Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The Phallic ClassroomLet's move away from controversy for a moment and focus on. . . . .how I make the most incredible blunders, ALL THE TIME.
Today, for example.
Topic: North Pole. Reason: Tangent (often the source of the most wondrous learning of all).
Blunder: On the board, I drew a picture of the Earth, with a pole at the North. I tried to make it look like one of those illustrations from a medieval map, but instead, it looked exactly like a gigantic penis. I did not notice that it looked exactly like a gigantic penis until I had pointed to it and discussed it for a full five minutes. My hands were all over it.
When the giggling became really loud, something told me to step back and look more closely at the North Pole. I started laughing, and couldn't stop. We all laughed hysterically, for a another full five minutes, without drawing a breath. When the next page in our book dealt with the Castrati, the theme for the afternoon was set.
Ten minutes later, the director stuck her head into the classroom and asked if anyone knew anything about Unix.
It went downhill from there. Or uphill, depending upon your value system.
Or just down and then up, if your mind is in the gutter like ours. Or maybe just mine.
Anyway, back to the North Pole. . . .
When I tried to erase it with my fingers and the smudges made it look even more like a penis than before, we all laughed even harder. Finally, I found a whiteboard eraser in a drawer and the penis disappeared.
Or did it. When we turned off the lights at the end of the class, the erased global penis glowed like a poster in a black light hippie parlor.
We all slunk out of the building and went home. The end.
P.S. Whoever is in that classroom tomorrow morning is in for a surprise. I'll be in a different classroom, but I'll be keeping my ears open for shrieks. Whether the shrieks be of laughter or horror, I know not, but if the professor is any kind of cool at all, the shrieks will be of the mirthful kind.
P.P.S. Also, the term "North Pole" now has a new meaning.
P.P.P.S. Our book telling us that ". . . the Pole may be 'up,' but the focus is always down South. . . . ." didn't help matters, either.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Ah, The Forum Again.I don't think I've ever had students I've enjoyed as much as I'm enjoying this 'batch." Five classes, and so far, so good. In fact, so far, so GREAT.
Here's the thing with many of my students, the younger ones, I mean (under 35): when they were in elementary, and secondary (although not as much) they had teachers who were loving and kind and understanding and never assigned homework and really didn't force their fragile-egoed little students to do much of anything except sing and draw and scamper and play. Their classrooms were full of hugs and positive assertations and read-alouds about the holiday traditions of everycultureunderthesunexceptours, which is, as I understand it, the primary focus of education in America today. . . . They could put their names on their papers, or not, it really didn't matter. They could fill out a worksheet, or not. It was being given the CHOICE that was the important thing. Everyone was equally special. Everyone was equally gifted. Everyone was equally deserving of privileges.
Most of them washed out in high school. Most of my students got a GED, in fact, years later. I do have a handful of students with a high school diploma, although I'm wondering what it stands for as they are my lowest achievers.
So far, most of them are turning in their assignments. If this changes, I'll be sure to let you all know.
Oh, and in case you are curious as to what these students think of those smiling kind-hearted teachers down in lower elementary who never made a sweet little child do things if he didn't WANT to. . . . . they hate their guts.
"Why didn't she make me do the math sheets? I'm 32 years old and I don't even know my multiplication tables. "
"I wish she'd shown me how to label and organize my stuff. I still can't do it. I got into bad habits in fourth grade and it was just too easy to let them get worse. Nobody made me do it. Nobody MADE ME. Now, I can't make myself do it."
"Miss ______ told Mom not to force me to read because it might make me hate it. Hell, if somebody had forced me to read, maybe I could read better than a little kid NOW."
"This one recess, I'd been so bad in class, the teacher told me to go stand by the flagpole and watch the other kids play. I was so pissed, I took out my pocketknife and cut the rope and the flag fell. When the teacher yelled at me for tearing it up, another teacher reported her for being cruel to me and she was out for two weeks. When she came back, it was like I wasn't even there. I don't blame her. She was nice. I was an idiot, a little third-grade punk, and I deserved to miss my recess. I didn't realize that for fifteen years, but I realize it now. I'm sorry, Miss _________."
"If somebody had made me responsible for turning in my homework in fourth grade, maybe I'd have better work habits now. I've had sixteen jobs and I'm 35 years old, and her letting us all slide through taught me habits I still can't shake."
There were few expectations, no consequences, and nobody was better than anybody else. It was all about FEELINGS.
Monday, January 29, 2007
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. *
I have always enjoyed teaching this concept, and with adult students, it's even more awesome. I've had students weep, during this lesson.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Come Onna My House
Ah, Saturday.When I was a little kid, Saturday meant getting up at dawn to watch cartoons, Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies, Shirley Temple, the Bowery Boys, and, if I got lucky, a monster movie of some kind. In the daytime, I was allowed to watch monster movies.
At night, I wasn't. I still don't understand why my parents thought Nightmare Theater would traumatize me when the same thing in the middle of the afternoon was just cool, but that was their rule. Oh well. Cousin C and I learned to get around that one, when we got older. (you know, older. sixth and seventh grade. older. grown up.)When I was sixteen, I went to work in the dime store downtown. S.S. Kresge's; do any of you remember Kresge's? M&M's were 49 cents a pound, candy bars were six for a quarter, you could get a hamburger, fries, and a cherry coke for thirty cents, and those huge submarine sandwiches at the deli were two for a dollar. Sliced ham was fitty cents a pound, too. 45 records were 79 cents. Albums were 3.99. CD's hadn't been invented yet; heck, cassette tapes were absolutely cutting edge. I had friends with huge refrigerator-sized reel-to-reel units.
I have worked all my life ever since. I have never NOT worked. I can't imagine not working. When I quit my job at the middle school, I had a few months of panic because I knew I would be no good staying at home, I had to work somewhere. Fortunately, the community college wanted me so I've given them my fierce loyalty and I've never missed a day. Wherever I work, I give my bosses a fierce loyalty; it takes something really horrible to sway that loyalty. It's only happened once, in fact.
