Writer’s Congestion

I got nothing. Not true. Actually, I have too many, and that is the problem.
What is your writing process? Is your blog on your mind all the time? Are you always on the lookout for what would make a good blog entry? Do you just sit down and write about whatever pops into your head? Do books, television, movies, newspapers, etc, inspire your writing?
My answer is yes. I use all of those methods. And right now, the ideas are fighting to break through, but none seem to be emerging. It’s the opposite of writer’s block – writer’s congestion.
I could write about
        BR is away, and the house is quiet. I know he is having a good time and is well cared for. I love him, but I don’t miss him. I will, however, be happy to see him. For now, I am enjoying the serenity. I don’t feel guilty.
        SJ and I have been enjoying the town beach/pool. I’m noticing how the beach brings out the extremes in kids. I see children laughing, smiling, and playing with each other. I see kids throwing tantrums and having crying fits. Overstimulation leads to tiredness.
        We have had some repair work done on our house. But will it ever end? My wife and I were already discussing what’s next. Sometimes, I wish we were back in an condminium, calling the super.

        I am tired of hearing politicians arguing about stupidity and making idiotic claims about each other. Regardless of your political point of view, the overwhelming majority of us Americans know that the country is not in a good place right now. There are serious problems. I would like to hear politicians offer serious solutions. I want to hear what their policy is and why it will work. That’s it.

        August is creeping along and I am doing my damndest to keep my focus on the here and now. I still have goals I want to accomplish this summer. Then, there are the children’s doctor appointments, haircuts, school schedules  to plan. We haven’t even gone on vacation yet.
And this isn’t even the half of it.
So, as you can see, my writer’s mind (and thoughts in general) have been zooming. I need to slow down. I pray every day. One of the things I pray for in the morning is the ability to focus on the task at hand. I believe it is the way to be productive and get the most meaning out of anything you are doing.
Focus, man focus. That’s what I need.

Appropriate for Children

The news is bombarding us, the public, from every angle in the aftermath of the tragic and heinous Colorado shooting. There is discussion of many topics: what made this man go on a rampage, gun control, how people and neighbors need to be aware of the unstable signs of those around them, what security measures can be taken to ensure this does not happen again in the future, etc. However, while I have paid attention to the news regarding the topic, one angle that has particularly caught my attention is how to talk to your children about a tragedy. This aroused my interest because I have no intention of talking to my children about this tragedy.

Children are born innocent – a blank slate if you will. As parents, we have many jobs including deciding what to expose our children to – whether it be movies or tragedies and everything in between. Of course, each child is different and maturity does not occur in some predetermined linear fashion. What about parents? What role do we parents play in our children’s maturation process? I have not done nor is this the place for a formal researched paper. However, I am quite certain parents and environment play at least some role in the development of a child’s maturity.

I am a protector. As such, I do not want my children (5 & 8 year-old boys)  watching the news, for the most part. My children are exposed to all forms of media; the internet, radio, and television. They read, hear, and see things that I think children their age should not. While I try to monitor what they read, listen to and watch, I can’t protect them from everything nor do I even want too. They will see both the good and the bad in the world – it is inevitable and necessary to be a functioning, thoughtful, and sensitive adult. I do want them to grow up and be mature. However, their development should come in time and naturally with the guidance of my wife and I and not be based on the news cycle.

The Colorado massacre is a terribly sad and horrific event. I grieve for those who lost family members and friends. I am concerned what this means for public safety. I wonder what, if anything, can be done to help ensure such a tragedy never occurs again. However for my children, let them watch Nickelodeon — even Nick Jr. — as long as they can.

Not All Guilty

It’s June and for teachers, like myself, it is a month of anticipation. A school year is winding down and soon the summer and its freedom will be upon us. I take stock at this time of year as I am sure many others in the teaching profession do. Did my students learn what I wanted them to? Was I as affective as I could have been?  What can I do to make next year more effective?  It is my goal to continually get better and one of the ways that happens is introspection. I believe this is true of many teachers. In fact, my experience has shown me that the majority of teachers are hard working, responsible, and dedicated professionals who care about their students and want the best for them.

