How bad a teacher?

Blergh, Classroom/Curricula, Laughter, Uncategorized

I’ll tell you how bad.  Bad.  As in stinky.  As in poor at my craft. As in confusing, unfocused, and cotton-headed.  It’s true that I was sick yesterday and not completely well when I went in, that all contributed.  But I also let time pressure get to me and hurried when I shouldn’t have, and all the other stuff teachers aren’t supposed to do.  Hell, when one of your best students is getting lost, it’s a sure sign *you’ve* lost something!

I did tell them it wasn’t a great day so they were pretty forgiving and patient.  Also, it wasn’t entirely me – we had several interruptions and there was a lot of disruptive energy moving around in general.  I’m writing about this because I realized today that although I don’t want my students to ever have to take care of me, there are days when I absolutely need their understanding and patience.  A small part of me does want them to reassure me that even in my spazziness, I didn’t do any harm.

It’s awkward and uncomfortable to admit that, after I’ve spent so much time saying “nope, no support from them, only support *to* them.” I never said that out of pride, I just don’t want to take advantage of them.  I don’t want to become one of those people who they feel they have to add to their “take care of” lists.  Somehow, I don’t think they cared all that much.  No one was mean, no one yelled, and we got through our lesson.

Thanks to whatever higher powers (or not) who’d like to take credit.  I’m not sacrificing anything to you, but if you want to say you helped us get through the day, I’ll back you up.

Yesterday’s boot

It's Personal, Obstacles/Challenges, Power/Privilege, Systems, Uncategorized

Yesterday, at work, one of our programs received devastating news – DOC has decided to withdraw its funding.  They have until December 31st to close up shop.  Our department is keeping this news confidential so the program coordinators can break the news to the women, and so DOC can release the news on its own timeline.  I’m staggered, as I think we all were.  I knew there had been some funding withdrawn for part of the program, but never thought they’d pull the whole thing.

The program’s focus was on rebuilding connections between women and their families, especially their young children.  70% of women in our prison have children, maybe more.  I have witnessed the profound change that takes place when they start to see themselves as good parents, rebuilding their relationships with their children and their caregivers.  I hear, so often, that much of their regret centers around having been such terrible parents, and in putting their children through so much grief.

Even though this program has been incredibly successful (almost non-existent recidivism rates for participants), it’s extremely expensive.  DOC is looking for low-cost, low-recidivism, and high-cost, low-recidivism programming is a plum ripe for the plucking.  Management made it clear it was a budget issue, so that money will be re-allocated elsewhere, maybe to the women, maybe not.

I feel useless in the face of what feels like a cold, calculated decision.  How do you quantify the benefit to the community, both short and long term, of having stronger, more healthy families?  How do you calculate the cost of keep children out of foster care, off assistance, and out of the justice system?  How do you calculate the cost of breaking the cycle of incarceration, especially in poor and minority families?

Writing this post made me realize that I had to speak up, somehow, so I emailed my state representative.  I don’t have any hope that he’ll do anything, but I can’t not speak up and try to make something happen.  I also broke the request for confidentiality, which I’m tempted to interpret as a request (or demand) that we NOT say anything publicly until the decision is officially announced (i.e. a done deal).

The fact that the process and decision were all done without any input from staff (I asked if I could write a statement of support or write a letter and was told no) makes me think DOC doesn’t want anyone from the outside looking at the decision.  They don’t want anyone making waves, or asking how they arrived at their conclusion.

I may just be suspicious and paranoid, but these are my friends and treasured colleagues and I can’t not try.