The Blogging Plateau

canstockphoto23123007Over the last year The Green Study blog has hit a plateau. There’s been very little growth in readership, commenting activity has been slow to middling, and I really haven’t improved as a writer. This is interesting to me. If it were a diet plateau, I’d have to make a few more changes to see progress on the scale. If it were a career plateau, I’d go back to school or attain some new certification. What do you do for a blogging plateau?

The first step in defining any problem, if it is one, is to know what you are trying to accomplish.

Reasons for Blogging

My blogging goals go through a regular review once or twice a year. Since writing blog posts takes time and is not financially rewarding, the intrinsic reasons need to be solid. Generally my reasons have been that blogging has kept me writing regularly for 5 years and I have connected with a group of interesting, smart, funny, and thoughtful people. That sounds nice and reasonable.

canstockphoto11177261If I were to really going to dig deeper, it would be that because I write in isolation, having outside, regular input on my writing soothes my insecurities and urges me forward. And frankly, too much time alone makes me super weird. Not in a kidnap-strangers-torture-cellar sort of way, but in a way that when I enter the world, everyone else seems like an alien and I engage awkwardly. Take me to your leader. Meep-meep. Engaging with others online seems to take the edge off, because writing me can do.

Metrics and Engagement

I used to be more aware of the numbers, the stats, the pings. At least the ones I understood. Whether it be a development issue or spam season, there have been several periods of time over the last 5 years when every new subscriber was a spammer. You lose interest pretty quickly in your numbers when they’re a tourist company trying to drum up hits or to sell you knock-off handbags.

canstockphoto9986430My metrics tend to be engagement – the comment section. Two things changed over the last year on my blog. I stopped answering comments in a timely manner, sometimes missing them altogether because I forgot to return to them. Secondly, I wrote more political posts and decided to institute a comment policy. While I don’t think this necessarily had a deleterious effect, it did slow down the social aspect of engagement, by not engaging in real time and by suggesting that there would be some level of curating.

The goal was to be less distracted throughout my day. Stopping one task to engage in another or getting caught up in ruminations about someone’s comment could throw me off-track for a good hour. It hasn’t worked well. I’m still distracted by one thing or another and am coming to terms with the fact that those are hard habits to break.

I think, too, I’ve been less attentive to commenters. When people take the time to write a comment, it is my hope that I can give it my full attention and respond in kind. But there is certainly a degree of burnout in these exchanges. They’re not full conversations, just interactions that connect only briefly as we move throughout our day. I found myself adding “Answer blog comments” on to-do lists which is a sure way to take the fun out of anything.

The Changing Environment

canstockphoto19233296Culturally, social media is not moving in favor of long form posts. Instantaneous feedback, things that don’t require focus, click bait that revs up our emotions, and content that adapts easily to mobile devices is where we’re at. Perhaps we can hope, like slow living or tiny houses, blogging becomes this hip, retro thing to do for people who have a lot of time and disposable income (hence the time). It doesn’t seem promising, though.

I tend to hunger for longer thoughts, developed ideas, and something with a little more staying power. Maybe there is still room for blogging, as long as we don’t compare it to the lightning fast zeitgeist of other platforms and without the expectation of winning a popularity contest.

A Non-Conclusion

These are some of the things that I’ve been mulling over. I know that growth is important to me, but haven’t figured out what that means in terms of blogging.

Do I change content? To me, this is like trying to write for an audience. I like the organic approach – people come here for the subject and sometimes stick around for the voice. Until I write something that irritates them.

Do I run another contest? Contests can be labor, and sometimes dollar, intensive. I’ve enjoyed the five I’ve done over the years, but I’m a little burned out. As the number of readers grew, so did the number of submissions and while I enjoy promoting others’ work, I don’t enjoy “judging” it.

Do I start allowing guest posts? I’ve never done that because I follow blogs for specific reasons, mostly for a writer’s voice. I’ve always felt it better to provide a link to the original work and let it and the author speak for themselves.

