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, May 31, 2007

And speaking of students chastising teachers....

From a good friend, I give you this:

The 6th grade science teacher, Mrs. Parks, asked her class, "Which human body part increases to ten times its size when stimulated?"

No one answered until little Mary stood up and said, "You should not be asking sixth-graders a question like that! I'm going to tell my parents, and they will go and tell the principal, who will then fire you!"

Mrs. Parks ignored her and asked the question again, "Which body part increases to 10 times its size when stimulated?"

Little Mary's mouth fell open. Then she said to those around her, "Boy, is she going to get in big trouble!"

The teacher continued to ignore her and said to the class, "Anybody?"

Finally, Billy stood up, looked around nervously, and said, "The body part that increases 10 times its size when stimulated is the pupil of the eye."

Mrs. Parks said, "Very good, Billy," then turned to Mary and continued, "As for you, young lady, I have three things to say:
One, you have a dirty mind; Two, you didn't read your homework; And three, one day you are going to be very, very disappointed."


Carnival of Education dazzles and sparkles

So I forgot to post a link to last week's carnival, at the fabulous I Thought a Think because I was busy losing my mind doing the AP audit stuff (34 pages, baby!) and dealing with all kinds of end-of-year errata. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Then there's this week's carnival back at the The Education Wonks' place and is yet another rip-roarin' good time.

Really, you just have to marvel at the wonderful round-ups of the Edusphere, and the quality just keeps improving week after week. You'll only know what's going on if you spend some quality time following the links.



Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Scenes from a high school as graduation nears

Scene 1: Kid walks into the Cornelius classroom. This is a kid who has been, let us say, not very successful in the classroom this year.

Kid has a bag with a cap and gown in it. Hmmmm.

"Hey, Ms. Cornelius! I get to graduate!" expostulates kid.
"Well that's just wonderful," responds the puzzled teacher.
"Yeah, Mr. New Principal told me no, and that I didn't have the English credits, but Mr. Plea-Bargain said I could!" Kid wriggles with glee.
"Isn't Mr. New Principal your principal?"
"Yeah, but Mr. Plea-Bargain is in charge of graduation."
He is-- the ceremony itself. He is also the least experienced (and competent) of all our principals.
"So am I gonna see you at graduation, Ms. Cornelius?"
"Oh yes, you can count on it," I say. I didn't even grit my teeth until the kid left.

Scene 2: Kid walks into the Cornelius classroom. It is the first day of finals. Class was over on Friday.

"Ms. Cornelius, can I have some extra credit?"

Scene 3: Senior grades for all teachers are due in 3 hours. An email arrives in the in-box.

"Would all teachers who have sent final exams to the ESOL resource room please check to see if another student's final was stapled to a final they received? A final exam has been misplaced."

Scene 4: Ms. Cornelius has gotten all of the signatures on her sign-out sheet save one. Ms. Cornelius cannot find her sign-out sheet. She now has to start over. Right after she finds her gingko biloba.

Scene 5? Probably a lot of teachers rushing out in a mass exodus for a margarita.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The first thing we do, let's [muzzle] all the lawyers

So I go over to Coach Brown's and follow this link, and bam! I get a sharp pain right between my eyebrows.

Go read it. I'll wait.

Having had my usual complement of helicopter parents this year, including one that was an administrator in another building and one on the school board, this certainly resonates with me, and I'm sure with most of us who slog it out trying to educate young 'uns.

But this suing thing has just gotten crazy.

Man, that pain is getting stronger. Maybe I should sue.

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Why gender stereotypes are bull@&t

So I asked a bunch of students to generate a list of adjectives and phrases that describe males, and a list that describe females. After we generate these two lists, we categorize the adjectives and phrases according to positive, neutral, and negative comments. Some of the comments that came up over and over again for females is "holds a grudge," "petty," and "pouty."


I am currently dealing with a colleague-- a big, burly, he-man type-- who got his skivvies in a wad over a misunderstanding over some inconsequential -- really-- request that I made to a principal. He actually used the term "chain of command," which is odd, given that A) I am not going to get a fellow teacher's permission to email a principal, ever; and B) he is not actually my "commander" in any stretch of the term. This was six months ago. I promptly and sincerely apologized for his upset at the time. I was extra solicitous of his needs and helped him out on some other matters. He is still acting like a baby.

I have to work with dis guy, and he is still in full pout.

See, I just don't get it. Someone does something you don't like. First, you decide if it's worth getting upset over. If yes, communicate displeasure to miscreant. Accept apology. End of story. This is how I operate. You know there are myriads of eamples of times when he hasn't done what he was supposed to, or he's made an error, and jeez, I've let bygones be bygones.

Jeez. What a prima donna.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 67: We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches edition

For all my foreign friends who still pop by, let me explain that today is Memorial Day (originally called "Decoration Day"), the day in which we remember our military veterans, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.

In honor of this day, I give you quotes from one of the classic films I like to watch on Memorial Day.

"This is the story of a squad of marines, a rifle squad."

"Stryker knows his business."
"So did Jack the Ripper."

"I've been thinking, why do men get married during a war?"
"Don't know."
"It's the worst time."
"I fooled around but I never thought about marriage. I know a lot of girls back in the States but... I think it's because when you get out here you're close to things. You realise way down inside, no matter how much you try not to think about it, that maybe something's got your number on... and you want to leave a bit of yourself behind. Doesn't matter if it's a boy or a girl, just so long as you won't be forgotten. There'll be someone who'd never have lived if it hadn't been for you. Am I right?"

