A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, November 30, 2006

What if everyone had to pass it?

The citizenship test is getting revamped:
The government on Thursday unveiled 144 revised civic questions it will try out on immigrants who want to become Americans, as part of an effort to design a more meaningful citizenship test.

"When you raise your hand and swear your allegiance to the United States, you really ought to know what you are swearing allegiance to," said Emilio Gonzalez, director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, a Homeland Security Department agency. "You ought to internalize by that time, the very values that make this country what it is, the very reason why you are raising your right hand. ... Citizenship is not test taking."

The draft questions will be tried out on immigrant volunteers in 10 cities early next year. Gonzalez was not ready to give specific dates. Applicants must verbally answer six of 10 questions right to pass the civics portion of the test.

The government wants the citizenship test to require a better understanding of America's history and government institutions. It expects to spend about $6.5 million to make the changes, said Alfonso Aguilar, director of the citizenship office.

Citizenship and Immigration Services has been working for several years to redesign the test. A 2003 attempt was tried out in some cities, failed and was scuttled.

Under the draft questions, no longer would it be sufficient to name the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial). Applicants could also be asked why there are three branches.

Acceptable answers could include: So that no branch is too powerful or to separate the power of government.

The redesign is aimed at making sure applicants know the meaning behind some of America's fundamental institutions, said Chris Rhatigan, an agency spokeswoman.

"There's not one, rote SAT-type question and answer," she said.

The questions released Thursday will be given to immigrants who volunteer to take the new draft test.

The questions will be tried out early next year in Albany, N.Y.; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; San Antonio; Tucson, Ariz.; and Yakima, Wash.

The questions will go into use in the pilot cities before advocacy groups get a chance to point out any problems or concerns. After the questions are tested, the agency plans to spend a year examining results and reviewing the questions with groups with expertise and interest in the tests.

Immigration officials want to narrow the number of questions to 100 and launch the redesigned test in early 2008.

Another possible question would delve into the history of the Civil War. Applicants are now asked, What was the Emancipation Proclamation?

Current applicants need to know that it freed the slaves. In the future, however, prospective citizens will need to have a deeper understanding of the Civil War and name one of the problems that led to it.

Acceptable answers could include slavery, economics or states' rights, Rhatigan said.

In the pilot, volunteers answering the new test questions can at anytime stop and take the current exam so as not to lose the chance to become a citizen, Rhatigan said.

A variety of groups with varying ideologies about immigration have been working with Citizenship and Immigration Service, meeting with them monthly, to advise the agency on drafting the questions.

Immigration advocates want to ensure that the new test does not make becoming a citizen more difficult, while groups that want to control immigration want to ensure newcomers are not simply memorizing information.

Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the question about three branches of government is vague.

"The answer could be anything from because the Constitution says so to a long lecture on 18th century French political philosophy, which is where we got the idea," Tsao said.

I wonder what would happen if everyone had to take this test?

Let's start with the politicians. Who's first?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Head-slapping moment #378

Once again I feel a head-shaking failure to understand:
One American parent in every five believes kids in the home are spending too much time on the Internet, though most parents say the online activities haven't affected grades either way.

In a study to be released today by the University of Southern California, 21 percent of adult Internet users with children believe the kids are online too long, compared with 11 percent who thought so in 2000.

Still, the proportion is less than the 49 percent who complain that their kids watch too much TV.

About 80 percent of the children say the Internet is important for schoolwork, although three-quarters of the parents say grades haven't gone up or down since they got Internet access.

Forty-seven percent of the adults say they have withheld use of the Internet as a form of punishment. Banning television is still more popular, reported by 57 percent of the adults.

The study also found that only 27 percent of owners use cell phones for text messaging, photo transmitting and other nonvoice functions, but the figure rises to 54 percent among those ages 18 to 24 and to 45 percent among those under 18.

The study has been conducted most years since 2000. Over that time, researchers have seen Internet use grow from 67 percent to 78 percent of those surveyed. Access at home increased to 68 percent, from 47 percent.

Here's a crazy idea:

If you think your kids are online too long, turn off the computer. If your kids scream, don't take that disrespect. If they won't obey, take the computer-- actually, just the keyboard will do.

You--parent. They--kids. You--pay the bills, including the ISP. They--have to suck it up.

And parents, just because your kids are online, it doesn't mean they're doing homework. There's plenty more to do online than just homework. There's MySpace. And IMing. And email. And games. And iTunes. And---um-- blogging.

You can say no! You can take control! Try it.

Education Carnival 95: Chapter and verse

Head on over to A History Teacher's for the latest Carnival of Education. Dan has done a marvelous job, and there's plenty of great stuff to read.

Go take a long stroll through some of the best the Edusphere has to offer!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Give me an H! No, a W!

These two girls began a shouting match at each other, and a crowd began to gather. Your intrepid heroine happened by and waded in, as she is wont to do, before the F-bombs created an irresistable barrage toward real trouble.

I decided to break it down into parts:
First, in my command voice: "Okay girls, stop yelling."
And, they did! Now the one on the left didn't stop cursing, but that's fine...

Step two: "That's enough with the language. Knock it off."
And she did! Wow, I was on a roll!

They were still jawing at each other, though-- something about "Someone's cousin said that someone said that you said that I said...." Gad. The one on the right was going on an and on about "You think you can talk to me that way 'cause I'm a freshman..." and "It ain't your business!"

I gave the people standing around "the eye" and told them to go on about THEIR business, and they did, (score!) moving back to their mystery meat nachos covered in the processed orange goo which is basically melted fat that some people mistakenly call cheese, and whatever else was definitely not as diverting as this little show.

So this wasn't going to stop, although they weren't going to smack each other while I was standing there either. So I looked around-- no administrators, of course-- and decided to send them to the counselors, since I was sure the secretaries didn't need two loud girls arguing while I tried to find someone with a shred of authority.

I told the one girl who hadn't been cursing to walk to the counselors' office and she set off. I threaded my arm through the Cursing Girl's and told her to start telling me about it. She did-- and it was just as trivial as I thought, but that's teenagers for ya. I leaned away from her when I finally passed an AP who had mysteriously appeared like someone who had beamed down from the Starship Enterprise and suggested that someone watch the cafeteria, since there was now no adult there whatsoever and the natives were restless. I said we were going to the counselors'.

"What? Why aren't you taking them to a principal's office?" the AP grumbled.
"Ummm, since there are none of them around, I am not sending angry girls all over the school only to encounter a locked door and then give them the chance to fight for real in privacy in an abandoned hallway."

So off we went. Cursing Girl finished her story. We got a counselor to take her into an office, and then I had Freshman Girl start telling me her story. Same thing-- a chain of people said that she had said something about Cursing Girl's cousin and she had tried to tell Cursing Girl's cousin that she hadn't said anything but Cursing Girl intervened and starting cursing at her and calling her names.

"What names?" I asked as I was taking notes.
At first Freshman Girl didn't want to say, but I told her to go on so she said, "The B word and the S word and the H word."

Okay, now I know the B word and the S word, but the H word? I start mentally scrolling through my lexicon of obscenities, but no H word. Lots of other words I was glad Cursing Girl didn't use, but still...

"Um, what do you mean, H word? Is there an H word?"

She nodded, and again didn't want to say it, but finally, it came out: "'Ho."


That's what I get for being a good speller. I thought they'd invented a new slam.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Movie Madness Monday 41: Kurt Russell would have ruined this edition

We are back from a much-deserved Thanksgiving break to take on the forces of darkness and ignorance once again, so let's divert ourselves with a little movie quote trivia.

Here's what you do: I give you some quotes from a movie. You respond in the comment section with a quote or two from your own from the same movie. We do not reveal the name of the movie until Thursday, so everyone can play.

