Silencing the Masses

When did it happen last? When were people afraid to speak out and watched their words carefully?

There have been jobs and fortunes lost because of a careless word or sentence spoken.

I actually found myself often silent in meetings the last couple years because it felt like I was surrounded by those who were ready to pounce on my every word, if they didn’t agree with it.

Words were changed to identify sensitive situations. Illegal Aliens became Undocumented.

Even the police, who are sworn to protect and serve were criticized repeatedly for the way they treated criminals. It got to the point that even if a gun was pointed at the police, they were criticized for shooting the person holding the gun.

We have many ways to divide this country. Once we stop talking, those divides become chasms.

Who is trying to silence the masses and what is their true agenda?

We need to start talking again and ignore the political correct gossipers who jump on every word spoken and can misconstrue almost anything.

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The State of Education Today

Teachers are kept too busy doing mandated testing and assessing and being sure they don’t teach anything that isn’t listed in the Common Core Standards to be the kind of teachers I had growing up.

I come from a small town – population was about 10,000. My teachers knew me and my family. They could figure out by my answers during class whether I knew something or not. I remember one time trying to fool a teacher into thinking “I got it!” so she’d quit trying to teach a math concept to me. I put on the face I thought I wore when I understood the lesson, but I didn’t fool her for a minute. “Are you sure?” she asked. I nodded my head vigorously so we could please move onto something else. “Then tell it back to me,” she said. I heard myself meekly asking, “Could you explain it to me one more time?” The class snickered until she turned those teacher eyes towards them and asked if any of them wanted to explain it?  No one volunteered. She went on to explain that if Connie didn’t “get it”, no one else did. I guess I was her barometer of sorts. (I was blessed with a high IQ.) I didn’t know why at the time, but I did know learning came easy to me.

All my teachers knew all their students. They’d ask about your parents, your vacations, your pets, your siblings . . . they knew you and your family. They knew your learning style before learning styles became a popular buzzword. They had time to get to know you and time to teach you.

Now teachers are so mandated by the government and testing and retesting and teaching exactly what is in the Common Core Standards, and the Common Core Standards only! that they hardly know who they are anymore.

I’ve had a few principals who understood my methods. They knew what I was doing and why – usually it was those principals who taught similarly to the way I teach. I do assess. I take notes. I resent any time that is spent testing just to get a score for the government because it takes away from true teaching time.

I mentioned to a colleague yesterday about the new school website and something on it that was appealing. Had she seen it? No. She hadn’t had time to look at the website. That’s right. She just finished her first full week of school for this school year. She is expected to test, using an iPad, all the students in her room on Monday and Tuesday. I saw the email. I thanked God Almighty that I am not involved in that this year.

This year I’ve been deemed to be too sick physically to take part in the school day. I sit on the sidelines and cheer. I wish I was there to teach, but the days devoted solely to testing? I don’t miss them at all. I feel we are cheating our current generation of students by all the numbers we must reach with each of them, and the constant testing and retesting until we reach those magic numbers.

For me education is teaching a child how to learn. I am a Reading Specialist. My goal for each year was to teach each child all the various ways to figure out unknown words. If they left me being able to decode new words, I felt I had done my job. Some of the tests were timed tests that their teachers were giving. I was told by those teachers to practice, practice, practice! getting the children to read at a certain speed or getting the children to identify letters or sounds in a certain amount of time. I did teach them that, but I taught it to them by teaching them to read. We read many books in my classes. Some teachers still use one story per week and then wonder why children hate reading, I tried to use a new story daily, while also rereading previous books from time to time. One teacher told me she used the same book to teach fluency. By the time Friday rolled around, the children could read the book at the desired speed.  She insisted that meant that they had mastered fluency. I said, “No, they had mastered memorization.” I was not always popular with my co-workers because I don’t mince words and I don’t follow the pied piper. I’ve never regretted the way I taught. I saw so much success! Children and parents would tell me how much they appreciated my approach. My students learned.

That’s what teaching is for – to teach children how to learn. During the process, they pick up various facts and knowledge about so many things.

