Category Archives: soap box

Enough is Enough

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Be warned: this is my soapbox. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I am heartily sick of the “Temple ISD needs better communication.” “Temple ISD needs to do more to get the word out about their successes.” For the record, I was Communication Director for almost six years. The two that have followed me can probably tell many of the same stories; even in their short tenures. They are ONE person. They can (and DO) work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; forsaking time with family and friends, their health, enough rest, their own personal opinion and much of their privacy to get out the “good word.” They take hundreds of pictures, post hundreds of Facebook posts and tweets, maintain a website, send school messenger messages, hustle to get articles above the fold in the newspaper and on, and on, and on, and on. The cycle of work NEVER ENDS. And still, people complain. I have more than a dozen awards that prove Temple ISD is doing Communication RIGHT.

The ONLY way the “perception” about Temple ISD will EVER change is when parents and staff in the district who are part of the success (even the baby steps) stand up and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” When parents, students and staff say, “I don’t know what Temple ISD you’re talking about – that’s not what I live and see every. single. day. At the end of the day, people who like to bash Temple are bashing 8500 CHILDREN. That is my daughter. 1300 employees working every single day for children. That is my husband and I’m SICK of it.

Temple ISD is an EXCELLENT school district. Is it perfect? Is anything? You show me a perfect school district and I’ll show you a perfect church. It doesn’t exist. Yes, there are all the problems of public education; balancing the needs of so many children with radically different instructional, emotional and physical needs, but there are also miracles (big and small) happening in every classroom – in every hallway – in every school in the district. Yes, there are stellar teachers and there are those who need to find something else to do. (but can’t that be said for ANY business – anywhere?) But the very things that make Temple a challenging place to live, teach and learn are the very things that prepare children for what is OUT THERE. People who look different. Who talk differently. Who worship nothing. Or something else entirely. 

I’m not on the payroll anymore and I never will be again. Those doors have closed and I’m ok with that. Yes, I miss the people. Yes, I miss the stories. But it is becoming abundantly clear that I can be more effective as a mom, wife and citizen, than I EVER was as spokesperson. 

My mother taught hundreds of students that communication is the responsibility of the sender. I took that to heart. When I couldn’t break through the web of lies, ghosts of a past that may or may not have ever existed (aka. “The Good old days of Temple”), a time of upheaval that seemed to be never-ending, an uncertain, but optimistic, future, and the inevitable mistakes of living, breathing humans; I would change tactics. Adding more and more and more to my plate as I tried and tried to figure out the magic formula for making a difference in what seemed to be an insurmountable task.

*sigh*

Look, I obviously don’t know all the answers. What I do know is that there are an awful lot of people, working really hard to make a difference in the lives of children and it breaks my heart to hear that the only message that gets through is the ugly. The hard. The sad. What if we only told the stories about when our children failed? When our spouse made us angry? No stories of forgiveness. No stories of redemption. No second-chances. Just condemnation. It poisons the very air we breathe when we focus only on the bad. We must find the good stories and TELL THEM. SHOUT THEM. Never stop letting people know that, yes, I disagree with the way this is done or the way that conflict turned out, but MY GOD, she’s making straight A’s in Math and, when I take the time to do something nice for these people who are with my headstrong, uber-bright Alpha-child for 8 hours a day – along with hundreds of other children, all of the frustration from that parent-teacher conference disappears and we are reminded that we are on the same side!

So here is my story for the day:

Last night, Munchkin (now in 5th grade) was finishing up homework. One of her assignments was to write a list of historic events and she was frustrated because “social studies is just not her thing” and she didn’t really know what to do. (in the words of one of my co-workers at the office: this was a sprinkle on top of an 8-layer cake) After digging with lots of questions, I finally get that they are going to write a short story around a historic event and this is, evidently, ground-work for that story.

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Then, she shows me the warm-up they did earlier in the day (I’m guessing as an intro to this assignment). “If you could go back to any point in history and talk to any historic character, who would it be…” She chose Rosa Parks (I was impressed, by the way). Well, this centered the discussion around the Civil Rights Movement. LIGHTBULB! So, we start looking up civil rights milestones and she finds a great timeline. She’s only 11 and hasn’t had that much exposure to this particular topic. Some of it is, frankly, pretty grisly, so I stay with her to talk through it. This leads to a really cool discussion about Brown v. Board of Education. What could have been a facebook rant about the lack of information she brought home in order to correctly do this assignment, or the same “kids have too much homework” rant that’s been played out hundreds of times, I had an opportunity to take a few minutes to sit at the table with her, looking up stuff on her iPad and talk to her about another time in the history of our country. At one point, she asked me, “How do you know all this stuff?” And I told her, “because I had good teachers who made me do stuff like this all the time.” Betcha Mr. Hall didn’t really plan for that in his lesson plan for the day. Good job, Mr. Hall. Good job.

