Friday, February 25, 2011

Paying too little, expecting too much

This post is kind of an arc between my Food Project blog and this one, but I think it covers more parenting and "general" content than food, so I'm putting it here.

As stated on my Food Project blog, I am implementing the Feingold diet with my son (and our whole family, by proxy). As I was deciding how hard core I wanted to be with it, I mentally ran across the dilemma of school parties. I thought about talking to his teacher about all the no-no's, even making her a list if necessary, and being careful not to let him have the things I don't want him to have. That's reasonable, right?

Then it dawned on me. He isn't the only child in her class; he is one of 27. He isn't the only child with special "instructions." All day long she is having to take into consideration, and rely on her memory about, the individual needs, learning styles, struggles, allergies, schedules, strenghts, weaknesses, etc., of 27 different kids! She is an absolutely amazing and remarkable teacher who has done so much for my son on so many levels, going far above and beyond the call of duty countless times. And I know she does it for all her students. That's pretty amazing, if you ask me! To meet the individual needs of all her students is to ask a lot. And we parents do!

All across America, parents are making demands and requests that, I feel, far exceed what should be asked of our nation's teachers! We ask them to police our kids' diets and make sure they don't have allergic reactions. We ask them to bring our children's grades up. We expect them to keep our children from failing, and many parents blame the teachers if their child does. We expect them to tackle moral and ethical situations with our children, such as being accepting of all their peers, intervening in conflicts, and teaching kids about sex, drugs, abuse, etc. We expect them to do this with 27 - or in some cases, many more - students, and not drop the ball in a single area, at any time, with any of them.

I was humbled by that realization. And promptly decided that it wasn't her job to be in charge of my son's dietary restrictions. If he had allergies, or celiac, or something like that which could make him gravely ill, then yes, I would mention it, obviously. But expecting his teacher to also be his watchful dietician is absolutely, in my opinion, out of line, because its clearly not in her job description. She is there to teach him, not to be his nurse, dietician, counselor, mediator, interventionist, moral and ethical compass, or anything else.

I think we parents, without often realizing it, expect too much out of our kids' teachers, and in doing so, actually undermine the work our teachers are doing, and in turn, the education our children recieve. When we expect our teachers to wear so many different hats, and require individualized care for our child - and every parent in the class has that same expectation - then we end up overloading our teachers. Each little, unreasonable request is one more thing added to the heap, and taking our teachers' time away from teaching our kids.

But here's the thing... Our teachers do it! They step up to plate! They wear all those hats, they do their best to individualize the education and care all their students get, they are entrusted with our children for 6-7 hours everyday, and are expected to make the best of that time - which they do!

And yet... People whine, complain, and snivel that our teachers aren't doing enough, that our system is "flawed," that the teachers that don't produce adequate test results should be terminated. I firmly believe that test results aren't the bottom line (have since even before NCLB). If we look at the whole picture, and acknowledge just how much teachers do for our kids - test results aside! - maybe we should change our tune. We shouldn't lower our standards for American education, that's not what I am saying. And we should still expect a high level of teaching competency out of our teachers. But maybe we parents should loosen our grip on them a bit; expect less of the "fringe" stuff. If we had fewer things that we expected out of them that are pretty much irrelevant to teaching, then they would have more time, energy, and flexibility to teach every day our children are in their classroom. When too much time is spent dealing with dietary needs, baggage from home, etc., then focus is taken away from the very bottom line thing we send our kids to school for - their education. We need to take a step back and analyze the whole situation. There are so many things we don't see that these teachers have to field on a daily basis - for large classrooms!

Our teachers are doing the best they can with what they've got - and that's not a lot. Just for teaching, I don't feel they are paid enough. People say they hate unions and feel teachers are being selfish when they ask for more pay. But if you think about it, teachers are paid chump change compared to what they're owed, especially given all the things they are expected to do on top of just giving our kids a good education.

This has been circulating around Facebook, and I think it really puts things in perspective. It bothers me that it says that teachers are little more than babysitters, because as I've explained, they do so much more, but the rest is really a good look at the numbers.

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit!

We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan-- that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.


That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute -- there's something wrong here! There sure is! The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students = $9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!

I think that sums it up pretty well (pardon the pun there...haha). We pay our teachers so much less than they deserve, yet expect far more out of them than we really should. And we rarely stop to thank them enough.

Let's do some rethinking and re-evaluating, fellow parents. No, make that fellow Americans! Are our expectations too high? Are we being too ungrateful? When's the last time you thanked a teacher for all their hard work? When's the last time you sat in a classroom and really observed what they do? Have you, with your good education and sending your kids off to good teachers everyday, been putting too many responsibilities on your child's teacher that have nothing to do with their education? Are you, in doing so, perhaps undermining their ability to give your child the best possible education because they are able to utilize their entire day for nothing but teaching? Take a long examination of yourself, and if you need to make any changes, or even just give a teacher a well-deserved thank you, then do it. For all they're giving our children in the end, don't they deserve at least that?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Its okay to be a Christian woman AND have a brain

This blog is basically my monumental epiphany of the past few months, but I think its something I really need to share with other women. This blog post is probably one of my biggest "baring my soul" ones, so if you comment, please be gentle. The only reason I am sharing this openly is because I feel like its something other women in general, but particularly younger Christian women, need to hear, before they make the same mistakes I did.

