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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins, too.

Columnist and wit Molly Ivins has passed away after a valiant battle with breast cancer.

Today is also the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death. I'm really beginning to hate January 31st.

Damn you, cancer.

Carnival 104 is up, up, UP!

right here at Carol's place celebrating median sibness. There are some great new faces on the midway whom you do NOT want to miss.

Fun post of the week: Check out Mr. Lawrence's post giving us a chance to hate on "great" literature-- how many of us have borne this secret shame? Express it at his place!

Why are you still here? Get going!


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nothing to see here-- just petty griping. Move along....

Dear Clueless AP:

1. It's now officially two weeks since I wrote the referral on the girl who was not only insubordinate and uncooperative but who regaled me with her limited but vehement command of modern obscenity including the f-dash-dash-dash word. Today I observed a girl say "G-ddammit" to your face and get a three day out-of-school suspension. I have not received my referral back. I have not forgotten about this.

2. You have demanded that ANY TIME I see Kid A outside of your hallway that I report this to you immediately. Yes, I will get right on that. Meanwhile, there's this little thing I do called --teaching? Perhaps you have heard of it? No? Well, basically, it means that I am usually trying to enlighten and simultaneously entertain about 28 teenagers at a time without access to a phone whenever the mood strikes. You let this kid back into our building. I fail to see why I should serve as a living, breathing lo-jack to this little miscreant.

3. Today, I received a district evaluation form asking my opinion of your performance.


I bet I get that referral back tomorrow.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 50: the DDGC edition

Welcom to Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. I give you quotes, you respond with a quote of your own from the same movie. We do not reveal the name of the movie until Monday, so that everyone can play. Even those who are not members of the Dead Dad Girls' Club.

This week, I am breaking all the rules. This is a serious milestone week for me, and I am feeling... unsettled. A year ago I was sitting in a hospital room, preparing to descend into a pit of despair. This is what I'm going to offer you this week.

One quote. But it says it all.

"Offer me money--"
"Power too! Promise that!"
"All that I have and more!-- Please."
"Offer me everything I ask for."
"Anything you want."
"I want my father back, you son of a bitch."

Do me proud, friends.

**** This week we certainly had fun storming the castle, because we celebrated

This is probably one of my favorite movies ever. I love it so much, I have memorized almost every line. If you have not seen it, shame on you.

What's it about?

"Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles... "

What else could anyone want? It would take a miracle. "Or a wheelbarrow-- that would really be something!"

By the way, according to IMDb.com: "Mandy Patinkin revealed that acting out Inigo's quest to avenge his father's murder brought back memories of losing his own father to cancer in 1972. He said that when filming the scene when Inigo kills 'The Six-Fingered Man' he felt like he had just 'killed' the cancer that killed his father."

I wish I could feel the same way.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again*

Just got back from substitute coaching My Beloved Offspring's 1st grade basketball team.

I can feel the sympathy oozing from you already, dear friends. Yes, I have passed through the fire, and I am now tempered steel, baby!

Let me try to sum up the indescribable. When you were a kid, did you ever break a thermometer and watch the little balls of mercury scatter all over the floor, evading all attempts to impose any sort of collection?

That's how 6- and 7-year-olds play basketball. They're allowed to travel, they can't steal, they really don't keep score, and they're much more likely to stare off into space and get whacked in the head with the ball than to actually be able to control a pass.

Now, I know very little about basketball. When I was at college, we often had a pretty good little team under Nolan Richardson, who was certainly a colorful coach. Sometimes we were even nationally ranked, and I was in the Pep Band, but I'll admit I often brought a book along since I was an English major and I had to read about 30 books each semester. My mother was a pretty good basketball player in her day, but softball was my thing. I have not watched pro ball since Latrell Sprewell was allowed to choke PJ Carlessimo. However, I do know about rebounds, passing, man-to-man and anything else one would need to hopefully deal with little kids. It's not like we were going to be running post patterns, or anything. My goal was to have no one cry or get hurt, and to get every kid to take at least one shot at the basket.

We had just five kids show up, so no substitutions. There was the one kid who would NEVER pass, and would run all over the court with the ball clutched to his chest the way a Marine hangs on to his M-16-- unless he had a chance to bowl over a hapless opponent and crush him or her like a protester before a tank at Tienanmen Square. When I asked him very nicely to pass to someone, he stalked off the court with his hand over his mouth and pulled his jersey over his head while his father glared at me.

The rest of the kids just swirled around the court like leaves in a whirlwind, clumped up around the ball as if it were a magnet. But they were having a good time, for the most part. They eventually started trying to get the rebounds and get open for passes by the second half of the game. In the end, I think I was sweating more than anyone else, and the other parents weren't muttering behind my back or setting up boiling vats of tar to dunk over my head, so I guess it was a success. Every kid did take at least one shot, and we did manage to sink a few.

But now, I want a nap. And I'll be buying the regular coach a big gift card at the end of the season.

*Title of a book of essays by David Foster Wallace

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Blue Eyes....

Happy Birthday to Mr. Paul Newman. Mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm MMM!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

At last! Happy Birthday, Miss James

Happy Birthday to Etta James, who's looking especially fabulous on her latest album!

