When I was younger, friends and acquaintances told me that I should consider becoming a teacher, because they saw that I related well with children. And, beginning in the 1980s, I began hearing that schools were “begging” and “crying” for teachers. However, as I was growing up, I hated school. For that and other reasons, I didn't begin to consider teaching as a profession until 1990.
I left high school in 1973. Between 1973 and 1990, I went from job to job, with most of those jobs having to do with automobile repair. I also stumbled into a B.S. in agriculture (soil science emphasis), with a minor in biology, and an A.A.S. in automobile technology.
In the 1980s, the State of Texas asked businessman H. Ross Perot to help to reform the education system in Texas. One of the proposed reforms was intended to help people in other professions to “streamline” the process of becoming certified as teachers (partly by considering job experience as credit for some teaching courses, as applicable). Apparently, many people who wished to change professions to teaching hesitated, because of all of the hours of classes required to become certified. This proposed “streamlining” process initiated by Ross Perot could have—should have—helped me become a public school teacher, but, as you will read, it didn't.
In 1990, I sent a letter to the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton. I asked them to gather all of my college credits, and all of my work experience, and I asked them to tell me how far I was from becoming certified as a teacher. In a few weeks, I received documents signed by a Betty Mason at UNT. I was told that I qualified to be on what they called a deficiency plan. This, apparently, was part of what Ross Perot suggested to make it easier to make a change of métier to teaching. With that deficiency plan, I could be hired immediately by any public school district in Texas as a teacher of automobile technology. However, after being hired, I was to take 18 hours of classes. After taking those classes, I would be fully certified as an auto mechanics teacher. From the time of my being hired as a teacher, I had two years to complete the 18 hours of courses (six classes). If I needed an extension, I could request it.
I made zillions of copies of my deficiency plan, and sent copies of it all over the Texas, along with letters informing districts of my desire to become an auto mechanics teacher. I received no replies. I was surprised and disappointed. I could see little evidence of anyone in Texas “crying for teachers.” I wondered whether I should remain in the auto repair field, but “hard knocks” in auto repair drove me to look more into teaching as a profession.
In the spring of 1994, I decided to request permission to visit a school as an observer. I spoke to an official with Katy Independent School District in Katy, Texas (a few miles west of Houston), and she told me that I could observe during two separate mornings. I was to observe in a first-grade classroom.
I do not remember much about the first morning. I refrain from telling the teacher's name, which I remember. I'll call her Mrs. Blank. I recall that the kids—even boys—often told Mrs. Blank that they loved her. I was amazed. When I was that age, I always thought that teachers were creepy and grouchy.
I remember, at the end of the first morning of observation, that some of the kids asked me to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. Mrs. Blank told me that I shouldn't trouble myself, and that the children were selfish, and did not consider my schedule.
On the second morning of observation, Mrs. Blank began the class by lamenting to the kids that she had, once again, failed to win the lottery, which she hoped to win, so that she could quit her job.
That second morning was “Library Day.” Part of class time was to be spent in the library.
I had a “gut feeling” that one of those children would ask me to help him/her find a library book. Would I, as an observer, not be allowed to interact with a student? I asked Mrs. Blank about my concern, and Mrs. Blank blankly replied, “Don't say anything to students, unless they ask for help. If one asks for help, then you can try to help.”
While we were in the library, a little girl approached me and told me, “I can't find a book. Somebody told me that the book I want is in this library. Can you help me?” She knew the title. I walked her over to the card catalog. I told her that the card catalog had three parts—a “title” section, a “subject” section, and an “author” section. I told her to look for the title section of the card catalog, because she knew the title of the book which she sought. I explained that the titles were in alphabetical order, and I ensured that she understood the term, alphabetical order. (Her title started neither with “A” or “The,” so we were able to focus on the beginning letter of the first word of the title of her book.) I never touched the card catalog. I gave her oral directions, and she looked through the cards. She soon found the card with the title. I told her to write down the big number (Dewey Decimal System number), because that would help us to find the book. I showed her the numbers on each library shelf, and I told her that her book would be on the shelf with one number “smaller” than hers (on her scratch paper), and another number “larger” than hers. I saw the book on the shelf before she saw it. I waited for her to see the book on the shelf. When she saw it, she exclaimed, “I found a book! I found a book!” Immediately, I was surrounded with kids who wanted to find books. Of course, when that started, Library Day was brought to a close. It wasn't until I began writing this article that I began wondering why, just when kids discovered that some knuckle-dragging stranger could find books in the library, our time in the library had to come to an end. Was Mrs. Blank's schedule that tight? If that day was “Library Day,” then why, when children found out that they could get help finding a book, was the curtain suddenly drawn on Library Day? Why didn’t they accomplish the goal of Library Day, by seeing that each student seeking a book from the library got one? It’s your tax dollars at work.
