Friday, 8 August 2008

Dear NYC School District,

My name is Brazen.

I applied with your school district back in January. In the days of my youth (read: High School) I dreamed of working in your glorious town. As I grew older the allure of your tall glittering buildings and swanky people, faded somewhat. The reality of 1600 dollar rent to live in a closet, while breathing the most polluted air in the United States, seemed less appealing than it had when I was 16.. But what the hey right? I figured the universe would lead me where I should be if I put some feelers out in all directions.

Somewhere in or around March you created a new website. This was to make applying for a position "easier." I was sent an email requesting that I create a profile and apply again. I did this happily- although I admit your application process is a rather tedious one.

A few days later I was contacted by an actual person. I was so excited. They requested a copy of my teaching license. I spent 10 dollars at Kinkos- wow! They sure take advantage of the scanner-less population. I sent you a pdf copy of my license. Surely I thought- I would get a phone call soon.

But four months passed and I heard nothing. I received mass emails directing me to your website where I could search for job postings. But I must admit, following the obscure directions on your site was tedious. Alot of work, for not very much reward, if you would like my honest opinion. I decided a relationship between you and I just wasn't meant to be.

And now here we are, three weeks before I am about to start my school year in lovely Ohio.

Hark! Is that an email in my inbox? Why it is...

An invitation to a job fair... in FOUR days.

I understand that organizing these types of functions must be a bit overwhelming. As I grow older (and presumably wiser) I have discovered that districts hire teachers as late in the summer as possible. Watching the newbies scramble to set up their classrooms and find an apartment in three days must be amusing, if not wholly miraculous.

But I digress. For here I am on my last day of vacation in North Carolina. As my family and I head back to Ohio this afternoon- I realize that once again a relationship between you and I can never be. And I feel let down. Should you organize your Blackberry a little better next time, perhaps I could have more than 24 hours to rustle up the some 300 dollars in gas and hotel money that I will need to make the trip. Not to mention planning how I will navigate your public transportation system, and locate LaGuardia High School- in one of the largest school districts, in one of the largest cities- in the world.

Just a thought.


This Brazen Teacher

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Teacher is now the Student. Part duex.

"You do not see things as they are, but as you are" -Anais Nin

My alteration of this quote is:

"You do not teach what you know, but what you are."

I bring this up here because right now I am dreadfully unhappy. I am not Being What I Would Like to Be, and until I learn to do this... I will not be going Where I Would Like to Go anytime soon.

*As I pay yet another speeding ticket instead of my car payment,
*As I pay a shady payday loan company from a dishonest dealing from May, instead of having spending money on this vacation,
*And as I fight the urge to withdraw the last fifty dollars from my savings account- which is the only thing making me feel like I'm trying to save for my dreams of travel...

I see this.
This one glaringly apparent problem here.
The responsibility for all of the above falling directly into my very Brazen lap.

In the past I've blamed The Man. My Upbringing. Paris Hilton. I've always fantasized that blaming her would be the most enjoyable. But in the end it's only Me that is causing all of this, which of course is much more boring to write about.

Coupled with the fact that I'm trapped in a beach house with my beautiful, successful little sister who has an equally attractive successful husband. Who are as you can imagine much better with their money. While they call each other "babe" and share stories of traveling to Punta Cana and Vegas this year. Or share which style of tile they chose for their new kitchen floor-- I am starting to feel like... a lo-oooo-se-er.

And you know, I don't really want her life. I never have. That kind of life makes me want to vomit, to tell you the truth. But it sure seems much less scary than mine. As I lay in bed contemplating this last night, I found myself fighting the classic teacher fear- the one they never admit to others- but all feel at one point (or many points) in their careers:

"If I'm so terribly bad at [insert flaw(s) here] is it a good idea for me to be hired as the example for the future of our world?"

The last thought I had as I drifted off into an "almost sleep- but not quite yet" state was:

I feel powerless.