Thursday Thirteen Number 2

Thirteen Things about Ms. Cornelius

Thirteen Actual Certified Excuses Why Students Didn't Turn in Their Homework

1. I was in too much pain from the tattoo I got last weekend. Wanna see it? (Last May-- and girl turns around to show me her lower back before I frantically try to stop her. It was infected, by the way.)
2. The window in the back of my car was broken in the last hail storm. It rained this morning, but I had left my notebook in the back seat, and it got ruined. (September 12)
3. I put the assignment in the back of my truck, and it flew out on the highway. (October 20)
4. I was in the emergency room all night with a sinus infection. (October 30, December 15, January 8-- same kid)
5. I didn't do my research paper because last night was my mom's boyfriend's birthday, and they made me go out to eat. (Paper had been assigned for three weeks, last November 7)
6. I left my jumpdrive at home. (January 22)
7. Our printer is out of ink. (Every. Single. Week. At least twice a week.)
8. I got food poisoning at Taco Bell. (November 27. And hasn't everyone?)
9. I emailed it to you last night. Whaddya mean, it didn't get here?! (September 26)
10. My mom refused to bring it up to school. She is so mean! (December 13)
11. I let my friend borrow my book, and I put my homework in it. (December 18)
12. I can't get my locker open. (November 13 and January 12)
13. I lost the internet at home last night. I then tried to email one of my friends, but email didn't work either. (last April)

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Rashenbo
2. ancsweetnsassygal
3. johnh985
4. Mr. c
5. Jess, the computer diva
6. momtoanangel
7. Tour Marm
(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

So do I need to wipe their noses too?

So there I was at Checkpoint Cornelius, and this young man was standing next to me eating some ersatz nachos. He was a young fella who needed a lot of correction so I was attacking one problem at a time:

"Hey, bud. Please put on your ID." He did this, and did a kind of twirl as he did it. A chip fell to the floor.

"Oh, you are SO going to pick that up," I said, giving him a minor look. He started to act like he was going to refuse in a teasing manner that is oh-so-typical of 14-year-old boys, but I shot him the stronger version of "the look" and he bent over and picked it up, then threw it in the trash. Kid wanders away, then he comes back. I've got a magnetic personality, what can I say?

Along comes our freshest-faced AP, who sees this kid and starts griping at him about his sagging pants, which have moved south as he has moved away-- I mean, my mouth is open getting ready to say something. AP Doogie Howser threatens to send the kid home, so the kid pulls up his pants and does a little rap about how his pants aren't the AP's business, and I start to respond to this rudeness, when the AP cuts him off and threatens to send him home for FIVE days for the pants plus the backtalking. Then the AP says,

"And Ms. Cornelius! If you see his pants even two inches below his waist I want you to write him up!" And then he walks off.

Now---- HUH? I am all for enforcing the dress code-- you know me-- but if the AP already doesn't like the sagging and the lipping off, why doesn't he take care of it himself? After all, he's got far more freedom to act than I do. I have to say, it sounded like he thinks I need instructions to enforce the rules (and BTW, anyone who gives a kid a referral for sagging is normally going to be completely ignored and made to look idiotic in front of administrators, kids, and anyone else unless you see body parts).

So sure-- I've got plenty of time on my hands to deal with your problems.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ode on a Mac

Janet at The Art of Getting By asks the ultimate tech question: Mac or PC?

I am a Mac devotee. I have actually owned nine Macs since 1988. I remember when System 7 was a big deal. Two of them were given to me by Apple for free, including the MacBook I'm using now, as I wrote about here. Let's take a walk down my personal computer collection. All of these are computers I have actually owned. Special geek props will be given to anyone who can corectly name all of these machines specifically.

Why do I love them? Because, except for one incident, customer service has been excellent, and that incident got me an personal apology from Cupertino itself and a free laptop. This company stands behind its products. This summer, they did not have to GIVE me a new computer-- but they did. When was the last time you heard of any company over on the Dark Side doing that?

I like the interface. I like that I have never had to type in any stupid code-- until I became a blogger, of course. I like the trackpad. I like the fact that I don't have to run two operating systems at once. I like the ability to play music, and I love the iPods and iTunes, although I do lack access to Beatles and Radiohead tunes there. I love iPhoto, GarageBand, iDVD, and Quicktime. I like ONE DAMN BUTTON on the mouse. Back in THIS day, I could find a conflict in the extensions faster than you could say "Bill Gates is the antichrist."

I'll be honest-- I mourn the loss of Sherlock. Nothing has ever been like it. I also am not as comfortable with the hierarchies for finding files under OS X, but it's still much better than trying to find a file on my mom's computer. It would be easier to find a budget surplus inside the Beltway.

And then there's the virus issue. I don't want to be smug, but nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah- nyaaaaaahhh! Melissa, Blackbeard, "I Love You," Anna Kournikova, Code Red, Nimba, Klez, MyDoom, and the hits just keep on comin'.

I also think Steve Jobs is an incredibly fascinating person. The iPod? Genius! The clamshell iBook? What an innovative design!

So those are some of the reasons why I love Macs.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 49: What is this, Miami Beach? edition

Well, here we are.... again. Time for another Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. This week's film just seems so darned-- appropriate! I can't resist.

So here's how we play: I give you some quotes from a movie, and you provide a quote of your own from the same movie. If your favorite quote is already taken, dig into the ol' memory banks and come up with another! We do not revela the name of the movie in our quotes, though, so everyone can play. I will later edit and put in a picture or two from the movie.

