I like to observe people at bus stops, as I drive by.  I catch quick glimpses of their faces, moments frozen in my mind. The speed limit in Chapel Hill is a silent form of torture for a New York transplant like me, so it is really quite easy to do.

Chapel Hill, being a college town, offers a free bus system, which many people take advantage of, to maneuver back and forth with ease, all the while reducing their contribution to pollution and ozone depletion.

This week was filled with lots of rain, but when I did get out, I happened to glance over at the bus stop close to my turn on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. There was a Black lady sitting on the bench, protected from the cold, biting rain. The really interesting part in this visual mouthful was that two young White guys chose to stand outside the dry shelter and get wet, rather than stand under the alcove, or even sit next to the lady.  Fascinating.

This speaks for itself boldly, especially the irony that it took place on MLK Boulevard.

Silence is golden in Chapel Hill

Silence is golden in Chapel Hill

I have been pouring over pictures of this venerable icon in this country, and I am struck every time by the distant and introspective look in his eyes, captured so easily in photo after photo. He looks haunted, as though he knew how his efforts would turn out. Perhaps he saw this coming, and he knew:

…that it wouldn’t be easy to erase hundreds of years of deeply rooted racist sentiment towards people of color.

…that he was destined to die young, because the maelstrom he helped to ignite in the heart of a discontented country was too huge to be tamed easily.

…that humans are resistant to change and are only willing to do so if drastic measures occur which affect large masses, and devastation sweeps in under everyone’s feet.

I have learned a great many lessons since arriving in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and they have been unpleasant, but have provided me with tremendous opportunities to learn and grow, and discover who I am, what I want in my life, and for my children.

But one thing I am never going to accept, adhere to, remain silent about, and brush away blithely, is the silent yet pervasive odor of racial disparity that clings to this town like the stench that wafts from a county landfill.  I don’t ever want to be so educated and hipster, wealthy or comfortable that I embrace a falsehood of existence that looks down upon other people.  This is a huge struggle for me, to try to grow as a person, and not feel stirrings of resentment towards these condescending, supercilious, people who I was so terribly wrong about when I thought them progressive.

Equality, true equality and brotherhood does not exist here.

December 21st.  It seems to me that everyone has heard about this eventful date.  It’s right around the corner.

My favorite astrologer, Susan Miller, says that the world is not going to abruptly end, as so many suspect.  Nevertheless, end of the world soldiers are hastily preparing for the apocalypse and stocking their hiding places deep under the ground.

What if?

What if in the wisdom of the Mayan’s enumerations and calculations, it’s not a literal “end of the world,” but rather, a metaphor, a big fat mockingjay pin that represents a breakdown.

A breakdown in the fibers of the world.

A divergence from unity, from brotherhood, from family values, and ethics.

A catalyst signalling a subtle yet staggering shift in focus, in theories, in perspectives, toward a darker, more Harrison Bergeron, Orwellian, Ayn Rand setting.  What’s that short story, I believe by a South American man, about the futuristic, very censored government run society, about a guy and a letter either for the girl or by the girl, and he’s a loyal government employee who zealously does his job reading letters and marking “problematic” ones???  I can’t remember the name of the story or the author to save my life…rats!

There have been several senseless and inexplicably horrible events locally, and around the world that might just point in that direction.

I woke up, after a dismal and restless night, having nightmares that combined several different violent events that happened with some that hopefully never will, and this song was stuck in my head.  It still is.

I was planning on writing about my infuriating experiences as a teacher with credit recovery, after reading the Wall Street Journal article below, but it’s Monday and I don’t want to set a negative tone for the week.

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/02/cheating-students-in-d-c-with-phony-credentials/

(Since I’m not subscribed to WSJ.com, I’ll link it through Diane Ravitch’s blog, where I initially came across the opinion piece)

Instead, I’ll release from my psyche an incident that was minor in the great cosmos of the universe, but significant to how we approach education.  I liken it to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, which I linked on my blog this summer, its subject focusing on how our education system in America stifles creativity in children.

Since I am an unemployed educator at the moment, I have had to take my daughter out of her wonderful Emilio Reggio Spanish Immersion School (wow, that’s a mouthful!).  She is two years old and attended for one year.  I find it to be similar in style to the Montessori method, which most people are more familiar with.  At its core, it is structured to encourage education through play.  It strongly encourages natural exploration of the world, and there is no rigid curriculum.

Consequently, my daughter, who appears to be developmentally sharp, soaked up the Spanish immediately, without suffering any lingual confusion with us at home. There are millions of wonderful things I could say about her experience and how beneficial it was for her, but sadly, without a job, I could no longer afford to keep there and justify it.

So, being the obsessive person that I am, I wiped my sorrowful tears, and set to researching activities to engage my two year old in daily.  My stay at home mom days were over a long time ago, and my teaching job for the past decade consumed my life so much, I couldn’t believe how much I relied on other people to raise my child.