I've never answered several questions generated by having seen those kids find out that one of the students found a book in the library, and then surround me, with hope that I'd help them find books. However, I only include this one question. Why did the children not, initially, ask Mrs. Blank or the librarian for help with finding books?
Again, the kids asked me to eat lunch with them. Again, Mrs. Blank told me that the kids were inconsiderate, and cared nothing about my desires, or my schedule. I wanted to reply with, “You're not thinking much about their desires.” I wanted to tell the kids, “I'd gladly eat with you, but Mrs. Blank thinks you're inconsiderate.” But I simply left.
Also in the spring of 1994, I visited Livingston High School (LHS), with the Livingston (Texas) Independent School District (LISD). Livingston is about 55 miles north-northeast of Houston, at the juncture of U.S. 59, U.S. 190, and State Highway 146, and at the edge of what is called the “Big Thicket,” which is a unique ecological treasure—sadly, a treasure disappearing behind the blade of the bulldozer, and under pavement and concrete.
At LHS, I started out visiting the auto technology department. I also visited the biology teacher and the French teacher. (I took four years of French in high school, and I still remember a chunk of what I learned.) The auto mechanics teacher invited me to lecture in his class. He said that he was going to be in the class, but that he had things to do. He would be in the class while I lectured, and, if students tried to get out of line, he would straighten them out. The facilitator in the French class and the biology teacher agreed to let me observe in their classes on the same day that I was to lecture in the auto tech class. The French facilitator added that I could assist in her class.
I decided to give a lecture about Ohm's Law to the auto mechanics class. I made that decision in order to impress on students the importance of learning as much as possible while in school. I told them that my knowledge of Ohm's Law pulled my fat out of the fire many times, when I repaired vehicles. I also told them that, in at least one instance, out of 13 other mechanics (and three service writers, a shop foreman, a QC man, and the service manager) in a dealership, I was the only one who was able to recalibrate a speedometer, because I was the only one who knew the required math. (It was among the first electronic speedometers offered in cars.) I hoped that at least one of the students would listen, because I knew that most people who take auto mechanics classes are seeking umbrage from academics. I hoped that at least one student would wake up, and realize the importance of bringing knowledge of the 3 Rs into a modern auto repair shop. Reading is useful for reading repair manuals. Writing is useful for describing, in plain detail, what repairs were made. Arithmetic is mainly for electrical problems.
My opinions about why so many auto mechanics are scornful of schools, and time spent in schools, must be reserved for another article. I will note that, when I was in auto repair, I saw that a high percentage of auto mechanics were dropouts, and I frequently considered dropping out, once I entered high school.
After my lecture, the auto tech teacher told me that I should apply for his job. He said that, though he was certified, his certification was in the area of wood shop. He said that the district hired him because they could not find a certified auto tech teacher. (I had probably sent a copy of my deficiency plan to LISD.) According to him, the only thing that the students had learned in the class was how to replace spark plugs. And that was in May, so they'd had 8+ months to have experience with brakes, &c. He said that he was about to get his certification in special education, and that I needn't worry about taking his job. I told him of the above-mentioned deficiency plan. He said that I should have no problem with getting hired.
I found that the biology teacher was “together.” I sat in on an advanced biology class, and those kids knew what they were doing, because the teacher knew what she was doing. I was glad to have seen eager students learning in that class.
The French class was another story.
The lady front of the French class was certified—as a kindergarten teacher. She was in a facilitator role in the French class. The “real” teacher in the French class was on a television set—part of what was called the TI-IN program. In the TI-IN program, schools which do not have a teacher of a specific subject have such teachers “piped in” via television. Unfortunately, because there were 20 districts who had signed up to have this teacher teaching French, and because only one district on a given day had two-way connection with the TI-IN French teacher, students could ask the teacher questions but one day out of 20 days. On the other 19 days, it was too bad for students which had questions. (I doubt that I could have learned French via the TI-IN program. I can't imagine not being able to ask questions in a class.) It so happened that, on the day when I sat in, it was Livingston's turn to have two-way communication with the televised TI-IN teacher.