So here we are:

"For your information, Hairdo, there is a major network interested in me."

"Did you sleep okay without me? You tossed and turned, didn't you?"
"You're incredible."
"Who told you?"

"Hey now, don't you tell me you don't remember me, 'cause I sure as heckfire remember you!"

"It's nice! People like it."
"You're new, aren't you? People like blood sausage too. People are morons."

"Am I right or am I right or am I right? Right?"

"What would you do if you were stuck in one place... and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
"That sums it up for me."

"'The wretch, concentered all in self;
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down,
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung
Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.'"
Sir Walter Scott."

And GO!

****Thursday Update: "It's like I said-- I love this film. And I told you to call me 'Bronco.'"


This is a very deep, philosophical meditation on what it takes to be a better person, and why we should all aim for that goal.

Answer: So that, if you're a smart-alecky guy, you can get Andie McDowell.

You've got plenty of time to experience this one over and over again before February. Get going! And remember:

Don't drive angry!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Why I Hate Wrestling

And no, I'm not talking about "pro wrestling,"either. I was standing near the gym, eyeballing three boys who were acting like knuckleheads, when along came "Pee-wee." He looked down in the mouth. Every week he asks if he can pass Checkpoint Cornelius where I guard the hallway and its bathrooms from dirty deeds so that he can go weigh-in to find out if he can eat lunch and drink some milk. Not when, not how much, but IF.

"Hey there, Pee-wee. How'd the weigh-in go?"

"It sucked! I'm five pounds over for the match this weekend! I haven't eaten since yesterday morning, either! And now I can't eat lunch!"

And off he walked, his head practically hanging down to his belt-buckle. Now this is a fit kid-- lean muscle, probably about 5'9" or so. But he's being expected to compete in a weight class that obviously does not match his body. Every day I watch him walk around (he's constantly moving) eating ONE mini-muffin.

This. Is. Not. Healthy.

There is no way he can safely lose 5 pounds in less than 72 hours. I am seriously afraid that he will hurt himself with this yo-yo dieting when he is not in any way out of shape, and is already on the skinny side for his height.

And that's why I hate wrestling.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen Number 1

Thirteen Things about MS. CORNELIUS

13 Things I Hate About Winter:

1.There is no baseball during winter. This proves, indubitably, that winter is accursed.

2. There is even a nasty little period in the winter where there's no baseball, AND there's no football. That really is brutal.

3. I go to work in the morning, and it's dark.

4. Snow. And snow days. I would rather be in school when it's crappy outside, and get out of school when it's warm and sunny.

5. The way people drive in the snow and ice. Now, in Oklahoma, we only got ice, and everyone knows you really can't drive on ice, and we acknowledged that and stayed home. See, we're descended from people who survived winters on the prairie, so nature has self-selected hardy, survival-oriented types. But here? People think that driving a huge SUV means you're bulletproof. Which is fine if they would just slide off into a ditch without nearly annihilating others.

6. Sunlight deprivation. I think I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, except that I get grumpy instead of sad.

7. Putting on layers of clothing to keep warm makes one look much fatter. Just the other day, I was blamed for influencing the tides at Lake Michigan. I'm probably the reason why Pluto was downgraded to a planet-in-waiting.

8. My nose is cold, but I'm sweating.Disgusting almost to the point of getting a botox injection-- but not quite.

9. Ice. I hate ice.

10. When one flake or ice pellet hits the ground, everyone within 100 miles dashes to the grocery stores in their big SUVs and buys up all the bread, milk and eggs. Because, after all, they might run out and not be able to get to the store if we get that quarter-inch of snow. It's as if everyone thinks that the ingredients for French toast form some kind of talisman against the cold.

11. Darkness at 5 pm. That's just wrong.

12. Blustery northern winds.

13. The field mice come into our school with a vengeance during winter, and they like to leave little presents all around. Can anyone say, "Hantavirus?" I thought you could.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Jess, the Computer Diva

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

It was a dark and stormy Carnival....

Dr. Homeslice serves up a little piece o' heaven as he hosts the 102nd edition of the Carnival of Education. All kinds of great stuff is here, along with a dry side of wit. Read it!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Strange doings in Omaha

Nebraska state legislators are struggling with what to do to improve education in Omaha:
State lawmakers on Wednesday introduced several bills aimed at resolving issues facing the state’s largest school district, Omaha Public Schools.

The plans follow a decision last year by the Legislature to break the district into three parts and put the 11 school districts in Douglas and Sarpy counties under a governance umbrella called a learning community. Lawsuits followed the law, and a judge has put the law’s implementation on hold.

One bill introduced Wednesday (LB547) aims to ensure the breakup never happens. Introduced by Sen. Gail Kopplin of Gretna, the measure would also maintain current boundaries of school districts in both Douglas and Sarpy counties. It has the backing of 10 superintendents in Douglas and Sarpy counties.

Sen. Ron Raikes of Lincoln, meanwhile, introduced several bills related to OPS, including one that would create a new governing structure with the goal of giving seven high schools in the area more local control. The schools would be grouped into so-called education centers with elected boards. Each board would then have representation on the board overseeing the entire Class V district.

Another bill (LB473), introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, would maintain the planned breakup of OPS but merge one district, Westside, into the Omaha district.

