Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cripes. Smarten Up and Lay Off

Nothing says it better than this short story.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:36 PM | |

Looking Ahead Because It's Love, Actually

I have promised my daughter that if she ever decides to get married, I will help plan something much like this:

Because it's not only cool, it's classy.

Or, I will give her the money and tell her to go to Vegas and be married by an Elvis impersonator, and I'll throw her a party when she gets back and shows me the marriage certificate.

Either way, I promise not to be a Momzilla. I've seen those broads in action and it ain't a pretty sight. They're almost as ugly as a Bridezilla. Put the two together and you've got a sitcom only another Momzilla or Bridezilla would be insane enough to watch. Well, unless you just wanted something you could legitimately make fun of.

And if she wants anything stupid like fat velvet ribbons on the pews or a four-course dinner for the guests or a dress that costs more than a month's rent or a thousand dollars' worth of flowers or a cake in the shape of Michelangelo's David* or a veil that looks like something Sally Field wore in The Flying Nun or a venue that isn't free or at least cheap, or matching bridesmaids' dresses that look like as though they were made from used satin motel sheets, she'd best start saving her money right now cuz Mommy don't hold with such nonsense.

The really wonderful thing is that I know I will not have to worry about Belle's wedding, if and when she has one, being a thing of panic, overpriced nonsense, tacky dresses, or bad music. She is far too cool for any of that scheisse. My darling girl would turn up her nose at wearing a dress that looked like an icing-covered igloo-shaped wedding cake with legs, trimmed with merangue, like that hideous dress in My Big Fat Greek Wedding or something that didn't make the final cut in Gone With The Wind. With hoopskirts big enough to hide the Trapp Family Singers.

And why would you hire strangers to do the music? Don't you have friends who sing and play? Or a friend of a friend? You don't? That's unbelievable. Hire someone then, sheesh.

Those of you who harbor a Bridezilla: I'm sorry for you, but my biggest question is WHY? Tell her to pay for her own damn wedding and I bet a lot of the nonsense would be crossed off the list. You don't have to put up with that.

Those of you who harbor a Momzilla: Elvis in Vegas would actually give you cooler memories, girl, so grab your fiance, hop a plane, and escape while yet there is time. You don't have to put up with that, either.

And by the way, brides who require a specific, expensive dress for each bridesmaid should pay for it themselves. I also believe that the groom should pay for all the tux rentals. A wedding that works a hardship on your friends isn't very nice; I don't know how a friendship could ever be the same if people were expected to shell out the big bucks for clothing they'll never be able to wear again. If Bridezilla wants each of her attendants to mince down the aisle in Dior dresses, then Bridezilla should pay for them out of her own pocket. If Bridezilla can't afford that, then Bridezilla needs to revamp her "me, me, me" list of "must-haves" for the wedding.

I've known far too many people who paid thousands for their wedding and went to Cancun for their honeymoon and when they got back and started their lives together, they were too broke to buy food and pay their bills. I call that really, really stupid.

I have a dear friend who is getting married, and weddings are on my mind. I know that the wedding I am going to in January will be a thing of class, beauty, personality, and love. I know that the wedding I am going to in January will be a reflection of the tastes of the people involved, not a circus sideshow with clowns and dancing bears and jugglers and busking mimes. My friend who is getting married doesn't need any of those things, because he has something far better.

It always seemed to me that people who 'require' a huge showy affair are compensating for something they don't have.

Because, if you have it, why would you need the circus?


Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:32 AM | |

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I Love Tide But I Can't Afford To Buy It

If I had unlimited resources, I'd buy Tide every time, but on my budget,
Tide is just out out of reach for me. Once in a great while it's on sale, but even
the sale price of Tide is higher than the regular price of everything else. Not
just a little higher, but a LOT higher.

Once I had a $2 coupon for Tide, and I thought I'd go to Target and take a chance.
After I got there and did some comparison-shopping, however, I discovered that even
with a two-buck discount and a sale, Tide was still several DOLLARS higher than
pretty much everything else in the detergent category. For the price of Tide, I
could get two or even three of most other detergents.

Yes, Tide is the best, but people like me, with pretty much no money, will just have
to continue making do with something else.

Once in a while my mother will buy Tide for me and I LOVE that! Tide really is
the best. I just wish it wasn't so out-of-my-range expensive.

That bit of important, very important, trivia out of the way, here is some proof
that Tide really does what it claims to do: remove stains better than any other

Testimonial. I know it's true cuz I got it from my cousin Mitzi and five hundred
thousand other satisfied customers.

Dear Tide:

I am writing to say what an excellent product you have! I've used
it all of my married life, as my Mom always told me it was the best.

Now that I am in my fifties I find it even better! In fact, about a
month ago, I spilled some red wine on my new white blouse. My inconsiderate
and uncaring husband started to belittle me about how clumsy I was, and
generally started becoming a pain in the neck.

One thing led to another and somehow I ended up with his blood on my new
white blouse! I grabbed my bottle of Tide with bleach alternative, and to my
surprise and satisfaction, all of the stains came out! In fact, the stains came
out so well the detectives who came by yesterday told me that the DNA
tests on my blouse were negative and then my attorney called and said that I
was no longer considered a suspect in the disappearance of my husband.

What a relief! Going through menopause is bad enough without being a
murder suspect! I thank you, once again, for having a great product.

Well, gotta go, have to write to the Hefty bag people.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:29 PM | |

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Child Can't Have This So Neither Can Yours

When I was in elementary school, I had a classmate who had an ulcer. I think this is somewhat rare at that age, but nonetheless, she had an ulcer. Because she had an ulcer, she couldn't eat a lot of the foods that all of the rest of us ate daily.

Her mother did not come to school with a lawyer and demand that since Emma couldn't eat these things, none of us should be able to eat these things, either.

Her mother just made sure that Emma's lunch contained 'safe' foods for that ulcer, and since Emma's mom did not consider that the job of the school, she packed a lunch for Emma daily. The cafeteria served a plate lunch, "take it or leave it" style, which is as it should be, as all homes should be, too, and occasionally it was something Emma could eat, but most often it was not. Either way, Emma's mother understood that her child's food intake was her responsibility, not the school's.

Sure, sometimes Emma would look at our chocolate cupcakes and little Chesty potato chip sacks and brush a tear from her eye, but the fact was that Emma was the only kid in the school with an ulcer and even little kids can understand that one person's problem doesn't necessarily have to mean that every person had to be deprived of something.

Each of Emma's teachers made sure the Room Mothers knew about the ulcer, so when it was Birthday Time, there were both chocolate and white cupcakes from which to choose. We all understood that Emma got a white cupcake each time, but really, it was no big deal because no big deal was made of it.

I went to school with Emma for 13 years, from kindergarten through senior year, and her ulcer eventually went away, right around the time some of the rest of us started developing one ourselves. She told me once that when that ulcer was first diagnosed, down in first grade, her mother sat her down and gave her the speech about how much of life seemed unfair, and that Emma was going to have to spend a lot of her childhood watching other kids eat potato chips and cupcakes and chocolate and dill pickles and pizza and Cokes and orange juice in front of her, while she ate bland foods and drank only white milk, and had a white cupcake with no icing at birthday parties while the rest of the kids tore into the decorated cake. Emma told us she hated it, but even at age six she knew it would have been both selfish and ridiculous if her family had requested that the entire school and the whole neighborhood change its menus just for her. Back then, children were encouraged to NOT be selfish. Requiring that the school and all her friends' houses empty themselves of all things Emma couldn't have would have been the height of selfishness.

I agree.

Now, an ulcer is not an allergy, and it is very true that many allergies are life-threatening these days. I have no idea what has changed so much over the generations, but something certainly has, and some of the theories are quite interesting, but that is neither here nor there.

I still maintain, however, that it is the person with the problem who has to do most of the adjusting to it. If that means sitting to the side in the cafeteria, bringing a home-packed lunch daily instead of eating cafeteria food, or even eating lunch in a separate room, perhaps with a friend or two, then so be it. Life is hard sometimes. But that is no reason to make life hard for everyone else, too.

Emma and her mom understood this concept. Everybody understood this concept back then. Why do so many families come marching to school nowadays insisting that since their child can't have/eat/touch/be/read whatever, none of the other children should get to, either?

