Sunday, November 8, 2015

Face Facts

It's been about 9 years since I wondered onto Facebook for the first time.  I'd been retired from full-time teaching only a couple of months and I was trying to track down an Amnesty International petition so I could keep up my involvement.  Amnesty had gone to Facebook in an attempt to use social media to reach more people.  Without thinking too much I filled out some information via my new laptop and suddenly I was confronted with the challenge of filling out a profile.  Literally within minutes of this initial log on, I began to receive "Friend Requests" from former students.  The first one came from Paris, France.
In my 30+ years in the classroom, I must have had a few thousand students.  Suddenly, they began to return to my life.  This was heady stuff.  Of course I wondered what ever happened to so many and now I began to find out.  I soon realized that as I accepted new Friend requests, I was getting more exposure.  As the class of 2004 began to find me, so too did the classes of 2005 and 2006.  Now and then, because of a sibling, I began to hear from classes in the 90s and then the 80s.  There may even be a few from the late 70s at this point.
This re-connection has been welcomed and highly satisfying, for the most part.  Recently I felt the desire to "unfriend" a couple of folks because their politics and mine are so opposite that I can't stand some of the junk they leave on my page.  I can tolerate a difference of opinion, in fact, I welcome it, but it's those long conversations that people feel compelled to prolong.  The kind that generate an email notification 25 times a day.  No thanks.

One particular former student is a most intelligent young man whose thinking appears convoluted to me.  He delights in starting discussions about school reform.  A crack debater in high school, he's now a lawyer who will no doubt read this.  I have always admired the depth of his intelligence, but for the life of me I can't figure out how he came to have some of the opinions he holds.  I'm beginning to think it's genetic in that we're all wired differently.  He enjoys an argument, to be sure.  I get that.  But his latest post decried the "myth" of schools needing more money.  It's no myth, sir.  He's convinced that an influx of money in public schools would make no difference because it's the teachers that need to be replaced that would cost nothing.  How absurd!  Some schools need everything from new furniture to technology, to simple daily supplies and copiers.  It occurred to me the other day that the debate team he was on in high school used to fund their trips to tournaments by selling junk food.  They took over a small room that used to be a student bookstore and turned it into an unsightly space with a sticky floor that housed about a half a dozen soda and candy machines.  What angered me even more than the crap that was freely disseminated to the student body was that these budding intellectuals were selling mostly to the underclass of the school.  This was a fascinating phenomena to watch because it became a large elephant in the room.  But the reality was there wasn't money for programs like forensics, hence the junk food hustle.  I discussed the outrageousness of this with a few of my colleagues at the time, but nothing happened.  It couldn't because the district was complicit in it's commitment to selling junk food in the cafeteria and elsewhere.  Then there were he hundreds of other candy drives to deal with as well as handing out the kind of candy that pulls out fillings for kids taking standardized tests.  They encouraged that.
There are many ways a school teaches, aren't there?

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