Tag Archives: education

My Coronavirus Story

I doubt anyone from the old days is still following this blog, but just in case someone pops in to see why I rose from the dead, I want to make clear that I’m not planning on rebooting this blog. I’m just a person who finds writing both cathartic and therapeutic, and these days I could use some catharsis and therapy. This blog post will also be political, not writing-related, and it is written by a Democrat. If any of this is problematic for you, please feel free to stop reading. I won’t mind. Okay, here we go.

Yesterday, my three-year-old son brought us (me and my husband) his jacket. I may live in North Dakota, but summer does reach even this area of the country. It was high eighties/low nineties yesterday. (And humid. God I hate when the air has water in it. Growing up in Los Angeles will do that to you.) But the air was on, so my husband indulged our son. Put on his jacket. Then my son went over to the front door, looked back at us, and asked, “Bus?” [It is at this point that my eyes are welling up. Here’s that therapy bit I was talking about earlier.]

See, my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was two. He is language delayed, often speaking in only one-word sentences. When he turned three in January of 2020, he qualified to start preschool at an early education center. My son’s favorite vehicle is the bus. On the Monday after his third birthday, a bus showed up at his home. A real bus. One that he got to ride in. And he took his little backpack [tears are starting to fall now] and he ran out to that bus. It took him to a magical place where he got to play with other kids his age, and he did art projects, and he even got speech and occupational therapy. Every morning, he looked out the window waiting for the bus to come back. He liked preschool so much that he threw a tantrum every time he came home. My husband and I didn’t love dealing with the tantrums, but we loved that he was happy with preschool. I had been scared that he wouldn’t understand what was happening. We couldn’t exactly explain due to the aforementioned language delay. But he loved it. He loved it so much that he didn’t want to leave.

And then in March it all stopped.

See, March in North Dakota was still jacket weather. Which is why he brought us his jacket in hopes of making the bus reappear yesterday, a hot day in June. And my heart shredded. Because when the bus suddenly stopped coming, I couldn’t explain to my child why that had happened. I couldn’t tell him we had to stay in for our own safety. All he knew was that the bus had stopped coming. And we’d stopped going to his grandparents’ house. And we’d stopped going to his “gymnastics” class every Friday when he didn’t have school. (Can it really be called gymnastics without scare quotes when a three-year-old is doing it? Perhaps. I shouldn’t disparage his hobbies.)

My son no longer slept easily at night. He screamed endlessly whenever he entered his crib. During the day, he stuck by my (or my husband’s) side like glue. Again my heart shattered when I realized he was doing this because, well… if his school, his grandparents, and his gym could all disappear in a day… why couldn’t his parents be next? He was scared we were going to poof away like everything else he loved, so he was sticking by us. (Incidentally, he has recovered largely from this, to my great relief.) I’m running too long here. Sorry.

So I found myself some days just standing in the middle of my kitchen feeling something I’d never felt before. I felt sad–and above that I felt a frustrating kind of impotence–that the President of the United States didn’t care about me. For the first time in my life, I wanted him to. Me. My family. Specifically. Not the “American people.” Me. But that wasn’t what broke my heart. What broke my heart was the certainty I felt, the clarity, that I wanted him to care about me… and he didn’t. He just didn’t. Doesn’t. I am fairly convinced that if I somehow ended up sitting across the table from him today, and I let him read this, or I told him the story out loud (surely crying like a baby), that he still wouldn’t care. Even more worryingly, I’m not even sure he would know that he should pretend to care.

I used to comfort myself with the knowledge that preschool would come back in the fall. I can’t anymore. I can’t because the president doesn’t care about me or my son. Or my second son, who will arrive this August. He doesn’t care about the 120,000+ dead or the millions infected. And his followers see wearing a mask as some sort of symbolic declaration of disloyalty. I suspect Trump himself sees wearing a mask as troubling symbolism. See, if he puts on a mask, it is a tacit admission that the virus did not go away as he said it would. That it was not a hoax or a conspiracy. He puts on a mask, and it becomes real. And it becomes, in some way, his fault.

Trump can’t have that.

So he doesn’t wear a mask. His followers don’t wear masks in solidarity. And maybe my little boy doesn’t get to go back to preschool in the fall. It’s not just a school for him either. He needs those speech and occupational therapy services. He needs to socialize. He needs to learn about others’ emotions and how to respect them. I don’t know what I’ll do if that is taken from him again.

