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Rats! June 28, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Home Front.
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Okay, while rats is the operative word, it’s a metaphor for so much more… Rats leaving a sinking ship, as in eleven, count’em, Thank You cards lined up to sign for colleagues who received a RIF notice.  Rats! Some of the best teachers ever are being put out to sea, while the sinking ship that is education takes on more water (aka students).

To add insult to injury, as the teachers struggled to pack up last Friday, the fire alarms went off at one-minute intervals – for five hours (okay, they took a break for lunch).  My son, who was helping me pack up my room, looked stricken.  I said, “Can you see how this could drive you crazy?” as we wandered in circles looking for the one roll of masking tape we needed to cover all the bookshelves with paper.  Especially, if you’re already crazy to begin with,” he shot back, but I’m immune to his caustic comments. I don’t know why the military engages in waterboarding, when the most effective form of torture I can think of is having you pack up a filthy classroom with fire alarms blaring.  Think about it.

I checked out of the school by 1 p.m.  My husband was late joining us for lunch.  He’d been at home waiting for “Johnny Rat,” the pest control specialist, to check out our growing rat problem.  (Yes, that’s how his name is printed on the card.) Think tiny claws in the walls at night and palm fronds that suddenly collapse with tell-tale nibble marks.  We’ve been in denial about “the rat problem” for years.

When I wrote I Smell a Rat, we were talking about ONE rat.  Now we’re talking about legions.  Think of the movie 300 only with rats in the starring roles.

So Mr. Rat and his sidekick, Nelson, from the Rat Patrol took a look see, and the news wasn’t good.  I think the only reason we don’t have a termite problem is because the rats have crowded them out.  So my first day of summer vacation was spent listening to the ills that could befall of us if we don’t take care of “the rat problem.”

I now know way more than I ever wanted to know about personal lives of these wily rodents (or vermin, depending on your POV).  We were informed that once the rats had all been trapped and new screening installed so they can’t jump from the trees onto the roof and move back into the attic, that a new problem of biblical proportions will emerge.  Rat mites!  Without a delicious rats to feast on, the starving mites will come looking for fresh flesh and blood…us!  Through the walls…through the ceilings. We couldn’t write the check fast enough. This will be an ongoing battle and from an evolutionary standpoint, the rats have an advantage.  We’ve trimmed all of the bushes and trees four feet back from the house. Johhny Rat and Nelson are all that stands between us and these flesh eating mites.

Mr. Rat winced when we introduced him to our son’s two pet rats, Peanut and Brittle.  My husband informed him that rats are smart and make great pets.  Johnny agreed that they are smart as he’s been trying to outsmart them for years.  But the look on his face said it all.  Pet rats!  I think he thought we were crazy.  But then he met the pig and now he knows for sure. Rats!

C is for Chaos June 19, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics.
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grafitti

The writing is on the wall, but can you read it?

 

 

When I got up this morning (Ahhh, first day of summer vacation) my husband was reading the newspaper.  “It seems like it’s on the verge of exploding,” he said.  I thought he was talking about my school district. Turned out he was talking about Iran.  

What a colossal mess the state of California has made.  And who’s going to pick it up? Us. The people. And teachers, of course.  We’re good at picking up messes (primarily messy parenting).  

Friday, after teachers had packed up their classrooms for summer vacation, emails arrived from our union.  The RIFs (Reduction in Force notices) keep a comin’.  Bottom line: Thirty-four MORE elementary teachers in the district are to be RIF’d.  Also included in the cuts are a smattering of English, History, and PE teachers at the high school level.  

My district isn’t huge, so that’s a lotta people.  People who have children. People who have rent and mortgages to pay.  People who are still paying off their student loans so that they could become a teacher.  An updated seniority list is to be released next Wednesday, so everyone’s on edge.  It reminds me of the classic movie Lifeboat.  Supplies are running low and everyone’s looking to see who’s going to be thrown overboard next. (What’s that scent you’re wearing?  “Chum?”)  The sharks are circling.

For the record, my job is not in jeopardy, but those of many of my colleagues and friends are.  It’s not like the students are going anywhere.  If anything, we’re starting to see a slow exodus of students arriving from private school whose parents can no longer foot that bill. 

I always tell people that when it comes to school, I expect chaos, so I’m never disappointed.  That said, I’m disappointed.  In the state.   In the city. In my district.  I don’t have enough fingers to point.  

We’re not the only district in trouble.  The Los Angeles Times ran a story today about how teachers in that district have “accepted a new contract that includes no pay raise for last year, this year or next year, but will allow them to take formal contract grievances public.” According to the story, “more than 2,500 UTLA members could be laid off as of July 1.”  Ouch!

Freezing salaries opens yet another can of worms.  I start a master’s program (along with two other teachers, one who’s been RIF’d) next week. I’ve already paid $1400 for the first quarter’s tuition.  I don’t mind telling you that I’m getting my master’s for the salary bump. If salaries are frozen, where does that leave teachers like me?  

This is not a script with a happy ending  – Not for those teachers laid off, or for those left to manage herds of children come September. 

My son Taylor forwarded me the following email.  Food for thought.

In a small town in the United States, the place looks almost totally deserted. It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
Suddenly, a rich tourist comes to town.
He enters the town’s only hotel, lays a 100 dollar bill on the reception counter as a deposit, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one.
The hotel proprietor takes the 100 dollar bill and runs to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the 100 dollar bill, and runs to pay his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.
The supplier of feed and fuel takes the 100 dollar bill and runs to pay his debt to the town’s prostitute that in these hard times, gave her “services” on credit.
The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the 100 dollar bill to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.
The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 dollar bill back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment, the tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes back his 100 dollar bill, saying that he did not like any of the rooms, and leaves town.
No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government and the State of California are doing business today.