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Saturday, April 26, 2014

"And Land"


I live in "And Land" and I want to move to "Or". I've lived in "And Land" for a long time. Mostly women live in "And Land" and mostly men live in "Or". It's not an easy move for me, a 57 year old woman who's lived most of her adult life in a compact three bedroom, two bath residence, but I'm determined. I'd thought changing furniture and/or curtains would whip my house into a spousal shared "Or" experience. I'd thought sitting down and reading a book might take care of my obsessive "and-ness." I'd thought blasting country music would help me focus on one thing at a time. I was wrong. It takes more than floral upholstery and/or Tim McGraw to make this kind of move.

Children--both girls and boys--pretty much take up residence with men in "Or." That lasts, for girls, until they grow up and get married. Then, although it looks like they're living right beside their men, those married females will find a chasm begin to split their living rooms. They'll be looking at their men sitting on couches with beers in their hands, watching a televised sporting event and they'll hear the chasm screech and rumble as it opens. They'll have wanted their men to fix plumbing or/and change light bulbs, but the game comes first. They'll be in kitchens checking meat loaves and in laundry rooms checking drying clothes before they cuddle close to watch the field goal kick. They'll have missed the touchdown because they were seasoning those loaves of meat.

They may not even sit to watch. They'll just stand there for a second or two with dish towels in their hands.

They're in "And Land".

And when they have children, it's almost impossible to move to "Or".

Right now, in my "In-And-Land" life, I am typing this "And Land"ditty and thinking of what to wear to work tomorrow...and the lack of milk in the refrigerator thought just whisked through my "And Land" brain. And/But I'm sipping a glass of wine and smiling, so it's all good right now. "And Land" feels manageable. 

But sometimes, I want to live where most men live. I want to live in "Or." I want to sit down and watch the Marlins, the Heat, or the Dolphins. I want to watch any one of those teams--and I don't care which one it is (although I recently saw a video featuring LeBron James and I found him sincere and funny, so I think LeBron's smiling earnestness as he encouraged Florida's children to "kick FCAT butt" has a Heat game as my first choice)--and not fold laundry and listen for oven timers. In "Or", people do one thing or another. They don't do two things at a time, let alone dance the intricate "Dance of And" we females undertake. They don't even think of two or more things at a time. They get down to the business of this thing, then that thing and then that. "I am going to clean the garage then I will mow." they might say. Getting down to business is important to "Or" dwellers.

My husband, an "Or" dweller for sure, has for years teased me, an "And Lander", about, for instance, my planning dinner while we eat breakfast. I munch toast and scrambled eggs and make grocery lists for dinner. "How about pasta with marinara?" I might say. "Maybe a salad..."

Early in our marriage, we'd do yard work together. I'd mow and he would trim. He got used to looking up from whacking weeds and seeing an unattended mower. I'd have gone into the kitchen to chop vegetables for dinner.

In "And Land" residents do things AND they do lots of other things. For example, I eat breakfast and unload the dish washer. As I eat that breakfast--most often a piece of toast and peanut butter--I've got a dish towel in hand wiping the collected water from bottoms of glasses in the dish washer before putting them on shelves. And I'm thinking about homework and book bags and if pencils are sharpened. I might even stop the wiping of dishes and plow into a book bag when the "Are-pencils-sharpened?" thought strikes. And I'll have the toast clamped between my teeth because I need two hands to get through my children's book bag messes.

In "And Land" residents think of lots of things at the same time, so to live in "Or" I have to do something about my thoughts too. "Or" brains think of one thing or another--not two things at once. Thoughts travel through "Or" brains' fissures like strings of DNA. Sometimes "Or" brains fondle and caress an idea. Sometimes they kick it out and move on to the next. 

"And Land" brains are different. "And Land" brains' thoughts are more like balls of thought yarn. Years of ideas are wrapped tightly into yarn balls so large they could be displayed at county fairs. "Get your ticket! Not to be believed! Biggest "And Land" thought ball in the WORLD! 

