Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Value of Continual Learning

Fresh from another podcast hosted by the inimitable Siggy, he who puts me at ease and makes me think and reminds me why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place, I was reminded of this essay by Leo Buscaglia, from his book Papa, My Father.

I wonder if perhaps one reason so many families view their children's school with suspicion these days is that parents no longer sit down with the kids at dinner and ask questions about their day. Getting a child's impression of a lesson while running frantically back and forth and trying to juggle schedules, and when the parent is dog-tired and unable to properly process information, can give a parent an impression that is completely inaccurate. Our society's inclination to find offense in just about everything also comes into play.

Perhaps if we took the time to actually listen to our children, we might discover that the world isn't really out to get us, so we might as well chill a little and let our children learn things we didn't already know.

I love this little piece of writing. Funny, how there is so much power in just a few words.


Papa the Teacher, by Leo Buscaglia

Papa had natural wisdom. He wasn't educated in the formal sense. When he was growing up at the turn of the century in a very small village in rural northern Italy, education was for the rich. Papa was the son of a dirt-poor farmer. He used to tell us that he never remembered a single day of his life when he wasn't working. The concept of doing nothing was never a part of his life. In fact, he couldn't fathom it. How could one do nothing?

He was taken from school when he was in the fifth grade, over the protestations of his teacher and the village priest, both of whom saw him as a young person with great potential for formal learning. Papa went to work in a factory in a nearby village, the very same village where, years later, he met Mama.

For Papa, the world became his school. He was interested in everything. He read all the books, magazines, and newspapers he could lay his hands on. He loved to gather with people and listen to the town elders and learn about "the world beyond" this tiny, insular region that was home to generations of Buscaglias before him. Papa's great respect for learning and his sense of wonder about the outside world were carried across the sea with him and later passed on to his family. He was determined that none of his children would be denied an education if he could help it.

Papa believed that the greatest sin of which we were capable was to go to bed at night as ignorant as we had been when we awakened that day. The credo was repeated so often that none of us could fail to be affected by it. "There is so much to learn," he'd remind us. "Though we're born stupid, only the stupid remain that way." To ensure that none of his children ever fell into the trap of complacency, he insisted that we learn at least one new thing each day. He felt that there could be no fact too insignificant, that each bit of learning made us more of a person and insured us against boredom and stagnation.

So Papa devised a ritual. Since dinnertime was family time and everyone came to dinner unless they were dying of malaria, it seemed the perfect forum for sharing what new things we had learned that day. Of course, as children we thought this was perfectly crazy. There was no doubt, when we compared such paternal concerns with other children's fathers, Papa was weird.

It would never have occurred to us to deny Papa a request. So when my brother and sisters and I congregated in the bathroom to clean up for dinner, the inevitable question was, "What did you learn today?" If the answer was "Nothing," we didn't dare sit at the table without first finding a fact in our much-used encyclopedia. "The population of Nepal is. . . ," etc.

Now, thoroughly clean and armed with our fact for the day, we were ready for dinner. I can still see the table piled high with mountains of food. So large were the mounds of pasta that as a boy I was often unable to see my sister sitting across from me. (The pungent aromas were such that, over a half century later, even in memory, they cause me to salivate.)

Dinner was a noisy time of clattering dishes and endless activity. It was also a time to review the activities of the day. Our animated conversations were always conducted in Piedmontese dialect since Mama didn't speak English. The events we recounted, no matter how insignificant, were never taken lightly. Mama and Papa always listened carefully and were ready with some comment, often profound and analytical, always right to the point.

"That was the smart thing to do." "Stupido, how could you be so dumb?" "Cosi sia, you deserved it." "E allora, no one is perfect." "Testa dura ("hardhead") you should have known better. Didn't we teach you anything?" "Oh, that's nice." One dialogue ended and immediately another began. Silent moments were rare at our table.

Then came the grand finale to every meal, the moment we dreaded most - the time to share the day's new learning. The mental imprint of those sessions still runs before me like a familiar film clip, vital and vivid.

Papa, at the head of the table, would push his chair back slightly, a gesture that signified the end of the eating and suggested that there would be a new activity. He would pour a small glass of red wine, light up a thin, potent Italian cigar, inhale deeply, exhale, then take stock of his family.

For some reason this always had a slightly unsettling effect on us as we stared back at Papa, waiting for him to say something. Every so often he would explain why he did this. He told us that if he didn't take time to look at us, we would soon be grown and he would have missed us. So he'd stare at us, one after the other.

Finally, his attention would settle upon one of us. "Felice," he would say to me, "tell me what you learned today."

"I learned that the population of Nepal is. . . ."


It always amazed me, and reinforced my belief that Papa was a little crazy, that nothing I ever said was considered too trivial for him. First, he'd think about what was said as if the salvation of the world depended upon it.

"The population of Nepal. Hmmmmm. Well."

He would then look down the table at Mama, who would be ritualistically fixing her favorite fruit in a bit of leftover wine. "Mama, did you know that?"

Mama's responses were always astonishing, and seemed to lighten the otherwise reverential atmosphere. "Nepal," she'd say. "Nepal? Not only don't I know the population of Nepal, I don't know where in God's world it is!" Of course, this was only playing into Papa's hands.

"Felice," he'd say. "Get the atlas so we can show Mama where Nepal is." And the search began. The whole family went on a search for Nepal. This same experience was repeated until each family member had a turn. No dinner at our house ever ended without our having been enlightened by at least a half dozen such facts.

As children, we thought very little about these educational wonders, and even less about how we were being enriched. We coudln't have cared less. We were too impatient to have dinner end so we could join our less-educated friends in a rip-roaring game of kick the can.

In retrospect, after years of studying how people learn, I realize what a dynamic educational technique Papa was offering us, reinforcing the value of continual learning. Without being aware of it, our family was growing together, sharing experiences, and participating in one another's education. Papa was, without knowing it, giving us an education in the most real sense.

By looking at us, listening to us, respecting our opinions, affirming our value, giving us a sense of dignity, he was unquestionably our most influential teacher.


We need to stop assuming that everything our children learn at school is subversive. If we listen, really listen and look and THINK, and make our kids think, too, we might discover that our kids are really learning something cool. And if we continue to look closely and PAY ATTENTION, we might be able to detect it when the schools DO teach something dreadful.

Because, in some places, they already are.

The learning of, and comparison/contrast of, almost everything is wonderful. We know nothing if we only know one side. However, the deliberate indoctrination of almost everything is a dreadful disgraceful thing.

We will know the difference only if we actually pay attention. And before you go running to the school all outraged, make bloody sure you know what you're talking about.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:34 PM | |

Happy Halloween. Eat Up.

Of course, you all probably already know that if you mix candy corn and salted peanuts together in a big bowl, you've got handfuls of PayDay bar goodness.

Peanuts are a meat substitute, and candy corn is pretty much fat-free (paraffin never hurt anybody) so really, a big bowl of candy corn and peanuts is GOOD for you.

Eat up.

P.S. There's a really good video about Mexico's Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead, right HERE. This is NOT the same thing as Halloween, but the dates coincide, and knowledge is power.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why I Love My Job, Part Eleventy-Nine

So many of my students are overcoming tremendous odds to be in school right now. They've got families and mortgages and spouses/partners, some of whom disapprove of the whole "college" thing; they've got needy parents and in-laws and overdue bills and a sad lack of daycare options. On top of it all, most of my students have no job right now, and the defunct factories and Workforce are both being poopy about promises they'd previously made concerning tuition and books and actually coming through with things because education is the key to the future and you can count on us to back you up.

