A Case for Better Education – Insider Observations

Parents, this is your fault. YOU have failed your children and as a result, they will fail you when you need them most. There, I said it. I wish others would say it too. But we live in a society where the norm is to blame others instead of where it really lies, in ourselves.

You’ve done it again…

The news media is, again, pushing the idea that our schools are the problem. This time they are using the PISA scores ranking U.S. 15 year-olds at 26th in math, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. While not being #1 for U.S. citizens is troubling (mostly because we like to think we should be the best at everything), it isn’t the end of the world and shows the decades of educational reform up to this point isn’t working. Sadly, even now with the Common Core standards, it will continue to fail, though there may be some improvement in scores. However, how we test isn’t what really needs to be fixed.

The parenting grade.


  I would argue that scores would increase dramatically if all of us did one thing – pay closer attention to our kids and participate in their education more. Parents are the LARGEST part of the problem. Parents are simply not taking an active role in their children’s education and, because they aren’t paying attention, their children are suffering the consequences. Here is a prime example of what I am talking about that just happened during my recent high school conferences. I teach juniors and seniors. In fact, more than half of my students are seniors and are about to graduate (well, most of them anyway). You would think that now would be a perfect time for parents to check up on their kids and make sure they are on track. So, for conferences the school set aside 21 hours for parents to come talk to their kids’ teachers. I have 112 students that I see nearly every day and I sent out email reminders about conferences. I also tried to set up appointments for some that are struggling and could use a little push from home. During the time set aside for conferences by the school, I only saw the parents of 31 students (and only two of the nine appointments made in advance), or 28%. That is a failing percentage in my book. 

Parents are constantly showing their children (especially the older children) that education isn’t a priority, at least in action that is. Verbally they give it lip service but their actions speak louder than their words. “I have to work and can’t make the time.” LAME. You show it isn’t important by not making the time. If you show it is important, they will think it is important too. “Half day of school? Oh, well, why don’t you just stay home today. They won’t do anything important in class anyway.” LAME. That just shows you are lazy and allows your kids to be lazy. Effort makes it worth it. “We can get some extra days of vacation if we go during school conferences.” LAME. This really shows where your priority is. Sacrifice your child’s education for your leisure. “Poor, *insert name here*, the teacher must be picking on you” or “You must be failing because the teacher is being unfair.” Yep, that’s it. We teachers wake up each morning thinking about how to make our jobs more difficult and despise discipline. FAIL.FAIL.FAIL. These are just a few ways parents undermine the importance of education.

EDUCATIONAL FUNDING (or lack thereof) = F

It would be nice to get paid a wage equivalent to people with similar skills and experience, that isn’t really where the money needs to go (though bashing the profession and poor pay doesn’t help with retention or recruitment of great people). Similarly, more money doesn’t need to go into testing or comparing ourselves to others, we already have too much of that. No, what we really need are newer, tech friendly, and bigger buildings that incorporate more space for more teachers. More teachers would mean fewer students per classroom and many studies/reports (here, here, and here) show that class size does make a difference.  No student should have to sit in a room with more than 15-17 kids in it. Maybe even less would be better, but there doesn’t appear to be a magic number that would make it best. Smaller class sizes would do more for educational reform than any other solution. Small class sizes mean that the students get more attention and individualized instruction. It also can translate into more meaningful lessons, better participation, and greater “buy-in” from the students.

Much like parents, society as a whole has shown that they are only willing to pay lip service to education as well. Teachers are a favorite punching bag. Society says we need better education and instead of focusing on the real problems they blame the people doing the work in the classroom who are trying to make due with less and less resources every year. Education funds continue to get cut, across the board, which just puts us farther in the hole. Teachers do more with less all the time, something the government should maybe learn for itself. Instead of funding for education the government perpetuates HUGE waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy. Instead of funding education, it gives out money to nations that don’t necessarily need it. The list goes on and I am sure you can name any one of the many places money doesn’t need to go. We, as parents, even complain about paying property taxes that go to the schools. I am lucky to work in a community that has almost never failed a school levy, yet in many places around the U.S. they get failed by voters all the time. How does that logic work out? I am going to vote to fail a levy (which is to make up for what the government isn’t covering in the first place), not pay for education, and cheat my kids out of their education all so that I can have a better retirement/more toys/bigger house/fancier car/etc. Clearly there is a disconnect here. In other words, FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.

Just 1.9%??

