions to get to your prompt) is:

Go to Google.  Type in “Science Fiction Creative Writing Prompts”.  Click the 4th link you see.  Choose an odd-numbered prompt (I chose #11).  Write.

My prompt:

“I have to deactivate you.  I’m sorry.”

“Happy birthday, Myra!” her family exclaimed as she appeared in the kitchen that morning.   “Now, I know you’re probably already SURE you know what you’re getting this year,” her mom began, “but, I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with your present.  Close your eyes.”  Myra did as she was told, anxiously awaiting someone to grab her shoulders, steer her through the living room and out the front door, and to her brand new set of wheels.  But, before anyone got the chance, “Open them!” her dad yelled.

In front of Myra was a brand-new first generation, chrome-plated PersonaBot.  It really was a beautiful-looking machine, but she didn’t need or ask for one of these.  She never really understood everyone’s fascination with PersonaBots- they are just shiny little machines that do everything for you, or as the ads like to say, “make your life a little easier”.  Years ago, the PersonaBots’ system was something that only existed in movies, and now, movies can’t be made without them- funny how that works.  At first, many people thought it’d be just another passing craze, but people have become incredibly attached, almost dependent, and now, they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon as evident by Myra’s brand-new shiny birthday present that she didn’t need or ask for.

Steeling her face into a believable smile Myra looked between her parents and the new PersonaBot. “Thanks……” She may have been able to pretend on her face, but it was impossible to hide the disappointment in her voice, she was just hoping her parents were too preoccupied to notice.

“I know you’re just going to love it, and it’s going to make your life so much easier!” Her mom was far too excited about this metal box that basically made humans lazier than they already were.  “I’m not sure why you never asked for one because they’re so cool! You’ll see!”

And, as if on cue, the PersonaBot stirred to life, obviously recognizing that the surprise was over and it was time to get to work.  “Initiating System Set-up” the cyber voice chimed.  “Please set your personal preferences.”  Myra had none; she didn’t want this thing in the first place, and she certainly didn’t want it knowing her preferences.

“Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, Dad. I’ll just head to my room to program it.”  She turned toward her new unwanted assistant, “Come on”, she ordered, and since it was an obedient little machine, it followed her out of the kitchen and back to her room.

She shut her bedroom door, and turned to write on her computer, but the Bot again chimed in, “Please set your personal preferences”.

Myra didn’t even turn to look at the machine.  “No. You can go to the closet and go to sleep… forever.”

“Please set your personal preferences.”

“Ugh.  My personal preference is for you to go to the closet and go to sleep forever.”

“I do not understand.  Please set your personal preferences.”

“Ugh… I just told…” as Myra turned, she noticed two things- first, the Bot had moved right behind her, and second, there was a little blue light on its chest that was blinking rapidly. She couldn’t help but stare at the machine, even though ‘machine’ might not be a good word for it. If it wasn’t completely covered in chrome plates, it would have looked like any other human being, and some PersonaBots have been around long enough that they have actually adapted to seem more human with their voices and movements; the only noticeable difference was the material on the outside.

A knock on the door tore her from her scrutiny of the Bot.

“Come in” Myra said a little too annoyed.

“How’s it going? Have you set your personal preferences?” Myra’s mom was too into this machine.

“I just got in here and haven’t started…” Myra started, but again, the bot was there to remind her, and her mom, that she was neglecting her present.

“Please set your personal preferences” the bot chimed.

“All you have to do is press the little blue button, and it will take care of everything.  Go ahead, honey.  I know you will just love how much easier this makes life for you.”  It was at that moment that Myra noticed her mom had some of the same movements as the Bot that was so desperately trying to get her to program it. In fact, Myra’s mom seemed a little desperate for her to set her preferences, but it didn’t change how much she wanted nothing to do with it.

“I’ll do it later.  I have homework to finish first.”

“But,” her mom just wouldn’t give up, “if you set it up, it can do your homework for you, and you can have more free time to do what you want to do!”

“Fine!” Myra turned to the Bot to begin ‘setting her personal preferences’ when she caught a glimpse at her mom’s face- anticipation written all over it… a little too much for a birthday present… a little too much for any mom who just gave their kids the key to a lifetime of laziness.  And that’s when it hit her… this wasn’t her mom.  Her mom was normally reserved and quiet- a far cry from this over-enthusiastic woman that stood in front of her.

