Education reform over cheesecake

26 May

The cream cheese has spent two full days softening on the counter. I plan to make two cheesecakes, just to have them on hand in the freezer to feed summer visitors and for weekend desserts for the family. Someone has dug into the big block for bagel frosting, the seal is broken, and mold is beginning to grow. It’s already after nine, but I can’t put off the work any longer. Yet I know from experience that, like sour cream, there’s something more rich and complex about cream cheese at this stage, so I take it up, cut off the grey growth, and spent the next hour preparing the chocolate-lined shortbread crust and mixing up the batter, dividing and modifying it into one chocolate espresso and one black- and blueberry swirl version. Midway my daughter comes and asks for a shoulder rub; wait until I get these in the oven, I say. She leans on the counter, admiring the cakes ready for baking, dips a finger in each in the guise of smoothing out the tops.

I pull open the oven’s maw, superheated for the initial twenty minutes, squint against the burn, and shut the cheesecakes inside. We slurp up the extra batter with spatulas conveniently not thought of until bowl scraping time. You have chocolate on your cheek, she says, and I disinterestedly dab at it. Who cares, really–going to to bed with chocolate on isn’t so bad.

She has been waiting with her aching shoulders and back all worked out by swimming and maybe then too much slouching in bed searching for the right Pandora stations. I try not to show that I don’t feel like serving at this late hour, instead tell myself these are the moments that matter and I’ll never regret saying yes. I’m thankful she feels comfortable with this; I remember rejecting my mother’s touch before her age–no particular reason I can explain. I work her shoulder muscles and get some of the knots out but I am distracted, not giving the prayerful attention she needs. I tire, she thanks me and goes off to bed. The child that never forgets to say good night, I love you.

I turn down the oven for the slow bake, open to remove the foil, receive a blast of steam that clouds my glasses, close the oven door again. I turn to act on my resolve to get that email to the school district superintendent, send a word of support for Washington State’s decision not to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. I tried to send it yesterday in reply to the email from the district office about the effects of this decision, but the letter was bounced back from the box, which could not receive replies. Directly email him? Whom else? Deputies? Board? I decide to research their backgrounds. Ever been teachers? Previous affiliations? So as to say things in a way most likely to be received in the way I intend. Should I bring up related issues? I decide to look up what the current governor is saying about education, start a point-by-point commentary. Time flies, I write, research, write, until it’s past midnight again.

This is how it was with my college papers–I’d get so interested in every connected idea and fact, want to grasp and master it all, not miss anything, not content with a simplistic, predigested view. And end up not finishing on time, or doing it without enough rest to function in classes the next day. I must learn some expediency. Chesterton’s “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” I’m a harsh judge and badly it will have to be.

I decide to keep it simple, not reveal much of my current opinions, not assume any shared understanding, and get it ready to send it to the superintendent, the deputy and assistant in charge of teaching and learning. The result is:

I am mother of four students in the _____ school system. I was pleased to hear that Washington State rejected the tying of teacher evaluations with test scores. This idea is one of the many flaws in the Federal Dept of Ed’s attempts to standardize curriculum and testing across the country through financial incentives and other means. I’m aware of the growing movement to resist the implementation of the Common Core with its high stakes testing, and am following such arguments as well as the public relations efforts of Common Core supporters.

I hope you and other administrators will continue to listen to and support teachers and protect their freedom to do their best work in the interests of their students and with accountability to their communities.

Thanks for keeping us in the loop. I would even appreciate more details from our local perspective when you can provide them.






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3 responses to “Education reform over cheesecake

  1. susanissima

    May 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Really enjoy your narrative approach. Your daily life is layered and complex, and you honor it by sharing. Thank you.

    • toesinthedirt

      June 4, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      So many angles I could take, some more honest (to me) than others. I do hope that honoring is the effect.

  2. jdawgsrunningblog

    May 27, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Love how this piece moved—from a detailed description of an ‘ordinary moment,’ a dwelling in it, and a delving into it—and how you allowed that to segue into what you ended with–a slice of life narrative—so necessary for the writer to be a slave to—well done on all fronts….have you thought about running for school board?


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