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Finding Heimat in Alt Ed: I’m a Mama to 120+

30 Apr

I’ve been mountain biking lately. I’m finishing up my student teaching. I’ve removed my mind from politics.

While teaching, you start to pick up on just how important your job is, even if you knew it in theory prior to teaching. You start to notice necessary leaders in the school; leaders who show their kids what it means to be a good, fair person. You start to notice how desperately so many kids need this example. Then you notice the money.

I feel as if invisible dollar bills, not air, is the force pressing so evenly against our bodies. Money, driving all actions, squeezing all pocket books. The reality that money (or lack thereof) will be THE factor in shutting down or crippling successful schools is ridiculous, for certainly, there is enough money in the world, especially the United States, to keep schools open and functioning.

Jay Z's MIAMI Mansion

I am thinking of the school at which I am student teaching.

I was lucky enough to have been born into a family where none of my needs went wanting, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Each individual has their own personal set of issues, but my family was a rock for me. When I remember childhood, it is a warm, comforting memory. I think of home and my mother’s meals, brothers and sisters, the banks of a pond, the peepers outside my window at night – all come back to me. Family. Shelter. Warmth.

This is more special than I can truly realize.

Before arriving at Marquette Alternative High School, I had never stepped foot in a school that replicated the warm feelings of home and family. I had spent almost 200 hours volunteering and observing in area schools, and that is what they always were – schools.

This is fine; not all schools must recreate the special dynamic of home. For so many kids, however, this is exactly what they need. A safe place. Family. Home.

In German, there is a word that does not directly translate in English; the word is Heimat. We translate it to mean “home,” but it carries a special connatation – the idea of warmth, family, safety. It is all wrapped up in one small word.

Marquette Alternative High School meets a need that money cannot create. Money can support the people who need to be there in order to create this safe place, but a family does not sustain Heimat with money. Unfortunately, money always plays.

Remove a father from a family and watch what happens in the life of a child. Take away an older brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, and the family is utterly changed.

Freud said once that as soon as a given state of things is upset, there arises an instinct to re-create what is lost. People who have had their families torn apart by abuse, substance, death, and adversity search to re-create the family which is lost. A person can take multiple approaches to such re-creation, and strangely enough, we often search in the same ways which destroyed our first family.

Finding real family, real Heimat, real love, can change this.

This is my plea to allow the song to remain the same at Marquette Alternative; this is my plea to put forth money to a place that provides a safe place for so many kids. Please, find it within your budget to maintain the level this building is at.

A Heimat is something that simply cannot be replaced.

My Second Family: The Wily Brood at MAHS

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A $40,000 SUV: the Natural Choice for a Dying District

11 Aug

Sometimes you need to search for the incredulous. Other times, it hits you in the face.

A news article I just stumbled upon could have been found on Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Titled “DPS’ chief Roberts defends purchase of $40,000 SUV with district funds,” I doubled checked my news source. Yup. Detroit Free Press. Doubled checked the acronym. Yup. Detroit Public Schools.

The same DPS that is $327 million in debt? The one that’s closing half its schools? And what about that new budget?

Oh, that’s right. When the old guy failed to resolve the $327 million in debt in five years, we (or should I say the Honorable Governor Snyder, who took away Michigan citizens’ voting power)  replaced him with a guy who talks about $40,000 SUV’s as if every man, woman, and infant baby in Detroit could purchase one.

“”I’m driving the heck out of it.”

Haha! You’re a funny man, Roy Roberts!

There she is, Big, Shiny, and Oh-so-necessary.

Roy Roberts and his jocular manner regarding his new purchase with district funds reflects on his ability to act as DPS’ “Emergency Financial Manager.” The lone wolf (dare I use the word?) with ALL THE POWER thanks to Snyder’s new law. Did I mention he’s an ex GM executive? Oh, and his measly contract of one year only allows him a salary of $250,000.

How strange.

For more info on Michigan’s latest snake:

“Roy Roberts New Financial Manager For Detroit Schools”

A Student, A Person, Not a Number

8 Aug

Woo-hoo for local news! I’m all about it and the most recent is sent to me from my mom via the Escanaba Daily Press (check them, out, they’re alright).

However, the most recent local news is somewhat… depressing. Are we surprised?

“With the state’s unemployment rate stuck in double digits and school districts struggling financially, even experienced teachers are finding themselves out of work. ”

Well, let’s be a downer. As a soon-to-be graduated pre-service teacher, I’m not finding that news particular uplifting. But what media organization reports anything positive? It seems, in the modern world, that positive news is for saps.

Yes, unemployment is up. Yes, teaching jobs are shrinking. But we buck up, we get on. The real alarming news is the following:

“Since peaking at 117,973 in the 2004-05 academic year, the number of public school teachers in Michigan has shrunk by nearly 9 percent, a loss of about 10,000 jobs, according to the Center for Educational Performance and Information. That number tracks the 8 percent drop in public school students, to 1.56 million, that Michigan has seen over the past five years.

Why is the percentage of public school students dropping? Could it be that we’re opening our doors wide open for private education ventures, closing hundreds of districts, and closing networks to the public sector?

Dear Michigan,

Stop telling your citizens and public employees they’re not worth a damn. Fund public schools. Don’t close them. End of story.

Sincerely, Much Love,

A Student, a Person, Not A Number.

Thanks to the Daily Press (and Mom!) for the great article.

A Word to our Sponsors: an Educated Response to Federal Funding Cuts

11 Mar

Dr. Joe Lubig, NMU's Director of Field Experiences. Photo courtesy of the NMU Department of Education website.

On page seven of the Thursday, March 10, 2011 edition of the North Wind, Northern Michigan University’s campus newspaper, Dr. Lubig, NMU’s Director of Field Experiences, authored a “Letter to the Editor.” Dr. Lubig lends a local voice to the federal issue of budget cuts in education. To allow a larger base of readers to receive a well-informed opinion on the matter, I’ve reprinted Dr. Lubig’s letter as follows (published with permission):

National service programs shouldn’t have their funding cut

There has been much debate lately about what the federal government should and should not spend its money on. In an effort to address this issue, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1 – a bill that would eliminate billions from the current budget, and as a result, eliminate various federally-funded programs across the country.

Included in the elimination would be the Corporation for National and Community Service and the national service programs it administers (AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve). As a Governor-appointed board member of the Michigan Community Service Commission, I have seen first-hand the impact of national service in the state. In Michigan, these programs have a long history of addressing critical challenges in communities, improving local economic opportunities, and enhancing the work of area organizations.

Before Congress eliminates national service programs, wouldn’t you like to know more about what national service is and what Michigan will be losing as a result of its elimination?

A loss of $28 million in federal funds to support Michigan’s national service efforts would mean eliminating the opportunity for nearly 47,000 residents to serve. The lack of service would mean low-income individuals and families would lose access to health care, adequate housing, and foreclosure prevention assistance. Struggling young people would be left without literacy services, academic support, and mentoring opportunities. Home bound seniors would be unable to maintain independence in their own homes.

The cuts would also force 2,300 organization and schools to address local issues of critical importance with little to no support or resources – including Goodwill, Red Cross chapters, Big Brother Big Sisters agencies, community health centers, Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and many more.

Let’s reconsider the value of national service and volunteerism – particularly in a state that has benefited so greatly from its impact. By doing so, we agree to prioritize the efforts of current programs and volunteers and ensure they can continue to make a difference in Michigan.

Joe Lubig

Michigan Community Service Commission


Thanks for speaking up, Dr. Lubig.