Here you go:

"You must unlearn what you have learned."

"I want my lamp back. I'm gonna need it to get out of this slimy mudhole."

"Let go, please."
"Don't get excited."
"Captain, being held by you isn't quite enough to get me excited."
"Sorry sweetheart. I haven't got time for anything else."

"Never tell me the odds!"

"Would it help if I got out and pushed?"
"It might!"

"How you get so big, eating food of this kind?"

"Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I'm all right."
"Occasionally...when you aren't acting like a scoundrel."
"Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that."

**** Thursday Update: Let's all stay away from the Dark Side, because

Yes, back when the Star Wars movies were more than technological wizardry, but actually involved good scripts and decent acting. What a rip-off to find that, if the six movies are about Darth Vader, he's a whiny little twerp rather than the source of all evil.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Internet slang in schools: part 2

Apparently this problem is even more widespread than I thought:
Tia Burnett couldn't believe what she was seeing when students turned in work that looked more like an instant-message conversation than an English assignment.

Some of her students at Orange High School in New Jersey's Essex County started sneaking abbreviations — "u" for "you," "2" for "to" and "4" for "for" — into their papers and other class assignments.

Burnett quickly put a stop to it.

"I would remind students not to use abbreviations in writing. This is casual e-mail language," said Burnett, who is in her first year as language-arts supervisor for grades 7-12.

Teachers, administrators and businesspeople say abbreviations commonly used in e-mails, instant messaging and text messages are creeping into assignments and formal writing, and some believe it is hurting the way students think.

Tom Moran, English supervisor at East Brunswick High School in Middlesex County, N.J., said the pace of electronic communication has "infected" some students' writing.

"E-mails are usually composed at lightning speeds, without any concern about editing, clarity or word choice," Moran said. "This is fine, since most e-mails are not meant to stand alone as polished pieces of prose. The problem arises when students begin thinking at that speed without pausing to consider what, exactly, they are saying."

The volume of electronic communication is growing at a startling pace. During the first six months of 2006, 64.8 billion text messages were sent, nearly double the first half of 2005.

The effects vary, scholars said.

In Canada, two university professors concluded there is no adverse impact on syntax or the formation of sentences. In their study, University of Toronto linguistics professors Derek Denis and Sali Tagliamonte found that although students may be text-messaging, most messages don't contain abbreviated words.

"In our corpus of over a million words, all the IM forms accounted for only about 2 percent," Denis said, noting they studied 70 teens during 2004 and 2005. "Though these teens are using more informal language than in their speech, they are also using more formal variables as well."

"This tells us that teens are using English vibrantly, creatively and are able to use it correctly."

That may be the case for Canadian teens, but Rutgers University lecturer Alex Lewis says he teaches freshmen basic writing mechanics and grammar in his expository-writing course.

"These kids spend an enormous amount of time writing, but their formal understanding of writing is limited," Lewis said.

Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics at American University in Washington, pointed out that some IM and texting abbreviations have histories that predate the computer revolution — "w/" for "with," for instance — and are likely to remain a part of language.

"I would not be surprised to see some of these abbreviations around several decades from now," Baron said. "Similarly, an abbreviation such as 'LOL' (laugh out loud) or 'BTW' (by the way) might stick, while others, such as 'OMG' (oh my God) or 'IMHO' (in my humble opinion) might pass — through the luck of the draw."

I've told my students that their skills at text-messaging can help them in one very important way: for taking notes during class discussions. Otherwise, I should not see them use this lingo anywhere else in their written work.

One point in this article did strike me in particular. I have the hardest time getting kids to see that they need to actually edit their work. They need to understand the difference between writing quick shots of text to their friends and writing in a more formal context.

I had a conversation with a young lady last week regarding her garbled sentences. She didn't understand why her paper received such a low grade. The problem was, she had culled academic-sounding terms from her research, yet didn't really understand the nuances of the terms she used. She felt that she had an inadequate vocabulary and was trying to overcompensate. She was also surprised when I read her paper to her, one sentence at a time. Then the awkwardness was apparent. She realized she had fallen into the common problem of THINKING she had written something that she hadn't.

What distresses me is that these students have all grown up hearing about the writing process. Yet they still don't get to the editing part of it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Request for prayers, part 2

Our friend Greg over at Rhymes With Right has asked for prayers for his wife Paula, who is in the ICU right now. Greg is a man of deep faith, and I know that prayers would mean so much to him.

Please pray for Paula and Greg. And please drop him a line to let him know you are doing so.

****Update: Paula is now out of the ICU but is still in hospital. Keep up the prayers!

Here's one teacher who's very thankful

From Kennett, MO (Sheryl Crow's hometown!) comes this great story:
Tiletia Copley must be a pretty good teacher — a quick lesson she conveyed while choking helped save her life.

Copley teaches physical education and health at Kennett Middle School in the Missouri Bootheel area. On Nov. 15, she was drinking coffee when it went down the wrong way, the Kennett Daily Dunklin Democrat newspaper reported. The coughing soon gave way to gasping as something lodged in her throat.

"I knew what was happening," Copley said, "and I was not too scared initially. But within a few seconds I could not breathe."

Unable to dislodge the item, Copley walked into the school hallway and encountered 13-year-old Amanda Rinks, a seventh-grader. Though unable to speak, Copley took Rinks' arms and put them in the position to do the Heimlich maneuver.

Rinks, who had learned the Heimlich from her mother, figured out what the teacher was directing her to do. After a few attempts, she was able to dislodge the item from Copley's throat.

"It was a little scary," Rinks said. "I just did it."

How many of us would be able to calmly walk into a hallway while unable to breathe?

Thank God that young lady was in the hallway at the time, since Copley couldn't call out for help. Having been certified in first aid since I was 12, I think it's a great idea to find some point throughout the year to cover the sign to make when choking, what to do if you see someone choking, and other quick tips. Amanda is to be commended for keeping calm, realizing what the problem was, and getting the job done. Never underestimate a student!

In art as in life: with a vanishing point comes a sense of perspective

There are some of my colleagues who are contemplating retirement this year. They have been teachers for over thirty years.

It is amazing to watch the change in my friends when they finally decide to release this part of their lives. One of them, whom I will call Del Pierro, is mellowing like a fine wine. Things that used to drive him nuts he merely bats aside with a bear-like paw. He laughs more this year. He tells funny stories. Where once he was a bit curmudgeonly, he now expresses concern over colleagues of ours who seem to be struggling. You can see him thinking, "THIS is my last September. THIS is my last fall Open House. THIS is my last Thanksgiving. This time next year I will be able to take that trip."

I have seen so many colleagues retire and immediately have health crises, or not know what to do with themselves. Teaching is so hard on people mentally and physically. Del Pierro has always had other interests, and he is ready to indulge them.

His life is spread before him like an unfinished canvas -- there's an entire side left to be painted, and he knows it must have some depth and richness. He sees the vanishing point in front of him, but over that horizon he sees a whole other vista. I sometimes envy him that as I slog my way through the doldrums of fall, as much as I love what I do. This year has been hard for me.

But my friend Del Pierro sees only possibilities. With a vanishing point comes a sense of perspective.

Friday, November 24, 2006

As We Give Thanks

This weekend, as many of us gather around the table, blessed with family and friends and freedom from want, I am casting my mind toward those who are not as fortunate.

I particularly would like to address my next remarks to Mr. Cashew, my young colleague, who was dismayed about the recent increase of the minimum wage in this state.