Some people will die if they so much as breathe in a room where a child who ate a peanut butter cracker two days ago walked through. We can't dictate what a person eats or touches in his/her own home. The world is not going to clear a path for a person with allergies to pass through. I have friends whose children have to wear masks in school. The other children are curious but not cruel, because no big deal has ever been made of it. There is another child in that class who must wear latex gloves at all times, and another child who had to be put in the other classroom because of his latex allergy.

I have a friend who is a special ed teacher, one of the best. She is allergic to dog dander, and will go into anaphylactic shock if she is near a dog, esp. a shaggy one, for even a moment. She teaches in a mixed sped classroom, and a few years ago, one of her students came to class with a large service dog. I'm all for service dogs; I think they're wonderful, but my friend almost died with that dog in her room. She tried wearing a mask, but the parents of the deaf child in her room threatened to file suit because with the mask, their child could not read the teacher's lips. It was a Catch 22 for the teacher, because the child needed the dog, but the dog came near to killing the teacher, and the teacher couldn't accommodate her allergy because the hearing-impaired child's needs prohibited that. This teacher was the best in the system, so none of the parents would even hear of moving their child to another teacher's program. Shockingly, none of the parents seemed concerned about the teacher's allergy; they were interested only in the rights and needs of their own child.

My friend took the year off, to try and get her breath and to hope the service dog would be gone the next fall. It was the only alternative she could think of that didn't involve a lawsuit from a parent.

Please, service dog people, don't start screaming at me; I think your dog is fantastic and I'm sincerely glad you have him. It's just that many people are allergic to dog dander, and I'm one of them.

When I know I'm going to be around a dog, I've got pills to pop, but I can't take them all the time because I'm taking a pretty large pill cocktail daily and they interact badly with some of them.

What is the point of this post? I don't know. It's bound to infuriate somebody out there somewhere and I'm really tired of fending off attacks from people who don't read well and who are so thin-skinned they see disdain where none was intended. I think it's because I saw Emma at Bob Evans tonight and she was eating plain vanilla ice cream, and suddenly the whole elementary cafeteria flashed through my mind, with all of us kids' lunches spread out on the long table and Emma with her white bread and peanut butter and plain vanilla ice cream with the rough wooden spoon that always put splinters on our tongues: the only kid who couldn't participate in the cookie trading that always went on. Was it fair for us to eat cookies when she couldn't? Yes, it was.

We could and she couldn't. That's how life is sometimes. The sooner we all learn that and adjust our thinking to it, the better off we'll all be.

Would any of you care to sign my petition to remove all dogs from a five-mile radius of my home, because I'm allergic and might die if one wanders onto my front porch? Because it's sooo not fair that you can have one and I can't.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:54 PM | |

Shadows Aren't Always Sad or Creepy

I do love a bright sunny morning afternoon, when the sun is so intense that everything casts a shadow that looks as if it had been cut out of construction paper, and is there such a term as "bright black?" Because that is what the shadows look like.

Every leaf on every tree is outlined on the ground, by the sun. It's wonderful. It reminds me of 'silhouette day' in kindergarten, when each child would sit in front of a large sheet of paper that was taped to the wall, and a bright light would shine on his/her profile, and the teacher would trace around the child's shadow and cut it out and mount it on another sheet of contrasting paper and it would be on the classroom wall all the rest of the year and then the child would bring it home and his mother would exclaim over the beauty of her child's silhouette and put it on the wall in the laundry room next to the outline of the tiny little hand pasted to the paper plate, where it would remain until the child was in her twenties and the silhouette was dried out and flaking away in spots but still beautiful in the eyes of the mother. . . .

But I digress. Outside, the shadows are breathtaking today.

And every seed-pod on every foot-tall blade of grass looks like. . . . oh, wait. Those are only there when the grass is so tall it tries to reproduce from the top down instead of from the roots up.


P.S. MY mother still has the kindergarten silhouettes of all four of HER kids. Yeah, we save sweet sentimental things like that. Probably because we love our children so much, we also love everything that represents them, as well.

I look at that tiny little hand on the laundry room wall and remember that when it was first brought home to me, I looked at it and thought her hand would always be that size. Now, I look at that little hand on the wall and it's hard to remember when it was that small.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:37 PM | |

Random Goat-Getters and Heart-Warmers

1. I have to hide the bread in the oven now because that's the only place the cats can't break into. They love bread, and the three of them can devour an entire loaf. Wednesday night, I bought a loaf of bread and hid it in the oven. The cats won't get this one, by golly, mainly because I forgot the bread was in there tonight, and I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. The slices were soldered together by the plastic on the top and sides, and the plastic on the bottom of the loaf melted and made little sizzly-spots on the oven floor. I scraped it all out and put a meat loaf in there to bake, for tomorrow. Now the whole house smells like baking meat loaf, melting plastic, and burning bread. Yum.

2. Belle drove over and met me at Marsh that Wednesday night, because she loves me and knew I'd buy her a few groceries wanted to be with me for a little while. She's so much fun to shop with because she has something witty/pithy/hilarious to say about almost everything on the shelves. She had me in stitches over her "Mom, I wonder why the Political Correctness Police haven't gone after the pickle people for their Sweet Midgets."

I was thinking about this tonight at WalMart; we stopped there for toothpaste and ended up buying out the store. As I walked down the pickle aisle, internally giggling over the sweet midgets from the night before, I saw one. Well, I can't actually vouch for the "sweet" part, but he was definitely a. . .well, let's just not go there, 'k? I had to push my cart a few aisles over to toilet paper and Drano before I could let go and laugh out loud, though. I do not fear the Political Correctness Police, but I know for a fact that they are a humorless, brainless, and clueless crew, with absolutely no concept of context. Such people are one of the main dangers on this planet.

3. Belle brought over her DVD's of "Psych" and I'm loving them. It's the sweet "I can fix that" guy from Holes, and some new guy who is like an even cuter Ben Stiller.

4. Call me silly and tell me I'm overreacting, and you'll be correct, but I can't help but be very upset over what a few people are still saying about these two posts. They are in the blogospheric minority but you know how it is: a few negative things can overshadow a lot of positive ones. I had no idea I was such a dreadful person. A certain blogger put my link on his blog and sent his minions here; they are not careful readers and misinterpreted me completely and drastically. My e-mail runneth over. Several of you dear people went over there and put in a good word for me, and I appreciate that VERY much, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I vowed that I would not stoop to his level and put HIS link here, but I also vowed that if I got one. more. hateful. comment, I'd do it. Well, I got it. Now I don't know what to do. If I put his link here, some of you might go over to his blog and comment, and he will twist your words, too. I don't want that to happen to any of you. It's bad enough that he and his friends don't know how to take things in context, and are not careful readers, where I am concerned, but it would be far worse if any of YOU were attacked, mentioned by name, and linked to, as well.

Maybe it's best to just let it ride. Maybe they'll get tired of me soon.

5. We have sugar-free Fudgies in the garage freezer, but I'm too tired to walk all that way.

6. Would anyone care to come over for meat loaf tomorrow? I'll scrape all the melted plastic off the bottom of the pan.

7. I wish my cd burner had un-corrupted drivers. I owe some cd's to people.

8. Someone we all know is getting married. If you go to his blog, he'll tell you all about it. I can't tell you who yet because I promised I wouldn't. But he's spilled the beans now so if you know where to go, you'll find out the good stuff. I'm so happy for him!

9. My MIL took us out for pizza tonight and everyone in the place watched in awe as six very large, very loud people tried to fit into a booth that was meant to hold four normal-size people. Everyone in the place heard these six people gripe loudly because one of their menus had a coffee stain on it. Everyone in the place watched these six people elbow and shove each other, trying to fit into the booth better. Everyone in the place heard these six people complain loudly when the high-school-age waiter told them the restaurant did not serve beer, just coke products. And everyone watched and no doubt had to sit on their hands to hold back the applause as all six of these very large people removed themselves from the booth (like corks from a bottle, it was!) and filed out the door in a huff. When the door hit the last one on the backside, everybody in the place burst out laughing.

10. I don't like having to hide things in the oven. If it's out of sight, I tend to forget it exists. When I opened the oven door to remove the ruined bread tonight, I also had to remove half a cherry pie Hub had put in there to keep the cats away from it. Fortunately, it was covered with foil, so it's still all right.

11. Come on over for dinner. No cats licked the food.

12. The latest Carnival of Education is up and running, and it's a good one, folks. Please click on over and check it out.