I last wrote about the situation in Omaha here. The legislative plan would have broken up the Omaha district into three segregated districts: one majority-white, one majority-black, and one majority-Hispanic. On the one hand, doing something thi drastic might actualy lead to self-empowerment and responsibility. On the other hand, this could be a gigantic leap back into the worst days in American education.

There are animal lovers, and then there's this

What would you do if your dog attacked your elderly mother? What would you do if that same dog later KILLED your elderly mother?
A plastic surgeon spent three hours sewing up Linda Mittino's face after her son's dog first attacked her in November.

But she insisted the 7-year-old German shepherd, called Bear, deserved a second chance.

On Monday, the animal lover's loyalty cost her her life when the dog once again turned on her — this time attacking in her bedroom.

"She called him her protector. She loved that dog," said her son, Joe Mittino, the dog's owner.

"I don't know what happened. My mom isn't here to tell me and the dog can't talk."

...Bear, whose registered name is Baron von Valentine, was the seventh German shepherd the family had kept as a pet over the years. Linda Mittino also kept a greyhound and eight cats.

Joe Mittino said Bear was always aggressive about protecting his owner and territory.

"I took him to obedience school, but we didn't do too good," Joe Mittino said.

His sister, Lisa Boenzle, said she feared the dog, especially after it attacked her husband, who went to the hospital with serious bite wounds last year.

"You always had to keep an eye on him," she said. "You couldn't know for sure what he was thinking. The dog needed to be put down after the first attack," Lisa Boenzle said. "But my mom didn't want to take the dog away from my brother."

Joe Mittino said he intended to get one-on-one training for Bear after the attack. He scheduled an appointment to have the dog neutered Jan. 25. He hoped the procedure would curb his temperament.

Police said they expect no criminal charges from the attack, since the animal killed one of its owners, the first such case in memory in St. Louis County.

Most family members insist that the dog should be euthanized now.

"He needs to be put down. He killed my mother," Lisa Boenzle said. "He's a threat to every human."

Officials were holding the dog Tuesday at St. Louis County's animal control shelter. Delores Gunn, director of the St. Louis County Health Department, will determine if the dog should be euthanized after a hearing if the family does not request it to be put down.

But Joe Mittino wondered about other options Tuesday. He said he wished the dog could live in seclusion in rural Missouri.

"I bet he'd be OK there with no one around," he said. "I'd keep him in a pen."

I mean-- What the HELL is wrong with this guy? His dog has attacked people in the family at least three times, twice in the last two months. The animal killed his mother. And he wants it to go live in a pen in the country? First of all, if he loves this animal, that is hardly humane. Second, he has shown precious little intiative in attempting to control this animal-- they often say there are no bad dogs; there are only bad owners. No matter what, however, the animal has not been socialized to be around humans, and he has killed.

I love, love LOVE my dogs. But this is crazy.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Five things about moi

I got tagged with the "Five Things About Me" meme and have had loads of trouble getting it done, what with my ISP going down in the storm and all, but now, mea culpa, I'm getting it done.

1. I like to drop Latin, Greek or other foreign words and phrases into my teaching. Carpe diem! Ne oublie! (This is my Scots clan's motto. And it should be the motto of all involved in education.)

2. I HATE "reality TV" shows. I mean it. They are absolutely AWFUL. I don't like making fun of people who are blissfully unaware of how untalented they are, like that William Hmong or whoever he was. Donald Trump needs to go to a decent hairstylist.

3. I listen to lyrics in songs as well as to the music. I pretty much am not a fan of "new school" hip-hop or urban contemporary music, although I have pretty catholic musical tastes in about everything else. However, I really liked the group Arrested Development, and wish we had some of the same quality available now. But Jay-Z's Busweiser commercial sets my teeth on edge: "Show me what ya got, pretty lady! Show me what ya got, now mama! And wave and wave, and wave and wave...." Oooh, deep. I can hear the cash register ringing from here.

4. I am an obsessive book-buyer and reader.

5. I play guitar. A lot.

I now tag Mr. Teacher at learn me good, Alsoomse, and Mike in Texas.

Okay, now THAT'S better.

Now this proves that five questions is not enough to make these kind of emotion crushing decisions.

At first the Bloglines quiz "Which modern US president are you most like?" told me this bunch of #@%:
You Are Most Like George W. Bush

So what if you're not exactly popular? You still rule the free world.
And while you may be quite conservative now, you knew how to party back in the day!

All I can say is, don't say you like Mexican food, since none of the other things I chose would seem to make me like this former oilman except that I grew up in the Oil Capitol of the World and I speak with a drawl sometimes and, unlike his daddy, I really DO like pork rinds (it's my secret shame)....

Oh, hell. I'm depressing myself. But at least I can spell "antithetical." AND I know what that means. I can also pronounce "nuclear" correctly.

But then it told me this:
You Are Most Like Bill Clinton

No doubt, your legacy may be a little seedier than you'd like.
But even though you've done some questionable things, you're still loved by almost all.

Okay, now. Except for the morally-challenged about one's personal life which should have freakin' stayed private part, I'm there.

Thanks so much for ruining my day, CaliforniaTeacher Guy. And while you're at it, go over to History Is Elementary and wish her a happy blogiversary!

Jeez. I'm gonna go read now.

