Thursday, October 11, 2007

red wine stains, public schools, mandatory shortened gestation preiods

When we first sat down to dinner last night I slowly ate my salad and contemplated my options as I listened to the woman on my husband's left discuss public schools.
I could:
a) Excuse myself saying I was sick and go back to my comfortable hotel room. Order pizza, watch tv, and not be insulted.
b) Stab said woman with fork while accidentally spilling red wine on her.
c) Quietly listen, nod and smile, silently plotting the counter argument I'd yell at my husband after dinner.
d) Wait until she had said her piece, let her put everything on the table, and then start politely picking apart her argument.

I choose (d), which, I have to say, I'm rather proud of myself for. (C) is what my husband is use to, so he seemed thrilled that I took my feelings out on this nice woman from Texas instead of him.
I really thought about (b) when she said, "I just don't think the public knows how truly awful public schools are." While I took a rather large sip of wine my husband pointed out that while some may be awful, most are not. That really got her going on how we just didn't know what we were talking about, and really they are inexcusable.
I was really still choosing (c) but she launched into how her next move was to talk with school board members on what the real problems in schools are. Before I could silence myself with a sip of wine I jumped. "Perhaps you should try principals and teachers as well. School board members do not always really know what is going on in the schools". That didn't go over well...

I managed to go through the entire dinner without tipping my hat and telling her I actually teach in those terrible public schools. I kept her talking through most of dinner including hearing how she thought it was ridiculous that teachers needed to go through a year of training to be teachers. She however, did not go through this year of training, tried to be a long-term sub, struggled, and in the end decided that teaching wasn't for her.
I know teaching classes can be awful. I know sometimes they seem like common sense. But I wouldn't try to be a lawyer without going to law school, and I wouldn't practice nursing without going to nursing school.
I found myself bursting with pride for my school, coworkers, and profession. I love my job, love those who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession, love the children we serve.

The highlight of the evening was when the man on my right (who had politely asked what I did for a living) asked me about whether or not kindergarten was too academic. I expected him to support the philosophy of high standards at a young age he said, "With the pressure they put on kids today I'm surprised they are not trying to mandate a shorter gestation period."

In my imagination I waited until the end of the evening, slipped the girl my business card, smiled, and said, "I work at a think tank which works on creative solutions for tomorrow's problem solvers". I didn't, but it would have been great if I did.


Blink said...

My husband calls arguing with people who present an emotional, perhaps even uninformed opinion, "wrestling with a pig." You get muddy and the pig likes it. Your discipline in a difficult situation is to be commended. Maybe your dinner partner will think twice next time the topic comes up or at the very least will open her mind a bit about public school education and educators.
Once in a conversation a friend of over 20 years told me her son was going to maybe teach right after his graduation from college so he could do something easy until he could find a real job. I smiled politely but I think I instantly changed my opinion about this old friend.

Jenny said...

I'm so impressed with you! I would have had to choose (a) or (b), I simply don't have the self-control you showed in an instance like this. Your handling of it will have a much more positive impact than the other options. Way to go!