The Wonderful World of Disney

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears…”

You get it, right? Small World. Disneyland. Anaheim.

Currently, I’m in Anaheim, but not in Disneyland. I’m here for an educational conference right across the street from Disneyland. And, the hotel (like all hotels in Anaheim) is chocked full of families with 2.5 kids dressed in either Mickey Mouse attire or princess dresses.

I’m up early because breakfast at the hotel begins at 6:30 a.m., and you know what? They’re up too. Children donning their Disneyland gear; adults wearing the ears; babies crying; children yelling, “Daddy, can I…?” or “Mommy, can I…?” I’m barely awake and slapped in the face with announcements like: “The water bottles are all filled.” Or, “Here’s the charger for the…” I couldn’t hear the rest.

This is a different world for me. I’m not a parent, but I understand the excitement about Disneyland. When I was a kid, I was hypnotized by the magic and wonder of Disneyland and star-struck to see the Castle, Pluto, Donald Duck, and Minnie Mouse. But as a kid, I did not pay any attention to the preparation for going to Disneyland.

Now my excitement is swelled in networking with fellow English teachers and becoming a lifelong professional learner. I got to the registration table at the conference, and my eyes grew wider when I saw books and free stuff!

“I’m so excited to be here,” I whispered. A woman in front of me turned and smiled.

“I heard that,” she said. “Me too.”

This. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is my Disneyland.

To be continued.

Quietly Quitting

This past week I was on fall break, similar to Spring Break, just in the fall season.

Anyway, I didn’t go anywhere. I got my flu and updated COVID booster shots, and I rested. You see, I’m a teacher, and it was much needed. We began the school year in August, and it already seems like we’ve been in school for an entire year. It’s not about the school I’m at, but it seems like, across the country, it’s clear that educators are feeling the effects of the post-pandemic fallout.

With this being the last day of fall break, I’m in a contemplative mood: I’m thinking about quitting.

I have mixed emotions because I’ve been teaching since the 1990s. I’ve had some outstanding students whom I will not forget – but my excitement for teaching is depleting. I’m not sure what has happened to my enthusiasm, but there are a few hints.

First, I believe it’s when officials decide what to teach and how to teach. While in my doctoral program, I researched how teacher autonomy is necessary for schools to engage students. If teachers are motivated, then students will be encouraged. However, when teachers are told how to teach by those who have forgotten what it is like in the classroom, it becomes frustrating!

I get tired of hearing, “You’re the expert,” and then getting treated like one of the students.

I want to quit. I’d like the music from the Exodus to follow me down the hallway at school as I turn in my keys, walk out into the parking lot, get into my car and drive away into a future where I will…

Where I will…

And that’s the issue. What can I do? I was a former journalist and taught English Language Arts for years, and I don’t want to be a journalist anymore. I’ve combed the Internet about what former English teachers can do.

Curriculum Developers. Educational Consultants. Adult Education instructors.

Yeah. I’ve thought about becoming an educational consultant, but that takes a lot of work (not that I’m afraid of work). I have to find that niche that educators would want to know and learn.

I worked as an adult education instructor at the local community college and enjoyed it. This is a position I found very rewarding because the students were eager to learn, and they wanted to get their GED to improve their employment prospects.

I’m 57 years old. I am not slowing down because I am researching a big project in education, and I am excited about it; however, I believe that starting a new job would be futile in this case. I read an article about people who are “quietly quitting,” and I think I am flowing in this realm.

Quiet quitters are disengaged employees, and according to an article written by Jim Harter last month for Workplace on Gallup.com, about 50% of the U.S. workforce are quiet quitters. The reason behind this trend is that jobs require extra effort to meet the company’s and customers’ needs (Harter, 2022). In the case of education, there is this invisible push to make students achieve on assessments. I am not sure if money is involved in getting students over the “pandemic gap” or what, but getting students to bring a pencil and a notebook to class is a struggle. No joke!

Most people who find out I’m a teacher either thank or pity me, and sometimes they do both. These people who understand the struggle know that we are battling several elements: government, administrative decisions, students, parents, and our hearts. Teaching is an art we love and enjoy, but when you throw bureaucratic crap into the mix, it gets clunky, messy, and confusing!

“Teach but make sure you assess (it’s testing)them frequently!” Why don’t I stop teaching and just test them daily? If I do that, they will get better at the assessment, and it will be shiny and beautiful data to display to the government!

Yes. Quietly quitting. Harter wrote, “Actively disengaged employees tend to have most of their workplace needs unmet and spread their dissatisfaction” (2022). Some teachers constantly complain (even in earshot of students who are not professional), teachers who aggressively want to be on top or in charge (what they don’t know is that it’s not that glamorous), and their dissatisfaction spreads to the students.