Movie Madness Monday 48: Always Faithful edition

Welcome back to a holiday edition of Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game! I hope you are all enjoying the day off, and not dealing with powersurges and periodic blackouts thanks to our local power monopoly, which I like to call ConnEd (I think it's run by a subsidiary of KBR). Actually, I guess we could say that we are experiencing a lot of power successes that haven't happened yet.

But quick! Before I lose power again, here's this week's entry. Here's what you do: I provide some quotes from a movie, and you provide a quote of your own from the same movie. I will name the movie for those who are stymied later in the week, God willing. Okay?

"Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You?"

"It was oregano, Dave-- it was a dime bag of oregano."
"Yeah, well, your client thought it was marijuana."
"My client's a moron. That's not against the law."
"I got people to answer to just like you do. I'm gonna charge him."
"With what, possession of a condiment? "

"Walk softly and carry an armored tank division, I always say. "

"We're in the business of saving lives, Matthew. That is a responsibility we have to take pretty seriously. And I believe that taking a Marine who isn't quite up to the job and shipping him off to another assignment, puts lives in danger."

"I get sick when I fly because I'm afraid of crashing into a large mountain, so I don't think Dramamine'll help."
"I've got some oregano; I hear that works pretty good."

Stand to post, people!

****Thursday Update: They stand on a wall and say "No one's going to hurt you tonight," because they are


And one good woman. In this movie, it's Jack Nicholson, and not Tom Cruise, who'se sceraming and acting like a lunatic. Ahhhh, those were the days!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wherever you're going, there you are

Have I told you how much I have a love/hate relationship with my treadmill? No?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

You can't always get what you want...

I saw her today at the reception....

No, actually I saw her yesterday in the hallway. She is a sweet girl, and she started the year in my AP class. It was a struggle for her from the onset. She kept saying she wanted to be there, but she often had little idea about what was going on. She was confused about basic history. She did not write very well-- her sentences were often confused, which frankly reflected her understanding of the material. She often did not have her reading completed by deadline. She was in a community dance group and two dance groups at school, and she once briefly mentioned a mysterious boyfriend.

I approached Kiddo after the first week, and we discussed how much time she was spending on this class. Basically, she would spend no time on it until one certain day of the week, when she would then spend three to four hours. I tried to talk to her about developing the regular study habits that would help her succeed. Kiddo tried to say that she couldn't come for afterschool help because she had to go to practice for one of her dance groups at school, but I went to the teacher who sponsored it, and she absolutely supported the young lady coming for tutoring, since she had to maintain a certain GPA in order to remain on the squad (God, I LOVE coaches like that!).

I got my Kiddo to stay just one time for after school tutoring with me, and at the end of that session her comprehension was better, although everything certainly wasn't fixed-- not by a long shot. I really think that what she needed was someone to sit down with her and explain various references which she did not understand and give her a push. I was willing to do it until she got her feet under her, but she never came back, even though I asked her repeatedly and her coach urged her to come and we both talked to her mother. I tried to make her understand that this kind of course requires a certain level of commitment, and that if you can't make that commitment, for pity's sake don't flunk it but instead, please, for her own sake, she should drop down to a regular level class. Nothing doing.

Actually, that phone call to mom was an interesting conversation. The mom felt that her daughter didn't need any tutoring because "she's not stupid." No matter how much I tried to make the mother understand that tutoring does not imply stupidity, the mom was having none of it. The mother was a master of that really exhaustive practice which I call "bipolar parenting:" one second she would engage in berating her daughter to me and threatening all sorts of punishment, and the next minute she would praise her daughter for being a good girl-- which she was. The mother also insisted on explaining to me all kinds of frustration she was having with this girl and a certain adult male who was giving her daughter too much attention. We definitely were worried about that, both of us. Mom didn't seem to know how to keep the girl from seeing this guy when she worked two jobs and was gone from home for most hours of the day. But Mom also insisted that she not drop down a level to a less time-consuming course.

After I got off the phone after an hour of this, I went and left a note for her counselor to please contact me regarding Kiddo. We tried to work with her all semester. Then she disappeared for two weeks before Thanksgiving, and didn't come to school at all. I had to alert an AP about it, since this absence concerned me. She then came back, and we talked about how to try to get caught up, but it didn't happen and she never attended a full week of classes again until the end of the semester. After hovering around a D minus for 10 weeks, Kiddo's grade sank into the 40s. Then she made a concerted push and her grade came up a bit. Then she disappeared again, and I went to the counselor and recommended that she drop down a level next semester, and the counselor agreed. Of course, the counselor didn't get to talk it over with her, because she didn't come to school for the next three days after our conversation. Then she came back, and when the counselor talked to her, she talked the counselor into not changing her schedule after all.

But the killer was when she did not finish her final exam. She flunked for the semester. By a lot. No matter how you sliced it. This class fulfills the requirement for a required course for graduation, so she will now have to take summer school, where if you miss more than two days, they forcibly drop you. I went back to the counselor and recommended again that she drop down a level for her own good for next semester, since she was in no way prepared to pass the second half of the course, and I couldn't bear the idea of her losing an entire year's worth of credit. That kind of thing can drive a kid to drop out. She had said repeatedly that she wanted to stay, but her actions screamed out, "I'm in over my head!"