Sometimes, going to work with MD isn't easy, but it's not going to stop me from getting out of the house and earning my keep in this world. The thought of being completely dependent frightens me; I'll CRAWL to work if I have to, and sometimes I've had to almost crawl once I got there.You know you're getting older when the prospect of knee replacement surgery fills you with delight. What's next, having people over for Metamucil and rice cakes?
Piss on that. Come on over, we've got freshly-made apple pie, sugarless cookies, and enough diet pop of every conceivable kind to sink a ship. Just open the door and come on up. If you need help navigating the stairs, just holler and I'll pull you up. Ring the bell and come on in. We seldom lock the door. We live out in the country. Who's going to barge in, unwelcome: Bambi?Come in. Make yourselves at home. What can I do for you?
Stay as long as you wish. Want some generic diet pop? Sandwich? Some nice Oliver Winery soft red wine?Don't expect anything ordinary; remember, everything in the bathroom talks, and there's a life-size human skull in there watching your every move.
Set a spell. Take your shoes off. Y'all come back now, y'hear?P.S. Have some M&M's. They weren't 49 cents a pound, but they were 75% off. You don't mind Christmas colors, do you?
I love to read about love. Don't you?
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Thursday, January 25, 2007
I Cut Off Their Balls But They're Doing It AnywayThe new Carnival of Education is up; everybody click on over there NOW. If we don't keep up with the issues, we forfeit our right to whine about the issues. Intelligently, anyway.
I have not been able to comment on any Typepad blogs for a few weeks now. What's up with that? I can read the blogs, and I can call up the comments, and I can type in a comment, but when I click on "post comment" the page just loads and loads and loads and finally times out. Just on Typepad.
Must I start hating Typepad now? Typepad seems to hate me.
After class today, I stopped at the grocery store (Jay-C Plus, and milk is on sale for $1.99/gal.) and bought a few things, among them a 20-pound bag of ElCheapo Cat Fud. (That's only funny if you know your Far Side. . . .) The lady who was bagging my groceries filled a cart with annoying little plastic bags with those hole-handles that break every time you touch them, and topped it off by dropping the bag of cat fud on top of it all.
When I got home, I backed up to the deck and unloaded the groceries (sorry about the deep ruts in that soft ground) drove into the garage and parked, came up the stairs, brought in the groceries (fighting off the cats every second) and came in here to blog. I forgot all about the bag of cat fud out on the deck.
When I finally remembered it, the cats had already torn it open and were sampling its fuddy goodness. I brought the bag inside, and immediately noticed a foul stench permeating the kitchen.
I really thought that cutting off their balls would put an end to such antics, but apparently not. I'd like to punish them for doing it, but what can I do to them that's worse than cutting off their balls? That can only be done once, you know.
Little Friskies: how come your dog food is on sale all the time but your cat food remains constant at $10.99? I call species discrimination. Can I get any freebies for blowing the whistle here? I really do feel lightheaded and ill, thinking about the price difference of over five dollars. My cat's self-esteem is suffering, too. Honestly, I feel I deserve some big bucks for pain and suffering. If the old woman can hustle money from McDonald's because she put hot coffee between her thighs and squeezed and was shocked at the heat, surely my cat's self esteem is worth something comparable. Besides, my cat is only extremely stupid; he's not a moron who would deliberately place a hot liquid near a sensitive spot and squeeze. And I really don't care HOW hot the coffee was; she's an idiot and the courtroom that gave her money for it is an idiot, too. Smart people don't put boiling liquids near their nether parts, or any other parts. If she got blisters, it's because she put them there herself with her stupididity. (I love Radarisms!)
My kitchen stinks now. I blame the designers of the Cat Fud bag for making it an attractive nuisance and practically forcing the cats to pee on it. That I left it out on the deck is a moot point. It's not my fault. I want money.
The temperature is supposed to fall into the teens tonight. What, is it winter or something?
Back to work for me.
After I spray a little Glade around the house. Peee-yew.
<------HOT. Do not place between thighs and squeeze.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
. . . in which the teacher finds she is learning far more than her students. . . .
When I first started teaching, some mumblemumblemumble26mumblemumble years ago, I admit that I had thoughts like that, sometimes. I was going to change the world, you see. I was going to inspire all of my students to greatness. I was going to make them all WANT to learn. In my classroom, they would all ENJOY learning. LOVE it. Want more, every day. All of them.
Well, things don't always turn out as you think they will. Sometimes, things are far worse. And sometimes, in, among, and around the horrors, there are bright shining lights that catch your attention, like fireflies are caught by the porch light.
I have seen many horrors in our schools, but truth be told, the horrors were seldom the students. Oh, occasionally there would be a genuine monster sitting at one of my desks, but most of the time, the monsters were elsewhere in the building. Or sitting in a home within busing distance of the building, feeling discriminated against or put-upon in some way.
I think many teachers frankly do not understand the logistics of any other kind of job. In the beginning, I can remember being honestly upset that a parent simply could not come to school for a conference at 10:00 a.m. when I had my prep, because his/her boss wouldn't let them. What was wrong with these people? Didn't they love their child enough to take a little time off for an important conference? The problem is, many teachers have never experienced life outside of the classroom, and a few summer jobs. Some teachers, while they might not live in an ivory tower (I really don't think that's possible if you deal with the public at all, and especially with their children) certainly spend a lot of time in one. Many teachers have no concept of someone's factory job, or office job, or retail job, or food service job, or hospital job, or engineering job, etc. We spend our lives trying to help students comprehend that in this huge, fascinating world there are wonders they've never known of, but we, ourselves, are actually isolated within our own little universe, and we have no comprehension of the work-a-day world our students' parents live in.
As a teacher gains experience, ideally he/she will learn these things. The good teachers will, anyway. Unfortunately, we've all known older, highly experienced teachers who still show no empathy towards a parent's work schedule, or a family's limited budget. Those teachers, however much they might know about grammar or calculus or WW2 or computer technology or kineseology or the standardized testing policies of Outer Mongolian yak breeders, are not good teachers.
On paper, I teach Introduction to College Writing, pts. 1 and 2. On paper, I teach Introduction to College Reading, pts. 1 and 2. Once I am in my classroom, however, I teach people.
Yes, I often find humor in their essays or their comments. I have always found humor in people and their writing and their conversations. Unless it's really inexcusably awful, and I do get a lot of that, I might still laugh, but I also try to be helpful.
