Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Post: Doug Lucas - Why He Writes

Doug Lucas, author of The Flats Teacher's Test, is my guest today with a post about why he wrote a book that one reviewer called "an explosive story...crossing the boundaries...behind the doors of the educational system". To all my teacher friends and parents, this may be worth your time.

The Flats Teacher's Test is ONLY $4.99 for Kindle (or FREE for Prime users) and you can get it here -

     What made me write The Flats Teacher's Test?
     Well in answer to that question you would have to understand my relationship with and pride I take where my daughter is concerned. If you've met my wife, this becomes a clearly understandable statement.
My wife is that rare breed of intelligent woman who decides what she wants for herself, knows how she intends to live her life and also takes no crap from me. With a combination like that…why wouldn't I dream of having a daughter?
     I've got to admit that I was less than thrilled when my daughter started growing into a beautiful young woman. I felt she should've set her sights somewhat higher than some of the low life types of cretins(none of whom were good enough for her I'll add) she dated. My nasty wife would remind me, that daughters tend to date boys like their fathers. This is not true of course and I will hold the gentle, loving, hard working man(only guy she ever dated that I now like) my daughter married as an example of just why this isn't true.
Sis became enamored with school at age four. We lived in Marine Corps housing while I was stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. The Department of Defense elementary school, which served the families stationed at MCRD Parris Island and the nearby Marine Corps Air Station of Beaufort was located two blocks from the base house we were assigned. I can't count the number of times my wife would force our two sons out the front door for school…only to find Sis had already left out a window or the back door heading the same direction as her brothers.
     Left with a wagon loaded with "her" books, pencils, crayons and of course a snack.
     I watched as her dream of becoming a teacher took root, grew, and became a reality. I observed her work through a few bad educators, more than one tenured professor and several courses in college she hated in pursuit of her dream. In the process she never lost sight of who she was, where she was going and what she intended to do after she got there.
     I also watched her battle cancer and pursue her Master's Degree at the same time. How can you not be impressed with that type of desire and drive?
     I spent the entire time after she started teaching teasing her. The forward of my book fairly describes some of the alleged abuse I heaped on her. She's as tough as nails and gives as good as she gets; no man will ever brow beat that woman.
     I spent my last tour of duty in the Marine Corps as a Recruiter. That's much the same as saying most mothers put me in the same category as "Chester the Molester." It also required me to visit every school in my area(did I mention I had three counties?) regularly.
     Once Sis threw out her challenge(it's in the forward of the book) I decided to take what I knew already and add to that knowledge, just to prove her wrong once again.
     I really wish I had been right and will admit(but not to Sis!) that I wasn't.
     I combined the most common tales I was told into fiction based on facts. I was reminded that we still have some great folks beating their heads against brick walls in an effort to make a difference. In the process they are forced to swim in the cesspools: of politics, violence, stupidity, parental apathy, and government constraints that all but doom them to failure.
     If you can get a teacher to tell you what is really going on in our schools, you'll hear horror stories that make vampires, murder mysteries and war stories seem like a five year talking about their last birthday party.
Do I paint with a broad brush? Yes I do and will admit it. What I will also admit is we have some school systems that work, you just have to search to find them. Even the good ones have deadwood they can't replace…until after the deadwood retires. The problems I found are over simplified in my book and I know that. What I also know is the deadly triad of unions, government and local politics are a major understated part of the problem.
     The solution is easier said than done: fire the failures, let the true teachers do their jobs and stop telling ourselves everyone can or should go to college. Schools today are partly rated on their percentage of students to college…not how many of that number really go on and earn a degree. Also not considered is how many who do receive a degree, are able to make a living with their expensive education.
     We look at the percentage of a school's population who do pass some sort of state assessment exam as the benchmark for how effective the school really is. This practice forces school systems to stress(and sometimes teach to) the test. There's more…much more that goes into why our schools are failing and will get worse in the future if things aren't changed.
     Parents and communities are the only answer I think could make a real change and turn our schools away from the brink of failure. But most parents won't even set down and check their child's homework…"if" the child was assigned homework. Most high school students are shocked when they start college…shocked they have to do much more than attend classes and pass a few test.
     The PTSA's and School Boards are mostly filled with the same folks. Compare a PTSA meeting to the Band or Athletic booster clubs meetings and then tell me which have the most parents attending. You can get more folks to attend a school play than parent/teacher's conferences. If you doubt that statement ask any teacher.
     At the start of this ramble, that more than a few will find contain grammar mistakes, I talked about my daughter. Will She ever become an educator waiting to collect a retirement? Not a chance in hell could or would that ever happen. But I've watched her go from a starry eyed first year teacher to a seasoned professional. What scares me is there aren't as many folks with the drive and determination she has teaching.
     When she says, "I'm thinking about leaving teaching"…well this nation is in deep Kimchi.
If we destroy the desire of teachers to teach (note I said teacher and not educator) we have lost more than we'll ever know.

About the author: After retiring from the Marines I went to work for the Pennsylvania State police as a Forensic Photographer. I liked that job a lot because it was, for the most part, very quiet and peaceful—you might say dead-end. After working at that for a few years I became interested in Forensic video analysis. I think my main reason for interest in that field was as a way of proving to my father I could make a living watching television. I am now totally retired from all forms of work, with the exception of those small requirements my wife now inflicts on me—tasks preformed for little or no pay, I might add. My lovely and gentle wife added to this blend of joy and frustration by acquiring an attack dog for home security. Very few people have the slightest conception of the sense of failure a former Marine achieves as he walks behind a six pound miniature Yorkshire Terrier, appropriately named Trouble. With the profits from my book sales, I hope to be able to afford a “pooper scooper.”

About the book: A great teacher is a rock jutting from and sometimes engulfed by an ocean filled with the rip tides of passion, ineptitude, arrogance and ignorance. They are protruding spikes of granite which cannot be eroded easily. These are the teachers who make every effort against tremendous odds to polish young minds into the building blocks of society. Great teachers are awe inspiring in their efforts to create excellence and their influence is powerful, extending beyond even their own lifetimes. A fortunate few of us have had exceptional teachers who gifted our lives with knowledge as they challenged us and created a need to meet the potential of what we might achieve. These individuals changed the way we thought, possibly sent us down a career path or simply gave us a passion for learning. A passion which will move forward with us for all of our lives. All of us have encountered educators. More than a few of these educators started out to become teachers, only to be crushed at some point in their career. Those individuals have lost the desire to teach. Once this desire was destroyed, they ceased to care about anything but themselves and their retirement. A number of these educators can and should be faulted for their effort to instruct their students. There are more than a few teachers who've simply been beaten into submission by the very system they drove themselves to become part of. Most of those teachers who've been destroyed by our education system, toiled under the constraints of weak administrators. Administrators who care more about the system and the political realities of their own success, than education. For this type of administrator the people on the front lines of education and the children they strive to entice, excite or simply drag kicking and screaming into an academic environment are of little or no consequence. This type of administrator creates educators out of gifted teachers. In the process, they destroy the gifts and fervor for knowledge that could have been passed to future generations. I invite you to wander through the very foundations of our education system and spend a few hours with a few truly great teachers. When you finish I'd ask you to answer one very simple question, "Would I be a great teacher or end up an educator?"

If you are seeking insight into and are concerned about the future of our education system, then please have a look at The Flats Teacher's Test

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