Letter From California
08/12/08 0520.11 pst
San Jose, California
It’s that time of year when the other key ring comes out and a big slightly oxidized brass key is slid home on its schoolroom lock, a teacher takes a deep breath, resolutely turns the knob and walks into her or his late summer classroom, taking a good look around and taking stock of what it will take to be a teacher again inside ridiculously quiet walls.
I don’t teach—ah, no, I would never fling my soul onto the eternal coals of hell those little darlings would happily fling me upon in just a few minutes—but for whatever reasons life works out I’ve spent my whole life living with them, being friends with their children, and eventually marrying one. Teaching, the classroom, computers, children, money, parents, home-schooling, the principal, supplies, classroom lists, school politics, all day every year of my life, it’s cool in the evolution of things. The snotty remarks one would expect from teachers about grammar and penmanship are a drag, but I’m not complaining.
A few months ago I gave my daughter a perky Apple laptop and I watch, fascinated, as the very first laptop generation comes of age and the choices her schools make in interacting with the machine. Envy also laces many of the observations—Jesus, this kid already videoconferences, it’s right outta Star Trek right here in my living room, she has PowerPoint homework, she takes to keyboarding effortlessly, and already I hear unfamiliar machine slang in the house. That Apple notebook has limitless potential and wherever education goes with it, well, it will be light years ahead of what I experienced in public education only 30 years ago.
I’ve also watched as teachers saw the computer wave crash over the teaching corps and their various reactions to it, which still goes on this very day. I have to build my wife’s schoolroom website next week, a task she views with extreme distaste, just another tricky job to juggle in a long list, and she’ll refuse again to interact with her parents with email, she just isn’t taking on the extra evolution in her workday. How long these attitudes will last is unknown, but it’s doubtful they won’t change eventually.
She finally has a decent personal district machine and her classroom has a few, the rest a motley collection of hand-me-downs with incredibly big CRT’s. There’s isn’t stable wireless for her campus, and until her school—along with every other school in her district—hires a full time IT tech the potential of the machines will be completely wasted. At this stage of infancy computing development teachers don’t have a fraction of the time needed to keep everything running, so things technically sputter along, but they’re still moving forward.
We live in an area where public education participation is relatively high, which means that next year I’ll fork over approximately $1,400 in fees to my daughter’s school, since her school is so broke but music classes and field trips are still deemed necessary. I’ll never forgive Republicans and their god-awful never-any-tax-increase insanity, ever since Proposition 13 we’ve terribly neglected our schools and children, but God forbid those family-value hypocrites could ever see their way to fix it, their own kind and society be damned.
How many Einstein’s did we miss with our neglect? What great artists are we not experiencing? What vast amounts of pain did we inflict upon millions of kids when gypped them through pure greedy immaturity? It’s not a past phenomena, either, this neglect and abuse goes on this very day, our schools need a lot more resources and attention. One very big reason I’m a lifelong Democrat is the party’s commitment to education, if given the chance the Republicans would junk the entire system, I’m not kidding. They’ve tried very hard for 30 years to do just that here in California, our schools a constant embarrassment of missed potential and endless chickenshit fees for parents.
Still, we do what we can, which means soon I’ll be getting instructions on what to move in literally tons of classroom equipment and books stored in forty boxes in the backyard shed. There’s more stored at the school—like all veteran hotshot elementary teachers my wife’s experience spans almost all grades, and she isn’t giving up any of her good materials until she retires, not on your life. All elementary teachers are like this, their hapless spouses lugging around tons of stuff every Fall.
It’s still hot, still August, but the sun has already dropped lower south in the sky, and soon the children will flood the classrooms, our future wobbling resolutely forward, teachers and parents yet again doing everything they can to keep the race and country healthy and happy.