Why I Fight Against the Privatization and Degradation of Public Education for Children Other than my Own…

Things that, because of a respectable, middle class education and upbringing, I am WILLING and ABLE to do to fill the gaps in my children’s public education:

~pay for piano lessons
~enroll them in fun, educational summer workshops at the local college and cultural center
~take them to plays, musicals, art exhibits, and museums
~support their sports teams and camps
~volunteer to provide a book club at their school
~serve on the FSO to provide “extras” that have otherwise been cut from the budget
~take regular trips to the library/bookstore and read with them every day
~communicate with their teachers on a regular basis
~supplement weekly Pearson textbook stories with hands-on activities

Things that parents of poor students are generally WILLING and ABLE to do to fill the gaps in their children’s public education:

THIS is why I fight.
THIS is why we must get public education right.

*This blog is dedicated to my students-especially the ones who find it in themselves to overcome their circumstances.

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What Dr. Seuss knew that State Ed. may never understand…

It’s hard to believe that beloved poet and illustrator, Theodor Seuss Geisel, (aka Dr. Seuss), has been gone for over twenty years. Surely, his spirit will live on forever through his zany, colorful children’s stories.

I recently had an epiphany about Dr. Suess when an enthusiastic young teacher shared with me a Dr. Suess story that I had not yet read but now consider to be his masterpiece.

So, if you will, come with me on a journey through Dinkerville…


dr seuss

I’ve always lived in Dinkerville, my friends all live there too.
We go to Diffendoofer School- we’re happy that we do.
Our school is at the corner of Dinkzoober and Dinkzott.
It looks like any other school, but we suspect it’s not.
I think we’re learning lots of things not taught at other schools.
Our teachers are remarkable, they make up their own rules.

Miss Bobble teaches listening, Miss Wobble teaches smelling,
Miss Fribble teaches laughing, and Miss Quibble teaches yelling.
Miss Twining teaches tying knots in neckerchiefs and noodles,
and how to tell chrysanthemums from miniature poodles.
Miss Vining teaches all the ways a pigeon may be peppered,
and how to put a saddle on a lizard or a leopard.

My teacher is Miss Bonkers, she’s as bouncy as a flea.
I’m not certain what she teaches, but I’m glad she teaches me.
“Look! Look!” she chirps. “I’ll show you how to tell a cactus from a cow, and then I shall instruct you why a hippo cannot hope to fly.”
She even teaches frogs to dance, and pigs to put on underpants.
One day she taught a duck to sing- Miss Bonkers teaches EVERYTHING!
Of all the teachers in our school, I like Miss Bonkers best.
Our teachers are all different, but she’s different-er than the rest.

We also have a principal, his name is Mr. Lowe.
He is the very saddest man that any of us know.
He mumbles, “Are they learning this and that and such and such?
His face is wrinkled as a prune from worrying so much.
He breaks a lot of pencil points from pushing down too hard,
and many dogs start barking as he mopes around the yard.
We think he wears false eyebrows, in fact, we’re sure it’s so.
We’ve heard he takes them off at night…I guess we’ll never know.
But we know he like Miss Bonkers, he treats her like a queen.
He’s always there to watch her when she’s on her trampoline.

There are many other people who make Diffendoofer run.
They are utterly amazing-I love every single one.
Our nurse, Miss Clotte, knows what to do when we’ve got sniffles or the flu. One day I had a splinter, so she bandaged me from head to toe. Mr. Plunger, our custodian, has fashioned a machine-
a super-zooper-flooper-do-it keeps the whole school clean.

Our music teacher, Mrs.Fox, makes bagpipes out of straws and socks.
Our art instructor, Mr. Beeze, paints pictures hanging by his knees.
In science class with Mr. Katz, we learn to build robotic rats.
In gym we watch as Mr. Bear hoists elephants into the air.
Miss Loon is our librarian, she hides behind the shelves,
and often cries out, “LOUDER!” when we’re reading to ourselves.
We have three cooks, all named McMunch who merrily prepare our lunch. They make us hot dogs, beans and fries, plus things we do not recognize, and as they cook, they sing their song, not too short and not too long. “Roast and toast and slice and dice, cooking lunch is oh so nice.”