“Mom.  Thank you.”  Myra got up and crossed the room to embrace her Bot-mother in a hug.

“Of course honey…”

“But,” Myra continued as she wrapped her arms around the Bot that pretended to be her mother, “I’m going to have to deactivate you.  I’m sorry.”

Her mom had no time to react as Myra began feverishly pulling her mother’s hair- the only logical place to conceal wires on the PersonaBot until her Bot mother made a sputtering sound and collapsed on the floor in a heap of flesh-colored metal.

“Congratulations Myra.”  She turned to see her very own PersonaBot seeming much more awake than before with a steady green light where the blinking blue one had been.  “Your the first person since our creation to not succumb to the temptation to have everything done for you.  For this, you will be rewarded.”  The Bot spit out a card.  “Take whatever you need from here, and go to this address.  We have a job for you.”

 

 

Stories

New Beginnings- First Draft

Chapter 1:

Arely

I still can’t believe my mom moved us out here.  I was fine with the problems at my old school because at least it was familiar, and everyone knew, so it wasn’t like I was forced to pretend with them.  But now, at 6 months pregnant, I have to start all over again with a whole bunch of people who don’t know anything about anything. I asked my mom to be rid of this when it first happened, but our religion doesn’t ‘believe in that kind of thing’ even under special circumstances.  So, here I am, stuck trying to fit in in a world where I am an outcast.

I push myself out of the car and head to the counselor’s office to pick up my schedule.  At barely 4 foot 8, my enormous belly takes the lead, and people just naturally move out of my way- almost like they might catch it if I touch them.  Good. Move. I don’t need friends here- I just need to get through these next 4 years and get my diploma.  When I get to the office, I’m not the only one who is in need of a schedule.  As I look around for someone who looks like an adult, the room starts to quiet down, and I start to feel more and more eyes on me.  Then, I begin to hear their thoughts pinging off of me-

How old is she? 

15.

How pregnant is she? 

6 months.

I would never want to be pregnant and a teen. 

Yea. Me neither.

Why would someone want to be pregnant as a teen?

 I don’t know.  Maybe find a teen who wanted to be pregnant and ask them.

Does she know how hard her life is going to be? 

Do they know how hard my life already is?

My parents would kill me if I got pregnant.

If you only knew that…

 

“How can I help you?”

I snap out of my mind vacation to see an older lady wearing a floral print blouse and gray slacks in front of me.  She smiles gently at me, trying to hide her pity; she knows. Great.

“I’m here to see my counselor for my schedule. I’m new to the school- Arely Amador.”

“Oh yes!” She tries really hard to act surprised like she doesn’t know me, but she knew me the moment I walked into the office.  I saw her pity. I figured either my old school or my mom would have called ahead to let them know what they were getting; no doubt, my counselor will want to talk to me all the time just to ‘see how I’m doing’.

“Well, your appointment is at 8:30, and you’re a little early.  Mrs. Parrish has 2 kids before you, so just have a seat, and she will be with you shortly.”

I nod and take the first open seat I find that’s farthest away from everyone.  Unfortunately, it’s right by the opening to the front office, so everyone who walks through there gets a front-row view of Liberty High School’s newest addition- The Very-Pregnant Freshman!

Over time, you get used to the stares and looks and literally feeling what everyone is thinking about you.  It’s not so much that you get used to it as you just become numb to it all.  Numb to everyone thinking they know everything about every situation- including yours.  There’s no point in getting upset because they’re going to assume whatever they want anyway.

Because when a person notices a pregnant teen, they first feel disappointment- ‘How could she just throw her life away like that?‘ They’ll wonder.  Then, they question the teenager’s parents’ parenting skills- ‘How could they not raise their child better?‘ As if everything is a direct reflection of who raised you.  Finally, they begin to foresee that the child the teenager carries now will make the same mistake as them and the cycle will repeat forever.  I see it on every person who walks in that notices me.  Some are students, and some are teachers.  They aren’t the worst because they usually try to just look away immediately.  The worst are the parents, who can’t hold back their shock that their child has to go to school with such a delinquent.  After about the 5th shocked parent, I put my backpack in my lap trying to cover my belly, and just stare ahead at the poster ahead; although, even that doesn’t help much.