I am now teaching the parents of students I had in class several years ago. These parents are, most of them, back in school because the only job they've ever had in all their lives is gone, and will never return. Factories are closing down right and left here, and WorkForce is encouraging these former employees to go back to school while they're waiting to find another job somewhere, somehow. When I read their essays, and listen to their class participation, I am finding even more understanding about their lives, and many of the snotty, snobby comments I made 26 years ago are coming back to haunt me. I am ashamed of the teacher I once was.
I am hoping that these are lessons I learned a long time ago, and much of it is. But it was always from the point of view of teenagers. Now, I am learning these same lessons from the point of view of their parents, and I am even more humbled. Any more humbling and I'll be crawling on all fours, in fact.
Yesterday, one of my students, a really interesting and nice older lady, told me, as she was gathering her things to leave, that she'd gone back to school for her daughter.
"Oh," I said. "Is your daughter in school, too?"
"My daughter was killed by a drunk driver eleven years ago." she told me. "She had just graduated from high school, and all her things were packed for college. All I had ever known was factory work, but after she died, I went back and got my GED for her. And now that the factory's closed down, I've got the time to go to college for her."
Any lofty intellectual ideas or ideals I may once have had about my profession and those with whom I deal have changed, and changed considerably, over the years. I will always hold with academic excellence, but I have since learned that there are many different kinds of academic excellence. I have also learned that no amount or category of academic excellence can hold a candle to ethical excellence, or a good work ethic, or simple kindness. My students have known each other for many years, and they are genuinely concerned and worried about each other right now. The caring words and little acts of kindness I see from them every day are teaching me more than I am teaching them.
In closing, I have learned that ivory towers are meant to keep the people OUT, and that is, for a teacher, inexcusable. Our profession is the people, and that means we must learn as much about them as possible, not cloister ourselves away from them lest 'something' rub off. Good things can rub off, too.
Teachers are professionals, yes, but we are also service people. We are caregivers. And we deserve respect only when we earn it.
Let's all get off the ivory tower and meet our people. How can we best teach them if we don't even know them?
Word to your principal, yo.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Spelling Is Important.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Close To You
It's getting close to time. And this form is getting close to true.
They're grown up now, of course, but in my mind. . . . I can still see them at all stages and all ages. Most of the traumas and inconveniences and phases and embarrassments and did I mention traumas, have faded from my memory (unless we're arguing and they're winning and I want to make a point. . . .) and I remember mostly the good things.
I remember how my daughter appeared to be bald until she was three years old, unless you got close enough to her to touch her head, and then you'd know that she really had hair; it was just so blond, it was invisible. I remember how my son was born with a shock of bright red hair, so outstandingly red that people used to congregate in the hospital hallway and gawk at him.
I was nervous about giving birth, that first time. All I knew was what people had told me, and what I'd read in books. Much of what people told me were their horror stories, of 36-hour labors, and pain so horrible it made someone cry just to remember it, and gushing blood and episiotomies that went wrong, and hemmorrhoids for the rest of your life, and agony, agony, agony. . . etc. I turned out to be one of those women who had babies easily.
First baby: 5 hours.
Second baby: 20 minutes.
In the old country, or the olden days, I would have popped babies out behind a tree, slung them on my back, and gone back to the fields.
I once consider being a surrogate for someone, but it didn't work out. Family politics got in the way. Looking back, I wish I'd done it.
Women who had difficult labors probably hate me already right now, but I'll go ahead and make it worse: I loved being pregnant. I felt GREAT.
Even when I was sitting still, doing nothing, I was still doing something wonderfully productive.
I had fun with my babies, too. I made zillions of mistakes and did tons of stupid things, but I had fun. I hope they did, too.
I know I was half-asleep through a lot of it, esp. anything that happened in the early morning hours, and I know know I was an odd mommy, and I hated having to leave them and go to work but I had no choice, and I know I packed some really bizarre lunches for them to take to school, and I know it's probably my fault that both of them are night owls like me, and I know I embarrassed them a lot (that was my job, after all) but I also know that the good things far outweighed the bad, even if I could remember all the bad, which I don't, which is probably best for the perpetuation of mankind.
After all, they're alive, and they're still speaking to me. I call that a good sign.
This ramble probably makes no sense, but I'm sitting here at 1:23 in the morning, feeling guilty because I never even attempted to touch my quizzes that must be returned tomorrow, and wishing I could solve all the problems of the world with a wave of my hand, and knowing I can't, and wishing I could, anyway, and wondering why some people have to be so cruel, and wondering how some people can be so upbeat in the face of unspeakable horror, and wishing I were thinner, and nicer, and more fun, and knowing I probably could be if only I weren't also so lazy. . . . .
Maybe I should go to bed and get up early, to finish the quizzes. There are all kinds, aren't there. The quizzes in my briefcase have easy answers.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Brak Didn't Show, But The Concert Rocked AnywayWe're baaaaaack.
Chieftains concert: FANTASTIC!
People who brought a toddler to this concert and refused to remove him when he started to babble and coo and laugh and whine: I hate you. Everyone in the sold-out concert hall hates you. I never actually saw you, but I heard your child, and I hate you. I don't blame you for trying; I am a firm believer in making concert-lovers out of children, starting at an early age, but when the kid gets loud, REMOVE HIM IMMEDIATELY. This goes for movies, church, and any public function.
Did I mention that this concert was fantastic? I've been a Chieftains fan for many years, and they just get better and better.
The step-dancing violinist and his brother? Holy scheisse, I needed a cold shower in the middle of the concert more than I needed one at any point during menopause. And not for the same reason, either. Hub tells me that the female violinist/dancer was good, but I really didn't notice. I remember that she wore a beautiful red dress, but beyond that, well, my attention was elsewhere.
Thank you, dear Belle, for the awesome birthday gift. You are a wonderful daughter. May I add that you never, ever, EVER acted up at a concert or play, even when you were a toddler? You often fell asleep, but you never did anything that might have disturbed anyone. And neither did your brother.
Both of my children are concert lovers. (all kinds of concerts.) Both of my children attend plays and musicals and operas every chance they get. Both of my children encourage their friends to attend, too.