I am aware of the hypocrisy. I am sitting here wishing others would be less selfish. I am wishing that others wouldn’t look at 120,000 dead and ask the question, “Yeah, but how does that affect me?” At the same time, this whole post has been about me. It has been about how I am affected. And let me assure you, I am aware how lucky I am. No one I know is sick. I have not lost anyone to this terrible virus. My heart goes out to those who have suffered from this. I would never assert that my preschool issues are more important or tragic than mass death. But I do want to assert that this pandemic affects everyone. It affects absolutely everyone. And to see what is happening in this country… Look, I’m going to categorize this and tag this with words like “politics.” A story about a global pandemic, and I’m going to label it political. My God, the one thing that shouldn’t ever have become a political issue was a global pandemic. Sickness is not partisan. Viruses don’t care who you voted for.

I love my son. Very much. When he was born, I found out that I have more capacity to love a single human being than I ever would have thought possible. I want the very best for him. I want him to have every opportunity to succeed in life [God I’m crying again], and I just… I don’t know what to say to him when he looks at me and asks for his bus.

I’ll end by saying this all happened before we became aware of the Russian bounties on American soldiers. Now, with that knowledge, I know that my story is even more insignificant. And yet I had to type it out. I had to type it out so… I don’t know. So someone out there would know how I feel. And maybe someone out there needs to read this. Maybe they’re going through something similar and they need to know they’re not alone. I’d love to know that I’m not alone. That’d be great. I’d also love for the bus to come back for my son, and for the president to care about me. Like so many others, I’m scared. And, yeah, I’m angry. But I really appreciate you reading this. I’ll be done now.

Maybe I’ll come back if I need to cathart again.

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Filed under Politics, psychology

Your Lyrics Will Be Graded

I’m not a stranger to song/singer analysis.  You’ll recall I had a particularly scathing post about John Mayer a while back, and my friend, Liz, analyzed the nuances (or lack thereof) of Taylor Swift’s character.

As some people know, I am currently studying to become a high school English teacher in Texas.  This involves a lot of repetitive reading about how we should probably focus more on engaging students in school, and less on lecturing at them.  Turns out they learn more if they’re emotionally invested.  Who knew?

Anyway, as a fun activity, I decided to grade a couple songs as if they were student essays.  Starting with Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  Click to enlarge!

Firework001

I didn’t bother doing the rest of the song because it’s just “Boom boom boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon” repeated a bunch of times.

So the thing is that – while that was fun – I haven’t graded any other lyrics.  I was going to do Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” because no one who can easily shake off negative comments goes on to write an entire song about all the “mean” things that are said about them for the world to hear (Irony!).  But that seemed like low-hanging fruit.  Ol’ Tay-Tay’s already suffered our wrath, as you saw above.

This activity left the subject of education knocking around in my brain.  It feels important to get a few things written down, even if they’re obvious.  At the end, as a thank you for reading my wall of text, I have presented you with a drawing of an Ice Chinchilla, which was commissioned by my friend, Liz.

  1. If the goal of schooling is to increase student knowledge and understanding, then the current model is waaaaay off base.  A fifteen-year-old can memorize all the significant dates related to the American Revolution.  S/he can regurgitate facts onto a test and get a good grade, but that does not mean that s/he understands this conflict.  The student likely has no feelings about the American Revolution one way or the other.  Because s/he has learned that the goal of school is to get A’s, not to understand the content.  Along those lines…
  2. Our methods of assessing students are crap.  We live in a country where C is average, but only A’s mean anything.  That means we are pressuring our students to jump through as many hoops as necessary to get top letter marks.  As I said in point 1, this rarely requires genuine understanding.  Just look at the term “Standardized Test.”  It is literally a test that measures students’ abilities to fit into a mold.  At the beginning of the year, all students start with an A in their classes.  The best thing that can happen for them is for their grade to remain exactly the same.  Most likely what will happen is their grade will drop.  This is expected to motivate them.  All I see is a practice in futility, neatly packaged with buzzwords.  “If you don’t do well here, you won’t get into a good college.”  How about this?  How about every student starts with a zero.  Not an F, mind.  A zero.  As they do assignments, they get points.  At the end of the year, the number of points they have can be translated into a letter grade.  It’s not a perfect system, but you’ll notice with this design, the only direction students can go is up.  Instead of losing, they’ll be working to gain.  Every day, every semester, every class.
  3. It turns out that every person learns in a different way.  This means that a significant portion of “Special Ed” students might not need drugs or a psychological diagnosis.  Maybe all they need is someone to approach teaching in a different way.  It’s hard to cater your teaching methods to suit the needs of a fifty-student class, but we can start by abandoning the “Sit still, shut up, and listen” model.  From where I’m sitting, “Special Ed” is a lovely euphemism for “We’ve given up on you.”  That probably does wonders for kids’ self-esteem.
  4. You’ve heard this all before.  Studies that prove kids aren’t learning in school have been coming out for decades.  Kids aren’t learning.  Kids aren’t motivated.  Kids aren’t supposed to be put through test after standardized test.  It’s common knowledge at this point.  As far as I can tell, we as a country have gone, “Oh, look.  Schools are failing our children.  What a shame,” and then moved back to reading the morning paper or whatever.  Just shrug and move on, America.  Your education system is a mess.  Oh, well!  It happens.  Right?  No!  No, damn it!  I have read paper after paper from people saying we’re in the middle of a “paradigm shift” and “we need school reinvention, not school reform.”  (See writing by Ornstein and Hunkins for more details about school reinvention)  By “paradigm shift” do they mean that about 0.5% of the schools in this country have made changes to the way education is accomplished?  That’s not a shift.  That’s not even a blip on the radar.  So why aren’t we seeing real change?  Well, for one, politicians love using education to boost their numbers.  They throw out buzz words, cite the studies that I’ve been reading for my classes, and promise change.  Then they introduce new standardized tests or cut more music programs.  Meanwhile teachers are left floundering in a system that forces them to dish out education like it’s a punishment.
  5. No more complacence.  Educators need to band together.  Families need to support them.  We need a separation of school and state in a lot of ways, because educational policies are being instated by people who have never stood in a classroom full of bored sixth graders.  As an individual, all I can do is try to beat the system one classroom at a time.  And write ineffectual blog posts about it.  Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do more.  If enough individuals decide to make real changes, maybe it’ll have a ripple effect.