"That's war."
"What's war?"
"Trading real estate for men."

"How old are you?"
"How old?"
"Well, eighteen... going on eighteen."
"We heard that the squad leader's tough."
"There are rumours to that effect."
"Tough sergeants roll off my knife!"
"You're gonna find your first few days with Sergeant Stryker very interesting."

"All right, saddle up."

****Weekend Update: Saddle up, pilgrims! John Wayne and his men are going to take


I love John Wayne! I love this movie!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Omaha schools take a step back

Earlier, I told you (here and here)about the plan to break up the Omaha public schools into three separate districts based upon racial lines. Apparently, that plan has now been rebuffed:
The governor signed a bill Thursday repealing the planned breakup of the Omaha school district into three districts, largely along racial lines.

The new plan will partner Omaha-area districts in a "learning community," where district borders will become less important and may be crossed regularly. A new council is supposed to help enact programs to encourage integration and achievement, especially among poorer children.

Backers of the previously planned breakup, which passed last year, had said that dividing the state's largest district would have given minorities control of their own school boards. The division was put on hold after lawsuits alleged that the new, smaller districts would amount to state-endorsed segregation.

Now, through an open-enrollment plan, kids could be transported for free to other schools. Schools now filled with mostly white, affluent students could end up with more poor and minority students.

Pupils who would increase the diversity of schools they wished to attend would be given higher priority in decisions about transfers.

The bill was the product of months of negotiation. Gov. Dave Heineman said it wasn't perfect but would still improve the education of Omaha-area kids.

"I hope that today is the start of a new era of collaboration and cooperation when it comes to what matters most -- ensuring a positive future for the children of Nebraska," Heineman said.

The law also freezes school district boundaries in an attempt to resolve disputes over districts taking over adjacent districts.

The Legislature's only black senator, Ernie Chambers of Omaha, pushed last year's bill and also signed off on the new plan.

Doug Christensen, state education commissioner, said the law has the potential to force revolutionary changes in the Omaha area.

"The reality?" Christensen said. "We'll have to wait and see."

I have just never been too sure that the way to deal with segregation in a school district is to further segregate it.

Here's the deal: in my experience, segregation in schools is primarily a function of segregated housing patterns, since school districts are based upon attendance areas. Although there are a few redeveloped urban neighborhoods that have been specifically designed to have a wide range of economic levels among their residents, it's obvious that there are rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods everywhere-- not just in America. Frankly, socioeconomic differences are always more important than strictly racial differences when it comes to education. Deal with that fact, and you'll deal with inequity in schools. Easy, right? (Does my sardonic tone come through?)

Another concern regarding the Omaha case is that under NCLB, schools that do not perform at very high levels will be subject to loss of accreditation and state takeover. Children in impoverished homes have far higher difficulties succeeding in education. The end result of the plan that Omaha had presented would have been making the wealthier school district that would have been created much more secure under NCLB but sacrificing the two poorer school districts much more likely to fail under NCLB and therefore be taken over by the state. I wonder if that didn't play a part in the reconsideration of this plan.

There should be a wy to make sure there is minority presence on the Omaha school board without resegregating the schools there. But how do you get impoverished parents to have the time or the interest to serve on a voluntary school board on top of everything else in their lives? I think that might be the more relevant question.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 66: Hypochondriac edition

Welcome to Movie Madness Monday, the weekly movie quote trivia game. Here's how we play: I give you some quotes from a movie, you respond with quotes of your own from the same movie without revealing the name of the movie, 'kay?

Now, I bet a bunch of you are hacking and sneezing your way through the spring, so of course this film came to mind:

"I try to manage that risk by avoiding danger and having a plan and knowing what my next move is. And I guess you don't exactly live your life that way. Yeah... which is great, but I'm not gonna ever be a dirty dancer, and I don't eat food with my hands, and I really like you, but I just don't think this is gonna work out."

"Hey, aren't you that kid from Crocodile Tears?"
"That's right. I'm Sandy Lyle."
"Man I saw that movie in high school. That bagpipes scene, that was the funniest shit."
"Yeah, we had a good time on that picture. You want an autograph?"
"No, thanks. It's good to see you man. I thought you died like fifteen years ago."
"No. I'm very much alive, my friend."

"You don't know what it was like for me growing up. I had a mother who made me afraid of everything!"
"Well, big deal, Reuben, my dad had a whole second family!"
"Yeah, on Long Island. He had a wife, and kids, and a golden retriever!"

"I've been living my life, okay? I've been in good relationships and I've been in shitty ones... and I've moved alot... and I've been happy, and I've been sad... and I've been lonely... and that is what I've been doing. Which is a lot more then I can say for some freak, who thinks he's gonna get the Ebola virus from a bowl of mixed nuts!"

****Weekend Update: Along came , and she almost ruined him but


and made his life more complex and germy.

Have I told you that I hate ferrets? No? Right there with skwirls for me, but ferrets are stinkier. And since people are actually MORE prone to carry around ferrets, there is far more chance of having someone thrust one at you when all you want to do is find a skillet and smack it.... Did I just say that? Ummmm, I mean. I am sure they are lovely pests-- I mean "pets"-- and all, one of God's creatures totally deserving of life. Like, say, a cottonmouth or a cockroach. Yeah.

The ferret ruined this movie for me. I kept wanting to say, "Run for the hills, Reuben! That chick is obviously unbalanced!" But Jennifer Aniston is adorable. Now the character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman was certainly a stretch for him. From Sandy to Capote. It boggles the mind.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mission: Impossible?