The end. Good night, all.


Update: Okay, THAT'S IT. Enough is enough. Please don't feed the fire, but here's the link.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:58 AM | |

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peanut Butter and Jelly and Bread, Oh Mice. . . .

I got home from class late tonight, around 9:30, and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for supper. (We have less money than usual this week. Ouch.) As I looked at the containers, and the smeary knife, I was reminded of something I used to do in my old middle school classroom.

Every year I did the "Write out the directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich" thing in each 8th grade class. On the due date, each writer would come forward and follow his own directions, read out loud by another student, and see if the end result was an actual sandwich. Usually, it wasn't. Any student who wished to eat his sandwich or the mess thereof was cordially invited to do so, and many of the students gladly ate up the evidence. We can't have anyone knowing we had fun learning how to follow directions, now could we?

After this assignment was over, I kept the big jars of peanut butter and jelly in my room, on a shelf beside my desk, hidden from view of the class, although everybody knew they were there. Every week, I brought in a fresh loaf of bread and put it there beside the peanut butter and jelly.

No, we weren't re-doing the assignment. I always tried to time that assignment so it was as near to the beginning of the school year as possible, so I could establish the food there on that shelf as early in the year as possible.

Every day, once word got out, a handful of students would come in at noon and ask permission to make a sandwich. These kids had no money, and their parents were too shiftless illiterate and drunk to come in and sign the paperwork that would give their children a free lunch.

Most of the students knew about the food stash; often, a kid who just plain forgot his/her lunch money or disliked the cafeteria menu for the day would come in and make a sandwich. No, it wasn't from the students that I kept the food hidden in the bookcase by my desk.

I was hiding it from the other teachers and from the principal, because 'food in the classroom' was expressly forbidden, and the other teachers in my building had an especial hate on for the kind of kid who frequented my classroom during the 'off' hours of lunchtime and after-school.

I was used to being in constant trouble at school for going all out for a kid, and frankly? There at the end of my public school career, I really didn't give a tinker's dam for rules that would prevent a child from having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

At the end of each week, a kid would always ask me if he could have the rest of the loaf of bread. Every Monday, I brought in a new loaf. I didn't want students to eat stale bread; I mean, would YOU want a sammich on stale bread? Ick. At the end of the school year, I gave away the jars. The kids thought it was the same jars all year, and actually, it was. I just scooped the new stuff out of new jars and refilled the old jars so they wouldn't know I was buying more. I kept the new jars hidden in my locked cabinet in the back of the room. They never knew. My students might have felt bad if they knew I was buying new stuff all the time.

I sincerely doubt that any of the teachers in that building read this blog; I don't think any of them know what a blog is. But I know for a fact that many of my former students read this blog, so listen up, kids: I'm going to share a secret with you.

I know why our floor had mice.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:50 AM | |

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Computer Is, One by One, Losing Body Parts and Becoming A Shadow of Its Former Self

Honestly, I really do believe I have the Kiss of Death in my fingertips, for no matter how careful I try to be, every computer I've ever had has died a slow, lingering death. Hub says it's because I'm inadvertently downloading things, but they must be downloading themselves because I'm not doing it. Zappa says my registry has nearly 300 errors in it, in spite of Registry Mechanic that I run faithfully, and which daily assures me I'm clean. But apparently I'm not. . . .

I can't wipe it myself and re-install XP because my computer no longer recognizes my CD/R drive, and no cd will 'register' now. When I look at "My Computer," there is no cd drive there any more. Nada.

I tried to re-install my CD/R driver, but my computer is a Compaq and even though my CD/R driver is available for download, the disclaimer says to "forget it" if you have a Compaq.

How do I wipe my computer clean (everything's backed up elsewhere) and re-install XP, with no recognized CD driver on my computer?

I've been running on System Restore for a month now, because whenever I turn off my computer, the screen is blank when I turn it back on, and I have to quickly hit System Restore to get anywhere. Therefore, I don't dare turn it off.

Meanwhile, I guess I'm getting invaded by registry bugs by the hundreds, even though Registry Mechanic swears it's cleared them all out. I've had Spyware Doctor for several years, but it, too, has ceased working and whenever I try to contact them, my old Yahoo account pops up and tries to make me 'attach' something but it won't tell me what and it won't send any messages without the attachment.

I've come to the conclusion that any computer that sits on my desk becomes instantly possessed by Spirits That Mean Harm To Me.

I really don't go anywhere except my blogrolls, the occasional YouTube, and Google places. I'm not adventurous, internet-wise. I don't play games except for BookWorm and Snood, both of which are installed on my hard drive.

Any second now, the whole system is going to come crashing down again. AGAIN. Should I give up on this computer and start hanging out at the library? I can use Hub's, but he needs it in the evening so he can continue to keep the planet safe from alien attack and eternal subjugation. I've already lost most of my music, but since I can't burn cd's any more, that's a bit of a moot point, too.

Also, the fan is constantly whirring frantically and loudly, and the bandwidth is usually at 90-100% with programs I don't recognize. I'm afraid to delete anything because it might be something important.

I've been hijacked twice before. Is it happening again?

Does anybody have any advice for me?
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:42 PM | |

Sunday, September 23, 2007

We Are Stardust. . . We Are Golden. . . .We Are Whoopsies

Last night, my daughter asked me to drive up to the city to see the 9:30 showing of Stardust. So, of course, I did.

It was fantastic. FANTASTIC. You all simply must drop everything and go to see it before it disappears from the theaters.

I do love a well-written story. I love fairy tales. I love parodies and farces and quirky dialogue. I love romance, and pirates, and hot guys fencing swordfights.

Well-written, well-acted, perfect casting, beautiful to look at, substance behind the beauty, hot guys **. . . . It's rated PG-13, which I consider a fair rating. Please go to see it, and take your older children with you. Small children might be frightened of the witches' antics, but older kids who can understand farcical fantasy will think it's a hoot. If you take your five-year-old, you're a selfish cheapskate who didn't want to pay a sitter. Good luck with the kid's nightmares.

But kids ten or older? They'll love it. So will you.

My extremely stringent requirement of having a happy ending was also fulfilled. Everyone who deserved to do so, lived happily ever after. Those who didn't deserve it, did not.

I smiled all the way home.

By the way, you'll never think of Robert DiNiro the same way again. You'll love him even more. One of the most brilliant casting decisions EVER.

It was 1:30 a.m. when I got home and even if today was a workday, it would still have been well worth it. Thank you, my darling Belle, for inviting Mommy to go to the movies with you. You told me I'd love that movie and you were, as usual, right spot on.

Stardust. I can't wait to see it again.

**. . . of which there were many. You don't need money to window-shop.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:51 PM | |

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I never dreamed that this post would cause such a reaction in the blogosphere. To the vast majority who understood and agreed and had other useful positive things to say, I thank you for being a careful reader and for standing up for the good kids of this country who get so little attention. I also would never have supposed that so many people would misinterpret so much of it, in such a way that if I read only certain people's commentary, I'd think I was a terrible person, too. I know it was a long post, but honestly? I don't think some of these people could possibly have read it all, based on their own posts, comments, and emails.

Therefore, I would like to address some of the interpretations people have apparently made about the post, about me, and about other teachers who have agreed with me.

So. . . . some of you would NOT want to sit by me at a teacher's meeting? That's fine. Sit together at a table and shoot disgusted looks at the rest of us. In a few years, you'll understand. Right now, you're still believing what your college textbooks told you, and you haven't had enough experience to know that however idealistic you might be right now, it won't be all that long before a lot of your goals, objectives, ideals, and beliefs will be shot down, too, and you'll realize that in public education (and private education, too, more and more) those who most deserve the bulk of the attention (well-behaved students who WANT to learn) get the least attention, the least resources, and the least rewards. Those of you who have posted, commented, and emailed that I am not interested in low-achieving students, troubled students, and IEP students don't know me very well. Nope, not very well at all.

The thing is, you see, that teaching children to behave in public is actually the job of the home, and when the home doesn't do its job, the teacher is forced to do it, along with his/her actual job, which is to teach children to communicate clearly, to figure things out on one's own, to calculate and to draw and to write and to sing and to play the violin, and to generally take care of oneself so that when the child is grown, he/she will know how to do these things and be a productive, happy, creative citizen who will require his/her own children to buck up and show some spunk, too. To those of you who are horrified that I do not mention the teacher's job of motivating students, I will have only this to say: Motivation is also the job of the home and of the student himself/herself. The teacher can inspire, but one can motivate only oneself.