So I didn't see her again until yesterday, walking down the hall to her new class. She smiled and ran to me and gave me a hug and I gave her my traditional noogie. I asked how she was doing, and she said, "Better!" in a heartfelt way. She then zipped off to class so she wouldn't be late.

I know she wanted to stay in AP. I would've loved to have her stay, but not at the expense of her getting off track for graduation.

Because-- you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need. I know I'm hoping that she does.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Running up that hill

For the past two years, our school has been spending staff development time talking about the minority achievement gap. Did I say that we had accomplished anything tangible? No, I did not.

We have talked about that there is a gap. We have talked about how big it is, exactly. We have talked about how long it is that we have been aware that there is an achievement gap. We have all been told-- including the teachers who are themselves members of minority group-- that we are prejudiced and we are oppressors and that our failure to learn every student's name on the first day of school is the reason why students feel that they "don't receive the respect they deserve."

What we haven't done is talk about tangible steps we can take to try to bridge this gap. I am, to say the least, on the verge of screaming, I am so frustrated. And, of course, strictly taboo is discussing any attitudes on the part of students or families that impinge their interest in getting an education, which I have noticed is actually not racially based but rather is common among certain socio-economic groups. You know, attitudes like letting your child stay home from school 1-2 days a week and claiming they're sick when really they just don't want to go or they didn't finish their homework or study for a test. Like believing that the only way your children will become successful is by becoming an athlete or entertainer. Like believing that education has nothing to do with your responsibilities as a parent.

I will say that I am dismayed when I see students who actively seek to take advantage of educational opportunity be labeled as "sell-outs" or "nerds" or, if they do belong to a minority group, as "acting white." And I have heard these comments while walking amongst the kids during my hall duty or cafeteria duty. I am dismayed when I see students act as if they are entitled to a credit or a grade or a future well-paying job "just because." I believe that everything you do with kids-- every kid-- involves holding students to high standards and making it clear that you know that they have the ability to meet those standards. I believe success lies in eschewing simplistic worksheets in favor of activities which require real thinking. But I also know that when students talk about what makes them feel "respected" it has to do with people letting them do whatever they want. I heard, "let me turn in late work whenever I want," or "let me leave the room as many times as I want," and only a few really serious responses. And of these demands, let me just say that I am not "down with that."

I am repulsed when I hear teachers or counselors (many of them minority members themselves) claim that certain students can't succeed in school due to their skin color, or that they can't take challenging classes.

What about you? What have you seen that you think contributes to the minority achievement gap?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Carnival 101: The I Think I Can Carnival

The 101st edition of the Carnival of Education is up and running at I Thought a Think, put together by our esteemed compatriot The Rain.

All kinds of great stuff to read and ponder and enjoy! Go on over and let your computer do the walking!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The best satirical songs ever

Janet at the Art of Getting By poses a question this week that is once again intriguing. I do o love the music questions! She asks, "What are the best satire songs?"

1. Almost everything by Randy Newman, but especially "Political Science," which some would say is not a protest but a blueprint for action. Here's a taste:

"No one likes us, I don't know why.
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try.
But all around even our old friends put us down.
Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

...Now Asia's crowded and Europe's too old.
Africa's far too hot, and Canada's too cold.
And South America stole our name; let's drop the big one;
There'll be no one left to blame us.

...Well, boom goes London, and boom Paree.
More room for you and more room for me.
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town.
Oh, how peaceful it'll be; we'll set everybody free;
You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby, there'll be Italian shoes for me.
They all hate us anyhow, so let's drop the big one now.
Let's drop the big one now!"

Honorable mention for Mr. Newman include "I Love L.A.," "Burn On," and "Rednecks."

2. "Born in the USA," by Bruce Springsteen. Memo to Ronald Reagan: This was NOT a rock companion to Lee Greenwood's "God Bles the USA." It's about promises betrayed.

3. "American Idiot," by Green Day. Actually, let's just make that the whole album. It's like Billie Joe Armstrong's version of "A Modest Proposal," by Jonathan Swift.

4. "Little Boxes," by Malvina Reynolds. Ahh, suburbia! Home of individuality!

5. "Bald Headed Men," by Christine Lavin. Well, at least I think she's being sarcastic....

6. "Money for Nothing," by the Dire Straits. Making fun of MTV, and getting MTV to support you in it. Brilliant.

7. "Peace. Love, and Understanding," by Elvis Costello. What's so funny 'bout that?

8. "Prom Theme," by Fountains of Wayne. Someday, kids, you won't care about your date puking in the fountain in a rented baby blue tux. I promise.

9. "Making Whoopee!"either the Dr. John and Rickie Lee Jones version or the Harry Nilsson versions, both of which are superb. And in that vein, we also have

10. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by the Georgia Satellites. So sue me; I still love it. And then there's

11. "White Wedding," by Billy Idol. I loved that sneer on this one.

There's more, but I get compulsive about things like this.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Yet another sign of the apocalypse

Can any amount of money fix NCLB?
Apparently, Congressional leaders and President Bush met to push for renewal of NCLB, and Secretary Spellings tore herself away from her world travels long enough to attend. You can read the whole thing, but here's my favorite part:
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. -- who chair committees overseeing education -- said they urged the president to propose funding increases for the law. Bush made no commitments, according to a congressional aide who was briefed on the discussions and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

Democrats, who won control of Congress in November, say the administration and Republican lawmakers have underfunded the law by about $50 billion, compared to what was originally called for. Republicans say it is common practice for legislation to be funded at less than the full level.

