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Cat's In the Cradle

Posted by Chuck Olynyk on October 26, 2010 at 12:35 AM

Today is Monday, October 25, 2010 and Day 119 PF. I want to write about other things, to think about other things, but the Muse is behaving like an ex-girlfriend, like my coffee: dark and bitter and cold.

There comes a certain hazard with being as I am: I draw trouble as manure draws flies. Everyone knows I’m a teacher, everywhere I go. I don’t have to wear am embroidered shirt or T-shirt or sweatshirt with the school’s name. It comes up. And that marks me as someone to have certain conversations.

Conversation in a bar I frequented from a trucker who must have spotted me before: “Hey, teach! How does it feel to have chased God out of schools and encouraged kids to be homosexuals?” My reply was there was always prayer every time I did a notebook check. I left the other comment alone.

Opening of many conversations with a couple in same bar: “Hey, Chuck, you’re a teacher, right? Well there’s this stupid teacher trying to teach one of my kids and…” Except that every teacher was stupid and that the parents couldn’t figure out why their kids were messing up. I know, because they were in the same bar at least four nights a week, checking on their kids by calling the landline home…

“My child arrived just the other day

He came to the world in the usual way

But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay

He learned to walk while I was away

And he was talking before I knew it and as he grew

He said, ‘I’m gonna be like you, Dad,

You know I’m gonna be like you’

“And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man in the moon

When you comin’ home, dad, I don’t know when,

But we'll get together then, Son,

You know we'll have a good time then.”

The came the conversation that put me in a tailspin. Complaints because grandchildren were receiving three hours of homework in elementary school. I tried to ask questions, get clarification, explain open court, the bigger issues, and my position as a high school teacher, to which I was told that did not pertain. Then came the shot that knocked me into a tailspin. While talking about “Waiting For Superman,” I was asked if I had any kids. I replied that I helped to raise three. “Are they your biological children?” When I replied, “No,” I was informed that I was three-quarters a parent.

It seemed to invalidate everything I said. Maybe it still does.

After all, is not the genesis of Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting For Superman” is that he is driving his kids to their private school past the public one in Los Angeles, just knowing that this public school just isn’t good enough? A parent protecting his biological offspring. Lioness protecting the cubs. What image could be more noble than that?

“My son turned ten just the other day

He said ‘Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play,

can you teach me to throw?’ I said, ‘Not today,

I got a lot to do’ He said ‘That’s okay’

And then he walked away but his smile never dimmed

And said ‘I’m gonna be like him, yeah

You know I’m going to be like him’

”And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man on the moon

When you comin’ home, dad, I don’t know when,

But we'll get together then, Son,

You know we'll have a good time then.”

I wonder if the parents are being consulted over the proposed changes at David Starr Jordan High in Watts? On Friday, October 8, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, went to Jordan, and told the faculty they had four choices: (a) Reconstitution (b) Green Dot (c) the Mayor’s program or (d) a plan created by the faculty. As of last week, Superintendent Cortines, some twenty-two days later, told the faculty NOT to choose the options of Green Dot (going charter) or the Mayor’s PLAS group;. Instead the only options available were to write a plan in one month which he approves (by contrast, Fremont took three months to write a plan which involved a partnership with LAEP—Los Angeles Educational Partnership—which was virtually approved until that fateful December 9th when Secretary Arne Duncan was in town.

The teachers were also told, “Don’t fight me on this, like the teachers at Fremont.” He pretty much implied that the faculty wouldn’t win (we still bloodied them up, even though our union did next to nothing); he also said "I don't know how Fremont will turn out, but there are no students walking the halls and all teachers are teaching." One tardy sweep per day. Micro-managing with 2 or 3 visits to classrooms a week. Many of the new teachers aren't getting good observations. But it is a Better Place

We shall see if President Duffy makes a stand which is anything more than token, if the sacrifice of Fremont as a gesture of good will between the union president and the district overlord does not turn out in vain. To me, it looks like someone failed to study history, as in the policy of appeasement which directly contributed to World War II. Maybe somebody ought to ask the President why Fremont was cast on the pyre, what was the union supposed to get out of it as a greater good?