And yet, most of them show up, day after day or night after night, homework done, papers written, knowing exactly which page we're on and ready to begin again.

The majority of my students are fine, hardworking, upstanding people who genuinely want to better themselves: not just so they might get a better job at some future time, but also just so they'll be, well, BETTER.

Sure, there are some clunkers. In any group there will always be losers. But the vast majority of my students this semester are prime. In their prime, and prime.

Still more reasons why I love my job.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:11 PM | |

Sunday, October 28, 2007

More Things I Will Never Understand

When I was teaching in the public schools, the same things happened almost every day:

I rejoiced when my students did well.

I cried when my students faced insurmountable odds.

I laughed when my students were happy.

I was proud when my students worked hard.

I was angry when the decisions of adults made my students' lives harder.

I was furious when my students were sent to school in rags and shards of shoes, while their parents had winter coats and, miraculously, money for cigarettes.

I was glad when CPS removed my students from dangerous homes, negligent/abusive/selfish parents, and filth.

And I was beside myself with disbelief and grief when my students were put right smack back into those same homes because a lying SOB abusive crack-addicted drunk who had baby-tantrums and took care of his/her own personal needs before feeding/clothing/loving the children in the house with anger management problems* and "addictive personality syndromes" promised** he/she'd do better next time.

Because, you know, people like that just do the same thing over and over again, and when "the next time" comes, they just screw up again. And who is the real victim? Who pays the price for our social and judicial systems' inability to see through these people's lies and whines and excuses and promises that mean nothing?

The children.

Shame on a society that puts the "rights" of an adult before the welfare and well-being of a child.

There should be no second chances for these people. One false move with a child, and that child should be removed from that "home" and put in a real home, with people who will feed, clothe, love, and care for those children before buying ANYTHING for themselves.

Few things made me madder than the sight of a well-dressed parent who sent a child to school in rags. And invariably, such people reeked of smoke and cheap beer.

And once a child is removed from trash parents and then put right back in the home again, do you really thing this child will dare "tell" what's really going on at home again? Because if you think he/she will, you're sadly mistaken. There is no safety for a child who knows that if he 'tells,' he'll just eventually be put right back in the house with the perpetrator, and the perpetrator will be angrier than ever at being outed. The child won't 'tell' again. Fear and threats are good silencers, and some of the worst people are the best at faking "rehabilitation."

Take the children away. No second chances. Lock the parents up. Let them dry out 'cold turkey,' and I really don't care if they sweat and scream. They didn't care when their children did.

I do not believe that a home should be completely 'child-centered,' but a house wherein children are rendered second-class citizens, unfed, wearing dirty, tattered clothing, beaten, neglected, exposed to second-hand smoke and drunken/high parents on a regular basis, not taken to the dentist, sent to school with no lunch and no hope of any, who will then return, after school, to an empty house or a house with vicious selfish adults who will then take out any frustrations or "urges" on the child, isn't a home. It's not a house, either. It's nothing but a repository for scum, and a child should not have to live like that.

Adults have choices in such things. Children do not.

Remove the children. Do not require them to EVER go back.

* euphemism for "things adults do when they are really nothing but big selfish arses. Also, adults with "anger management issues" are one of the ugliest sights in the universe. Grow up.

**the promises of such people mean nothing; they are lies, like everything else they say

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:12 AM | |

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Do Love To Meet You People!

Miguel just left, and to let you all know: he's just as nice as I knew he would be!

Such a lovely, lovely man. Friendly, fun. . . all the thesaurian synonyms for "good" would apply to him.

The cats liked him, and he liked the cats. (This is an important point.)

He also has a beautiful speaking voice, and he talks much as he writes. There is a poetry about his way of speaking, a music, that is different from anyone else I've ever heard. He's wonderful. I wish he could have stayed longer, but he thought that since he was 2,000 miles from home, he really ought to explore as much as possible because who knows when he'll be in this area again? I agreed, even though I didn't want him to leave. That's why I let him go when what I really wanted to do was lock him in the house and make him stay forever.

He's headed towards the St. Louis Arch. If you live near there, you should contact him about dinner tonight. Meeting Miguel was something I'd wanted to do for a long time, and I'm so glad he came to visit!!!!! If you meet him, you'll think so, too.

Last night some friends came over to meet him, and their opinion is much the same as mine.

Scott and Joel also brought over some great wine; thank you for being so thoughtful, guys.

I hope that some day more of you will be able to meet Miguel. Yes, he's just that nice!

In the meantime, go read his blog. His words flow like music.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:10 PM | |

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Persimmon Pulp and Cobwebs: I'm Ready!

I just put my very confused sweeper (What's going on? Who is this woman? What is she making me do? It's been too long; I don't understanddddddddd!) back in the closet. There is a big persimmon pudding in the oven (Thank you, Cousin C, for the pulp!) and a large pork tenderloin in the crock-pot. The guest room is tidy, although I don't have any other spot for that folded camp cot except right there between the bed and the wall and it looks awful and I'm really sorry about that but when my guests have little kids I NEED that cot and, and, and. . . . well, there it is, right in the way.

There's a big stack of board games in the middle of the living room but I can't put them away until Hub comes home from school because I am not seven feet tall like him and I can't stand on a chair and do it because there are too many.

As for all the cobwebs I'm discovering all over the ceilings and door sills. . . . well, it's almost Halloween so I guess I can tell people I bought them at Joanne Fabric and carefully distributed them throughout the house so they'd look authentic.

And the people said, "They do! Good job!"

Come on down, Miguel. We're having a dinner party* tonight just for YOU.

*Dinner party at my house: jeans, t-shirt (something you can wear while sitting on the floor, and also don't mind spilling BBQ sauce on), shoes optional, lots of conversation and laughter, BYOB (anything else provided; I don't disapprove, but I don't "supply.") , no smoking, help yourself to anything in the refrigerator if it's not already on the table, and the toilet paper is in the little cabinet over the toilet if the spindle runs dry and you're, um, trapped. The roll goes "over."

Bring friends.

I am greatly anticipating this evening!

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:31 AM | |

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'll Take "Blogfriends Who've Met In Real Life" for a Thousand, Alex

I'm all giggly and excited, because in a couple of days I'm going to meet another wonderful blog-friend for real!

I've been reading Miguel's blog for a long time, and he never ceases to fill me with wonder, that such beautiful word pictures can be painted, and such lovely sentiments can be expressed, and that a person who writes like most people can only dream would want to visit me. . . .

I've been looking forward to this for a long time, and now, it's this week!

The plumber has fixed the shower in the big bathroom, and all the sheets are clean. It's turned cold and wet here so I put an extra blanket on the guest room bed. I've got tomorrow all planned out: I don't have to be at the college until 5:30, so I've got all afternoon to break some paths through the piles of quizzes and tests and books and folded laundry, pile books on the floor so there will be places to sit, and remove all doo-dads from all tables and surfaces so the kittens won't have anything to swoop off onto the floor. I'm going to dust, AND, (this is how much I love Miguel!) I'm going to. . . . get the sweeper out of the hall closet and USE IT. I'm sure I remember how.

There are several local bloggers who want to meet him, too, so maybe we can arrange a get-together. I can always clear off more chairs!

I want Miguel to be comfortable and to have a good time, and I want everything to be prepared and nice for him. So, naturally, I put a pot pie in the microwave two days ago and it literally blew up. Nothing left but coal-black charred remains. I opened the microwave door and thick suffocating black smoke poured out. I threw the charred dregs out the patio doors, opened all the windows and turned on all the fans. I have scrubbed out that microwave with vinegar, with germ-killing foams, with baking soda, with detergent. . . .it's better each time but honestly? The whole house stinks.