One of the activities I thought would keep the social aspect alive was story time at the library.  So, one day we ventured out to do a Fall themed story time activity of books and songs for her age group.

In the activity room, the  moms and nannies shuffled in with their tots, looking cute as cupcakes.  The librarian began with a song, which was wonderful, and then proceeded to read a story that was far too advanced for toddlers and their attention spans.

Nevertheless, my daughter did what she would normally do at her old school.  She was dancing like the leaves in the book, remembering the song (about leaves) and dancing around and then stopping to touch the picture on the pages, etc.

Everyone in the room looked at her like she was an aberration.  The librarian had to tell her twice, which was enough for me, that she would have to sit down and behave so others could enjoy the books too.

Of course, I understand.  The other kids couldn’t see from their sedentary positions on the floor.

But for my daughter, as for all of us in my home, and at her old school, reading was alive and vibrant, filled with color and song, and isn’t it just like American educational standards to expect children to be all lined up in a row, in silent obedience?

So we left and I felt a weight bearing down on my chest.

Since that day, we have not returned to story time, but we may try other libraries and see if it’s less rigid.  I don’t know.  Perhaps.

Ultimately, this reminds me of the coursework I have taken years ago, and the pedagogy of how children learn, and the variety of learning styles.  Sadly, our country has adopted a once size fits all, and the ones who don’t fit are labeled.

Story time stared me in the face again the other night as I watched a new show called “Scandal”, an interesting show, and last week’s episode featured a billionaire who was suddenly acting out of character, and doing crazy things like driving around in his mansion, and having fun.  His proper family wanted to have him committed, but he fought back and at the end he told his son that he’s not crazy, he simply spent his whole life doing what was expected of him, and raising his family, and managing the millions, but not living. And for once he was going to do what he wanted to do.

Wouldn’t it be great to get out of the pegs everyone expects us to fit into and dance around during story time, as freely as leaves?

Dancing in the leaves, courtesy of mirror.co.uk

Dancing in the leaves, courtesy of mirror.co.uk

Check out this lovely blog I came across this morning, and this short but poignant piece, “What Should a 4 Year Old Know”.

http://magicalchildhood.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/what-should-a-4-year-old-know/

All parents need a copy of this.  I needed it for sure.  Good week to you world!

 

 

 

 

I hate labels.  I hate pigeon-holing.  Naturally, just as teenagers hang their entire lives on, all humans would like to consider themselves unique, different, a brighter star than the others, the ripest, juiciest strawberry on a plant of duds.  I know what people say or think about Puerto Ricans, and I’m writing about the negative thoughts, not the beautiful, stunning, and sexy ones. As an observer of people, I noted as a child, the looks on the faces of all the pristine, White families, all lined up like those stupid family stickers on cars — mom, dad, daughter, son, and maybe even grandma.  And let’s not forget them singing in unison, their perfectly make up lips opened oh so daintily, as they “Ave Maria’d” on.  What did we look like?  Brace yourself.  No mom, no dad.  They divorced so mom couldn’t attend mass because the Roman Catholic Church does not believe in divorce.  But she made sure we trudged all the way to church every Sunday.  But our clothes were mismatched, not ironed, and we were probably arguing during mass, no doubt.  I vowed I would never live that way when I grew up.  I would not be a public spectacle.  I would blend in with the white folk who seemed to rule the world.

Thus, it always infuriated me to listen to the frequent commentary by a colleague in my department who I’ll call Ed.  Now this was at Chapel Hill High School in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.  Ed was an elitist then, and I’m fairly certain he remains one today.  Every year the teachers had to nominate seniors for some awards and scholarships for academic excellence, character, etc.  Well, Ed, whose mouth was rather large and voice extremely booming, would nominate the beautiful, polite, blond, affluent students.  He felt they deserved everything because they put everything in to school.  Even the scholarships that were not necessarily for academic superiority, but more about integrity, involvement in school activities, and character were given to them.  Consequently, on senior awards night, the same five students received everything: the money, the fame, everything.  I remember how enraged I would become as the English department discussed the nominations and because most of the teachers were overwhelmed and too busy for this anyway, they deferred to Ed’s loudness and acquiesced.

It didn’t matter how much I fussed, the majority (Whites) always won and the fabulous five seniors went down in CHHS history.  Now, I’m not knocking their great qualities.  I’m sure they were great kids, but in a school of 1,800 students I found it hard to handle that they were the only ones who deserved EVERYTHING.

Even when it came to advanced placement and honors classes, as we discussed the incoming students, some of whom did not have the previous year’s English grade to qualify for advanced classes, Ed always disparaged the minorities.  He said once that it was a waste of time even teaching them, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work and they didn’t belong in those classes.

I felt like ripping his eyeballs out and shoving them up his behind.

A perfect world according to Mr. Ed.

A perfect world according to Mr. Ed.

