Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Figuring stuff out

I have to admit that, in some ways, I'm just as unsure of myself as I was years ago. I thought by now, this age, I would be more confident as I would have some major things figured out. To be honest, I often have the feeling that I'm "flying by the seat of my pants." When I finish a job, I sometimes think, "Whew -- that was close."

What do I have figured out? Hmmm....I need to start a list. I'm sure it's not a particularly long list so it might be fun to compose.

Some things I have figured out:

1. Don't feel you have to do everything everyone tells you to do.

2. Do only those things that keeps most everyone off your back.

3. Sometimes, you just have to fake it. No time to get all upset or for crying out loud, guilty.

4. Look beneath...look way beneath and under.

5. There are just things that you "KNOW" are true. No evidence, proof, or smoking gun. But you know, you really do. Believe yourself.

More later...I actually like this list.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Simple Case of Hypocrisy

I'm a teacher at a rural High School in NorthEast Tennessee. Today, by mandate of the State, we gave the "Junior Writing Assessment." Every 11th grader in the school went to homeroom and filled out a huge page of demographics with the requisite bubbles and then answered a writing prompt The students had to defend their opinions in an essay and use supporting examples in their sentences. After they completed the timed essay (35 minutes), they were instructed to take a short ten question survey on their attitudes toward writing.

As you have probably guessed, it is a No Child Left Behind thing. Test, test, test. Then, get demographics and survey the poor youngsters on what has just been done to them. This data will all be accumulated and come this late Spring or early Summer, the teachers will all be lectured about what we did or did not do correctly to prepare the students for this grand exercise.

Let's talk about what this really means for all of us. How many of us since graduating from whatever school or learning center have actually written a five paragraph essay defending our opinions? I don't know about you but I think a lot of adults don't have three good reasons why they believe something. In my last entry, I discussed superficiality and that really seems to be the modus operandi of most of my friends, my colleagues, and yes, myself. Many times I decide that I don't like something because "it doesn't look or feel right." It's not like I give it any great thought or list reasons in my head. As a matter of fact, I know a whole group of people who base their opinions on "what the Lord says." I would imagine that this would take a great deal of checking to make sure that you have the correct opinion -- the same as your peers or Pastor or whatever. Do they have three defensible reasons to write into any essay?

Watching the students use their antiquated pens and pencils as they earnestly scribbled their thoughts onto the paper provided, I was also struck by the outdated methods by which we cull the information we all rely on. Let say you were going to actually write an essay on one of your opinions, wouldn't you at the very least use a word processing program? Good gravy -- spell check is just a click away for most adults. And if you are really really "with it," wouldn't you consult several net sources, blogs, or for crying out loud, wikipedia before you hammer out your thoughts. It seems that most of our writing these days is a collaboration or extension of other ideas.

So, let's sum it all up as our poor students are instructed to do in their final, concluding paragraph. What am I really saying? Our public schools are graded and funded on antiquated processes and hypocrically, on something we would never ask other adults to do -- state their opinion and list three reasons why with examples. It's like asking a baker to make a cake using outdated measuring cups and a wood stove. Let's not give the baker the recipe either.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A few random thoughts

I really can't stand "get to know me" or "ice-breaker" activities. They seem so superficial and thrown together. I mean what do I choose for this new group of adults to know about me? Do I go for the gusto -- "what I really think about people who bring infants to restaurants" or do I keep it neat, clean and superficial -- "Hi, I'm Ruth and I like thin crust pizza."?

Let's face it -- sometimes I am just that -- superficial. Sometimes all I am worried about is where the freakin' remote got to or what that burning sensation is on my tongue. As a matter of fact, I'll go one step further. I'm hardly ever deep and thoughtful in my everyday life. I watch "Law and Order" re-runs and cut out coupons and think about what I want for lunch tomorrow. That's the REAL me. If I watch a documentary or read something insightful on the net, I just might, take time out of the minor concerns of the day to think about something. But usually, I have to stop after a while and take an ativan.

Is this the way I thought or wanted it to be? Of course not. But I'll be honest. There's something so mind-numbingly comforting in my tenth re-run of "Law and Order" and somebody has to cut out those stupid coupons growing in a large pile on the floor. In my twenties, I would spend hours on the phone with a friend (or heck, even an acquaintance) trying to get it all figured out. I thought if I could track it down, name it, and define it then, I could master it. I definitely could have used the ativan back then.