I have realized over the past few months or so that up until recently, I wasn't really an authentic "me." I know that sounds wierd. It did to me too. Sure, I was me - I wasn't a liar, manipulator, con, or fake. Far from it. But what I mean is, somewhere along the line, I lost virtually all sense of myself.

When I became a Christian, I was determined to turn my life around, and hold true to my newfound Christian values. And I like to think I still do. I certainly strive to follow Christ and exemplify Him in me everyday. Sure, I have my good days and my bad days. Who doesn't? But anyway...

I think what got the ball rolling was my year at a private Christian college. I was 18, just shy of 2 years saved, on my own for the first time, still trying to figure Christianity out, and young and impressionable, and trying to find my way in this world, my faith, and my overall belief system. College is a wierd time though. Kind of stuck in between what you've always known, and the independent person you are seeking to become. And when you're a baby Christian, and surrounded by people who have grown up with it and are solid in their faith and knowledge thereof, you are just looking for guidance. I spent an entire year as a virtual chameleon, trying to figure out who could correctly guide me. Many friends stepped up and taught me so much, for which I am grateful, but it still left me trying to navigate my way through my own faith and personal development into my own belief system. I was still floundering, trying to figure it out.

Through that process, my resentment began to grow toward my parents, my upbringing, my friends back home who weren't Christians...pretty much anyone who wasn't a Christian and wasn't going to help me form the person I wanted to be. I no longer wanted any part of anyone, anything, or any piece of myself that didn't "feel" Christian to me. I began to resent much of my very core; the very things that my parents tried so incredibly hard to instill in me. Because I wasn't raised in a Christian home, I began to reject all that they had taught me about life because THEY weren't Christians, so they couldn't possibly be right about anything pertaining to who I wanted to become. Because they didn't profess to faith in Christ, nothing they taught me could be right or good. I still loved them dearly and didn't abandon THEM, don't get me wrong, I just wrote off their more open-minded views as ungodly.

Another aspect was, at a Christian college, you hear a LOT of talk about people preparing themselves for marriage. Preparation for life, education, and ministry, sure, but it was also a "pond" full of potential "fish in the sea," if you follow my drift. So when I left school for a summer, and met my now-husband, it had already been instilled in me that it was crucial to be the quintessential submissive wife.

I still believe in honoring my husband, loving him, treating him well, being the person he can lean on, fully trusting in him, and so on. I really do. But somewhere along the line, I took it to an extreme. I began to lose my own mind. Not in the going crazy sense, but in the abandoning who I was to assimilate myself into my husband's beliefs sense. I began to believe, for example, that because I was a Christian wife, and my husband is a Republican, I had to be too. I adopted all the same thought processes and beliefs that he had, and began to believe that my own thoughts and ideals were out of line for a "good" Christian wife to have. And it didn't help that at the church we attended at the time, I was also surrounded by women who seemed to have the Christian wife thing down to an art better than I did. I wanted to rise to their level of wifehood. I pretty much turned into a Stepford Wife without even realizing it. I truly began to believe, on some subconscious level, that my husband had dominion over even my own beliefs, values, feelings, and thoughts. And what's worse, I thought that was right. (Let me make it clear though, that my husband NEVER asked or expected for me to! His words and actions had nothing to do with it whatsoever.)

So here I am, at age 30, 12 years after Bible college, 10 1/2 years into marriage, with 3 kids, finally figuring out who I am and what I believe, independent of anyone else. Independent of any church, independent of any nay-saying friends, independent of my family, and independent even of my husband. What most people figure out in their 20's, I am finally beginning to figure out.

I think one of the turning points was meeting my friend, Trina. She won't know this until she reads this, but I credit her more than anyone for helping me realize that I can still be a Christian woman who adheres to the Word of God and strives to please her husband, and yet still have great intelligence and full confidence in my own ideas, thoughts and beliefs - even those that are independent from those of my husband or church - as long as they are not in opposition to the Word of God. She's taught me, without even knowing it, how to find the right balance between Christian wife and Christian self. Not all Christians - not even married couples - have to see the world exactly the same way. Nor should they. Its perfectly okay to have your own ideas, question the world around you, struggle with aspects of your faith and your own beliefs... The church and your spouse are there to help you with your struggles and point you in the right direction, but in the end, nobody else should - directly or indirectly - dictate how you think and believe.

So women, especially young Christian women, I urge you not to lose sight of who you are. Don't look back when you're in your 30's with regret over all the time you lost trying to over-assimilate yourself to the point you barely exist anymore. Follow your own heart! What you believe is something only you can and should own. Don't give it away, don't give it up, and don't be decieved into thinking that a Christian woman has to give up herself to make others happy and be more pleasing in His sight. Don't give in to pacify a church that won't allow you to think outside the box without rebuke (you should rethink any church like that), and don't give up to try and please your husband. He's already pleased! Out of all the women in the world, he chose you, right?! ;) He loves you for you, not the Stepford Wife you could be.

So please, don't lose sight of yourself. Be intelligent. Think for yourself. Be different. Challenge yourself. Never stop learning. Never stop growing. And whatever you do, don't end up with regrets! Take it from me, its not worth it.