Posts Tagged ‘English as a foreign or second language’

Let me start by apologizing for this being a longer post. I’ll try to keep it short, but I am covering like 30 years of history, so I beg a little grace from my awesome readers!


When I was young, from a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I knew I was GOING TO BE A TEACHER. This might come as a bit of a surprise to many of the teachers when I was in school, but I knew that someday I would be among them as a peer, and not as a student. Because I liked to read, was good at writing, spelling, and grammar, I was sure I would be an English teacher. Like I said, my teachers didn’t have as much faith in my ability to become a teacher as I did, but more interestingly, my parents would frequently throw out alternatives to try and tempt me away from following my dreams. My dad was an X-ray technician who transitioned into being one of the very early MRI technicians when the technology was just becoming available. My mom would encourage me to follow in his footsteps, regardless of how loudly or excitedly I would protest that I wanted to forge my own path. I guess old habits are hard to break, because it was only in the last 4 or so years, when it was obvious that I was actually, no-kidding around, for reals, becoming a teacher, that she stopped with her brand of “encouragement”.

When I left high school, I was a little disillusioned about higher education or the prospect of being a teacher. I figured it would happen, but I was young and I wanted to take a little time to enjoy being outside of a classroom before I committed myself to being inside one again for the rest of my life. So I went into the exciting world of finance. I took a brief (15 or so year) sabbatical from my childhood dream, and I kind of dug it for a while, until I didn’t. Then I went back to school and was convinced that I was going to be a teacher again.

A strange thing happened during those 15 years. I got to enjoy other subjects. I was into economics of course, but tied in with that was government and history. I still say that each of those three have to be taught in tandem in order to be taught correctly. Currently our school system teaches one at a time, and almost in a vacuum, which has a chilling effect on the interest levels of students. But that’s another argument for another time. I decided that I didn’t really want to teach English after all. I decided that I was going to teach economics.

Over the past three years, I’ve had some very interesting teaching assignments. I’ve been able to teach incarcerated youth; I’ve taught in regular schools; I’ve even taught at some alternative schools that would break most peoples’ hearts (mine included). I’ve taught every subject, including subjects that I wasn’t able to pass when I was in school. I wound up avoiding those classes in favor of teaching subjects that I was good at.

Except one.

Never in my own academic career was I good certain subjects. I sucked at Woodshop, a fact that those who know me well understand. But worse than my ineptitude with carpentry was my absolute idiocy when it came to math. I could not do math. It was my worst subject ever. People used to ask me when I was in banking how I could do that job and still be bad at math. Luckily, there is this thing on top of most desks, called a computer, that does the math for me. Once, by pure luck, I was assigned to teach a math class at a school. Apparently, I did something right, because teachers at that school and others in the district have been passing my name around as a great math teacher because of the way I teach. It has gotten to the point where many people in the district think that I actually am a math teacher, and not a history, economics, government, or whatever teacher like my credential says. So I’ve made the decision to do what I need to do to actually become a math teacher.

I told my story because I hear from people every day who tell me that they are in situations that they never thought they would be in. They had a view of what their lives would be like when they grew up that wound up not matching reality.

I also see people with their noses stuck in books written by some very intelligent financial advice sales people. They make all their decisions based on what they believe this writer or that TV personality would suggest. They do all this to the exclusion of everything else that is going on in their lives. For some, it works as they hoped. For others, like those who try fad diets, fad financial advice is a round trip proposition. You get yourself into the position you planned on getting yourself into, only to relax back into your old habits. This leads to you getting into a deeper hole than the one you started in.

The answer is to be open to different paths while still keeping your eye on your overarching goal.

Is your goal to be able to send your kids to a college you couldn’t afford for yourself?

How about to be able to retire and live out your remaining years in a bungalow in Disney World?

Maybe your goal is as simple as being able to pay off your credit card and possibly taking your kids to Disneyland during spring break. It is important to have a plan, but when something comes around that messes with that plan, you have to be able to reevaluate your plan from the new point of reference instead of the original, where you started.

Whatever your goal is, life will sometimes get in your way.  Sometimes your own decisions will get in your way, and sometimes the decisions of others will be responsible.  Whether or not you make your goals depends in large part on how you react, on what decisions you make, and on your own ability to assess and deal with changes as they come up.

Whenever I think of my life, and all the twists and turns it has taken over the years, I think of a river.  Whenever I think of a river, I think of this song.  Because the original is somewhat sad and this is a weekend, I’ve also included a more up-beat version that always makes me laugh.  Enjoy!

