Tag Archives: education

My Life in a Peanut Shell

I just realized (in the spirit of life imitating art) that recent events in my life were merely a series of promos for the upcoming Peanuts movie.

Everything that I needed to know I learned in kindergarten(?) or maybe in some of the cartoons that my mom relied on to babysit me.  We already know that some of the greatest childhood entertainment came from Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, and Peanuts.  Charles Shultz would be turning in his grave if he witnessed the evolution of children’s entertainment.

“But NO!  I had to listen to YOU…”

The above clip has had significant meaning to me in the past few years.  Take a look at the script:

“I’m glad you came back…”

“You’ll see the Great Pumpkin with your own eyes…”

“If you try to hold my hand,  I’ll slug you!”

“You look all around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy…”

“I was robbed!  I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin!”

“Halloween is over, and I MISSED IT!”

“And it was all your fault!  And I’ll sue!”

“What a fool I was…”

“You owe me restitution!”

pumpkin carving

“You’ve heard about furry and a woman scorned, haven’t you?”

“Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a [woman] who’s been cheated out of trick or treats.”

Each line above has meaning to me.  We could explore the nuance of each one, but it is a personal journey, no? Remember, these cartoons were created nearly 50 years ago!  Although they were not likely to be a prediction of things to come, they were certainly a reflection of the way things were at that time.  A happier time, maybe.  My naivety and genuine innocence prevented me from perceiving the full weight of what was happening in those cartoons.  But now, it’s far more than an opportunity to reminisce.  There was something there for me to see THEN.  There is something so familiar that it has awakened something in me NOW.  I’m not embarrassed that I could draw something so prolific from a childhood memory.  In fact, it lends itself to the notion that a seed was planted then that will blossom now.

Do you suppose that the most overlooked part of Trick Or Treating is the trick?  We are so focused on the treat, that we forget that there is an alternative…the silver lining, if you will. That trick is a surprise.  It jolts the system causing either alarm or uneasiness.  It’s a learning experience, and its an opportunity to avoid being tricked again.  That knowledge is far more valuable than any classroom lesson or parental warning. Ah, the silver lining…the reward on the other side of disappointment.

I come from an era when my mother was reluctant to let me engage in tradition Halloween shenanigans like “mischief night,” “beggars’night,”or the actually dressing up to go door-to-door asking for treats.  She blamed her mistrust on the Atlanta Child Murders, the Tylenol Scare, and a general mistrust of strangers.  It was never due to the evil that the holiday represented.  And for me, whatever mom decided was law!

In college I read James Baldwin’s “Evidence of Things Not Seen”baldwin This gave me healthy a perspective of the racial relations that led up to a mis-adjudication of a black man for crimes committed against young children by an “uncatchable” serial killer.  “The Tylenol Scare” referred to an urban legend about children receiving tampered candy and medicinal treats instead of the traditional Halloween spoils. The general mistrust of strangers is certainly a trait that I’ve carried into adulthood however.

My childhood was probably no different from any other child born in the early 70’s who endured the disco era, Reaganomics, or 80’s fashion.  But it was the cartoon entertainment that had the most profound impact on me.  From Peanuts, I grew excited about the holidays.  I learned mistrust from my “friends” each time I witnessed Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown (every time he began to believe in the genuine goodness of people).  I developed an enjoyment of neo-jazz from the score in each Peanut’s Holiday Special.  I witnessed gender identity develop each time “Chuck” had an encounter with Peppermint Patty.  The lone black kid, the musician Schroeder, and Pig-Pen were all characters that I could relate to because I either knew someone like that kid or I WAS that kid!  Not to mention the very first time I heard what Christmas was all about [Charlie Brown]. It was my first exposure to the biblical story according to Luke.

But the Halloween Special…  that one’s most meaningful to me now.  Have you ever considered the undertones about faith in that one?  The waiting for evidence of things unseen?  That’s Hebrew 11:1!  And only as recent as yesterday did I stumble across what some believe to be the true meaning behind the Allhallows Eve. But what I experience now adds meaning to what I already held to be true.  The caution, the waiting, the patience, the disbelief, and now the 12 steps to recovery.  Laughingly, I recognize that not everything in life requires therapy to recover.  Sometimes a few moments of silence is all that is necessary.  I wonder what the the Peanut’s Valentine’s Day Special has in store for me.

Advertisements

Michael Morton is your Delegate to the 2015 National Education Association Representative Assembly

Hello to all of my friends, colleagues, and fellow educators.

As you may be aware, you have selected me for the sixth time to attend the National Education Association Representative Assembly.  The first time that I attended, the venue was in Washington D.C. back in 2008.  As you may recall,  I was selected to attend after I was RIFed from my teaching position in Millville for the second time.   When I was hired as an 8th Grade Civics & Inclusion Teacher in Bridgeton the following September, I’d been awakened professionally and politically.  I was ready to take on new endeavors.  Since then, I have attended the NEA RA in Chicago (2011) and the NEA RA in Washington D.C. again (2012).  Two years ago, I was fortunately enough to attend the NEA RA in Atlanta (2013). And last year I was your delegate to the Denver NEA RA. With each opportunity, I advocate for you and our colleagues.