The obligation to aid the poor is enshrined in the same Scripture you use to support many of your very loud political positions. There are 170 uses of the word "poor" in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. For instance:

Deuteronomy 15: 7-11-- "If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart, and you say, `The seventh year, the year of release is near,' and your eye be hostile to your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and it be sin in you. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him; because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land."

Deuteronomy 24: 14-15-- "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; you shall give him his wage on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the LORD, and it be sin in you.

The poor and the requirement to defend them are mentioned 23 timed in the Psalms alone. Psalm 112 is subtitled, "Blessings of the Righteous." Please note how the Psalm ends in verses 9-10. Referring to the Righteous one: "He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked man comes to nought."

Psalm 113, subtitled" God, the Helper of the Needy," is very explicit in verses 7-8: "He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people."

Proverbs 13:23 states: "The fallow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice," and chapter 14:20-21 states: "The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. He who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but happy is he who is kind to the poor."

Proverbs 22:16 states: "He who oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to want."

And what does the New Testament say?
Remember the story of the Rich Young man in Matthew 19? In verse 21: "Jesus said to him, 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'"

And of course, the poor are expected to work: Proverbs 20:13, 21:17, 23:17; 30:9 are all very explicit. That's who a minimum wage would help.

And by the way, you yourself have benefitted from the protection of a minimum wage when you became a teacher. Did I not hear you complain and moan about the privations you suffered receiving the salary set for a first-year teacher? And yet your "socialist" minimum wage that year was many times over what the working poor receive as they work their jobs. And you had parents who paid every penny of your college costs, too. Some people do not have these things.

Our economic health is, rightly or wrongly, measured by spending. Higher wages = more spending. Including at the small businesses that claim that they are hurt by increasing the minimum wage.

Let's try to make sure that next Thanksgiving, there are more people who do not suffer want in this very wealthy country.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

You know, that dog DO hunt!

President Bush, fresh in from Asia (you know, last year, he was just in from Mongolia), just managed to get in a pardon for the White House Turkey in time to save him from Thanksgiving dinner. That's the turkey on the Right. The Far Right.

Ooops. Darn it. That nasty Blogger software must be on the fritz again. Sorry, let's try again.

After being nearly scared to death-- not by the vice president, but by the Bush family dog, who doesn't need a shotgun full of birdshot to know a big chance when he sees one-- the boids got the good news (a few editorial comments thrown in in brackets):

"I am granting a full presidential pardon so they can live out their lives as safe as can be," the president declared.

By virtue of a vote on the White House Web site [the Internets!], the turkeys were named "Flyer" and "Fryer," reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

Fryer was Flyer's understudy and nowhere to be seen during the ceremony [probably in a bunker somewhere having a good stiff shot of bourbon].

...The president explained that his Scottish Terrier, Barney, got involved this year [like a good lobbyist, he was hoping to make a killing!]. The presidential dog typically gets his exercise by chasing a soccer ball around the Rose Garden.

"He came out a little early, as did Flyer," [Sounds like Mark Foley] Mr. Bush said. "And instead of chasing the soccer ball, he chased the bird. And it kind of made the turkey nervous [Still sounds like the Foley scandal]. See, the turkey was nervous to begin with. Nobody's told him yet about the pardon I'm about to give him."

I imagine waiting for a pardon IS a pretty nerve-wracking experience, so the birds are going to get to chill out at Disneyland as marshals of the Thanksgiving Parade there, and in the land of Tofurkey they will hopefully live to a ripe old age.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

With a Rebel yell-- The saga continues....

Well, looks like as long as there's a trial lawyer out there somewhere, there's always going to be plenty of entertainment to be had:
A Farmington High School freshman suspended from school in September for wearing a Confederate flag cap and T-shirts to school sued the school district and school officials in federal court in St. Louis Tuesday, alleging the school district policy is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

According to the lawsuit, a coach or teacher took student Bryce Archambo's baseball cap away on Sept. 27. The cap bore a Confederate flag and the words "C.S.A. Rebel Pride, 1861." An assistant superintendent spoke with Archambo's father and told him that his son was prohibited from wearing anything with a Confederate flag "due to the alleged inherent racism that such insignia sends."

The next day, Bryce wore a T-shirt and belt buckle bearing the flag and the words "Dixie Classics" and was suspended. Bryce's mother then pulled him from school.

Bryce told the [St. Louis] Post-Dispatch after the incident that his father had called the school and told the administrator that his son had the right to wear the Confederate clothing. It was a symbol of his family's ancestry and not racist, he said.

The suit says the district's policy violates state law that bars prohibitions against emblems or clothing that are not disruptive. The suit asks a judge to bar the school from enforcing that policy, re-admit Bryce and remove any disciplinary record of the incident.

One of my students brought up this story, and it created quite a good discussion. Some of my kids discussed how they would feel if they saw someone walking down the hallways wearing a swastika, even if they had a perfect right based on their "ancestry" to wear it. Many other students talked about what kind of atmosphere would be created if the school were to allow such displays.

We then had a great discussion about flag- and cross-burning, the recent legal precedents on these issues, and what "symbolic speech" means. It was fascinating for many of them to realize that you can "speak" without ever opening your mouth. Now there's an idea that could use a bit of mulling over.

The point is, some words and symbols have become too polluted to be redeemed in the near future. The ink was barely dry on Lee's surrender at Appomattox before the Confederate battle flag was being appropriated as a symbol of nightriding racial intimidation and I believe there is a reason why many people feel it still communicates those values.

Carnival of Education 94-- Let us all now give thanks

... for another great job by the Education Wonks!

You know, you can get anything you want....

How else are you going to know anything about the Edusphere? Althought there AREN'T eleven 8x10 color glossies with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, there's plenty of there food for thought.

So get on over there! NOW, KID!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How California am I?

You're totally like 57% California!

Hmmm... you have some definite memories of this place... maybe you were born here but moved away as a child. Or you live in Fontana. Whatever. Come back someday!

How California are You?

And given that I'm 100% Okie, that's like, impossible. So I have to say that my Okie brothers and sisters have to have left their mark on the place.

For the better, natch.

Can someone please explain the basics of Go?

My hope is that, over Thanksgiving break, I can begin to start trying to learn Go, the board game.

Polski, anyone? I just don't get how you decide where to put the piece for the most advantageous start.

Is there a good website that explains the strategy? I've got this new Go board, and I bet I've got a kid who would learn to play with me.


Whose stupid idea was THIS?

'Cause I'm takin' names.

If I Did It, indeed.

Just when I think I have seen the depths of venality, something like this comes along. Whoever gave the green light to OJ's "hypothetical" confession should be flogged. By the Brown and Goldman families.

Bravo to the Fox affiliates who refused to run the TV special.

Of course, some people in this country will buy anything, but this idea should have been DOA.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Movie Madness Monday 40: No Place Like Home edition

Welcome to this week's Movie Madness Monday, in which I get to work three days this week while it looks like the rest of my chums will be reading this in their pjs. But I'm not jealous.

So here's how we play: I give you a few quotes from a movie. You respond with a quote of your own in the comments section. We do not name the movie until Thursday, if I'm not up to my neck in giblets, that is. So here ya go:

"Are you saying I could be STUCK in Wichita?"
"I'm saying you ARE stuck in Wichita."

"Train don't run out of Wichita... unlessin' you're a hog or a cattle. ...People train runs out of Stubbville."

"I've never seen a guy get picked up by his testicles before. Lucky thing for you that cop passed by when he did."

"Why did you kiss my ear?"
"Why are you holding my hand?"
"Where's your other hand?"
"Between two pillows...."

"I haven't been home in years."

"Do you have seventeen dollars and a nice watch?"
"I've got two dollars... and a Casio."
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to say goodnight."

"Please. Have mercy. I've been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday."
"I can vouch for that."