What a mess!

So I’m imagining that you’re thinking, “Tell your principals! Talk to the district!” Yeah.

They’ll tell us, “It’s not one more thing,” or “Take care of yourselves.” Thank you.

I want to ask them, “Do you really care about us? Do you really believe we can do our jobs without these additional programs that we (the teachers) need to execute?” After this alarming pandemic that disrupted student learning, we need quiet. Remember the calm after the storm? Where’s the peace? What happened to that?

Oh, readers! I’m a full-time fan of education, specifically when it comes to my subject – engaging students to love literature and writing. But we teachers must take a hard left and address anxieties, disabilities, and complex home lives (and that’s not only about the students either). On top of that, we have implemented traffic such as new programs and constant assessment.

Therefore, as I write this, my desire to get these students to enjoy reading and learn how to correctly write reminds me of why I want to teach. Programs are from competing companies who wish to have the money. The funny thing is that I didn’t ask for anything “new.” I want to teach without any type of additional program or an additional assessment. I believe I’m a good teacher. I’ve had students come back and tell me about how they read a particular book in college that we read in their high school class. Or, they remember working on group projects or writing quick writes (short responses) that they had to do in college. They do not reflect the programs and remember the extra assessments with disdain.

I’m going to stick with it. Hopefully, our voices will be heard before I retire in five to 10 years. In the meantime, I will be quietly quitting.

Harter, J. (2022). Is Quiet Quitting Real? Workplace from, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/398306/quiet-quitting-real.aspx

The Love of Each Other’s Lives

I want to breathe

with ease

Play the piano with my heart

and describe the part

of you whom I love.

Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain

climb that Japanese mountain

to show my love is irritating

yet invigorating

I bought you a goldfish

instead of a ring

because loving you is a hard thing

I’m watching time as the ceiling fan turns

My heart yearns

While you behave so pious

since you’re in love with being self-righteous.

By L.S. Watson

Gaining Perspective

The lighthouse in the midnight

resembles the dawn of the day.

Followers flock to the light

to glimpse at the perspective of life.

A seedling so small

can become an oak.

Just a sprinkle of rain

is an insult to the tree,

its knowledge of living

is a cliffhanger

to those who gaze at its greatness.

Moments are fleeting

like the muscles

of a Cheetah’s limbs across the African plain.

Looking upon the wrists at the time,

the chartreuse sky

eliminated the thought process-

the contemplation is over.

By L.S. Watson

Broken Glass

Each piece

of glass

contains one word,

one letter,

one phrase

that I have said, and the pieces

are now scattered

and shattered

I can’t put them back together

none of them make sense anymore

I see a “the” and a “when.”

I reach for “love.”

and a “how do I begin?”

When I try to gather

the pieces

I hear, “don’t. They will cut

and harm you again.”

I will leave them be – broken glass

from the past

scattered and useless.

By L.S. Watson

Elegy For The Child

My heart breaks

My body aches

For the child

That was slain.

I start to cry

Asking God, “Why?”

For the child

That was slain.

Weapons are loaded

While politicians are bloated

Against the child

That was slain.

Schools are not for education.

But for platforms of premeditation.

For the child

That was slain.

Innocence has broken

Ugly words are spoken

For the child

That was slain.

But despite the pain

There is hope again

For the child

That was slain.

Eyes will see

How the future will be

For the child

That was slain.

And God hears

Our prayers and fears

For the children

That was slain.

It’s Duck Season! It’s Rabbit Season! It’s Prom Season! It’s the End of the School Season!

I wish I had $800 right now.

Anyway, my school’s prom happened last night, and I joined in with close colleagues to chaperone the socially awkward teens during this rite of passage night.

Prom, short for promenade, was an east coast ritual for college students to introduce young women properly into society. The event was adopted at the high school level for seniors from a quaint “Sunday Best” dressed tea party to a formal dinner and party. And, if you have been to a prom, it usually ends up a big party full of dancing, sweaty, and loud teenagers.

But, seriously, our students looked so lovely last night! They were dressed formally (some had on tuxedos), shined shoes, elegant long dresses, makeup, classic updos, and smiles! It was great to see them out and about, dancing (or at least trying to dance), holding conversations, and scoping out each other.

I tried to remember my high school prom, but it’s a bit fuzzy. Perhaps I’ve been out of high school for about 40 years. But, I know that prom is the season of vulnerability – every teenager is on the hunt for a prom date, and it is the brilliant time to ask that one person to the most magical night of the year.

