Sunday, July 16, 2006

A few weeks ago, I started to write a post, which appears below:

Week Four of counselor-ing has begun, and... I couldn't be there for the first day. My son has received a nice sick jolt in the form of a stomach bug, puking approx. 3-4 times just for my husband's homecoming benefit. C'est la vie, as I am wont to say these days. Fellow counselors didn't anticipate many kids showing up, due to the probability of parents taking advantage of a long weekend presented by the Fourth of July being on a Tuesday. Still and all, I felt bad about having to miss it. A large part of it is missing what the kids will do next - the ones that are my fellow counselors and the group I supervise. Another part of it represents an escape from the grimness of our surroundings.

I find myself very happy that I am not dwelling on the newspaper articles presented daily by the Times-Picayune too much, because the local news has had some unifying themes lately, and not all of them good. The National Guard being called in didn't prevent two more murders from happening not far from where the massacre of the five teenagers occurred, the final straw that caused the Guard to arrive here in the first place. A nearby church burned down, causing the preservationists to have more palpitations about the city's historical structures succumbing to destruction on top of all the other things that happened to the city thus far.

Seeing what I wrote now, I am struck by what hasn't changed, although I am feeling better, thank you. My preservationist palpitation comment was to begin a comment about the double-edged sword that is preservationism. It's all well and good to avoid disasters such as the demolition of places like the old Penn Station, but the other side of the coin is that having a landmark house or owning one in a preservation district means that any improvements or renovations to what you think is your home are decisions that are out of your hands. A fantastic home not far from us on St Charles Avenue is now being demolished, and not because of the storm, but because anyone who has tried to do anything with the house has come under the intense scrutiny of the preservation societies, the little parrot on one's shoulder that carries the real power in what you can say or do about your property. The church that burned had apparently had its parishioners petition the preservationists to have it condemned, and the building itself was not being used much. To be sure, I myself am not sure why the church burned, but I can tell you, seeing that house on St Charles in ruins is awful.

Yes, nobody wants to be told what to do. Good numbers of kids in my camp group are not enthused about being told to quit goofing off. A junior counselor for my group was not enthused about being told to shape up with regards to the kids. I was less than thrilled about having to fill out evaluations for my other counselors' performances, and I'm really not happy that I will most likely be evaluated, too. It all almost makes me want to crawl right back home and retreat into being just mommy once again.

Heck, I still go back and forth internally about whether or not ghost stories are really forms of child abuse. Not that I'm going to run around and tell those stories to all the kids just to stick it to authority, but most of the ghost stories I heard when I was at the age of the oldest campers at the camp where I work were stupid. Anything of that nature nowadays is perceived as child abuse because it could cause the kids to be afraid of going to sleep, afraid of the dark, afraid of enclosed places...and yet I'm counselor to kids who are already aware of kid horror writers such as R.L. Stine, who read Harry Potter novels, and are watching cartoons such as The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Naruto, cartoons that have more scary situations and violence in them than any Monkey's Paw story could ever contain. And I'm not even mentioning the ruined neighborhoods around and about this city. I guess it comes down to a question of parental control. Most parents find it easier to lambaste an educator, counselor, or camp director on these issues than to monitor their own child's TV or book choices. The issue here isn't the kids, but the supervisory accountability.

Which makes me hesitant about going so far as to teach in the schools here. They do need teachers, and my husband has brought up the fact that they would be in the market for an art teacher with a background like mine. I cringe at the politics involved on the administrative level, however, and at the added pressures of parents who decide to involve themselves to a point where they might as well teach the class themselves. With three different operational models in play down here (state recovery, Orleans parish schools, and charter schools) seems to come a whole new rats' nest of politics as usual, on top of it all. All I can say is UGH.

My friend Justine commented on how politics as usual is coming into play in local government here, too. A recent public meeting with her city council representative also featured a lawyer that has been prominent in city politics, a man who called on everyone at the meeting to attend civil and criminal court proceedings and observe the judges at work so that the judges will know they are accountable to the public at all times on the job. Granted, the judges and the nice breaks they have been taking for classes they barely attend or have already received credit for at conferences in places like Jamaica have been in the news, but boy, it all adds up to how little things have changed in the political landscape here. Our esteemed mayor has spent very little time in the city since he was elected, too. Maybe he wants to get away from it all. If he really wanted to do that, though, he should have dropped out of the elections. Eventually he will have to return and to do some work in the public eye.

Eventually I will have to as well... beyond this summer, that is. Get a job. Do something outside of my house and my family, much as I love 'em all. If accountability is the price I have to pay, well, so be it. Jury's still out on whether or not it is worth it for me to be accountable to higher-ups in the face of my audience of young campers, though. Campers that make it a point to guess my age and then tell me I look way younger than their parents, though I am that age. Who love, love, love some of the projects I give 'em. Who hug me just to hug me. Who think it's cool that I know their Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon shows they like to watch, too.

It makes accountability so much harder when you care...

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