Salmon

Today was an emotionally difficult one.  I woke up like so many others this morning with a heaviness in my heart and gut that’s not likely to disappear for a while.

A lot of folks have written long-form pieces on the misogyny, white supremacy, xenophobia, and entitlement that have fueled the Drumpf campaign; that’s not what I want to write about here because so many people are speaking about it more eloquently than I can.

But I can speak to this: with a vice president coming into office who has done everything possible to roll back Roe vs. Wade in his state, reduce women’s access to contraception and reproductive health, and who has tried to criminalize miscarriage – now in a national position of power with no one to check that power – our reproductive rights are genuinely in a precarious position.

In Indiana, minors must have parental permission to get a prescription for birth control.  Sex education isn’t required and if it is taught, abstinence must be stressed.  Teaching about contraception is NOT required.  There are no anti-discrimination laws or anti-bullying laws in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and there’s no statewide hate crime law.*  Much has been said about Indiana’s draconian measures to restrict abortion and its attempt to encourage discrimination against same-sex couples; this is the man who will be tasked with helping to choose our next secretaries of health and human services and education.  Who will be partially responsible for nominating the next Supreme Court justice.

Furthermore, knowledge itself is dangerous to Drumpf.  The more educated people are, the less likely they were to vote for him.  As an educator, I’m nervous not only about the future of teachers’ unions and science and history textbooks, but about an administrative attack on higher education and knowledge as a whole.

There are many who joke about leaving the US for greener pastures; I certainly sympathize with that sentiment.  I’m swimming upstream, though.  After seven years of living as a resident alien in another country, I’m coming home.  I was already planning on this well before the election, but after yesterday, my feeling that now is the right time is much stronger.  I can’t make my voice heard from South Korea.  I cannot march, I cannot organize, I cannot be an advocate or active ally for young people and communities who lack access to resources.  There are trying times ahead, and it’s time to jump in with both feet.

#wewontgoback

*This information comes from Sex, Etc., which I highly recommend you check out for state-by-state information on laws concerned with birth control, abortion, and sex education.

 

Advertisements

Self-Actualization

I don’t particularly like children.  They demand attention and time, they can be really mean, and some of them seem to be in perpetual motion, which is just too much for me.  I got my degree in secondary education and initially taught high school because I love the rebellious attitude, sophomoric delusions, and “who-the-fuck-am-I?”-ness of teenagers.  So when I moved to Korea, I was shocked at how much I LOVED my kids.  My elementary and middle school students were hilarious, insightful, and creative. 
I have had the great fortune to stay in contact with a few of these students over the years; one of them recently got back from a study abroad semester in China.  Before travelling there, she had told me that she wanted to live with her parents while going to uni because “Why would I want to clean, cook, and pay bills?”  Now, having lived alone for three months, she has come back with platinum blonde hair, an effervescent bounce in her step, and a deep desire to move out.  That happened fast!  She had several conversations with her boyfriend while she was gone about how to best make sure that both of their needs were being met while apart and figuring out how to communicate in a way that was comfortable for both of them.  I cannot imagine having the emotional maturity or confidence at twenty to have a single conversation with a partner about making sure my needs were being met. 
The best part of being a teacher, hands down, is watching young people grow up and into self-actualized humans; seeing them thrive is a singular experience of joy. 
On the same day that I had dinner with the student who went to China, another former student (who’s currently in her senior year of high school) got back in contact with me; we met for coffee, along with her twin brother, whom I’d also taught.  They were suddenly both taller than me and bubbling over with excitement to tell me about their friends, teachers, and preparations for the test they’ll take later this year that will decide their entire future.  We talked about movies, politics, friendship, and language, and I was blown away by their maturity.  They’re applying for universities this year; I started teaching them when they were in fifth grade.  That shit is crazy.
You may be sitting there, thinking: WTF I THOUGHT THIS WAS A SEX BLOG.
This post exemplifies why I started writing this blog.  I am a whole human being – as are all teachers – and part of being human is being sexual.  I date and I have a sex life.  A non-monogamous, unmarried, bisexual, kinky sex life.  And I am a caring educator who acts as a mentor – who stays in touch with her students years after they’re no longer her students.  In fact, I stay in touch with their parents because I think children benefit immensely from parents and teachers working together. 
In the past five years, there has been a litany of teachers being fired for having been an exotic dancer or acting in a porn before becoming a teacher; for dancing burlesque; and most recently, just for having nude selfies on their phonesAll female teachers, by the way.  Pretty sure no male teacher has ever been fired for having a dick pic on his phone – but that’s a rant for another day.
So, yeah – this is mostly a sex blog.  But once in a while, I feel the need to drop a gentle reminder that it’s more than that.  It’s a call to stop shaming (and firing) excellent, hardworking, enthusiastic, and compassionate teachers for being whole human beings.  Teachers are out there in the world sexting, writing lesson plans, talking dirty with their partners, inspiring curiosity about scientific concepts and history, hooking up, and putting band-aids on skinned knees.  Just as your accountant might go home and put in a ball gag after doing your taxes, a preschool teacher might *gasp* go on a date after singing “Old Macdonald” for the hundredth time.