While partisan sniping over the law has been common in recent years, the lawmakers attending Monday's meeting struck a bipartisan note and pledged to work together to get the law renewed for five more years. The united front is part of a strategy to fend off critics who want to see the law scrapped or drastically changed.

"This issue now has its detractors and those that are opposed to it. That's true in the Democratic party and the Republican party," Kennedy said.

Spellings listed a few areas of concern that came up during Monday's meeting. They included how to test special education and limited-English speaking students, a desire to give schools credit for progress even when they fall short of annual targets and ways to get students access to high-quality free tutoring.

I wonder what would happen if Congress passed a rule that no law could be put into practice unless it is fully funded-- just for fun. Naive, I am sure, but also logical. And that's why it's an idea that would never live inside the Beltway.

I'd also like to see my congresspeople work as many hours as I do. Then imagine doing that in front of a critical audience of restive teens who have been deprived of their cell phones for over three hours. Then try to juggle twelve flaming rings.

Then they might now what it's like to teach.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 47: More of my wasted youth edition

Movie Madness Monday, and we're going to go back in time to my college days.

Here's how we play: I give you quotes from a movie, and you respond with lines of your own from the same movie WITHOUT NAMING THE MOVIE so that everyone can play. Later in the week I will tell you the movie title, if someone hasn't blown it.

"Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... bigger, and yet smaller... it's computers... San Dimas High School football rules!"

"George Washington. One: the father of our country."
"Two: born on President's Day."
"Three: the dollar bill guy."

"Now, who was Joan of Arc?"
[pauses] "Noah's wife?"

"'Socrates - "The only true wisdom consists of knowing you know nothing.'"
"That's us, dude."

"Deacon, do you realize you have just stranded one of Europe's greatest leaders in San Dimas?"

****Thursday Update: Be excellent to each other; it's

Who could NOT love a movie that has a Go-Go playing Joan of Arc? And Clarence Clemons playing a floating future world leader? Whatever happened to Alex Winter? A question which is surely burning in everyone's mind, I am sure. No matter what, this movie was not bogus!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Provide your own caption contest

This picture has apparently been floating around for a while. No one knows what its significance is, or who the man is. It was taken in Sheboygan somewhere between 1876 and 1884. He's dressed awfully nice for someone sitting on a dead horse.

In Sheboygan.

But what would we say this would represent today? Is it the president's new Iraq strategy?

Is it our superintendent sitting on the remains of AYP?

Whaddaya think?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A teacher's work is never done, part dos

Well, my previous question certainly touched more than just MY last nerve!

The parents can set up a weekly progress report to be automatically emailed to them.

First, the first kid got a D in my class. I had been in consistent if not harassing contact with the parent regarding my concerns not just in my class, but in patterns I was seeing overall across this student's classes. The parents and I had a lovely little electronic conversation going there. I told the AP, very tactfully, of my concerns. He then told me that it wasn't me about whom the parents had the concern, so that I didn't have to do it, just touch base with the parents as needed-- which I have been doing.

I believe that that is what teachers should do. I am a parent, and I have been somewhat unhappy with the amount of contact I received from one of my children's teachers, so I know how it feels. But! These same parents have been known to pull their child out of class at the drop of a hat, so that grade could drop to a B awfully fast, and it really shouldn't be a surprise.

The call-me-with-any-missing-assignment person's kid got a C. And I am fine with having the kid call, but other teachers have been told that doing this during class time embarasses the students and hurts their self-esteem, so they are supposed to do it during their prep time. Now I don't know about you, but my prep time is completely-- COMPLETELY-- used up doing little things like grading and planning and talking to counselors and answering emails and attending IEP meetings. Not to mention that I already have been staying an extra hour and a half to two hours at school every day. I'll tell you one thing-- I leave after every administrator has gone home.

The greater problem here is that there seems to be no end to the demands placed upon us, and there are only so many hours in the day. The same administrators who admonish teachers not to give too much homework have no problem introducing new expectations seemingly weekly. And this is even more annoying given that the parents can see these things for themselves if they will only make the effort to check instead of depending upon someone else to intiate.

Now I love my job. I love my students. But eventually, the parents and students have to realize that an education really isn't "free," no matter what anyone may say. It requires at least as much effort at their end as it does at mine.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A teacher's work is never done

Okay, here's the scenario: A parent has asked that all of a (16 year old) student's teachers call him if his daughter's grades drop below a B. By the way, the grades are available over the internet, and the parent has internet access. Yet another parent has requested that she be called any time her offspring does not turn in an assignment, with the same caveat regarding grades and the internet.

Mind you, a certain teacher (who looks remarkably like a certain simian named Ms. Cornelius) has maintained both phone and email contact with said parental units, although not at the level they are now attempting to acquire.

Now the question: Reasonable, or not?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Sally Field Moment

Thanks to a tip from my pal NYC Educator, I ambled over to the Washington Post and found that Jay Mathews mentioned A Shrewdness of Apes as a favorite blog in a contest he called "the Class Struggle," which I see is a pun on the name of his column.

I am just flummoxed. Seriously. I mean, I am always so pleased and even dumbfounded when these little crazed ramblings compulsive disquisitions posts of mine go zinging around "the internets" and find a home for a while in someone else's mind.