We were eating their concoctions, telling jokes and making noise,
when Mr. Lowe appeared and howled, “Attention, girls and boys!”
He began to fuss and fidget, scratch and mutter, sneeze and cough.
He shook his head so hard, we thought his eyebrows would come off.
He wrung his hangs, he cleared his throat, he shed a single tear:
then sobbed, “I’ve something to announce, and that is why I’m here.
All schools for miles and miles around must take a special test,
to see who’s learning such and such-to see which school’s the best.
If our small school does not do well, then it will be torn down,
and you will have to go to school in dreary Flobbertown.”
“Not Flobbertown!” we shouted, and we shuddered at the name,
for everyone in Flobbertown does everything the same.
It’s miserable in Flobbertown, they dress in just one style.
They sing one song, they never dance, they march in single file.
They do not have a playground, and they do not have a park.
Their lunches have no taste at all, their dogs are scared to bark.

Miss Bonkers rose, “Don’t fret,” she said.
“You’ve learned the things you need
to pass that test and many more, I’m certain you will succeed.
We’ve taught you that the earth is round, that red and white makes pink. And something else that matters more, we’ve taught you HOW TO THINK.”

“I hope you’re right”, sighed Mr. Lowe, he shed another tear,
“the test is in ten minutes and you’re taking it right here.”

We sat in shock and disbelief. “Oh no!” we moaned. “Oh no!”
We were even more unhappy than unhappy Mr. Lowe.

But then the test was handed out. “Yahoo!” we yelled. “Yahoo!”
for it was filled with all the things that we all knew we knew.
There were questions about noodles, poodles, frogs and yelling, about listening and laughing, and chrysanthemums and smelling. There were questions about other things we’d never seen or heard, and yet we somehow answered them, understanding every word.

One week later, after recess, Mr. Lowe meandered in.
We’d never seen him smile before, but now he wore a grin.
He soon began to giggle, then his giggle grew by half,
and then it really happened- Mr. Lowe began to laugh.
“You’ve saved our school! You’ve saved our school!” He jubilantly roared. “We got the very highest score!”
He wrote it on the board.

Miss Bonkers did some cartwheels till her face turned cherry red.
She bounded up to Mr. Lowe and kissed him on the head.
“Hooray! Hooray!” she shouted. “I’m so proud I cannot speak.”
So she did another cartwheel, and she pecked him on the cheek.

“Ahem! Ahem!” coughed Mr. Lowe. “You all deserve a bow. I thus declare a holiday-it starts exactly now.
Because you’ve done so splendidly in every sort of way, this day forever shall be known as Diffendoofer Day.
And furthermore, I promise I won’t ever wear a frown, for now I know we’ll never go to dreary Flobbertown.”

Then we held a celebration, there was pizza, milk and cake.
Like everyone, I ate too much and got a bellyache.
We laughed and whooped and hollered the entire school day long,
then we all sang, triumphantly, “The Diffendoofer Song.”

“We love you, Diffendoofer School, We definitely do.
There surely is no other school that’s anything like you.
You’re gribbulous, you’re grobbulous, each day we love you more.
You are the school we treasure and unceasingly adore.
Oh, finest school in Dinkerville-the only one as well-
We love you, Diffendoofer School, much more than we can tell.
You are so diffendooferouse It gives us joy to say,
Three cheers for Diffendoofer School- Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!!!”

It is astounding to me that Dr. Suess had this kind foresight about education in the 1980’s as he created the sketches and notes for this book. After all, it wasn’t until 2000 that standardized testing was brought to a new level with President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.” Enter “Race to the Top” and we now have standardized testing on steroids. What would Dr. Suess think of education today? That thought makes me sad. This story, that he never lived to see published, has inspired me to keep fighting to keep the Miss Bonkers’ of the world in our classrooms. Unfortunately, the aspiring teacher who shared this with me is already feeling the effects of the state’s unfair system as more “requirements” are piled upon her while she strives to obtain her Master’s Degree. I am certain that she will not give up, and I hope for all of our children that she never does.

I like to think that as I shared the following you tube video with my Creative Writing class this week, in honor of NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, that they notice a little “Miss Bonkers” in me. 🙂

*It is important to note that Theodor Geisel died before this book could be published, so his friends Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith completed the book in his honor, and I am so happy that they did. Amazon calls it, “An ode to unorthodox, unusually creative teachers and the innovative thinking they encourage in young minds.”
I thereby dedicate this blog to the teachers who refuse to teach to the test. May the flobbertowns of the world be defeated.