I sat in on a second-year-level French class. I recognized many of the students in the French class from the advanced biology class, so I knew that they cared, and wanted to learn. They would not have been in advanced biology class, had they not cared. They would have been content with taking “baby food” classes. But I soon saw that these students were not on a second-year level. At least, they were not where I was, when I took French II. When I took French II, we were writing paragraphs. We had learned other verb tenses, in addition to the present tense. However, in this second-year French class, the TI-IN teacher asked the class how to say the color pink. No one knew. (We had learned colors in the first quarter of French I.) I whispered “rose,” to a couple of students nearby. I whispered because I didn't want that the TI-IN teacher hear me giving away the answer. But the students didn't know me, and weren't sure that I could speak French, so they were afraid to give my response. Finally, the TI-IN teacher said that “rose” is the French word for our word, pink. The students all turned to me and gasped, “Wow, he DOES know French!” I was amused. My knowing how to say “pink” in French is little indication that I know French. I was also saddened, because, to them—otherwise honor-roll students—even knowledge of basic French was “Greek” to them. That should not have been, especially in a second-year French class.
The TI-IN teacher stopped broadcasting at about ten minutes before the actual end of class. Students then had time to talk to me. One young lady's story cut me deeply. She said that her grandmother lived in Louisiana, and spoke only French. She had never spoken directly to her grandmother, other than greetings and “good-bye.” She said that she took French specifically in order to learn to speak to her grandmother. However, she said that, because of her bad experience in French classes at Livingston High School, she would never take a foreign language again. Other students—again, all honor-roll students—expressed similar sentiments.
The facilitator told me that I should apply for a job with the district. She said that I could teach, or, at least be a facilitator, in French classes, and also teach auto tech. She was no pretender. She wasn't trying to keep her job by keeping me from getting it. She knew that she was in the class only to turn on the TV, turn it back off, and to keep students from killing each other, or from burning down the school. She told me that, if I got her job, she could go back to her kindergarten kids.
On my way down the hall and back to one last visit with the auto mechanics teacher, I was stopped by the school principal—a Dr. Hill. I do not remember his first name. I do remember that, in college, he played football for the University of Houston Cougars. I had heard that, during a game, he fractured a vertebra in his back. He kept playing after the fracture, and wasn't aware that he'd received such a severe injury until after the end of the game.
“So, you lectured in the auto tech class,” said Dr. Hill.
“I tried, but I was nervous,” I replied.
“And you helped in the French class.”
“And you helped in the biology class.”
“I just listened in there. Those kids are sharp.”
“Biology, French, and auto tech...that's an unusual combination.”
“Yeah, I guess it's kinda weird.”
Then Dr. Hill asked me, “Do you want a job?”
He told me what to do, and where to deliver the application.
The auto tech teacher urged me to apply for a job with LISD. The facilitator in the French class also encouraged me to apply for a job with the district. And here was the school principal coaxing me to apply for a job with the district. I didn't see how I could miss. But I could, and did.
I dropped off the application at the district office. I was about to learn why, when I sent copies of my deficiency plan to school districts, I received no replies. After a quick look at my application, the person behind the desk at the district office told me, “We can't hire you, because you're not certified.”
I pointed out the deficiency plan. He ignored what I said, and what I showed him. He thus ignored what was mandated by the Texas Legislature, stirred by Ross Perot. He didn't like what the Texas Legislature had done. If he had to go through teaching courses, so should I. Whether I was already able to teach was irrelevant. (And, as you will read, whether a “certified” “teacher” is ever able to teach is also irrelevant. Certification is everything. It’s as Andre Agassi used to say at the end of an advertisement for cameras: “Image...is everything.”) The school district official listened, instead, to the teacher's union. It didn't matter that I had just walked out of an auto repair shop and had outdone two of his “certified” teachers in their own classrooms. Life experiences were no shortcut to the lofty teacher certification program, in the mind of this mindless school district automaton. The image of an army of certified teachers looked better, on paper, than one filthy, uncertified, unclean commoner taking on two classes. One bad apple…
“You have to be certified.”
