Walking our cat and listening to retired teachers…

Cosmo went on a walk today.    I put him in his harness and me, Maya, Ben and Greta took him out to a grassy area behind our building.   He is such a funny cat.    He hasn’t spent time outside in over 7 years, and then it was apparently unpleasant, as the folks at the shelter who rescued him told us he’d been pretty beat up in fights with savvy alley cats.   But today, in his bright blue harness which is attached to a bungee leash, he walked around cautiously, but not fearfully, with 4 of his people in tow.   The kids took turns petting him and telling him what a good boy he is, and it wasn’t until he spotted a parked car and tried to get underneath it (it must be the lure of a dark small space) and I stopped him that he got nervous.    And when Cosmo gets nervous, he can clear a room.   The kids began holding their noses and saying, “Eeeew!  What is that smell?!”    So I picked him up and carried him back inside, where he immediately gave himself a bath and had a drink from his new fountain.   So not too traumatized by the great outdoors.

After our outing with the cat, the kids were busy with various projects (they decorated t-shirts, made metal sculptures and organized Maya’s bookshelves!)  so I went and got a pedicure.   Pedicures are wonderful things in which I indulge about once a month.  Usually I read the whole time, but today as I sat allowing the polish to dry I got into a conversation with two women, both of whom turned out to be retired schoolteachers.   This came up in a roundabout manner which included mention of Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to legislate our diet in the city (one of the women was munching on Fritos)  and his hiring (and subsequent firing) of Cathleen Black as School Chancellor.     The woman to my right said something like, “Well I liked Bloomberg until what he did with Cathy Black.”   and I said, “Yeah, what was up with that?”    To which she responded, “Well, as a retired schoolteacher it is just appalling that he would hire someone with NO advanced degrees, just because she was a CEO.”    Whoops.    I of course said what I said because I felt her firing was purely political.  It’s probably good that I was misunderstood, because before I could answer, the woman to my left said, “I’m a retired schoolteacher too!   That was just shameful.  How dare he entrust the education of children to someone like that?”  (The last time I checked, the job description of a Chancellor does not actually require teaching, but rather running the enormous bureaucracy that is the NYC Dept. of Education.  I suppose Bloomberg thought that the CEO of the Hearst Group might know something about bureaucracy.  But that’s just me.)    This led to a tirade which included berating Catholic Schools because, “..the teachers at Catholic schools only have high school diplomas.  They don’t know anything!”   Which is a pretty ironic statement when you think about it, and had I been in the mood to kill my post-pedicure buzz I might have pointed that out.   But I wasn’t, so I didn’t, and instead sat quietly while these two ladies made it clear that anyone without a Masters in Education had no business teaching children anything.   ANY. THING.

And then I went home to my kids.   Ben had been building things with SnapCircuits all morning, clearly unaware that perhaps he shouldn’t  design and build an electric circuit that powers a light or a siren without the help of someone who holds a Masters degree.    Maya looked through some more job applications with me, weeding out those who had gross errors in their emails and clearing others for interviews, all without the benefit of an advanced degree in Public Relations. (Or whatever degree you need to be a hiring manager.  I don’t have one, so I wouldn’t know.  I guess I’m not qualified, either.)

I kind of wish that I’d casually mentioned that my kids are life learners.   It would have either stopped the conversation dead in its’ tracks, or led to a whole different kind of tirade.  No curriculum, no formal instruction, no testing, no advanced degrees.   Just living.  And learning.

Which sometimes includes walking our cat.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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