I take great comfort in knowing that I did SOMETHING right.
Friday, January 19, 2007
She Is Marching One, Two Three, Please Can You Tell Me Who Is She?This was my day off and, looking back on it, I don't think I did a single productive thing.
In other words, it was a great day off.
The laundry is piling up and the countertops are cluttered (that drives me MAD) (not mad enough to do anything about it today, though) and there's a dirty cookie sheet in the kitchen sink (okay, that was one productive thing) and I wrote my name in the dust on the screen of the chick-flick tv in the kitchen (I thought Bill Pullman was looking a little fuzzy tonight) but all I really did today was drive to town to have lunch at the Big Lots Chinese with Hub, and then come back home to read, watch a couple of movies, and blog.
Tomorrow, we're going to see The Chieftains with Belle; she got us tickets for our anniversary and birthday. I do love me some Chieftains. I only wish Brak could be on stage to sing "I'll Tell Me Ma" with them.
Oh, and I made a big pan of cocktail meatballs (I love to say that; it sounds so naughty) just because I felt like it. Usually, I only make those for parties but I figured, hey, I'm worth a pan of cocktail meatballs even in my jammies.
COCKTAIL MEATBALLS. Any takers? Ooh, shame on you! Come on over.
P.S. I also made brownies.
P.P.S. Not a bad day, I must say. Even for an elitist educational snob who makes little children memorize things, thinks teachers who don't assign any homework at all are lazy and intellectually lacking, and occasionally calls herself a 'Grammar Nazi' even though it makes people who don't understand the concept of 'context' faint dead away. It might even be said that I enjoy doing that.
P.P.P.S. On second thought, there ain't no 'might' about it.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Probably Because I'm Inherently Lazy.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Twist and Shout.
At the local campus, the toilet paper is on the wall BEHIND the, um, seat. Behind, and up pretty high. Unless you've got arms like bed slats, you have to twist your body like a pretzel in order to reach it.
I'm not saying what I was doing in there this afternoon, but when I twisted and started to reach, the entire seat slid to the right and I. . . .
Glass Slippers They're Not, Thankfully"Elegance" is a word seldom associated with me. I wish it were, but after all these years, I'm still waiting for it to happen. Godmother-with-the-magic-wand, you're late.
I was never all that into 'shoes,' and in fact, I never wear them unless I have to. Shoes are the first thing to go when I walk into my house, I really don't notice other people's shoes unless they're sporting something truly bizarre, and until a few years ago I had no brand loyalty whatsoever.
That changed when I discovered Minnetonka.
Back in college, everybody had Minnetonka moccasins; we built them ourselves from that mail-order kit that came with oddly-shaped pieces of leather, a lot of leather thong (no, not THAT kind) and a little notecard of instructions.
But now, I wear Minnetonka loafers almost every day, and it's like being barefoot, it truly is. These babies are so soft, so incredibly SOFT, you can actually wad them up in your hand.
They look nice enough to wear to school, and they feel so good that sometimes I forget to remove them when I get home again.
I've got three pairs: black loafers, brown loafers, and brown high moccasins with laces. That sounds weird but these shoes are sooooooooooo comfortable. . . . .
Actually, I've had the moccasins for so long, I really should invest in new thongs. I'm not all that observant, and anybody who knows me can tell you that my sense of 'style' is pretty lame, but when a shoestring is so broken and knotted that you can barely find enough length to tie it, it's time to replace it.
Really, the only thing that's remotely 'awkward' about my gorgeous super-comfy Minnetonkas is that it's a little hard to tell the left from the right, just by glancing. Most shoes have that definite 'curve' but these don't.
Not that I would ever leave the house with my shoes on the wrong feet. Wrong feet? They're MINE, aren't they?
The only thing sadder than that would be having students point it out before you realized it yourself.
Monday, January 15, 2007
The Homework DebaclesUpdate: I've put the forum url on here. Enough is enough.
I am being burned alive over on a teacher forum (this one) over the concept of homework in the public schools. I never gave much homework, but what little I did assign, I expected to be done, and it counted the same as a quiz. (I still do!) I know that many teachers give far too much homework, and that many students are struggling so badly, they are unable to get it done even with effort. I know that many households are so dysfunctional and scornful of education that they put obstacles in the student's way and as good as forbid him/her to take pride in a job well done, all on one's own. I know that many students bring home huge assignments from every class, every night. I do not believe that is what the concept of 'homework' is supposed to be all about.
I do believe, however, that homework, sensibly assigned and properly done, can be a real help to both the student and the teacher. Often, when something new is taught in class, it's easy to think you've 'got it' while in the room, with lots of other people who think they're 'got it,' too, and the teacher right there. But once at home, with the same thing in front of you, suddenly you begin to wonder if you've really understood. Doing a few problems, pieces of writing, question-answering, etc, all on your own, by yourself, at home, away from the teacher and the other students, will often let a student know that YES, he/she understands and YES, I can prove it! or "oops, maybe I didn't understand after all, but I'll give it a try" which means the teacher can look at that attempt and be better able to help the student REALLY get it, or maybe the student will just give up or not try at all, which tells the teacher that this student isn't a go-getter, and gives up quickly, or has other problems. The point is, without the homework, how can a teacher know who can do it out there in the world, and who can do it only within the confines of the classroom? And, most important, who can't do it at all, on his own?
By my way of thinking, almost anything done in a classroom is a kind of practice. It is out there on one's own that things learned in school become useful. Someone who can do the work only within the confines of a school hasn't really mastered it.
I am NOT an advocate of LOTS of homework. I think too much homework cuts into personal and family time, and turns the wonder of learning into a burden, and many children have such dysfunctional homes that there is no way in hades they could ever find the time or place or opportunity to do homework. Assigning a little homework and finding out a child just can't do it, for whatever reason, is something that can't be assessed in a classroom.
Remember, I do not believe in huge, crushing assignments, costly projects, or last-minute rushed assignments that put a dent into a planned family activity.
We planned our activities around homework and school, but a last-minute thing might really have ticked me off. Fortunately, my children's teachers didn't do that. Frankly, I think a good teacher would NEVER toss off a last-minute lengthy assignment, due so soon it messes up a family's plans. That is poor planning on the teacher's part, and completely unfair to both the student and his/her family.
