Part The Next
I spent the winter sleeping on the kitchen floor in Mr. Yes, I’m Back At His House’s house. The puppies were not accustomed to holding their bladders overnight, and I didn’t want their messes to be a point of argument. So, I didn’t sleep in the lumpy bed in the unheated guest bedroom upstairs. I slept on the floor, with the dogs, as had been my custom in Arizona. Lord knows, we had enough to argue about. Poor B. misunderstood my homecoming as if I had learned my lesson, and would finally settle down and, goddamnit, be content, and, goddamnit, obedient.
Um. Nope. I was depressed. Angry. Confused.
Content? Not even a little bit.
I attended church, veiled in a perpetual baptism of tears. One of the Prayer Warriors greeted me with “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. Wait, that’s not what I mean. What are you doing here?”
Yes, I confused them all.
You should know, there are those few righteous who thought I should have ditched the dogs, and stayed to teach in the community where someone was intent on casually blowing us up on a daily basis. We prayed together, but we didn’t chat much. I’m not that kind of martyr. Besides, there wasn’t anything stopping them from going out and getting blown up, so their self-righteous dismay was a little hard to take.
I stumbled in and out of school districts, substituting across two states. You’d be amazed at the quality of education in some of those schools. Yes, there are indeed, well-fed, educated and Ivy League Bound Kentucky Wonder Children blooming in the North East. Of course, there are also a bundle of not so well-fed, uneducated and State Penitentiary-Bound children as well. The first batch were like a vacation. The second was not a vacation, even if the languages were international. And yes, I became even more acquainted with that lovely non-mentionable f0000g word. Which prompts me to mention my final conversation with the substitute placement staff… She called me. She had a complaint that a considerable amount of profanity had been heard coming from the classroom where I was subbing. What did I have to say about that?
Yes, I agreed, there had been a considerable amount of profanity pouring from the classroom. However, it was not my voice that said – and I repeated the phrase. Well, you would have thought the end of the world was in sight. There was the proverbial pregnant pause, then she says, ever so painfully, “Why would you use that phrase with me. Do you know who it is you are talking to? Are you aware that I am your supervisor? What would make you even suggest a phrase like that?”
Before I could control my voice, it asked, “Do you know where you send us every day?”
Not the kind of remark to make a good impression, even if I had already accepted another job elsewhere. But still. Do you people have any idea what goes on in your local schools? If you do, and you don’t like it, what are you doing about it?
These are real questions. The federal law ensures a free and appropriate education for all students, but that doesn’t mean all students – Native, nationals, or otherwise – are getting a decent education. These are your kids. This is your community. We’re talking your tax dollars, and the zoning violations that go along with them. If you don’t like what is going on in the schools, take your kids out of them, and teach them at home.
It is safer for some to be away from the school crowd. And it would be safer for the school crowd to be away from some of those already locked inside.
If your kids do not have the social skills necessary for obtaining a successful education in a public facility, then keep the little buggers at your house all day. Teach them to be kind. To share. To read. To write. To do arithmetic. To not blow things up. To not burn things down. To …. well, you get the idea.
On the flip side, if your kids already have the social skills necessary for public participation, do you really want them locked into a building with muscular and strong guards blocking the exits, carrying bully clubs, and occasionally, stun guns in a building with bars on the windows and locks on every door – and a loony bin collection of “classmates”?
Homeschooling is very underrated, especially since too many of the kids in public schools would be more successful in psychiatric units, rather than public schools.
You think I’m joking? You go ahead and find someone who will breach protocol and let you read the IEPs and the evaluations that prompt them.
Bedwetters and nailbiters are the least of your worries. Try psychotic. That used to be “nuts”, “crazy”, “anti-social”. Dangerous.
These kids have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Whatever Disorder They Can Get as a Means of Survival Disorder, and a tendency to engage in violent, defensive behavior. This they acquired from their family and neighborhood, or maybe from the war zone they ran away from. And you want your kids in a contained, guarded building, one with locks on the doors and bars on the windows WITH THEM? And you want to call this a school? And then blame the teachers for their behavior? Really? REALLY!??
Ladies and Gentlemen, the problem with education is not limited to the Natives on reservations across the United States. Nope, the problem is down the street, around the corner, and up the block. Do something, already, will you? The world is dying, literally, for some kindness, some consideration, some tender loving care, and a strong dose of loving discipline.
Can’t get to the Southwest to “Save the Native”? Volunteer to teach one of the neighbor kids how to read. Spend some time teaching that young soon-to-be-a-hooker who stands outside the office how to bake bread. Of course, it takes time. Your time. But hey, she won’t go hungry, and maybe, maybe, she won’t get AIDS or abused, and maybe, MAYBE, she’ll even get a day job, and raise decent kids.
Fantasy? Not at all. It’s very simple. And it doesn’t really cost a lot. And it rarely requires a committee. Just quitcherbitchin and go try that Love your Neighbor thing. No, not the married guy next door. Not that kind of “love”. The kid. On the corner. The one who needs your wisdom. Maybe the beat up bike in your garage. That one. That kind of love. Sheesh.