You will not believe the mess this woman created..."

Mine is a county fair worthy--maybe prize winning--"And Land" thought yarn ball. Maybe I'll pin a first place ribbon on it and put it on a shelf here in my "new home" in "Or."

Or maybe I'll just let the cat play with it.

Or maybe I'll sell it at a garage sale.

Or donate it to a museum.

Or maybe not any of that.
10:14 am edt          Comments

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Not "waiting for Superman," demanding he come NOW!

Cut from a message written to my brother, an assistant principal.

"(School's name) is MOST DEFINITELY caught in the hellish tension of high stakes standardized testing. (School's name) is (city's name) only standard public middle school.  You know (city's name) has this county's wealthiest citizens.  Its mayor is by far one of the wealthiest and he's taking action.  He's pretty much saying: "Get it together or I will insist this school becomes a charter school."  To that end, the superintendent and his cabinet, the mayor and all the city's commissioners came to (school's name) recently for a "tour."  The city held focus groups as to why people do not send their children to (school's name). On and on it goes.  And I know (and the school district knows too) that the reason (school's name) became a "D" school--and only through some manipulation of data was it raised to a low "C"--is because it had poor leadership. That principal "led" the school into the ground.  She blocked all creative efforts and just, in general, did not know what to do.  She also had no personality and did not like many of her employees and certainly did not want parents inside the school.  

Under her leadership--and she was the principal for almost 10 years--the school became truly dangerous.  Graffiti spilled out onto the walls of the hallways.  I once took pictures of it to show her.  Teachers were being targeted with, "Ms. L is a FUCKING BITCH!" kinds of comments.  It was shocking that she turned me away from her office with a "go see someone else" comment.

She is also friends with the psychopath for whom I worked..and they are both friends of a woman second in command to my superintendent.  In fact, I have been told by someone who would know that neither of these individuals actually interviewed for their principalships.  They were, I am told--and I have no confirmation of this, but I believe it--were place in their positions by their buddy.

So if that's true, then there's your real reason for the conundrum of (school's name).

Anyway, I work now for a really nice, fun, and smart man.  He's got a big job.  He trusts me.  He sees that the work I do--and the vision that I have-- are what all parents really want.  They want their children to learn and to be safe.  It's really that simple.   Leadership is the key and the district will not admit EVER (!) that they, and the crappy leadership they place in our schools, are the reason for this parental uprising."

12:48 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I like this girl...
Writing a book loosely based on the life of a girl I am getting to know better...

"She's a kind girl.  She's not had time, yet, to discover the facets that make up the person she is and will become.  She doesn't know that she has an inner fire that smolders at injustice. Right now it just makes her mad inside to see others hurt. She doesn't know, either, that the smoldering will ignite, will rise up and out of her belly in 2010 at the age of 54, and will form the word, "NO." It is an abusive public school principal who lights the long smoldering fire. She will, over the next years, watch her fire ignite others' inner fires and together they will address the injustice of bullying in workplaces. Right now though, she most often turns from others' trouble and doesn't often help. Although she doesn't herself participate, she's relieved she's not the one getting picked on. She feels bad about that."

8:02 am edt          Comments

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Real Progress is hard work

"Real progress requires pushing and shoving and urging and cajoling and coaxing – and then pushing some more (courteously when you can, not so mannerly if the former doesn’t work)."  
--David Lawrence Jr., The Children's Movement 

I have pounded words onto computer screens and finessed words into heads.  I have, as David Lawrence Jr. of the Children's Movement says, cajoled and urged and coaxed and pushed and shoved.  I've been courteous. Dave says maybe I need to ramp it up a little bit since my efforts to communicate to my school district's leadership how to effectively eradicate bullying in our schools do not seem to be working.  

I see little progress in regards to bullying prevention in our public schools. It's been five years since I became a Florida Association of School Administrators' "Florida Bullying Prevention Initiative" trainer and, although that initiative had success "written all over it," it's failed because school districts' leadership stood in its way. Some of my district's leaders stood in the way out of ignorance and some were outright bullies themselves. 

