Solve For Why? Not X

Irony… on the very day I send my daughter’s high school math teacher a blistering email about the uselessness of Algebra… I end up doing my taxes. And as stated in my email… I managed just fine with the basics: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Never, outside of a classroom setting have I had any use for Algebra.

mathAnd honestly, my argument with the teacher boils down to more than my disdain for math. It’s my overall irritation with educators. I have a very low opinion, not just of educators, but the “institution” on the whole.

I once had a college professor tell me “people become teachers for five reasons: June, July and August, payday and weekends.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to run across some really great teachers. Their love of the job and students is obvious. I’ve also seen plenty of the other kind. The ones like this math teacher. They’re more concerned with meeting some arbitrary number than they are with actually providing an education. Herding the students in and out like cattle. Making sure they pass the appropriate number of students and maintain a graduation rate that’s acceptable.


So what if my daughter has missed 30-something days of school this semester (give-or-take). If she were sick with cancer or another more “obvious” disease, no one would give it a second thought. But because she has a mental illness and doesn’t show any “visible” signs of being sick, she isn’t extended the same courtesy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad my daughter doesn’t have cancer. I’d say her chances of recovering from a mental health crisis are much better than any horrible childhood cancer. But the point is, and I do believe this to be true, society doesn’t have much compassion for people suffering from mental illness. Then we’re surprised when a teenager takes out a classroom full of little kids or a young man guns down a theater full of people. How many people turned a blind eye to the boys before that happened? Including their parents?

My daughter is no Adam Lanza or James Holmes. And I don’t plan to let it get that bad, ever. However, I also thought my daughter would never do something like cut herself. But she did. And I did something about it. I didn’t overreact. I didn’t under-react. I believe I acted appropriately, getting her the help she needed. Getting her into therapy. Yes, I dragged her kicking and screaming. But after a few visits, she begged to go back. And to keep going. It’s allowing her to deal with her depression and anxiety on her terms. Not mine. Giving her control over something in her life. At a time when she felt like she had control of nothing. Again, so what if she missed school. It could have been worse. She could have cut herself badly, either on accident or on purpose, and died. And not be attending school at all. Ever.

I’m trying to look at the big picture. To make sure my daughter is prepared for life. All of it. To deal with all the crap without resorting to self harm. To feel confident and secure. To be able to solve all of life’s “whys?”

– J. Ela


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