Because of many homes' refusal to teach simple behavior skills and any desire for learning, teachers have to devote much of the time formerly used for actual teaching, to disciplining, refereeing, first aid, breaking up fights, putting up with talking out, inappropriate language, touching, bullying, stealing, swiping, teasing (which is a kind of bullying, in my opinion) and just generally policing a classroom instead of helping children learn to sing, draw, paint, play, write, communicate, figure, debate, organize, and safely think out of the box. Really? Anything the students and the teacher are required to "put up with" that holds the majority of the class back, should not be there.

I believe that any behaviors that hinder a class's ability to relax, smile, learn, demonstrate learning, leave their property unguarded, go to the restroom without fear, concentrate, hear what's going on, continually move up up up, and be able to experience a positive learning environment free of disruption, should not be allowed under any circumstances.

Those misinterpretive readers who believe I hate special education students should really go back and re-read the original post. Every student deserves to be in his/her least restrictive environment, AS LONG AS his/her presence there does not subtract from the quality of education the other students deserve. Whether labeled such or not, I believe that every student is a special student, and they all deserve the least restrictive educational environment. If achieving that means some students have to be removed, so be it. Nobody has the right to hold someone else back.

My sister, my own kids, and I all spent a great part of our elementary years sitting out in the hallway tutoring other kids. Sure, this was a great way to teach various skills to both sides, but DAILY? All of our students should have the right to move upward and forward, not sit patiently for six years, waiting for a handful of kids to 'catch up.'

I've posted before about the woman from the State Department who came to my middle school to teach us about inclusion.

"When you're teaching the majority of your class how to measure a triangle, you can, at the same time, teach the included students what a triangle IS."

My question? "When?" Do I tell 36 students to get busy on that worksheet while I give one-on-one attention to one or two students, who actually need me for the full period? If anyone has an answer, I'd love to hear it, because I never did figure out how to give a couple of kids one-on-one attention in a classroom of nearly forty students, ALL of whom deserved one-on-one attention but didn't get it because they were all on question 24 while that handful was still working on the instructions and hadn't even started yet. And then the bell would ring and it would all begin again. Times six periods a day.

Let the aide do that? What aide? I did have an aide for 20 minutes a day one year, but she knew nothing about Language Arts and could not help her students.

Those of you who will read this and insist that I hate special students and am making fun of them, please read carefully. ALL students deserve the best, but sometimes, certain combinations will only ascertain that nobody gets what they deserve.

And all disruptive students are NOT special students. I can't believe some of you made that assumption from the original post. In fact, I'd venture to say that most disruptive students are NOT paperworked special students, but merely undisciplined, selfish, brats.

Yes, some kids are brats. Live with it. And oh, I can get meaner than that, too. I believe that, after a certain age, most brats are brats by choice.

And why, you might ask in wide-eyed innocence, would any child choose to be a brat? Probably because such behaviors are enabled at home, and it often brings rewards.

Any parent who storms the school on a regular basis probably has a brat for a kid. Any parent who automatically believes any story his/her kid tells without first checking it out with the school, probably has a brat for a kid. Any parent who insists on exceptions for his/her child, probably has a brat for a kid. Aggressive, sexist, racist parents often have a brat for a kid because the parents themselves are brats. A parent who consistently steps between his/her child and the consequences of the child's actions probably has a brat for a kid. Kids who come to school reeking of smoke are often brats, because such parents don't usually bother much with schoolin'.

If I had read my own original post when I first started teaching, I would have been horrified. I would not have believed most of it. I would have instantly labeled anyone who wrote such a thing a dried-up kid-hatin' prune who should have retired long ago. Sometimes it takes a little experience to realize that in education, in our classrooms, we get what we get, and we have to put up with things we shouldn't have to put up with, and that it is the good kids who pay the price.

The good kids pay the price. And these are the kids above all others who most deserve the best we have to offer. Yes, they all deserve the best, but shouldn't nice people get it before the naughty people? So often, after the bad kids are taken care of, there is nothing left for the good kids. This is a tragedy. The good kids deserve much more than they're getting.

And we're too busy staving off the disruptions to even see the good kids, sometimes.

Bottom line:

No matter what kind of disability any student might have, he/she should be welcome in any classroom as long as he/she was able to follow the same behavior rules as everyone else, and could understand what was going on, and did not hold the rest of the class back.

I could deal with slow kids. I could accommodate almost any kind of disability. I loved my students, and I loved helping them learn. Most teachers feel the same way.

I did not love having to stand there and watch so many of them be held back by factors that should never have been in the classroom in the first place.

Back in the olden days, disruptive school-hating kids were allowed to drop out, and go to work. It's too bad we don't have some kind of program for that now. School was meant for everyone, but not everyone was meant for school. And that has nothing whatsoever to do with 'education.'

Please, 'those' readers, learn the difference between a rowdy, disruptive kid who has no intention of learning anything and won't let YOUR child learn, either, and a child who has disabilities that make learning difficult. NOT THE SAME THING.

As for the majority of you, I thank you for your support. Your children are lucky to have you. And so am I. And so are our schools.

Bottom line number two: Perhaps more people should learn to read carefully, and think before they make false assumptions.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:01 PM | |

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Shadow Knows!

My son is starving to death in his new apartment, so last Wednesday we cleaned out our freezer and I delivered a boxful of frozen food, plus two large Marsh bags-full, to him. He was properly grateful, and promised to call his sister so she, too, could load her freezer. Then I went on to class, feeling like a good Mommy who feeds her little boy and girl.

Plus, down at the bottom of the freezer, I discovered two pork tenderloins: one small, and one humongous. The humongous one I will save for when YOU come to visit, but I think I might thaw out that little one and fix it for dinner this weekend.

See? SEE? Being kind really does pay off. Those tenderloins would have remained buried forever if my baby son wasn't starving to death I hadn't decided, out of the goodness of my heart, to give my children the contents of my freezer, minus the pork tenderloins.

And the ice cream sandwiches. Yeah, I kept those, too.

My freezer now contains two pork tenderloins, a box of Schwann's ice cream sandwiches, and about a zillion freezer-bags of fresh blueberries.

Sounds like dinner and pie to me.

As for the title of this post. . . . that's easy. Who knows what lurks in the bottom of the freezer?

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:54 PM | |

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tiny Biscuit Pizzas, Homemade Pizzas, Grecco's Pizzas

The new Carnival of Education is up at the Education Wonks. Please click on over there and read up on the state of education these days. Your children will thank you for it. Remember, if you don't keep current on things, you forfeit your right to complain!

We're going to Grecco's tonight so please forgive me if I seem a little flighty. The prospect of deep-dish Sicilian pizza, with little dollops of sauce on each square, makes me forget all else. . . .

Some people get fat on candy, cake, pie, ice cream, and various cream-filled delights. I don't really care that much for sweet things; I got fat on pizza.

When I was a kid, Grecco's was the only pizza parlor in town. My friends and I used to walk there on a Friday or Saturday night, all the way to the north end which was, according to our parents, the 'rough end' of town. We were instructed to be very, very careful, not talk to anyone, and keep a little bit away from the sidewalk's edge so strangers with candy couldn't cruise by slowly, grab us, and throw us into their car.

"Why would anybody do that, Mom?"

"Never you mind. Just do what I say."

The pizza crust was, of course, completely homemade, a little floury on the bottom, and delicious.

We still loved Chef Boy-R-Dee pizza mixes, of course: remnants from my slumber-party youth. Those pizza mixes are, of course, disgusting now, and were really disgusting then, but in the midst of a slumber party, giggling teens would eat almost anything and think it was good. But at Grecco's, we ate real pizza.

Zappa and his friends much preferred homemade pizza, and mine is pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I used to make them several nights a week. Whew.

If you have small children who are picky eaters, or not, you might experiment with little individual biscuit pizzas. Just take a roll of refrigerator biscuits and put them on a cookie sheet. Flatten each biscuit and cover with tomato paste. Put any toppings your kids like, sprinkle with oregano (that's what makes it taste like pizza) and cover with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake a few minutes until the crust is done and the cheese has melted. Make a big deal out of getting to eat tiny little pizzas, and your kids just might love them. It's also a great way to sneak put healthy vegetables, etc, into your child's diet. Cover it with tomato sauce and cheese, call it pizza, and some kids won't care what's lurking beneath.