After reading Diane Ravitch’s pos, “Does Segregation Improve Test Scores” and then EduShyster’s blog post about White people making the best teachers because they’re just BETTER, I had quite a bit to think about over my heavenly coffee.  Here are the links:

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/11/17/does-segregation-improve-test-scores/

http://edushyster.com/?p=1326#more-1326

 

While, there is no question that White folks have the advantage because the vast majority of them lived in affluent towns, with high property taxes, which drives a major chunk of the school funding.  Furthermore, being at the top of the food chain socioeconomically and educationally provides the children with numerous resources to enhance their education.  When I coached volleyball and we went to these types of neighborhoods to play schools in affluent districts, and the beautiful blond girls mopped the floor with us, I was told that these parents had these girls in volleyball pads by the time they were in preschool.  They were beasts.  Good for them.

We can’t forget that huge disparity in the distribution of funding to schools.  Everybody knows the bottom line: in high poverty areas, there’s very little property tax money going to the schools.  Combine that with the effects of poverty on children and it makes for a failing equation.

Diane Ravitch drew attention to EduShyster’s post today.  They claim that excellence just comes better to White people than to others. Wow! (And people called me a racist!)

I have to assume it’s a satirical piece, but the piece of truth that rings in there is simply located in opportunity.

There were a couple of brilliant comments in Ravitch’s post mentioned above, especially by Pat Cristiani, who commented that integrating students does not fix the problems and attitudes between different races.  She also said people need to discuss race issues, which is exactly what I have been suggesting, based upon my observations as a teacher.

At Chapel Hill in Georgia, I noticed over the five years I taught there, that the students segregate themselves during any group activity.  At a pep rally or any assembly, the White kids always sat  closest to the courts and all the Black and Hispanic students (not many Hispanics) sat far up and away.  In the cafeteria, it ran mainly the same way, with the odd sprinkling of races for those who didn’t care about race.

At Chapel Hill in North Carolina, students did the same thing.  A much more liberal school, with off campus privileges for students, you would see the same segregation.  Eating in the cafeteria was reserved for the minorities, as the affluent White students could go off campus for lunch, and so on and so on.

It is very difficult, as a society, to deconstruct a lifetime of environmental programming between races.  Each person has their own story, and triggers, and reasons to hate or to love.  Just because a school buses poor minority children to a higher achieving school, in an effort to create a racial balance doesn’t erase the underlying problems among different groups.

In the American Journal of Sociology, James Moody explores the following on racial integration in schools:

Finding friendship segregation in heterogeneous settings should not be
surprising for at least three reasons. First, a large body of literature on
homophily suggests that people prefer friends who are like themselves
along multiple dimensions (Hallinan and Williams 1989; Kandel 1978;
McPherson and Smith-Lovin 1987; Tuma and Hallinan 1979). An individual-level preference for similar friends suggests that, all else equal, when people have the opportunity to choose relations within their own
race they will. Second, while schools may be integrated at the population
level, internally they may still be racially divided. Organizational factors
such as tracks and extracurricular activities may decrease opportunities
for cross-race contact by resegregating an otherwise-integrated school (Epstein 1985).Finally, work on ethnic threat and competition has consistently found a nonlinear relation between heterogeneity and racial relations (Blalock 1967; Smith 1981).

Source: Race, School Integration, and Friendship Segregation in America, James Moody, Ohio State University

Thus, when I add up all these opinions and comments, I agree primarily with Pat Cristiani that integration is simply not the sole answer. How do we erase the mindset that Blacks are inferior, Hispanics are illegal?  For hundreds of years, people of African descent were used, abused, and treated as sub-human.

Just the other night on “Sons of Anarchy”, (yeah, I love that show) the IRA guy called the Mexican cartel guy a “bean nigger” and my spouse and I couldn’t believe it!  The deep racial resentment between the two racial groups was deep and intense.

Yes, there is much work to be done, not just on cleaning up public education, but progressing as a society.

Brown vs. Board of Education: Second Round, by Adam Liptak

Source: New York Times

My second child is an excellent server in a restaurant called Outback Steakhouse, while she is attending college.  She has a great value for customer service and takes great care of all her patrons.  She shared a story with me on Sunday night after her shift which has been stuck in my mind ever since, and it resonates with the problems as I see them, among minority students in this country.

My daughter had a party of ten coming in and one person in the party was what I tend to call, “the angry Black woman.”  She was angry at the world, angry at my child for some imaginary slight she perceived that was perpetrated against her in another life perhaps.  Using my finely honed Criminal Minds skills, based on my daughter’s description of her, she clearly felt the world owed her something too, because she wanted to make sure she got “extra” of everything Outback offered its patrons, i.e. extra bread, honey butter, not regular butter, extra extra dressing, and croutons, and cheese, and more extra dressing on her house salad, which was her dinner.  This in itself was surprising because she weighed at least 300 pounds.