That's the kind of hostess I seem to be. I want everything to be nice for a much-wanted guest, so I put a turkey pie in the microwave, burn it to a black charred crisp, blow it up, throw it out, and spend the next eight years trying to get the stank out of the house.

I try. I really do. House Beautiful should give me a prize for effort.

Seriously, sometimes I think I'm like a cow that gives a full pail of milk, and then puts her foot in it.

Miguel will be here Thursday. I hope he can stay a long time. I hope he isn't disappointed when he meets me. I hope he's not sensitive to odors. . . .

Oh, man, I am so looking forward to this!

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:43 AM | |

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's None Of My Business, Really, But. . . .

Celebrity miscellany that, for some reason, really bothers me:

1. Ellen's dog. I think the agency is wrong, wrong, wrong this time, and those who made this decision have, in fact, have shown themselves to be stupid twits. The death threats they're getting are over the top, though. The real victim is the hairdresser's little girl. The owners of the doggie agency must not have any kids of their own. (One would hope, anyway. ) If I were a billionaire who could afford to treat a dog better than most families are able to treat their human children, I'd certainly stop by this particular agency every day and say things like "no money from me or anybody I know today or any day, asswipes!" get that sweet little girl another dog, and mention this doggie agency by name daily, so people don't forget and possibly give them some business. And if they sued, they'd just look stupider. ("Stop saying my name and telling people what I did! Stop it, stop it, stop it! Wahhhhhhh. . . .") Of course, it's obvious by now that the people who run it don't care because they've already shown their collective IQ to the world. As for the family who now own the dog. . . shame on you. That dog belongs to that little girl and you know it. You'll always know it. Enjoy.

2. Rod Johnston. But then, any man who leaves his wife for another woman is scum. How disappointing; I used to think Rod was cool and decent. Life is full of disillusionments, and adultery is never 'right.' I hate it that he turned out to be just another loser. And Lynn's rerun in the Sunday paper made me cry.

3. Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie, Britney Spears, and that sad, sick, filthy, babbling, unstable drunk who lives under the bridge down from the Burger King: one and the same. But why aren't we reading about the nameless drunk? He would probably respond to the help instead of wasting everybody's time!

4. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes: Infidelity, illegitimacy, adultery, scientology. . . charming role models, those. Does anybody out there really care what these dreadful dirty immoral people do?

5. George Clooney. He never calls, he never writes. . . .
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:43 PM | |

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Park Place and Boardwalk Were MINE, With Houses!

Last night, at around nine p.m., the phone rang. It was my friend Scott, inviting me over to play Monopoly. (I run with a wild crowd.) Hub was busy, so I went by myself. It was tremendous fun; I hadn't played Monopoly in years, mostly because I always lose.

I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to play Monopoly. Our set had carved wooden game pieces; the first time I saw the metal iron, dog, etc, I thought maybe their REAL Monopoly markers had been lost and replaced with silly little dollhouse toys. Monopoly taught us how to count and deal with money, make change, win, and LOSE. If someone was a poor loser, uh oh. That wasn't tolerated in our house, nor should it be in anybody's house, or anybody's school, either.

Never in my life had I ever won a game of Monopoly. My parents played to win, and cut us little kids no slack. Why should they? That wouldn't have taught us a thing. As I grew up, I still never won. In college, I never won. When Hub and I would play Monopoly with friends, I never won. I was always the first one out: the one the other players took pity on with little loans of fifty and a hundred dollars.

But I was never the winner. Ever. Come to think of it, I'm seldom the winner when it comes to board games; my small children even beat me at Candy Land, and I was trying!

I never won at Old Maid, or Animal Rummy. I still seldom win at Scrabble, and it's one of my favorite games; I'm too impatient with slow-moving games to do well.

But last night my losing Monopoly streak ended, for I ended up, somehow, with Boardwalk and Park Place right at the beginning, and I managed to use them to collect most of the properties on the board, including, thanks to a piece of backfiring strategy by my host, who I hope is still my friend, all four railroads.

First one forced out was my host's young son, and while I know that his dad felt bad about the boy losing so early on and so thoroughly, I am used to playing with kids and if kids want to really learn to play a game, they'll play by the rules and not expect any coddling. This applies to all aspects of life, by the way. So out he went and his property went to others and we played on until another player landed on. . . Boardwalk. I got all of his possessions, including his self-esteem. :) (Thanks for the stuff, Joel.)

Then it was Scott and me, one on one, head to head, each determined to ruin the other in true Monopoly tradition. Thanks to those railroads, he didn't have a chance.

I ended up with stacks of cash INCHES tall, and as I looked at them I suddenly became nine years old again and the only thing I could think of was. . . Man, I wish that was real money.

I'm not nine any more, but I still wish that was real money.

After the game was over, we played Scrabble, and everybody got their revenge on me. I just don't do well with slow-moving games. But I still like them. Losing ain't all that bad, you know. I mean, the loser still got to play, didn't he I?

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:40 PM | |

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I've Done The Time Warp; Thanks For Asking, Though

Please remember that I am a sedate and typical old woman, and the following information may or may not be true. Probably it's not, because sedate and typical old women never do such things, and are in fact appalled at the very notion.

It's coming up Halloween, which means many things, one of which is that I have a giant bowl of Tootsie Roll Pops on my coffee table, and another which is that I am once again compelled to obsess over "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." I'd put the image here, but Blogger is being all poopy and won't let me; I'll try again later because I know you all want desperately to see a picture of Tim Curry in drag. Well, I do, anyway. Like many of us, he used to be really hot.

If only there were some way I could link to a picture. (Don't look if you're all prudey and pruney; fair warning.)

Years ago I might have participated in the midnight audience participation showings (plural) rumored to be held every Saturday night for several years, never missing a single one, but I've slept since then, not to mention the addition of about 80 pounds.

In short, the domestic's costume no longer fits, in more ways than one.

I may have used decks of cards as frisbees; I really can't remember that far back.

It might also be true that, long ago, I used to teach my study hall students to do the Time Warp, but then again, unless you were there, you'll never know.

Memorize the entire movie? My goodness, that would be ridiculous for a woman my age! Why, I'm almost hyperventilating at the very thought! It's not easy having a good time! Even smiling makes my face ache!

Rumors that I have a membership card in my wallet may or may not be true. I'm old; why would I do that, now really? And why would I own one of the few copies of the soundtrack from Shock Treatment? Or a Richard O'Brien cd?

And, I'm really glad that whoever-was-responsible-for-such-things finally wised up and put "Superheroes" back in the movie. I love that song. I couldn't find the actual video of it, but this is singing by Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, from the movie, even if it's not the movie itself.

And for you Star Trek fans out there, I've included a second video, proving that you can't escape from the Time Warp, even in outer space. I might add, one would probably be even more apt to encounter a time warp in outer space. Well, it seems logical to me.


Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:25 PM | |

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ramble Ramble Ramble

First of all, I love this entire series of books more than words could ever express. I know them all by heart. One of my first memories is of my mother reading aloud to me the first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, and falling in love with the words, the style, the personalities, and every single thing the author, who is also the main character, had to say. When I realized, years later, that what my mother was reading to me was an excerpt from one of her own 1938 lower elementary school readers, it was the beginning of my prediction that school would be wonderful, and that every day I'd get to experience more excerpts from more and more books, so I could begin making lists of actual books to get from the public library. (this same book also had excerpts from Les Miserables and Peter Pan, and if you think the novel Peter Pan was written entirely for children, you've obviously been misled by those dreadful Disney versions!) (And yes, young children CAN understand and love real books with big words, if they're exposed to them) Because Mom read interesting stories to me, I fell in love with books and couldn't WAIT to learn to read. Actually, I don't remember how I learned to read; I do remember, however, PRETENDING to read. I also remember the day I was pretending to read a real book and suddenly, I realized that I could. It was an unabridged Heidi.