But now, I'm going to take a shower and get ready, because even though it's nearly 4 p.m., it's also my day off and I look like something the cat would leave on the bottom basement stair. And, I have to look good for Grecco's.

Yeah, on my day off, I like to get up before Hub gets home from school. It's a sacrifice I make for him.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:18 PM | |

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Don't most classy movie pirates talk like educated English gentlemen? With maybe an occasional 'Avast' or 'Arrrgh?'

Even Captain Hook used good grammar. He could even sing.

In the movies, the cool pirates were eloquent and sensitive. The better-spoken a pirate was, the more likely it was that he would end up in command. The scrufty slangy uneducated pirates seemed to end up swabbing the deck or falling off the mast to be eaten by sharks, or taking a cannonball in the stomach, or starting chains of fast-food restaurants featuring a lot of lard and breading.

Not that there's any shame in any of those positions.

But give me Johnny Depp with his sweet sassy scheiss-filled smile, his maestro-like gestures, his flamboyant movements, and his Max Factored eyes any time.

He could even be naked. I'm not at all picky about his clothing. Really, tell him not to go to any trouble for me.

I feel a little faint. Is it hot in here or am I just getting old?

(Repost from 2005. I'm really tired. Many apologies.)
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:06 AM | |

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Trojans and Cherry Cokes

A student in my first class today knew the story of the Achilles heel. This made me so happy that I bought him a Cherry Coke when we went on break.

It's the first time in four years that a student knew about it.

Also, nobody giggled when he said "Trojan."

College is different than middle school in most ways. In other ways, it's kind of the same.

This same student also understood what "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" meant. It was lovely to watch him explain it to the boys behind him, none of whom was certain of the meaning, but all of whom thought it probably had something to do with fraternities.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:24 AM | |

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spelling Counts

Seeing as how "home-made" is defined as something that was made in someone's home, and seeing as how many people enter WalMart and never seem to leave, I think I can safely say that the fried chicken we had for dinner today was home-made.

For a wonder, I did not see any of my current students in the store tonight. I will assume that means they were all at home doing their homework.

When I call for their work in the morning, I'll expect to see something from everyone.

That means I'd better get busy with last week's homework. I can't expect my students to turn things in on time if I don't REturn things back to them in a timely manner.

Occasionally, I had a teacher who demanded that we turn things in on time, but took her own sweet time about grading and returning them back to us. I considered this grossly unfair, and still do.

So, tomorrow morning, my students and I will trade papers. They'll give me their new, unmarked papers, and I'll give them last week's graded papers. Then we'll have our new lesson, and it will all begin again.

My one student who still hasn't emailed me with the answers to the internet quiz: Please get that to me before class starts at 9:00 tomorrow morning!!! You've had a full week and I don't want to mark you down for not doing it. Everybody else in the class has done it. You can do it, too. I'm counting on you to not let me, or yourself, down. I'll be checking my email until midnight or after. Please get it to me? The nature of the assignment will not permit you to hand-carry a paper copy to me tomorrow, and I have a sinking feeling that is what you are going to try to do.

Let's all cross our fingers that she'll come through. I know she has a computer, and I know she knows how, for we went over it at least a dozen times in class last week, and did several samples. They've all got my college email address; those who have explored Blackboard can even contact me from there.

With email addresses, spelling counts. She learned that last week and I don't want her to learn it again tomorrow.

I know she won't have anything, but I never stop hoping.

Update: I love it sometimes when I'm wrong. Just re-checked my college email, and she did it!

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:25 PM | |

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gourmet Delights

I like my burgers very, very thin, with four or five dill pickle slices (lengthwise is best) and about a quarter-inch of cheap yellow mustard. If I squeeze the bun, the mustard should ooze. Save the lettuce and tomato for some health-conscious person's salad.

I do not put any salt on a burger.

If the French fries are fat, I need a lot of ketchup.

If the French fries are thin, I don't need any ketchup.

I sprinkle a little salt on both kinds.

Free refills? I order a small drink and just keep refilling it. No refills? I order the largest cup in the place and try to hold back.

And thank you, no; if I'd wanted cheese, I would have ordered a CHEESEBURGER.

Shake? I can't help it; I'm old. Oh, you mean. . . a SHAKE! If my blood sugar is low, I'll have a child-sized chocolate shake, but only if I'm at Steak and Shake, because McDonald's and all those other fast food places don't really have shakes; they just have flavored ice cream mix. At Steak and Shake, they have real Shakes.

They have real steak, too; it's just ground up.

Kind of like the fake french fries in the public schools: they're not really french fries, they're potato flake mix put through a mold and deep fried.

They're more like latkes than french fries. Bland, bad latkes. Latkes shaped like round smiley faces or various holiday icons.

Don't forget your ketchup. It's the vegetable today.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:59 PM | |

Close Encounters of the Real World Kind

Last night at Walmart I ran into a former student and his wife and their new baby girl. This student was a classmate of Belle's and one of my favorites. He and Belle were in that group of students who were chosen to be in the high school symphony orchestra when they were in the fifth grade.

Even in 8th grade, when he played his violin, he could make shivers go up and down your spine.

He was a really nice kid, and now he's a really nice man. He plays in a bluegrass band and his violin fiddle playin' is fantastic. I remember him very fondly.

Their baby was honestly very pretty; usually a new baby looks more like Winston Churchill than those babies you see in catalogues and movies. She was a truly beautiful baby, with a mop of black hair that was amazing for such a newbie.

I always love meeting my former students out in the 'real world.' This young man was no exception.

When I got back into the car, I did tear up a little. He had named his daughter for one of his classmates who had died just after high school graduation. She was a really nice girl, too.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:29 PM | |

Burgers and Fun

It's really nice out today. Bright, sunny, low seventies. . . why, it's almost CRISP.

Great weather. Beautiful day.

So we decided to go out.

To the dump.

Hey, "out" is "out."

Besides, whenever we go to the dump, we stop at Snow's on the way home. Best burgers on the globe.

In case you're wondering, we're dropping off, not picking up. Although, if we saw something cool, we're not above diving for it. I have friends who are still using the stereo system they fished out of a dumpster in 1974.

The kittens are out on the back deck. They're not quite sure what they're supposed to do when they're outdoors, but it will come to them. So far they've mastered pooping in the planters.

They're very good at it, too.

I think a burger with a pile of dill pickles and a quarter-inch of cheap yellow mustard. . . . some french fries, and of course a ginormous Diet Coke with the wonderful Snow's soft flat shaved ice. Hub will get a coney (dressed), a fish sandwich with pickles, fries, and a Diet Coke.

We're occasionally predictable, in the midst of our quirkiness, but we're really very nice and when you come to visit, you'll have fun.

Fun, and burgers.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:14 PM | |

Hard As Nails and Soft As Cupcake Cream

Many teachers keep their home addresses a big secret from their students. Lots of teachers prefer to live outside of their teaching area altogether.

I live right smack in the middle of my former public school teaching gig area. Students on the left, students on the right, students down the road, students behind. . . . We hire students and former students to cut our wood, roof our house, paint our doors. We invite them inside and give them Pepsi and talk for hours. I let them burn cd's on my computer. (No burner right now, kids; sorry.) I love it when they call and just want to come over and visit. I LOVE IT. When are you coming over again, Alex and Torri?

I loved Halloween, when dozens of my students rang my doorbell.

Former students call (Yes, I share my home phone number, too) and ask for advice. They ask me to meet them at SubWay for lunch, and I do.

They ask me to proofread their papers. They ask to be tutored. Both of us tutor for free.

They invite me to their conducting debut in an out-of-state college, and I drive down there and attend. (One of the happiest and proudest nights of my life, Wes.)

They ask me to be their "Mom" at college orientation because their real mother is dead/busy/not interested/drunk/etc. I go.

When I had money, I used to send checks to a couple of students once in a while because I knew they desperately needed a little something to, you know, LIVE on. I can't do that any more, but if I could, I would.

I picked up band kids at 5:00 a.m. for trips because their own mothers couldn't be arsed to get up that early. I did this even when my own kids were spending the night with friends, which meant I was getting up that early for other people's kids.

On weekends our family room was full of kids. I knew my own were in there somewhere.