Besides representing the professional issues that we as educators face, I’ve been networking with educators across the nation.  I’ve developed a sufficient knowledge of the issues that our fellow educators are dealing with in various regions.  I’ve also become proficient at conveying our needs and concerns through social media.  I’ll be tweeting live from Orlando this year. Connected to many of you through Facebook and Twitter already, I’d like to take my interactions with you to another level. Hashtagging is where it’s at this year.  It has proven very effective in rallying educators and confronting our legislators in Trenton with the impending pension crisis.

elmo

A little humor helps sometimes…

Each time that I am asked to represent New Jersey, Cumberland County, Millville, or Bridgeton at the Representative Assembly I am required to make a mandatory $180 political action committee (PAC) contribution.  I am encouraged, of course, to raise more.  This year, I was challenged to raise $200 or more.  The PAC gives the organization lobbying power which is necessary to ensure our voices are heard.

NEA_fund

In years past, I’ve asked you to help me raise these funds.  Not this year! Although I still have to meet my $200 goal, many of you have offered without the request.  Thank you!  A generous offer from Rossi Honda of Vineland will allow me to defray some of my cost too.

hondaNea ra

This year I ask for your prayers.  My colleague Larry Blake and I will be driving the entire trip to Orlando.  Rather than flying, driving will offer us time for fellowship as we transcend the east coast.  We will be meeting plenty of interesting folks along the way, and we will be sharing our concerns as we look for answers.   It’s a long trip!  But we’ve been called to make it.  Prayers for a swift and safe journey is all that we ask.  Can you help us?

Committeeman Morton           Blake

I will be posting to Twitter (@ocelot74) and Facebook (New Jersey Teachers Unite) every step of the way to Orlando.  I’ll be using #neara15 and#RossiHonda2NEAra to keep you informed.  As we arrive in the “Happiest City on Earth” we’d like your support and most importantly your prayers…as we remain focused on the fundamentals of quality education.

Thanks for your support,

Mike Morton

Delegate,

NEA Representative Assembly 2015

P.S.   If you haven’t already checked out our “teacher idea exchanges” pages, click on the links below:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/260709270637998/

https://twitter.com/Ocelot74/status/613483274665484288

WTFUND

What the Fund?!?!?  I’ve watched.  I’ve participated.  I’ve become an activist. I’ve contributed to the union.  I’ve supported the lobby for education. I’ve done what I was suposed to do.  I’ve done what I was asked. I’ve followed the law!  I’ve religiously prayed about the situation, and every set back has forced by faith to grow–because I know who the victor is in the end.  I’ve been ethical, logical, and rational.

I’ve voted for the underdog in every election in the hopes of positive change. I’ve gone so far as to BECOME the underdog in my own election AND WON–so that I could be the voice of the the residents, the voters, the children, the victims, and the dedicated employees.  I represent the educators and the students, the parents and the grandparents, the academics and the vocational scholars.  I represent the volunteers–as I should because I am one (too).  Winning was the easy part, but fighting the others in power was the challenge.
We were winning!  We had hope.  We are still here, but the fight is not over!

Now that my pension has been corrupted, misused, and taken away I must take a hard look as to how I plan for my future.  Our life savings that were supposed to be secure, invested, and available has been given away. Not stolen!  Given away without our consent…

Am I supposed to continue my fight?  For what???  There’s nothing left to fight for.  We are in ruins because of the leaders WE elected.  They were wrong!  But we were wrong for electing them.  NEVER AGAIN!  They thought they could do what THEY thought was acceptable. They mistook our silence for consent. Wrong!  They ignored us!  And now we ALL pay the price!

Am I supposed to write to my elected officials now?  I’ve written my congressman. I’ve tweeted my governor. I’ve “thunderclapped” and memed my way to become that labor activist. I’ve Facebooked and instagrammed. I’ve delegated and public spoke. I’ve abandoned what is grammatically and academically acceptable to try something innovative and inventive to no avail. And now what?  Frustration?  No!  Determination!!!

We didn’t get here because someone gave us something.  Advanced placement classes, SATs, college acceptance, all-nighters, study groups, student loans, college work-study, struggles to get home on holiday, cut funds, cafeteria food, GREs, and more student loans. Deferments, and forgiveness; job searches and rejections.  And finally a career in education with a promise of a comfortable retirement only thirty years away.  Perfect!  Let’s buy a house. Let’s start a family.  Let’s root our lives right here in New Jersey.  For what?!?  To have it all taken away???

And now the next big ideas develop.  “Hey let’s do a work action.”  “No wait, let’s all take the same day off!”  I’ve got an idea… Let’s shut the freak up.  Just kidding!  “How about we all take out pension loans (and pay application fees and interest). That will show them!”  I’m sick.  I already pay hundreds of dollars per pay for the last pension loan that I HAD to take out to get me through the summer. I’m already paying the increased rate!  In addition to all the other “garnishments” of my wages (dues, healthcare, taxes, support, PENSION contribution, loans, etc), I can’t escape my pension loan payments unless I quit. And if I quit, the IRS taxes me for unreported income. Brilliant idea.

This essay is written in anger. I did not do what we teach  (“wait a few days before we publish, children”).  I feel!  I’m disappointed. I’m angry. And tomorrow can’t get here fast enough. Happy June, my fellow educators!  It’s time to start that non-pension-contributing summer job that pays less than a livable wage, with no benefits, and a hefty tax liability. Doing so makes me stronger?  No! Doing so only makes me hope for September–when I came come back to my career and be abused some more.