Trees as Metaphor

January 31, 2014

Hello Reader,

The school where I teach is very large and in the center of the complex, there is a small courtyard. Until last year, the courtyard was lined with maybe half a dozen large, healthy oak trees. I could see them from the window in my classroom, and it was nice to look out on in the spring and late summer. Our school is one of those built in the 1960s to accommodate the baby boom. These schools were built quickly and cheaply and they mark a stark line in the construction of school buildings. Before the boom, schools were often beautiful buildings made of limestone or brick. You’ve seen them somewhere. Think of the most beautiful school or former school building you’ve seen. Odds are, it’s from before the baby boom.

So, our school is in’t much to look at, and that always made the trees that much nicer because they blocked some of the view. They greened it up a little. Made it feel a little nicer. In my experience, trees do that.

Since last year, they’ve been slowly cutting them down. The last one is being taken down now. The branches have been taken off one by one. Soon, the main forks will come off and, in a day or two, the trunk. I don’t know the official reason for this, but given that the tree were perfectly healthy, there can be only one – the fear that a storm may come along and blow one or more of the trees down, thus resulting in costly damage to the school.

The result is a decidedly less enjoyable place for me, and, I assume, the students. The grounds look bleak now. All cheap brick and corrugated metal roofing. It is hard not to see this as a metaphor for what is happening in education now. Math. Reading. Math. Reading. MathReadingMathReadingMath. Public school children, is a factory, and you re the product. You are the worker bees of tomorrow. Enjoyment is irrelevant. Self-examination and growth. Creative expression. These are also irrelevant. Your comfort does not matter. We must avoid risk. We must produce a product as consistent in its quality as a fast food hamburger. Never mind the taste.

Am I pushing this too far? Maybe I am. But then, I’m a teacher, and I know what’s going on in schools. I know that electives are being cut. I know that extracurriculars are being cut. I know that our trees are being cut.

Now, I have a task for you. The next time you drive past a private school, take a look at it. These are the best schools we have, much better than public (at least, this is what many legislators are telling us). Do you think they have electives? What about extracurricular activities? What does the school building look like? Do they have trees?

A Big Day

January 29, 2014

I announced it on this site a while ago, but today it’s finally here. The Hardball Times is publishing the first installment of my novel, When the Sparrow Sings, and I am very excited to hear what everyone thinks about it.

You can find the first installment here.

You’ll also notice some changes on this site as I focus in on the book, which will be my dominant project for the next year.

But don’t worry about that. Go read the first chapter of my book!

A Letter

January 16, 2014

I have not written in this space in almost a month. That is my longest drought here in quite some time, though it is not without reason. I am working on the baseball novel (which is probably going to be called When the Goldfinch Calls). There are other projects as well, but I haven’t had anything to say that really fits in this space.

And so, I was wondering what to do with this blog when I stumbled over Eowyn Ivey’s website after reading her novel. She blogs sporadically and treats every blog entry as a letter to anyone who cares to read it. This seems like an approach I can handle, so it’s what I’m going to do starting now.

Christmas has come and gone since last I wrote, and it was a wonderful time. As I’ve said before, Simone is the perfect age for that kind of thing and we all pretty much had a ball. In the midst of the season, Cate and I were able to sneak off to a movie. We used to go to the movies all the time, but then kids happened, so now it’s more or a rare treat.

Anyway, we went to The Hobbit. I liked this second installment much better than the first and I felt it sat comfortably alongside the LOTR movies. What I found most interesting, however, was the addition of a female character to the story. At the very moment we saw the movie, Simone was going through a heavy princess phase, and it was a little heartbreaking. She really likes fairy tales and I was doing a lot of searching trying to find a female toy that was something other than a princess.

Try to do this. It’s almost impossible.

I figured it out eventually, and Simone has since mostly come out of that stage, but I found the frustrating search very depressing, and I decided something: when it comes to old stories, I will never be a purist. Old stories tend to be male-centric, and the tend to reduce the female role to that of princess or princess equivalent (at least, in fairy tales) and that sucks if you have a daughter. I found myself quite thrilled with the addition of Tauriel to The Hobbit. I love that story, and I want there to be a place in it for Simone.

 

Speaking of movies, we don’t get to go out to them much, but we have been able to watch them more at home lately. Simone is nearly five and James is about to turn two. This means that the child needs are ramping down enough that we’re starting to emerge from that early-parenthood fog where you have no idea what it going on in popular culture. It’s nice. I like movies. I mean, right now, we’re still catching up on things from 2012, but it’s still progress.

 

2013 was a very hectic year for us, but a lot was accomplished. Around home right now, we’re working getting together the last pieces of the life we want to have. Mostly, this means moving to another neighborhood and, quite possibly, another state. We’ll see, but for the moment, at least, we have high hopes. The first of the down payment fund should go in the bank with my next check, and hopefully, it will be up, up, up from there. As long as children can avoid going to the emergency room for a while, we may be able to get some traction.

That’s all for now, I think. More when I have more to say.