This blog is anonymous because I could be fired for writing about my sex life publicly.  There’s a part of me that worries about this all the time.  All the time.  Teaching is so central to who I am as a person that the idea of losing my job really freaks me out – but I continue to write because maybe it will encourage someone to open a dialogue.  My kids and my job mean the world to me – but so does being able to be a self-actualized person like I encourage my kids to be.  

Stop the presses! Rich white girls in trouble!

I was directed last week via Timaree’s Friday sex links to an article from the Sydney Morning Herald’s comment section about how online porn is turning young men into violent, sex-crazed hornballs who are now demanding anal sex from their teenage girlfriends; the subheading reads, “We need to educate and embolden our daughters to fight back against pornography, which is warping the behavior of boys.”  This immediately set off a red flag in my head.  No, two red flags.  First of all — the phrase “fight back against pornography” seems kind of funny to me.  I’m imagining a porn movie with its fists up in little red boxing gloves.  It’s important to create and support alternative pornography and to have critical discussions about pornography with young people… but the way this is phrased suggests that porn as a whole should be eradicated.

Second — how about we educate our boys about the differences between the sex they see in pornography vs. real sex?  How about we have critical discussions with them about gender roles, consent, the meaning of masculinity, and healthy relationships?  A program in Canada is doing just that, and it would be the greatest thing ever if that program were available everywhere.

Despite these red flags, I continued to read the article — a scare piece — and was shocked when I came to this paragraph:
    There was stunned silence around that table, although I think some of us may have let out involuntary cries of dismay and disbelief. Sue’s surgery isn’t in the brutalised inner-city but in a leafy suburb. The girls presenting with incontinence were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from a dogging video on his mobile.

I wasn’t shocked by the fact that teenagers are having sex.  It wasn’t the mention of teen girls having to have surgery for incontinence that made my jaw drop, though that is certainly shocking and disturbing.  What caught my attention is the implied racism / classism in Pearson’s writing.  That her outrage stems from the fact that it’s privileged suburban white girls who are being coerced into sexual acts that they’re not entirely comfortable with and not lower class girls from the “brutalized inner city” teems with racist and classist implications. As though it wouldn’t be newsworthy if a teenage girl from an inner city neighborhood needed surgery because her boyfriend had aggressive sex with her.  In addition, the fact that she paints being from the inner city in opposition to being from a “loving, stable home” really got on my fucking nerves.  In doing so, she is tacitly stating a mutual exclusivity between making less money and providing stability or love for one’s family.

Pearson longs for a time when teenagers were “looking forward to their first kiss” at the age of sixteen (the age of consent in Sydney).  This is 2015.  We need to be talking realistically to young people about their lived experiences and having conversations with them about desire, communication, and consent, and we need to give them safe spaces to speak freely and advocate for their own agency.  That includes recognizing that young people have sexual desire and that that desire is part of their humanity.  (I also think it should be said here that anal sex is not by definition violent sex.)

Coercion and social expectation are real for young people and have tangible consequences on their lives.  So it’s imperative that we talk to young women and young men about media images of sexuality and how they influence behaviors and expectations.  Because while it is shocking that there are young women having fistula surgery from anal sex (which, again, is not inherently aggressive, and when done right should not result in injury), it is equally shocking to hear young men say that they feel like they are socially expected to pressure their girlfriends into doing it.          