One of the things I've been talking about this weekend in my own classes is the question of what makes a community, which is ironic since we've been dealing with trying to knit together our school community after a rough patch for the last month.

One of the things that all humans need is a sense of belonging. We long for some identification, membership in some organism beyond the individual. Many different groups can fulfill this need in people, often beginning with family and/or friends. Faith groups are another important source of community: the church, the synagogue, the mosque, the sangha, the temple-- all provide a sense of mission, discipline, and support.

While there are certainly exclusive communities, such as gated neighborhoods, private clubs, and the like, it is unquestioned that in the public sphere, a significant idea right now is the idea of an inclusive community. Most public groups profess to want to welcome all, no matter their race or age or social background, and this is doubtless a worthy idea... provided that this inclusiveness does not dilute the sense of identity or purpose of the group. It would make no sense for a group of oenophiles to pursue teetotallers as members. Public schools also undeniably must function as communities. The question is: communities for what purpose?

This is the flip side of the concept of community. To be a true community, no matter how welcoming, a community has to have some strictures, some expectations, some sense of mission to which its members adhere, otherwise the edges of the community stretch forever outward until the community itself is thinned like a pie crust rolled too hard. A community has to have some sort of organizing principle or belief, or there is no gravitational pull to attract members to it and hold together the members that are already there. A community must also demand something of its members, whether that something be a belief or a behavior, or it ceases to function as a community. A community only exists as long as there is allegiance to some principle which drives the community. This organizing principle can best be expressed by the word "mission," which has both military and religious connotations. Note that both military and religious organizations can inspire great loyalty, achievement and action. In each context, mission informs and drives the activities of the group.

We certainly see the disastrous effects of a loss of a sense of mission in some churches, which is how this subject same up in the first place for me. However, the institution of public education has also been damaged by this problem. This is one of the current flaws in the thinking of many people who set public educational policy in America, and, I suspect, in many countries around the world. In trying to be all things to all people, schools have lost their way as communities as well as educational organizations. In too many places, schools have become the places to receive social services, or to become "socialized," or to see your social worker or juvenile officer, or to play sports, or to be fed, or to see a nurse, or to join a dance group, or to provide childcare for parents (or even some of our students) or to go on ski trips or learn how to drive a car. This expectation for schools to provide a smorgasbord of experience and services beyond that of academic content is predicated upon the unfortunate belief that modern schools are solely responsible for the transmission of services which previously were assigned to other parts of society. In too many schools, the successful transmission of academic knowledge and skills comes in dead last as a priority.

What is the most basic mission of a school? I am hoping we seriously contemplate this question, and be honest with ourselves about what the answer should be if schools are to endure as a vital component of society.

I would like to suggest that the fundamental or foundational mission of a school is to provide academic content and skills to its members. I base this assumption on the fact that most of the time spent in schools is titularly devoted to academic subjects. Can we at least agree on that? I wonder.

It is one thing to provide lip service to the idea of gaining an education as the primary expectation of members of our community known as a school, just as most of us would expect members of our religious communities to be willing to live their lives by the religious requirements of our faith, or expect citizens of our country to be loyal to the same. Let's face it: we expect members of our softball teams to come to games ready and willing to play. Why do we accept members of our school community who do not exhibit the same dedication to the ideal of gaining and utilizing academic knowledge? The end result of such a strategy, further, is to dilute schools' attractiveness to those members who do exhibit a rudimentary dedication to this goal.

For example, in an effort to prevent drop-outs, we abandon our expectation of educational behavior and lower academic standards until they are functionally meaningless. We divorce the expectation of allegiance to academic achievement and academic behaviors from the expectation for membership in the school community, and therefore undercut the very mission of the school. Although the providing of all of those other services and experiences is no doubt noble, and certainly enjoyable, they also serve as static that destroys the message and mission of the school. Shouldn't the education of our members at least be priority number one in public schools? If not, why not just call schools "community centers" and be done with the hypocrisy?

Current debate (as enshrined in laws such as No Child Left Behind, among others) regarding American public education derives from the nonsensical premise that, as my friend and colleague the Education Wonk consistently reminds us, every young person in a school is indeed primarily in attendance there in the role of a student and that if there are any who fail to learn, the responsibility lies solely with the educators and the schools within which they labor. I am sure that sometimes the failure to produce competent students IS one of an individual educator or of the school structure itself. However, there are too many other factors that influence the successful transmission of the cultural and cognitive knowledge that most would classify as an education.

At the very least, shouldn't we expect some fundamental and functional adherence toward academic achievement on the part of our students? The desire and dedication to learning is a not a passive nor inconsequential part of the process, to put it mildly. There is often a general weakness of familial and societal support for education as a valuable acquisition, which is often undercut by an unspoken yet undeniable sense of suspicion toward and de-emphasis upon intellectual pursuits which is endemic in American culture, among other things. We compulsively fill our hours with meaningless distractions to relieve ourselves of the opportunity (and some would say the obligation) to do the one thing that makes us human, which is to think. Too many of us, adults and children, need the constant static of empty entertainment, and fail to see that the constant blur of activity in our lives makes it impossible to live our lives in any other, more meaningful way. Indeed we are too exhausted to consider that there might even be a more meaningful way to live our all-too-short, all-too-precious lives. But I wonder if part of the lack of the dedication to learning is not also profoundly hampered by the lack of focus schools themselves display toward accomplishing the complex task of education.