To this day I adore Heidi, and I abhor any and all abridgements. Read it as the author intended, or not at all. Oh, okay, read it in any version you wish, but the unabridged versions are the best.

Then, finally, I went to school, and from the first day I was disappointed. Everything was geared for (if you'll excuse the expression) dumb kids! My first school readers were real downers: short and boring, with limited vocabulary, with large print (which made me feel condescended to) and with stupid storylines about boring children named Tom and Betty and Susan and their equally boring dog, Flip. Where was Jean Valjean, and Captain Hook, and Laura Ingalls making butter with a churn? Where was Heidi, and Rebecca Randall, and Tom Sawyer? Where was the good stuff Mom had in her day? Gone, gone, gone, thanks to "educators" who think small children benefit by prescribed vocabulary and simple little stories that mean nothing. It's too bad that modern primary readers contain nothing remotely interesting and are, in fact, one of many reasons children today hate to read: schools give them nothing worth reading.

When Michael Landon, he who reveled in spawning families and then deserting them, became known as Pa Ingalls instead of Little Joe Cartwright, millions of people were misled into believing that the TV versions of Laura's books were what actually happened.

The truth is, those TV episodes were MISrepresentations of those beautiful books. I hated that TV show for its lies and its inaccuracies and its complete disregard for the truth. Yes, I understand that TV writers who have no love for the original books and actors who think they're God wield power and generally get their own way, and people who have no knowledge of the books will be suckered into believing the storylines of the TV show. I hate that, too. I also hated the fact that Michael Landon is still believed to be the Perfect Father by people who know nothing of his real life. His abandoned wives and children tell a somewhat different story.

Why am I venting about this? I don't know; I got sidetracked, as usual.

Oh yes. This morning afternoon, I was awakened by the sound of raindrops on the roof, after a summer of drought. It reminded me of that scene in Little House on the Prairie where Laura was awakened by the sound of raindrops on the roof; she hadn't heard any for a long time because they'd been living in a soddie.

And then I started to ramble.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:03 PM | |

"Draco and Harry hugged the manly hug. . . ."

From my beautiful daughter Belle comes an email containing a link that leads to more examples of actual writing from actual people.

I am not acquainted with the Daily_Sporfle, the blogger who compiled this collection, but I will have to say that I thank her from the bottom of my heart for putting all these quotes together: There are "writers" out there who are worse than the ones who are making my brain turn inside each week.

I already knew that, of course, because I've been known to hang out on FanFiction.

Rumor has it that I might even have an account there, but you can't believe everything you hear.

I'm not putting down the FanFiction writers, mind you; I'm only putting down the ones who suck. *

*"Don't say 'suck,' students."

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:04 AM | |

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Bidet to you, sir."

I love the bathrooms at the college. They're always so clean and shiny, the water comes out like little miniature showers, the liquid soap smells really nice, the toilets flush by themselves (occasionally the timing is off but I can live with that.) and there is ALWAYS toilet paper. And unlike the toilet paper in the public school, the college toilet paper doesn't dissolve between your fingers if it gets damp, nor do your thumbs poke holes in it at awkward times. (Can we say, "two-ply?")

But the main reason, above even those things, that I love the college bathrooms?

Somebody else cleans them.

Also, after 26 years of never being able to go to the bathroom between 7:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. no matter how pregnant, how nauseated, how desperate, how full of diet coke, or how miserable the UTI might be, I can now walk out of the classroom and saunter down the hall to the restroom any. time. I. want.

And since I teach with a Diet Coke in one hand, that can be a lot.

I love my job.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:48 PM | |

I'll Have The Usual, Thanks

Two students skipped my class last night. Again.

One of them emailed me about an hour ago. (It's already Tuesday!)

"missed ur class, did we do nething inportnat?"

To which I replied:

"No, just the usual."

The usual MIDTERM EXAM, that is.

And no, you can't come in at your convenience and take it later.

To quote Carole King: "It's too late."

Away with you to the registrar, Losers. Drop, drop, drop, and roll.

I capitalized "Losers" because I think of it as your name.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:57 AM | |

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Oh, my God; I care so little, I almost passed out. "

I am madly and inappropriately in love with Dr. Perry Cox, and no, I don't want to hear any jokes about his name, thankyouverymuch.

There is something about a man who is blindingly intelligent and blisteringly sarcastic and heartrendingly sensitive that just. . . . well, never you mind.

In fact, I'm probably imagining the whole thing.

It's a fictional character, for crying out loud.

And I'm far too old to hang out on YouTube just to catch Perry on Season Six because I CAN'T WAIT for the DVD's to be released.

It's almost enough to make a TV-hater walk downstairs and try to figure out how the remote works. . . .almost.

Nah. I'll wait for the dvd release. I hate TV.

"I suppose I could riff a list of things that I care as little about as our last week. Let's see... low carb diets, Michael Moore, the Republican National Convention, Kabbalah & all Kabbalah-related products, Hi-Def TV, the Bush daughters, wireless hotspots, the OC, the UN, recycling, getting Punk'd, Danny Gans, the Latin Grammys, the real Grammys, Jeff that Wiggle that sleeps too darn much, the Yankees payroll, all the red states, all the blue states, every hybrid car, every talk show, everything on the planet, everything in the solar system, everything, everything, everything, everything, everything, everythingj every-everything that exists past present & future, in discovered and undiscovered dimensions! Oh, and Hugh Jackman. "

"By the by, this moment is so great that I would cheat on that other moment with it, marry it, and raise a family of tiny little moments."

"If this continues, you will be dead. And I'm not talking about the "Oh, my God, if I don't get invited to the prom, I'm going to die" type of dead, I'm talking *dead*, dead. Is that clear enough for you? Because if it's not, I could of course text you on my Blackberry or my Blueberry or my Chuck Berry... although technically Chuck Berry is a blackberry... the point is, you gotta stop wasting everyone's time and grow up. Is that clear to you, sweetheart?"

"First off, let me just say, thank you. For the last couple of months I have been adrift in a sea of puppy dogs, lollypops, and lets face it, mediocre metaphors. Luckily, you people were kind enough to piss all over learning a procedure that could determine whether some poor sucker lives or dies, and that reminded me of something that I wanted to remind you of. Because you see I am accountable. I am accountable for the continuous, crashing, undeniable amateurism that you people drag into this hospital day in and day out. And believe you me when I tell you that the next time one of you perpetual disappointments doesn't even have the common decency to try and do better at something you supposedly do, I will go ahead and toss your sorry ass outa here in about ten seconds and then I will forget you forever in the next five."

"Okay, think of what little patience I have as, oh, I don't know, your virginity. You always thought it would be there, until that night Junior Year when you were feeling a little down about yourself and your pal Kevin, who just wanted to be friends, well, he dropped by and he brought a copy of About Last Night and a four-pack of Bartels & James and woo hoo hoo, it was gone forever - just like my patience is now."

"Clam up Newbie! I wanted you to think about yourself... AND I MEAN REALLY THINK!... What are you good at? What do you suck at? And write it down. Not so I could read it, or anyone else could read it. BUT SO YOU COULD READ IT! You see in the end Newbie, you don't have to answer to me, or to Kelso, or even to your patients for Gods sake! The only one you have to answer to Newbie, is you! There, YOU ARE evaluated. Now get out of here, because you truely make me so damn mad I might just hurt myself!"