I told him about the French class, with a certified kindergarten teacher, and second-year students at a first-quarter, first-year level, and about the auto tech class which had spent an entire year learning to R & R spark plugs. (I suppose that, after nine months, the students must have been pretty good at dealing with spark plugs.)
“We can't hire you without a certification, unless it's an emergency,” was the emotionless, apathetic, robot-like reply.
How much more of an emergency did this guy want? Auto tech students had spent an entire year in a class in which the only thing that they learned was how to replace spark plugs. And second-year, honor-roll students had, because of the French class, become disaffected about taking foreign languages. When I saw those students in the advanced biology class, they paid attention. In the French class, they spent much time cutting up.
Cutting up is one way that students mask disillusionment.
In the early '90s, during their six-o'clock news, ABC's Houston affiliate, KTRK-TV, broadcast a short series assembled by investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino. There had been reports that people were gaining alternative teaching certification in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) by buying answers to the certification test administered by the district. KTRK sent someone “undercover,” and posing as a district employee seeking teacher certification. (At that time, the largest employer in Houston was the school district. With there being so many employees, for someone to pose as an employee was fairly easy.) This undercover person had several meetings with an HISD official who worked in the alternative certification department. Along close by the undercover person was someone with a hidden camera and microphone. During those meetings (in a school district cafeteria), the undercover person repeatedly stated that he was afraid that he couldn't pass the test. Finally, the alternative certification official said, “Look, there's a way out of this. For $250, I can provide the test answers to you.” A meeting was arranged for the next day. On the next day, the person with the hidden camera recorded the HISD alternative certification official handing an envelope (containing test answers) to the undercover person posing as an HISD employee, after the undercover person handed an envelope containing $250 to the alternative certification official. After that, a newsman walked up to the HISD official, and asked her how the alternative certification program was going. She replied, “I'm pleased with the results.”
The newsman asked, “What was in the envelope you just received? We have that transfer videotaped”
She hurried away, and said, “I have nothing more to say to you. You can talk to my attorney.”
In another part of that series broadcast by KTRK, a visitor with a hidden camera filmed a “teacher” “teaching” English to a classroom full of children of illegal immigrants. The visitor videotaped the “teacher” writing the following, complete with misspellings, on the blackboard, for student consumption: “We bring good chear to the pepole.” When the news department called the district, and asked them why “certified” teachers could not correctly spell “cheer” or “people,” the reply was, “They're trying very hard. They're doing their best.”
Also included in KTRK's short documentary was information that many “teachers” from Mexico, and hired to teach English to students, had provided the district with forged documentation. Further, examination of much of that documentation revealed that, even if those documents had been legitimate, they did not meet Mexico's own requirements for hiring teachers in Mexico.
After having been caught with their drawers down (thanks to KTRK-TV and Wayne Dolcefino), HISD abandoned use of their own test for certification, and they adopted use of Texas' TASP test, in order to test candidates for alternative certification.
The TASP test was (in 1993-'95, and may still be) given to Texas college students between their sophomore and junior years. Sophomores who did not pass the TASP test were not permitted to advance further, until they received remedial classes, and retook, and passed, the TASP.
When I asked HISD about their alternative certification program, they told me, “You can't even THINK about becoming certified with us, unless you pass the TASP test. So I took it.
The TASP test is in three parts—the “three Rs—readin', writin', and 'rithmetic. The maximum amount of points to be given on each section was 300 points. I made a score of 282 on the reading portion, 294 on the math portion, and 300 points on the writing portion. It was academic pablum. My guess is that I could have passed the TASP when I was in high school.
I have more about the TASP test, soon.
At that time, I blamed what I saw in Katy on an individual or two. I blamed what I saw in Livingston on an individual school district, particularly some academically blind goof behind a desk at the district office. And I blamed Houston's mess on Houston. At that time, I didn't see a universal decline/failure of U.S. schools.
I still had a lot more “school of hard knocks” ahead of me.
In February of 1995, I signed up as a substitute with the Channelview Independent School District, which is about 15 miles east of Houston.