She ordered a frozen margarita and when my daughter placed it on the table, demanded to know where the bread was.  Then she went outside to take a call.  When she returned, the margarita was no longer frozen and naturally, that was my daughter’s fault.  She yelled at her, “What’s this?  I ordered a FROZEN margarita.  This ain’t no frozen margarita!”

To which my daughter explained, “It was frozen when I brought it to you.”  Probably not a good idea, but she wanted to let the lady know that she did order the correct drink, and it was a warm restaurant and science can explain the rest.

Well, that was the end of an otherwise lovely evening.  Not only did that woman proceed to make my daughter’s life a living hell, she ruined the dinners of all the patrons north, south, east, and west of her loud mouth.  The rest of the party said absolutely nothing, some of them her own children.  One has to wonder, who would impregnate such a horror show?

So, after misery and embarrassment, my daughter finally brings the woman her portion of the check (yes, separate checks are Satan’s creations) and on the check it offers the suggested tip, as it is protocol for a party of eight or more.  The woman threatened my daughter with, “Do you like your job?” and “How long have you been working here?” and “I need to see a manager right away.”

Then she proceeded to ream the manager out, a young guy no older than 30, for at least twenty minutes.  She yelled and cursed obscenities at him in stereotypical “angry Black woman” fashion.

Other patrons in the vicinity of this verbal onslaught had complained to the same manager throughout my daughter’s hellish experience with this woman and told him how horribly the abusive woman was treating her.  My daughter is a tiny little thing and avoids confrontations at all costs.  She was determined not to let that woman defeat her and see her cry.  The woman wanted all the owner’s contact information and assured them, and the entire restaurant that she would be in communication with the owner immediately Monday morning and that my daughter would no longer have her job once she was done with her.

Beyond all the disgust I felt, and the ugliness of the entire debacle, the thought running through my head was, “What were those kids thinking and feeling and absorbing from watching their mother’s antics?”

Would they grow up to be just like mom? Would the daughters become angry Black women, feeling the same sense of entitlement in a world that owes them nothing?

I don’t know what the woman’s problem was, and as it was definitely not an episode of “What Would You Do?” as John Quinones did not come out with a camera crew at any point, it ended with a gut-wrenching, nerve-rattling, slightly bad taste left in the mouths of all those involved, along with the witnesses.

So what is it about minority cultures such as the Black one, that keeps them from performing equally or better than their White and Asian counterparts in the arena of education?  Marilyn Rhames, an educator and journalist, wrote an article in an EdWeek Teacher blog discussing the “myths” of education in America, based upon an article by Michael Lind.

I don’t know who Michael Lind is, but he contends that America’s claim that the public schools are failing is all a lie perpetrated by those who want vouchers and more money.  Further, he wrote that there is only 35% of America’s students who are failing  in public schools, namely Black and Latino students, and they are the guilty ones who are pulling down America’s schools.

Lind also argues in his article, that those Blacks and Latinos are “poor or culturally damaged.”

Here’s the entire article, so you can read Rhaymes’ counter to Lind’s assertions:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/charting_my_own_course/2012/08/reforming_the_myths_about_american_public_schools.html

Do you think Johnny can’t read because he’s black or poor, or both?

Well, I can’t buy the poor factor.  Yes, poverty is a huge challenge, but other countries, third world countries, dusty, dry countries, where resources are even scarcer than the worst project in the Bronx, these countries don’t let poverty stop them from giving their children a desire, a spark, something that ignites them into knowing that they will get out of their poverty through their education.

It’s a cultural thing.  My very black spouse tells me every time I try to debate educational theories to him, “It starts at home, with the parents.”  Thus, if we operate from this premise, than whether rich or poor, resources or no resources, parents have the ability to instill a love of learning and work ethic for education to their children.

In the Black communities where I have taught, the kids were the same.  Their conversations were focused on celebrities and athletic superstars, not on the essay they wrote the night before, or the book their mothers read to them.  And I don’t want to hear the stale mantra about single mothers having to work two jobs and being unavailable to read to their kids.  First of all, I was a single mother, and I raised four of my six children on my own.  I taught all day and most nights (not every one) I would snuggle up with them and read whatever they wanted to read.  Secondly, it’s more than just a kid reading.

Kids need to witness their parents reading, wanting to read, finding it interesting.

So, it all returns to the home as I have been told so often.

The culture that surrounds Blacks and Hispanics is about booty-shaking, half-naked women, money throwing, saggy pants wearing and women-chasing men.  As I have said before, I don’t care how many foundations Ludacris supports and funds now with his millions.  If he keeps perpetuating a superficial, demeaning product (his music) than little girls will want to grow up to be big sluts, little boys will want to grow up to be wanna be thugs, who don’t value the magic and nurturing abilities of women, and the “minority problem” will remain the same.  Girls will grow up wanting to use the assets between their legs and dangling from their torso, figuring it might make them rich and famous one day if they shake it to the left just right.  Boys will be convinced making it rain is their goal and they’re all going to get into the NBA and NFL and have the fancy cars and latest booze in their hands.