This student fucking needs to stop, you guys.

Lots of profanity coming your way!

I was watching last Thursday’s The Nightly Show a few nights ago, and a couple of things really upset me.  The topic of the evening was the recent slew of female teachers (sweet mother of god, why are there so many of them?!?!?) having sex with their male middle and high school students.

The first thing that bugged me was that the group mentioned the double standard regarding gender and sex with minors, but didn’t really address it in any way except to say that they had no problem with the female teachers in question getting a slap on the wrist for bangin’ their kids, but if it were a male teacher having sex with female students, we should “lock him up” for good.  I’m much more bothered by the fact that this double standard exists than by the fact that the guests were being flippant about it; it is, after all, a comedy show. 

So here’s the thing.  Teachers shouldn’t be fucking their students.  Period, full stop, the end.  Hey, teachers!  I don’t give a shit what gender you identify as.  I don’t give a shit if that student is technically of legal consent age.  I don’t give a shit if that student isn’t in your class.  I don’t give a shit how attractive the student is.  And I definitely don’t give a shit if the student came on to you first.  Being a teacher means being able to make big girl decisions.  You are a trusted authority figure and there is a discernible power discrepancy between you and that student.  If you can’t manage to harness the will power to keep it in your pants until the student graduates, then you shouldn’t be teaching.

I recognize teenagers as people with sexual desire and sexual agency, fully capable of making responsible decisions.  But I also recognize teenagers as people who are in hormonal flux and generally more susceptible to the power of suggestion than adults are.  Something that’s often taught in teacher training programs is that a teacher should never engage in a power struggle with a student when (s)he’s angry because the teacher is the one in charge — the adult.  The one with the power to reward, punish, give scores, and make a tangible impact on the student’s life.  I think that concept applies here. 

When I was a senior in high school, I was quite taken with a young PE teacher at my school, fresh out of college.  I was 18 and he must have been… 23?  I wore revealing clothing, flirted with him shamelessly, talked to all my friends about how badly I wanted that guy’s dick in me, and gave him the sex eyes every time I passed him.  I knew exactly what I was doing, and I’m very thankful that he never even looked at me inappropriately.     

Tying into this, the second thing that irritated me was when Mo’Nique said that she couldn’t fault the male students because boys were just natural horndogs; her exact quote was, “At sixteen, a boy is just looking to get laid; a girl is looking for love.” 

FUCK. THAT.

I was stupid horny when I was sixteen.  I had sex all over the place and as often as I could, and not only that — I craved it.  I masturbated frequently and fantasized during class.  I had a sexual bucket list (anyone remember that 500 question purity test that was floating around the internet in the mid-90s?).  This girl was looking for hot sex.

Mo’Nique was trying to say that it’s no big deal if a male student has sex with a teacher because he’s not emotionally invested, but it is a big deal if a female student has sex with a male teacher because she’ll end up hurt.  I find this highly problematic because it implies that men have no feelings.  And that’s some bullshit.  Boys and men want to be liked and wanted just as much as girls and women do.  They feel and express love, regret, hurt, and desire.  They are as vulnerable as their female counterparts. 

There’s a reason teachers call their students their kids.  They feel like our children because ideally, we want to protect and encourage them.  We want to help them learn, grow, and become amazing adults.  We want to foster their curiosity, take care of them when they need help, and be there for them. 

Teachers: if you wouldn’t fuck your children, then don’t fuck your kids. 

Also, I’d really like this blog to show up on a search engine one of these days, and if you keep fucking your students, then my dream will be merely made of pipes. 

A Brief Rant About HBO’s Girls and Teaching

I’m a teacher.  Like, a licensed one — not just someone who popped over to South Korea and thought, “Hey, how hard can teaching be?  I bet I can do that for a year!”  I studied for four years to become a teacher.  The last semester of university, I taught full-time at a high school while taking three university courses and working a part-time job.  Furthermore, I’m an English teacher — and along with social studies teachers, the supply exceeds the demand.  There are a lot of people in the US with teaching degrees who are looking for work. 