At the base of all these considerations is the problem that schools have lost their organizing principles as communities. We have to harmonize the primacy of the mission we claim-- to provide the access to an education-- with the actions of the schools. To do this, we have to require certain behaviors of our educators and our students. Educators must make education the primary purpose of the school. Students and their families must make the acquisition of an education the primary pursuit of their affiliation with the schools. All other services provided at school must be retained only if they do not detract from the accomplishment of our primary mission.

A community attracts members through its mission. Public education in this country suffers from a crippling lack of this kind of primary organizing principle. This organizational drift in individual schools leads to their failures as attractive communities which provide a unique and valued commodity to society. We then seem surprised that so many consider it irrelevant.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Carnival of Education in all its wonky goodness!

Go on over to the Education Wonks' place to get it all straight from the source. They say you can't go home again, but the Carnival does it just fine!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Admissions Squeeze: Bridesmaid Schools Benefit

Ever heard of the phrase, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride?" Apparently the continued fallout from the Common Application has caused acceptance rates at Ivies to fall, but has made some "safety schools" the beneficiaries of a boomlet. From the Alan Finder of the New York Times:
Lehigh University has never been as sought after as Stanford, Yale or Harvard. But this year, awash in applications, it churned out rejection letters and may break more hearts when it comes to its waiting list.

Call them second-tier colleges (a phrase some administrators despise) or call them the new Ivies (this, they can live with). A swath of 25 to 40 universities like Lehigh, traditionally perceived as being a notch below the most elite, have seen their cachet climb because of the astonishing competitive crush at the top.

“It’s harder to get into Bowdoin now than it was to get into Princeton when I worked there,” said William M. Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., who worked at Princeton in the 1970s, which is one of those benefiting from the spillover as the country’s most prestigious colleges turn away nearly 9 out of 10 applicants.

At Lehigh, known for its strength in engineering and business, about 12,000 students applied this year. That is a whopping 50 percent increase in applications over seven years ago and more than 10 times the seats available in a freshman class of 1,150. The median SAT score of admitted students has climbed about 10 points a year in recent years, officials said.

Students have generally been quicker to adapt to the new realities than parents have been, many guidance counselors said.

“My sense is that parents are a lot more concerned with how the name is going to look to neighbors and family members, and there is a real sense among parents that it’s almost embarrassing if your child has to settle for a lower-level school,” said Carolyn Lawrence, a private college counselor and the author of a blog, AdmissionsAdvice.com.

Some students who might have readily won admission to Lehigh, Middlebury College, Colgate University, Pomona College, Emory University or New York University just a few years ago are now relegated to waiting lists, left to confront the long odds that an offer of admission might materialize over the next month.

John Dunham, a senior at the private Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., had trained his sights on Bucknell University and Lafayette College. He was rejected by Bucknell and put on the waiting list at Lafayette. His college counselor pushed him toward Kenyon College in Ohio, or, as the counselor put it, “the Williams of the Midwest.”

But Mr. Dunham, a solid student who played football and baseball in high school, decided to play baseball on an athletic scholarship at Central Connecticut State.

“People are definitely broadening their horizons, because it’s gotten so competitive,” Mr. Dunham said.

The logjam is the result of supply and demand. The number of students graduating from high school has been increasing, and the preoccupation with the top universities, once primarily a Northeastern phenomenon, has become a more national obsession. High-achieving students are also applying to more colleges than they used to, primarily because of uncertainty over where they will be admitted.

Supply, however, has remained constant. Most of the sought-after universities have not expanded their freshman classes. The result, said Jonathan Miller, a senior at Mamaroneck High School in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., is that many classmates perceive institutions like Tufts University, Bowdoin, the University of Rochester and Lehigh in a new light. “I would say that high school students are looking more and more at these schools,” he said, “the way they used to look at the Ivies.”

An A student with good SAT scores, Mr. Miller said that he considered applying to Brown University, among others, but that his guidance counselor discouraged him, emphasizing the tough odds. Mr. Miller decided instead to apply early admission to Tufts, and by December, had been accepted. He said he was delighted.

Some students who have accepted offers from these colleges were rejected by the most prestigious universities. Others, keenly aware of the extreme competition at the top, decided at the outset to focus on colleges more likely to admit them.

“I’m sure part of what we’re seeing is people are saying, ‘Well, if the Ivies and Duke are inaccessible, where do I go to get a similar academic experience?’ ” said Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid at Rochester.

There are other reasons, too, why these colleges and universities find their stock climbing. To position themselves in the fiercely competitive market, they have hired stronger faculty; built new libraries, science complexes, dining halls, fitness centers and dormitories; and created international programs and interdisciplinary majors. Many have also sought to transform themselves from regional institutions to national ones, recruiting across the country.

At Middlebury, applications have increased by 1,000 in each of the last two years; nearly 7,200 students applied this year, compared with 5,200 in 2005. At Kenyon, about 4,600 students applied this year, while 2,000 did six years ago. Colgate received 8,752 applications this year, compared with 5,852 a decade ago.

And at the University of Vermont, a state institution, nearly 19,000 applications poured in this year, compared with 7,400 seven years ago. Many of the most prestigious public universities like Michigan and Virginia have also become much more selective, especially for out-of-state applicants.

The academic profile of students enrolling at these colleges is improving, based on average SAT scores and other data.