Without a profit angle or a willingness to actively use Twitter or Facebook, there are really no gimmicks, click bait titles, or fads I’m willing to engage in that will promote blog growth. There are only a few areas that I can work on: engaging more fully in comments, visiting more blogs and engaging there and lastly, but most importantly, working on my writing game. If it’s not improving, that bit’s all on me.

Have you reached a blogging plateau? Have you made changes to deal with it?

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Flotsam and Jetsam at The Green Study

canstockphoto3436262It’s hard to write a blog post these days. I seem to have lost my sense of humor over the last few months and am writing serious missives about the promulgation of incompetence and grand larceny. I used a lot of words like promulgation and malfeasance and hackery, which is apparently not even a word. I finally deleted them from the draft file. You’re welcome.

My life is more organized and productive than it’s ever been. Staying organized, working out and being busy with volunteering and projects every day – these are the things I’m NOT supposed to be doing, so I’m doing them extraordinarily well. I’m supposed to be writing, sanding off the rough edges of my novel, so that I can panic-pitch it to agents at a conference in a couple of weeks. It turns out I can be just as focused in my avoidance techniques as I am when I write and so far, to-do lists are winning.

I’ve rewritten my elevator speech 60 times and I still sound like a babbling idiot. Likely anxiety will fix it all and it will come out Here. Me wrote book. Read it. Like it. Give me money.

I had to go to the mall for a biannual visit. I discovered that ordering professional clothes online automatically spits out a polyester 70s outfit intended for someone the size of a small child. So I trekked to an actual store, which didn’t have the sizes I needed in stock. The helpful assistant ordered them online for me. It’s as if the internet is the house and the house always wins.

canstockphoto24048860Tutoring is going well. I’ve started learning some offensive Spanish from students, as well as witnessing the addictive behaviors of teenagers and their cell phones. I’m grateful to be old and belligerent. By the time the brain-implant phones show up, I’ll be too gaga to be a candidate for one.

We visited an outdoor nighttime art installation at a local arboretum and my daughter had to hear me point out stars over and over again. I was tempted to get her attention by telling her that the star below Orion’s belt was called the Penis Star. It’s not and I didn’t, but the idea made me laugh the rest of the night.

canstockphoto25368007I’m in week 4 of my 8 week 5K runner training program. Since the wind carries an icy chill and/or rain these days (March is being intransigent), I’ve been running on treadmills at the Y. I’m starting to become one of those people who waits for a specific treadmill, because it doesn’t creak, or the buttons are more responsive or the fan blows directly where I run. I used to mock those people, so I can appreciate the turnabout of becoming a fussy old broad.

I took my daughter to see “Hidden Figures”, because of math, science and girls – and a free community showing. I liked the movie, but felt bothered by it as well. I requested Margot Lee Shetterly’s  Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, upon which the movie is based, from the local library. The true story is more nuanced and interesting than the movie, without wasting time assuaging white guilt. So yay for math heroes, not so much for this film director’s decision to add Costner’s fictional white savior scenes.

Blogging has fallen to the bottom of the list and I haven’t been reading much, although I have found a couple new blogs that I like. Tim Miller writes at word and silence about culture and literature. He approaches his subjects with conversational curiosity.

Amid a cultural crap storm where lies are treated with the same veracity as facts, I like the brain stuff these days. The Last Word on Nothing is a collection of writers writing about all things science. Science – it does the gray matter good.

I saw an old friend last weekend. After 17 years, 1600 dye jobs, and many pounds later, I was a little self-conscious about the reunion. She was always one of those people who seemed like she had her shit together. I am one of those people who, no matter what the circumstances, will never feel like my shit is together. I tend to be a bridge burner and I don’t care much for reminiscing.  I knew her when I was struggling through jobs and college and bad boyfriends. All of that evaporated at the first laugh. Humor and friendship are what I consider a high form of grace.

canstockphoto2072938My brain is like a junk yard these days. Amid the detritus there might be something worth salvaging, but it’s mostly junk. There’s not much to be done about it, except to wander about and not get too distracted by the shiny stuff.