****Thursday Update: If it's Thanksgiving, then we must watch


You could watch this tomorrow if you own the DVD. Saturday, it will be on the Comedy Channel at 9 am!

Is it a date?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

UCLA student "stunned" at library

A student at UCLA was TASERed when he repeatedly refused to provide ID at a campus library's computer lab:
The student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, was shocked Tuesday at about 11 p.m. as police did a routine check of student IDs at the University of California, Los Angeles Powell Library computer lab.

"This is a long-standing library policy to ensure the safety of students during the late-night hours," said UCLA Police Department spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein.

She said police tried to escort Tabatabainejad, 23, out of the library after he refused to provide identification. Tabatabainejad instead encouraged others at the library to join his resistance, and when a crowd began to gather, police used the stun gun on him, Greenstein said.

Tabatabainejad was arrested for resisting and obstructing a police officer and later released on his own recognizance. He declined to comment Wednesday night.

The incident was recorded on another student's camera phone and showed Tabatabainejad screaming while on the floor of the computer lab.

Of course, people don't HAVE to provide ID-- but they can be detained if they refuse, and police have just cause. I can also see why a college campus would want to verify that its facilities are being used by actual students and not outsiders. After all, students pay outrageous tuition and fees at UCLA to be able to take advanatage of all the campus has to offer.

The ID thing is a touchy subject for me, anyway. If Ms. Cornelius was the Queen of the School, students would have to have their IDs on to be able to access any school property, including buses. That's the way it is at my husband's workplace, and most of the workplaces in our area. There have been incidents of people posing as students and invading schools and buses in the region already. Why wait for a tragedy?

I can't wait to hear the rest of this story. Anyone on the Left Coast wiling to provide some background?

Shaken AND stirred

We went to see the latest James Bond flick last night. Casino Royale is a whole other kind of Bond picture. Not campy, more like a thinking person's Bond.

Let's face it, if "00" stands for "License to Kill," one would expect to see Bond be a much more fearsome creature than, say, Roger Moore, whose performances were always completely appalling. I always hate to see wrinkly geezers act like they can expect a Miss Universe barely past the age of consent to fall at their feet, anyway, but Moore's scandalous lack of acting talent also was quite off-putting. And Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan were both very nice to look at, but neither of them seemed vicious enough.

Daniel Craig imparts an animalism to the role that has always been sadly lacking. The stuntwork is superb-- especially the chase scene set in Madagascar. He remains a sympathetic character however-- you're left wondering what makes him tick. This is a brooding Bond, an imperfect Bond, an intelligent Bond-- in short, everything the character was missing before.

I previously was not fond of Bond movies-- too ridiculous, too arch. Even though this Bond is violent, it's far less gory than a lot of what you can see on TV. And it definitely was thought-provoking. Good plot twists, too. I especially appreciated the attention paid to the moral dilemma of a man who is willing to do all kinds of illegal and immoral things in the name of his country.

If you haven't given Bond a chance in a while, try this one, especially if you liked movies like the Bourne series. I think this could breathe new life into a worn franchise.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Freedom Airlines: Not so free?

Okay, now, I am FAR from being a La Leche League activist, but this is too much:
A commuter airline has disciplined a flight attendant who ordered a passenger off a plane for refusing to cover herself with a blanket while breast-feeding her toddler, the airline said Friday.

Freedom Airlines spokesman Paul Skellon did not specify the discipline in an e-mail announcing the action against the employee who had Emily Gillette, of Santa Fe, N.M., removed from the plane Oct. 13 at Burlington International Airport.

Gillette, 27, said she was breast-feeding her 22-month-old daughter in a window seat in the next-to-last row, with no part of her breast showing and her husband between her and the aisle.

The flight attendant tried to hand her a blanket and told her to cover up, Gillette said. She declined, telling the flight attendant she had a legal right to nurse her daughter. Breast-feeding is protected under state law.

The case received broad news coverage this week, days after Gillette filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission. On Wednesday, about 30 parents and their children protested the airline's treatment of Gillette by staging a "nurse-in" at the Burlington airport.

Skellon said that after the flight attendant ordered Gillette off the plane, the captain of the Delta Air Lines flight being operated by Freedom apologized and asked her family to reboard, but they refused.

Gillette, however, said the airline never offered her a chance to get back on board the New York-bound plane. "I would have jumped at the opportunity," she said.

Delta paid for a hotel room and rebooked the family on a different airline the next day.

You know, it's hot already on planes when they're sitting on the tarmac. Put a blanket over someone's head when they're already up against another warm body, and it's like a Midwestern summer--hot and humid. If no one could see her breast, then she shouldn't force her baby to eat under conditions approximating a sauna. I remember when I used to sit in grody mall bathrooms to feed my newborn, being completely grossed out by the idea of where I was, and a group of elderly ladies came in and said, "Oh, honey, you shouldn't be sitting here! It's disgusting!" I couldn't have agreed more.

I don't believe in waving one's breasts around like the American flag. However, it sounds like she was being very discreet and doing what she is supposed to do for the best health for her baby.

Frankly, it sounds like the flight attendant was offended by the mere idea that Gillette's breasts were being used for the reason God put 'em there in the first place. "Gasp! Somewhere, under the baby's head and her shirt, her breasts are NAKED!" Here's news for ya-- we're all naked under our clothes anyway. There is nothing prurient about breastfeeding. It's not like she was slithering around on a fire pole or prancing around in a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader outfit! You see far more cleavage at a football game than you see when a woman is breastfeeding a baby.

I guess the flight attendant would rather have endured a screaming, hungry baby for the next several hundred miles.

How ironic that employees of Freedom Airlines apparently aren't so interested in the rights of mothers and children.

Reprise: Green Bean Casserole recipe

Yes, I just got asked by someone what my recipe is for Green Bean Casserole again, even though I posted it last year for all my kith and kin who seem to think that I do something pretty good with the lowly canned bean. Now I KNOW one of my pals does not like green bean casserole, and this pains me. You haven't tried mine, sweetie.

So, in time for your trip to the grocery store, here it is. Try it! Try it!

No Down Home Thanksgiving feast would be complete without Green Bean Casserole. To keep my brother from calling incessantly again NEXT year asking for the recipe, here it is (it ain’t rocket science, Bubba). It may be lowbrow, but it says “home.” Well, it doesn’t really speak, because that would be weird….

4 cans French style green beans
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can milk
2 cans sliced water chestnuts, sliced further into slivers
12 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large container French-fried onions
12 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
fresh ground pepper, to taste
Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt, to taste

In a skillet, saute the mushrooms quickly in 2 teaspoons of butter. In a Corningware bowl, combine the green beans, mushrooms, water chestnuts, soup, and milk. Mix together. Mix in half the cheese and half the French fried onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in a 350 degree oven until bubbly. Place the rest of the French fried onions on top of the casserole, and cover with the rest of the cheese. Resume baking until cheese melts. Enjoy!

PS-- you can always add more mushrooms, if you're of such a mind....
PPS-- if you like a southwestern flavor, a few finely minced jalapeno slices add a little kick.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm an abacus girl in a Excel world

Why does this happen?
Special education students who earn the lowest grade on the state's math test in third grade have a 71 percent chance of still scoring in the bottom bracket in eighth grade.

That is among the findings of a new Delaware Student Testing Program score analysis by University of Delaware researchers who studied the progress of all low-performing students since 1998. Mainstream students scoring a 1 out of 5 in third grade have a 48 percent chance of again earning that score in eighth grade, the study found. Students must receive a 3 or higher to meet state standards.

Reading results were slightly better, with 46 percent of special education students and 20 percent of other third-graders still scoring a 1 in eighth grade.

