Catalyst

The straw that broke the camel’s back came in January.  After a semester of ridiculous interactions, stupid policies, and short-sighted decisions, a make-up snow day finally stirred me to begin this project in earnest.  Making up a snow day seems line an unlikely catalyst to start a project that details the absurdity of being a classroom teacher in a failing school, in a failing district.

In fact, more than once, I had begun writing about the details of a day, or an interaction, or a directive from central office.  In each of those cases, the initial fury that had inspired me was replaced by sadness.  In watching my wife, I had always seen a passion for and dedication to teaching.  Yet, with every slight, every poor decision, everyday really, I saw her love for teaching under attack not from her students or their parents.  No, I watched a school system that has been labeled a failure, proceed to throw water onto a grease fire, burning it most dedicated, most valuable resource: it’s teachers.

As I watched my wife pour herself into her work, as she always had, for the first time I noticed despair in her efforts.  The work was not sustaining her as it had done before.  The complaints about the day faded into a seeming indifference or perhaps, more likely, a survival tactic.   Before my eye, I watched a school system, in the name of kids, take the joy out of teaching and render my wife into a shell of the teacher I knew just last year.  Yet, even this did not spur action on my part.  No, with the knowledge that her time at this school was limited, I agreed and complied with her survivor mode.  Just get through the year, and we’ll be somewhere else, back in another school, or in another district that respects its teachers more.  Survive and move on.

But, you folks are reading this passage, which means something inspired or perhaps compelled me to begin.  In fact, while I could convince myself that in a year, our lives would be better, I kept returning to how consistently stupid the decision regarding education were in this district and beyond.  In the abstract, some of the decision could be defended.  However, most were absurd both in the abstract and in the practical sense.   A seemingly innocuous decision broke the dam:  The Saturday makeup snow day.  (The details will be outlined at a later date).

As you go forward (if you choose), you will learn that nothing infuriates me more quickly than stupidity amongst those that should know better.  This project hopes to highlight the absurdity and stupidity of the system in place.  Yet, stupidity is only the kindling for the fire.  What really drives this work is simply watching a loved one suffer.  I have always thought that it would be easier to suffer myself than to watch someone I love be unjustly burdened.  As the past few months have passed, watching the passion begin to wane in my wife, I struggled to determine what to do.  I had grand visions of writing a book and going to the air waves.  Yet, I am not a writer, nor do I believe I am particularly compelling for radio or TV.  No, the accounts to follow are driven by my love for my wife.  If her passion can be attacked in such a manner, how many others are in the same position.  How many others are in survival mode?

Yet, the majority of us don’t realize it.   We hear the stories about how schools are failing.  We see the stats, hear the politicians, watch the documentaries, but do we ask those at the front line.  Do we hear from them about what happens? For a person who has never been passionate about any cause in his own life, it is trying to watch passion being ripped from someone I love.  This system is killing my wife and her passion for teaching.  She is not the superman that these kids need;  she is simply another one of the thousands of Clark Kents trying to make a difference with their limited abilities.  So why are we killing our Clark Kents?  Is it cause we just don’t know?  Or is it because we just don’t care?

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