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Friday, September 14, 2012

On Throwing Shade.

I'm about to get up on a soapbox, so brace.

I was minding my own business yesterday, checking out my Twitter as the kids napped after we actually got out for the day, when I came across this tweet:
And, to be frank, I'm livid.

I'm livid because I'm tired of people making presumptions about others when it comes to their economic place and the priorities they have. I'm livid because I'm frustrated with people seeing something and assuming they know the whole story, and making judgement based on the shit that's just in their heads. I'm livid because I AM SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE VILLAINIZING TEACHERS FOR WANTING TO BE TREATED LIKE AN ASSET TO SOCIETY AND NOT A BUNCH OF EFFING BABYSITTERS.

Let's step this back a minute, shall we?

I don't know this lady. Neither do you, I'm guessing. You don't know her life or her living situation, so to pass judgement on the fact that she has a designer bag really just makes you look like an asshole. Maybe it was a gift, from her parents or her husband or her girlfriend, for graduation or an anniversary or just because. Maybe it's something that she saved up for, slowly, by taking on extracurriculars in school or a second job all together (as many teachers do), or maybe she opted for the lower-cost medical plan and just doesn't go to the doctor until it's necessary so she doesn't have to face the higher co-pays and restricted medication choices. Maybe she scored it at a consignment shop or on eBay for a steal. Maybe it's even fake.

But you know what? It's none of our -- yes OUR -- damn business.

Because out of all the soul-sucking back-breaking capitalistic-pleasing jobs out there, she spent the time and the TUITION to educate children, knowing she would never get rich, knowing it is for the most part a thankless job, knowing that she'll be lucky if she manages to reach just one kid, just one, and help them become something great.

I don't know a lot about the strike in Chicago, and that is very much on purpose because my anxiety levels are high enough as it is right now, they don't need exacerbating. I DO know that it's about a 16% pay increase over four years, despite what some news outlets would have you think, and I DO know that it has to do with standardized testing being the sole marker of which a teacher's ability is judged.

IN AN INNER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. Where 86% of the student population is at or below the poverty line, which greatly affects test scores, and yes, there are studies to prove it.

The role of a teacher is not to teach to a test. Do you want your kids to only learn how to take tests, to guess the right answer if they don't know it, and just screw the rest?

No, and neither do teachers because that's bullshit. No one ever got into teaching to show kids how to fill out a Scantron, and if that was the crux of your educational experience I have deep and heartbreaking sympathy for you. No, for the most part, they got into it because they value education and the role it plays in forming the young people of our society into articulate, independently thinking human beings capable of critical thinking, reasoning, logic, compassion, empathy, bravery, courage and FREEDOM.

And I'm fucking tired of people taking pot shots at teachers, when more often than not, GOOD teachers are the reason why your children and mine will be functioning members of society. And a test score can't tell you who a good teacher is.

Education is the single key to civilized society, full stop. And here in the good ole US of A, we treat our teachers like shit on toast and then want to know why we're damn near last in math and science skills worldwide. Well, how would you like to live in constant fear of losing your job between lost state funding, failed levies, and less-than-desirable test scores? How would you like to always bring work home with you, always be trying your best and thinking of new ways to engage and connect with your students, and then be yelled at by parents who think you somehow don't work for your paycheck? How would you like to fight for your right to be paid a comparable living wage to the cost of living for your area, just so you can pay off those student loans you took out for your licensure and be able to eat more than ramen and be told that somehow, you're ungrateful and you're not worth it? Because you get "summers off"?

Most people would rather kill themselves. And about half of people who get into education can't handle it, and they get out within the first five years. Because it's not the walk in the park someone sold them. It's hard effing work and it is not for the faint at heart.

I'm tired of people being close-minded about appearances versus reality. I'm tired of people who look at that photo and say disparaging things without actually talking to that woman and asking what her personal reasons for picketing are, or having the balls to ask her how she has that purse.

Because you know what? One of the most crass, classless, and and selfish things you can do is judge someone's book by their cover. More specifically, to act as if someone could not possibly be struggling because they happen to own nice things, or to chastise someone for striving for nice things because they currently are in a rough spot, well, that just makes you look heartless. And god forbid you, shade thrower, ever end up in rough times and you have someone look at you and your wedding bands or your designer purse or your iPhone and have them tell you that you don't deserve those things because you're temporarily poor and that means you get no nice things ever, because you're not embodying that person's stereotype of struggling, lest you come to know what it feels like to be chastised for clinging to the reminders of better times and the hopes for them to return and have to make hard choices that most people never have to fathom.

I try to be honest, here, about our lives as they are affected by our sole income deriving from a public school system. And I have been blasted for it, time and again, because basically some people believe that if you're anything below middle class, then you never get to splurge or refuse to settle for second-best because you should just be grateful you have anything at all.

And you know, we are incredibly grateful. We are grateful that Kyle works in a building with supportive administration and for the most part, awesome coworkers, and that he has been presented opportunities to contribute to his building and to the district that have made it possible for me to stay at home with the kids without either of us having to work a shit job for shit pay to make ends meet. We are grateful that there are state programs and agencies in place that help fill in the gaps for our family's care where our insurance lacks. We are grateful that we have friends and family upon whom we can lean when we need to and for whom we can be there when they need it. We are beyond grateful for the kindness and generosity of the people who have provided us with nicer things than we can currently afford or the resources to acquire nice things because, yes, even poor people appreciate being treated as human beings worth kindness and empathy, because we know more than most what it's like to be regarded as less than worthy.

We are lucky that we have people in our lives that support us and make sure that we have both the resources we need to provide our children with the best opportunities and experiences (that's why we have an iPad, folks -- my dad bought it for Kiedis to work on his speech and fine motor therapies, but you wouldn't know that without asking, would you) and that those same people believe that we are deserving of the creature comforts that so many take for granted.  And for the rest, we work hard, we go without, we make choices and we hope they're the right ones and we ride it out as best we can, as best as anyone ever can, really.

But that doesn't mean that things couldn't be better, and that doesn't mean that our rights aren't worth standing up for. And, as my sister (a former teacher) often reminds me -- nobody can tell you how to spend your money but you. You don't have to like it, but I guarantee there's a whole group of people who would look at your life and your choices and tear you to pieces over it, so it's probably best to just mind your own, don't you think?

So, to the people who want to look at that photo of that woman and snark, I kindly hand you this extra large bucket of STFU, and my family and I will ask you to think long and hard about how you view and treat the educators of America before you open that hateful mouth again, lest we have to wipe it clean off your face.