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A State of Readiness

I’m waiting at my daughter’s orchestra practice and one of the groups is playing the national anthem. canstockphoto3482506Without fail, it brings tears to my eyes. Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…It’s an odd patriotic twitch, much like praying to a god I don’t believe in when I’m scared. It’s reflexive indoctrination which serves religion and country well, keeping the machinery of industry and institution well-oiled.

My practice of critical thinking, looking at as many perspectives as possible and making sure that I am cognizant of my own irrational emotional reflexes, has brought me to a detente of sorts. I’ve never felt more uncertain of my future, of my child’s future and of this country’s future. My thinking has become more apocalyptic in nature. I feel the gears of my life subtly shifting toward preparedness.

How does one prepare for the unplanned or unexpected? And is it healthy to always be in a heightened state of concern about what might happen tomorrow? I’ve always been a planner. That is why the shift is subtle, a slight extension of the organizer inside.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working harder than I have in a long time. I started a new running training program. I’m focusing on finishing my novel rewrites and looking at what I’m actually doing with my writing. It no longer feels like a creative impulse, but a desire to strengthen skills and rhetoric for income and for civic engagement.

canstockphoto1380247Garden planning is on the horizon. I’m working on learning how to grow more year round and with a few different methods – grow lights, cold frames, and hydroponics. I’m strengthening my language skills, readying to speak French in Canada and Spanish in Mexico. And my Russian is cold war ready. I’ve made sure our passports are current.

I’ve tested our water for lead and our air for radon. Long term health seems more critical than ever. I’ve started to cut some of our household expenses, putting more money in savings and college plans, redirecting more money toward the environment, children’s causes and education. I added more volunteering hours, joined a civic organization and have started to attend more community events.

I do not have enough of an imagination to see linchpin moments around every corner, nor do I have patience for any more partisan hyperbole. The click bait from both the left and the right is tiresome and demoralizing. Somewhere in the middle, I’m trying to figure out what it is I need to do to be more prepared, stronger and more technically agile for the future, over much of which I have little control.

canstockphoto8461096Perhaps the shock of the last year – the vitriol, the conspiracy theories, all the Twittering and freaking out by wingnuts did what chaos has always done to me – forced me to find order and structure and calm within. I did not know so many people were so angry. And it has made me sanguine. I did not know so many people blamed others for the problems in their own lives. And it has made me seek more personal responsibility. My response is Newtonian in nature – an equal and opposite reaction.

My life is small and only a measured success, depending on one’s metrics, but as I approach 50, I have come to appreciate the moment I’m in – this fragile time in human history. The big picture does not look good, but I am here. Even though what I do will likely have very little impact, I have decided to do what I can where I stand, with the resources that are at my disposal.

canstockphoto13259787Common sense deems that we are a rapacious lot – locusts that consume everything in our path. And everything is not an endless supply. At a time when we need science and academic pursuit to find innovative solutions for energy, antibiotic-resistant disease, and natural disasters, education and intellectualism are being denigrated. When population controls are needed, access to reproductive and family planning resources are being circumscribed and supplanted with religious ideology.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. The reason I don’t believe is very simple – it’s too easy. Too easy to ignore life on the ground. Too easy to do a trust exercise, falling back into the arms of an imaginary being and not stand on my own two feet. I don’t trust easy answers. Life is complex and challenging. If somebody is giving you an easy answer, they’re lying. If they’re giving you an easy answer when evidence suggests otherwise, they’re lying with an agenda.