Talking about bullying prevention and being trained as an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer and an Anti-Defamation League "World of Difference" trainer, not to mention being a "Workplace Bullying Institute" trainer has often felt to me like stepping into a boxing ring.  At the beginning of my great enthusiasm--for how could anyone not understand that this worked!--I entered the ring unprepared.  I got slammed with my bosses' "fists" of caution and intimidation and lies.  "Watch it."; Who do you think you are?"; "STAY OUT!" and, perhaps, the saddest of all; "Huh? What's Olweus?" comments were/are placed like track field obstacles before me. But I am getting into competitive "shape" and so, A Piece Full World is where I can ramp it all up and let it go. It feels good. 

 Recently an administrator sent a bullying student to bring a bullied student to his office. Did he not know that sending the bullying child to get the bullied child was heaving propane onto fire?  Alone together, the "fire" of two girls with hurt feelings exploded in the school's hallways.  

I can see "Bullying Her"-with a pass in her hand--knocking on "Bullied Her's" classroom door. "Is Chastity here?": "Bullying Her" politely asks the teacher, "Mr. Jones wants to see her in his office,"; "Bullying Her" demurely hands the pass to the teacher. "Bullied Her" sits, heart pounding, as "Clueless Teacher" says: "Chastity, you're needed in the office."   

"YOU SKANKY HOE!"  rings through the hallways of the school, for "Bullying Her" can now let it fly.  She is alone with "Bullied Her." "YOU FAKE BITCH!" 

"Ms. Werner, would you talk with these two girls?  There seems to be a problem."

My office is more like a firehouse than a counselor's office.  I am putting out fires that should not have been lit.  Children's feelings are like combustible composts of fetid leaves.  Their lives' circumstances--broken homes, absent fathers, lost jobs--pour out of those children like gasoline from tankard trucks. A "skanky hoe" insult, then becomes the match that lights the whole damn thing.

Many times a simple "I'm sorry I...." (fill in the blank) sincerely offered from both to the other brings tears and smiles.  It's that simple.  They are, after all, children. 

Recent "I'm sorry" opportunities from my school include girls who do not share language but share disrespect.  They share hurt feelings.  They share thrown fists and bruised arms.  

They also shared, yesterday, the half circle of other children chanting "Fight!  Fight!  Fight!"

So, imagine one girl recently arrived from Cuba and another girl born in the US with parents from Haiti.  Imagine how they communicate.  One perceived slight-one to the other--sets them off.  They do not use many words, but they do--oh, they do--use their elbows and their eyes.  They suck their teeth and snicker and laugh. 

They know all of middle school adolescents' bullying tools for they often use them and receive them.  They are the same in any language and in any country.

 Come.  In your mind's eye, stand with me by the doors to the cafeteria.  Stand with me and watch.  Listen.  How many profanities do you hear?  How many children choked--"in fun"--do you see?  How much intimidation do you ascertain?  

Do you see the silent ones?  Do you see those slinking by and through the fetid mass?  They do not want to bump into anyone, for to do so would be for them lighting up like a bonfire.  The silent ones' fires--when lit by the kindling of a "Fuck you, asshole" comment, can be the deadliest.  

Do you smell fear?  I do.  I smell its pungent odor coming from there and there and there and over there.

Now see the cafeteria's security guards clumped together and laughing.  They are unaware.

Pushing and cajoling and shoving and coaxing...

Dignitaries visited a school.  Security guards were strategically placed to assure students behaved.  They were placed in known problem places.  They were attentive. Teachers stood by doors.  They smiled at and were nice to everyone--each other, the dignitaries and the students. 

It was a peaceful day for all.

Do that everyday--dignitaries or not--and combine that with weekly classroom discussions about respect in every classroom with every teacher. If you do those things and you get children and adults in your schools excited about participating, you've got yourself a bullying prevention program.

It's that simple.

7:46 am edt          Comments

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Click here for my district's bullying and harassment policy. You will see I have made comments....