Thanks to That Odd Mom for publishing my rant on projects!

https://thatoddmom.com/the-7-stages-of-my-kids-got-a-project-hell-ccf010ceecd9

The 7 stages of “my kid has got a project” hell.

In Dante’s Inferno, he outlines nine layers of hell. In parenting, there are 7 stages of a different type of hell: school project hell.

My  three faithful readers (thanks, mom-in-law!) know that I am a teacher. Teachers assign projects. Over the twenty-two years of my career, I have assigned small, medium, and large projects. Now that I am a parent of school-age children, I would like to apologize to all of the parents of my students. I am so sorry. Please forgive me, I did not understand about the seven layers of parental project hell.

Stage 1 — I got a project.

“Mom, I got a project in…”

I stop listening right there. I don’t care.

Is it my project?

Do I need to do it?

(All you good parents out there on the internet can start judging me now, I don’t care.)

Stage 2 — Remember, I got that project.

“Mom, remember I got that project?”

Yes, I do. See my mental response to number 1.

(Judgers: I only think things, I don’t say things.)

Stage 3 — Let’s go shopping for that project.

“Mom, that project is due. I need you to buy me glue, tape, beads, poster paper, (and a high grade).”

Great. I would love to spend hours shopping for supplies for a project. Let’s go to one of those crafty stores that force me to recognize my lack of Martha Stewart skills. That will be fun.

Stage 4 — I need to do that project.

“Mom, I need a space to do that project, can I use the dining room table?”

Sure, your project is not due for like three more weeks, and I love clutter. Be my guest, let my dining room table (that family heirloom that you may or may not be inheriting) be your work table.

Stage 5 — I don’t think this project will ever be done.

You know why? Because it won’t. My dining room is going to be a disaster forever.

No photo credit needed because this is my actual fucking table.

Stage 6 — Getting the flipping project to school.

Other caring parents say: “Oh, what a nice project. Wow!”

Other delusional parents say: “I love projects!”

I think: Will this fit in my car?

Yup, still my table. I own the photo, the table, and the memories.

Stage 7 — Storing the now dead project.

I attend the fair. I see my kid’s project — the project I have seen for over a month by now. I get to see other kid’s projects. Those children’s projects are great, but they are not my kid’s. The hoopla is over, the final layer complete.

My kid’s Science project.

But, a crucial question remains: DO WE NEED TO KEEP THIS PROJECT?


Ultimately, many student projects are really family projects. For a student to complete a project well, it usually becomes a group effort in some way. My children’s father is a much better parent. He listens and helps our children. I, on the other hand, contribute the grumbling, the nagging, and the transportation.

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The 7 Stages of “my kid has got a project” HELL

In Dante’s Inferno, he outlines nine layers of hell. In parenting, there are 7 stages of a different type of hell: school project hell.

My kid’s Science project.

My three faithful readers (thanks, mom-in-law!), know that I am a teacher. Teachers give projects. Over the twenty-two years of my career, I have assigned small, medium, and large projects. Now that I am a parent of school-age children, I would like to apologize to all of the parents of my students. I am so sorry. Please forgive me, I did not understand about the seven layers of parental project hell.

1. I got a project.

Kid: “Mom, I got a project in…”

I stop listening right there. I don’t care. Is it my project? Do I need to do it? (All you good parents out there on the internet can start judging me now, I don’t care.)

2. Remember, I got that project.

Kid: “Mom, remember I got that project?”

Yes, I do. See my mental response to number 1. (Judgers: I only think things, I don’t say things.)

3. Let’s go shopping for that project.

Kid: “Mom, that project is due. I need you to buy me glue, tape, beads, poster paper, (and a high grade.)”

Great. I would love to spend hours shopping for supplies for a project. Let’s go to one of those crafty stores that force me to recognize my lack of Martha Stewart skills. That will be fun.

4. I need to do that project.

No photo credit needed because this is my actual fucking table.

Kid: “Mom, I need a space to do that project, can I use the dining room table?”