One of the requirements for teaching in this day and age is the use of technology. I spent time trying to decide which piece of technology to use weekly and it took away from time when I could have been analyzing how my students processed information. If there’s a video, I understand playing it. I understand interaction with some programs. I do not understand using technology in some shape or form just to be able to check off that technology was used this week. It was rationalized by saying we were trying to demonstrate the value of technology. We were bringing our children into the 21st century. I doubt we could keep today’s children away from technology. I don’t think they need to see me use an iPad to want to learn how to use one.

The State of Education today worries me. I see fewer children who delight in being educated. Gone are the days of fun lessons that children enjoyed while learning key concepts.

Teachers are forced to teach a certain way and then criticized when that way doesn’t work. I live in North Carolina. We got no raise again this year. We will each get a $750 bonus – before taxes. Between the low pay and the working conditions, I’m surprised we are able to find enough teachers to fill our classrooms. I heard one district is still seeking 100 teachers and school has already started.

The State of Education today worries me.

Writing Daily

I find that I write daily. It is not always on a book or article, or anything else I’ve already started. Sometimes it is a comment on a news story that I read online. Sometimes it is a poem that pops into my head. Sometimes it’s something I notice and want to write about.

For awhile now I have “beat myself up” mentally for not writing every day. Then suddenly I realized I DO write daily. I just don’t sit down and write like I imagined writers write.

I’m working on a book and I call it my Blindman book . . . the title will explain itself eventually. But I’m also working on a sister book (or two) to go with it. I planned to work on the Blindman book daily, but sometimes I work on one of the sister books.

I do research. I have ordered the new Writers Market 2016 for I have things I want to submit, and I want the newest Writers Market.

I no longer work 40 hours (or more) a week. When I’m not able to sit and type, I am able to sit and read and research.

They say I’ll never go back to teaching. This affliction I have, and it does feel like an affliction, will prevent it. We’ll see. Thank God teaching is not the only talent I was blessed with. I’ve always written.

I’m currently trying to unpack some old boxes I found. Today I found some things I’d written in my Memoir and Truth Telling Course that I took at UNCW when I was in grad school there. In the margins are jotted notes from fellow classmates. We had to print out enough copies of our writing for every class member and we spent time critiquing each other’s work. I loved that class.

Those writings might be suitable for publication. I need to go back through them and see what I wrote and how it reads.

There’s more to being a writer than sitting at a keyboard typing 8 hours a day. Or there is for this writer.

Labeling in American Education

Sometimes in American education children don’t learn as expected. The teachers of those children are encouraged to refer these lagging children for “assessment”. This causes the child’s parents to receive a letter advising them that it is in the child’s best interest to be tested because of their low classroom test scores. Sometimes the scores aren’t failing, but the child’s behavior is. That’s another reason to have the letter sent home requesting parental permission to test the child.

It is this educator’s opinion, and others differ, I’m sure, that too much of this testing is done on children. I’ve see children I worked with as a remedial Reading teacher be tested and placed in programs where they don’t belong. I have protested, but my arguments fell on deaf ears because the assessments done by the psychologist indicated otherwise.

Did anyone stop to think that the psychologist in his or her fancy clothes might have intimidated the child? That may be why the child didn’t answer any questions, not because the child didn’t know the answers?

Once in a very long while, a child who has been mislabeled is retested and taken out of the special classroom or special pull-out situation the label places him/her in. It is hard to get unlabeled, once you get labeled.

I have advice for all parents who receive a letter stating your child needs to be assessed or tested, whichever word they use, to determine if s/he has any developmental reasons for not doing well in the classroom. When these parents receive that letter, they should ask for, if it’s not given, the handbook explaining Parental Rights regarding the tests. Then decide if and when you want your child “assessed” by a team of specialists.

I’ve also seen the reverse of this. One child I taught was a select mute. She would not speak to anyone at school. The year I had her, I spent a lot of time and attention on her and she began to talk and she eventually tested out of her special ed program. Her mother was not happy because some of these labels they put on children come with a government check.

Special-Education-Wordle

So Many Markets

I have manuscripts I’ve worked on and from time to time a new market will occur to me.

