Saturday, February 25, 2012


Yesterday, I took a group of 33 kids to the Oklahoma City Zoo.  I wrote a grant in September to take them and the Friends of the Zoo paid for the trip, including admission and the cost of the bus.

The kids didn't have to do anything special to get to go.  They were selected on the basis of their good attendance and lack of failing grades.  They averaged about a "B" on their report cards. They also didn't have any mark on their record regarding poor behavior.  It was truly a reward as they didn't know they were selected until we sent home the permission slips last week.

And what a delightful time! I took them as far around the zoo as I could in the time we had.  We took sack lunches from the cafeteria and ate in the courtyard.  The kids wandered in and out of the ice cream shop and the gift shop.  The zookeepers and attendants complimented them on their politeness.  Several bought small trinkets for their moms.

I just loved watching their faces as they petted animals and as we slid down the slides together.  Since I'm at the zoo frequently, I narrated the animals we encountered, citing the punishment of Prometheus when we came to the vultures and never even stopping to breathe in the reptile house because I talked so much.  Then we had an hour long program on how to train animals with the education department and a demonstration with a prehensile-tailed porcupine. Back at school, we wrote thank you notes and talked about our experience. I wonder if I wasn't the one who was impacted the most.  Most of my kids don't have insurance of any kind and some have a parent who has been deported.  None of the politics in American life are their fault. They are the ones left to deal with it.

After school, these kids will go back to their lives of working on the weekends- most have jobs or do child care for their parents- and of not always having enough to eat. I can tell though, that these kids are loved.  Poverty does not necessarily equal neglect and my students, my children, my kids yesterday were complimented by the director of education. She said that a different group of students had been through earlier (I won't mention which group, but they were from Edmond), and that she would without hesitation prefer to have our group back any day. And that we were welcome to do so.

A few weeks ago, I got into a discussion about politics with a conservative person. I love this person and ended up changing the subject to preserve the peace.  Yeah, that's how much I love my cousin.  I mean him.  I mean, this person.  :O I said that President Obama did me a favor when he put a cap on how much of my income could be taken by the student loan people.  He argued that when I signed the student loan papers, I knew what I was signing.  Actually, no, they do not give you that information when you sign the contract and most people aren't educated enough to research or discern that information prior to going to get their education.  Lenders take advantage of that fact at the outset.  But my uh, discussion partner differed, saying that in changing that law I was in fact hurting the economy.

So many others will get through college the same way I did.  If I didn't sign those student loan papers I would not have the skills or knowledge (or credentials) I have today.  In his mind, it's not an ass-raping, it's just good business.  But if people don't get student loans, they cannot go to college.  Fine, he said, then they don't go.  But I don't think he has thought that far down the line.  Those who cannot afford it are historically disenfranchised anyway and this would perpetuate the cycle.  He said I was a liberal and that I'd spend my life giving away other people's money.

Yesterday, I took 33 children with me.  The grant was only for 30, so I paid for the other 3 out of my own pocket.  The money I earn as a public school teacher in one of the poorest schools in the state.  I have no working technology in my classroom, save a chalkboard and white board.  I and my two English department colleagues are expected to save our school from being part of the state takeover which will occur if we don't get them passing scores on the end of year tests.  And for this I make less than $33k per year.  And I'll pay my student loans.  And I provide all of the things that the district does not. And I get to be a part a greater good, something bigger than myself. Yes, my salary comes from the taxpayers and I think it's money well spent since most of it goes right back where it came from.

You want a definition of liberal? That's liberal.

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Wild Okie, you are a typical teacher: dedicated to your students as a calling.

    I would not characterize your paying for the kids out of your own pocket as liberal; I would call that compassionate and caring. It's also a component of the concept of liberalism, a willingness to work together as a society to better the world for us and our children (both actual and virtual). Components of that liberalism include the grant to get the kids to the zoo, and the zoo itself (which is a part of the city government of OKC). The zoo is both a learning facility, but it is an environmental conservation facility.

    I'm glad the kids enjoyed themselves, also.