So imagine my surprise when in this season of HBO’s Girls, Hannah Horvath just walks into a private school, asks for a job teaching advanced literature, and gets hired immediately with no experience and no qualifications.  Now, I love this show, and I think this season has been pretty great.  But for a show that prides itself on realism, I’m pretty shocked that the writers didn’t seem to notice this glaring error in the script. 

Private and charter schools can hire whom they please; however, the likelihood that there’s a substitute teacher opening in a magnet school in Brooklyn in the middle of semester and that there’s not a single qualified teacher applying for that job is remarkably slim.  I’d say close to zero.  Come on, Girls.

But there’s more.  So much more.  The minute Hannah starts having inappropriate conversations with students, her ass would be out the door faster than you can say lawsuit.  No school — even a private school — wants a teacher like that on their hands.  Too much liability! 

Principal in the show: “Hey, sweetheart, you could really use some boundaries.” 
Hannah: “Are you firing me?” *sad puppy eyes*
Principal: “Why don’t you take the day off and come back when you’re feeling better? We’ll talk about it then over hot fudge sundaes.”

Principal in real life: “You’re done here.  Pack your things.”
Hannah: “Are you firing me?” *sad puppy eyes*
Principal: “You took a minor OUT OF SCHOOL DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL DAY and brought her to a tattoo and piercing shop.  You’re lucky we’re not suing you.”   

My school got pissed at me and my co-coach when we took our swimmers out for dinner after the season ended (after the school hadn’t had a swim team in twenty years) because it was too much of a liability to drive them in our cars rather than have the school pay for an insured school bus.

Do Not Be Alarmed

I started a new university job this week; as a new teacher, I got a “Welcome to X University / Here Are Our Official Policies” handout last week at the new teacher meeting.  Imagine my shock and dismay upon reading the following paragraph (copied here verbatim):

“It should be pointed out that students in the sports department have a special system of grading.  This means that students with athletic scholarships are given academic scores based on their performance in that particular sport.  These students can often be absent from class, late and apathetic to appropriate academic behavior.  Simply put, their effort in class does not matter if they place high in their respective competition.  This being the case, it is essential that you identify these students at the beginning of the semester,  However, do not be alarmed.  Take each individual case in stride.”

I don’t know — I mean, I consider the fact that my university took the time to include in writing in an official university document that student athletes can sleep through class or not even bother to show up, and we’re still supposed to pass them PRETTY FUCKING ALARMING.  I’m sure college professors (for sure high school teachers) in the US are pressured to pass athletes (or, in the case of New Orleans, musicians) no matter their academic performance, but at least they have some means to fight back against it.

New KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) slogan:

Image result for korean flag

Korea!  We have the cojones to own up to corruption. 

I write this blog

because of bullshit like this.  And just when the Catholic church was starting to change its image a teeny, tiny bit thanks to Pope Awesome.  

By the way, one of those “gravely evil acts” is using birth control pills.  Guess I know now why mom dressed me as Satan for Halloween that one year! 

We should get a bunch of sex nerds together for a huge meetup and call it EvilCon.

US Middle and High School Dropouts are Fuuuuuucked.

Over the past year, the United States has seen an increase in employment, and the economy is finally beginning to recover a bit after a long recession.  So the good suits over at Pearson, the for-profit company (the largest education company in the world, worth billions of GBP and headquartered in London) that is responsible for writing and producing the GED diploma, was like, “Wait, what?  People are getting jobs?  And learning?  And being able to support themselves?  Before you know it, they’ll be wanting a voice and power!  Well, we’ll just see about that.” 
   
The new GED test was implemented at the beginning of 2014 to reflect the Common Core national educational standards for public schools that most states adopted quickly (but which some are beginning to drop).  Ostensibly, the reason for the changes in the content of the test is to prepare GED test takers to enter a four year-university, which is one of the primary goals of the Common Core.  Changes to the test included:

  • More of a focus on critical thinking and analytical skills, such as close reading, essay writing, and advanced algebra;
  • The test is now only available online;
  • Test samples now cost $6 per sample and require a credit card to purchase;
  • The cost of the test itself has tripled, from $40 to $120.