Special-education students accounted for about 40 percent of the total number of third-graders scoring a 1 in reading or math.

And there's plenty more to read.

But why do special ed students score so low on math tests, besides the obvious fact that they have a learning disability?

Well, I teach high school kids, and I've sat through about five hundred IEP meetings. I have sat through meetings for kids in middle school and then meetings for the same kids in high school. And there's one thing I can tell you.

In five years, their goals had not changed one bit. In middle school, they were only expected to do 70% of their homework at 70% accuracy, and in high school, they were still only expected to do 70% of their homework with 70% accuracy. And for those of you who are reaching for your calculators because of the New New Math, that means that they only had to get 49% of their math work correct. Ever. Now if one were to bring this up before an IEP meeting, one will get looked at in much the same way that people avert their eyes at the sight of road kill.

This does not equate to proficiency in a one-size-fits-all world.

Math fluency, like any other foreign language, requires repetition and practice. Excuse someone from practice and accuracy, and how can you possibly be puzzled by the results?

And in less than the time that it takes to make a bottle of cheap wine, they will be out on the streets, where no one is going to accept them doing 70% of their work at 70% proficiency.

That will just get them 100% fired.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Who was I today?

Let's play a little game! Every teacher plays many roles.

Sometimes, we feed them, even if it feels like regurgitation.

Sometimes we try to whip them into shape through a little "tough love."

Other times, we just try to herd them through the day.

And of, course, we try to teach them, impart some knowledge and wisdom.

But who was I today?

Yes, I was feeling the love today. Let's just say, I wrote more referrals than a general practictioner with a hypochondriac patient. It was special. Who did YOU get to be?

How long until Thanksgiving break?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Carnival of Education 93!

The Science Goddess does a great job at her winter faculty mixer-- I mean, the 93rd Carnival of Education!

What Is It Like on the Inside? Good drink, good eats, good friends, and plenty to talk about!

I've saved you a spot on the couch!

My Cover Story

Okay, well, Janet has once again trod upon my musical toes and set my interest aflame wth the topic for Tell It To Me Tuesday--- it's about my favorite remakes of songs. Ironically, I spent two hours last weekend making a few mixes of my favorite covers. So here they are-- I'm numbering them not based on the ranking of my favor, but just so you can see what a music geek freak musical gourmand I am.

First, albums of cover tunes:
1. Hymns of the 49th Parallel, by k.d. lang
2. Cover Girl, by Shawn Colvin
3. Medusa, by Annie Lennox
4. Both Sides Now, by Joni Mitchell
5. Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, by various artists
6. If I Were A Carpenter, by various artists
7. Encomium, A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, by various artists
8. Simpatico, Suzy Bogguss with Chet Atkins
9. Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon, by various artists
10. Stardust, by Willie Nelson

And now, the Singles

1. "...Baby One More Time"-- Fountains of Wayne
2. "Don't Be Cruel"-- Cheap Trick
3. "Working in a Coal Mine"-- DEVO
4. "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"-- David Lee Roth
5. "Miss Otis Regrets"-- Bette Midler
6. "Istanbul, Not Constantinople"-- They Might Be Giants
7. "I Don't Know Why"-- Alison Krauss+Union Station
8. "Holding Out for a Hero"-- Jennifer Saunders
9. "Stardust"-- Willie Nelson
10. "Can't Get it Out of My Head"-- Fountains of Wayne
11. "Different Drum"-- Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs
12. "River"-- Sarah McLachlan
13. "Drive South"-- Suzy Bogguss
14. "Don't Think Twice"-- Susan Tedeschi
15. "Sweet Jane"-- Cowboy Junkies
16. "Purple People Eater"-- Austin Lounge Lizards
17. "Mister Sandman"-- Emmylous Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt
18. "Respect"-- Aretha Franklin
19. "Skylark"-- k.d. lang
20. "Love Me Tender"-- Norah Jones and Adam Levy
21. "Across the Universe"-- Rufus Wainwright
22. "Sister Moon"-- Sting
23. "The Scientist"-- Aimee Mann
24. "Women Be Wise"-- Bonnie Raitt
25. "Woodstock"-- Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
26. "My Funny Valentine"-- Ella Fitzgerald
27. "Mr. Tambourine Man"-- the Byrds
28. "All Along the Watchtower"-- Jimi Hendrix
29. "Hound Dog"-- Elvis Presley
30. "Black Magic Woman"-- Santana
31. "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want"-- Dream Academy
32. "Hazy Shade of Winter"-- The Bangles
33. "Hey Hey What Can I Do"-- Hootie and the Blowfish
34. "I Shot the Sheriff"-- Eric Clapton
35. "Oh, Pretty Woman"-- Van Halen
36. "Tainted Love"-- Soft Cell
37. "Solitary Man"-- HIM
38. "Hallelujah"-- Jeff Buckley
39. "Makin' Whoopee!"-- Harry Nilsson
40. "Grow Old Along With Me"-- Mary Chapin Carpenter
41. "Over the Rainbow"--Jane Monheit
42. "Songbird"--Eva Cassidy
43. "Passionate Kisses"-- Mary Chapin Carpenter
44. "One"-- Aimee Mann
45. "Little Wing"-- Stevie Ray Vaughan
46. "Fountain of Sorrow"-- Joan Baez
47. "Heartache"--Suzy Bogguss
48. "Under the Boardwalk"-- Ricki Lee Jones
49. "Act Naturally"-- The Beatles
50. "Wild Horses"--The Sundays

People Who Write Great Songs That Are Almost Always Better When Other People Sing Them:
Lucinda Williams
John Hiatt
Bob Dylan (Oh, be honest)
Neil Young

And, if you really like cover tunes:
Try Coverville, a podcast by Brian Ibbot!

What do you think? Thanks for your comments!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How to Improve Your Grade

I was asked by a student today about how he could improve his grade. Beyond the obvious answer:

(Get higher grades on your work. Understand that a zero will NOT raise your average.)

there are these thoughts:

1. You cannot have everything. If you want to work thirty-two hours a week for a car payment that you admit was your own choice, do not expect me to give you extended time for assignments. You have made a choice.

You. Have. Made. A. Choice.

You have the complete freedom to make this choice. This does not mean that I then have to change my classroom policies to accomodate your choice. I will not, because in the end you have to understand the cost of choices. And take responsibility for them. This is part of my job. You will have a cool ride, and you will have a C. Maybe.

-----1a. If you're going to cry any time your grade gets near a B while working thirty-two hours a week, then eighty-six the job.

2. You have to study and learn the material. I do not give points for "trying." Sometimes you can try really hard, and still not achieve mastery.That means you need help to adjust whatever needs adjusting. I am available every day after school, and you know it.

3. If I am having a conference with another student, do not walk up and demand that I drop my conversation to justify a grade to you, especially when I have written comments for you on the paper which explain the grade. The first part is rude; the second part is just annoying.

4. If you are not reading the material, your grade will suffer. There is no way around this.

5. If I give you forty minutes of class time, and you complete three questions over the material, and then you work six hours after school, it is justified for me to conclude that you wasted your class time. Just because you weren't talking to anyone or disturbing anyone doesn't mean you will be given more time. You had time. And you had to stay longer at your job to finish cleaning up, you say? I sense a pattern here. And it could stem from the fact that you are exhausted. Just a thought.

6. "No" means "no" when it comes oh-so-gently-but-firmly out of my mouth. Wheedling will not work. I know you have never experienced a system like this before, but you have had several weeks to get used to it.

7. What does this mean: "Well, I never do well on tests?" If you don't think that can change, and you make no effort to try to make this change (like coming to me for help, or turning off the TV while you are "studying,") what do you want ME to do about it?