It’s a big yellow poster with kids of all different colors laughing and chatting in a park or somewhere that has trees.  In blue letters, across the top, I see-

“Plan for your future! Juniors and Seniors set up your College Advisory Meeting with your counselor today!”.

Across the bottom, a little red, white, and blue, “Go Patriots” logo with a soldier man with a funny hat stars back at me.

I can’t help but think that I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to that meeting with everything that I will be dealing with, but it’d be nice to think it could be possible, and this cycle won’t repeat.  But, at the moment, it’s also hard to hope for something greater than just small moments of peace to deal with what I’ve been given to deal with.  It’s like my mind never shuts…

“Arely… Arely… Good morning Arely…”

I look up and see two women in front of me.  On my left, there’s a tall blonde woman wearing a knee-length red dress with black pumps with pity written all over her face; it is a beautiful face though.  Her makeup is flawless, and something I wish I could do, but my mom says makeup is “against our religion,” like everything else.  Her blonde hair is pinned up in a half pony with large curls spiraling down.  She does look like very pretty; like she spent most of her morning making sure she looked perfect for school.

On my right, is what can only be described as her complete opposite- this woman is wearing black slacks that are loose fitting, so you can see all the wrinkles, a purple paisley print shirt that is cute, but certainly doesn’t go with the pair of black converse that are on her feet.  Her hair, which I’m pretty sure is also kind of purple, is completely straight and probably wasn’t brushed this morning.  Makeup? None.  You can see every last flaw on her face, but somehow she is still very pretty.  I can’t help but think that if it wasn’t for the sort-of-nice clothes she was wearing, she would look just like a student.  I start to imagine this woman in standard dress code clothes- those ugly khaki pants, wrinkled of course, and a dark purple polo…

“… Arely?  Good morning… Arely?”

I snap out of it again.  “Good Morning.”

“There you are. I am Mrs. Parrish,” Parrish- red dress, “your counselor. And this is Ms. Cook,” Cook- looks like a student, “our English language specialist.” Wait.  Language specialist? “Welcome to Liberty High School. Come join us in my office”

I push myself up from the chair in one quick move, something I’ve mastered this past month, and follow Mrs. Parrish into her office.  Mrs. Cook trails lazily behind, just like a student but with an air of confidence, like she’s done this before. She shuts the door and takes the seat next to me.  Mrs. Parrish sits behind her desk and begins handing me stacks of papers and packets.  She goes through the usual things that I’m sure all kids hear- dress code, computer rules, code of conduct rules, discipline, attendance, yadda yadda yadda.  Sign this; sign that.  Then, she begins crafting my schedule based on what my old school sent, and only now does the odd-looking Ms. Cook say anything.

“Your records show that you are an ESL student- meaning English is your second language. Does this sound correct?”

I nod slowly.

“Well, I am the campus coordinator and teacher of that program here, so it’s nice to meet you Arely.”

I nod again.  Ahhh… I get it.  She’s the lady who is going to stick me on Rosetta Stone for hours on end thinking it’s going to fix the fact that I don’t say much.  The schools think I can’t speak English very well because I don’t speak very much at all especially not these days.  So, I’ve been coasting along in the ESL program all my life not really living up to my full potential because they let me.  I write average papers, read just the right amount to satisfy the teachers, and do just enough to get a B or C, and that is good enough for me… but not good enough to get out of the language learner program.  I really should focus.

“….will be in my language learner level 2 class.  It’s my advanced class which I think is better for you because I think you know more than your scores say about you.”

What does this woman know about me? I just got here. No. Focus.

“We’re also going to put you in my 30-minute homeroom class, so you can have a familiar face. And you will see me or my aide, Mrs. Gonzalez, in your Biology, Algebra, and other English class.”

Other English class? Aide? Mrs. Gonzalez? Focus.

“…classes, so we will be seeing a lot of each other.  And, hopefully, we can get your scores high enough that we can get you out of the language learner program for next school year.” You won’t.  But, her optimism is nice, so I’ll let her think it’s possible.

