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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Working in education taints you

I used to be a teacher. For 7 years I taught high school English and Social Science. I wanted to teach. I really bought into the whole "helping people" thing that they pushed at Ed School. Funny thing is, most of the people in my M.Ed program had no intention of teaching. They wanted to be administrators and they needed the degree to get out of teaching and over to the dark side. That should have clued me in, but I guess I was blinded by altruism or something.

I loved most of the kids. Even though I complain bitterly about my own teenagers, kids in that age group usually totally enthrall me. I find them hilariously funny, extremely creative, and very interesting. I really love teenagers. I just don't love them 24/7 when I'm financially and emotionally responsible for them. But the experience of working with so many different kinds of teens really did prepare me for parenting my own kids. I understand the motivation of teens, I get what their little minds are cooking up, I understand that they need me even as they pull away. I get them. But the thing is, when you're a teacher, you get to leave at the end of the day, and you get that 3 months off every summer to rejuvinate and regain your sanity.

Unfortunately, parenting teens does not come with 3 months off every summer. Oh, man if it only did. Can you imagine the hordes of parents come the third week of June wandering through airports like zombies, heading off to faraway places to hibernate on the beach? Wouldn't it be fabulous to have groups of worn out mommies all congregating on the beach with their cocktails and sharing horror stories of what their miserable kids did during the school year. It would be like mommy and me groups, only without the me and the stupid competitions. Nobody is going to be comparing developmental milestones. They'll be too busy sharing the lies, drinking, and drug involvement that their kids participated in. Oh, parents of teens are worn to a frazzle just trying to keep up with their kid's antics.

When I worked in schools, my kids did incredibly stupid things. I student taught at a SpEd school for ED kids who were culled from all the Boston public high schools and crammed into this little building under the Tobin Bridge. These were kids that were just nuts. It was before the era of drugs, so they were incapable of controlling their behavior. I had a girl who masterbated most of the day. I had a boy who was a pimp in his neighborhood, but who couldn't even identify letters of the alphabet. He was loaded, always with $100 bills in his pocket, but he didn't even know how to spell his name, Mark. It was tragic. I had a kid that later became a famous bank robber in California, known as the Polite Bank Robber because he always said please and thank you. He joined his father and brother in prison. I had a kid that was so nutty that he scared the entire staff. One day this Eddy pulled a gun on me. In my stupidity, I figured it wasn't loaded and pushed it away. It was loaded. About 2 months later he shot and killed his grandfather. I had a kid who rolled joints in class, but if I saw him, he would stuff the pot down his pants and dare me to go and get it.

In other words, I dealt with some seriously hurting kids. Most of them didn't have stable families, most of them were poor, some of them were black or hispanic, but most of them were white. They were NICE kids. Really, they were. But they just were so sick, so tainted with mental illness that they could not control their behavior. What it all boiled down to is a bunch of kids were were shelved by the system into our little school, which was really a holding tank for kids that weren't in residential treatment but couldn't really be in school either. It was absolutely tragic, and yet I did it day after day after day.

So when people wonder how I do it with my own kids, well, my background prepared me for parenting crazy kids. Did I think I would have such lunatics? Actually, yes I did. It runs deep in my maternal family and I was pretty sure that they weren't going to escape it. But I don't believe my kids are tragic. They have a very strong parental advocate, they have a billion people from various agencies working with our family to ensure that we'll get the services we need, and if truth be told, the agencies are panting to work with us because they're so used to working with families in crisis and parents who are incapable of parenting their children. They see the before families from Supernanny, where the kids are all acting like vicious apes and the parents just sit there in shock. I'm not like that. Oh, there are those days, but mostly I run my family with rules and consequences and I don't take much crap. I'm tough but fair. I work hard at picking my battles and I will compromise on my wants to make it easier for the kids.

However, I really DO need some time off. It's been 16 years since I've been on a vacation by myself and I'm about ready to just get on a freaking plane and go wherever it flies. I'm desperate for some time off. I love these kids with my whole heart, but I need some me time. NOW.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Fiber Optic Cable said...

I like this ..this is really spectacular . I like that .This is really awesome work .I like the way you have shared your knowledge ..fabulous!

19/1/08 4:56 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

God, those stories about the kids made the hair on my arms stand on end. I can't even imagine what horrors they must have lived in thier home lives. Kudos to you for trying to help. (and a vacation right now sounds pretty darned good).

19/1/08 7:19 AM  
Anonymous bethany actually said...

Wow. Bless you and teachers like you, who work with those kids everyone else shoves into a building and forgets about. I am so glad your kids have YOU for a mom.

19/1/08 9:44 AM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Is it sad that I know your teaching stories are true? That I've seen the beginnings of children's lives that are likely to head in that direction? And I'm a regular elementary teacher!
Isn't it also sad that respite care for disabled children never quite reaches families with teens...we depended a lot on respite when Amigo was younger, but too old for typical sitters. We can't get it now; he's not "disabled" enough.

19/1/08 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Ree said...

Of course you do Honey. Sixteen years is a long time, a seriously long time, do have done what you have done.

I hope, with all my heart, that you get to have some me time. It's important, for your sanity and theirs.

19/1/08 9:21 PM  
Blogger Not Afraid to Use It said...

This is one of the reasons I can't go back to teaching while I have young children. I can't help but be involved in the lives of my students. It goes with the territory. I don't have the energy to provide for my family and my "kids".

21/1/08 1:13 AM  

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