Which would explain a lot. It just had not occurred to me up until that very moment. And I don't need to learn that I have "power." I am aware that I could- in fact- be immensely powerful. I'm also quite good at reflection, as is evident by this blog. It's the acting on said reflections that can be problematic. So I'm sitting on quite a bit of knowledge, wisdom etc... and yet feel frozen when it comes to actualizing any of it. As I have cycled in my life, between feelings of vast intelligence, and not using this intelligence to solve my dilemmas, for um, 28 years... one could say my self worth has eroded a bit.

And I don't need to list my good qualities, dear readers. I promise you, I know I have worth better than anyone. But why won't I use it?

And WHY in God's name wasn't there a class on this when I was growing up? I would have signed up for a class like that.

Public Ed doesn't realize it, (does the Devil know he's Evil?) but this institution cuts humans off from a large part of themselves. Whispering into children's ears for twelve years- "I have what you need. I have what you lack." And I know that five year olds don't know multiplication or how to write prose. So don't come at me with that argument.

I'm talking about the way we teach them to learn. We don't teach them to feed themselves. We just teach them to open their mouths.

Is it any wonder then, that when we all are faced with dilemmas that only we can fix ourselves...

We feel powerless?

I'm tired of feeling angry about the systems.
But it's just so hard to fix them.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Life Teachers: To my Aunt Anne

Brazen's on VACATION! Driving to the Outer Banks, North Carolina to visit with my extended family for beach shenanigans and bonding.

Today's teacher-ly message is in regards to a recent national news story. Unless you are a hermit, you have no doubt heard about the church shooting that occurred in Knoxville, Tennessee last week.

I avoid discussing the media's barrage of fear inducing coverage, but this story is personal- since the church you see at left- is the one her favorite Auntey and Cousin attend.

I was riding in Eddy's Sweet Corn Challenge the Sunday it happened. After completing one of the hardest bike rides I have participated in as of yet, I was feeling on top of the world in an "I want to pass out" kind of way. When I got the phone call from my mother, I answered with a breathless and exuberant:

"Hey Ma!"

"Hi honey..."

I went into a full on account of the bike adventure I had just partaken in- too excited to pick up the hesitant undertones. She patiently listened.

"And the last five miles were UPHILL, and my legs were screaming... and they have fresh sweet corn, it is SO good..." I won't elaborate on my boring small talk here, I can be a self centered individual. But eventually I got around to: "So how are you?"

(Reactionary silence)

The first thing she chose to say was the disclaimer:
"Well... first off I just want to say that Aunt Anne is OKAY..."

She then explained via quivery voice that my Aunt had been at Sunday service during a shooting, she knew at least one had been killed...

And it's funny because as she continued to explain that my Aunt was fine, and my Cousin wasn't even there, I still thought fleetingly: But is she OKAY? Like the words weren't enough to make me believe it.

So we're all hoping this upcoming vacation is good for my Aunt.

And since it's been a topic around family dinner tables in all the extensions of this Brazen Family- I've done a lot of reflecting about this. One sentiment I've heard repeated from my own family members, as well as on the news is:

"I just don't understand how someone could do that!"

Usually followed by:

"He's such a sicko."
"I hope he gets what's coming to him."
"What a monster."

You get the picture.

And as the wheels churn in my brain- as they often do. Well okay... ask they always do, I think of my favorite Auntey's sentiments as a psychiatrist who has her own practice in West Knoxville.

"No one is crazy in the classic sense. People like to simplify the situation into "normal and not normal" but there is no such thing. No one does "crazy" things. They only do things that make sense. So if someone murders strangers- there must be something going on in their minds, to make that action 'seem like the best option.' And that's how you heal people. You must see things how they see things. As soon as you say: 'I just don't get it...' you detach yourself, and allow the problem to continue."

She said that to me when I was in High School. And I never forgot it. I find it ironic that the same woman who shared this knowledge of the human condition with me, was in a church last week while a man opened fire on people he didn't know. A lesson she taught me, and that admittedly I'm hoping might come across in this post.

Compassion isn't just for New Age sissies. Professionals with PhD's in psychiatry happen to think it's the only way to make lasting change in the human condition. Thanks Aunt Anne. Thank you for being the best kind of teacher there is- the kind who teaches by being. Being the change you wish to see in the world.