The noise of the printer brings us back to the other person in the room and stops me from going on another mind vacation.

“Alright,” Mrs. Parrish says as she hands me another paper, “here is your schedule, and Ms. Cook has a senior outside that will show you around the school and get you to your first class.”

She gets up and heads to open the door; I stand up too because I understand our time together is done, but then she stops and turns to me.

“If you need anything,” she says as she squeezes my shoulders, “anything at all, don’t hesitate to come down and talk to me.” She gives me one final squeeze as she turns me out the door, and I could have sworn I felt her let a big sigh of relief when I was finally out her door.  That’s what teachers do.  They tend to say nice hopeful things like this to teens they think are troubled, like me, and it’s normally just to try and make you feel better. You can always tell they’re not really ‘there’ for you and are just trying to be nice.

Ms. Cook follows me out, then says, “Arely, this is Bella.”

I turn to see a girl, a little taller than me with short dark brown hair and glasses wearing the standard dress code clothes- pants that are not jeans, she chose blue today, and a solid color polo shirt, white.  The clothes really take away from her looks, but I’m sure that happens to all the girls and will happen to me eventually.  I, fortunately, get a pass with some of the dress code rules, for now, since I’m very pregnant and all, so I’m wearing my long dark black skirt with a looser-fitting pink V-neck shirt- no polos for me!  I’m certainly not going to like having to dress like this after this baby is out of me.  Focus, Arely, Ms. Cook is still talking…

“… has been here all 4 years and will graduate this spring.  She will be showing you around and can answer any questions you have.”

Bella and I follow Ms. Cook back down the hall to the front office where she turns and hands Bella two yellow passes “For when you’re done showing her around,” and then turns and looks at me, “No matter all the things that happened before, you are here, and this is a new start for you. Don’t worry about anything else except what you want for your future. If you need anything, just ask me.  I’m here to help you. And I’ll see you 3rd period.”

And, with that, Ms. Cook leaves out the door, and usually, I would have believed that her words were just nice things to say, like Mrs. Parrish, but, in that moment as I watched her walk away, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe Ms. Cook was actually trying to be sincere.  Maybe she would be there to help me.  Or maybe I was just being hopeful.  Her words were nice, and maybe she meant it, but I’ve had too many adults in the past pretend to be something to cover up who they really are, so I’m not so sure she is going to be any different.  But, who knows, people surprise you in both good and bad ways.

I’m brought back again by an unfamiliar feeling.  “Hello? ¿Hola? ¿Arely, si? Hello?”  I look down, and Bella is in front of me with a hand on each shoulder trying to get my attention. “¿Estás aquí? You here?”

I tense at finally realizing she is touching me.  “Si… yes…” I nod and take a step back which gets her to drop her hands but doesn’t do anything for my nerves, and she just continues talking anyway.

“Soy Bella.  I’m going to show you around.” She doesn’t notice my tension.  Clearly, she has a job to do, and she will do it.  “And then, I will take you to class. ¿Si quieres en ingles o español?”

“English is fine,” I say as I walk past her towards the exit everyone else seems to be going through.  Maybe with a little distance, I can relax again, but Bella doesn’t hesitate as she follows me out and immediately begins to tell me all about Liberty High School…

Go Patriots…

 

 

To be continued…

 

 

Education

An Ode to Education

Sung to the tune and inspired by:
“Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds

Little children in the schoolyard

Little children made of different things

Little children in the schoolyard

Little children all the same

There’s a white one and a black one

And a brown one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of different things

But they’re all treated the same

 

And the teachers in the schoolyard

All came to make a difference BUT

They were all put in boxes

And were all forced to do one thing

And there’s bosses and specialists

And education officials

But they’re all inside the boxes

And they all care about one thing

 

And they all check the data

And love their state assessments

And they all just see the numbers

And say all the “Buzz words”

But they don’t see all the children

Who are all made out of different things

Cause they were all put into boxes

So they all look just the same

 

And the children grow up

And begin to take care of things

But they were all made into boxes

So they all do just the same

There’s a white one and a black one

And a brown one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of different things

And it’ll always be just the same