These days I’m a bit of a humorless git, but hard work makes me happy. It also takes me away from the world of what ifs to a world of what is. I don’t know what the years ahead will bring. I cannot separate out the truth from all the untruths, nor accurately predict whether we’ll thrive or have our lives reduced to shadows of their former selves. I do know that I’m not waiting to find out, nor expecting other people to do the work for me.

canstockphoto21101753Perhaps it’s all a mirage, an indulgence of the quiet anger that I feel constantly beneath the surface. That we exist at the whims of people more powerful, more armed, more moneyed. That our existence may become paltry or cease entirely because lucre has become the law of the land and war the god we serve. It angers me and so I study, train, conserve, and strengthen. It may all come to naught in the end, but it beats the hell out of waiting.

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And Then I Said…Wait, What was I Talking About?

It’s unlikely I’ll come up with coherent blog posts for the next month. I’m running down the clock on my novel and frantically trying to get my shit together for a pitch conference next month. I finally dumped 10 drafts out of the blog pile and am just giving in to writing pithy, disjointed posts. It will be gratifying to short attention spans (mine included), but it’s not a long-term intent for the blog. Until then, LOOK – SQUIRRELS!canstockphoto20383793

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They said, they said

Words mean a lot to me. I’m a writer, so I spend hours agonizing over turns of phrase, the rhythm and bounce of sentences, the thumping of my own little drummers. I’ve been reading George Orwell’s collection of critical essays All Art is Propaganda. 72 years ago he wrote the essay “Politics and the English Language” and it’s still relevant.

I don’t watch award shows or political chest-thumping as a rule. It’s false prophets, cynical staging, coordinated applause, and forced laughter. A public manipulation. Give me the bullet points. Then I’ll know what other people are referencing at the proverbial water cooler.

Mostsquirrelsign.jpg speeches sound like a bouillabaisse of vagaries. Actors go for canned laughter and scripted informality. Politicians buy into the algorithm that if you use certain words repeatedly, the crowds will adore you and call you presidential. Since we’ve heard our current president’s “telling like it is” talk for the last decade (well, it felt like it), we know this is just marionettes at work. But kudos to him for finally learning how to use a teleprompter.

But that is neither here nor there. Politics and entertainment – two arenas where words don’t seem to matter, except that people buy into them. I’m skipping the recycled nationalism and the inflated self-importance and reading the transcripts instead.

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My Zeitgeist

I’m becoming an anachronism and I’m not sure how I feel about that. After cancelling Netflix and Amazon Prime, I am formally cut off from television culture. I stopped watching regular television ten years ago. I haven’t seen a movie in six years. I’m re-watching DVDs I’ve purchased over the years and sending them to new homes.

canstockphoto30711839The decision to disconnect, even more than I already am, came on the heels of several conversations with friends and family. What we watched, what we were going to watch, what we thought of what we were watching – it made me think about how I might be pissing my life away watching fiction.

Perhaps, too, it’s the midlife thing. Vicariously living through others, be it watching sports or watching actors present stories, seems empty. I’d rather kick the ball than watch someone else play the game. I’d rather write the story than have someone else telling me tales.

I began to wonder if this was a natural regression. I am, in so many ways, still my teenage self inside. Introverted with a tinge of defiance and the need for solitude. The other day I was sorting through pictures and realized that the clothes I wear now are exactly like the clothes I wore when I was a teenager. Jeans, t-shirt, flannel shirt. They’re bigger of course, and some of them are higher end (as in more expensive, but more cheaply made).

In between then and now so much has happened. The lessons, so many lessons. All the different people I’ve met and all the places I’ve traveled. How is it that at any moment I feel like I might slam the door to my room and write bad poetry about the cute boy in 6th period? I have returned to the most comfortable version of myself.

And sometimes it feels like everything else was just a detour.