“Well he came from college just the other day

So much like a man I just had to say,

’Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?’

He shook his head, and he said with a smile

’What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys

See you later, can I have them please?’

”And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man on the moon

When you comin’ home, Son, I don’t know when,

But we'll get together then, Dad,

You know we'll have a good time then.”

The South Area continues to erupt. Over at Gompers Middle School, which Secretary Arne Duncan was visiting on the day Superintendent Cortines made his Fremont announcement, Dr. George McKenna III arrived to drawn the new lines of engagement.

“Whiteboard configuration” is the new front in the war on ignorance. By the beginning of next month (that’s next week) all teachers at Gompers Middle School must format what it written on the boards in precisely the same way. In that way, children will,know where to look on the board for expectation and guidance. The logic is simple: “If we all lay have the same whiteboard layout, the students would learn.” Again, lock-step is the answer While charters hound us and Davis Guggenheim and Oprah and Eli Broad and Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee, Warrior Woman, beat the war-drums, Dr. George McKenna III has the brainchild of “whiteboard configuration.” This is the nationally esteemed (just ask him) Doctor’s plan to save public education from the charter wolves baying at the doors: a whiteboard template that any idiot (which Dr. McKenna considers most teachers to be) is capable of following.

I do wonder, was that what Dr. McKenna was taught as a first-year teacher? Surely he was a teacher once. Was that how he taught his lessons? Did he ask for a template—or was he a forward enough thinker that he created the model? If he did create a model, why is it any less valid for another teacher to put whatever they might feel is important upon the board in whatever fashion they wished?

Of course, I invited Superintendent Cortines (who appeared once) and Dr. McKenna into my room, but Dr, McKenna never appeared; instead, he claimed he’d been in most of our classes, then when he was called on it, said that all those teachers were on vacation. (Is there a dairy nearby? I smell something which is brown and sounds like a bell: dung!). Maybe he can make the drive to my new home base where the O-Zone has relocated and actually look at some boards…

Nah, what’s the point? It would be interesting to hear what study (or, dare we hope, studies) fueled this latest foray into educational micromanagement. But I have the feeling Dr. McKenna would simply play his version of “Jumping Jack Flash” and tell us about Washington Prep and how Denzel Washington played him in a movie.

More to the point: when will the union stand up to this madness? When will the union draw a line in the sand, since no one seems willing to step forward to tell our side of the story?

”I’ve long since retired, my son's moved away

I called him up just the other day........

I said ‘I'd like to see you if you don’t mind’

He said ‘I'd love to Dad, if I could find the time.

You see my new jobs a hassle, and the kids have the flu.

But It's sure nice talking to you, Dad,

It's been sure nice talking to you........’

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me

He'd grown up just like me,

My boy was just like me..............

”And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man on the moon

When you comin’ home, Son, I don’t know when,

But we'll get together then, Dad

We're gonna have a good time then.”

When?

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1 Comment

Reply Gary Jones
10:26 PM on October 26, 2010 
For the last 14 years of my teaching career (1993-2007) my wife and I went
on numerous upscale travel tours and cruises, some lasting more than
a month during which we meet some of most affluent, obnoxious tourists
America has ever sent abroad. This group has utter disdain for teachers,
who rated one step below a Bombay sewer cleaner in their opinions.
On one cruise asked what my occupation was, I said "teacher" causing
hilarious amusement among our fellow diners. No teacher could
ever afford such a cabin level (we had been upgraded). In Rome
one cruise/tour member disclaimed to the group that all teachers
should be fired for their incompetence. I learned not to identify
myself as a teacher for fear of scorn and condescension. The
elite depise teachers
ever afford to