The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Breaking Down Over a Broken-Down System

        The book Breaking the Silence:  My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher is both easy and difficult to read.

         It's an easy read because Shannon Hernandez's memoir is honest and straightforward. She willingly opens herself up to the reader, offering up her vulnerability. For those who aren't working as a teacher in a public school, her account is eye-opening. For those who do teach or have taught recently, each page brings about an "amen" or makes the reader nod their head knowingly. 

         It's excruciating to read because from the very title, the cat's out of the bag. The reader knows how it's going to end. This is the story of a former teacher. These days, most new teachers leave within five years. It's that hard of a job, so anytime a talented and dedicated educator leaves the field, it's a loss.

          However, the story doesn't end there. Hernandez started up her own business, and gave birth to it while she was still teaching, since she had made the decision that she deserved happiness. She deserved to do work that brought her joy. She loved teaching. It was her mission. It was a part of her. But today so much of the teaching job doesn't involve teaching. It's paperwork. It's data driven. It's purposeless professional development. 

         And when so much of a teacher's time and energy is sucked dry by non-teaching duties, it's disheartening.

         Add to that the crazy allegations that are sometimes made against teachers, and it's more than clear why Hernandez had to leave the classroom. Today, there are teachers who are afraid to put a hand on a student's shoulder in encouragement. There are teachers who are afraid to hug a student. Teachers must be conscious at every moment. We can't tutor a student one-on-one without other students in the room, since there would be no witnesses. It's sad. 

           I've been a teacher since 1991. Having worked in several school districts, I realize how fortunate I am now to have a wonderful principal. He's appreciative, has a great sense of humor, and is super-sharp. He also has a coach mentality when it comes to the staff, the kids and the parents... meaning he is tough and encouraging and is never afraid to get onto the field and get a little dirty.

         But I haven't always been so lucky...

         Check out Shannon Hernandez's book Breaking the Silence, and check out her out at to find out more.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Things We Return To

        Tonight the movie Antwone Fisher was on. It's about a writer and it's about someone searching for their family--two topics I love to explore. 

        It was halfway through when I found it on the television, which was no problem. Having seen the movie many times, I easily picked up where the movie was.

        There are lots of movies that--despite me having watched them multiple times--I choose to watch yet again. Hidalgo. Chocolat. The Out-of-Towners (the older version with Jack Lemmon). The Widow of Saint-Pierre. There are more, trust me.

        Books are the same. There are novels that I reread on a regular basis. It's not because I forget how they end. Instead, I pick them up and savor the story once more because of the writing. Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton is one. 

        Every summer (except for this one, probably) I go to Conception, Missouri for a writing retreat. This place calls me. It calms me. It centers me.

        Do you reread books? Are there movies that--whenever you're flipping though channels and see them--you cannot resist seeing again? Are there spots that reel you back, year after year?

        Rerun-loving minds want to know...