And White people will continue to look at and treat minorities in a condescending fashion, will try to escape to the neighborhoods where there are no minorities, and they will move as soon as the minorities move in and the chase will go on and on.  The blame will continue to fall on the minorities, regardless of the thousands and thousands who do work hard and succeed academically and professionally.

At Outback, even the Black servers were trying to console my daughter after angry black woman left.  They said people like her make all Black people look bad.  My partner just shook his head and muttered, “My people, my people…we have so much farther to go…”

 

 

 

Many years ago, after having my fourth child, while living in an often overlooked state known as Rhode Island, I hustled  waited tables in a restaurant and eventually had the enviable task of training new take out employees.  They were usually teenage girls, incessant gum poppers, with too much gel in their hair (a Rhode Island thing).

I’ve forgotten many things about my time there, but what really struck me was that these employees didn’t have the slightest idea how to count change.

It’s fairly simple really.  It involves beginning with the lowest monetary value, which is the penny.  So, if a patron bought a slice of cheesecake for $2.84 with tax, and he gave her a $5.00 bill, then the cashier/take out girl would start with the pennies and slide out one penny, then a nickel, then a dime, and work her way upward to the five dollar bill.  Seems simple, yes?  It is.  I tried to train them NOT to depend upon the cash register to tell them the amount of money to return to the customer, primarily because it made for much better accuracy for everyone involved.

You would think I was asking them to perform delicate spinal surgery on their grandmothers.

The bottom line is technology has turned all of us into self-gratifying, spoiled little darlings, but the ones it has really done the most damage to is the young generations.

I used to spend hours in the dungeons of the Brooklyn Public Library where they stored the microfiche machines to do research.  I will never forget the power of the book, Night, by Elie Wiesel.  In my little slice of life, I had never heard of such atrocities as the ones he describes.  Consequently, I did my senior thesis on the book, as well as one other.  I felt consumed by the flames, certain that in another life I must have been a victim of the Holocaust, because the horror resonated so deeply within my soul.

Anyway, I spent hours on Saturdays down there, lost in a world I had never known existed at one time in another place.  I love libraries.  They are home for me, the smell, the dust, the knowledge of all the pages contained in such a place, comforting and warm.

Teachers, ask your students today to do a research paper and where do they immediately go as soon as you enter the “media center?”

1. Wikipedia

2. Google

3. The teacher, to tell him/her, “I couldn’t find nothing.”

Ahh, yes.  Nothing.

It would take thousands of words to try to express the gut-twisting frustrations I have felt HUNDREDS of times, as I have heard the very same words from teenage mouths who hail from all walks of life.  Unless it slapped them on the forehead, leaving a dull red impression, the research I wanted them to uncover simply didn’t exist.

My point?

Students today scare me.  The ramifications of the children raised in this dysfunctional education system over the last thirty or so years is stark and frightening.  The small numbers of children whose parents demanded more, expected more, and pushed them for more is just not enough to counter the millions of kids who grew up expecting life to be handed to them.

The teachers they like the most are the ones whose study guides are the actual test and they’re all getting A’s.  The only advanced classes they take are the ones that will get them into the best college, which will get them the best job, which will provide them with the expected lifestyle, where they will live the inevitable meaningless, superficial consumer-crazed lives that everyone wants in America.

When I asked them to think and eliminated the option to cheat, do you want to know what happened?

They froze.  They became afraid but covered it up well.  Then they began to scheme and tell mom a different tale, shed a tear or two about how “hard” the teacher is, how much “work” they’re getting, how “stressed out” they are.

Then they slide into their seats the next day or week, certain things will be taken care of, get their restroom passes per class so they can take another swig of vodka, with a Xanax chaser and make it through another day.

As our nation is embroiled in battles over standardized testing, teacher merit pay, charter schools, funding, or the lack of, I wonder why nobody is asking what the students think.  At my former school in Chapel Hill, the superintendent meets regularly with a student council to try to improve education, and the local paper reported some of their comments in the meeting.  Their comments ranged from student apathy to “our parents have no idea how good we are at lying.”  They claim to only take advanced placement classes to look good for colleges, and that they really don’t care about the learning.

Encouraging.

And so it’s soup we shall eat!

This week is ending…and Thanksgiving week will begin tomorrow!  Yikes!  I’ve been vacillating between snots, phlegm, and reading about the sad state of education in this country, via Diane Ravitch’s blog.

What else can a girl do but make some comforting, wholesome and hopefully healing soup!  Soup is one of those things I haven’t made in over a decade because of my total immersion into teaching.  But now…thankfully, I’m free from those chains, so I was flipping around Pinterest and came across an incomplete pin about a soup that sounded easy enough and delicious, but offered no directions.  So I improvised, did a little Santeria spell on the crock pot, and hoped for the best.