*****

Degrees of Intolerance

Tolerance is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. I consider myself a fairly intolerant person. It’s not something I take lightly or am proud of, it just is. My recognition of this fact has come with time and is tempered by a little wisdom.

canstockphoto1399043My intolerance starts with the sensory issues, mixes in a stern grammar marm and ends somewhere around a bellicose drill sergeant. I am in a constant battle with myself not to lose my shit at grocery stores, the gym, in the car (I’m not winning that one), parent meetings, coffee shops, offices, classrooms and here, online. Since I’m not doing time, one might say I’ve exercised an inordinate amount of self-control.

The sensory issues have always been a part of my life, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve recognized why I constantly seek solitude and sanctuary. Under stress, I feel overwhelmed by sound, distracted by color, nauseated by smell. My practice lately has been to say to myself It’s my problem, not theirs. It’s my problem, not theirs.

Yesterday, as I gasped through a treadmill run at the Y, a woman got on the treadmill next to me. She smelled like she’d just come in to take a break from smoking. As an ex-smoker, I’m feeling some karmic resolution. I felt a little nauseous, but made myself keep running, instead of flouncing off in a huff to another machine. It’s my problem, it’s my problem.

The lady on the other side of me started talking to herself. Or was on her phone. Either way, I whipped out a side eye before I could even stop myself. My side eye also includes a visualization of me punching someone. It’s my problem, it’s my problem.

My sensitivity to smell has not always been a negative. Last week, I may have even saved a life or two when I smelled aldehyde outside. Aldehyde can be a by-product in the exhaust of an inefficient furnace. After the gas company checked all our gas-burning appliances, they went over to the neighbor’s. Their furnace was not working properly and CO levels were building up in the house.

*****

Back to putting my shoulder to the grindstone and getting this damned book done. I say that with some affection. There’s miles to go, but it feels like a good place to be.

canstockphoto14217670

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The Space Between

An interval of silence

when your arm no longer bows

music at rest

time to breathe

canstockphoto7479668An interval of rest

between reps and sweat

your muscle regroups

lives to fight another set

An interval of breath

dozy conscientiousness

before sleep carries you

into the shadows

An interval of quiet

before the kids wake up

and after the dog has been walked

coffee steam swirls up your nose

An interval of observation

standing in lines

watching the cashier

have a good or bad day

An interval of thought

Mouth closed mind open

walking about

in the shoes of someone else

An interval of grace

for that momentary glance

that says I’ve got your back

for the child still snoring on a school holiday

An interval of peace

a cup of a tea

the list that doesn’t need

to be started right now

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Bits of Sunshine Coming In

canstockphoto2875377In journalistic vernacular, this is going to be a disjointed fluff piece. For months, I’ve been wrapped up in the turmoil that is political life in America and this week, I’m calling a time out. It’s exhausting and depressing – and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some IQ points in the process. My practice this week is to not read any news until the evening, leaving my day untainted by a sense of apocalyptic foreboding.

The sun has been shining and we’re having a bit of a warm streak here in Minnesota. Despite a few slip-n-slide sidewalks, I’ve been able to get out and walk and feel some sense of normalcy. I perused my yard, taking note of various garden projects and making lists of supplies. It’s premature. These warm streaks are inevitably followed by blizzards and my notes get put aside for a snow shovel. But still, it’s a break in the cold days and bleak skies. And it keeps the Minnesota homicide rate down during cabin fever February.

*****

canstockphoto9109848I forgot that it was Valentine’s day yesterday. Late afternoon, I stood in line at the drugstore with a lot of men who were clutching chocolate and stuffed animals. It’s a test each year about expectations. I usually have to make up something for my husband to get me, because when I say nothing, he worries that he should do something. Inevitably I end up with some heart-shaped doodad that, until that moment, I didn’t know I didn’t want. I usually ask for spring flowers, which show up in shops around this time of year and are easy to pick up downtown on the way to his bus. We’re a romantic lot here.