“We’re getting a remarkably gifted group of students,” said Gerard P. Lennon, associate dean in the college of engineering and applied sciences at Lehigh, who has taught at the university for 27 years. The median SAT score in the combined verbal and math parts of the test is now 1,320 out of 1,600. (That is not counting the writing section of the test.)

But the spillover at the second level has also created its own spillover; some students who not long ago would have won admission to these colleges no longer are.

The admission rate at Pomona, in Claremont, Calif., was about 15 percent this spring; it was 38 percent 20 years ago. Bowdoin’s rate was 18.5 percent this year and 32 percent eight years ago. At Lehigh, 31 percent were accepted this spring, compared with 47 percent in 2001.

High school guidance counselors have become the reality instructors, encouraging students and parents to think more broadly about colleges.

“Now a kid who is applying to Harvard, Yale, Princeton is also applying to the Lehighs and Lafayettes,” said Brett Levine, director of guidance at Madison High School in New Jersey. “It’s the same tier, basically.”

Several of my current and former students have had this experience. The "wait-list" has become the bane of their existence, and there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Here's what I tell kids: don't just be swayed by a name. Think about what you really want. When I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted a private university with a personal touch. So even though I had been admitted to Big State U and State Party School (where most of my friends were going), I went with something smaller (and unfortunately more expensive), but I think I still reap the rewards of my experience there to this day. A lot of my students want to go to the Local Overpriced Wannabe Ivy that my husband attended for grad school, but frankly, it's just not worth the money.

Don't be swayed by a name. Think about where you will bloom and be challenged. That's my advice for college.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 65: Very shrewd edition

Apparently a lot of my playmates have been just as busy as I have been, but I'm going to try one more time. I'll give you some seed quotes, you respond with some quotes in the comments. Where there's a Will, there's a way, after all...

"I know you can be under whelmed, and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be, like, whelmed?"
"I think you can in Europe."

"Romantic? Hemingway? He was an abusive, alcoholic misogynist who squandered half of his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers."

"Mr. Stratford, it's just a party!"
"And hell is just a sauna."

"Just because you're beautiful doesn't mean you can treat people like they don't matter."

"You're 18, you don't know what you want. And you won't know what you want 'til you're 45, and even if you get it, you'll be too old to use it."

"You know, you can't just buy me a guitar every time you mess up."
"I know, but there's also drums, bass, and maybe someday a tambourine."

**** Weekend Update: I just love it when they update classic literature, don't you?


Probably Julia Stiles' best early work. I still haven't forgiven her for The Omen remake, though. And Heath Ledger was yummy.

Thanks for playing!


Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Zealand Terrier Displays Bravery That Passeth Understanding

For every bad animal story, I try to find a good one.

How very sad. What a great little hero:
Nine-year-old Jack Russell terrier George is being honoured with a posthumous bravery medal for saving five New Zealand children from an attack by two pitbulls.

The medal from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) comes after US Vietnam veteran Jerrell Hudman said he was sending his Purple Heart medal to George's owner after hearing of the dog's bravery.

George, who had a heart problem, won fame after defending five children from the pitbulls in the small North Island town of Manaia a week and a half ago. The two pitbulls rushed at the five children on the street, prompting George to charge the much larger dogs as the children escaped.

The Jack Russell was badly mauled by the two pitbulls and later had to be put down because of his extensive injuries. The two pitbulls were also put down.

The SPCA medal is usually awarded to people for their bravery in defending animals."

Read the whole thing. What a brave, selfless, noble creature. God bless him and keep him.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Skwirls Gone Wild at School

Get a load of this one-- a San Jose elementary school was locked down after a nut-crazed rodent attacked three people:
A child and two adults were hurt when a squirrel went nuts and attacked them after wandering into a San Jose elementary school classroom on Wednesday.

The door to a first grade classroom at Evergreen Elementary, located at 3010 Fowler Road, was left open when the squirrel scampered in about 9 a.m., according to school officials. The squirrel entered as students and chaperones were preparing to depart for a field trip.

An 11-year-old girl was bitten twice on the arm. Then, the squirrel went after a couple of adults in the room -- severely biting one of them on the upper arm and drawing blood, according to San Jose police Sgt. Nick Muyo.

Something must be done about that furry little freak.

You can even see video if you go to the link. It's time we expose the secret skwirl conspiracy to eat the human race out of birdseed. Everyone likes to think that they are Disney-fied little furry friends, kind of tree-climbing Bichon Frises. I am here to tell you, people, they are natural born sociopaths bent on mayhem and the purloining of twinkies from dormitory rooms they then attempt to destroy with their razor-like claws during finals week, not that I have any personal experience about which bitterness yet lingers....

Save Our Schools from the Skwirl Menace!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Here's what your kids are listening to 3

What do you get when you combine Timbaland with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake?

This. Well, it's not art. I really don't get the Justin Timberlake thing. He's got a pinched-up little face, a whiny little voice that sounds like a girl half the time, and basically he comes off like a scrawny little boy who's full of adolescent posing, and apparently that has rubbed off on Nelly, too. I get enough of that in my life already, thanks.