Sure, your project is not due for like three more weeks, and I love clutter. Be my guest, let my dining room table (that family heirloom that you may, or may not, be inheriting) be your work table.

5. “I don’t think this project will ever be done.”

You know why? Because it won’t. My dining room is going to be a disaster forever.

6. Getting the flipping project to school.

Yup, still my table. I own the photo, the table, and the memories.

Other caring parents say: “Oh, what a nice project. Wow!”

Other delusional parents say: “I love projects!”

I think: Will this fit in my car?

7. Storing the now dead project.

I attend the fair. I see my kid’s project — the project I have seen for over a month by now. I get to see other kid’s projects. Those children’s projects are great, but they are not my kid’s. The hoopla is over, the final layer complete. But, a crucial question remains: DO WE NEED TO KEEP THIS PROJECT?


Ultimately, many student projects are really family projects. For a student to complete a project well, it usually becomes a group effort in some way. My children’s father is a much better parent. He listens and helps our children. I, on the other hand, obviously, contribute the grumbling, the nagging, and the transportation.

Why Brown vs. Board of Education was bad for education

brown

Teaching United States history always includes the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Usually, the case is framed in the context of Jim Crow Laws, systemic segregation, and the civil rights movement. Often Plessy v. Ferguson is cited alongside the Brown decision. It is clear cut instruction: separate is never equal. Students connect to the message, and names like Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and Ruby Bridges are student favorites as models of civil disobedience and persistence in the face of hatred.

In the 1990s, my alma mater, SUNY-Geneseo, invited Linda Brown to speak about her involvement in the historic Brown decision. I remember sitting in the auditorium with rapt attention. Her message was one of hope and empowerment, but also of a dream deferred. I often mention her talk when teaching about the civil rights movement.

It is so comforting to teach about an underdog story. It is heartening to tell students that the United States has come so far. It is nice to point to the Obama legacy as evidence of a post-racial society. Except, none of that is true. We are not post-racial. We are not equal.

Although people love to champion Brown vs. Board of Education, one of the biggest negative impacts was the firing of teachers during the merger of white and black schools. Jose Luis Vilson discusses a major impact of Brown when he writes in his article “The Need for More Teachers of Color”, published in the Summer, 2015 edition of American Educator:

“For instance, when the Supreme Court began to mandate that southern states comply with Brown v. Board of Education, more than 30,000 black teachers and administrators were fired to ensure that white teachers kept their jobs.”

When teaching as an adjunct at LeMoyne College, students enrolled in an introduction to teaching course often highlight Vilson’s findings. Students express dismay at the exponential ramifications. If 30,000 black educators were fired, that means there were 30,000 fewer role models for black students. There were 30,000 less black teachers to model black leadership to white students. There were 30,000 people who had to find alternative careers, many of whom left a middle-class path. 30,000 multiplied by 63 years equals a shortage of teachers of color.

Think about it, if you are white, how many non-white educators have you had? If you are white, how many non-white teachers do you know? If you are non-white, how many non-white role models have you had in your education?

The school choice issue is another layer in America’s racial question. Many urban educators and parents want better educational opportunities due to De Facto segregation and the underfunding of predominantly non-white schools. Others, like Secretary of Education DeVos, want parents to have the financial ability to flee “failing” schools — often these “failing” schools are predominantly non-white. Regardless of the reasons or the rhetoric, race continues to plague our schools, and we continue to be both separate and unequal.

Why the title: Teaching in Trump’s America?

Place, time, and history.

After recently asking a colleague to write about a wonderful teaching technique he employs, he told me that Teaching in Trump’s America was too political for him to be involved with during this time in his career.

I respect this person’s views. I can understand why many teachers are historically reluctant to raise their voices. I can even appreciate colleagues who support President Trump. Although I comprehend many reasons why educators might shy away from supporting Teaching in Trump’s America, I am troubled if the only excuse is politics, because teaching is political.

