Just got confirmation that I’ll be performing at Angelica’s Bell Theatre & Bistro in downtown Redwood City on Saturday, June 9th! It’s a dinner theatre venue, and the show is from 7-8:30. I’m planning to do a mixture of original pieces and cover songs, and I might have a few musician friends join in the fun.
Cover is $5 for advance reservations, $9 at the door; there is also a $15 food/drink minimum. Come hungry, literally and figuratively.
I know it’s a ways away, but mark your calendars! I would really appreciate your support!
The Absence of Love
Can love heal wounds or does it scar you more?
It’s true that love can fuel you with desire,
And some walk gladly through its open door.
They say life’s nothing but for love’s true fire.
But I, a coward, shrink ‘fore love’s demands.
A metal cage, the ring would bind me fast.
Explore! my heart says, find yourself new lands.
Your youth evaporates, it will not last.
But maybe all this is a clever ruse;
My heart’s been battered, torn, and cast aside.
Perhaps I fear more pain, more sharp abuse,
And thus eschew those duties of a bride.
When all is said and done, my soul speaks clear –
A placid sea, my heart, without love near.
When the documentary Waiting For Superman came out, most of the nation responded with praise and enthusiasm for charter schools – the supposed saviors of our crumbling education system. Not me. As someone with experience teaching at one of the nation’s “top” charter schools, I have quite a different story to tell. I published this oped through Common Dreams on November 5, 2010. You can see the original text here. Full text below.
I realize Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for Superman wasn’t intended to bash teachers. In fact, most viewers probably left the theater impressed by the educators he documented, the ones who cared enough to fight: the Michelle Rhees, David Levins, and Mike Feinbergs of the world (all fellow Teach for America alums). I’m here to argue that glorifying these teachers and the schools they’ve created undermines our end goal of fundamental change.
If we want to make real, long-term progress in schools, we need to create a system that’s beneficial to students AND sustainable for educators.
At best, the unrealistic expectations set forth by the TFA world and acclaimed by the mainstream media drive competent, passionate teachers to other careers; at worst, it drives them to ill health, cynicism, and crushed morale. I knew dozens of teachers who fell into that first category. I, unfortunately, fell into the second, until I picked myself up by my bootstraps and moved to a small private school in Silicon Valley.
Trying to turn 65 fifth-graders into model readers, writers, students, and people is an enormous challenge in and of itself; when you tack on poor academic foundations, troubled home lives, and a slew of emotional and behavioral problems, you get a picture of the miracle expected by charter school teachers.
No one ever talks about what it takes for schools to achieve the kind of success that’s plastered all over the media. I’ll tell you; it takes the blood, sweat, and tears of every teacher on staff. It takes waking up at 5 and traveling on a bus to a school that smells like urine; having to shell out money for basic necessities like drinking water; working 12-hour days, Saturdays, summers. It takes being a teacher, counselor, warden, nutritionist, coach, friend, and parent wrapped into one very exhausted package. It takes a school run by naïve 20-somethings with no dependents and no obligations outside their work lives.
A friend of mine recently moved to the Bay Area from New York, where she taught for six years in a renowned charter school. Over the course of her last year, her principal took leave for a mental breakdown, and the dean was hospitalized twice for kidney problems stemming from exhaustion. Is this what we now expect from our educators?
Though I literally worked nonstop for the entire school year, the founder and CEO of my former school, Deborah Kenny, refused to write me a letter of recommendation upon my resignation. To add insult to injury, I only received a few hundred dollars of a prospective bonus because the students’ test scores fell short of perfection. Students, keep in mind, who had entered the school reading three to four grade levels behind, 90% of whom had improved to at least a fourth grade reading level by the end of my year with them. Students who consisted of those who wanted to learn, those who didn’t want to learn, and those who threw chairs at me. My colleagues, who had also sacrificed their lives at the altar of charter school education, were dealt the same blows. Yet Kenny, made famous through the efforts of her teachers, didn’t cut into her own paycheck; the New York Daily News reported she paid herself $400,000 in 2009, making her the highest-paid charter school executive in New York City.
Through Teach for America and the charter world, we have placed the burden of failing schools on the backs of privileged 22-year-olds. Not only do we expect them to be miracle workers, we make them feel extremely guilty when their efforts fall short of the miraculous. Why do we expect nothing from our community? Our parents? The students themselves? Why is no one held accountable but teachers?
I am a teacher. Some might even call me a good one. I make a fraction of what my peers make in the worlds of law, business, and medicine. No one expects my lawyer friends to be freeing innocent prisoners from death row, though they make at least four times my salary. But since I am in a helping profession, I must defend myself from the sanctimony of people like Davis Guggenheim, Wendy Kopp, and Deborah Kenny – all of whom know the solution to public education, none of whom currently teach. As Stephen Colbert said to a humorless Kopp on The Colbert Report, do as I say, not do as I do, right? That never goes over well with my students.
It’s been almost four mornings since your lips grazed mine,
and you looked at me sweetly and told me to
put my seatbelt on
even though we had arrived – the car was beeping and you were being silly, though now I wonder -
it’s been eight mornings since you told me
you were really looking forward to seeing me, and, (stupidly, I guess),
I said the same.
Should I contact him? I inquire nervously, barely raising my eyes,
and everyone tells me NO, NO, NO,
This is the game, Sabrina,
Sabrina, the game,
and you’ve given away the ball and let him score,
and now he’s looking for a new partner.
And I hear them, but it’s the way you might hear distant shouting while locked inside a steel drum,
And I think
this is all very good advice, but no one else saw the fires you started with your eyes, and
your body has never curved so fiercely around another woman’s body.
Six weeks of digging a hole so the water could
break through –
that’s forty-two mornings, forty-two.
You told me you admired my tenacity with a shovel.
And when the water came, with a whoooosh and a gush that made me
I called to you proudly, and said, “Here. Swim with me,”
and you called it a flood.
Hello, and thanks for visiting my blog. My name is Sabrina, and I’m a writer, musician, and English teacher. I absolutely love words and notes, whether they be silly, straight, sultry, or scandalous, and I plan to play with them a lot on this website. I hope you enjoy my creations as I attempt to find beauty and sense in this bittersweet maze we call life.
We write from the marrow of our bones. ~Adrienne Rich