Sunday, August 25, 2013

American Education VS the Porsche

It's that time of year again. Time for children to go back to school and for the complaints about American education to begin with that all important question: Why can't a 1930 Chevrolet pickup truck beat the newest Porsche?
While no one ever ask the question that way, it is actually a more accurate question than: Why don't American students always get the highest scores on international test?
The United States educational system was designed in the 1920's and codified in the early 30's with little change since. Meanwhile counties like Germany, Japan, and China have revamped their systems by lengthening the school year, reducing class size, increasing teacher salaries, and that dreaded T word, tracking students by ability.
Looking at all the variables, the question should be: Why do American schools do so well? In spite of what is often said, American students score in the top ten on virtually every international test. This is like that 1930 pickup coming in 5th at the Indianapolis 500.
So maybe the time as come to stop criticizing and start bragging. After all, we must have some damn good mechanics keeping that truck in the race.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Being a Teacher

I said there is a difference between what we do and what (or who) we are.
Well, among other things, I am a teacher.
One of the odd things about what we are is that we are that thing before we do it, usually even before we know it.
I found out I was a teacher at noon on my first day of student teaching. I was exhausted and elated, knowing without articulating that I was born to do this.
Looking back, can see there were plenty of indications scattered along the path of my life, I just hadn't seen them as teaching until that first day in a classroom.
Even if I tried escaping teaching, I couldn't.
I discovered this while at a writing retreat where, tired of the label, I attempted to leave the teacher behind.
It was one of those live-inn retreats where writers attend classes in the morning, spend the afternoon writing, then get together in the evening to talk writing. As happens, I had become part of a tightly knit subgroup who hung out together, sharing our more intimate selves.
I must have done a great job of withholding my day job, because wasn't until the end of a week that one of them asked what I did when not writing.
I told them and they didn't believe me.
I asked why not.
"When we share our writing you don't act like a teacher," a girl in the group said. "You tell us what you like and what doesn't work, but never what we should do about it. You never try to fix our writing, you just help us see how to do it better."
She stopped and suddenly everyone was laughing.
"Damn," one of them said.
My sentiments exactly.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Like many people I tried writing a blog "about something" without understanding what "something" is. This led to what could be called at best intermittent attempts to force myself to say something about something. (Nonexistent would better describe those efforts.)
I thought that as someone who writes, I should write about writing, missing the big picture.
What is the (forgive the cliché) Big Picture?
Writing is not what I do, it's who I am. And that means everything I do, think, and say is about writing.
But wait, as they say, there's more. Because I'm a hell of a lot more than a writer.
Among other things, I'm a father, husband, teacher, musician (this last called into question on occasion by fellow band members) traveler (in oh so many ways), the list goes on and on.
So, to the revelation: Whatever I write needs to come from who I am, not just what I do.
That will at time involve advice, opinions, commentary of the state of education, and just about anything else that makes me, me.
This opens the door (sadly, another cliché) to the question of, "who gives a shit what Kelly Owen has to say?
The answer to that will be up each individual who visits this page.