And now for your primer:

"talking greasy" is talking smack, dissing someone; "mami" is a sexy woman; "on lock" means under control

Give It To Me
(Timbaland featuring Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake)

Is it going? Is it going?
Is it going? Is it going?
I don't know.. what you're lookin' for

Oh yea boss
Come on

[Nelly Furtado]
I'm the type of girl to look you dead in the eye-eye
I'm real as it come if you don't know why I'm fly
Seen you tryinta switch it up but girl you ain't that dope
I'm a Wonder Woman, let me go get my robe
I'm a supermodel and mami, si mami
Amnesty International got Bangkok to Montauk on lock
love my ass and my abs in the video called "Promiscuous"
My style is ri-dic-dic-diculous, 'diculous, 'diculous

[Nelly + (Justin)]
If you see us in the club, we'll be actin' real nice
If you see us on the floor, you'll be watchin' all night
We ain't here to hurt nobody
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)
Wanna see you work your body
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)

When Timbo is in the party, everybody put up they hands
I get a half a mil' for my beats, you get a couple gra-an-and
Never gon' see the day that I ain't got the upper hand
I'm respected from Californ-I-A, way down to Japan
I'm a real producer and you just a piano man
Your songs don't top the charts, I heard 'em, I'm not a fa-an-an
Niggas talkin' greasy, I'm the one that gave them they chance
Somebody need to tell them that they can't do it like I can

[Nelly + (Justin)]
If you see us in the club, we'll be actin' real nice
If you see us on the floor, you'll be watchin' all night
We ain't here to hurt nobody
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)
Wanna see you work your body
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)

[Justin Timberlake]
Could you speak up and stop mu-mumbling, I don't think you came in clear
When you're sittin' on the top, it's hard to hear you from way up here
I saw you tryin' to act cute on TV, "Just let me clear the air..."
We missed you on the charts last week, damn, that's right you wasn't there
If se-sexy never left, then why's everybody on my shi-it-it
Don't hate on me just because you didn't come up with it
So if you see us in the club, go on and walk the other way
Cause our run will never be over, not at least until we say

[Nelly + Justin]
If you see us in the club, we'll be actin' real nice
If you see us on the floor, you'll be watchin' all night
We ain't here to hurt nobody
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)
Wanna see you work your body
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)

[Nelly (Justin)]
Oh.. (Damn, improve)

[Nelly + Justin]
... club, we'll be actin' real nice
If you see us on the floor, you'll be watchin' all night
We ain't here to hurt nobody
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)
Wanna see you work your body
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)

If you see us in the club, we'll be actin' real nice
If you see us on the floor, you'll be watchin' all night
We ain't here to hurt nobody
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)
Wanna see you work your body
(So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me)

I can't believe anyone would want to listen to this more than once. It's about as cliched as "We Are the Champions," but dumber.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Noo Yawker Carnival of Education

NYCEducator, one of the bestest in Yankeeland, has put together a fabulous Carnival of Education over at his place, and we honor him for it.

Trenchant. Pithy. Truthy.

Ya gotta read it. Word to your mother.


Dear administrators: For Teacher Appreciation Week--- how 'bout some real appreciation?

I now have to, as my friend educat would say, remove something from my craw.

This week is, as you may know, teacher appreciation week. So I would like to address myself to the topic of teacher appreciation.

This survey from the NEA determined that what teachers want most from their students as a sign of appreciation is simply to be told, "Thank you." You can even go to this site online to send a thank you to one of your favorite teachers between now and December 28.

Now, the last few years, we have been given a breakfast and a little trinket on one morning during this week. That's it. This usually consists of coming into the faculty break room, having a squeezy ball or keychain tossed at you by an AP as you enter the door while a help-yourself buffet is offered of doughnuts, fruit, muffins, or bagels and milk (as you can tell, the secretaries choose the food). I wonder if the gift is tossed toward us so that actual physical contact is not made, but that's probably just a coincidence.


Look, I have to say that I would forgo the trinket and the breakfast in lieu of a sincere expression of thanks. Look us in the eye and shake our hands or pat our backs or whatever and say one thing that shows that you really do know what we as teachers do.

Which is, by the way, the thing that makes administrators' jobs necessary in the first place. It would be nice if administrators would realize that they are managers of teachers, not just commanders. Teacher motivation is part of the job of an excellent administrator. As it is, many of the administrators I have known-- not all, but many-- seem to view teachers as tools to be utilized rather than as the people who do the work of a school. They seem oblivious-- willfully so-- to matters of school climate that they could control which impact morale. How many schools have you walked into in which the administrators have preferred parking places, upholstered furniture, their own bathroom, air conditioning and heating that they actually can control, carpeting, and the like? How many schools have you been to in which teachers have anything close to parity in any of their classroom furniture? How many of us spend hundreds of our own dollars making sure that our own students have materials?

It's ridiculous to expect that situation to change, but this disparity does send an unambiguous message. Why am I told that I can only have $75 to spend on my classroom a year when that amount wouldn't even cover the cost of two packs of scantrons? I once worked at a place where I was given a box of blank paper to last the entire year. When teachers needed copies, they had to bring their own paper to the copier. Once that paper was gone, my students would receive no more copies of instructional materials. Meanwhile, the principal had fresh flowers in her office every week.

But, really, I would be happy with my administrators being able to name one thing that I have done this year. And I imagine I am not alone.

Being treated with respect and having my efforts recognized would do it for me. And the bonus would be the money they would save on the trinkets. A sincere thank you is so much cheaper. But apparently harder.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"If you can't say something nice, come and sit by me."

Our school has actually been trying to take security more seriously-- hallelujah! and 'bout time! -- and so we've all been asked to do our bit.

Therefore, I do voluntary hall duty-- but not because I'm trying to suck up, or because I'm daft, but because I have actually found that I get to know the students I see throughout the day and I (shhhhh) enjoy speaking with them and making sure that they see that adhering to a standard of behavior is not that bad. Usually, several boys who can be kind of hard-boiled and I shoot the breeze in a spirit which is equal measures of bonhomie and the iron-fist-in-the-velvet-glove. Or is it the velvet-fist-in-the-iron-glove? I think they're both right.