"They hate you Bob. They hate from the bottom of your hooves to the top of your pitchfork. They hate you. By God, they hate you good."

"You'd better go ahead and enjoy this while you can, Bob, because if your evil genie goes ahead and grants your wish and I'm gone forever, then the only one you're going to be able to contend with around here is yourself. And when you really get to know *that* person, oh, dear God, you'll scream so loud that Satan will want to tear up that contract he made with you at birth just so he can get some sleep."

"You know, Bob, I've been thinking of all the times you manipulated me and toyed with me and I can't help but recall that children's fable about that race between the tortoise and the pain-in-the-ass-chief-of-medicine-that-everybody-hates. You see, Bob, the pain-in-the-ass-chief-of-medicine-that-everybody-hates kept running out in front of the tortoise and taunting him, but right at the end... oh, gosh I'm sure you remember what happened Bob, the tortoise bit clean through the Chief of Medicine's calf muscle, dragged him to the ground, where he and all the other turtles devoured him alive right there on the racetrack. It's a disturbing children's book, Bob, I know, but it's one that stuck with me nonetheless."

"It would be impossible for me to lie next to Jordan. She sleeps hanging from a ramp in the ceiling, wrapped in a cocoon of her own wings."

"At first I just threw your memo away, but then I thought, that's not grand enough a gesture; so I made a model of you out of straw, put my lab coat on it - with your memo in the pocket - and invited the neighborhood kids to set fire to it and beat it with sticks."

"Would you like to know the real dirty, dirty little secret? It's that your drug is so damn good that you guys went and put about a 600% markup on it. But hey, the only ones get hurt are the sick people, right? And since your company damn sure doesn't care about them, and you're part of the system, well that just means you don't care either, and that's pretty much what's making me sick, that's all."

"I was just now wondering if there was anything that could actually push my headache into a full blown migraine... and there you are."

"No matter where you go in life, always keep an eye out for Johnny, the tackling Alzheimer's patient."

"Relationships don't work they way they do on television and in the movies. Will they? Won't they? And then they finally do, and they're happy forever. Gimme a break. Nine out of ten of them end because they weren't right for each other to begin with, and half of the ones who get married get divorced anyway, and I'm telling you right now, through all this stuff I have not become a cynic. I haven't. Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing chocolate covered candies and, y'know, in some cultures, a chicken. You can call me a sucker, I don't care, because I do believe in it. Bottom line: it's couples who are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else, but the big difference is they don't let it take them down. One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship every time. If it's right, and they're real lucky, one of them will say something."

"Oh, that's funny, because Jack here was just wondering why the crazy lady who just spent the last hour chain-smoking and talking on her cell phone while her kid ate sand, would come over to two complete strangers and give them parenting advice. Oh, he also thanked me for not naming him Brantley."

"You're a wonderful and passionate person, and that's why I can see myself with you when I'm 70 and you're 65 and your face is 40 and your boobs are 29."

"I think showing perfectly healthy people every harmless imperfection in their body just to scare them into taking an invasive and often pointless test is an... unholy sin!"

"By the by, this moment is so great that I would cheat on that other moment with it, marry it, and raise a family of tiny little moments."

"If I have to see one more broken down piece of equipment, one more Gomer who is shuffled back and forth between some godforsaken home, one more patient who is denied treatment because they got the wrong insurance, I... There are times when I'm all by myself and I concentrate as hard as I can to see if I can't make myself catch on fire like the Human Torch. And mark my words, newbie, if I ever pull it off, I will be back to destroy this place."

"Loretta, relax. I've been involved in every ridiculous TV induced panic there is - poison pills, SARS, West Nile, North Face, South Fork, East River, Monkeypox, pop rocks, toilet snakes, Mad Cow, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and quite frankly every other flu that you could really only catch if you actually fornicated with the animal it's named for. And as a parting gift, I will tell you this - narrow it down to two symptoms; vomiting and diarrhea. Cause it's just not E.coli unless it's firing out of both exits."

"Is that a cat being gutted by a fishing knife? No! That's my son. He's hungry and he's got a load in his pants so big I'm actually considering hiring a stable boy."

" Oh gosh, Margery, aren't you sassy today. Did Santa finally bring you that Y-chromosome you always wanted?"

"Oh my god, I could fly to China, adopt a child, raise her and send her to medical school, and then train her to do this procedure in the time it's taking you to finish."

"Bobby, lately I've noticed that you don't listen to a single word people say, so my reply to your question is, I think you're the world's biggest jackass and I look forward to your death."

"When spoken to, Newbie. When spoken to. Here, I thought we were clear on that one!"

"Bob, I deeply dislike you. Honestly, it keeps me up at night."

"Newbie, what are you saying? That you want to be like me? Do you understand that I just barely want to be like me?"

"Oh, for God's sakes, Newbie, take a look around, would you please? What's the difference between your Mr. Milligan and every other patient in this I.C.U.? And if the answer to that question is that he's the only one young enough to have never made a phone call like this: 'Brrring! Hello? Operator? Give me (hacking cough), then you'd be right. But since I"m not in the mood to make some big, dramatic, sweeping statement, I'll just tell you this: God hates doctors. He truly does. You see all these old people in here? Well, any of them would give just about anything to be able to sashay off this planet, but most of them are gonna stay and they're gonna live forever and ever and ever. And your Mr. Milligan, well, it turns out he's just young enough to die. I mean, think about it: It's the holidays, there's a sweet little kid involved. Can't you just feel it?"

“..your guilty anguish is - it’s delicious. It’s like a little mini-meal between lunch and dinner. Quite frankly, it’s all I can do not to grind pepper on your head.”

"I would like to make special mention of one intern here: John Dorian. Smart kid, he's extremely confident, and his enthusiasm - and his determination to always be better - is something I see in him twenty-four hours a day. He cares. Probably cares too much. But he's definitely somebody you don't want to lose. "

I adore him.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:00 AM | |

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Other Daughter

I just got back from a baby shower, given for my daughter's best friend B. This beautiful child young woman has been a part of my life ever since both girls were three years old. Not only do B and Belle share a friendship the likes of which is amazing in this day and age, B's mother is one of my dearest friends, and her father is one of my favorite conversationalists EVER.

These two girls young women used to be inseparable: almost every waking moment was spent in each other's company, and a lot of their sleeping moments, as well. Now that B is married and expecting a baby, the girls young women don't see each other as often as they'd like, but every time they do get together, it's as though nothing has changed. They are still and always will be kindred spirits.

I loved watching these two girls together, and I love watching these two young women together. They share a history and a present and a future that is beautiful and amazing to behold.

B, my darling, I have loved you like a daughter since you were three years old. I love your mother as the dear friend she has always been. I love your dad because he's just so much fun to hang out with. I love your husband M because he had the brains to choose you, and because the love he has for you shines out from his face even when you're not looking. I plan to love Baby E almost as much as her real grandparents plan to love her. I hope you share her with me, just a little bit.

Because, dear Belle and B, you know those identical blue and white outfits you two used to wear so much? The dreadful two-piece things you're wearing in the framed snapshot on my stereo speaker? The outfits above all other goofy ensembles you both loved so much at the time, and now love to make fun of all the time?

I still have them, packed away in the 'sentimental clothing' box. When E is big enough, I'm going to put one on her and take her picture.

Oh, and the gentlemen in the photograph, between my two girls? That's Dr. Demento. That's right, THE Dr. Demento.