Most of us crotchety adults think prom night is when teens lose all inhibitions and decide to have sex. Yeah. It’s one of the buttons we adults push in our heads because either we: 1. Remember our prom night 2. Have forgotten what it means to be young, happy, and always willing to celebrate.

It’s not my business what the teens do after prom (as long as they’re safe); I was glad that they enjoyed the music, danced, ate lush delicacies, and drank Hibiscus lemonade and water. It was an uneventful evening.

Now that is over…

We have five weeks left of school, and within those weeks, there’s one more hoop to jump through: graduation.

Stayed tuned.

Still wish I had $800, but that’s another story.

Teacher Woes

It’s April.

April showers bring May flowers. April brings spring and warmer days, with sunshine and flowers – the birds and the bees are back. Easter is celebrated among Christians worldwide – as a sign of renewal and hope.

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

But for teachers, April is a long month.

For the teachers in Arizona, it is testing month, and it is a month where students are challenged to sit at their desks for hours and take tests to compare themselves to their former selves and others.

Maybe that was a bit much. Let me try to simplify it. These tests measure students’ growth from previous years, and it is a measurement to see how our Arizona students are doing against the rest of the country’s children in schools.

It is also a glimpse of whether we teachers are teaching like we should be doing. We could be doing more if we didn’t have testing interruptions! At my school, we have two weeks of testing, and yes, the students have to stay at school after testing, but I’m worried that I’m not going to get 100% attention from the students.

Do you want to know why?

Students will use the “I’ve been testing all day! I’m tired!” Or, “Ms. Watson, can we have a free day today? We’ve been testing!”

The excuses teachers hear daily are overpowering and tiring!

I know that in other parts of the country, schools are not out until June. In Arizona, our school year ends in May. It should be an easy coast downhill to May, but the hoop in April is testing, and we still need to finish our units or novels for a proper closure to school. April is like rolling a stone uphill with curves (I think I heard that from someone else recently, and it’s a great analogy)!

I am grateful to be a teacher; please don’t get me wrong. The beauty of teaching students to look deeper into the text or novel and write about it using new vocabulary and other skills brings me joy! However, the testing portion of this educational system puts a damper on keeping the students motivated. The older students get, the more they become aware of what testing is all about. Some high school students deliberately tank the test because they don’t care: “I’m not getting a grade for it, so what do I care?” When I was in high school, and we had to take the Stanford 9 tests, this guy who sat in front of me bubbled the four-letter word that began with F for his answers. He showed it to us, and it was funny. Everything was funny at 16. Although I always tried my best, the results were the same: I had high scores in Reading and Language but lower scores in Math.

Well, things are different now in Arizona. The Stanford 9 has been long gone; we had the AIMS, a high-stakes graduation test (I was glad that came after I graduated). The AIMS morphed into the AzMerit tests, and now the state has decided to use the ACT as the state-mandated test. Students are confused about why they are taking the ACT, and a few of them asked me, “Do we need to pay to take the test?” “What if I don’t score well? Will I not go to college?”

Ugh!

Arizona in April is not a teacher’s best friend.

Teachers are worst than the students with senioritis!

Or, maybe it’s just me.

March Madness!

It’s no secret that I am a sports fan. But, dagnabit, March Madness makes me – well – mad!

I will admit that I have several (and I do mean several) brackets out there, and I’ve listened to sports analysts about different teams, and bless my soul, two teams have busted my bracket already!

Ugh!

Madness!

I am not a basketball expert, but this is an exciting showcase for these young men and women in college basketball. They get a chance to showcase their skills and talents on national television against mega teams who have flexed their court muscles!

We have heard of Kentucky (who lost, by the way), Kansas, Villanova, Duke, Michigan, and now Gonzaga, and Arizona are in the pedigree of basketball. But teams like Richmond, St. Peter’s, and Akron are giving these significant basketball schools migraines!

I love the excitement and the commercials – it’s like the Super Bowl all over again! I’m flipping channels affiliated with CBS, and I’m rooting for teams based on my brackets. I guess that’s the fun part because I’m an alum from the University of Arizona Wildcats, and I am a fan of those colleges that I’ve chosen to move on in the tournament – it’s so odd!

Madness!

You see, I love college ball better than professional basketball. These young people play honest and genuine (especially the men’s basketball teams), and they have the drive, ambition, and integrity to make plays – and they do not showboat.

So, I’m going to hunker down tomorrow and Saturday and flip channels to watch these exciting games!

Oh – who do I have winning it all?

Well, like I said, I have several brackets with a few winners, but the majority has the Wildcats winning it all – and it sure isn’t Kentucky! LOL!