So there I stand, a lone sentinel for truth, justice and the cessation of f-bombs each revoltingly early morning while the administrators stand in a corner with their backs to the kids and tell jokes until it's finally time to shoo the kids off toward their classrooms, at which point several of the APs scatter like a bucket of Skittles dropped from a second-story window, lest they be actually forced to actually chivvy said kids along, this being apparently too mundane a task for any but the lowly to take up. I especially like it when they are wandering around in the hallway and make a U-turn when they see me. Am I that intimidating? I thought I only was to kids, but since many of our APs are about 22, maybe I still have the ol' magic. Perhaps the mischievous twinkle in my eye freaks them out. It's almost amusing.

About five feet away from the gaggle of ersatz adults is a pod of very loud girls. The other day-- while the others studiously looked the other direction-- I had to have a conversation with a young female person who insists of screaming out at her friends using the term reserved for a female dog. I called her over and calmly explained to her about using her indoor voice and not to insult her friends.

"Why not? Girlfriend don't care," was her response to this request. Girlfriend nodded her head.

So we had a bit more conversation, in which I asked her if she liked it when boys called HER that, and she replied animatedly in the negative. Therefore I explained that when one uses a term which one will not tolerate directed at oneself, one encourages one's audience to find that word acceptable. After a bit more explanation and chewing it over, she stopped trying to debate me, made noises to placate me, and went on her way. Who knows whether anything got through, but I gave it the ol' college try.

I call it the "Don Imus" rule. Basically, don't make a term a part of your vocabulary if you wouldn't want your mother or sister called that term. If Don had done that, he wouldn't be the walking joke that he currently represents to the American public. But I suppose that's just a crazy idea for someone who makes their living the way he used to.

I'm just sayin'.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 64: Zipper edition

Well, here I am, late late late but gamely putting up a Movie Madness Monday although I'm experincing a few technical difficulties.

Here's how we play: I give you a few juicy quotes from a movie, and you use these clues to then spark a few quotes of your own in the comments section without naming the movie.

There's just something about spring that makes me think of this movie.

"Hey, dirtbud, who you going to the prom with?"
"Ah, I don't know if I'm even gonna. You know, not my style."
"You have a style?"

"I couldn't believe that she knew my name! Some of my best friends didn't know my name."

"Is it the frank or the beans?"
"I don't know-- both, I guess."
"Franks and Beans! Franks and Beans!"

"Everything okay here? Neighbors said they heard a lady scream."

"Hey, you're limping. Did you just hurt yourself?"
"No, it's an old football injury."
"Oh, are you on the team?"
"No, a couple of the players and me were joking around and, uh, I fell off the school."

"I want a guy who can play 36 holes of golf, and still have enough energy to take Warren and me to a baseball game, and eat sausages, and beer, not lite beer, but beer. That's my ad-- print it up."
"'Fatty who likes golf, beer, and baseball.' Gee, where are you gonna find a gem like that?"

"Oh, heavens to PETE!"

****Weekend Update: There's something about the Farrelly Brothers, and


Gross out middle school humor at its-- finest?


Friday, May 04, 2007

In which a for(COUGH-COUGH- HACK!) year old person prepares to go to the damn PROM....

Okay, so it has not been a good week at La Escuela de Cornelius, and I am feeling the worse for it, lemme tell ya. So what with the sleep deprivation, and the walking meditation required by Our-Lady-of-Perpetual-Hall-Duty and the blisters which sprout like little flowers in her name, and the not-eating-dinner crap, I am abandoning the Mary Poppins pose I have adopted in lo these last few months to say:

Holy crap!

In a moment of temporary weakness I agreed to revisit that horror of all late-adolescent horrors, the Prom.

Now a bit of flashback without the LSD, because Ms. Cornelius is completely drug free unless you count comfortable amounts of Chateau Thames Embankment: Once, long ago when Disco was barely dead, a young Ms. Cornelius went to her own senior prom. Of course, the gods of laughter, A-cups, and acne decreed I would break up with my skank-meister boyfriend a week before The Event That Every Young Girl Dreams Of, and thus I decided I would be brave and not be deprived of This Rich Experience. So, I went with a group of my friends and their dates, hoping that the thunderhead of chiffon and polyester tuxes would camouflage the fact that the number of hens was out of kilter with the number of scrawny preening roosters in badly fitting cummerbunds. I ended up receiving three count 'em THREE pity corsages (one from Mama, one from Girlfriends, one from said girlfriends' Chivalrous Escorts) until I had more blossoms on me than a damn Rose Bowl float.

So off we went to the Prom, held at the palatial Homebuilders' Association, where we all sat around staring at everyone else until all the girls danced with each other in a circle and swung our copious amounts of Farrah-hair and Aqua-Net around in a circle at each other and the boys body slammed each other until they were bruised because nobody- and I mean NOBODY- can really dance to Joan Jett, April Wine, REO Speedwagon, Rush, and Loverboy. Trust me.

So that was my prom. That, and the fact that I spent much of the rest of the night holding back a few of my friends' Farrah-locks as they did the technicolor yawn and taking the keys away from another friend and driving his sorry can home at 3 am, pretty much sums it up.

