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Random Thoughts About Education

My educational experience wasn’t the best, and it was filled with a long parade of incompetence. I hated my first kindergarten teacher and she hated me, to the point that she actually admitted it to my parents during a meeting. They decided to pull me out of school until I could be placed in another teacher’s class the next year, but this wasn’t the only thing that my idiot father got out of the experience.

A classroom was a nightmare for me as a kid.

I have a picture of that miserable teacher, and she looks awful. Her smile is artificially pasted on her face, but her eyes aren’t smiling. There is something cruel and bitter about them, only accented by the dark circles underneath. She clearly had personal problems that we didn’t know about, but the fact that she chose to take them out on her students gets no sympathy from me.


Anyway, the woman that Dad cheated on Mom with was a psychology major, and for some reason this made him an expert on psychology and education. He decided that I had a learning disability and spent the rest of my school career trying to prove this assumption. He tried to get me placed in a developmental kindergarten, which, thankfully, wasn’t available.


Yes, my school career wasn’t perfect, and there was obviously something wrong, but it wasn’t a profound learning disability. I had a hard time catching onto what was being lectured, especially during math class. I kept claiming that I couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying, but when my hearing was tested, it was actually above average.


Dad continued his campaign to prove I had a learning disability. At first he claimed I had dysgraphia because as a very young child I wrote my letters backward. Then, when I figured it out and started writing normally, he decided I had ADHD because I couldn’t pay attention in class. Later, there was a suspicion of me being on the autism spectrum. None of these were correct. (Though I do have a minor form of ADHD, it was not the cause of my trouble in school.)


I also ran into a long parade of teachers I disliked. First grade was okay, but second grade saw another teacher who took her personal problems out on her students. Dad loved my third grade teacher, only because she was so different from the second grade horror, but I found her only average and couldn’t understand half of what she said because she had such a heavy Southern accent. My fourth grade teacher was an idiot, plain and simple. As for my fifth grade teacher, she had a problem with admitting when she messed up and liked to blame everything on her students.


I remember the last day of third grade clearly. Dad had the rest of the family convinced that my third grade teacher was so good that I supposedly loved her. I was looking forward to the last day of school and was about to leave for the bus when I was sidelined by Mom, who told me to pick a thank you card for my teacher. She didn’t ask if I wanted to, she just told me to do it as if I was in on this plan the whole time. The two cards were sitting on the kitchen table waiting for my decision.


This was the first time my anger over my education situation came out. I felt my face burn as I told her quite emphatically that I wasn’t going to pick one, and, furthermore, I wasn’t going to give that woman a thank you card for a job she didn’t do. I then turned on my heel and stomped off to the bus stop, leaving Mom standing in shock in the kitchen.


I never saw those cards again. To this day, I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe Mom returned them to the store, or maybe my sibling took them to teachers they liked. I don’t know if sending the cards was Mom’s idea or Dad’s, but I was furious that I wasn’t consulted first. Whatever happened, Mom never mentioned it again, and I didn’t ask.


I continued to struggle in school through junior high. Dad decided he was going to home school me because he didn’t like the schools I would’ve gone to, but this was a horrible decision. Dad rambled on about nonsense like counting camels and the “Game of Weirdo” rather than teaching me anything, and I lost track of his long-winded lectures about nothing. Also, his idea of teaching me things was to insult me or actually hit me when I got something wrong.


I remember being slapped out of a chair because I misnamed a decimal place. Then there was the time I couldn’t pronounce the name of the main character in The Hobbit. He threw the book at me, knocking me to the floor, where he proceeded to kick me in his fury. I still hate that book. And I still get anxious when I work with decimals today.


I tried regular school again, but they would only put me in the remedial track because Dad insisted that I had a learning disability. I was regularly insulted by teachers at the school, who refused to let my try any extra credit opportunities because I was “too dumb.” We were told we were the only seventh grade class who would not be dissecting frogs because we were “too stupid to handle the tools.” And that is a direct quote from the teacher.


Things got worse in the eighth grade, if you can imagine. The school psychologist at my  new middle school tested me again and decided that I did have some sort of learning disability. It didn’t help matters that while I was being tested he spent his whole time talking to friends outside the open door, making it hard to concentrate on the test material. The guy then proceeded to check off the wrong box on the form.


I started receiving assistance with reading, which I needed no help with. In fact, I was one of the best readers in my class. On my second grade CTBS test I was found to be reading at a high school level. All of a sudden, though, I was being asked if I wanted tests read to me and I was sheltered from having to read in class, something I actually enjoyed because I read better than the rest of the class. All that time, I continued to have problems hearing the lectures and struggled in math.