One day, while subbing in a fourth-grade class in Channelview, I was told that I was supposed to oversee activities during recess. During recess, a little girl approached me and declared, “I bet I can run faster than you.” I told her that I'd run backwards. We raced, but I don't remember who won. I am simply glad that I didn't fall and break my neck. I felt that we all had won, because we were getting acquainted. However, a “teacher” pulled me aside, and told me that I was not to be acting that way with children, because they would lose respect for me. (No Patch-Adams-types are allowed in public schools!!)
On another day, I was assigned to work at Channelview High School's alternative school. Three teachers were assigned to the school. One was absent, so I was #3. Immediately after the start of class, I noticed a young man in front of a monitor. He was taking a test on ratios and proportions. I watched him answer the first question incorrectly. As soon as the second question appeared on the screen, he punched in an answer—another incorrect answer. He also quickly answered the third question incorrectly. Obviously, he knew nothing about the questions, and I figured that he would fail the test, unless he got help. I walked over and made sure that he had scratch paper. I gave him two equations. I don't remember exactly what I gave him, but it amounted to what is below.
The young man said that he'd never seen anything like that in any class. He may have, and had simply forgotten it. Its potential relevance may never have been stressed; perhaps never understood by any former “teacher” of his. It was taught because it was part of the curriculum; not because of any understood relevance. Anyway, I never said another word to him. I stepped back and watched. He read the next question. He got his scratch paper, wrote something, and got the correct answer. He answered the remainder of the questions correctly, and passed the math test.
One of the normally-assigned teachers walked over to me, and said, “So...you know math.” I hoped that my knowing a little bit of math would not be a hindrance to me as a substitute. She then told me that she had taken the above-mentioned TASP test three times, but that she couldn't pass the math portion.
Houston's school district told me that I couldn't think about becoming certified, unless I passed the TASP. Fifteen miles down the road, Channelview's school district retained at least one “certified” “teacher” who could not pass the TASP, at least, not the math portion...so much for uniformity among “accredited” schools.
At that time, according to the State of Texas, that teacher in the alternative school had no business starting her junior year of college, until she passed the TASP test. Yet there she was—certified and glorified and pasteurized—unable to help a student with 5th-grade math. I say “5th-grade math,” because, later that semester, in that same district, I conducted a lesson on ratios and proportions to a 5th-grade class.
I had out-performed another “certified” “teacher.” I'm honestly not bragging. I'm lamenting.
Later that day, I subbed in a math class. At first, the students were very quiet. I was amazed. I figured that they were busy because they knew what they were doing, and were dedicated. They were so well-behaved. Eventually, one student came to my desk and asked a question to me. Soon after that, another student asked me the same question. Alarm bells went off in my head. I stood up in front of the quiet classroom, and I said, “Two of you have asked the same question to me. I suspect that others have the same question. I'm no math teacher, but I'll do my best to explain this.” I began writing explanations on the board. After that, I was “flooded” with kids coming to my desk and asking questions.
At the end of the class period, as they were leaving, several students stopped at my desk, and said, “We've learned more math in one day with you subbing than we learned during this entire year with our teacher. He's a football coach, and he cares mainly about sports. And what he knows, he can't make plain to us.”
I went to the next classroom and told a teacher what I'd just heard from students. She replied, “They're just rebellious, and they want to see him fired. Ignore them.”
On another day, I was assigned to a fifth-grade class in a Channelview school. Much of the morning was spent in the gym, where cheerleader tryouts were held. A “teacher” announced that the students were about to learn about an important responsibility of U.S. citizenship. They were about to assess the abilities of those wanting to be cheerleaders, and were then to vote for the most qualified people.
In a longer edition of this, I wrote much about kids voting for cheerleaders, and the similarities with “adults” voting for public officials. But this is already too long.
When we finally got back to the class, the lesson plan dictated that we have a session on ratios and proportions. (Earlier, I mentioned that the “certified” “teacher” in the alternative school was not able to teach 5th-grade math to the student at the computer monitor.) The students began yelling, “We've been on this for a week. We don't get it. Let's do something else.” One young lady was particularly vociferous: “I don't get it!” I called her to the front of the room.
“Am I in trouble?” she asked.
“No, you're going to understand ratios and proportions before the end of the day,” was my response. “You'll begin by doing work on the board.”