You didn't know we wuz that cool, didja.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:28 PM | |

Friday, October 12, 2007

To Get To The Other Side

While it is very true that the road on which I live is a narrow two-lane road, with no shoulders and a lot of twists and hairpin curves, it is also very true that when I am behind a car that is going 15 MPH, I get mad at the driver and sometimes voice my doubts as to the legitimacy of his birth.

That being said, the speed limit on my road is 30 - 35 on the one short straight stretch by the airport- and if you go faster than that, you're crazy. Seriously crazy.

Also, when people are driving on a road such as mine, never knowing whether or not they'll meet another car when they drive around the curves, it is really rude to drive with the brights on, because when you round the bend, those brights BLIND PEOPLE.

Nice people do not drive on brights when they're on a narrow, curvy road. It's inconsiderate.

Watch out for the deer, too. They travel in herds out in these parts, and they don't look both ways before they cross the road.

And why do they cross the road?

To get to the other side. What, you thought there would be a different answer just because they're deer instead of chickens? Sorry.

Of course, on the other side of my road there is corn to be gleaned, and wildflowers to be devoured. You know, now that they're devoured all MY flowers. . . .

Are you my friend? Do you hunt? ASK ME FIRST and you can hunt in my woods. If you go back there with a gun, without asking me first, I'll call the sheriff on you.

I'm not kidding.

Honestly? You don't really even need to go back into the woods. You can just sit on the deck and wait for the deer to come to YOU. They're stupid; they always do.

We don't hunt, but we let our friends go back there IF THEY ASK FIRST.

There are so many deer this season, we no longer refer to them as Bambi's family. We refer to them as large rats.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:50 PM | |

Light in the Midst of Darkness

. . . but hark, all is not lost. Some of my students wield wonder with their pens.

"I know that across the sea, across the sand, and across the street, terrible things are being done in the name of religion. There is little I can do about it, physically, until the polls open up.

I do believe, however, that the simple fact that today people know, and yesterday they didn't, will make a difference, and that there is hope for the future. I also believe that now that more people know these simple facts, mountains might be moved by simple acts: prayer.

There will always be those who abuse others and justify it by saying they are only doing what their god would do were he aware of the need, but this has never made sense to me. The God I know already knows the need and doesn't want a puppet.

This picture touches me in ways I don't even know how to describe, but I can say this with certainty: The bad guys will lose. They will lose because they underestimate the world's capacity for putting up with them. The good guys will win. They will win because eventually something will happen that will make decent people all over the world say, 'Enough is enough.'

I worry about the immediate future, but not the ultimate future."

Each of my students is a walking bestseller.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:27 AM | |

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Wish I Were Joking Wif U

Wait, wait, it gets better even worse!

"Looking at this picture makes me think that why bother with circumscribing their women if nobody knows what they look like anyway? What I mean, is, which is which? Who knows? They could take the wrong one home, not knowing which face is under there. It surely happens a lot, how couldn't it? What they feel is nothing to their men, and that's got to hurt, in the sand and all, and why be cruel when there is no logical reason for it, with dirty tools and knives and sometimes taken totally by surprise, what with the war and other things being more important not to mention timely, whatever one's reasoning is. In summary, it's not medical, nor clean, nor a good reason to do so, unless you just like to hear the screaming because of your mean streaking ways, or hating the president or Hilary, or being too conservative to like sex. Why can't we all just be nice to each other? Support our troops!"

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:12 PM | |

A Tale of Two Essays

I used to think that no essay would EVER beat this one from a year or so ago:

"Lincoln was a tall man, much in the way that Andre the Giant was also tall, and with the same sideways heart and thick bones that made Andre the Giant look so much like a giant, and made Lincoln look like a guy who shouldn't have been photographed wearing that tall hat which made him look even taller, kinda like a chef only the wrong color, which for the times of his life, were taller even than if he lived today, in which case the hat wouldn't be a problem because it wouldn't exist, and some think and I might agree that he grew that beard because a little girl told him to because the more of that face that was covered up, the better, and you know it's bad if a little kid can't stand it, and we all know which one was took out by a southerner with three names, just like the guy who blew Teddy Kennedy's brain to pieces in the middle of the parade, and which one was killed by a crazy actor leaping from the stage onto the balcony to climax the scene with something not exactly in the script but which would read DEATH all in red caps if it was, and Andre the Giant has a small and dainty wife which must have made their personal lifes interesting to say the least, and Lincoln's wife was a spendthrift nutter, but at least Andrew the Giant got to drop dead naturally instead of be took out by ham actors with guns or book salesmen, but the Morphine Syndrome which made them both so tall and thickboned also caused their death before their old age began, and pretty much ended both the Civil War and any chance of a Princess Bride sequel."

. . . but I was wrong.

"After watching the movie sos I could really get it, and reading the book, although in all sincerness it was the Classic Junior Comic of my youth, which I cherish, not the novelle since I haven't got all day to bake a cake with you, (sorry, my parental rights come before a book because being a good example is more important than being seen reading or watching a non-barney substance for my own benefit or pleasure or a good grade) I have concluded that being a comic and thereofe much shorter than a book with hard covers still gives no rights for leaving out important people who have a part in the story, such as the girl with short hair who could shoot, and Moochie. I find follity logic in this paper version because it left out so much that was in the movie! I think in my opinion since the question begged me that the tree house was the best part of the story, and I would love to have one, for I would make my bed in the tower and paint the walls green but have real plumbing with shower and high speed internet in it. I find the book version lacking for it left out the treehouse and the girl and that Tarzan game they played by the waterfalls. Also, many of the words were long and hard to understand, since I was ever in a hurry that week and coulndt' stop to use the dictionary all the time like usual when I read the paper, for example, or the instructions on the back of No-Bake Cheesecake by Jello. I also wondered things like where the hell are all the pirates? To answer the question in only a few words I would have to say, the movie was better because it had them riding ostriches and rolling logs down a hill to crush people, where in the book there was nothing cool like that."

Can we put it to a vote?

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:52 AM | |

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quip Pro Quo: A Fast Retort - Repost

This post is a rerun, but before Banned Books Week becomes just a memory, I want to share with you again this memo from a college-educated man who was in charge of a building full of impressionable middle school students.

I firmly believe that any memo, letter, or piece of written information that is sent by an administrator, should contain no idiocy or errors.

I also believe that any memo, letter, or piece of written information that is sent by an administrator that DOES contain idiocy or errors should be posted publicly and that the general public should be allowed to mock it.

I suppose that my belief that administrators should be required to be intelligent and able to proofread would be thrown out by the PC police.

This is the letter a principal gave me several years ago, demanding requesting that I take down my bulletin board about Banned Books Week. I had used that same bulletin board for over ten years, and in those earlier years, he had actually praised it for being timely and creative. That was, of course, before he saw Waldo on there.

This is the same school system that didn't want me to bring in speakers from the outside to talk about careers because it might give the students 'ideas.' These people would have volunteered their time, and it would have been of enormous benefit to the students, but no. Ideas are scary.

A few years later, the same man who denied permission for me to bring in speakers for free, spent nearly a million dollars of taxpayer money to take all the middle school students to town and have paid speakers talk to them about the same thing I could have done for free. By this time, you see, the Trend Wheel had spun back around, and it was now permissible to give the students 'ideas.'

One of those speakers represented General Motors, and her speech was excellent, although it didn't sit well with administration. She spoke about high school 'graduates' for whom a diploma was nothing but a piece of paper that connoted untruths. She spoke about how an employer should have the right to assume that a diploma pretty much guaranteed literacy and general competence. She spoke about all the money big corporations were having to shell into remedial programs for employees who had diplomas, pieces of paper that represented four years of showing up and not much else. She spoke about how businesses would really appreciate a diploma that told the truth: that if a student had been graduated out of respect for really trying, the diploma should say so, discretely of course, but in terms that the business world would be able to interpret. If the student was just going through the motions of graduation for self-esteem's sake, the diploma should say so. And if the diploma was rightfully earned because the student had become fully literate and generally competent and had genuinely and individually and truthfully learned how to care for himself/herself in the world in general, the business world should be able to see that kind of diploma and interpret it for what it was: a real diploma.