When I got to high school I tried to enroll without telling them about my special education test, but they eventually found out an called a meeting with the biggest windbag I had ever met. (And that includes Dad!) He kept talking and talking and talking, and I eventually tuned him out because nothing he said made sense. I finally got bold and told them that they weren’t helping me anyway, so why did I need assistance?


Dad convinced them to put me in regular counseling because he still insisted there was something wrong with me. So every week I was pulled out of math class to talk to a counselor about nothing. It was always math class, the one course I needed to sit through. I eventually requested another appointment time, so they pulled me out of German class, the other class I struggled with. I guess they could never be bothered to pull me out of gym, which I hated.


I grew tired of the struggles and the incompetent school staff, and one day I suffered a nervous breakdown and was pulled out of school altogether. I never graduated from high school, skipping right to community college, where I continued to have problems hearing the lectures. I barely pulled off a 2.0 GPA.


After another perfect hearing test I remember going home and crying in frustration. I couldn’t hear the lectures. I couldn’t hear people who were talking to me one-on-one, which was one of the big reasons I didn’t do a lot of social things in the first place. I wasn’t autistic, I wasn’t shy, and I wasn’t slow. I could hear dog whistles, yet I couldn’t understand someone talking right in front of me and was slow to respond, and if it was a noisy environment, forget it.


I didn’t return to school for ten years. When I did, I was in my thirties and determined to get a college degree. This time I went to an audiologist who specialized in something called an auditory processing disorder, who determined that I had a bad one. Suddenly everything that had happened in school made perfect sense.


I returned to school with the proper assistance, where I immediately disproved Dad’s assumptions that I wasn’t good in school. I made the dean’s list every term, graduating cum laude and a member of four honor societies. Yes, I still struggled a little bit with math, but my lowest grade was a B, so I can’t say it was too terrible.


At the time, someone suggested that I become a professor or go into teaching. I turned my nose up at the thought of being a teacher. After all, with a few exceptions, I’d mostly run into incompetent teachers in my school experience and didn’t have much respect for them.


I didn’t think much more about it until 2023, when I was in desperate need of a job and took a position as a paraprofessional at the local school. It was a choice of this or working at the local mine, so I chose the former. While I was there, I saw examples of outstanding teachers. I started thinking about this education plan I had written a long time ago and forgotten about, which I now pulled out and started writing again.


A strange thing started happening to me. Suddenly I didn’t want to present that teaching plan to another teacher, I wanted to teach it myself. I wanted to be a teacher! Perhaps it was working with a student who reminded me of myself when I was younger, or maybe it was just the overall positive environment in the school, but something had changed my mind. I have been pursuing that career ever since.


My random thoughts about education take me back to my own school experiences, and they go back to what is wrong with the American education system today. A lot of it has to do with politics and an incompetent bunch of clowns in Congress who have no idea how to teach, much less what a teacher needs. Their motives are all political and money-driven.


I could go on and on about the problems with a conservative school system. This is the type that makes girls dress like nuns, has abstinence only sex education, and teaches Creationism for science. It’s a bastion of Christian fundamentalism, with little recognition of actual education.


Then, of course, you’ve got the extreme liberal idea of school. This has a million tests, raises standards astronomically high without giving people a chance to meet them, and changes standard education to “discovery” programs, where the lessons are supposed to “arise” out of a bunch nonsense.


I’ve run into both in my education experience. It was not a conservative school that failed me in the end, however, it was an ultra liberal one. It was so full of so many rules “to protect us” it was nearly impossible to exist without breaking one. You had all sorts of cool clubs to join, but they all had actual prerequisite classes. Our math program was something called Arise, which was exactly what I described above. Whenever one of the million or so tests came up, the teachers threatened us and told us not to make them look bad. Or there were the “you’re stupid compared to Japan” speeches. (That last one stopped the day a Japanese serial killer cut off some kid’s head and complained about the Japanese school system. That’s when Europe became the “perfect” utopia instead.)


Banning things is popular with both extremes. Banning books, movies, anything that speaks against their extreme viewpoints. Anything that warns students of the troubles of extremism. Gee, why would they do that? I wonder.


Politics is the worst thing you can add to a school system. There is a bumper sticker going around that says, “Those who can teach. Those who can’t make laws about teaching.” This is so true in many instances, and it gets so tiresome.


We need more teachers in office. Teachers to deal with education. Scientists to deal with climate change. Actual experts to deal with the departments that desperately need them. Instead, we get a bunch of spoiled rich people who don’t even know what it means to want for anything, including a good education. People who are elected based on bullshit like looks and how insulting they can be in a political debate.


People say it’s the politicians’ fault, but it’s ours. We continue to elect these people. It’s us who continue to support them in the primaries. We determine who is successful in political campaigns, and we fail every time we cast a vote or endorse an idiot candidate. Isn’t about time we made those changes that we so desperately need? I don’t know about you, but I’m really hoping someday it will happen.


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