I do know for a fact, though, that many students have an assignment for a week or more and don't do it until the absolute last minute, causing the parents to think it was hastily assigned and not given enough time. (Parents, before you call and complain, find out how long your child has known about the assignment!!!)
Over on that forum, I have been told that I am heartless, without either sympathy or empathy, overly strict, elitist, compassionless, and countless other things that have really hurt me and caused me to wonder if maybe. . . . they're true? The other teachers there, with just a few exceptions, believe that homework is not necessary at all, that it cuts into family time, that there should NEVER be any homework, and that if a little homework is necessary, the choice of doing it or not is entirely the student's choice, and choosing NOT to do it should have no bearing whatsoever on the final grade.
I maintain that a LITTLE homework is often extremely helpful, both to the student and to the teacher, and that homework not only reinforces skills, it teaches the student about cause and effect, consequences, organization, accountability, and dependability. I also maintain that a student who does his/her homework is also obeying the teacher and demonstrating good character, as well as re-enforcing new concepts and getting a little practice in.
TOO MUCH homework is a bad thing. Occasional homework is a good thing. I believe that homework should have purpose; busywork is not a good homework assignment.
Some of the teachers on that forum are also saying that anything in the form of drill or memorization is unnecessary because it isn't any fun. I maintain that often we must first learn HOW to do something before we can jump and and DO it. Can musicians leap right into the hard stuff without paying their dues with the easier stuff? Do they not drill and practice constantly, even AFTER they're considered great? How can we master the fun stuff if we don't LEARN it first? Are athletes just born that way, so they don't need to practice? Dancers? Singers? Any kind of skill at all? Are some people just born talented and so they never have to practice? How many of us are struggling now because we weren't required to learn our math facts in second grade? I am, that's for sure. How many of us fall into that unfortunate category of people who never had much geography, and now we couldn't find Taiwan unless it animated itself out of a computer screen? I had to memorize dozens of poems in 7th grade (the forum was appalled) and at the time I hated it but now? Wherever I am and however bored I might get, I've got literature in my head and it will entertain me.
The debate isn't about how too much homework is bad. It's about any homework at all. They say, none. I say, some, and it should count, and mean something, too. I also say that kids who do their homework deserve more credit than kids who refuse. (The forum says no difference should be made.)
Okay, please take sides.
P.S. There are a few teachers on the forum who agree with me. Most of them, however, think I'm Cruella de Ville and I want to skin their puppies and wear them in winter.
P.P.S. I've always been more of a cat person, myself. :)
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Type O Cocktail, Anyone?
Remember that Twilight Zone episode (Little Girl Lost) where the little girl fell out of bed and rolled right through the wall, into another dimension? And her father tried to get her out, but the 'door' to the other dimension was shrinking? All through the episode, he made marks on the wall so he could get an indication of how fast and how much it was shrinking. Just when the viewer thought the girl would be stuck in there forever, wandering in her nightgown crying for her mother and father, and that her father would be stuck half in and half out, he found her hand and gave her a tremendous tug and they both got out in the very nick of time, the absolute last minute, and the 'door' disappeared.
I watched that when I was a really little girl. That episode scared me so badly, I still have nightmares over it. My parents were remodeling our house then, and when I went to bed that night, I noticed for the first time that my father had made marks on the wall beside my bed. Those marks looked just like the marks on that other little girl's wall. I would lie there and look at those marks and think unimaginable thoughts.
I think that was when I stopped falling asleep easily. Even now, I lie awake for hours, most nights, worrying about things and replaying scenarios and putting myself into scripts. . . .
As a child, I wasn't allowed to watch most scary shows, but for some reason, my parents did let me watch The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits, and One Step Beyond. I loved them beyond all reasoning, even while they became a great part of my worst dreams.
Those shows traumatized me, but am I sorry I watched them? Nope. Even though I was shivering in my shoes while I watched, I was also storing the concept of absorbing drama in my mind, taking note of HOW a story could mesmerize a person, and how a writer could give words and actions to actors and make something that could never happen genuinely believable for a half hour every week.
Yo, scary prime time shows, no problem: I was allowed to watch them all. But when it came to Saturday night's Nightmare Theater, starring Sammy Terry, and featuring oldies but goodies like Dracula, and Them, and When Worlds Collide, and all the other really old horror movies, and old atomic-bomb-fallout movies, and bizarre supposition movies, the answer was absolutely NOT.
That's one of the many reasons why my cousin C and I started staying all night with our Mamaw every weekend. We got to eat whatever we wanted (french fries and macaroni and cheese, at the same meal) run all over town without having to account to anybody, and stay up LATE and watch Nightmare Theater.
We got so scared, we'd put our feet up on the couch so the monster underneath couldn't grab our ankles and pull us under.
Were we permanently traumatized? Were our childish little psyches scarred?
Nah. We were smart kids and smart kids are, well, smart. The whole concept of being scared by something that was forbidden was so cool, it probably wiped out anything else.
I wanted to be allowed to watch Nightmare Theater at home so badly, I wrote to Dear Abby about how my cruel parents wouldn't allow it. You will all be surprised to know that I never got a response. I know I was surprised.
But at Mamaw's house, on the weekends, with no supervision whatsoever, Cousin C and I had a blast. And we watched Nightmare Theater, even though we'd been ordered not to. Oh, we were wild girls back then. . . .
Those were the days.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Friday, January 12, 2007
When Sitcoms CollideThe first week of the new semester has come and gone, and so far, it looks to be a really good semester. My hopes are high. Each class seems to be composed of really nice people.
Ordinarily, I do not post anything about my students that would reveal real names, etc. I think too much of them to expose them to potential, um, exposure. I like to share funny or touching things, but I don't reveal identities; I just don't think it would be ethical. Or fair.
But this is too good. I have to tell.
Most of my classes are large, this semester. I have a lot of older adult students who are here because they were laid off at various factories in this quickly-dying town. They want to improve their communication skills, change livelihoods, or just kill time before they are called back to work. I love these students; I learn more from them than they do from me.
One of my classes, however, is very small.