8. Having the book open in front of you is not studying. Running your eyes over the words senselessly is not studying, either.

9. I tell you lots of things that are not in the book. Perhaps you should write them down? And then keep track of this piece of paper-- it's called "your notes"-- so that you can then actually study from it? Just a gentle suggestion.

10. I am not going to allow you to complete the work while we are discussing it in class. Nope. Not ever.

I am a teacher. I care enough about you to craft a good lesson every day. But nowhere in my job description does it say "enabler." I checked recently, because frankly, you never know around here. If school is an afterthought in your busy schedule, there are going to be repercussions.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Movie Madness Monday 39: Moving at 88 MPH edition

It's Movie Madness Monday time again-- you know, where I provide the first movie quotes as clues, and then you resppond with some of your favorite quotes from the same movie in the comments section. We don't name the movie until Thursday to let everyone play.

It's fun! It's trivial! It helps you break the humdrum of Mondays!

Today's Movie Madness Monday is dedicated to a brave, brave man who took on the High Lord Dittohead and won. So, try this:

"Jesus, George, it's a wonder I was ever born."

"Are you trying to tell me that my mother has got the hots for me?"
"Whoa, this is heavy."
"There's that word again-- 'heavy.' Why are things so 'heavy' in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?"

"Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads."

"Wait, you don't understand. If you don't play there's no music. If there's no music they don't dance. If they don't dance they don't kiss and fall in love and I'm history."

"Look. There's a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up."

"No wonder your president has to be an actor-- he's gotta look good on TV."

"Why do you keep calling me Calvin?"
"Well, that is your name, isn't it? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear."

So-- impress me!

****Thursday Update: Get out that souped up DeLorean-- hold the powder-- and go


Sunday, November 12, 2006


New Zealand's national education officials have added their litle bit in the collapse of actual standards in the onslaught of popular "culture:"
New Zealand's high school students will be able to use "text-speak" -- the mobile phone text message language beloved of teenagers -- in national exams this year, officials said.

Text-speak, a second language for thousands of teens, uses abbreviated words and phrases such as "txt" for "text", "lol" for "laughing out loud" or "lots of love," and "CU" for "see you."

The move has already divided students and educators who fear it could damage the English language.

There's more to read in the whole thing, because later it is suggested that perhaps the abbreviations would be penalized on the English exams.

It all boils down to what final product is desired. Are we merely being elitist to expect an academic paper to adhere to certain standards? I hardly think anyone would claim that the expectation to communicate clearly is too rigorous. Oooh- or is this perhaps a diabolical plot to kill text-speak by making it profoundly uncool? THAT might make this a good bargain!

I've told my students that text-speak is unacceptable in written work. I will also correct the first misspellings of unusual words, such as "laissez-faire," but I take points off for misspelling common words such as cities, because, or soldier. Attention to detail is a discipline which I believe is sadly lacking in American society, and I believe that students can meet this expectation. I refuse to give up on kids and believe that they can't learn to write and think clearly. A compromise on standards nearly always results in a further slide down the slope of unacceptable behavior.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day, 2006

Today, Veteran's Day, was once known as Armistice Day, since it originally memorialized the day of the armistice that ended the fighting during what was then known, oxymoronically, as the Great War. My friend EdWonk has a great post up at his place which includes one of my favorite poems about this war.

I want to turn to two great poets of that war, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Both men spoke so powerfully of the damage that war does to the soul. Sassoon and Owen met while Owen was in hospital for neurasthenia, or what was then called shell-shock. Sassoon survived the war, but sadly, Owen was killed leading his men at Ors on November 4, 1918-- just a week before the armistice was declared. His parents were informed of his death on Armistice Day.

Soldier's Dream
Wilfred Owen

I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears;
And caused a permanent stoppage in all bolts;
And buckled with a smile Mausers and Colts;
And rusted every bayonet with His tears.

And there were no more bombs, of ours or Theirs,
Not even an old flint-lock, not even a pikel.
But God was vexed, and gave all power to Michael;
And when I woke he'd seen to our repairs.

Siegfried Sassoon

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're 'longing to go out again,' —
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

God bless all those who have been willing to put their souls to the test in such a struggle. Remember and honor the men and women who have served in our military, both those who returned and those who sleep with their brothers and sisters beneath the fields which they bought with their blood. Pray for those who continue to serve at this moment, that they will return safe and whole to the arms of all who love them.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rollercoaster Of Love....

Nothing is stronger than young love, a first love. Many have said that love is like a roller coaster: it seems like an insane impulse to obey, to allow yourself to hurtle around, getting slammed against the bar, feeling your stomach ride up in your diaphragm like a mylar balloon, testing the limit of your constitution to stiff-arm the dizzyness as the adventure blasts by and often is all too quickly over. Some of us are brave enough to dare-- others of us resolutely remain on the ground at pedestrian pace preferring the predictability of the merry-go-round to the blast of hot, prairie-inflected wind in their hair. True, the thrill doesn't always provide happy results, particularly if you've indulged in that corndog with extra mustard ju-uust a leetle too soon before facing the precipice. But sometimes you coast into the station, heart-aflutter, only to have the attendant wave you on through for another go-'round. The ride seems to go on forever. Love can be like that.

"Why the waxing rhapsodical, Ms. Cornelius?" you may ask. Well, I'll tell you--the Nabobs of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority have pulled the plug on one of my first loves: Bell's Amusement Park. Its lease on the Tulsa Fairgrounds has not been renewed.

#$@*! (read "Gosh Darn Them All to Heck-- and let a 900-foot tall Jesus reappear to lead them there).

How much a part of my childhood was Bell's? Let's see: my dad's employer used to hold its family day there every year, and we would spend an entire September afternoon playing Skee-Ball and riding the Himalaya, the Log Flume, the Phantasmagoria (who could forget the sudden blare of a horn from the bus in the devil-darkness? Scared the crap out of you EVERY time.), the gondola ride across the fairgrounds, the antique car ride, and yes, even the merry-go-round. But the pinnacle achievement was Zingo, the wooden rollercoaster. Out you'd go from the station, waiting to hear that chain chirp and skitter "chunkachunkachunkachunkachunka" until-snap!-- it would catch the underside of the train and pull you up with your friends to the top for a leisurely pause until the real fun began. You could see all the way to Osage county-- if you kept your eyes open.

The people who ran Bell's also gave ride coupons at report-card time-- so many ride tickets for As, Bs, and so on, and this inspired many a young scholar whose family didn't have wads of cash to hit the books. Later they added other attractions like the Chili Pepper Drop, and took away other attractions, like the huge, corrugated, undulating yellow slide you could ride down on a gunny-sack, but there was always plenty to keep you occupied.

Even when the Fairgrounds was more than down at the heel, Bell's was always there as a place to have fun. I still remember the days when you stood a far greater likelihood of being brained by a piece of concrete-and-chickenwire falling off that urea-tinged, half-nekkid monstrosity known as the Golden Driller than you did of ever being hurt at Bell's. Please drink in that kitschy example of aesthetic tone-deafness to the right. (Also note the idiotic penguin statue at its feet, which was the Town Fathers' answer to Chicago's community art project called "Cows on Parade" awhile back. Why penguins? Damned if I know.)

I was even more impressed by the value of Bell's when I moved to a place that has a large amusement park that is one of those entertainment megachains. You know the kind of place: you wait in line for half a day to ride a ride that lasts thirty seconds, and they charge a family of five an amount equal to the cost of the monthly mortgage payment for the privilege. I took my kids there once, and I will never go back.

