Poetry & Short Stories
by Marilyn Thoms
When I lob a fresh, juicy raspberry into my mouth, the memory of that wonderful taste transcends me to my youth. It reminds me of summertime when I was 6-years-old growing up in the small town of Noti.
My neighbors, Fred and Lena Thompson, were like an extended family that lived 25 feet from my back yard. Fred was an accomplished gardener and woodworker that grew beautiful raspberries. The raspberries climbed up his handmade wooden trellis situated on the south side of the driveway by the wooden carport where Fred parked his black Desoto and dad parked his brown station wagon (the company’s car).
I would be busy playing in the backyard, in a wooden playhouse that my dad built for me. It was equipped with a striped, drawstring curtain that worked nicely for a door. A wooden pallet became my cupboard that nicely held my china tea set; curtains draped my window, and it was roomy enough for my small black and white metal table with four matching chairs, in case I wanted to entertain guests. I had enough room for my wooden cradle, a hand-made gift from Grandpa Hill, that easily held two baby dolls. I spent hours in that play house entertaining myself. But when I needed a break, I ventured next door to graze.
Our back yard was built up several feet above the driveway. To venture next door, I walked across the green grass, down four cement steps and reached high to unbolt a heavy wooden gate attached to the tall wooden fence that secured my brother’s basketball hoop and mom’s heavily entwined honeysuckle vines. The journey was worth every step! Standing in front of the berry patch, I took my time selecting the biggest, juiciest, red raspberries hanging delightfully in the summer sun. I’m not sure why this experience was so monumental. It might have been the feeling of freedom to walk quietly off my property. I don’t recall the feeling that consuming someone else’s produce was unacceptable. I knew they would grow back and I would be there to taste their impending decadence.
As a footnote, I occasionally ventured into Fred and Lena’s backyard to graze on slender green chives, too. They grew beneath the tall fir trees that separated the sawmill from our little neighborhood on the hill. But that’s another story.
I'm sitting at a bar waiting for an hour to go by, killing time...or living time. The bar is quiet and it's the only time I've had to relax today. It feels good to kick back and observe.
There's a couple, obviously lovers, sitting side by side, talking quietly in front of the blazing fireplace. The two bartenders are laughing and chatting about the crowd they are expecting later tonight. The big screen TV is silently previewing a football game, while the jukebox plays rock music. I only wish there were more strangers to observe.
It's rather private-eye-of-me to take on this peculiar interest. It's like driving by a house and looking through a well-lit room, observing the inside activity while quickly focusing on the home's decor. There's something comforting about knowing that homes appear warm and safe. It stirs my emotions of tranquility, curiosity and a sense that all is well in my small habitat.
Just Another Day
Today I entered a room full of 28 teachers to act as their stenographer for a task force meeting. This task force is working toward a proposal to receive a grant for $100,000 for the high school where we all work. My task was to type into a computer as they talked and brainstormed their ideas. There was only one problem, my computer had not arrived yet and the only talk that was going on was not noteworthy.
Teachers were talking about the CIM Program and the CAM Program and other abbreviations that I knew absolutely nothing about. Finally, questions popped up that needed to be written down. The teachers were instructed to write these questions down on a piece of paper and I would type them into the computer for their hard copy of compiled questions. The head librarian objected to this method. She glared at me with her sagging chin, razor sharp teeth and her I-am-better-that-you-are attitude and spewed out her educated venom. "You're supposed to be taking notes. That's what your job is. That's why you were elected to be our secretary at this meeting."
I wanted to calmly stand up from my chair, gather my things and walk quietly out of the room, dragging what little dignity I had behind me. I was chosen for this job because I am the only secretary who could transcribe and because there were not a long list of contenders fighting for this great honor. In fact, I was asked if I wanted to take on this job after I was already selected.
Finally, my computer was hauled into the room and I was seated away from everyone at the north end of the room. I began to transcribe questions pertaining to the proposal. As I quickly clicked away on the keyboard, some of the teachers glanced at me as if annoyed. I felt totally out of place, even though I knew most of these teachers well. I continued to type their list of $100,000 "wants" like a Christmas list for a 6 year-old. They wanted a telephone in every classroom. The maintenance shop should be turned into a Learning Center that would operate from 7 AM to 9 PM. This new center would house offices for Medicaid, Children Services Division, the Juvenile Department and a nursery for teen parents. I guess they thought the maintenance crew could pitch a tent for their machines and supplies on the football practice field. They never gave a thought to the bus drivers who would have to put in very, very long hours to bus these kids home, or the clerical staff needed to facilitate the phone calls from these new agencies locating at our school.
Perhaps they don't think about these things because these jobs are unimportant to them. It was mutually agreed upon, however, that students needed better employment preparation. The students needed a better work attitude and work ethics. They needed to learn to get along with their co-workers.
I sat quietly at the north end of the building, with my noisy computer, and laughed silently at their newly acquired educational motto. I thought to myself, which teachers among me would be training these students for a better co-worker attitude? Just asking....
The Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM) and the (CAM) (Certificate of Advanced Mastery) was created by report "America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages". The CIM has been called an outcome-based education diploma as it would be necessary to either receive or replace the high school diploma, and was characteristic of education reform legislation in many states such as Washington and Oregon.
The report called for the nation's workforce for the challenges of a new world economic order. The Report of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce was published in June 1990 by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), led by Marc Tucker. This document was the basis for the education reform laws, standards and assessment systems created by many states and the federal government in the 1990s in the United States. It codified the principles of outcomes-based education reform, which later became standards-based education reform.
This program was abandoned and replaced by the No Child Left Behind, and tying the high school diploma to standards based test inspired by outcome-based education. Passing a test at the age of 16 was patterned after the European practice of ending the education of the non-college bound at 16 followed by an apprenticeship period, and this is why all states are using tests given at the 10th grade, even though US high schools don't graduate until the end of 12th grade