The name of the publication is provocative. Maybe some day, it can simply be called Teaching in America. For now, however, the inclusion of Trump’s name is significant because it clarifies place, time, and historical details.

Place: America

The United States has been viewed as a grand experiment by many. Experiments have variables and constants. Experiments can fail. Public schools are the great equalizer — children from diverse backgrounds can learn collectively, with many overcoming socio-economic differences. Education, especially public education, is the embodiment of democracy. American schools are microcosms of society. By analyzing American education, we learn more about our country as a whole.

Time: Post 9/11 World

Since the horrible events of September 11, 2001, many Americans have felt vulnerable. Unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was no clear enemy. The kamikaze hijackers flew no country’s flag — instead, America’s enemies were radicalized and trained in many countries, including in the United States. Unease and anxiety, coupled with true economic stagnation, have increased the creation of “other.” This creation of “other” has made scapegoating possible. Unfortunately, teachers have been victims as well. Whether it be the teacher benefit of summer vacations, systemic school failure, or “liberal” intellectualism, teachers have often been cast as prosperous in a worldview of the haves versus have-nots.

Historical Details: From A Nation At Risk to Race to the Top

In 1983, the Reagan administration published A Nation At Risk. In 2002, the Bush Administration supported the No Child Left Behind Act. In 2010, the Obama Administration promoted the Race to the Top and later (2015) The Every Child Succeeds Act (reauthorizing the 50-year old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which No Child Left Behind also reauthorized). For the last fifty years (most of the post-world war two era), politicians have used funding as a tool to mold American education — in a feeble attempt to make America competitive with other nations. These educational politics have promoted a narrative of school failure.

Therefore, Teaching in Trump’s America is an apt title for a publication that aims to shine a light on the realities of public school teaching. Minus the noise of politicians, publishing companies, and non-teaching “experts,” teacher’s authentic voices can be collectively raised. The story of education can change, one post at a time. Furthermore, true democracy can only survive with loud individuals speaking their truth to power.

https://medium.com/teaching-in-trumps-america

Post Traumatic Trump Syndrome (PTTS)

A quiet news cycle makes me nervous.

I have a problem. No, I am not a snowflake. No, I am not “triggered,” and, no, I don’t need a therapy animal. What I am is a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman who is anxious. My anxiety has a name, maybe you suffer from it as well? Google it — it is called Post Traumatic Trump Syndrome (PTTS).

I noticed my symptoms the other day when I was listening to NPR on my way to my job, teaching social studies at a large suburban school north of Syracuse, NY. I was prepared to be upset by the latest Trumpism that I expected to be reported. Instead, I became nervous about the tone of the coverage — it was light and friendly. I thought: What the fuck is going on? Why are we acting like everything is normal? How the hell is the world still turning? Why aren’t people marching in the streets?

Every time I hear the words: President Trump, I shake my head. How can it be possible that he is the leader of the free world? When he began his campaign, I had a fleeting curiosity: I wonder what he would do as president? I wonder if he would be more effective because he is a businessman? But then, I watched the campaign. I read everything I could read without the strain causing my eyes to bleed. By October, I was no longer wondering optimistically about what he would do as president, I was contemplating what would actually happen if he did. He seemed to feed and grow off our polarization. He became a monster that we created. And, now, that monster is PRESIDENT!

In November, I made the decision to not vote for either the Democrat or Republican candidate. (My reasons are explained in the post I am a Feminist, but I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton). I think, ultimately, my decision was a defense mechanism.

Since the election, I have had an automated mode of functioning in our new world order. I drive to work, enter the building, and pretend. I act. I smile. I teach history. I talk about the weather. I avoid discussing current events. And through it all, I twitch. I sigh when I push the radio button in my American made SUV. I cringe when I press that red power button on the remote, hesitant to hear the day’s events on the nightly news.

Mostly my therapy for PTTS involves writing. I write here on medium (to my three fans, thank you for reading). I write strongly worded letters to politicians. I troll Trump on social media. I turn down the volume during his speeches — forcing myself to only read his words. I have begun to follow activists sites, and I even began a medium publication where teachers can speak their truth to power, called Teaching in Trump’s America.

