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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Woman of a Certain Age?

Our principal is in the habit of calling me by my first name, but not really. Now I haven't discussed this with y'all, my first name, because I'm not one of those "Oh, call me by my first name" kind of teachers with my students. And after yesterday, let's say that my first name is "Margarita," because "Miz Scotch-On-the-Rocks" just doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi. So, our principal calls me "Miz Margarita."

Now in the quasi-South, where I come from, "Miz Margarita" was used for quasi-aunts (dear friends of one's mother or uncles' third wives) and colorful old ladies who were looked upon fondly. Like "Miss Ellie" on Dallas.

Now I realize that I have SIX TIMES the teaching experience my principal does.

But I am not an old lady. And I think breaking up that fight yesterday proved that. See these (Kisses biceps, not an actual 9 mm) guns?

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Switching places

So, you know, I taught middle school for many many years before I transitioned up to the high school level. I now have a child of my own in middle school, and boy, have things changed!

I just went to a parent conference, and one of my kid's teachers stated that he was concerned about kiddo being distracted in class since the first day of attendance in his class several weeks ago. And yet, not ONE phone call have I received from this person, nor even an email. And I teach in the district. It's not like it's hard: simply type my name in and the email automatically gets sent with a minimum of effort.

Now, when I was teaching middle school, it was expected that we would be proactive and contact parents early, especially about situations like this where it may not be obvious from checking grades online. Instead, I got a surprise comment about behavior after allowing the situation to fester for weeks without a word. It is infuriating! I no longer teach middle school, and I STILL proactively contact parents about any concerns I have. What in the world is going on down there?

The principal there was not there when I was, so I wonder if he has simply decided that this is acceptable. I mean, look, I would blame myself if there was a GRADE issue I could have seen online, but this is different, since teachers don't post evaluations of effort and behavior until the end of the grading period-- too late for me to do anything, again. This is not the standards of progessionalism that I would expect were I an administrator. It sets up an adversarial relationship with some parents as well if they feel that teachers wait until conferences to play "gotcha."

You know, when I am acting as a teacher, I always try to think about what I would hope to know if I were the parent of each of my students. I guess I'm just an old fossil.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Clarence Thomas: Silence is Golden

Apparently, Justice Clarence Thomas has gone five years without speaking from the bench during oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

I guess if you don't have any questions, you shouldn't ask any.

And yet, five years without opening his mouth during what are called ORAL ARGUMENTS for a good reason. Maybe Associate Justice Thomas doesn't understand this.

Too bad his nut-job wife can't follow his example.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tunesday revived: The Wailin' Jennys' Bright Morning Stars

A while back, I had a little feature here called Tunesday, in which I highlighted an artist or album of which I had become enamored. And of course, I got horribly distracted and dropped it. But I think it might be fun to reopen a conversation about music right now as we are all in the doldrums of winter. I hope some of you out there feel like I do. So here is Tunesday 16, revived, hopefully not like Young Frankenstein.

The Wailin' Jennys, Bright Morning Stars

The Wailin' Jennys are an amazing trio of musicians, currently including Ruth Moody (soprano), Nicky Mehta (mezzo-soprano), and Heather Masse (alto). They sing in amazing tight harmonies as well as play fiddle, ukulele, guitar, bodhran, accordion, upright bass, and banjo, and probably other instruments of which I am unaware so far because I get so distracted by their beautiful music. Their sound fits no single category. Is it roots music? Folk? Alt-country? World music? All of these and more.

One of my current favorites of their is a cover of Jane Siberry's "Calling All Angels" that they released as a single a couple of years ago. But I was waiting avidly for the release of their third studio album, which came out on February 8 of this year. And I must say, this was worth the wait.

This third album, Bright Morning Stars, brings some of the great harmonies and inventive instrumentation that fans of the Jennys have come to expect. Musically and lyrically, the Wailin' Jennys respect the roots that ground their music while still having many surprises in store both lyrically and melodically.

"Away But Never Gone" uses the beauty of nature to remind us that nothing leaves us forever and became a special song to me as I went through the aftershocks of the anniversary of my Dad's passing at the end of January, and "You Are Here" encourages to take charge of our destinies and live life to the fullest. "Storm Comin'" is a bluesy throwback, a gospel-tinged fist-shaking anthem good for helping you get through an annoying day at work or at home. "The Last Goodbye" is an upbeat shot in the arm to a loved one whose heart fails them for fear of being hurt. "Cherry Blossom Love" sounds like it is straight out of the Andrews Sisters' work, which will make sense for those of you who are boomers like me and listened to your parents' 78s on the stereo.

All of the rest fo the songs are wonderful, and I don't just say that. I have a amajor pet peeve about modern albums having one or two good songs and the rest is absolute rubbish. This is definitely not one of those albums. These ladies create music that speaks to my depths. I hope that it does to you as well.

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How DOES one take away collective bargaining rights?

Watching the mess in Wisconsin from afar, I have been, as only a kid whose college tuition was partially paid for by union wages, appalled.

Why, oh why, did the millions of us in the same boat allow unions to be painted as evil to its own constituency? Now the governor of Wisconsin and his friends in the state senate are demanding that the Democratic lawmakers come home and bend over to allow them to steamroll the death of collective bargaining.

Wisconsin! Home of Robert LaFollette! Robert LaFollette, who was also (for most of his career in politics) a Republican. That sound you hear is him spinning in his grave.

The governor claims that breaking the unions of public employees (except for the police and fire unions, who are specifically exempted because they supported his election as governor, tit for tat) is absolutely necessary to right Wisconsin's financial ship.

Now look, I have nothing against expecting everyone-- EVERYONE-- connected to government in Wisconsin to take a pay cut or contribute more to pensions, and aspparently those represented by unions have stated they are willing to do this. But the Republican majority and the governor have stated that they will have all, or.... deadlock.

But I wonder if the sacrifices being demanded of workers been distributed evenly. Have the legislators agreed to contribute to their own pensions (which in most places are for LIFE even if you served for a few years) and pay for their health insurance (which are usually offered for full-time jobs, which is usually NOT the case for state legislatures).

I know that many people are jealous of people who still receive pensions, which exist today mainly in fairy tales outside of the public sector. I contribute to my own pension, which I will be fully vested in only after I have taught for thirty years at a full-time job. And I would be a chump to give it up, too, without some sort of a fight or a good reason why it is in my and my family's best interest to do so. Why is it when tycoons fight for the continuance of their generous tax-breaks, they're good capitalists, but when working people fight for a hard-won benefit, they are commies? What else has Governor Walker and his pals been up to, budget-wise? Let's see:
...For his first month in office, though, Walker's been focused on spending money through tax cuts. Two tax cuts he's already signed — along with one that's passed the Assembly — would add about $117 million to the state's budget problem over the next two years...

I imagine the governor of Wisconsin and his pals will get their way in the end. It then remains for the unions to make sure that they remind their members why it is important to re-certify the union each and every year after this, which will be required.

Oh, and Ohio is next.


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