She spent a minute or two at the board, but left, protesting “I still don't get it.” But, after a few minutes at her desk, she suddenly exclaimed, “I GET IT!” I went to check her work. Indeed, she had begun to understand.
This young lady was much taller than the other students in the class. I found out that she was 12 years old, so I knew 1) that she had failed at least one grade, and 2) that she had to have received a lot of teasing.
She asked me for permission to stay behind in the classroom, and eat lunch with me. However, no one, including me, would have liked the way that would have looked. I asked her why she wanted to eat in the classroom. She told me that she wanted to avoid being teased, because the kids teased her every day, during lunch. I told her that I'd sit with them during lunch, and eat with all of them in the cafeteria. No one teased her.
I told her, “You picked up ratios and proportions quickly. I think you have a lot of potential. Could your mother possibly help you?” I had a feeling that I shouldn't have brought up either of her parents.
“Mom works at the Hollywood (a very seedy bar in nearby Cloverleaf) until two in the morning. I hardly ever see her. And I don't know who my dad is.”
This is such a sad story that no comment is needed. Not only was her family ignoring this young lady, but the school had marginalized her, as evidenced by how the school allowed other students to treat her. She was bright, and had heart. Now, for all I know, she may be dead...no child's behind left.
In 1996, I attended a seminar hosted by HISD for people interested in joining an alternative certification program. The lecturer started out by saying, “We want to protect children from teachers who are not certified.” By that time, I had grown very cynical. I wanted to stand up and shout, “We ought to make sure that these kids learn something, by protecting them from CERTIFIED teachers!” By then, I knew that “schools” would continue to ignore Ross Perot's reforms passed by the Texas Legislature. It was business as usual.
In January of 1997, having given up on Texas schools, I moved to Limon, Colorado, and I signed up to sub for 12 districts.
Eastern Colorado is sparsely populated. Lincoln County (in which Limon is situated) is said to have a larger population of beef cattle than of people. That is why I felt a need to sign up with so many districts. I wanted work five days per week, and one small district would not provide me with subbing chores all week long, every week. I had to sign up with as many districts as possible. One district (Bennett) was 60 miles west-northwest of Limon. At the other end, Cheyenne Wells was 85 miles south-southeast.
At first, I was impressed with Colorado's standards for substitute teachers. In Texas, in order to be a substitute teacher, about all that I had to do was demonstrate that I had a pulse. In Colorado, there were several “grades” of substitute teachers. With each higher grade, more schooling was required.
When I went to sign up to substitute in Burlington, Colorado, I was happy to discover that Burlington's high school had a French program. I spoke to the French teacher there, and told her that I spoke some French, and that I'd spent a few weeks in France by myself, and, while there, I was forced to speak almost exclusively in French. I told her that, when I slept while in France, dreamt in French, because I was “saturated” in French. I told her that, if I subbed for her class, she could count on being able to have a sub who could introduce new material, and not simply have to pass out worksheets, or have review work. She replied that the union specified that “certified” “teachers” who had signed up as subs would be called before I would be called. (Many retired “teachers” are on substitute lists.) I asked, “They'll call them before they call me, even if certified teachers can't speak a word of French?” She said that certification took precedence over my knowledge of French.
One day, in a fourth-grade class in Kiowa, Colorado, I was told that a “language specialist” would come to my class, and would do some lecturing. While the language specialist was lecturing, I had permission to go to the teachers' lounge, if I wished to do so. But, out of curiosity about what topic a “language specialist” would bring, I stayed in the class.
The language specialist began by telling the class that she was going to write “the 23 helping verbs” on the blackboard, and that the students were to copy those verbs, and commit them to memory. Then she apologetically said that she would have to go out to her car to get the list, because she had forgotten to get the list out of her car.
I was amused. If committing those verbs to memory was so important, why did this language specialist, who gave this lesson time and time again, to many classes, not have these verbs committed to her own memory? What kind of example did that set? How much importance did she place on memorizing those verbs?
I happened to remember the “23 helping verbs” from Mrs. Barnes' seventh and eighth grade classes at Baytown Junior High School, in Baytown, Texas. (Mrs. Barnes once took me off to the side, and told me that I was the reason that people in the class behaved so badly. She said that, if I were not in the class, it would be a good class.) Thinking only about showing the class that the memorization of those verbs is important, I blurted out, “I think I remember those verbs. Why don't I write those verbs on the board, while you're going out to your car to get your list? When you get back, you can grade me.”