And with special memories like that, who wouldn't want to go for a reprise? So now I am about to embark on PROM: the Middle-Aged Sequel. And probably just like American Pie 2 or a spouse of Britney Spears, it just won't work.

So, picture, if you will or even if you won't, a woman about whom one could politely whisper "She's really let herself go, hasn't she?" going to procure some sort of formal attire. I mean, if she was a house, she would be that place overgrown with weeds and an old AMC Gremlin with a flat and a broken taillight covered in red plastic parked in a dirt patch in the yard between the sweetgum tree and the cottonwood. Remember that Our Fair Lady is allergic to shopping and only wears a dress in years that are divisible by 19 if she can help it, and you begin to get the picture. But I don't want to look like a grandma, so I procures meself a demure little black number-- okay, a not-so-little black number but one which hopefully will render me mostly invisible except when I need turn off the Klingon cloaking device to cross my arms forbiddingly over my bosom to deter the sharing of ganja or anything else, gawd-help-us. Add stout undergarments and sensible but slightly kicky sandals which can encase my swollen feet after thirteen hours of standing on them and an unfortunate tendency to lead the other faculty members in the ChaCha Slide while blowing my cheeks out like Dizzy Gillespie, and I think you know what I am describing.

The Prom Chaperone! Yaaaay!

There was an old woman who thought she was Fly. I don't know why. Perhaps she'll die. Oh, my!

Pray for me.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is there anything more fun than a geeky pun?

An open mash note to an unknown headline writer:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I bow to you. You saw the opening, and you took it. Yes indeedy.

The headline?

Skywalkers in Korea cross the Han solo.


Crossing the Han. Solo.

Did I tell you he was my favorite?


You have NO IDEA how much I needed that. Ahhhhhh.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Everyone needs a laugh

A couple of good friends of mine sent me this, and I had to share it:

God addresses Al Gore: "Al, what do you believe?"
Gore replies: "Well, I believe I won that election, but that it was Your will that I not serve. And I've come to understand that now."

God thinks for a second and says, "I admire your humility. Come sit at my left."

God then addresses Bill Clinton:"Bill, what do you believe?"
Clinton replies: "I believe in forgiveness. I've sinned, but I've never held a grudge against my fellow man, and I hope no grudges are held against me."

God thinks for a second and says, "You are forgiven, my son. Come sit at my right."

God then calls on George W. Bush: "George, what do you believe?"
Bush says: "I believe you're in my chair."


Another fine carnival....

go see it at Dr. Homeslice's place!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Top ten signs your administrators have lost touch

10. Administrators won't meet teachers' eyes when teachers try to speak to them. If an administrator won't stop reading his or her email long enough to devote his or her attention to the staff members when they approach, 'at in 'and and very 'umble, guv'nah, then that administrator will have no idea what is going on in the school.

9. They insist on having policies that look good in the eyes of the public, but they equally resist enforcing those policies because it will make the students unhappy. They nonetheless insist on having the policies. They even announce every day on the intercom that the staff are to enforce these policies.

8. They are unconcerned in the extreme that this makes the staff feel like David Hedison in The Fly:


And we're just waiting for Vincent Price to put us out of our misery.

7. They then wonder why they spend all their time putting out fires instead of taking a step back and seeing that the damn forest is tinder-dry, and that they are the rain gods. The administration sets the tone for the building, whether lax or regimented or chaotic or peaceful.

6. They withhold information from the classroom teachers regarding students in their own classes. Teachers spend far more time with individual students than do administrators, but often-- illegally-- administrators leave teachers in a cloud of ignorance.

5. They make "deals" with certain students but fry other students for the slightest infraction. Those students who are thus blessed can ruin a school fast.

4. They stand huddled in little groups when in the hallways, like a defensive phalanx-- but without Eric Bana or Brad Pitt, more's the pity. Their backs face outward to fend off any approach of Others.

3. They do not consider asking for teacher input in the creation of programs or policies; or, worse, they create a group of sycophants to rubber stamp decision to give the appearance of teacher consultation. Further, they do not consider the impact of their programs of policies on how teachers get their jobs accomplished.

2. They expect their faculty to do things they would never consider doing themselves.

1. Their doors are never open. They disappear behind the pine for untold hours, heedless to the consequences. And since they've got their own buffet in the conference room and their own bathrooms, who knows if they'll ever come out?


Here's what your kids are listening to 2

This week I've chosen to reveal the lyrics to a popular Carrie Underwood song which I have heard several of my young ladies singing at the top of their lungs. There's not a lot of slang in this one, but it is a popular song.

The advocacy of violence-- some might call it empowerment, but not me-- in this song makes me a bit uncomfortable, although certainly I wouldn't wink at infidelity, either.

Before He Cheats
Carrie Underwood

Right now he's probably slow dancing with a bleach blonde tramp,
and she's probably getting frisky...
right now, he's probably buying her some fruity little drink
cause she can't shoot whiskey...

Right now, he's probably up behind her with a pool-stick,
showing her how to shoot a combo...
And he don't know...

That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats...
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

Right now, she's probably up singing some
white-trash version of Shania karaoke..
Right now, she's probably saying "I'm drunk"
and he's a thinking that he's gonna get lucky,
Right now, he's probably dabbing on 3 dollars worth of that bathroom Polo...
And he don't know...

That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats,
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

I might've saved a little trouble for the next girl,
Cause the next time that he cheats...
Oh, you know it won't be on me!

Ohh... not on me...
Cause I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats...
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

Ohh.. Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats...
Ohh... before he cheats...


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