A nod and a hug to the teachers

Having just spent this past weekend with a whole passel of my favorite people, who also just happen to be teachers, I’ve been thinking a lot about the profession. My best friend is one of those rare breeds who actually loves teaching and can see herself doing nothing else. She once tried another career, only to return to the ranks of educators.

And this, her assured ticket into heaven, she teaches high school.

Over drinks and Navajo Tacos on the back patio, I heard her and many of our friends talk about their preparations to return to the classroom this Thursday to welcome students next week.

My friend teaches English, mostly, but also other topics. She spent her summer reading a list of books trying to find some modern American fiction to teach this year. See, she and her fellow teachers realize that teaching the “dead white guys”, while easy (because it’s been done so many times, teaching by rote is what it becomes), wasn’t igniting the minds of their students.

One of our friends said, “I want to make my kids lifelong readers. I don’t want to be that teacher that turned a student off reading for life”. I wanted to kiss her feet, hug her tight and weep a little.

We talked about current fiction, books that hold their own, have something to say, that will be fascinating for kids to read, and thus fire up their kids. It was a long hard battle to be able to teach, “Bless me Ultima” in the classroom…but it’s working. And when kids *want* to read, then learn, they become smarter, they help themselves.

So it was timely to read Jim Belshaw’s column in the Sunday ABQjournal. If you didn’t see it, take a look at “A Few Pointers For New Teachers” for a good chuckle. It’s a list of pointers from a fourth grade teacher.

My everlasting thanks to all the teachers who can do what I cannot….deal with snotty kids. And a special thanks to those teachers who actually, honestly care about doing a good job. You are amazing.

Where have all the heros gone?

Was listening to local sports radio yesterday at lunch, and they were talking about how “the three major sports leagues are in trouble”.

Baseball, with the specter of steroids, and Bonds close to breaking a long held record.

Basketball, with allegations of gambling and fixing in the referee ranks.

And Football with the scandal of Michael Vick and his barbaric behavior (borrowed that adjective from Jim Belshaw in yesterday’s ABQjournal)

Then I read my friend Natalie’s blog, Petroglyph Paradox, and was heartsick. Her young son looks up to Michael Vick, holds him up as a hero, and Natalie and her partner had to explain to their animal loving child what his hero did. Hard to see that light of hero worship fade out in a child’s eyes.

Not that I’ve ever agreed that sports figures should be the heros of our children…but it has been going on for years (Roger Maris?). It’s a trend that is hard to stop, and in many cases, there are athletes who are worthy of emulation (Michael Jordan? maybe…). Then again, many who seemed so on the surface but turn out otherwise (Kobe?)

Who do our kids have to look up to these days?

How about our President? Yeah, don’t get me started down that road. I don’t think a politician of any stripe is worthy of hero worship.

Hollywood Actors? Please…not even a consideration.

Clergy? Uh…no.

Teachers? Well I’ve read several recent stories of scary teachers (grade fixing, anyone?)….though there are many good teachers too. It’s just hard to tell.

What about parents? Well…there are many really good parents out there and I am happy to hold them up as my personal heros. But there are plenty of parents who do more harm than good…..like this charming lady or this gentleman.

So who is left? Who do our kids have to look up to, to emulate, to take values from and make them their own?

I don’t guess I’m comfortable with a society so debauched that even I, a full stripe optimist, forgiver of many, seer of good in almost anyone can’t find someone (alive) I want to be like when I grow up.

For now, I’ll keep my long held hero in place, my sadly deceased grandmother. Wonder what my feminist-before-her-time granny would think of the state of things today?

What’s an "e" among friends…..?

I love me some Arnold Vigil. I read his column in the ABQjournal all the time but have never blogged about him, mainly because he seems to say it all just right. I usually can’t even comment more, he got it and wrestled it to the ground with perfect words.

Mr. Vigil is the epitome of New Mexico to me, and reading his column makes me homesick. I usually need a hug after reading his hilarious stuff…..(heh!)

But I just had to put up something today. He wrote a column so spot on that I had to highlight it.

I believe the quote of the day is thus, “…it’s not that they didn’t teach me, it’s just that they taught me wrong.” A feeling shared, I’m sure, by the many victims, er, students of the vast New Mexico public school system.

Today Mr. Vigil takes to task those who forget that our chile comes with an e, not an i as in chili. Now…both chile and chili have value…I enjoy them both. And I’ve often enjoyed some chile on my chili….

This whole topic came up again in reference to that kerfuffle in Madrid, (briefly blogged here) where the folks in that small town didn’t take too kindly to some east coast outsider wanting to have a festival there (and capitalize on the popularity of the movie “Wild Hogs”.) The guy totally blew it (and forever marked himself an outsider) by dropping a big fat steaming “i” where once an “e” should be.

This quote has forever endeared Mr. Vigil to me (as I’ve ranted in these very pages about the “Christmas” issue):

“Personally, I was afraid that if they did spell chile the other way, they might have got our upstanding lawmakers to temporarily change the official state question as well. That’s right, “Red or Green?” would have changed that weekend to “Mustard or Mayo?”— much more palatable to the rest of our hamburger-eating nation. And the official answer, you ask? Why, “July 4th,” of course, a colorful splattering of both condiments, with maybe some Taco Bell hot sauce thrown in.”


Note To Mr. Vigil: ORALE! You got it right, brotha!

People we need a whole lot more of….

Leslie Strommen, a 25-year teaching veteran, currently working at Rio Rancho Elementary.

Leslie is the subject of a nice article in the ABQjournal entitled “Award-Winning Teacher Promotes Reading.”

She’s been at this game for a quarter of a century, folks, and she says, “…I have taken numerous classes to increase my knowledge of literacy processing. I am currently enrolled in a class that focuses on instructional coaching and literacy instruction.”

Did you get that? She’s “currently enrolled in a class”. Seems Leslie is an educator who knows that her own continuing education matters…a lot. What a terrific concept.

Any educator who takes the time after teaching, planning and grading all day to find educational opportunities…after some twenty-five years of service…gets a great big salute in my book.

My best friend in the world teaches High School English (among other things) in Las Cruces. She blew me away this year by obtaining her Master’s Degree, graduating with Honors from NMSU. She had to take classes at night while still managing to kick some serious booty for her students…oh yes, and a mother of two kids and a loving wife to her husband of nearing fifteen years.

She and Ms. Strommen are a rare breed of cat. They are people who genuinely love to educate, and find it meaningful to do this work.

And I take a bow before them today because they are, by far, better people than me.

My grandmother ranks to this day as my favorite teacher. She *loved* teaching and spoke about it often. My biggest debt to her is that she taught me how to read. It’s a skill I used everyday in her honor. She gave me my love of words.

So today, in honor of Ms. Strommen, I thank all teachers everywhere for doing what they do.

(by the by, this is my “make up assignment” for missing my post yesterday. Here’s hoping the teach will let me slide. Oh, I’m also going to flout all things Sarbanes-Oxley and backdate this post to yesterday…just cuz I can…Blogger lets me bend time which is pretty cool……now if I could only bend time back to 1987 and my godawful yearbook photo…what WAS I thinking?!?!?)