A week ago I promised my excellent recovery room nurse that I would write about my appendectomy on my blog. It’s taken until today for me to feel well enough that it began to happen, the way it usually does, with my desire to talk back to events.
The best guess when I felt so terrible on Friday and had to leave school was that I had food poisoning—a bad virus. Several people assured me it was Norwalk. But no.
When Gary was finally able to talk me into going to Seaside Providence, they pretty much immediately diagnosed appendicitis. Surgery right away that night. The supervising nurse in the ER is the mother of a former student, so was my recovery nurse and several others who cared for me. The kitchen staff were former students. Everyone was kind and everything went well and they checked me out home the next morning, so here I am. I was lucky. I have been told that many times. I feel it, the luck. I am grateful for my luck.
Check-out included the recommendation I take at least a week to regain strength and get well. My hope that I would be back as early as Tuesday was a fantasy. People should not have appendectomies at age sixty.
For an entire week I have napped and fallen asleep watching television and gone to bed early. I was on pain pills, the minimum I could manage, for a few days, but now the pain is minimal and I feel better, though I still tire easily. I have done not one bit of homework, but I planned my week for the sub. I was home and feeling bad, but that didn’t mean my students wouldn’t have the right to some structure. On the Saturday and Sunday after surgery, within the first 36 hours post-op, I had to design the whole week, print out plans and schedules and assignments. Emailed questions from students and former students had to be answered. A letter of recommendation that was due by Friday. You can see me above, the morning after my surgery, attending to the work. This required an hour of concentration at a time between pain pills. You don't do that unless you value your work—the truth is that even though I was in pain, it didn'toccur to me not to do the work.
Since then, not much. Yesterday my husband took me on a field trip, driving us north for lunch out and then dropping by the school to pick up the work I still don’t have energy to mark. It was Gary's test to see if I could handle a drive to Portland this morning. Not so much.
During this week off, I’ve thought a lot about my job and how I do it and what I owe, and how very grateful I am to my profession and how much more I wish I could do.
I’ve also been reading old blog posts. I’ve even posted a few links on my Facebook page, though I can’t help noticing that most people don’t read the blog posts, just what shows up in their feeds. (Just as people posted “What happened?” without doing what I would do and going to my page to find out.) I have a new feature that provides links to older posts, so I've been reading my own words from the past few years.
Some time ago I wrote about dreading the release of the documentary Waiting for Superman, but then I forgot to go back after I saw the film. It was worse than I expected. But then it was made by and featured a cohort of people with no personal experience with public education—people who had not attended or sent their own children to public schools, but just jumped in and began telling public schools what they are doing wrong.
Thank you so much. So good of you to share.
I cannot understand why only privately educated, entitled voices are heard when public education is under discussion.
There are people making a great deal of money in this recent debate over public education. Testing companies, text book publishers. I assure you I am not one of them. But money is an issue, perhaps even the issue.
The biggest roadblock to success for many children is their luck at birth.
When parents take an active interest in their children's education, everyone benefits. But the bottom line problem is poverty, and Americans, especially relatively affluent Americans, have a nasty attitude toward the poor, a left-over entitled attitude that failure is deserved. Their children have it too, as if they had personally earned the privilege their parents worked so hard to earn. That notion fades a little at a time like now when so many people are suffering and recognize, finally, that economic prosperity is not there for the taking, not for everyone, and that financial disaster can befall anyone through no fault of their own. Almost a quarter of American children live in poverty. It's shameful.
A student from a very entitled background emailed me for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship. I agreed automatically, but then, as I thought about it, I wondered how he qualified for money that might otherwise go to a student with a fraction of his parents’ income? I will write the letter, it's part of my job as I see it, but I will also hold a grudge, I think, if he gets the money.
He’s a good student and polite, well spoken and a hard worker. He’s earning his way. It’s his family that I quarrel with.
His mother, a professional, once asked me for reassurance that it was okay to send her daughter to a state school when the daughter really wanted to go out of state. The out of state school was so much more expensive, she explained. Don't ask me to justify that choice, I said. I took out a second mortgage on my house to pay for my children’s college, including the son who wanted to go out of state.
This boy’s parents would be very glad to have help paying for his education and I know that he will not squander the opportunity. But I also know the family can afford to pay and that I am helping a student who, despite his intelligence and work ethic and because of his family background, will likely continue to disrespect my job and who will in all likelihood eventually live in a city where he can send his own children to private schools. He’s a smart person, but he will entirely miss the point.
He no more earned his entitled background than some of his peers earned their childhood poverty. And though he will earn his education, he is unlikely to have any appreciation of the enormous, essential advantage he had simply by the luck of his birth.
America is supposed to be a nation that values the individual, not inherited birthright. The reality plays out somewhat differently. My resentment that some students benefit too much at the expense of others makes me some kind of class warrior, I suppose. I don't apologize for that. Luck has something to do with how our lives turn out. I work very hard, I am industrious and devoted, but I've benefitted from luck myself.
Thank you to Felicity, Toni, and the staff at SHS for cards, to Susan for the flowers, Becky and Mark for the frozen yogurt (which was wonderful), and to people who took the time to write me a kind email or to message assistance. McKenzie and Collin offered to bring us food! It’s been an enlightening week.