But for the last couple of summers we've taken the kids to Bell's when we were down visiting the parental units. At first, I was afraid that the eldest of my Beloved Offspring would view this little home-town amusement park with the jaded eyes of a child who's seen the Promised Land-- and it's peopled by gloved rodents and waterfowl that ain't wearin' britches.

But imagine my pleasure when she turned to me, dripping wet from going down the Chili Pepper Drop for about the fiftieth time, and said, "Oh wow, Mom, this is the coolest place EVER!" She understood a basic fact. You could ride your favorite rides dozens of times in a day at Bell's in the time it would take you to stand in line for one ride at those mega-parks. And since it cost a fraction of those other places, we could stay all day and even come back tomorrow. And then there was Zingo. Old-fashioned, gut-wrenching fun.

There's talk of pulling a Big Yellow Taxi* on the spot where Bell's now rises proudly to the tops of the cottonwoods. I hope we'll never be forced to sing, "They paved paradise, put up a parking lot/ with a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin' hot spot..."-- but I'm none too sanguine. Listen to me: you'll lose loads of money, people, and the occasional weekend Flea Market is not enough to make up the difference.

So right now it looks like change is on the horizon in Tulsa-- but you'll no longer be able to see it from atop the white wonder known as Zingo.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me!

And what it means to me is apparently not what it means to some of the students at my school.

When discussing what teachers can do to show respect, I saw some interesting responses about what teacher "disrespect" means. Apparently, it means that the teachers will not accept loads of late work from students, will not let them go to the bathroom whenever they want, get annoyed when they have to repeat directions or information too many times, make them change their clothes when they do not meet dress code, and don't give them points for "just trying."

Okay. Guilty, guilty, guilty, oh God YES am I guilty, guilty, and-- GUILTY!

Now, before I get too worked up about this, there are plenty of other kids who say they just want us to teach them.

And lately, when I have asked kids to pick up after themselves or put their IDs on, I have actually been usually greeted with a pleasant, "Yes, ma'am," or "Sorry, ma'am!" By golly, it's been a while since I've heard that more than a few times in a year. When I'm on cafeteria duty, kids and I point and wave at each other and slap shoulders. I was actually applauded by an entire lunch line when I gently but firmly guided a cutter to the verrrrrry back. There were what our Victorian friends would refer to a "huzzahs," even. And my young miscreant went good-naturedly as he was cast into the abyss.

I think showing kids respect means acting like they are capable and expecting them to do their best. It means being reasonable and understanding in an emergency, but holding them to account when they aren't doing what they should. It means not screaming at them, and it means using a pleasant tone and a kind word before bringing out the fist of steel in the velvet glove.

I'm puzzled by this definition. It is held by more than one kid. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What have I done?

Here's what I've done (in boldface for this meme). What have you done?

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run (But of COURSE!
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach (After I killed tha sucka!)
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Education Carnival 93: Feelings, nothing more than feelings...

NYC Educator puts forth a great edition of the Carnival of Education over at his place. I particularly like the cartoon of Rep. Preston Brooks beatin' the stuffing out of Sen. Charles Sumner back in 1856 in a mini-run-up to the Civil War. How sad that the more things change in politics, the more they stay the same.

Go check out the carnival-- all sorts of cool stuff there-- and no creepy tattooed thugs on the midway. You might even take home a prize! I liked the story from Ms. C-- no relation-- who was assaulted by both the system and one of her students. It's a multi-parter, so keep reading to get the whole sordid deed.

Go take a lookee!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When I'm not with you, I lose my mind-- give me a sign

A 48-year-old woman in Kentucky died Sunday after apparently handling a snake at her church.

Today, Britney Spears filed for divorce from Kevin Federline.

Coincidence? I think not. Sometimes the universe aligns itself to tells us that we can't keep tempting it with impugnity.

Hit me, baby, one more time.

Actually, Tyler's first response was correct.

How crazy has the testing environment gotten? Get a load of this:
Tyler Stoken was a well-behaved fourth grader who enjoyed school, earned A’s and B’s and performed well on standardized tests. In May 2005, he’d completed five of the six days of the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning exam, called WASL, part of the state’s No Child Left Behind test.

Then Tyler came upon this question: “While looking out the window one day at school, you notice the principal flying in the air. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens.”

The 9-year-old was afraid to answer the question about his principal, Olivia McCarthy. “I didn’t want to make fun of her,” he says, explaining he was taught to write the first thing that entered his mind on the state writing test. In this case, Tyler’s initial thoughts would have been embarrassing and mean. So even after repeated requests by school personnel, and ultimately the principal herself, Tyler left the answer space blank. “He didn’t want them to know what he was thinking, that she was a witch on a broomstick,” says Tyler’s mother, Amanda Wolfe, sitting next to her son in the family’s ranch home three blocks from Central Park Elementary School in Aberdeen, Washington.

Because Tyler didn’t answer the question, McCarthy suspended him for five days. He recalls the principal reprimanding him by saying his test score could bring down the entire school’s performance. “Good job, bud, you’ve ruined it for every- one in the school, the teachers and the school,” Tyler says McCarthy told him.

Aberdeen School District Superintendent Martin Kay ordered an investigation. “My suspension was for refusal to comply with a reasonable request, and to teach Tyler that that could harm him in the future,’’ McCarthy told an investigator. “I never, for a second, questioned my actions.’’

Tyler, who’s 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and weighs 70 pounds (32 kilograms), hasn’t been the same since, his mother says. “He liked the principal before this,’’ she says. “He cried. He didn’t understand why she’d done this to him.’’ Now, Tyler blows up at the drop of a hat, his mother says. “They created a monster. He’ll never take that test again, even if I have to take him to another state,” she says.

Tyler’s attitude about school changed. He became shyer. He’s afraid of all tests and doesn’t do as well in classes anymore, his mother says.

McCarthy’s May 6, 2005, letter to Tyler’s mother detailed her son’s suspension. “The fact that Tyler chose to simply refuse to work on the WASL after many reasonable requests is none other than blatant defiance and insubordination,” McCarthy wrote. In the letter, she accused Tyler of bringing down the average score of the other 10 students in his class. “As we have worked so hard this year to improve our writing skills, this is a particularly egregious wound,” McCarthy wrote.

Her accusation was wrong, state regulations show. There is no averaging of the writing scores. Each student either meets or fails the state standard.

Well, it appears young Tyler was right on the money in his initial assessment of his principal. Do you think they actually have to reserve an entire parking space for the broomstick?

Personally we are expected NOT to look at kids' answers, which I think is a wise policy, given that one's response may betray a correct answer and end up getting your school in a huge pile of trouble. (And this article is actually a sidebar to a longer article detailing the problems with the grading errors testing companies have made in this high-stakes world.)

But a three day suspension for a nine-year-old who hadn't made anyone go to the hospital? Good grief!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Movie Madness Monday 38: Exorcising 2005 edition

We're back again for another Movie Madness Monday, the trivia quote game. Here's how we play: I provide some quotes from a movie; you respond back with a quote or two from the same movie. We do not reveal the name of the movie until Thursday.

Oh, and by the way, I just endured about 45 minutes of Click with Adam Sandler.

That. Was. Stupid.

I do not think you will see that one featured here, unless I decide to do a "Bad Movie" subset-- and Anaconda will come first.

So let's give this one a try!

"That's not Yankee dancing - that's Devil Rays dancing!"

"Al Waterman! Have a sponge!"

"Are any of you in the habit of looking at numbers- y'know, addresses, license plates, phone numbers- and adding them up... and rearranging them in your head to make more interesting patterns?
"Oh, my God, she knows my secret shame!"
"Well, step into the light, my friend, because this is the Church of Numbers... and every day is Sunday."

"Are you really that rich?"
"Then why don't you dress better?"