Oohh, the remarks that were scattered throughout the auditorium. And when we returned to the individual buildings, there was much talk of blueberries and self-esteem.

My friends are mostly lawyers and businesspeople and other educators. Before the edict went out, I often had one of them come to my classroom and talk about what they did all day, and then the students would ask questions. Silly me, I really thought it was helpful.

Sure, they asked my lawyer friends about their individual rights and stuff, but. . . . .

Oh. I get it.

We certainly can't have our students understanding their basic civil rights and those of their fellow citizens of any age, now can we.

What a narrow escape.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:59 PM | |

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Tale of Six Students

You're 32 years old. For heaven's sake, go blow your nose; you're disturbing the whole class. You can blow your nose on the toilet paper. Yes, really.

The class lasts for three hours. We take a short break in the middle. You're not supposed to gather your things and go home then. We're ALL tired. Also, we had two quizzes after you left. You'll ask me when you can make them up, and I will say, "Never."

Midterms are next week. You're so far behind, nothing can help you now. I'd feel bad for you if you had a viable excuse for missing so much. As things stand, you're so far behind, nothing can help you now.

The rest of us had a good evening.

You've got two toddlers, a broken leg, and a full-time job. You've never missed a class, you've done well on all the quizzes, your first essay was outstanding, your insight is wonderful, and your class participation is excellent. Thank you for being in my class.

When you knew that most of the objects in the night sky were named for ancient Roman gods and goddesses and heroes, you made me very happy. When you explained to the class why stars twinkle and planets don't, I almost jumped up on the table and tap-danced in sheer blissful delight. How fortunate for you and the class that I'm far too fat to jump.

You're in and out of rehab, you're wearing a house arrest band around your ankle, CPS took your baby away, your arms are covered with track marks, your speech is interspersed with profanity, but after reading your first two essays, I think you're going to make it. Keep on. And then keep on some more. You can do it.

Yes, the rest of us had a good evening. I love this class.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:39 PM | |

Sunday, October 07, 2007


The beef stroganoff is almost done, and after that a big pile of essays and quizzes, interspersed with piles of dirty towels and other laundrous articles, much of which will be done after midnight because I like to do my internets in the afternoon.

I lead an exciting life.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:28 PM | |

. . . stuck in the middle with you. . . .

I have never understood why so many teachers do not want to be a part of the community in which they teach.

I understand that this is difficult when one gets a teaching job many miles away from one's established home, but I know of many, many teachers who live right in the middle of their school's student base who deliberately withdraw from or refuse pointblank to be a part of their school's community; their phone numbers and addresses are top secret and given to nobody. Yes, there are crazy families out there who take advantage and want privileges and exceptions, who are inconsiderate and tactless and invasive. . . but I have always believed that those people are in the minority and that most people are decent, considerate, and genuinely concerned about their children's education. (I do wish the nice people would speak up and butt the rude people out of the way, but perhaps that's just me. . . .)

I know that I was never an 'inside the box' teacher; heck, I'm not an 'inside the box' person in any aspect of life, but it always seemed to me that being a part of the community or neighborhood would give a teacher insight into the students, their families, their likes and dislikes, and their involvement in things outside of school. Knowing these things would give the teacher ideas about how to handle the students at school. Knowing that the teacher is a human being who eats at Wendy's and shops at the neighborhood grocery stores and buys sliced ham at the local WalMart deli might give a kid more incentive to behave properly in class, too.

I live right smack in the middle of my old public school district, and I loved that. My students came trick-or-treating to my door, and I loved that. My students would ride their bicycles past my house and if they saw me in the yard, they'd come down the driveway to get some lemonade and talk. I loved that. We hired students to cut the grass and chop wood. We hire these same students now that they're adults, to roof our house and smooth the driveway. I still give them lemonade.

I loved living near enough to my students that they could visit me. I loved getting to know the mothers who dropped their kids off at my door. I loved inviting them inside and talking to them when they came back to pick their kids up and take them home.

Sometimes I would fix some supper for visiting kids.

I know that many teachers don't put themselves 'out there' for fear of vandalism and other abuses, but we never experienced anything like that. Oh, we got T.P.'d on occasion, but that's just funny.

When my kids were home, the house was always overflowing with their friends. Some weekends, there would be half a dozen kids sleeping all over the sofas and floor down in the family room. I bet I went through ten or twelve boxes of cereal every week. I lost count of the gallons of milk. Sometimes, when my kids' friends got sick at school, they came to my house. They all knew how to get in.

Living right in the middle school district, it was easy to get to PTO meetings, board meetings, school carnivals, conferences, ball games (hated those), concerts, dances. . . . and I think it is very important for a teacher to be seen at such after-hours school functions. It tells the students and their parents that the teacher CARES, and is interested in the children and the community outside the four walls of a classroom.

Many teachers will take exception to this philosophy and claim that they distance themselves from their school's community and families for very good reasons: sanity, independence, not wanting to be put under a microscope, unusual lifestyle, wanting to be free to 'cut loose' and drink, etc, and just simply wanting to keep business and personal lives completely separate.

With most jobs, that's easy and understandable.

Teaching is not like most jobs, though. I never felt it was a "job" at all, to be perfectly honest. I loved it too much for it to be a "job." I loved my students and I loved my classroom and I loved the lessons we did, and I felt an "ownership" for my kids that did not end when that last bell rang. When they stop by to visit me now, I feel more honored and happy than if Ed McMahon had stopped by with an oversized check.

Actually, I'd invite Ed in and give him lemonade, too. You hear that, Ed? Don't forget to bring that check.

As for my former students. . . . come on by, and come on in.

My phone number is in the book.

And for my current students, my phone number is on your syllabus. You can call here until 11:00 p.m.

I'm your teacher, not some clock-punching salesman who doesn't work off the clock.

For me, there is no clock.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:16 AM | |

Saturday, October 06, 2007

No-Bake Cookies Again? Yes, Thank You

Some people talk about a mommy who would let her little boy and girl eat No-Bake Cookies for breakfast, like it's a bad thing.

Hello? Sugar Oatmeal and milk and butter and peanut butter and vanilla? Less cocoa than some boxed cereals?

That sounds like breakfast to me. Come on over. I made some just a few minutes ago and they're cooling on the kitchen table as I type.

Hub asked me to make them tonight because one of his math classes asked him to ask me to make some for them last week, so I did and he took them to school and brought back an empty container, and I guess he didn't get any because the kids ate them up.

Well, he's getting some tonight. *

I made plenty. We're fat.

*Stop that.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:40 PM | |

Friday, October 05, 2007

I've Just Had An Apostrophe

Smee: I've just had an apostrophe.
Captain Hook: I think you mean an epiphany.
Smee: No... lightning has just struck my brain.
Captain Hook: Well, that must hurt.

When we were younger, it was a given that on Friday and/or Saturday night, we went "out." Old, boring people stayed home on those nights, and there was NO WAY we would ever be old or boring. No, siree, no way, never, nohow. On Friday and Saturday nights, we went out. We were exciting and cool and 'with it' and full of energy, and on weekends, we went out. Always.