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canstockphoto7037830If you have a compulsive personality like I do, the real trick is to turn that negative into a positive. I cancelled Netflix and Amazon Prime to curtail a binge-watching habit. I traded it in for a free language training program called Duolingo. I’m not into product promotion, but this is a fantastic online program. I’ve been reviewing, in short snippets, my Spanish, Russian, German, and French every day for the last week. Once I get back into the groove, I would like to start some Hindi and Korean. It’s user-friendly (my 12 year old got me onto it) and is self-paced. I feel parts of my brain light up that were collecting dust.

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canstockphoto9229380

If only my cats were this useful.

In my attempt to eat less packaged foods, I’ve been cooking. As a rule, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. I’m so accustomed to quick food that the preparation, cooking and cleanup seems interminable. A meal from scratch can take 2 or more hours, and it takes my family all of 15 minutes to eat it – even less to grimace on the first bite and make themselves a sandwich instead. It’s not a gratifying experience and I’m stuck eating a soup nobody liked for the next week.

*****

Writing has been going well for me. I’ve been more productive in the last couple of weeks than I have in months. I need a finished manuscript done by April for a writers’ pitch conference. I had to let go of preconceptions about how and when I work. I purchased a cheap laptop which I drag along to all the places where I wait – all my daughter’s rehearsals and lessons and practices.

I finally trained myself to use Scrivener, which I had purchased with a discount after NaNoWriMo in 2012. It’s a challenge to learn it, but my novel and notes were becoming too unwieldy in Word. I’m finding it useful, but there is definitely a learning curve.

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As an American, I’m highly trained in instant gratification. Instant entertainment, instant food, instant information. Cooking, reading longer form news, not trying to incessantly fill every space with sound, images and ideas – it seems that this is emerging as a new intention for me. It’s not just slowing down, but giving myself time to unravel all the tight, angry tension that I’ve felt for the last year.

canstockphoto34597907Lately, what I’ve been observing in schools, coffee shops, offices and sometimes in my own home, is that we are batteries that are never fully recharging. Our information comes in fast, short bursts. We lie to ourselves about multitasking. We pride ourselves on odd things like functioning on little sleep or how many emails we get or how many friends we’ve acquired on social media.

I’ve been thinking about the concreteness of life around me, a life not lived ephemerally through my phone or computer. It’s not as interesting or exciting. It defies instant gratification. There is no drama, nothing that inspires rage or jealousy or triggers eating and shopping sprees. I realized how addictive some emotions can be. I’ve felt addicted to anger with all the online reading, an anger I usually reserve for driving. The space left when I turn off all the noise is unsettling.

*****

Useless trivia I will remember instead of where my car keys are:

I watched my daughter’s orchestra perform at Orchestra Hall last week and ended up with a melody stuck in my head. That’s when I found out that a pop song I knew from the 1970s had liberally lifted from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, III. Adagio.  Perhaps, if you’re an oldbie like me, you recognize the tune. The Rachmaninoff estate now gets 12% of royalties due this pop singer. This same singer also borrowed from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18 for another pop single.

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That Wasn’t on the Lesson Plan

You need some love?canstockphoto3020791

He said it a second time in a low, creepy whisper. The teenager was 6 feet tall, 250 pounds completely dry. He’d been whispering at me the last five minutes from the back of the room. What’s your name? Are you mad? Need some love?

I could feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders tighten and I began the scenario run down, mentally practicing blocks. Thinking about how to leverage advantage. He was wearing pants halfway down his ass which would easily be yanked to hobble him at his knees. He was too big for punches or kicks, but a downward fist or upward knee to the nuts would bring him down.

His words were meant to be intimidating and my adrenaline rose. I’ve heard these things from random boys and men my whole life. I am an ignorer and can usually count on the behavior getting much worse before it goes away.

I could hear the blood pounding in my ears. I inhaled and exhaled slowly. If it were an elementary school kid, he’d be saying he had to go to the bathroom for the 50th time or that he didn’t feel good or that his crayon broke. But this mutant boy/man is crossing a threshold and he sees every interaction with a female person (even someone likely older than his mother) to be an opportunity to sound like a rutting boar. He still just wants attention. But it makes me feel ill.