Unfortunately, the therapy only gives temporary relief, because the Trump Effect has infiltrated my classroom. It began with red hats proudly worn and has recently presented itself with student’s comments and stories. In December, a student proudly showed me an acrylic paperweight he made in technology class. On the paperweight, he had etched Trump’s face and the phrase “locker room talk.” I asked him if he realized the importance of that phrase, he blushed and said yes. I was not convinced that this student fully comprehended how offensive words can be for many people.

Unfortunately, I have many anecdotes of how my classroom has been impacted by the current political climate. I have written many posts trying to digest these changes, but every time I think that the rise of hatred, bigotry, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny have peaked, they rear their ugly head sending me back to the proverbial therapist’s couch.

Many people tell me to relax. They say it will only be four (or no more than eight) years in which I will be traumatized. What they do not recognize is that their casual attitude is part of my anxiety. The normalization of hate and fear is making me feel uneasy. It is not democracy or the system that I fear. Ultimately, if marches, speeches, and activism are the salve, then complacency and silence are the salt in the wound.

“Mrs. Brown, should I be a teacher?”

Yes, maybe.

It is the end of the day when two former students enter smiling. My eyes are burning. When not instructing, I have been reading thematic essays. I probably need new glasses but my health insurance does not cover much of that expense.

I want to keep grading because there is dinner to make and kids to cart, but these students came to see me — eagerly and optimistically seeking my advice.

Student: “I don’t mean to interrupt you while grading.”

Me: “Please interrupt me!”

Student: “I have been thinking about becoming a Social Studies Teacher, what do you think?”

What do I think? Here are my thoughts: My eyes are burning. My desk is a disaster, overflowing with papers. I have not drunk enough water today. Have I urinated today? What does my lesson plan for tomorrow look like, did I plan it well? How am I going to save those ten students who are at-risk for failure? Why is the number always ten? Did I return that parent’s email? Do I have enough money saved for summer expenses? Am I going to have money for my daughters’ college? What if public education becomes even more underfunded? What will happen to education under the current presidential administration? Will you have a job, kid? Will you have a guaranteed retirement pension? Will you need to move away from Syracuse, only to teach in a place where unions and tenure do not exist? Will you love the job like I do? Will it consume you?

Of course, I keep my thoughts to my own self. Instead, I listen intently while his bright face answers my questions. I search for the best questions because I want to leave an impression.

“Do you enjoy kids and adolescents?”

“Do you love the study of history?”

“Teaching is manual labor, are you willing to dig ditches, clean up after other people, and work?”

“Do you know that you will probably need to work in those summer months, at least in the beginning?”

“Can you break down big ideas so that others comprehend?”

“Are you prepared to feed your students — both literally and emotionally?”

“Can you act? Do you have dramatic skills?”

“How long do you want to teach? Will it be a career or a stepping stone?”

“Do you think teaching is the same thing year after year?”

He answers authentically. He tells me that his mother has asked him similar questions. He is also contemplating becoming a physical therapist. My other student chimes in and announces that he wants to be a physician assistant. It is getting late, so I pack up the ungraded essays into my bag, knowing full well that I will not have the energy to face them after dinner.

As I walk out of the school with these two wonderful young men, I wonder why I hesitated to champion the profession that has brought me so much joy and stability? Don’t I want fantastic individuals like him to become future teachers? Why have some of my colleagues discouraged their own college-aged children from entering teaching? Would I recommend the job to my own daughters? I know the answer to my queries, of course. My hesitation is grounded in the realities of teaching. Especially since the beginning of the Great Recession, teaching has been attacked and stereotyped. Although I still believe in my purpose, I am disillusioned by the system. Although I have benefited from the system, I still want it to change. Although I want the best young minds to choose to teach, I fear the trajectory of their careers.

So, the short answer to my student’s question is: yes, maybe.