The first thing I do, on the first day of class, is give out the syllabus and discuss the contact information so they will know how to contact me. (Am I repeating myself much yet?) I give my my email address and my home phone number. (Some teachers will be recoiling in horror about now, but why shouldn't adult students be able to call me at home?) Isn't that part of my job, if they need to give me a message or ask a question? I ain't all that busy, socially, and a teacher who refuses to talk to students outside of class is. . . .well, never mind, some of us will never agree on that one.
My classes at the local campus are very laid-back. I tell my students to call me by my first name. Heck, some of them are older than I am, and honey, that's OLD.
This one small class, however, was too busy giggling to pay much attention to me. When I told them to just call me 'Jane,' laughter burst out all over the room.
"We can't. We have to call you Professor," one lady told me.
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Call the roll," I was told.
I tried to do that but after I saw it, I couldn't stop laughing.
In this class, I have Ginger, Mary Ann, Skip, and two Howells (unrelated).
I am ever the calm professional. After I stopped snorting Diet Coke out of my nose, I managed to say, "So, where's Gilligan?"
Answer: "He hasn't been laid off yet. He'll probably be here next semester."
Their foreman's name was Gilligan. All of these lovely people had worked together on the same factory line for many years. In all those years, they had never been able to stop laughing.
I continued to take attendance, and in less than ten seconds we were all laughing again.
In this class, I also have a Cleaver and a Haskell.
And an Anderson, and some of them were old enough to remember Father Knows Best.
I hope these lovely laughing people keep laughing all their lives. I certainly encourage it in my classroom.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Shameless Plug for my New GigThanks to my internet mentor, the fabulous Genuine, * I have picked up a writing gig! One by One Media has entrusted me to write the blog for a business called Freight and Shipping, Inc., and before you giggle at that, let me tell you something: this is the most fantastic business of its kind that I've heard of, ever, period.
I just got off the phone with Eric, the brains behind this business, and I have never learned so much about something I knew so little about, in such a short time, in all my life. Talk about education being all around us! I have had so much fascinating information poured into my lap, I hardly know where to begin to tell you about it. This guy knows his stuff, every detail of his stuff.
On second thought, I think you should just CLICK on over to the blog and find out for yourselves.
I will tell you this, though, if I had known about Freight and Shipping, Inc. BEFORE I mailed all those packages via UPS, I would have used Freight and Shipping, Inc. If I had, all those packages would have been delivered before Christmas, that's for sure. None of them would be lost, either. I'm not saying that because I write for them now; you all know me better than that. Eric's whole business set-up is customer-based, and unlike most big shipping companies, he welcomes first-timers with open arms and an incredible shipload of discounts. I firmly believe that a promise from Freight and Shipping, Inc. would be kept. I can't say the same for UPS, unfortunately. (If UPS told me it was raining, I would have to get up and go look out the window for myself. I would trust them with nothing, now.)
Anyway, if any of you has something large, heavy, or oddly-shaped that you need to move, a full truckload or just a few things, give Freight and Shipping, Inc. a call. The numbers and the links are all on the blog. I'm telling you, this business will undersell and out-perform any other similar business, anywhere, every single time. Not just by a little bit, either. By a LOT. By so much, you won't believe it 'till you see it with your own eyes. We're talking HUNDREDS here. . . .THOUSANDS!!!
Check it out.
*How many of us has Genuine helped? Isn't he amazing? I am so grateful to him! Thank you, Jim. What would the internet do without Genuine?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Uncool ParentsThe Humble Stumble: One of the best comic strips out there.
Here's Looking At Us BothHow come I can't comment on anybody's blog lately? What's up with that? "Timed out" is all I get.
Day three of the new semester is here and I go to class in a few minutes..
I've met with three classes so far and so far? Sweet. Very nice, mostly older, people. Most of them seem very determined to learn and very glad to be in school. Most of them have just lost the only job they've ever had, since high school, and they are very nervous about being in a classroom again. I plan to be gentle with their fears, and hardnosed about their scholarly obligations. School is now their job, and just as they HAD to be at work, they now HAVE to be in class.
Absence rate? About 60% in each class. Go figure. We've had a quiz already and those who weren't there, got a zero.
Next week, I've already got people who have to: go to court during our class, go to the dentist during our class, pick someone up at the airport during our class, pick up someone at the jail and take him home during our class, and meet a Workforce counselor during our class.
The girl who is going to be missing because she's got chemo? I'm going to let her make it all up. I'm strict but I'm not completely heartless. Just a little heartless.
Because, you know, life is full of choices, and a good choice would be to meet obligations willingly signed up for. These classes all have waiting lists, and anyone who doesn't plan to take it seriously should give the space to someone who would.
Now, I'm off to class. I peeked at the roster last night and there are only two people I've had before, and I'm kind of shy about meeting new people even when I'm supposed to be in charge.
Remember that about your own and your children's teachers, if you would, please. We are people, too, and often we are as shy and nervous about meeting you, as you are about meeting us.
Remember, too, that while I will, indeed, be looking at you, ALL of you will be looking at me, and I have a very low opinion of my personal appearance, and you are all beautiful, and it makes me self-conscious.
Let us all have mercy on each other.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Never Again. NEVER AGAIN.Oh, UPS, just when I would never have believed it could get any more absurd . . .
This is quite possibly the WORST business I have ever dealt with.
Local UPS Store: very polite, very helpful, very nice, quite professional. (Thank you, Jasmin.)
UPS Corporate: rude, unhelpful, ridiculous, unprofessional. (That's you, Tanya.)
Over on Planet Feedback, where I've posted this saga, (updated as to just a few minutes ago) everyone else thinks so, too.
I usually say good things about a product on this blog, but this time, there isn't anything good to tell. UPS Corporate seems to be a Carnival of Absurdities, and the inmates are running the show.
I might not be this upset, if the packages weren't for children who have been waiting since well before Christmas.
I'm really angry, yes. UPS: NEVER AGAIN. Never, ever, EVER again.
Middle-of-the-Night Random Playlist and Odd JobsI go back to school tomorrow. I'm ready.
Well, actually, I'll BE ready by the time it's time, tomorrow. Right now, I'm sorting papers, putting textbooks in
Is it time to go to class yet?