It was the most incredible concoction! (Patting myself on the back)

It’s chilly and brisk down here in North Carolina, so if you are reading this post, I hope you will try this recipe and enjoy it as much as we did.

Chicken Tortilla Soup 

Ingredients You’ll Need:

1 can of cream of chicken soup (I prefer low sodium, heart healthy variety)

1 can of whole kernel corn

1 can of black beans

1 can of diced tomatoes, drained

1 small can of diced or chopped green chiles

1 can of chicken broth (again, I prefer low sodium)

1 regular pack of thin-sliced chicken breasts

1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese

corn tortillas, cut into thin strips with your scissors

Adobo

chili powder, about 1 tsp.

crushed red pepper flakes, about 1 tsp.

 

Optional (but for great punch):

fresh cilantro, chopped up and added during the last thirty minutes

fresh avocado, sliced and garnished on top of each serving

Sazon by Goya for additional sabor! (that means flavor)

Directions:

This is truly the best recipe for teachers, for a couple of reasons.  One, you are busy and need something that will be ready when you get home, so you can sigh, and have an extra thirty minutes loving on your children, or reading to them in bed.

Two, for a family of four, you may just have leftovers!  God, I love that word…leftovers.  Hence, one more night with a pinch of extra time, to perhaps catch your favorite show, Jeopardy.

1. Wash your chicken breasts, and remove any excess fat.  Dump in crock pot.

2. Open all cans. Dump in crock pot.

3. Add seasoning to crock pot.

4. Turn on crock pot to low for 6 – 8 hours.  I started mine at 2:00 p.m. and put it on high.  It was done by 6:45.

 

Here’s some pictures, because life is so much richer in color.

Open and Dump.

These cans cost me $4.34 at Walmart.

Everybody should have a bottle of this in their pantry.

One packet of this added to your soup is phenomenal.

After you have added everything into your crock pot, it will look like this:

Now just cover it up and turn it on! Bam

Teachers, after a long, grueling day at work, taking care of everyone else’s children, you will enter your home and smell the richness of your chicken tortilla soup in the air and you will smile that silly, goofy smile and think of me, which is a little weird, but I will understand.

Last step here: I made a batch of white rice, which only took about 25 minutes, for the kids who are PICKY, and I picked out some pieces of chicken and some broth to pour over their rice.  They loved it!

Last last step: while the rice is cooking, take two forks and make sure your chicken is all separated and shredded nicely.  Then, cut thin slices of corn tortillas (more flavor, less carbs than flour tortillas) and drop it over the soup.  If your broth is too thin, add a spoon of corn starch or flour and stir it in.  When I filled up our bowls, the last thing I put on top was a clump of shredded cheese, which melted nicely.  Oh, and if you picked up avocado, you can add a few slices on top.  You will feel like Emeril, or Rachel, or whichever cook you identify from t.v.

Even if you’re not a teacher, this is a great meal to make for any busy family.  It’s also economical.  At around $10. total, if you think of a night of leftovers, that means it breaks down to two meals for $5.00 each.  And if your salary is anything like my teacher salary was, trust me, this is a good thing!

We were so hungry that I forgot to take the final picture of the finished product.  Sorry.

Buen Provecho!

 

 

 

This week has been a sludgy kind of week, as I battled with a croupy kind of cough and heavy duty sinus pressure that caused painful headaches.  Whew!  I think this cold got me because I ran out of apple cider vinegar.  If you have never taken apple cider vinegar, YOU NEED TO START IMMEDIATELY!  It will transform your life.

So I was up late last night and caught the last half hour of a documentary called “American Teacher.”  It focused on four or five different teachers and their perspectives on living as a teacher.  The one that struck me the hardest featured a woman who became a mother and could only afford six weeks of maternity leave, and then had to pump breast milk every two hours and went frantically searching for an office or room she could use to pump.  As a mother who nursed six children, I related to that chaos.

Furthermore, she explains how tired she is all the time because her newborn gets up often; plus, she has all the demanding lesson planning time which is an ongoing process.  I did that too.

When I consider all the behind the scenes work that goes into being prepared for each day as a teacher, then the endless grading, and data entry of grades, and bulletin boards, and lesson planning, that so many teachers do each day of a school year, it really makes me want to slap the stupid people who have the audacity to tell teachers to quit complaining because we have so much vacation time off and puffed up pensions.  Little do they know…

In any case, watching that short piece of the documentary brought back memories of the decade I spent in the classroom and the classroom spent in my home, which dominated every moment of my life, or so it seems.

In the five months since I stopped teaching, here’s some things I reconnected with:

Instead of telling the kids the obligatory, “That’s nice honey,” when they pointed out the rainbow, I put down the grading and we enjoyed the beauty of the rainbow together.  Like the rainbow, their childhood is fleeting and I won’t get it back again.