And he even called me a "babe"-- yes he did, right there in the title, and he can't take that back. Well, an innocent-- but that means a babe, right? I'll take it. As Arlo Guthrie said, I'm not proud. Or tired.

Or 98 pounds, either, for that matter, unless you are talking about multiplication.

Apparently somebody out there mentioned this blog in the first place just to attract the attention, and so I really need to say, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

The Century Mark Carnival heads to the 21st century

The 100th edition of the Carnival of Education is up and waiting your immediate perusal at Teaching in the Twenty-first Century by the delightful aquiram.

Nobody could dial a breakfast like mother, and nobody does the Edusphere better than the Carnival! Bounce on over!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

GAAAAH! A Bibliophile's NIGHTMARE!

As I sit surrounded by my piles of books taking up every spare inch of space living room furniture, I come across THIS incomprehensible story from Faifax, Virginia:
You can't find "Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings" at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or "The Education of Henry Adams" at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson's "Final Harvest"? Don't look to the Kingstowne branch.

It's not that the books are checked out. They're just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.

Linda Schlekau, manager of Woodrow Wilson library in Fairfax County, says she discards about 700 books a month.

Along with those classics, thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.

Public libraries have always weeded out old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. But the region's largest library system is taking turnover to a new level.

Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone -- even if they are classics.

"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost."

Books on the Chopping Block in Fairfax
The following books have been weeded from the shelves of various branches of the Fairfax County Public Library system or haven't been checked out in 24 months and could be discarded. In parentheses are the branches where the books are endangered. The same title might be available at another branch.
The Works of Aristotle, Aristotle (Centreville)
Sexual Politics, Kate Millett (Centreville)
The Great Philosophers, Karl Jaspers (Centreville)
Carry Me Home, Diane McWhorter (Centreville)
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (George Mason Regional)
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (George Mason Regional)
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (George Mason Regional)
Desolation Angels, Jack Kerouac (George Mason Regional)
Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (George Mason Regional)
Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust (George Mason Regional)
Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, Maya Angelou (Chantilly Regional)
The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams (Chantilly Regional)
Writings, Gertrude Stein (Chantilly Regional)
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (Chantilly Regional)
Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (Chantilly Regional)
Great Issues in American History, Richard Hofstadter (Chantilly Regional)
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (Chantilly Regional)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Pohick Regional)
Babylon Revisited: And other stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald (Reston Regional)
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Reston Regional)
The Aeneid, Virgil (Sherwood Regional)
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot (Fairfax City Regional)

What does it say about me that I actually own several of these books?

Now, look, I'll admit that George Eliot is not everyone's cup o'tea, William Faulkner never been one of my favorites-- I'm much more a Eudora Welty kind of gal (my sister is just like Stella-Rondo), and as a history teacher, I personally am quite fond of the Hofstadter works and even have them on my shelves, but.... Aristotle? Hemingway?? Bronte??? Harper LEE???????

Three questions pop to mind:
1. Are these librarians nuts-- who has "40 feet of shelfspace devoted to tulips?", and
2. Who are the people who patronize these libraries?
3. "Pohick regional??" It's too good to be true! Hahahahaha!

Just because a book is not checked out does not mean it hasn't been used by a patron in the library. Further, this practice becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as people who would want these kinds of books realize that they are not on the shelves, they will stop coming to the library altogether.

Eventually, no thinking person will go to the library. At least in Fairfax.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 46: Forgot and never brought to mind edition

Movie Madness Monday comes out a bit late today because I forgot it was Monday-- sad, sad, but true. And no, it's not because I partied too much last night, since Mr. Cornelius hasn't taken me out for New Year's since we were engaged, which was like the Reagan era.

But here's how we play: I give you quotes from a movie, and you respond with lines of your own from the same movie WITHOUT NAMING THE MOVIE so that everyone can play. Later in the week I will tell you the movie title, if there's any doubt left. It's a chance to stave off brain rot after our long holiday break!

I almost feel guilty about this one. Naaaah, not really. Have fun, now:

"And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

"It is so nice when you can sit with someone and not have to talk."

"Well, if you must know, it was because he was very jealous, and I had these days of the week underpants."
"BZZZZZZZT. I'm sorry, I need the judges' ruling on this. 'Days of the weeks underpants'?"
"Yes. They had the days of the week on them, and I thought they were sort of funny. And then one day Sheldon says to me, 'You never wear Sunday.' It was all suspicious. Where was Sunday? Where had I left Sunday? And I told him, and he didn't believe me."
"They don't make Sunday."
"Why not?"
"Because of God."

"Somewhere between 30 seconds and all night is your problem."

"Its amazing. You look like a normal person, but actually you are the Angel of Death."

"You know like you know a good melon."

And if anyone says "chickflick," sowelpme, I'll whack 'em.

****Thursday Update: It Had to Be You, and it had to be


Am I the only person in America who will compulsively watch this movie every time it comes on, but especially on New Year's Eve? And of course there's this unforgettable scene:

Meg Ryan. Billy Crystal. Carrie Fisher. Rob Reiner. Rob Reiner's mother. The late great Bruno Kirby, whom we will all miss. May he rest in peace. Who else could have made the character of Jess so perfect?

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