There you have it. I am a teacher and proud of it. Yes, there are teachers that shouldn’t be teaching, but it is a minor problem considering all the others. I see these things from the inside, a place many of those who talk about reform have never been since they were in high school themselves. They have no experience in what it takes to be an educator and the challenges that go along with that. Those who should be reforming the schools are the ones that are subject to public whimsy and fantastical schemes that produce results that are largely ineffective. If you want to reform schools, ask the teachers, ask the students, but keep the politicians out of it. This teacher says that from the inside, the two solutions above to very obvious problems will go a long way in making a difference.

Rumors – Investigate and Authenticate

President Obama is an alien robot from a planet just beyond our galaxy that wants to do medical experiments on us, which started with changing our healthcare system to something no one can understand or navigate.


No, this is, of course, not true. But, if I had seen it on Facebook (liked or shared by a friend or family member), Twitter (I don’t participate btw), other social media site, or forwarded to me by a trusted person in my email contacts then I should assume that it is. WRONG! I am a skeptical cynic of much and very rarely do I lend any credence whatsoever to this stuff because it rarely is founded in truth. Rather, it is likely being perpetuated by someone that has some sort of agenda, whether is be political, economic, nutrition, health, or medical.

So yesterday I got yet another email from someone that failed to do their “due diligence” before forwarding it to my inbox. It would be comical, if it weren’t so sad about what people will believe without verification.

Please, before you pass something along, do your homework. You owe it to those you are going to communicate with. 

Check out the link below to see the latest offender in the rumor mill, which apparently is getting new life this year from years past. Obama Explains National Anthem Stance.

Pet Perturbed

I have three cats and I hate them! I mean, I love them but I hate them and it is getting harder and harder to remember why I loved them. So I have to come to the conclusion that, after they are dead, pets will be banned from my household – forever.

Pets are often cute and cuddly. I can understand this as a motivation for getting a pet but that wears off pretty quickly, usually after the first couple of weeks and reality sets in. The “cuteness factor” is typically overwhelmed by the fact that pets are work and they don’t take care of themselves no matter which pet you get. More on that later, just keep reading.

Just a few of the offenders.

I can also understand having a pet as a companion, but this motivation has some serious downsides to it. First, a pet isn’t a person so don’t treat it as though it is one. If you must talk to it, do it in the privacy of your own home because there isn’t really a need for everyone to think you’re crazy. Don’t buy stuff it doesn’t really need, and of course they didn’t WANT it in the first place – especially clothing, they already have that. Americans waste a disgusting amount of money pampering their pets. I don’t really want to go there, but if you want to see how much you can look at this article. Second, not everyone in your life appreciates your companion so don’t take it anywhere. It was for you to enjoy in your home because you were alone and maybe that makes you sad. However, when in public, your pet isn’t enjoyed by most so please don’t take them to the store, park, hospital, beach, restaurant, mall, gas station, parking lot, or any of the other places I have seen them. Also, don’t take them to a place they were not specifically invited. Showing up at a friend’s house or at a relative’s house and expecting them to accommodate your pet is simply rude. I love you but if I have to make a choice between you and the pet, don’t come over. Finally, please don’t take them in the car with you. They shouldn’t be sitting in your lap or on your shoulder so they can see out of the window. That is just stupidly dangerous.

I have thought about this for a while, after all, I grew up around many different sorts of pets and I just can’t come to a point where I can think of a good reason for having them. I have often pondered if I would get another pet after my current ones have been disposed of, and every time these thoughts come up I find myself remembering all the negatives associated with the pet I was very briefly contemplating. So, I offer you the list of discouragement that comes to my mind to remind myself why I don’t want any more pets. Perhaps you are battling a significant other or maybe you have kids that know how to beg and plead to soften you up enough to even consider it. Feel free to use these justifications as ammunition to shoot down and defend against their pleadings.

Dogs: Because they are briefly cute when young and possibly loyal to the point of stupidity, there are no other redeeming factors for getting a dog. Sure, you can even teach them a trick or two, but that novelty wears off with time too. Beyond that, they have to be walked or exercised constantly and they can’t do it themselves or they get in trouble. If you don’t exercise them, they poop or pee in the house or they destroy stuff because they always have to have something to chew on. You have to let them out to poop or pee, so they do it in the yard, destroying the grass, and you have to go out and clean it up or run the risk of stepping in those landmines. You also have to do it in foul weather, another downside. There is hair to always clean up. They like to sit in your lap, regardless of their size. They want to sleep with you (GROSS!). If you have a big dog, they eat mountains of food, which of course turns into mountains of poop. They slobber on everything, have bad breath, howl, bark, whine, need their claws clipped, and can’t be left alone for more than an hour without destroying stuff. If left in the yard, they dig holes and escape causing people to worry and hunt for them at all times of the day or night. If you leave town and don’t take it with you, someone has to care for your pet because they can’t really fend for themselves. Fleas – don’t need to say more.