I made my list on the blackboard.
When the language specialist returned with her list, she looked at what I'd written on the board, and then glanced at her own list. Then, to the class, she said, “Well, not only did he list all of the helping verbs correctly, but he also listed them in groupings which make them easier to memorize, than the list which I've been having students memorize.”
Although I'm not supposed to be in the business of attempting to “out-do” others, I have to call a spade a spade. I out-did the certified language specialist in the fourth-grade class in Kiowa, and she admitted it. I out-did her, in that I set a good example, by having the “23 helping verbs” memorized. I out-did the certified teacher in the alternative school in Channelview, and she admitted it. I out-did the auto tech teacher in Livingston, and he admitted it. I out-did the French facilitator in Livingston, and she admitted it (though that wasn't a fair contest. She had no training in the French language). And I did so with most of my employment experience having been in greasy auto repair shops, while those teachers had been trained to teach.
While I subbed, I met a parade of people who said that they'd been hired as teachers under emergency certification. No one ever made such an offer to me.
I temporarily gave up on pursuing teaching as a career in 1998, and went back to wrenching. In 2000, I moved back to Texas—my home state.
While in Texas, a young lady who had just graduated from Midway High School (touted to be in the best school district in McLennan County, of which Waco is the county seat) told me that she hoped to attend Texas A & M University, and that one of her former teachers had written a letter of recommendation for her. She showed me the letter. I immediately saw several spelling errors. I told her to ask the teacher to re-write the letter for her, because people at A & M may not like seeing a letter of recommendation with misspellings.
In 2004, I began another push toward a profession in teaching. I began exchanging E-mails with people at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas. They seemed to be open to my notions about how to run schools. Because I sensed promise at Friends University, and because I was going nowhere in Texas, I decided that, if my job in Texas played out, I'd pick up and move to Wichita. My job played out. I loaded everything that I could fit into an old 1985 Plymouth GranFury, which had once been a Colorado state patrol car. I arrived in Wichita on May 4, 2005. I signed up to work for a temp—Labor Ready. I hoped to move into another job, as soon as possible, but I wished to begin making some money immediately, and to show potential employers that I'm willing to work.
After a month, I still hadn't found a place to live, so I continued to carry all of my belongings in that car.
On around the first of June, I finally made time to visit Friends University, and talked, in person, to the woman (a PhD) who was the head of the School of Education at the university. As we talked, I implored her to tell me, after she had time to form an opinion, whether I was barking up the wrong tree, and whether I should forget about being a teacher. I urged her to give me a straight answer, and not simply to seek another student to enroll in the university. Eventually, I told her the story of the 12-year-old girl who had protested that she didn't understand ratios and proportions, but who, upon being shown, quickly learned them, and whose mother was not available to help her with math homework, because she worked in a bar until 2 A.M. I don't believe that I finished that story to her before I broke down and cried. I tried to control myself, but I couldn't help wondering where that young lady was, ten years later. When I finally looked back up, I figured that the head of the School of Education would begin escorting me out. However, when I looked at her, her face was beaming with a big smile, and she was holding a folder. She wrote my name on it. She asked me, “When do you think you can start attending here at Friends?” I took that to mean that she thought that I might have what it takes to be a true teacher, and not a mere imitation, so many of whom I'd already seen. And she prepared that folder for me, because, apparently she hope (expected?) that I'd soon start at Friends University.
Two days later, Labor Ready sent me to Halstead, Kansas. A small hospital in Halstead had declared bankruptcy, and I was sent there to help gather old files for shredding/destruction. Immediately after work, a city cop pulled me over. I hadn’t registered my vehicle in Kansas, because I was still struggling with money. I did get a Kansas license. I hoped that the cop would see the Kansas license, and understand that I was trying, and struggling. He mused that I might be a drug addict, because a wing of the hospital at which I'd worked had been converted to a drug rehab center. He mused that the items in my car (my belongings) were stolen, and to be “fenced,” to purchase more drugs. I showed him the papers which Labor Ready had issued to me. Completely against the U.S. Constitution's (Bill of Rights) Article V, the cop had my car impounded. Here are the relevant portions of Article V: “No person shall be...deprived of...property, without due process of law.” “Due process,” in my estimation, includes a trial by jury. Of course, in our “land of the flea, and home of the slave,” this type of theft occurs with relative frequency, with impounds, and with Child “Protective” “Service” stealing children without due process of law, because We the wee people allow it. All of my belongings were in that car. I didn't have enough money to get the car out of impound, and I had no way to carry back the belongings in the car. Immediately, the wise, “protect and serve” policeman in Halstead simultaneously created an unemployed person, because I no longer had a way to work, and a homeless person, because I could no longer afford cheap motel rooms. So I ended up in a homeless shelter in Wichita.
