Tag Archives: Budget

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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Fight or Flight?

17 Feb

Protesters in the Wisconsin Capitol. Photo courtesy of Andy Manis, AP.

To avoid voting on a controversial bill in the state senate, 14 Wisconsin Democrats packed up and left town. The bill was set to be voted upon earlier today.

If passed, the bill would redefine rights for many public service employees, including those employed in schools and prisons. The most controversial aspects of the bill include the dissolution of collective bargaining and an increase in pension costs. The proposed savings from the bill would amount to $300 million over the next two years. Governor Scott Walker and Republican leaders said on Monday that they had enough votes to pass the bill. Wisconsin public employees were not pleased.

An estimated 25,000 people protested the bill at the Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday. Demonstrators beat drums, called for lawmakers to “kill the bill,” and challenged Walker’s authority. Today, as the Wisconsin public awaited the fate of the bill, a legislative leader announced that were not enough senators present to vote on the bill. Only one democratic representative would have been required for voting on the bill to ensue.

This leaves the question: what happens next?

As a citizen and future teacher in the neighboring state of Michigan, this issue feels close to home. There is concern among residents of Michigan that a similar bill will be drawn up in upcoming months, and our state workers will be faced with the same issues. Will our public employees also count on their senators to flee town? To me, this seems like an arbitrary, temporary solution. The bill is still there. The senate is waiting.

The Democrats will have to return at some point, as they are compelled by state law and duty. Perhaps their actions and the actions of the protesters will pay off, and amendments will be made to the bill. Perhaps this is the way to effect change and I am simply unaware.

To me, the real issue is rooted deeper than fleeing Democrats. The real issue is the the same as the great concern of our nation – the overstretched budget. What do we cut? What rights are we willing to lose? Which ones will we refuse to give up? Is it a good decision to cut $300 million from public service departments by stripping employees of rights they have worked hard to gain since the 1950’s? Or should state governments be looking at deeper, long-term issues that cause frivolous spending in all state departments? Perhaps the salaries of the top ten percent of the highest paid public employees should be cut.

The decision is not easy and there is no straight answer toward large-scale structural change. Events like those occurring in Wisconsin will continue all over the United States as the rights of the people are challenged. Kudos to Wisconsin for making their voice heard.