Many of them spent the night on weekends. I drove one of them around on his morning paper route a time or two.

I used to drive to town to see if any of "my" kids were part of the hoody crowd at the skating rink, and drive them home.

If I had a nickel for every meal I cooked and served to students in my home, I'd be rich. However, I'd rather feed kids than go on cruises.

I wonder if anyone realizes how much of his/her own money your child's classroom teacher spends each year, buying shoes and warm coats and socks and jeans for other people's children?

I did all of these things for 26 years. My students seemed to like me in spite of my extreme strictness and cruelty and unreasonable expectations in the classroom, ie my insistence that they behave properly, obey me, and do the work.

This is not a brag post. It's a simple statement of fact.

Most teachers go overboard for their students. Those who don't, shouldn't be there.

Wes, remember when we used to drive up to IU and hit the bookstores and the Union to play the pianos?

I visited students in the hospital. Mental institutions. Funeral homes.

I did all these things when I had small children at home, and I did them when my children were older. And I did them in between.

The fact is, I loved my students. I figured the best way to show it was to insist that they behave in a way that would best allow them to earn a living and fit into society, and to love them in and out of the school building.

Nowadays, this would probably be looked upon as improper. I never cared much about keeping inside the box, so I'd probably still be doing it if I were still in the public schools.

I miss this interaction with my students, because at the college level, they don't follow me home and ask for food. I miss those days very much, but I wouldn't go back.

Why? I think I've made that pretty clear in previous posts.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:00 AM | |

Report Cards, Mid-Term Reports, Helicopter Parents, Self-Esteem, Red Pens, and Shame

How old am I? Up until high school, all my report cards were hand-written by my teachers.

In high school, we had the new-fangled punched computer cards. They were a dull red, each one punched full of rectangular holes; the name of the course, teacher, and grade were on the top in really tiny print. Remember those old sci fi movies where the computer took up an entire wall, floor to ceiling, and was covered with reel-to-reels? I think we had those.

In college, my grades were sent directly to my parents. They knew before I knew. (Now, my students' grades are posted on the internet and can be accessed with an individual login/password. Parents know the grades only if the student tells them.) (There are no hard copies, unless the student prints out the page.)

When I first started teaching, the teachers met every nine weeks in the library and passed around the yellow cardboard folded grade cards and filled in the grades and comments. Those were the only all-faculty "social" events we ever had in that school.

My next school took great pride in its time-saving, labor-saving computerized grade program. At the end of the nine weeks, each student was given a handful of computer cards to give to each teacher. It took about thirty minutes out of each individual class to fill in the little ovals for grades, citizenship, and comments. I told you it was time-and-labor-saving. Heh.

The last few years in the public schools, we put our grades on the school's computer program. MOST of the time, it "took."

There were a handful of teachers in the building who never did catch on to using a computer for anything, and some of them had students record their grades. Can you imagine?

The elderly secretary the school had for a zillion years refused point-blank to use a computer. We were the last building in the system to become computerized, because of her.

Now, I can sit at home, in front of my own computer, and put each individual quiz grade on my own classroom website, supplied by the college. My students can, at any time, from school or from home, access Blackboard and look at their grades.

In my college days, I had to wait for weeks before my grades were released to my parents. Now, my students know exactly where they stand at any point in time, and they know their final grades a day or two after they take their final exam. Sometimes, I put their final grades on the website a few hours after they take their final.

There will always be students who have no idea of their standing in a class; honestly, when a student says to me, "How am I doing in this class? What's my average?" I want to scream. Even if he is computer-illiterate (and if so, he won't make it at the college level, sowwy) all he has to do is check his folder. All graded work is supposed to be kept in there, and if he's that anxious to know his standing, he can add up his scores and average them on paper. Sheesh.

The students who are going to succeed just go online, type in their login and password, and check their grades themselves.

Besides, any good student at almost any level knows how he's doing in any class at any given point in time. If they show up and take their quizzes and tests and turn in their homework, they're probably doing well. If they don't, they aren't. It ain't rocket science.

Dear Parents, please don't call your child's teacher daily and ask for an average, at least, not very often. Chances are pretty good that if you can't find any graded papers in your kid's backpack or notebook, he's not doing very well. Please don't expect that your kid will be allowed to make up all that missing or poor work.

Your child's teacher has an entire classroom of students, and if each parent asked the teacher to send home a daily report, the poor teacher might as well put up a cot and start paying rent because there isn't going to be much of a home life. And yes, parents ask us to do that all the time. At the secondary level, one teacher might have over 200 students.

At midterm, most schools send out half-way-point standings. Check your child's grades. If he's doing poorly, call the school and make an appointment with the teacher. NEVER just walk in off the street and ask the teacher to give up her lunch or prep without prior notice. (Would you walk into your dentist's office, or your doctor, or your lawyer, or your accountant's offices without an appointment? Or at least, an emergency involving blood and bone fragments?)

Please don't march in like a Teutonic Reichmaiden and assume that the teacher is a psychotic who hates all children and yours in particular, and that your child is innocent, totally innocent, and his straight-A work has been shredded by the teacher so the world will never see it. I hate to burst your bubble, but it's probably more your child's fault than anyone else's.

Every single night, require your child to SHOW YOU the contents of his backpack. If the papers are wadded up, give your child some incentive to not ever do that again. Require your child to file papers immediately in a pocket folder because you're going to be looking them over every night. If this interferes with television for either of you, cry me a river.

Do not even turn on that television until this has been done. If there is homework, make sure your child has it finished before the tv is touched. Ditto computer, telephone, and any other electronic gadgetry your child has been playing with instead of doing his academics. Don't, however, deny your children who ARE doing it right just because one of them isn't. Sometimes, the sound of a sibling enjoying tv or a computer game or a friend can light a fire under a slacker kid. If it makes him vicious, you've got problems that aren't school-related. Call a shrink.

If your kid is an athlete and brings home a bad mid-term report, ask the coach to bench him. Usually, schools do that anyway; sports are games, and games are only for kids who have done the actual SCHOOL part of their kid-duties. A good coach will do that anyway.

Is your kid one of those students for whom sports are all he has going for him? Is playing ball his life's priority? Help him change those priorities, because his are all wrong. Don't EVER argue with a coach for benching your kid for low grades. Even the kid knows he deserves it.

I really don't have to deal with these issues much any more, because at the college level, I don't have many parents demanding that I change Junior's grade, etc. I do have a few, though. It's incredible and really quite sad that so many parents seem to be living their own lives over again vicariously, through their children.

I'm not a mean teacher, in spite of some of the comments I've gotten lately from the same group of people, over and over. Yes, I know who they are; I've been to their websites and they don't like me there, either. I am, however, a teacher (and a parent) who required all of my students to work, to obey, and to behave. I still can't think of a single viable excuse for slacking off on any of those three things. Once those three things were mastered, the creativity could flow. Once students learned that I would not put up with anyone who did not understand the big three, we could have fun. It did not take most of them very long to learn that it was better for all to behave in ol' Mrs. G's classroom, because for those who did, the rewards were many and awesome, and for those who didn't, well, okay. . . .I poisoned them and buried them on the playground, under the wood chips. Nobody missed them.

That might be an exaggeration, but will you hate me if I tell you that I thought about it on occasion? Oh, so do you. Don't lie to me.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Keypunch cards with very tiny lettering on the top.

And I say things like, "Shame on you!"

Because, you see, I really do believe that people are encouraged from a very early age to believe that they have a perfect right to please themselves in all ways, whenever and wherever they are, and that their parents are the main ones who encourage it.

Perhaps if we help our children learn that some actions and words ARE shameful, our children will treat each other better, and everyone's self-esteem (you really don't want to get me started on that topic) will rise naturally, instead of being inflated with bullshit so it rises regardless of what the child says and does.

Also, I use a red pen.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:10 AM | |

Friday, September 14, 2007

Address Book Hijacked! Phony Emails Being Sent! Not From Me!!!!!


If you received an email from me about a social networking site called Quechup, please delete it immediately! It's not from me! I don't know how they did it, but they're stolen my entire address book!

I've been hearing from other blog-friends that their address books have been used in this manner by this Quechup website, as well.

Don't open anything from Quechup! I didn't send ANYBODY anything about Quechup! I don't know anything about Quechup!

I even got an email to myself, from "me!" I'm getting emails from blogfriends, complete with avatars and personal information, about Quechup, and they're not sending them either.