I work to calm myself down and decide not to cripple him for life and spend time in jail on an assault charge. But my brain is churning – I think of snide comments meant to humiliate and destroy. Anger. Anger. Breathe. And back to stoicism.

You need love?

He thought volume was the problem. This time the teacher heard him and sent him to the dean.

canstockphoto24048860Another boy is using his phone to take pictures of a girl in the room. She asks him to stop and he doesn’t. She raises her hand and the teacher locks up his phone.

I ask another boy to put his phone away a second time and he gets up and walks away from me in a show of defiance. He gets sent to the dean’s office.

The boys in this class talk more than the girls, often talking over each other in a bid for attention. The few students who have a genuine desire to learn, sit through this boorishness for an hour and a half.

When people talk about public schools, I find the conversation to be fairly superficial. All the talk about teachers’ unions and curriculum and complaints about taxes are simplified political talking points with no hint at solutions. And offering up for-profit Christian madrassas is unlikely to solve the complex problems of teaching and managing students with diverse learning abilities and economic backgrounds.

I’ve been volunteering in classrooms since my daughter entered the public school system. It’s a large public school system, where reduced lunches can approach 70% and where the attempt to mainstream and equalize has become an unwieldy juggernaut.

Admittedly, elementary kids bring enough charm and curiosity with them to offset most behavioral issues. Middle school kids are all over the board and a bit feral. High school kids are worrisome. They are a foreshadowing of the future.

canstockphoto1076788Both my husband and I are products of public education. I went into the Army to pay for my college degree. My husband spent summers roofing and doing part time work to pay for his. We are autodidacts in that we pursue learning on our own, so perhaps we didn’t have as much riding on the quality of education. We never assumed it would be all we needed. We don’t assume that for our daughter, either. The emphasis in our house is always on the learning and much of that doesn’t come from school.

Unfortunately for a lot of kids, school is it for them. It’s not happening at home and all the years people have been deriding teachers and public education have paid off. Those attitudes of disrespect have infiltrated families and students, and it shows up in the classrooms. Education is now characterized as some elitist hobby and no billionaire with a theological ax to grind is going to change that.

Public schools and teachers are being asked to do impossible things. Behavioral and learning issues plague nearly every classroom I’ve been in. 10% of the students take 80% of the teacher’s time and attention. It would be easy to blame this on mainstreaming, but the sorting hat of the past put a lot of kids in the wrong classrooms, where growth was limited. It’s easy to see why equalizing learning space became a thing.

While people are content to sit back and play the roulette wheel of blame (it lands on parent, teachers, unions, government and students themselves), few are able to offer anything helpful or substantive.

canstockphoto13763092Smaller classroom sizes, improved buildings and higher staffing levels are needed. Parental accountability. A culture that supports learning as a worthwhile pursuit and doesn’t like to brag about its ignorance. Curriculum that is implemented and maintained for enough time to see what actually works, instead of going with pedagogical light bulbs that seem to turn on and off on a whim.

I wrestle every year with how I feel about public education in theory, especially when it comes to my own child in practice. I understand parents who advocate for school choice, although how this helps rural kids or kids with transportation issues or poverty level children or special needs children, I don’t know. And while I understand those who home school for religious or academic or safety reasons, not every family is capable of supporting that kind of system.

canstockphoto41865678So where does it leave the rest of the kids? Because people talk about caring about the children, but what they really mean is they care about their children. Every student is the future of our country. They’re going to be the difference between my generation living out our golden years or being soylent green wafers.

I’m done at school for the week, albeit a little unsettled by my recent interactions. But I remember, too, that when I walked into class this morning I overheard a student tell the teacher, I saw Michelle in the hallway. She’s coming to class. I’m glad because she helps me.

Well, alrighty then. I guess I’ll show up next week, too.

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