Sunday, January 29, 2012

Physical Therapy

As a Christmas present this year, my mother sent me to a physical therapist. All I can say is "Wow."

Briefly, my right lower back has been acting out like crazy for something over six months. Somewhere in the middle of that, my right ankle decided that now was an excellent time to develop tendonitis.

The tendonitis started when I was in college, and got very, very bad in my early twenties. I blame the tendonitis for a number of things, not least of which being that I gained a lot of weight gradually after college because moving was damn near impossible for several years on end. We tried a lot of stuff with the tendonitis, and eventually it receded, possibly due to a course of what I like to think of as electroshock therapy for my ankles--a process involving a TENS unit, little electrodes taped to me, and a cheerful lab tech who hooked me up and left me to be zapped while I read the paper.

Anyway, it was back, albeit only in one ankle, plus my back hurt. I was hobbling around like I was eighty, and not one of those spry eighty-year-olds who take tennis lessons either.

I went to a doctor in November, who barely glanced at the back. She bent me in a couple of directions, didn't know what it was, and shrugged. She was, however, worried about the ankle, which was, at that point, at its absolute tendonitisy best, so freaked out that I could hardly put weight on it, let alone use it to lift. She recommended the physical therapist. (She also wanted to discuss my weight, or rather, pass comments on it, and the screaming fury this sent me in to may well have been one of the culminating events leading up to my current diet.)

The physical therapist I was almost in tears during the exam. He took the pain seriously. He asked a lot of questions. He gave me exercises, and they are actually working. For the first time in months, I'm waking up without intense pain in my hip.

I'm sold.

(Also, eight, possibly nine pounds lighter since the beginning of the year. I am mighty.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Teaching--It's Not A 'Privilege'

A friend draws my attention to this:

When I send my children off to school in the morning I expect a few things to happen:

1) They should have fun at school

2) They should feel inspired and challenged

3) They should be allowed to explore their passions

Is that too much to ask! I don’t want to hear why my second grader needs to take benchmark exams (which are more like midterm exams you take in college), simply because you want your school scores to test high so that you can receive more state funding. This is not why I send them to school and this is not the definition of teaching. If you have teachers who love to teach and do their job well… then get the hell out of their way and let them teach. If you have lousy teachers who do the bare minimum then fire them before they taint the minds of our children. An education is the right of every child, but teaching those children is a privilege.

My Question: If a doctor doesn’t do her job well and harms her patients she loses her license. So, why don’t the teachers who harm the education of our children lose their licenses?

First, this person seems to have her blame leveled at several different people in this short piece. A classroom teacher does not decide if a second grader needs to take benchmark exams, or whether it would be better to have them learn with all their senses by doing a great unit on butterflies. So the 'why does my kids have to take the exam, just so you dumbos can get EVEN MORE state funding for your free public school' whine really has nothing whatsoever to do with the teachers. Or the administrators, in most cases. This is a state- and federal-level fight here. 

However, Mrs. High Expectations also seems to have absorbed the popular fantasy that the real problem in schools is bad teachers who somehow cannot be removed from the classroom. Hence the coy little whine about how doctors who are bad doctors lose THEIR jobs. (No, chica, that's not actually true. Even doctors who kill their patients usually settle through their malpractice insurance. You have to screw up more than a second-grade teacher generally does to lose a medical license.)

But never mind. This is someone who wants her kids to have a great school experience, and she wants everyone who's not contributing to to that out of the way, and as someone who hopes for her own future kids to have a good school experience, I can relate, and I'll keep my own thoughts about 'bad teachers', and what that really means for another day.

What I'm looking at is the 'privilege' statement.

Look, as someone who just spent eight years in education, and is now bailing, it's hard in some ways to say that teaching is not a privilege, if by 'privilege' we mean something special and wonderful that not everyone gets a chance to do. By that standard, many professions are privileges, as are many life experiences.

However, it is relatively rare for someone to write a blog post telling their doctor that practicing medicine is a privilege. They may tell their doctors that they are crappy doctors, or that they're getting sued, or that they're miserable excuses for human beings, but even pediatricians don't get the 'but taking care of my children is a privilege' nonsense nearly as much as teachers. (I am reminded of Brendan Behan, commenting on how people always remind you that 'a priest is a worker too'. He points out that people rarely feel the need to remind you that a ditch-digger is a worker too.)

This is because 'privilege' when we talk about teachers usually has other subtexts. It means "You're getting paid too much." It means "I blame you for my child's problems." It means "I blame you for our school district's decisions." It means "You're a Madonna or a dirtbag, depending on how I feel about my child's educational experience this week." It means, "I read online somewhere that teachers are getting paid $50,000.00 to sit in offices in New York because there's something wrong with the union there."

Teaching is not a privilege. It is a job. It is a moderately paid, highly responsible, extremely difficult job. If you do not like the job your child's teacher is doing, do something about it. Do what my friend Drora recently did, and get you kid transferred to someone else's classroom. Talk to the teacher. Engage politically, and find out WHY the second-grade teacher has to teach to the test, and what would happen to her in your district if she declined. But do not stand there and simper about how privileged teachers are, and how grateful they should be for the opportunity to do the job they were trained for.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Batoks and Stuffed Calimari

I watch a lot of cooking reality shows. Love 'em. "Hell's Kitchen, "Master Chef", "Top Chef", and "America's Worst Cooks" are all regulars on my Hulu list. But I'm often pulled up short by issues that come up on the show with contestants whose religious backgrounds conflict with the foods expected to be eaten on the show.

One of the contestants on a past season of "Master Chef" was Hindu, and had never eaten, much less cooked with, the incessant meats that feature on the show. Sheetal finally had to kill a Dungeness crab on the show, describing her decision to do so (and forgoing Chef Ramsay's offer to do it for her) as 'growing up a little'. Joe Bastianich even reassured her that the crab was happy to give up its life for her dish. I was, to be honest, a little aghast at everyone except Ramsay, who offered what he, at least, thought was a good solution. Killing the Buddha has a good commentary on the episode here, by Jessica Miller.

This season, "Worst Cooks In America" has Joshy, a young Jewish guy who was raised frum, and appears to have gone off the derech. His confusion about different cuts of pork seems to baffle his fellow contestants (how can you not recognize bacon instantly?), and his disgust over trayf seafood is apparent. He eats it, but he grabs a bite and swallows as quickly as possible. On the most recent episode, he has to stuff calimari.

I suppose that everyone who signs up for one of these things knows what they are in for, and the subsequent bafflement about people who don't know from bacon and have qualms about killing animals is par for the course, but it does rather annoy me. "No food is off limits to a CHEF!" Chef Ann announced in a recent episode of "America's Worst Cooks", and in the calimari episode, people were pushed to cook with foods they don't care for, or find challenging. Here's the thing though: the food on these shows never challenges the cultural assumptions of the assumed 'mainstream' participants. I have yet to see a show in which these aspiring chefs are encouraged to create or eat a batok, to do anything with insects, to cook with dog (for which I am, personally, profoundly grateful), or horse (ditto) That would be gross, disturbing, and (since mainstream food taboos are upheld by law as well as custom, making them even more invisible), probably illegal. (Mind you, I'm not complaining about this.) Food like this is saved for others shows, "Man Eats World", or "Fear Factor".

 I don't know why they don't do a vegetarian version of one of these shows. In the meantime, at least a little awareness would be charming. Chef Ann comments several times that Joshy is agitated during the calimari episode. Well, honey, it's pretty obvious why. Would it kill you to say, at least, "Joshy is working with food he has strong religious/cultural taboos against, and he's doing pretty good?"