I reconnected with nature and took a deep breath.  As I pondered the majesty of the world, I remembered my insignificance and for a moment I convinced myself that the world would function just fine even though I wouldn’t be doing my contribution to society any longer through the vehicle of teaching.

As the summer gave way to fall, I went on a hayride with my family in an attempt to lift my spirits, and despite the darkness of my mood, I found that there is indeed sunlight and grace through even the darkest periods.

I spent some time watching five and six play on a playground.  I marveled at the ability that children have to make “friends” so easily.  The natural bookish introvert that I am would never dream of hopping on a see saw with a perfect stranger.  Over and over, I watched my seven year old naturally blend with a group of her peers and within minutes they were screaming and laughing, and running around the playground with wild abandon and an easy camaraderie.  Ahh, if only it were so easy for adults.  When do we lose that gift?

Things aren’t perfect right now.  I feel at loose ends, my independent spirit has been thwarted, justice has not been served and soon I will be completely broke.  But I am going to continue to take deep breaths and hang on to my faith that this is the road I am meant to travel, and I will figure out my next step in due time.

Thanks for reading.

 

The comments back and forth between me and a friend of a friend on Facebook regarding the controversial topic of charter schools were fascinating to me.  I was screen to screen with a small mind, in typical Southern style.  She didn’t care what was happening to the nation or Georgia for that matter, as long as her child was in the best possible charter school in the world, which she succeeded in achieving for him.  Great.  No amount of factual information, long range prospects would detract this mother from budging even a quarter of an inch.

That was fine with me.  We are all entitled to our own opinions after all.

However, it served to remind me of the large population of Georgians who live in very small frames, and are perfectly content that way.  Have I ever mentioned how desperate I am to get the hell out of the South?  Perhaps one day…

For instance, the largest pet peeve of the Hispanic students I have taught over the years has been the narrow-minded stereotypes and prejudices that many Americans hold towards Hispanics.  They assume that if your skin is not pasty white, and has the slightest bit of pigmentation, that you don’t speak English.  And that you’re Mexican.

This happened to my daughter at Walmart the other day.  She favors her Irish father, but in the summer she easily catches a nice tan thanks to her mother’s excellent Puerto Rican skin tone.  So, she’s looking for something, and an employee, you know the ones who welcome you in and say goodbye, says goodbye to her, assuming that she’s leaving.  She wasn’t leaving so she didn’t say goodbye in response.  He continued his false assumptions and said to her, “Adios…”

Unfortunately, my daughter is still too timid to confront people in situations like these.  As I told her, there certainly wasn’t any reason to create a scene, but it was a perfect teachable moment in my opinion.  In her perfect English, she could have helped this unfortunately foolish man see the error of his ways.  But she said he was in a wheelchair.

Why do people in wheelchairs get away with everything?  Hmmm…

Anyway, I came across this article in my reading this morning about Hispanics, a huge force that is growing exponentially in this country.  And you know what?  They’re not all Mexican.

Hispanic Workers Lack Education

The true unfortunate part within this article by Craig Torres is that the kids graduating from high school are not given the proper guidance towards financial aid information, college applications, and provided access to computers to help facilitate the whole process of seeking a college degree.

I have seen firsthand how guidance counselors focus on the kids who are “going places” and have the highest GPA’s, and the right skin color.  I had parents I called who spoke little to no English tell me they were turned away from college pursuits for their children and steered towards vocational information and job hunting information because they were Hispanic.

Maybe I should redirect my focus towards helping fellow Latinos and Latinas prepare for college.  I know I had a huge shock when I entered college, with my thick “How you doin’?” accent and New York bravado.  I was certainly not a straight A student, but had I more support, I could have been valedictorian.  No regrets, however.  I managed just fine and where I stumbled, I quickly learned.

We need to empower Hispanics, educate the Hispanic youth and help them explode into an American future that is ripe with possibilities.  I will think on this.

 

 

When I was almost 20 years old I got pregnant.  Despite my father’s objection three years before to me going away to college (“The only thing happening at colleges is sex, drugs, and alcohol!”), I went away…but it looks like he was right.  Naturally, I was shunned by my super Catholic family for the duration of my pregnancy, but I persevered.

The father? Uh, yeah, he’s of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion…another reason to place me in the pen with the black sheep all over the world.   The ever-independent New Yorker, I pounded my chest (carefully) with conviction, and proceeded to finish my senior year of college, have a baby, snatch up my diploma and conquer the world.  I abandoned my “next step” options of The Peace Corp or Harvard’s graduate program, and prepared to become a single mom with a college degree.

Then, while recovering with a colicky newborn, my “baby daddy” had his sweet sister serve me with papers so that he could claim paternity of his son.  Knowing nothing about the legal system, I forged on ahead, and prepared to sit down in a judge’s chambers and have paternity and child support established.  I had made it clear that I wanted nothing from him when I told him I was pregnant and he responded with, “I hope you don’t expect me to marry you.”  The thought had never occurred to me.

