Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hmm. Well I had an interesting conversation with a customer on the phone today at work. She is a NYC public school teacher.

Let me preface this by saying that my job entails taking phone calls from customers who want to make changes to their account or pay their bill. I am a faceless voice, a friendly listener - a safe person to vent to. I hear it all.

Ok, so as I'm offering this teacher a cheaper package of services, she starts to turn the conversation to her many frustrations. She can't stand the administration and how they hold her back from really making a difference with these kids. She said teachers are stifled, defeated, and ultimately have no choice but to concede to the ridiculously inefficient "system". She feels if she had the opportunity, she could do so much more at her school. She explained how giving the kids a lot of freedom in her classes (to get up, walk around, ask questions, work on their own projects or in groups) works so much better than forcing them to sit and write for 40 minutes with their head in a book.

She talked about how teachers who try and do what they know is right - the "rebels" who blow the whistle on poor learning conditions or immoral principals or other higher-ups - get reassigned to "rubber rooms". These are "reassignment centers" used to get the accuser out of the way so as not to expose any wrongdoing at the school. I found this article that explains this more in detail. She also said that NCLB is a joke and is not being implemented the way it's supposed to be. And she told me that in many schools, all the money that is supposed to be allocated for "Project Art" (a well-intentioned and well-funded effort to get more art and music programs back into city schools) is being mishandled and used for every other subject but art and music. It's truly amazing what this administration gets away with. And these are the folks who have the nerve to deem our paperwork as "in compliance" or not?

I just let her go on and on. I was learning a lot. I wasn't that surprised, though. Then I couldn't hold it in any longer. I told her I understood and agreed. I told her I live in NYC also and I homeschool my children, as I, too, became fed up with the system after dealing with it for 9 years. You know what she said? "GOD BLESS YOU FOR DOING THAT". She said my kids are incredibly lucky to get to learn in a way that teachers can only dream of. She went on about how great it is for kids to be out in the real world learning from adults in their own workplaces. She also said my kids were going to grow up with such a healthy outlook and know what it is they want in this world.

I could do nothing but feel the most amazing sense of pride and understanding. This woman gets it. And after we hung up (I never did get my sale, lol) I thought about how my kids are learning and wrote some stuff down. The monthly creative writing class is taught by a real children's book author. The monthly book club is moderated by a real librarian. The homeschool art classes are taught by real artists. The first-aid class was taught by a real nurse. Science classes are taught at environmental centers by real environmentalists. Then there's the numerous trips and tours we go to with the hs group or by ourselves. And the fact that my kids have learned not to be ashamed or afraid to ask adults questions about the work they do - and how the adults LOVE telling all about what they do! The learning that happens when we're home is relaxed and fun and centered around what the kids are interested in. And the best part is that there's so much time left over to PLAY! We spend more time outside than ever before. My children have re-learned how to use their imaginations and create fantastic worlds of whimsy (I love that word, lol).

I'm grateful that this teacher came into my life today. I got to appreciate my life with my kids so much more.

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