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I declare

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You might say this is a declaration of sorts. A warning. Whatever. A darling and dear friend of mine says, and I whole-heartedly agree, that facebook has become so saturated with rants (political, social, religious, whatever) that she is just over it. While I cannot, legitimately, walk away from facebook entirely because of work, I CAN prune my lists down to only connect and share with close friends and family and I intend to do just that. And you know what, guys, I know I do it too. I didn’t used to, but I’ve been swept up in the mob hysteria from time to time and I am heartily sick of my own inability to SHUT UP. And, since I am officially out of the “everybody should have a say and I will fairly and evenly listen and process every point of view and try and find a middle ground” business, I don’t have to feel like I’m being unfair by not being interested in listening/reading about views that go against everything I believe. (they aren’t listening to me anyway, so why should I listen to them or feel compelled to try and meet reasonably somewhere in the middle?)

Connecting with everybody has been fun, but I’m tired. Tired of the rants. Tired of biting my tongue ALL. THE. TIME. I swear, Mother, that level path is getting harder to find. So, I’m mowing the grass so to speak. I am just wired to want to “dialogue” about issues and life is too short to constantly feel the urge to “mix it up” (nicely, of course) with those who stand at the polar opposite of me. Right or wrong.

I get why monks lived in monasteries; rather than deal with all the DRAMA. Not that I’m promoting the monastic lifestyle. I like talking and singing and eating and not doing yard work too much. And I’m not big on burlap, which, I swear, all the monk’s robes in the movies look like they are made of.

Waiting for Superman

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“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, Nazi Germany

I read Waiting for Superman and…you guessed it…it made me mad.  Will there ever be a day when we can have a logical conversation about education in this country: Communities and school districts on one side of the table – GOVERNMENT on the other side.  What will it take to realize schools and school districts are NOT the bad guys?
It is so easy to point the finger of blame at “schools” for “failing kids.”  But, the reality is this: For a long time now, people hundreds and even thousands of miles away are legislating how teachers teach and how districts write curriculum. They grade them on some moving target standard that assumes all children have the same motivation, early learning experiences and levels of parent involvement.  They assume all children are going to be college-bound when that has never been the case but they deny funding to schools, do mass firings of teachers who don’t conform to the State and even shut down schools who don’t meet these impossible standards. 

They pit school districts against each other in a ratings cage match, reducing the CHILDREN in the buildings to data points on a color-coded chart all for the sake of some rating.  This is a travesty. 

All because some education lobby got in front of the legislators and told them this was “best for children,” when, in reality, they were saying, “this is best for ME.”  What do they know about MY children?  What do they know about our teachers?  NOTHING.  So, why have we allowed them to have so much power over something that should be solely a local decision? 

Do I believe there is inequity in the education system?  yes.
Do I believe there must be a way to hold schools accountable for educating children? yes. 
Do I believe there will always be people in the wrong job?  yes.
Do I believe schools sometimes make mistakes? yes.
Do I believe some POLITICIAN should tell me how my child should be educated?  absolutely not.
Do I believe there is a conspiracy to dismantle public education in this country?  absolutely.

America. Love it or fix it.

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Early Voting locations in Bell County:
Belton – Bell County Courthouse Annex, 550 E. 2nd Ave
Killeen – Bell County Annex, 301 Priest Drive
Killeen – Killeen Community Center, 2201 E. Vet Memorial Blvd
Temple – Bell County Annex, 205 E. Central Avenue
Salado – Salado Civic Center, 601 North Main Street
Harker Heights – Parks & Recreation Center, 307 Millers Crossing

No excuse.  You either step up and take action or sit down and be quiet.  Know this, though – nothing hurts this country (or any effort, for that matter) like apathy.  Abdication of responsibility does not make it any less your fault when the wheels come off. 

“My vote doesn’t count anyway” is not a valid excuse.  Lots of time has been spent proving how many close races have been decided by just a few votes. 

I was raised to believe that civic involvement was not only a right; it was a RESPONSIBILITY.  Just letting things be as they will be is for people who live in dictatorships or monarchies.  NOT AMERICA.  It drives me absolutely up the wall when people stand on the sidelines and gripe but DO NOTHING ABOUT IT (other than gritch, that is).