I once worked – very briefly, mind you – with a young man who was in the care of a special education organization because he had “learning deficiencies”. I took him to the fish hatchery one day, just to pass the time. He got so excited about watching fish swim around in circles, I decided our next field trip would be to Cabelas – a local sportsmen’s store with a wonderful natural history display, and aquariums full of live fish. We went on a school day, this young man and I. Of course, he zoomed right past the stuffed animals, and totally missed the fish, and headed for the gun and ammo section. Check this out, he exclaimed. A cartridge that holds a hundred rounds. He was excited. What would you need that for, I pondered. You could kill a lot of people with this, he explained.
And here I was, explaining to this young Urban Warrior the virtues of hunting for food and skins with which to make clothes and shoes. Naw, he explained. This was better. An ammo magazine that could kill dozens of people in an instant. People. Kill. Cool. – Not exactly the three words I would put together, but he was impressed. He thought it was great.
The very anxious looking middle age male staff followed us around the store. I was kind of glad, especially when I couldn’t find the young man after I had paused in the camping section.
Did you happen to notice a teenage kid roaming around? He wasn’t roaming. He had found the ever-present pop guns and was “stalking” me through the tent and sleeping bag racks.
Of course, the boy had no idea how to re-prime the toy gun. He didn’t realize it mimicked the pump action of a real shotgun. I taught him how to play with a gun. He taught me what to buy if I wanted to kill a lot of people.
He also explained that he had never played with toy guns. He had never flown a kite. He didn’t know how to ride a bike.
I didn’t cry then, but I sure did later. The kid broke my heart.
Now tell me truthfully. Wasn’t there someone in his neighborhood who could have invented a chore for him to help with? Wasn’t there an extra old bike stuffed in a corner somewhere that he could have been given and taught to ride? Was there really no field or river bank where he could have been taken to fly a kite?
Who are you people and what the heck are you wasting lives for?
Sorry. I’m getting pissy again. I’m tired. Have a headache, and have been sick for the past week. In between, I’ve been negotiating having two foster kids dropped off. I know their great-grandparents, and while the great-grandparents have good intentions, they are already overwhelmed by taking care of another set of great-grandchildren because their mother, the couple’s other granddaughter, is a meth addict. And, just for the record, no, she isn’t Native, either. She’s White. So get your prejudicial head out of your nether regions and DO SOMETHING USEFUL WITH YOUR LIFE.
Our nation is dying, one child at a time.
This I knew, and the months spent in Connecticut reinforced this sorrowful bit of knowledge.
I loved teaching the immigrants from Guatemala. How come you’re so educated, I asked one day. I was told you didn’t have any schools. Oh, I was told, after work we’d gather in someone’s house, and learn from each other.
After work. After twelve to sixteen hours of manual labor. They met at one anther’s houses and taught each other how to read, factor numbers, write. They arrived in the United States educated. Learned. Poor. Broke. Experienced.
The kid was sixteen. He dropped out of school later that year so he could earn enough money to help his family in Guatemala.
Immigrants. Taking your job? I don’t think so. Taking your welfare money? Doubt it. Most of the people I’ve known who were on “disability” for drug and alcohol addiction are good old fashioned White citizens of these United States of America.
The only thing immigrating into our country that causes social unrest and discord is drugs. But I’m going to walk away from that one, because that conversation will just wrap around to my Blood Family again, and, really, this isn’t their story.
I spent the Winter of my Discontent (sorry William, Richard III, and Mr. Steinbeck) dodging the jibes of my Ex, circling the Church, and applying for and interviewing for jobs across the country. I gave the unplayed violin back to its original owner. I left most of the soap in Arizona, so I had to buy more.
It was not a pleasant time. Hannah chewed the rungs on several chairs B. had made. Freckles dug holes under the chicken coop, and came away with several large rats. Nala displayed her vampire teeth again, and Maeda did her best to keep me sane. My friends prayed – even the atheists prayed. Not sure to whom, but I knew they were worried, so they prayed.
What I did learn was that I had traveled across the country and back and found myself in a familiar place – but it was no longer home. The best analogy I can offer is the way a person might feel the first day of spring when they get out their hiking boots – you know the ones that had the most miles, and were the most comfortable, even from day one – and putting them on, find out they don’t fit the same way as before. I loved New England. I love western Massachusetts. I have friends there. I know where to go shopping. I know where there are clear running brooks! I have hiked those hills. Slept in those valleys. Swam in those ponds. Lived among those people.
But it was no longer home.
I usually love snow. Not this year. It was cold. Slippery. And in the way. I missed the desert. Really. Can you believe it, even? I missed the monsoon clouds, the distance between my house and the nearest town. I missed Cedar Canyon.
OK, I didn’t miss Salt River Canyon, and I absolutely did not miss the scorpions. I lived with them now, again, and I do not miss them when they are not hanging around – literally.
But I was homesick. Yes, yes, I know Someone had tried to sabotage my life. I know I couldn’t go back to the same school. I know that I’m still a White girl from Out East. But I missed Arizona. The place itself makes no sense, but I wanted to return.
So, I applied to teach in schools all across the country, especially the schools in Arizona. I knew places by name, now. I could make a more informed decision. I had a clue.
Right. A clue. As in, just one. But I’ve really got to go to sleep for a while. I know I’m running out of time, but I have to rest. See you – and the rest of the story – tomorrow.