Cats: Again, they have the cuteness factor going for them when they are young. And, yes, they can be warm, soft, and snuggly. Beyond that, they are useless. The list here is long and I get more irritated as I think of them. Here goes…cleaning up hairballs and vomit. Not a single redeeming thing about that, EVER. There is cat litter in a box, thrown out of the box, and also tracked all over the house, which means cleaning the litter box on a daily basis (if out of town, you have to find someone to clean it for you – and feed them too). If the cat goes outside, they poop in the flowerbed and now your weeds stink too. Cat hair – on the furniture, on the bed, on your clothes, in the carpet, laundry, in balls that roll around the house with certain times of the year is worse than others. They apparently also have to be fed. Again, fleas. The constant licking as they clean themselves. You step on them in the middle of the night because lying in the middle of the hall is a good place for a nap or trip over them because standing right next to you is required in cat etiquette.

Hamsters/gerbils/all other small rodents: Yes, they are small and don’t take up lots of room. However, you still have to clean a stinky, urine soaked cage. If they get out or away, they could end up in a place you can’t find them or reach (where they die and their rotting flesh smells).  They’re fragile, seems you can’t look at them wrong. When they die you have tears from children and the awkward backyard moment burying the stupid thing for the kids’ sake. They also make a huge amount of noise at night. In most cases they are nocturnal so they take that endless spin on the squeaky wheel. Squeak…squeak…squeak…

Fish or other aquatic dwellers: These pets might require the least amount of work, but it’s still work. The water in the tank evaporates so you are adding water all the time. The aerator makes noise. Algae and fish poop (yes, they poop) collects at the bottom of the tank so the tank has to be vacuumed out (takes a special device) and it stinks. You are usually wet (up to the shoulder depending on the size of tank) after this. They still need to be fed and fish can be fairly fragile as well so you have to worry about them dying. That usually leads to the uncomfortable meeting around the toilet as everyone says a few words about how they will miss the fish.

Reptiles: As far as I am concerned, there are no redeeming factors for having reptiles as a pet. Lizards, snakes, turtles – not cute, not cuddly. They are boring to watch, with very few exceptions. They take food and a heat lamp (I see huge electricity consumption here). They STINK in almost every case.

Birds: I have been around a few of these as pets. All I could think was “Man, they are noisy!” and it is incessant! They flap their wings and the little seeds you feed them spread themselves out all over the room. You can’t let them out of the cage to “play” with them for fear they will fly away. They poop – a lot! They stink, which is weird because you don’t think of them as being dirty. You have to clean the cage. They aren’t cute and snuggly.

Horses/ponies/large animals: Large animals may have some entertainment or work value, but as a pet I don’t see anything but work and huge expense (never mind they can cost lots of money to even get started). Starting with the place to keep them, you need a field (property) and a barn (large building). Both of these, right off the bat, keep most people from even being able to attempt this one. Then to feed them you need grass, and lots of it! They can graze, but that only goes so far. You need grain or hay for them in the winter to round out their diet because the grass gets a little thin during the winter, either from lack of growth or it is covered in snow. To take them somewhere you either need to ride them (not real practical) or have a big vehicle to haul them in (there is limited places to take them anyway). They can be very temperamental to the point that they could actually hurt you very badly. You need lots of specialized, expensive equipment to enjoy them. Just doesn’t seem worth the investment for the amount of enjoyment obtained.

My last point in the argument really could apply to all the animals, except maybe the fish, because they all have medical expenses. The veterinarian bill for animals is just downright ridiculous! I once had to take a cat to the vet because something was wrong (who knew their digestive tract was so sensitive just from a food change?) and we couldn’t figure it out. Nearly $600 later the cat was feeling better but my wallet wasn’t. Mind you, that was just for treatment and an overnight stay to make sure the treatment was going to work. Also keep in mind that the cat got more healthcare money than I spent on myself that year. Turns out, it would have been cheaper to just put the thing down -$110 for a “sleeping cocktail” – why is THAT so expensive??

So, enough with the pets already!