Oh, and while I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I've been listening to a random playlist, courtesy My Hard Drive.
1. Ben Folds & Rufus Wainwright - Careless Whispers
2. Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos - Hosanna Filio David (Antiphonal, Modo VII)
3. Steve Conte - Could You Bite The Hand
4. Eric Schoon - A Song For Emma
5. Yves Montand - La Vie En Rose
6. Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
7. Elliott Smith - Needle in the Hay
8. Mandy Patinkin - And The Band Played On
9. Desmond Dekker - Ah It Mek
10. Tragically Hip - My Music At Work
11. Jessi Colter - I'm Not Lisa
12. Four Horsemen - Aphrodite's Child
13. Bryan Ferry - Dance With Life (The Brilliant Light)
14. Yuko Sasaki - Love in the Cradle
15. Whitesnake - In The Still of the Night
16. Alicia Keyes - Karma
17. Talking Heads - Burning Down The House
18. Barnes and Barnes - Fish Heads
19. Matt Wertz - Lonely Tonight
20. Tears For Fears & Julian Lennon - Stand By Me
AND, I'm eating raw lemons, loading the dishwasher, watching "Toy Story," scrubbing toilets, trying to get the stupid sliding closet doors' little track thingy back in the track (yes, plural; when one goes they all go; I think they're in a union or otherwise in some kind of cahoots) doing some writing, and getting five different syllabi up-to-date. Not necessarily in that order, and with a lot of hand-washing in between.
Syllabus. Syllabi. Omnibus. Omnibi?
I do love me our quirky language.
Friday, January 05, 2007
A Litany of Whines
Seriously, how could anybody flunk that test? It's NOT HARD.
Test anxiety? Try a little harder. If nobody enables your distress, maybe you'll buck up and do your job, which, as a student, is to take tests and prove you know something. No proof, no A. In a dream world, huh.
Our schools are full of inconsistencies. This is news to nobody, but although some of those inconsistencies are funny/stupid/moronic/laughable, others are inexcusable.
I read somewhere that the Bible is harder on fools and idiots than on deliberate evil-doers. I totally agree. Isn't that as it should be? The world is far too full of people who are only able to 'wise up' the hard way. (That would be most of us in many areas of life, but most of us do finally wise up.) (At least, we try not to make the same mistakes twice.) Deliberate evil-doers are often redeemable. Real fools? Not so much.
Students who bring cornstarch in a baggie, to use in a science project, are expelled for drug violation, via Zero Tolerance. "The appearance of evil" thing.
Students who wear bullet belts containing a dozen or more 22 bullets? "That's just how we do around these parts."
Student offers Swiss Army knife screwdriver to teacher who is trying to tighten a wall-mounted pencil sharpener: expelled for bringing dangerous weapon to school. Zero Tolerance again.
Student comes to school with six-inch knife in a leg sheath, concealed under jeans but clearly outlined: "That's just how we do around these parts."
Chapstick? Drug. Midol? Drug. Cough drops? Drug. Orthodontic wax? Drug. Penalty? Two weeks suspension, and if it ever happens again, expulsion. Just to see them; the student didn't even have to be seen USING them.
Red Man? "That's just how we do around here." We were told, one year, to "let the boys go spit when they need to, so they don't spot the rug." Classy, huh.
Chewing gum? Suspended.
Skateboard in a locker for after school? Confiscated.
Crossbow in a locker for after school? "That's just how we do around here."
Cell phone? "Your parent will have to call for it in person."
Varsity athletes burn down grandstand for a lark. Two days out, daddies paid for a new one, all is forgiven, offense erased.
School janitor sees empty beer can on rear floor of student's car, parked in student parking lot. Student expelled. Zero tolerance.
Male teacher asks new teacher how things were going. Harrassment.
Married female teacher seduces and becomes pregnant by male teacher: Tells husband the child is his. Five years later, gets angry and tells husband the truth. He divorces her, and she feels entitled to sympathy, and gets it. She's still teaching there. Nice role model.
Our janitor "didn't do vomit." Our counselor "wouldn't listen to anything to do with sex." In middle school. Our buses unloaded in the handicapped parking slot, and if somebody was parked there, they were asked to move.
Narcoleptic teacher sleeps day away.
Students were put in detention for bringing their portable cd players on the bus for field trips, but athletes were encouraged to bring theirs "so they wouldn't get bored on the bus ride." Superintendent saw no irony in this. Superintendent couldn't spell 'irony' on the best day of his life.
Winning coach fired so big-name coach could be hired.
Note found in hall, mentioning hidden bomb in school. Turned in to office. Teachers all told not to talk about it. Nothing was done. Principal: I didn't think it was anything anyway.
Principal takes two-hour nap every afternoon in boiler room.
Principal cruises Ebay all day, and doesn't show up for duties.
School puts all computers 'on hold' for years, because older secretary refuses to touch one.
I could go on and on but if I don't stop now, I'll have an aneurism, just sitting here remembering.
Americans are smart people. Why have we let our schools deteriorate like this? So a few varsity athletes don't graduate; isn't that their own fault? When someone doesn't graduate, who else's fault is it? We are all in charge of our own destiny.
People who just plain don't have the ability to meet graduation requirements? They should not 'graduate.' Let them have a certificate of completion, or a 'way to show up' paper, but DO NOT GIVE THEM A DIPLOMA. Trying is important, and good, but trying alone does not merit a diploma.
Diplomas should represent honor, and completed work, and demonstrations and proof of knowledge. A prospective employer should be able to see a diploma and assume that the applicant is literate and knowledgeable.
Anything else is dishonest, and a big joke. Not the funny kind, either.
On a side note: I really believe that more teens would do better in school if it started later in the day. Most teens need more sleep than toddlers do. Many of my college students have confessed that they probably would have done better in high school if they'd been able to go in the afternoon or evening, instead of the crack of dawn.
As to that, I totally agree. Sunrises are beautiful, and more so if you can go to bed immediately after watching one.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Thursday, January 04, 2007
The Post Where I Brag About Keeping A ResolutionPlease, everyone, go HERE and vote for ANNE.
I finally started taking down the Christmas trees. It takes me about three afternoons. I'd get done sooner if I started in the morning, but why in the world would I do that? The whole essence of vacation is staying up way late and sleeping in!