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Dammit! Here I was, minding my own business; preparing a post on another awesome history book I finished reading, when this story crossed my desk.

Pa. teacher strikes nerve with ‘lazy whiners’ blog

After reading several news stories on Mrs. Munroe and her blog, and reading thousands of comments made by teachers, parents, community members, trolls, and anybody else with an agenda, I knew that I had to weigh in with some common sense.


Here are the facts:

1.    Natalie Munroe is an English teacher from Philadelphia.

2.    Up until recently, she had a blog where she vented about her students. I’m not going to get into too many details (if you want to know, she’s all over the news today. Just Google her name.)

3.    in this blog, she posted minor quibbles, complaints, and criticisms about her students. She was bitching.

4.    Some of her students found the blog.

5.    She has been suspended with pay pending resolution of this mess.

Now that we know the facts, let’s talk about what this isn’t.

First, this isn’t about freedom of speech. Let’s take that off the table. Mrs. Munroe has every right to say whatever she wants to say about her students, her co-workers, herself, or anybody else. Where I come from, there is a thing called the Constitution with a Bill of Rights that guarantees the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, while she has the absolute right to be a bitch, I also have the absolute right to say that she is, in my opinion, a self-centered, narcissistic, me-monkey, BITCH with a capital b-i-t-c-h.

What she did was stupid, plain and simple. As a teacher, we all have bad days in the classroom. We all have students that push our buttons. We should also have the sense to know that blanket insults like those from Mrs. Munroe will come back and bite us in the ass.

I’ve been hit, spat at, called names, threatened with death or death of loved-ones, cursed at, told to do things that are anatomically impossible, and screamed at. Sometimes I even work in juvenile hall for some peace and quiet. I rarely get the opportunity to see the same kids over a long period of time, and I even more rarely have the opportunity to bond with the students in a meaningful way.

And yet, I do my best to bond with them. I sit, day after day, being threatened, being cursed at, and all the rest. I do it because I give a damn. It became clear to me very early on what teaching was really about. Are there days when I consider that I might have made a mistake in becoming a teacher? Yes. But not because teaching is too demanding. Not because I believed that all my students would love me and I’m disappointed that they don’t. I sometimes wonder if I made the right career choice because I wonder if I’m good enough. The only thing that keeps me doing it is because I know that there are pain-in-the-ass kids that are lazy, disrespectful, and other things Mrs. Munroe has said. I know it because I was all of those things. But where my teachers had a right (see constitution) to say what a dick I was in school, they instead kept working on me and doing what they could to help me learn what they were trying to teach. That is a lesson that Mrs. Munroe seems never to have learned.

Apparently, Mrs. Munroe disagrees with them and thinks she has found a better solution. she came up with a way to quit that would give her the obligatory 15 minutes of fame, allow her to keep getting paid while she birthed her second child, potentially allow her to come back and resume teaching, taking a job away from a young teacher who might be better suited to being in a classroom.

Second, this isn’t about trying to engage in dialog about the state of education, the relative ability or inability of parents to control their children, or a debate on whether kids today suck because they aren’t as well-behaved as they were back in the day!

Mrs. Munroe missed the boat there. She could have engaged her parents in that very conversation if she knew how to communicate (ironic, considering she was an English teacher). What many teachers (especially union teachers, my next point notwithstanding) fail to understand is that parents are our best friends. No parent seeks to screw their children over. No parent wants to see their child fail or be looked down upon by society. They want us to work together. Most parents (not all of course) would be overjoyed to have a conversation with a teacher about their child as long as the teacher was able to avoid sounding like they are talking down to the parent (who generally pays the teacher’s salary). I can imagine that nobody wanted to have that conversation with Mrs. Munroe, because she showed herself to be a bitch while anonymous. I can only wonder how bad she would be in a one-on-one situation.

Much to my own disappointment, this isn’t even about heavy-handed teachers’ unions flexing muscles and keeping bad teachers in the classroom!

The union has a chance here. I’m sure they didn’t sanction Munroe’s comments or choice of writing her blog during class time. I’m sure many of them are horrified as well. Their choice is whether they will stand up for what is right, or if they will stand up for this teacher who has proven by the sheer stupidity of posting her invective for the world to see instead of bitching individually to her husband, sister, friend, bartender, pool-boy, or whoever.

On the bright side, the pending birth of her baby, if nothing else will keep her out of a classroom, at least temporarily. Hopefully, she will have the good sense to stay out permanently, since she is obviously so unhappy with her career choice. That being said, whenever one bad teacher leaves, another must take her place. Enjoy!


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