The reason this has been in the news recently is because passing rates from 2014 have just been released; in 2013, the last year that the old test was implemented, 540,000 test-takers passed.  In 2014, only 55,000 passed.  That is a decrease of 90%.  Ninety percent!  Imagine if your local DMV suddenly changed the written test to get a driver’s license, and suddenly 90% of people were failing. We would find that problematic, no?

Who does this affect?

  • Anyone who’s just trying to get a high school diploma equivalent in order to get a job and doesn’t plan on entering a college or university;
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a computer;
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a hundred and twenty fucking dollars to fork over to a wealthy company which is profiting off of making the test more difficult;
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a credit card;
  • Anyone who didn’t grow up with computers and doesn’t have computer skills;
  • Inmates, many of whom need to pass the GED in order to get a job upon being released from prison

Basically, anyone who’s already screwed from the start.

In addition to all of this, most adult education is taught by volunteers who might not have the skills or knowledge to teach the new material.  Luckily, there are other testing companies that have developed alternative equivalency tests, which some states are beginning to accept.  Being able to pass this test has real-life implications for hundreds of thousands of people; passing the GED and being a better job candidate because of it can mean being able to financially support a family, get health benefits, and work on paying off debt.  It contributes to agency, self-actualization, and survival.  This shit is important. Read about it more here.

Teaching Sexism

I found this horrifying gem a couple of days ago while perusing EFL websites.  Jokes!  What a great teaching tool!  I mean, nothing teaches us more about culture than its humor, right?  So let’s read some North American jokes about love and marriage to teach us about the culture of relationships in the US and Canada:

*A man inserted an ad in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.”
The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”

Oh, I get it.  It’s because having a wife is such a burden!  I mean, if the bitch didn’t cook and clean, we wouldn’t even put up with her, amiright?

*Q: Why are men with pierced ears better suited for marriage?
A: Because they have suffered and bought jewelry.

Those gold-digging wives!  All they care about is getting their greedy little hands on some bling and making their poor husbands suffer, presumably by working long and hard hours in order to buy wife said jewelry. 

Who thought this was an appropriate lesson for anyone, let alone ESL students?

The Curve

I teach conversation classes to third and fourth year English majors.  They easily have the highest-level English skills of all of the students at my school; they’re engaged, funny, and really dedicated to being the best students they can be and advocating for their own education.  They actually come to my office hours just to chat!  This is why it is so heartbreaking that I’m giving a C+ to students who earned a 90% in my class and a B+ to students who earned a 96%.  The difference between an A and a B student in one of my classes was that one of them came to class late once.   

Most university classes in South Korea are graded on a curve; at my university, only 30% of the students can receive an A — no matter how successful they are or how hard they’ve worked.  They could all bust their asses, come to every class, practice presentations until they’re blue in the face, and still only nine of thirty-two can get an A.  Another 30% must receive a C or lower — for some reason, the computer grading system has decided that although the percentage is the same, nine students can get an A, but ten students must receive a C.

This won’t stop after university.  Most jobs in South Korea have mandatory professional development and evaluations in place that rank employees; raises are partially based on these rankings.  This system of hyper-competition has real life consequences.  If a student has less than a B average at my university, he or she is unable to participate in special programs, like our English intensive course or study abroad.  This means that students are effectively being punished for actually earning As that we’re taking back from them. 

There are those who praise the education system in South Korea for forcing students into high achievement tunnel vision simply because it affects student test scores; however, this model of education is deflating and destructive.  It lowers student and teacher morale. 

The school computers won’t allow grades to be submitted if there is a higher percentage of A grades or B grades than is supposed to be there, and the way we enter grades is by typing in number scores from student work.  What this means is that we have to purposefully enter egregious numbers to lower our students’ scores.  This is not just a practice at my university, but at most private universities in the country.

I’m at a loss for how this is supposed to a good thing in any way for anyone.

UPDATE!  I teach one class that was promoted throughout the department as not having a curve, which is part of the reason students sign up for it; it’s a multi-course program that all of the foreign instructors are part of.  We graded fairly and told the students their grades last week.  Today we got an email telling us that actually, the academic affairs office has decided that only 40% of the students in that class can receive an A… which means that students who think they’re getting an A+ will really be receiving a B.  Way to go, Terrible U!