"Did you clean up my bathroom, or did I dream that?"
"Me? No. Uh, the vomit elves came in. And, uh, really adorable. Really cute little things. I mean, little caps and little barf bags."

"Eighty-six years of banging our heads against the big green wall... but we finally did it."

"By day's end, poor Ben had become one of God’s most pathetic creatures- a Red Sox fan."

"Bucky Friggin' Dent!"

Have fun, now!!
***Thursday Update: This victorious Cardinals fan is willing to finally watch

FEVER PITCH and not get all irate at the loss in 2005. Finally.

Starring Drew Barrymore, who has taken Meg Ryan's place as the princess of romantic comedy, and Jimmy Fallon, who does a decent job-- but he's no Tom Hanks. This one is fun, fun, fun if you love baseball-- or know someone who is obsessed.

Thanks for playing!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

All Saints' Day

Today is All Saints' Day in my church-- the day we remember all those who have died in the previous year.

I thought I was ready to hear my dad's name read from the altar.

I was wrong.

The second I heard his name, I wanted to speak to him again just one more time. I wanted to talk to him about all the silly inconsequential things we used to talk about: the World Series, the way the puppy has chewed up my husband's absolutely disgusting shoes he wears around the house (Good dog!), the silly things my kids have said.

Did I mention football? No? That's because football is NOT inconsequential, at least to an Okie.

I was also asked to speak for a few minutes about stewardship. I spoke of how a priest of my church-- who did not even know my dad, who had never even been my priest-- came and ministered to my dad and to the rest of us as the end approached. I now have proof that angels walk among us.

I was doing fine as I spoke, talking about how important the Church is to me, how I found the Episcopal Church through the grace of God, and how much I treasured this community of believers. Until I looked out and saw a woman in the congregation crying as I spoke.

I did manage to keep my voice from breaking completely. But it was very hard.

I miss my dad. I miss my mother not talking about death every waking minute. I mourn all the hatefulness that was unleashed in the wake of Dad's death.

A dear soul-sister of mine has formed a club of those of us who have lost a dad recently-- we call it the DDGC. I would give anything not to belong. I know she would too.

My dad worried about "going to heaven." Actually, I guess I should say that he worried about "going to hell." My son says that our dog Max is happy now because he is playing with Grandpa in heaven. All I know is, Dad, that I believe that heaven is the place where we'll no longer miss those we've lost. Where we'll never again worry if people really love us, or feel that we really don't deserve good things. Where we will be able to forgive not only each other but, more importantly, ourselves.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

That the sacrifices of our soldiers will not be in vain

As I read the newspaper this morning, I saw a photograph of a young woman in Arlington National Cemetery kissing the headstone of her boyfriend, who was a Marine killed in Iraq In August. The beauty of the simplicity of military headstones has always underscored to me the tragedy of warfare and young lives ended all too early.

In the photograph, I noticed the emblem of belief on the headstone over the grave next to this Marine's was a round symbol I did not recognize. I later found this site, and learned that the symbol I saw was for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormons. I was not aware that there was a separate symbol for that faith. There is even a symbol for the Baha'i and Buddhist faiths, which surprises me, given the pacifist credal statements of those two religions. Interestingly, there are over thirty-eight different religious denominations which can be represented symbolically on military headstones. It is inspiring that the religious beliefs of our fallen heroes can be memorialized on their monuments. But these headstones do not simply communicate religious beliefs in this creed or that creed. Their very presence, as our heroes rest eternally beneath those headstones, is a far more lasting tribute to their faith-- the faith they placed in the ideals of this country.

There are two events coming up next week that bracket what we can do to show our real support for our servicemen and servicewomen: Veteran's Day, and Election Day. On Veteran's Day we can honor our brave men and women through remembrances. On election day, we can honor them through our actions.

As Veteran's Day approaches, I would hope that everyone in this country would truly contemplate what sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made. They are willing to put their lives at risk to defend our country, which is founded on the ideals of freedom. We must protect ourselves from all those who seek to abrogate that freedom-- including people in our own country who seek to use fear and anger to entice us to give up that freedom in an elusive chase for security in an extremely unsafe world. We have the right and responsibility to defend ourselves. We must never, however, abandon the moral high ground-- even in the name of an ultimate good-- in the name of expediency. No lasting good can ever come of abandoning the very principles which we claim to be defending.

My father and others of his generation left their homes and families to defeat the forces of destruction, slavery, and genocide in World War II. We Americans and our leaders placed the fortunes of our country on the line to save untold millions from suffering and death in part because we were living up to the ideal that our country is an example for the world. As John Winthrop declared in 1630 in his sermon entitled, A Model of Christian Charity, when speaking of the founding of European settlement in the Massachusetts Bay, "...we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us...."

Mr. Winthrop was speaking of the Puritans as a religious example. However, over time, we Americans have used this same phrase to claim that we are an exemplar of good in the world. President Ronald Reagan himself borrowed this image for his farewell address in 1989. We were willing to sacrifice to the utmost to live up to this ideal in World War II through desperate struggle upon the fields of battle. Even as the echoes of the tumult still lingered in the air, at the conclusion of that deadly struggle, America then dedicated itself to helping the victims of war rebuild their lives through programs such as the Marshall Plan to continue that sacrifice in time of peace.

We still face a historic struggle today. The forces of liberty still face the forces of absolutism- at home and abroad. We cannot convert the forces of hatred by instilling more hate; we cannot answer those who accuse us of injustice by perpetuating more injustice. We must not only do what is fair, we must do what is RIGHT, or we will become more than "a story and a by-word throughout the world." We will become that which we decry. The face we show to the world must not mirror the thin-lipped, bared-teeth aggression and violence of our enemies.

One of the most significant blessings our heroes have sacrificed for is the right to hold our government leaders accountable for truly representing us. The midterm elections are next week, and it is incumbent upon all of us the responsibly exercise the right and responsibility of demanding that our elected representatives do not indulge in the pejorative politics of name-calling over rational discourse, in senseless sound-bites over responsible rhetoric and policy, in appealling to fear over issuing a clarion call to actions which remain true to our calling as an exemplar not just of freedom but more importantly of responsibility to our fellow-man and fellow-woman.

I look at the photograph again, and marvel at the strength of purpose of one so young. May God watch over this young man and all those who have given their lives in the service of our country, and all those who serve our country. We owe our servicemen and servicewomen our full support. We also owe the same unswerving fealty to the principles for which they served.

Remember our veterans on November 11. Honor their sacrifices on November 7.

Friday, November 03, 2006

So would we give the administrators tommy guns to make things even?

Is this your vision of a great school where loads of learning takes place?

Having armed teachers would certainly change the tone of faculty meetings, though.

Make my day, punk.

Hat tip to Teacher Inspiration.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

(Visceral reaction follows) AHHHHHH! AHHHHHHH!


You know, they just don't make Tulsa teachers like they used to.

I had a geometry teacher with two thumbs on one hand.

I had a third grade teacher who noticed that I needed therapy for a weak eye.

I accidentally gave my 9th grade history teacher a black eye with my nose. Don't ask.

I had a music teacher who let us bring in 45s (who remembers those?) and play them on Fridays. I still remember singing at the tops of our lungs to "Bennie and the Jets" and "The Streak."

But I never had a teacher who drove around "nekkid as a jaybird."

"Ah hollered over at Ethel, 'Don't look, Ethel!' But it was too late-- she'd already been mooned!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Carol once again does a fabulous job with the Carnival of Education at The Median Sib.

She really pulled out all the stops with this one, and there's all kids of new friends of education to check out. It's a symphony of sibness, which you can't say without sounding sibilant...

Run on over and read it. You know it's time well spent!

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