If anybody knows how to stop this, please tell me. I'm so sorry they're using my email to spam people! I don't know who they are or how it happened!!!!
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:33 AM | |

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Smeary Stinky Purple Ink: If You've Been Teaching For A While, You Know What I'm Talkin' About

How many of you are old enough to remember getting a test or quiz in school that had been run off on a mimeograph machine? Remember the smell? Sometimes, the odor was so strong it made us sick. We used to make jokes about getting high off a quiz that was 'hot off the press.' Remember that purple ink that was never quite dry, and often smeared so badly we couldn't even read the sentence?

"You might have to give your paper a blow, students. Go ahead and blow." Those were the days, all right.

When I first started teaching, back in the seventies, all we had was an old hand-cranked mimeograph machine, and I still have nightmares about trying to type stencils.

Remember those stencils, old readers? They had to be perfectly typed (on a typewriter!) because they couldn't be corrected. I can feel the frustration even yet.

In my second school, we had an ELECTRIC mimeograph machine in the office! I thought I'd died and gone to heaven; it was so FAST. We still had to type those letter-perfect stencils, but really, that mimeograph was so fast, we knew technology could never improve on it.

In my third school, I was responsible for making a series of worksheets for part of a grammar lab the freshman teachers were making as a team. I had my worksheets neatly typed and ready to be copied onto stencils, by which I mean, RE-typing each of them, flawlessly, on those smeary, inky stencils.

One of my co-teachers said, "Why don't you just run your master copies through the Thermofax machine?" I had never heard of such a thing. I didn't know what it was.

She took me down to the office and showed me this new miracle. I just placed my master copy between the stencil-makin' layers and slid it through the Thermofax machine and VOILA! A perfect stencil! We then clipped this stencil to the Mimeograph and ran it off as usual. Smeary stinky purple ink permeated our existence.
This is a Thermofax stencil. Put your master copy between the purple inky back and the brown tissue, then pull out the tissue. Slide the white-covered stencil into the Thermofax's horizontal slot and let it be pulled inside. Inside the machine, the letters will be burned onto the back of the white cover sheet, in purple ink, turning it into a stencil.

You would then put the stencil in the Mimeograph machine and hope it didn't wrinkle as the drum turned, because that would mean you had to start all over again.

The Thermofax machine was all we could have asked of technology. Nothing could have beaten it.

Then, the principal showed us a HUGE brand-new machine in his office: it would allow him to simply place his master copy under the lid and press a button. The ink was black, and the paper was thick and shiny, but it wasn't smeary and it would reproduce pictures as well as text. We weren't allowed to use it except in VERY special circumstances.

Now, when I need to do some dupin', as LL Cool J refers to it in Toys, I just put the master copy on the glass, close the lid, push a few buttons, and out comes perfectly printed, professional-looking copies, sorted, stapled, and FAST.

Younger people take the Xerox machines for granted. Older people remember when monks took many years to hand-script tests and quizzes in beautiful illustrated calligraphy students and teachers alike all went home with purple ink smeared all over their fingers and clothing.

On the bright side, we knew who the nose-pickers were.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:08 PM | |

Communications from the Edge

I sneeze like a cartoon character. I hate that.

"To read the rest of this article, please register." No, thank you. I'll just find it somewhere else on the internet, on a website that's more friendly and likes me.

"Please stay on the line for an important announcement!" The woman who sells her voice to all these different companies is probably a very nice person, but I hate her.

AND I don't obey tape recorders.

"Is it okay if I go on home? I'm tired." Sure, you go on home. The rest of us will stay two more hours, take two quizzes, get an essay assignment, and discuss cool things, but you're extra special, so you don't have to. You do remember that the evil professor will use YOUR name in all the examples, if you're absent, right? And that you won't be making up any of this work? Go on home. Your tv show will be starting.

"I was in Key West last week. Did I miss anything important?" No, we just played Bingo and ate popcorn.

"Can I type my essay on Typepad?" No.

"Please hold for an important message from Chase Bank!" No. Also, it's the same woman's voice. I wonder how much she gets paid.

"Please hold; one of our agents will be with you in just a moment." Again, no. Is that you again, Maizie?

"The time is 2:50 a.m. The temperature is 68 degrees." I think I recognize this voice.

"To access the pharmacy, please press 1 now. To speak to a pharmacist, press 2." Maizie, how many gigs do you HAVE?

I have to sneeze again. No, I'm not watching the Cartoon Channel. That was me.

"I didn't know I'd have to type my papers for this class." You didn't? Did you forget you weren't back in junior high?

"Meow meow meow purrrrrrr, we love whole wheat bread. Yum! And the package is so easy to gnaw through!" It loses something in the translation, but you should see the kitchen floor.

No, the tv is NOT on.

"Please hold for an important message from your Indiana University Alumni Association." I gave at the Blood Bank. Go away. Maizie?

Whatever happened to that "No Marketing" thing I thought I signed up for?

Gezundheit to me. And again. One more time.

"Hello! All of our agents are assisting other members, but someone will be with you as soon as possible." Hey, you called ME, Maizie.

I really do hate that woman.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:40 AM | |

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Carnival of Education: If You Are Breathing, You Need To Check This Out! It's For All Of Us.

The new Carnival of Education is up and running, and if you have kids and don't regularly read the Carnival of Education. . . . how in the world will you know what's going on? Your children's teachers are contributing articles to the Carnival, other parents are contributing articles to the Carnival. . .on the Carnival you can read about the TRUTH, not just the candy-coated smarmings of politicians and administrators and assorted nutnicks with personal agendas.

Is "No Child Left Behind" a workable policy? Politicians and administrators will tell you that it's the solution to most of our problems. Your children's teachers, and the parents of your children's friends, and yours truly, might have a different point of view.

Should the schools furnish all supplies, including food, clothing, and a yellow pencil? What do teachers and parents think about that? Joanne Jacobs tells us what she thinks, on today's Carnival.

Is homework a good thing, or a problem unto itself? Read the Carnival of Education to find out what educators and parents have to say about it.

Student loans. Bad teachers. Good teachers. Bad parents. Good parents. Good kids. Bad kids. Ringworm. Censorship. A student who was punished at school for blogging at home. Discipline issues. Caring. Not caring. Responsibility. Cheating. Flunking out. Teacher shortages and why. Testing. Not testing. What constitutes reasonable family involvement. Why bother? Why we must continue to bother. What can parents do? What should parents NOT do? What if your child's teacher is an idiot? What if you're the only parent who thinks so? Uniforms. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression in other ways. Athletics. Coaches. Homeschooling. Vacations during the school year. Bullies. Big exams. Big problems. Big kid. Little kid. Creepy neighbors. Drunk parenting. Young teachers. Old teachers. Administrations. Morons in power. Morons in the homes. Unfair treatment. Lifesaving decision. Teachers who influence. Standing up for a child. Requiring a child to stand up for himself. Cheerleading. Benchwarmers. Crying. Screaming. Laughing. Rejoicing. Flushing with pride. Flushing the toilet. Idiosyncracies. Reasons. Excuses. Drugs. Letters of the alphabet. Promotion. Retention. Expulsion. Zero tolerance. Standardized testing. Scripted curriculum. Things we hate. Things we love. Things we wish would happen. Things we wish didn't happen. Principals with principles. Principals without principles. Computers. Understanding. Misunderstanding. Privileges. Loss of privileges. Grades. Standards. Cell phones. Gangs. Student loans. Religion. Computers. Corporate sponsorship. Faith. Umbrellas. Attitude. Food.

Name something concerning children, parents, schools, teachers, voters, neighbors, passers-by, citizens, or YOU, and it's discussed somewhere within the Carnival of Education.

Please, go there and give it a read. You'll be glad you did.

Why don't more of YOU submit something to the Carnival? It's open to all who have something to say about the state of education on our planet.

This week's carnival was put together by History is Elementary, an excellent blog written by a fine educator. I read it daily.

The Carnival of Education is the brainchild of The Education Wonks, one of the finest blogs on the internet today.

I liked all of the articles in today's Carnival, but I think this one was my favorite. Is anybody surprised?

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:46 PM | |

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Were You When The Planes Hit?

My tribute to Craig Damian Lilore can be found HERE.