I know you can sell and resell and what I wonder is to whom to sell first?

Once upon a time I spent a summer writing test questions for the state of Georgia. I did this through employment with Measurement, Inc. It was there I learned you can say (or ask) the same thing in various ways.

You can also take an idea, develop it, change it and having something entirely different, but using the same idea.

As I don’t work a regular job this year, I find I have more time to consider possibilities and they are really endless for writers.

Entrepreneurs might best describe what I am referring to.

So many ideas. And now, so much time.

Editing

I find that when I’m not inspired to write – and oh, the writing comes so much easier, when I’m inspired – but when not, I go back through what is not completed and add to it or edit what is already there.

I always proofread what I write when I first write it and change glaring mistakes, but once a piece is what I call “cold”, which means I haven’t looked at it in several weeks, other mistakes that aren’t quite so glaring are obvious.

I had an idea about a short story titled The House Cat today. It would be a children’s story and I just remembered that I thought of it this afternoon.

For now I will start writing it. I will get down the plot and maybe some description. I’ll have enough written to be able to finish it the next time I’m looking for something to work on because no idea has popped into my head for something new.

Other Writers

Writing can be a lonely business. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t write something or work on something already partially written. But that is often just between me and the keyboard.

I’m a member of LinkedIn! and have joined a writer’s group. They’ve been commenting on a post about if and when you’re too old to be a writer. I’ve joined in with comments and read other comments.

I’m finding out that many “writers” don’t write every day. One of them commented that I was ahead of many because I write every day. I can’t imagine not writing every day. At times it’s cathartic.

I am meeting a few people who really are interesting. I’m finding out what others are interested in writing about. I’m also getting advice that I didn’t ask for and frankly, don’t want. That seems to be one of my character traits. For some reason people think I need their advice. I wonder if that’s true with others or if I’m just special that way? I think through a lot of things I do and when I’m considering all options, perhaps I appear to not know what to do. That’s right, but I don’t need advice, I need time to think about all the various outcomes for each idea.

One person has suggested I read fiction and nonfiction (I already do) and go back and read things from the past, the older the better. In researching his page on LinkedIn!, I see he writes historical fiction. That may be good advice for him, but I write poems, articles about education, short stories that are frequently mysteries, and memoirs. In improving my writing, I prefer to study how to be published, who is buying what and how to find an agent . . . those sorts of things. I buy books and I read online. I use much of my writing time in quiet contemplation. Once the muse hits, I can type about 70 wpm and I type fast and furiously. I go back and edit later.

I need to find someplace to be around other writers, even if some of them are not appreciated by me. I can’t find the cream of the crop, if I don’t thresh the crop.

Anyway, I will continue to search for fellow writers who want to discuss the writing process. I truly believe that we learn something from everyone we meet, even if the thing we learn is we don’t want to follow their advice.

writing author at work

Evil

If you are dealing with evil, or someone who is evil, they will present a very different side to you than how they really are. Evil does not enjoy other people’s happiness. It is jealous and cannot delight in another’s achievements or joyfulness.

I know this because I have been around evil people in my lifetime. Perhaps this blog should be written on my Proud of Every Wrinkle blog, but I’m not proud of the wrinkles evil doers may have caused.

Sometimes you have to hide your joy if you are around the types of people that I think of as evil. Perhaps there are varying degrees of evilness in people. Some may call it meanness. I’ve also heard it called “Stealing your joy”.

I don’t understand evil people, but I did one time read a verse in the Bible. “Don’t even eat with such people.”

I try to avoid evil people, but because I tend to trust too easily and believe those who lie so well, I have been in their presence. They have caused me great harm and I’ve learned to be less trustful, to be more discerning in whom I spend time with.

I do not fear loneliness as much as I fear being with someone who is evil and up to no good. My own company is sometimes better than the company of certain others.

I do not intend to be a snob and probably have never been perceived that way. However, with a lifetime lived should come wisdom, and I hope that I finally now recognize those who would wish me harm and might even go out of their way to cause me harm. Surely anyone who has treated me in an evil way does not deserve any more of my time or consideration.