Thursday, August 24, 2006

Where'd They Go

Schools been session for a week and the dust is settling.
The cries of “Welcome Back” and “I’m so Glad to See You” are mere echoes.

Then I look around and I notice some children aren’t with us any more. We have a high mobility – it’s in the 90+% so we’re used to kids coming and going but there are some that make a niche for themselves. And they leave an empty space behind when they vanish.

Where’d the 3rd grader who loved to read go? She’s a recent immigrant, just learning English and could read circles around everyone when it came to the Spanish language books. She loved the 2 Harry Potter books we had & over the summer I’d ordered the rest of the series in Spanish just for her. I hope her new school library has them.

And where is the 2nd grader who was in my G/T class? I dropped her off at daycare one day a week as a favor to her single, working Mom and she talked my ear off the entire trip. She so wanted a pet – I hope they moved to a house so she can have one.

What about M? He’s the determined 4rd grader who is switching from Spanish to English and gobbling up the Bailey School Kids books as fast as he can. He was determined to earn his way into the Sleepover for the second year in a row and by golly he did. I hope he landed at a school that will give him a little extra attention. He has the potential to break out of the cycle of a life as a day laborer and construction worker.

Z is gone too. A precocious 1st grader, he wasn’t just gifted, he was profoundly gifted.
Give him a laptop and PowerPoint and he’d be engaged for hours. I hope he ends up with a teacher, who will appreciate his very outside the box comments and observations.

So is A, just six years old, with a smile a mile wide that show his missing front teeth.
He was so sweet though I’d heard through the grapevine that his parents were none to pleasant. I wonder if his permanent teeth came in over the summer?

I really miss G, a little owl eyed boy with wire rimed glasses. Rarely said much –my Spanish and his English are on about the same level but he did love the M& Ms game I had on one of the library computers. Computers transcend the language barrier. I hope his new librarian realizes that too.

His little spokesperson is gone too. Big brown eyes rimmed by long, lush lashes and an amazing command of the English language for one who spent most of his time in a Spanish dominant environment. He was always willing to help with translations.
I hope he has found a teacher who appreciates his gifts.

Of course, we have new kids to fill up the empty slots. I’ve dubbed one Mr. Math. He’s barely 9 and can do decimals in his head. I’ve a 3rd grader who is reading 4 books a day and is so proud that she’s learned to check the books in and out by herself. There will be others as the year progresses. However, there are always some children I will always remember and wonder about, no matter how many others have come and gone.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What Fresh Hell Is This?

To quote Dorothy Parker, when it comes to teacher in-services, the phrase that comes to mind is “What Fresh Hell is This”.

Today we all found out.

The background: The children arrive next Wednesday. Rooms need to be set up, bulletin boards done, welcome letters written, PR folders read, lesson plans created – the treadmill is beginning to rock n’ roll.

We’d spent the morning gathered together reviewing test scores and welcoming the new teachers and such like. And while we might begrudge the time we certainly understand the reason why we were gathered together.

At 1pm we are ordered all to present ourselves, along with half the employees (2,300 other souls), for a “Convocation”. Attendance is mandatory for everyone from the custodians to the principals.

A bit more background: My school is at the far east end of the district, the “Convocation” is being held at a coliseum at the far west end of the district. Between Point A and Point B is 15 miles of seriously under construction interstate that is normally bumper to bumper, no matter what the time of day. It’s a 45 minute commute and gasoline is currently hovering at $3 a gallon.

We arrive. A quick glance at the audience (and the empty seats) shows that the word “mandatory” has many different meanings to many different people.

One of the high school orchestras serenades us. We listen to a rather rambling speech about all the important people who have graduated from our district and the important people whose children attend them now. For some reason the name of one of our alumni, who was recently in the news is not mentioned. Granted, he was killed in a home invasion and granted he was doing the invading but it was newsworthy.

An elementary school chorus sings a couple of numbers. The 2006 Valedictorian rehashes his speech. I didn’t care for this sort of thing when my own children were involved, never mind children I don’t know. We listen to another rambling speech. The person to the right of me is sleeping, as is the person 2 seats over. Several people are text messaging, others are whispering. I play solitaire on my PDA. The person to the left of me is jealous; he wishes he had a PDA too. The speech rambles on. And on. And on.

We all then get to watch a video. The powers that be seem to have forgotten that the district has the technology to broadcast live video over the internet and has their own in house TV channel. The noise wakes my neighbor. We create a TAKS math problem:

2,300 hundred district employees spend 45 minutes en route, plus 2 hours sitting through and 45 minutes returning from a “Convocation”. The employees are paid approximately $25 an hour. How much did this event cost?
  1. To much, teachers are overpaid and get the summer off

  2. Not enough, teachers are underpaid

  3. $230,000

  4. Priceless – how can one put a price on the joy of bonding with one’s colleagues?

The correct answer? Well, that would depend on the point of view of the person answering the question! What do you think it is?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Musings on the Medical System

A particularly venomous migraine that defied all oral medications landed My Beloved in the hospital where attempts are being made to tame the beast with IV drugs. My Beloved, despite her robust appearance is a fragile flower so she has had many hospital and medical adventures. Actually, I should say “we” since where she goes, I go. I function as a combination patient advocate, practical nurse and security blanket. By now, I’ve gotten so good at the nursing aspect that I’ve been asked by hospital staff members if that’s what I do for living. “No” I tell them, I have just had lots of experience – and I have a strong stomach!

I noticed that most of the nurses in the Houston hospitals are either African American or imported from a certain third world country. The Anglo nurses tend, at least in Houston to end up in Doctor’s offices or day surgery units. I suspect hospital ward duty is harder and the hours must be horrid so perhaps that explains the division.

The African American nurses we’ve meet are a delight. Chipper, cheerful, accommodating and friendly. No matter what I ask, they are happy to comply and they seem to be grateful that I’m taking over some of the nursing duties. They always have a smile, a quip and a joke.

Not so the nurses from the third world country which shall remain nameless. The ones we have encountered are competent in a detached sort of way but bedside manner is not their strong point. They are brusk to the point of rudeness and seem to consider patients a necessary evil. They are also firmly convinced that they know best and resent any suggestions or advice. My Beloved has bad veins and it’s hard to get a good stick. We both know this; we warn them but they go ahead and jab anyway. The African American nurses, on the other hand take one look, listen to what I have to say and call in “the expert” – the one person in the hospital who can always hit a bad vein on the first try.

This “I’m always right” attitude spills into their relations with the other staff members too. Last night we were privy to some rather loud altercations between staff members, one of which cumulated in the slamming of a door. Hospital room walls are thin.

I’m not sure where this post is going and realize that some it comes across as very prejudicial and judgmental. It’s not meant to be, but I wonder if some of the bad press the hospital system receives isn’t the result of culture clash between the expectations of American patients and the nurse training that is prevalent in the third world country that shall remain nameless.

Hospitals who recruit from there might do well to insist on a class in Beside Manner 101 once their nurses are stateside.