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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guitar Lesson

My teacher's hand shook
from the wrist--his strong fingers
made the bent string sing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Two haiku

Low hum of warm air,
writers at their work. The door
creaks, and faces turn.

January sky--
another minute of light
today. I'll take it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Money for schools

I was talking to my good pal at school today. We have very free-wheeling conversations that can take unexpected and absurd turns. This was one of them.

She said, "You know how transit buses have those big advertisements on the sides?" I said, "Yeah, sure." Then she said, "What about school buses?" Brilliant! Can't you just see some great advertisements on those expansive yellow flanks? Where to start? Budweiser? Marlboro? Okay, maybe not, but we had a good laugh.

Maybe this is the perfect segue of a public institution with good old capitalism. It avoids all those pesky charter-school problems, like uncertified teachers, funneling money away from already-strapped schools, and coming up with clever names like "Brighter and Shinier Children Charter School."

We were really on a roll by then.

"Why stop there?" I asked. "Why not expand it right into the schools? Advertisements on floor tiles, like they have in the supermarket!"

"Yeah! 'Verizon now offering unlimited texting'! she added.

"Why call it the gym?" I offered. "How about the Nike Center?"

The ideas kept coming. The Guidance Department, brought to you by one of those friendly for-profit colleges, or even underwritten by the military. Morning announcements, brought to you by some big pharma company. Kids, please stand for the pledge... and ask your doctor about treating your cell-phone addiction!

Gallows humor, to be sure. Things aren't looking good right now for many schools like ours. We are under scrutiny, as step-salaried employees with--gasp--retirement plans. This, on top of the usual teacher-bashing about short days and summers off. There are problems in public education, but remember that there are problems in society as a whole as well. Many of these end up on schools' doorsteps. The teachers in my school are hard-working and dedicated, which can take us pretty far. But that doesn't mean we're unassailable, clearly. Remember, ours is a profession where budgets are voted on by the general public, and where we answer to a board composed of people who are nearly always from other fields.

Another colleague of mine said recently that all one needs to run a school are teachers and students. True, but not practical. A public school is a small fleet, composed of many ships: faculty, administration, unions, students, parents. These are hulking vessels, and they don't change course easily or quickly--even when they need to.

These things run through my mind often. I'm thankful to be surrounded by articulate and funny people, like my colleague in the mail room today. And, hey, who says there's no creativity in the public schools these days?

A Letter to My Students

I don’t say it enough, but I care about you. Each of you. That’s why I’m here. It’s too much work to do it for the money, so there must be ...