In any case, he picked me up at a friend’s house where I was living temporarily and drove me to the judge’s office.  We sat down and I recall that she was an older lady.   I couldn’t understand why she was so hostile towards me.  After all, I wasn’t the plaintiff seeking paternity.  I never denied baby daddy visitation.  I was simply trying to learn how to care for a newborn.

It was a short gathering in the plush office of the judge.  She berated me, reprimanded me, and spent all six minutes we were seated before her telling me what a disgrace I was; how I took advantage of this upstanding pillar of the community and now I was trying to hurt him even further.

I had no clue what she was talking about so I sat there silently, reeling, but taking it all in.  After all, I had been taught to always be respectful to my elders.

At the conclusion of the brief but verbally violent meeting, she established the paternity, and set the child support at $16. per week, or $64. per month.  Ignorant as I was to the workings of child support and the law, I accepted that and couldn’t wait to get out of her office.  My fury, directed at my future husband, was in his cowardice that he never attempted to refute her tongue-lashing towards me. He sat there and never once notified her that the petition was at is provocation and that I had not done anything to harm him or his wealthy family in any way.

I should have learned my lesson then.  But no.  I learned three things that would change my life over the course of the next twenty or so years.  One: I am decidedly, incredibly, and inexplicably fertile.  We married after the second child and had two more after that.

Two:  He was a coward then and is still a coward today.  Hence: the divorce.

Three:  There is very little justice in the real world.  

Fast forward.

Pouring out of me right now is an anger so fierce, so huge that I am struggling to contain it.  All I can do is cry and I have done my fair share for the last hour.  I tried doing laundry, but that drudgery didn’t stop the tears.  Sitting on the potty, I cried out to God at the utter unfairness of it all.

Despite that indelibly unforgettable moment before the judge back in 1991, I still have faith in the justice system.  I know it’s broken, and or crooked, or both, but I believe in fairness and equality and fighting the good fight.  I have tried to do that in cases where it truly mattered, even though it may have appeared trivial to others.  When students who were in jeopardy of failing my class would fabricate things I said and I was called before my administrators to answer for my supposed crimes, I stood firm and with outrage and hurt feelings, I established my innocence.  Naturally, teachers are guilty until proven guiltier in this country, but I still believe in telling the truth.

See, I had the hardest year of my life last school year, as I have described in other posts, working for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina.  My health suffered, my family suffered, and I endured more harassment, bullying, and discrimination than I ever thought possible.  My fairy tale joy at being hired at one of the supposed best districts in the state shattered fairly quickly when the nightmare began.

So, after a great deal of soul-searching, I filed a grievance, which resulted in nothing, lost my job because I wouldn’t lie for the school system and continue to falsify grades, and filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The Feds.  Oohhh.  The big leagues.  I was intimidated, but I did it.  It’s hard to prove harassment and discrimination.  But I gave them all that I could.

And it wasn’t enough.  Today, I opened a letter from them telling me:

“The processing of your charge of employment discrimination in the above referenced matter has been completed.  Based upon its investigation and available evidence, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.  No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

 

It sounds like a form letter.  My livelihood, my struggle, my tears, my sleepless nights, my health issues, my loss of viable employment in a career I dedicated years to, has been reduced to a form letter.  I lost precious years off my life span due to the unconscionable stress the daily assaults caused me.  And it all comes down to a form letter.

So, to all the teachers suffering or who have suffered harassment, threats, bullying, and discrimination, I know now why you don’t bother to complain, why you suffer in silence, why you go with the flow of an inefficient and corrupt system that fails the country every day, every year, with so many young minds.

To all the teachers who have endured what I have, and probably worse, I commiserate with you and join the ranks of the disenfranchised, the angry, and the tired.  If you have spoken up like I have and gotten nothing but a closed door, then we are all a part of the sisterhood of teachers who refused to do it anymore.  If you are Hispanic and educated and still have been treated like you are not intelligent enough, not organized enough, just not good enough to serve your students well, then we are a group that I am confident is steadily growing in this nation.

I may have lost this battle, but I will never, ever, ever, stop telling my story and revealing the daily abuses of teachers, the unethical fabrication of students educations, and how minority students are annually prevented from succeeding (unless they are minorities and athletes of course).

To Superintendent Tom Forcella, former principal Jesse Dingle, Kay Lawson-Demery, Joanne McClelland, of the distinguished Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district, and others who have committed crimes against students, parents, and teachers, you have a higher power than the justice system to answer to and your day is coming.  I may not be around to witness it, but I believe that no good deed goes unpunished.  One day your lies will be exposed, and the scandal will erupt and be found to be even larger than the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.  Until then, I will keep my data filled with evidence.  I don’t know how people like you sleep at night.