Policemen, stirred by their handlers, are becoming more and more adept at finding dreamers, and slaying hope within them. I feel more safe, because I know that cops will get all the bad guys, if they get good guys, too. It’s like using a cast net. You get some fish, and you get some creepy-crawlies, too. The cops bring good chear to all the pepole, as HISD “teachers” brought to poor, unwitting students trying to learn English.
Someone in Michigan paid my bus fare from Wichita to Michigan. I arrived in Michigan with a backpack containing a Bible, a Tracfone (pre-pay cell phone) and two or three changes of clothing. I have been in Michigan for six years. I now work in a foundry. I've tried, until lately, to be a good American who doesn't dream, but simply works hard and stays quiet, and wants to stop those terrorists, and wants ObamaCare for all, as things become unhinged.
As far as I know, everything in my old GranFury is still in Kansas. I certainly got none of it back.
About three years ago, a co-worker told me about his concerns that his daughter was not learning about English grammar in her 11th -grade English class. I suddenly remembered that, in the 10th grade, I learned about gerunds. I asked him to go home and ask her whether she knows what a gerund is. She replied that she had never heard of a gerund. I began asking local high-school students whether they knew what a gerund is. No one had heard of a gerund. Apparently, that school no longer teaches about gerunds. My guess is that public schools have gotten away from teaching about gerunds.
My co-worker's concerns were well grounded. His daughter was learning nothing about grammar in her public “school.”
Partly because of that co-worker's kids, I have begun to be interested in seeking out a place where my abilities may be used for a good purpose.
If you, the reader, are aware of any school which is not worried about a teacher having state certification, and is seeking someone hungry to teach, and capable of teaching, please show them this article. I will honestly consider teaching in exchange for three squares, and a dry 2 x 6 place to sleep. I'm not looking to get rich. I'm looking to use my God-given talent to help others.
Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas, said, in his inaugural speech, “(A) cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.”
If Mr. Big Bucks and his cronies in Control Freak Land don't want interference from those pesky voters, and a pesky republic, wouldn't they be interested in seeing that schools begin “dumbing down” future generations? Wouldn't they be interested in seeing that “legislators” find ways to side-step the Constitution? Wouldn’t they perceive that getting rid of Mirabeau Lamar’s “guardian genius of democracy” would put them very close to stamping out our republic? With a nation loaded with people with uncultivated minds, how can they miss?
Do you see that teacher certification does nothing toward giving the teacher a fund of knowledge? According to my definition, a teacher is one who 1) has a fund of knowledge, and 2) is able to transfer that knowledge to others. Part of a teacher’s fund of knowledge is knowing where to go to discover knowledge not already between the ears.
When I, a moron auto repairman, enter a class, and out-do “teachers” at their own game, something bad is wrong.
If you, the reader, are wondering about public schools, and whether they are, indeed, “dumbed-down,” perhaps this will help you to make up your mind. Public schools in the U.S. waste billions of tax dollars. We, the people, can put a stop to public schools, and bring true education of children back home. It will be a long, hard process, because many adults are now “dumbed-down.” But the alternative is much more frightening than what I've already witnessed in public schools. While you're online, type into your search engine something along the line of “school test questions 1890.” You will soon find that people in the 8th grade in 1890 were asked difficult questions on tests. Many current college students would struggle (or fail) to answer those questions correctly. Now look at where we are in schools. Look at the trend. Again, the result of doing nothing is much more frightening than if we choose to do the hard work of repairing things.
“My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
***The preceding article was written for The Truth by author Jimmie Parr. I hope that you enjoyed reading Jimmie's story as much as I did.***