As a New York City school teacher (I work in the East New York section of Brooklyn), I am particularly aware of teachers in the news. Unfortunately, lately it’s been all bad.  There have been multiple reports of relations between teachers and students. Of course this is wrong in every way and if found guilty, the teachers should be punished to the full measure of the law. They have violated the public trust. We are responsible for our students – not only to teach them but to be a role model for them as well.

These incidents and their constant reporting in the newspapers are demoralizing.  Am I the only one who thinks if these are being reported then how many more incidents are going on that we don’t even know about?  I doubt it.  Due to this cloak of suspicion and doubt, it’s as if each of us in the profession must prove that we are not guilty.

I don’t know all the specifics of these cases as I shy away from reading all the gory details. However, I do know that one of the teachers was reassigned after a picture of her kissing a student appeared on the front page of the newspaper. The student is 18 so apparently it is ‘okay,’ and she will retain her job.  Yes, the union is responsible to us, its members, and everyone deserves a trial.  However, when they try to defend the indefensible, it pisses me off.  My teacher hat comes off and my parent hat goes on. What if it were my child that was involved in such a case? Even worse what if the predator teacher got involved with my child after already being involved in another case but instead of losing their job, they were retained due to some technicality? I can’t even imagine how angry I would be.

There are many problems with the education system in America, and changes are overdue.  The problems come from a variety of sources and anyone who has thought about the problem and is honest with him/herself can recognize this issue. One problem that must be dealt with right away is the removal of teachers who act immorally and compromise themselves as professionals and harm children.   While I take this summer as a time to refresh and prepare for a successful school year in 2012-13, I want to focus on preparing myself and not defending myself.

Where’s the Flag?

Memorial Day has come and passed. For many people, the day marks the unofficial beginning of Summer and is celebrated with outdoor activities galore. However, many of us know few details about the official reason for the holiday other than it is a day set aside to honor those who lost their lives in battle. According to the website www.usmemorialday.org, “Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.” How many of us honored those who fell for our country?

I remember my parents – my father in particular who served in the Army during the Korean War (but was stationed in Germany) – used to always make sure he had a flag hanging from our house on those special days ie. Memorial Day, July 4th, etc.  Many of our neighbors did the same thing. I liked walking along and seeing all the flags up and felt a certain pride in my family and in the country. However, not only do I not put up a flag at my own house on those special days, I forgot we even had a flag in my house till my wife reminded me. My only celebration of the holiday that in any way hearkens to its original intention is to go to the parade in the small town my family and I reside in. The local fire company, policemen, etc. march along with the veterans. I clap out of respect when the veterans pass along the parade route.

I consider myself a patriotic person and feel proud to be an American. My background is right out of a history book and can be told to the tune of G-d Bless America in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Here is the short version: my maternal grandparents, along with their immediate families, escaped from their small shtetels in Russia and ultimately came to America for religious freedom and economic opportunity. For my father’s side, change grandparents to great-grandparents, and the rest is the same. Therefore, I have every reason to be grateful to this country and those who lost their lives while battling its wars.

SY and I were walking to synagogue just before Memorial Day. A funeral home is on our route and it was covered in American Flags. I asked my son what did he see and when he said the American Flag. I proceeded to ask him if he knew why there was so many. He did not know. Not surprising. I tried to explain a bit about Memorial Day and what it means to be patriotic.

In the high school where I teach, the pledge of allegiance is read aloud over the PA system. Prior to reading the pledge, the reader asks that everyone stand. In my nearly 9 full years of teaching, I have never seen any person get up other than a few freshmen who stop standing before it hits October. I, on the other hand, stop class, stand up and face the flag. The class which is made up of 100% minorities, many of whom are first or second-generation Americans, are completely disinterested. When President Obama, a man of a mixed racial background became President, I hoped that students would be inspired. They were for a few days – wearing buttons and proudly watching the inauguration. However, that enthusiasm has waned and the students have lost what little interest they had in the country they now call home.

So, I wonder about the drop off in patriotism. Will the next generation feel any pride in their country? If so, how will they express it? What can I do as a parent and a teacher to instill that pride? I hope at a minimum they will recognize the great sacrifices that some have made and continue to make for this country, so that they can express pride while they freely take all the benefits that are available to them.