Taking down a Christmas tree is on my Top Ten "Least Favorite Things To Do" list. For one thing, it's tedious and I hate it, and for another, it symbolizes the end of my favorite part of the year.
On the bright side, I did keep my resolution to start storing the Christmas boxes in the computer room closet instead of the guest room closet, so when you visit me, you'll have a place to hang your clothes now.
That was actually the only resolution I made. Well, that, and losing a hundred pounds, and winning the lottery.
One out of three ain't bad.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
"Jocularity!"I hate it that Father Mulcahy went deaf.
Oh, pardon me. . . .
I hate it that Father Mulcahy became hearing impaired.
He's one of my favorite characters.
Possibly I watch this show too much.
Also, I hate euphemisms. They cheapen the language.
Mixmania Playlist and Stuff.Patriside says it's time to post my Rockin' New Year's Eve MixMania Playlist, so here it is:
1. New Year's Eve Countdown Pumpin' Party Mix
2. Abba - Happy New Year
3. Boney M - Auld Lang Syne
4. Cher - I Will Survive (Party Mix)
5. Harry Connick, Jr. - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve
6. Kenny G - Auld Lang Syne (New Year's Party Mix)
7. MegaMix Rock & Roll: The Ultimate Party Mix 70's, 80's, 90's
8. Ultimate Disco Party Mix: 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's
9. Auld Lang Syne: DanceMix
10. Stars on 45: Beatles Dance Party Mix
11. POD - Rock the Party (remix)
12. Happy New Year - from Rent
13. James Taylor - Auld Lang Syne
I got mine in the mail today and I'm listening to it as I type; it's GREAT! Thank you, Punchbuggy Blues; your mix is fantastic.
If you have not signed up for MixMania before, you should go over to Patriside's blog and sign up the very moment he posts the new theme. It's a fun and easy way to get some good music, and to see what others consider good music. Come on, share your musical tastes with us.
That being said, I want to warn you that UPS is the absolute pits, and that I will never use their alleged service again. Ever. Of course, an apology and a refund of the $70.00 I wasted on their non-existent delivery services would change my mind, but until that very unlikely happening, I remain, sincerely NOT theirs, me.
You all know by now that I love to praise a good business that treats people well. This time, I can not in all conscience, do that. Locally, I was treated well. Corporately. . . . let me just say that perhaps it's time to rethink some of those employees they've got there in customer relations and, in particular, corporate shipping, mentioning no names.(Tanya)
My advice to you all: FedEx or even (just slap me now) the Post Office. Carrier pigeon. Neighbor kid with a red wagon. Flag down a stranger driving that general direction and ask him to drop something off under a tree near a bridge; even that would be better service than I got.
Sorry, UPS. You'll not see me darkening your doors again. I'm sure that breaks your heart, but with a little luck on my part, anybody reading this will choose some other means of package delivery, too.
You know how to make this right, UPS; you just won't. Not making this right, and you KNOW it was your error, is a choice you have made, an active choice. To me, this means you don't care, and a business that doesn't care is, I hope, on its way dowwwwwn.
Next up: Somebody has to get rid of all this Christmas candy. If only there were someone here besides me. . . .
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Normality is Overrated AnywayI'm nominating Pastor Jeff for the Perfect Post Award this month. MommaK and Lucinda do this each month, and each month I fully intend to participate, and I have, a time or two, but mostly? I forget. I blame
Well, I'm not forgetting this time. Jeff has a knack for telling a good story, and after you've finished reading it, guess what, you've probably learned something important.
I've learned plenty from Jeff. I encourage all of you to go there and do likewise. Regularly.
December was a good month. It most usually is, or if it's not I pretend it is, because I love all the planning and list-making and preparation for Christmas. I love finding out what people would like to have, and trying to get it for them. If I ever won the lottery, I'd probably blow it in a year, giving people things.
The month also had its share of surprises, such as finding out that a dear friend had gotten secretly married FOUR MONTHS EARLIER. Another was that the Slutty MomCat who liked to drop litters behind my holly bushes but who hated all humans and liked to draw blood if someone tried to touch her, became suddenly loving and sweet. Then there was the unpleasant surprise that our septic system had for us, down in the 'fingers.'
I think maybe the biggest December surprise was the weather. Warm, sunny, spring-like weather for Christmas. In the sixties! How funky, not needing a coat to go outdoors in winter.
The ground is mushy and soft. The rosebushes still have green leaves. I have one purple blooming petunia on the deck. It's like April outside.
Some of the flowering shrubs are so confused, they're putting out buds.
Warm rain in winter. It ain't normal, I'm tellin' ya.
Kind of like me, I guess.
Monday, January 01, 2007
MY EYES! Oh, The Horror, The Horror!I used to wear a blue denim string bikini and I looked good in it. It was a size 5, and I wore it for many years. I had assets well worth showing off, and I did.
Fortunately for the feng shui of the universe, I have not worn a bikini of any kind for a loooong long time. I still have assets, but only the first three letters, and it's really large now. If I wore a bikini today, it would be doing a grave disservice to the planet.
That being said, why do they sell bikinis in my size? WHY? Is there a woman my size somewhere who honestly believes she still looks good in one? Does this woman not own a mirror? Is this woman visually or mentally impaired in some way? Why would someone this large require a bikini?
Even the fetish bars can only go so far before somebody's brains and eyeballs implode.
Please, bikini-makers, don't make huge bikinis. If you make them, somewhere out there is a woman whose body is being slowly crushed with her own blobs and festoons of fat, who thinks that she has a right to wear one. Creepier still, somewhere out there are huge jiggly women who think they look good in one.
Don't even get me started on sexy lingerie for the obese, because no matter what the marketing people say, there is no way in hell that panties requiring four yards of satin and lace are going to be attractive.
I think there comes a time in some peoples' lives when a few unpleasant personal facts have to be faced, and one of those facts is that if your stomach hangs down over your belly button, you should, for the sake of your fellow Planet Earth inhabitants, cover it up. Completely. With fabric that can't be seen-through.
"Does this outfit make me look fat?"
P.S. This is not me, thankyouverymuch.