I don’t know.

Here’s a chinchilla.

Ice Chinchilla

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Filed under education, Humor, Language, Music, Politics, reading, writing

The Beauty of Terrible Stories (Part 2)

I guarantee this post isn’t going to make much sense if you don’t read Part 1 (previous post).  So do that.

Also, before we move on to the joys of Supermarket Mania 2, I want to share a TED Talk with you.  It’s one you may have seen, but as it pertains to creativity and education, I feel it is my duty to pass on the message to those who haven’t.  This guy is funny and has an enjoyable accent.  Watch it, please.

Okay so Supermarket Mania 2, by G5 Entertainment (available as an iPhone app, which makes waiting rooms 12% more tolerable).  I’m only going to recommend the sequel, as the first game is a bit buggy.  Don’t worry about missing any of the drama, though!  That’s what this blog post is for!

The plot of Supermarket Mania (the first): A young woman named Nikki goes to work for an obviously evil man named Torg at his obviously evil supermarket.  Because we all know how evil those supermarkets can get.  Torg’s supermarket serves as a training ground for Nikki and her new friend, Wendy, before they are fired (and replaced with EVIL robot workers).  Wendy’s one and only personality trait is that she likes to eat.  She’s not overweight, mind you.  She just likes to eat.  Pretty much everything she says garners a response of, “But Wendy, you just ate!” or, “Wendy, you cow, stop thinking about food.”

Supermarket 3

Anyway, Wendy and Nikki find an old man who wants nothing more than to start his own grocery store that is full of love and wholesomely bland foods.  They do so.  This somehow puts the Evil supermarket out of business.  White people cheer all around.  (There are no people of color in this game.)

The plot of Supermarket Mania 2: Nikki is still running bland supermarkets!  Through her love and compassion (because that’s what people are really looking for in a supermarket) she succeeded in drumming up a loyal clientele.  There’s Old Lady, Regular Type Lady, Mom, Teenager, Girl with Scooter, Yuppie (I swear that’s what they call him), Thief (She doesn’t actually like this guy), and Celebrity.  They all come and go, and everything seems great for Nikki and her ever-growing list of White pals.  Except Torg is still evil!  And he is bent on getting his revenge by doing stupid things like causing traffic jams outside the store and painting the word “SALE” on the window.  Spoiler alert: None of these plans succeed.

But the best scheme by far is that Torg will stroll into the market, wearing a trench coat and a fedora, and use a giant, wooden mallet to break Nikki’s various machines.  It is worth mentioning here that Nikki has a security guard in her employ.  Mr. Blowfist… or Barefist… or Bareknuckle.  Something vaguely obscene.  His job is usually to stop Thief from thieving (Swiper no swiping?), but he’s never around when Torg comes by with his mallet of doom.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist taking a screenshot for this one.  Because sometimes you can hire someone to help you with your various tasks, and those employees will do nothing to stop a man in a trench coat from smashing the juice squeezing machine.  They will watch him do it with a smile on their face.  Look:

Supermarket 1

Do you see it?  Do you see what’s happening here?  Let me help, just in case you’re lost:

Okay, so now you get it.  I suppose Nikki doesn’t pay the woman in the orange dress to stop people from sabotaging the machinery.  Hell, Nikki doesn’t really pay her at all.  She purchased her for $1,200.  One-time fee.  I imagine Orange Dress would politely ask Torg not to crush the machinery if only she were allowed a paycheck or a union-mandated break.

That’s all I’ve got!  We’re going to move on to a more serious subject next time.  Fair warning.

 

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Filed under Games, Humor, writing