I'm guessing that many most bloggers will be posting tributes today, and telling the blogosphere 'where we were' when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Here is mine. This is actually the third time I've posted this on 9/11, so if it seems familiar, you're not crazy. Well, not on this issue, anyway.


The morning began like any other; we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat back down to watch Channel One News, which had been taped at 3:00 that morning in the school library, thanks to the timer. But Channel One News didn't come on.

Instead, the secretary's voice, over the intercom, told the teachers to "please check your email immediately." We did. And we found out what had happened.

I scrolled down the monitor and read the end of the message. The superintendent had ordered all teachers to be absolutely mum all day about the tragedy. We were not to answer any questions from students, and we were especially not to offer any information to them.

The day went by in a blur. Many parents drove to the school, took their kids out, and brought them home. Between classes, frightened groups of students gathered in front of their lockers and whispered, gossiped, and cried, and begged us for information. By that time, the superintendent's order had been seconded by the principals, and we were unable to give these terrified kids any information. In the computer labs, the MSN screens told the 8th graders the truth, but they, too, were instructed NOT to talk about it to the other students. Right, like THAT happened. The biggest problem was, the story was being repeated by 8th graders, and it was being told bloody-killing-deathtrap-you're next-video-game-style.

At noon, many of the students were picked up by parents and taken home or out for lunch. Those few who returned had a big tale to tell. The problem was, the tale was being told by children and few if any of the facts were straight. The tale was being told scary-style, and the atmosphere in the building got more and more strained. We are only a few miles away from an immensely large Navy base, where ammunition and bombs are made, and we've always known it was a prime target, which means, of course, that we are, too. Many of my children's parents work there. The base was locked down and those parents did not come home that night.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: "You'll find out when you get home."

This, added to all the rumors and gossip spread by children, turned my little sixth graders into terrified toddlers.

As teachers, we were furious and disgusted with the superintendent's edict. We wanted to call all the students into the gym and calmly tell them the truth in words and ways that would be age-appropriate. We wanted to hug them and assure them that it was far away and they were safe. We asked for permission to do this, and it was denied. Our orders were 'silence.' We hadn't been allowed to hug them for years, of course, but there are times and places when hugs ARE appropriate. No matter, the superintendent stood firm: no information whatsoever.

The day went by, more slowly than ever a day before. The students grew more and more pale and frightened. We asked again, and again he stood firm that no information whatsoever was to be given out.

By the end of the day, the children were as brittle as Jolly Rancher Watermelon Sticks.

A few minutes before the bell rang to send them home, a little girl raised her hand and in a trembling voice that I will never forget, asked me a question. "Please, is it true that our parents are dead and our houses are burned down?"

That was it. I gathered my students close and in a calm voice explained to them exactly what had happened. I told them their parents were alive and safe, and that they all still had homes to go to.

The relief was incredible. I could feel it cascading all through the room.

I was, of course, written up for insubordination the next day, but I didn't care. My phone had rung off the hook that night with parents thanking me for being honest with their children. That was far more important than a piece of paper that said I'd defied a stupid inappropriate order meted out by a man who belonged in the office of a used car lot, not in a position of power over children's lives.

The next day at school, in my room, we listened to some of the music that had been 'specially made about the tragedy. I still have those cd's I burned and I've shared them with many people over the past few years. (Yes, it's that same music I burned for my 911 Mixmania match.) It is true that kids cried again, but it was good to cry. It was an appropriate time to cry. We didn't do spelling or grammar that day. There are times when the "business as usual" mindset simply is not appropriate.

I wish administrators would realize that kids are a lot tougher than we might think. Kids are also a lot more sensitive that we might realize. It's an odd combination, and we as educators must try our best to bring the two ends of the emotional spectrum together and help these kids learn to deal with horrible happenings and still manage to get through the day as well as possible.

Ignoring an issue will not help. Morbidly focusing on an issue will not help. Our children are not stupid, and to treat them as such is not something that builds trust. Our children deserve answers to their questions.

How can we expect our children to learn to find a happy medium if we don't show them ourselves, when opportunities arise?

September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2007. God bless us, every one.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:01 AM | |

Monday, September 10, 2007

In My Town, We Call This The "Poo Poo Wagon"

Whether we're liberal, conservative, independent, hobbit, plaid, shy, obsequious, purple, or clairvoyant (source, anyone?) we've all got to admit that this picture tells the truth about what passes for politics nowadays.

These days, if someone speaks softly and carries a big stick, he's likely to be arrested because of the "zero tolerance" policy.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:08 PM | |

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Who Will and Who Won't

My students will get their first essay assignments tomorrow. I dread giving them the news as much as they dread getting the news.

It's not because I dislike grading essays, either, although I do.

It's because it will unleash a barrage of many variations of the following:

1. I don't know how to type!
2. I don't know how to use a computer!
3. What does "double-spaced" mean?
4. I bought some bright pink paper just for this!
5. I know the syllabus states that no late papers are accepted, but what if it's me?
6. My computer capitalizes the first word on every line. That's right, isn't it?
7. Does spelling count?
8. My grammars ain't all that good. Do you take off for that?
9. I'm going to Cancun that week. Can I turn my paper in when I get back? I'm kind of busy with packing and all.
10. What if I need more than a week?
11. Paragraphs are those things you skip a line between, right?
12. Can I just print mine on lined paper?
13. I didn't know we had to type stuff for this class.

. . . which will lead to variations of these:

1. I left my paper in my boyfriend's car. Can I turn it in later?
2. I left my paper on the kitchen table. Can I turn it in later?
3. Bill asked me to tell you he'll be a little late. He's down in the computer lab writing printing his paper.
4. We had a paper due today?
5. I need more time.
6. Mine wasn't very long so I pasted some cute pictures in it to lengthen it.
7. I went to King's Island with my friends; want to see the pics? Can I turn my paper in later?
8. My mom said she knew you wouldn't mind that I went with her to get a makeover instead of doing my paper. Mom said I could always turn it in later.
9. Dad says he's a taxpayer and pays your salary and if I need more time I should get it.
10. Time got away from me and I need more.
11. Four paragraphs in one week? I can't do that, it's too much!
12. Sorry I don't have my paper. I have a life, you know.
13. I waited till I was back on campus so I could use the lab to write mine. What was the topic again?

Not everybody, of course; most of my students are way too fine to pull this kind of nonsense. The reactions of the real students to the antics and excuses of the frivolous students are something I look forward to each semester, too.

The real students will sit there shaking their heads in disbelief as the frivolous students, one after another, tell me these things that I've heard so many times before from the batch of frivolous students before them. I'd like to say that there's nothing new under the sun, but that's not quite true. Every semester I hear something new, and I add it to the list because sure as that sun will rise the next morning, someone else will use it next time.

The majority of my students will turn in their essays on time, double-spaced, with a title page. There will be mistakes, sure; that's why they're in this class. I'll correct the mistakes and write little notes of encouragement and approval all over the paper, and return it. Those who wish to better their grade may re-write the paper and submit it again. Most do not partake of that option; I wish they would. Each paper will receive two grades: one for content, and one for mechanics. The content grade is usually high; everyone has a story to tell and many of my students are walking bestsellers. The mechanics grade is usually pretty low, but most students improve with each paper. The ones who actually write their papers, that is. Sigh.

The vast majority of my students are dedicated adults who mean business. They've been fired and treated like shit downsized from their factory jobs and they know they need these new skills if they're going to be considered for a job in this modern world of technology and instant communication. I marvel anew every day at their determination to learn these new things. Sure, they're reeling from shock at losing the job they'd had all their lives and finding themselves back in school, a place that connotes failure to many of them, but helping them associate school with success is part of my job.

I can't do it by myself; I need cooperation from them, but most of the time? I get that, and far, far more.

Yes, it's true that everything on both of those lists will be said this coming week, and the week after when things are due. But it is equally true that those who fulfill those prophecies are by far the minority; the majority will have it done and ready to turn in.

I can probably already tell who will and who won't. That's the saddest part.

And I've already got a student in the Bahamas.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:31 PM | |

Prairie Dogs and Meerkats

After moving furniture the other day, I decided there was too much clutter in this room. So, I took the cats' smaller condo, turned it sideways, and put it underneath my desk.

Now, I have a footrest, and when the cats nap in the cubbyholes, I can pretend they're prairie dogs.

Or meerkats. Belle loves meerkats.

I expect a call from Better Homes and Gardens any day.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:32 AM | |


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