Tonight when Hub got home, the first words out of his mouth were "Do we have to go anywhere tonight?" "No, thank goodness," I replied. And we both sat down at our respective computers, he to kill evil aliens and save the universe, and me to earn a little money and update my blog.

Then I smiled one of those smiles that isn't really a smile but more of a horrified grimace that signals some kind of epiphany, not the kind that means "Eureka, I've found it, " or even the realization that comes after "Watson, come here, I need you!," but more like the kind of epiphany that makes one realize that the image in the mirror really is what you look like now, you're tired, and yes, it's happened, you're old and boring.

And you're still glad you don't have to go out tonight. And yes, Captain Hook is right: it does hurt.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:28 PM | |

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star"

One of my college professors told us that one should be able to begin and finish a really good short story while sitting on the toilet. I think I agree. Sometimes there's a fine line between a novella and a few paragraphs, but the right length of a proper short story is somewhere in between: just the right length for a beginning, middle, and ending, giving you plenty of time to finish your business without getting hemorhoids from sitting too long. We keep a lot of our books in the big bathroom and many of them are collections of short stories.

I'm reminded of the scene in "The Big Chill" wherein Jeff Goldblum laments that most of his writing is read on the toilet, and when someone comments that one can read "War and Peace" on the toilet, Goldblum counters with "Yes, but you can't finish it."

But with a short story, you can.

Stop laughing. Where else, and when else, in our busy lives do we have a few minutes to ourselves?

Occasionally, I come across a short story that haunts me, makes me obsessed, changes me, affects me, and not always in a positive way. When I say, 'not positive' I don't mean 'negative.' I really don't know how to explain what I mean, either. That doesn't mean I don't know, it just means there are no words for it. I don't count short stories that were poorly written or that I personally just simply disliked for whatever reason. I mean, a well-written short story that knocked me flat on the ground. Right flat, on my back gazing up at the ceiling with a look of dumbstruck amazement, or joy, or sadness, or whatever as long as it was well-thought-out and beautifully written.

Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Star" is one that knocked me flat and wouldn't let me back up again for a long, long time.

How long? I'm still on the ground from it.

I first read it when I was in the fifth grade and it fascinated me, and frightened me, and made me ask questions that were not always appreciated by my elders, but isn't that what a good story is supposed to do to us? I came to the conclusion back then, and I still hold to it, that elders who are suspicious of, and do not encourage, sincere questions about any subject, are themselves not secure in their beliefs and are, on some occasions, downright ignorant.

This story absolutely blew me away. I adore it. I am afraid of it. I always approach the ending with trepidation, hoping somehow that it has changed from the last time I read it. It never does.

It will make you think. It will make you question. It will make you glad to be alive. It will make you wonder about the future, and about the past.

Many pastors have forbidden their congregations to read it. It's been removed from most textbooks for fear of offending someone. But it still exists. And since this is Banned Books Week, what better time to read it?

See what you think.

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star."

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:18 PM | |

No Child Looks Like A Behind

The newest Carnival of Education is up, and everyone who has children or knows children or has ever heard of children, or who lives in this country or any other country, should click on over there and read up on what's happening in our nation's schools, or other nations' schools, because those students will grow up and eventually be in charge and we need to know what's going on in case something needs to be changed, while yet there is time to change it. If we wait too long, those students will be changing our Depends, and we'd best make sure they're being taught how to care for themselves and for each other and for total strangers, and to advance themselves academically and socially and physically and mentally, because that's what our schools are supposed to be doing, in, among, and around the drill, drill, drill for standardized tests that have elbowed all the joy out of the building. . . . Whew. Run-on sentence, anyone? Fragment?

Inspired by Bellringer's entry, I dug through my archives and am re-posting my own 'take' on "No Child Left Behind." I scribbled this while sitting through yet another interminable teacher's meeting at the middle school, chaired by two women from the State Department who had obviously not been inside a middle school for many, many years, nor had they ever taken a class in public speaking. . . .

"Responding to demands from organized groups of concerned and dissatisfied parents, the State has hired an official Photographer. This official Photographer's goal is to ensure parents that all children will be attractive and well-groomed when exhibited publicly in the yearbook and at the mall.

'No Child Looks Like A Behind,' the agency and motto set up by the State, will be implemented this year, and by spring 2004, 93% of all students enrolled in Indiana schools will be evaluated. Any child found to be still below established standards, ie 'ugly,' will be referred to the district's Reconstruction Committee, which will identify specific problems, and recommend procedures and practices which can sculpt the child according to his/her individual needs.

Next year, the State will begin to implement the somewhat controversial "No Child Acts Like A Behind" program. Details will follow shortly."

While I was in the archives, I came across my Survivor show suggestion: it's an edited-for-the-middle-school version of something that's been making the rounds of the spamernet for many years. I just raised it a few grade levels. Again, one has to do something to stay awake and appear attentive when those State Department people come down with their big ideas and plans for a school they know nothing about. . . .

"Have you heard about the next planned Survivor show? Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped into a public middle school classroom for 6 weeks.

Each business person will be provided with a copy of their school district’s curriculum, and 7 daily classes of 36 students each, with some fluctuation as students move in and out.

Each individual class will have 6 learning-disabled children, five with A.D.D., two gifted children, two who speak limited English, and one who speaks no English at all.
Three in each class will be labeled as severe behavior problems. Two are pregnant. Twenty-one have divorced parents; of these, eleven are in the middle of custody battles. Five are on juvenile probation. Three are living in foster homes. Despite what an IEP might state, there is simply no budget for aides.

Each business person must complete lesson plans at least a week in advance, with annotations for curriculum objectives and modifications, and organize, create, or purchase materials accordingly.

They will be required to teach, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct and record homework, grade and record exams, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, notify certain parents daily of their child’s progress, and arrange parent conferences at the convenience of the parent.

They must also supervise recess, monitor the hallways and lunchroom, sell and take tickets at athletic functions, sponsor extra-curricular activities, and chaperone dances. These activities are of course performed without payment; and the teacher is responsible for anything that goes wrong, including student misconduct at these functions. The business people must also be prepared to answer parents’ questions about their child’s school work, at these functions. .

In addition, they will complete a set number of drills for fire, tornadoes, earthquakes, intruders, and shooting attacks.

They must attend workshops (100 hours), faculty meetings, union meetings, textbook adoption meetings, IEP conferences, evaluation meetings, curriculum development meetings, and any other meeting called by a supervisor or parent. Any plans or appointments previously scheduled must be cancelled, including doctor and dentist appointments for the teacher or for his/her spouse/children.

They are required to counsel and advise parents and students over the telephone, after school hours, at their homes. Therefore they must memorize each student’s grade average and daily attitude and any problems, in preparation for those calls. An unlisted number will not help you; the parents will obtain it and they will use it.

They must provide special, free tutoring for those students who are behind, and strive to get their non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the ISTEP test. Remember, the students’ scores reflect the teachers’ skill, and the teacher will be reprimanded accordingly.

If the teacher is sick, has a sick family member, or is just having a bad day, they must not let it show. God forbid if you get pregnant.

Each day, they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, health, and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment at all times. Remember, any boredom on the part of any child during the course of your class, is the teacher’s fault and may be used as an excuse for failure by the child’s parents.

Any failure on the part of a student, is the teacher’s fault.

The business people will only have access to the golf course on the weekends, but on their new salary they will not be able to afford it anyway. There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch. They won’t be leaving the building for lunch anyway, since lunch will be limited to 24 minutes daily, on the days they don’t have lunch duty. On those duty days, lunch will be eaten while supervising the lunchroom. Lunch is at ten thirty, so by two p.m. the children will be hungry again. The business people will be hungry also, but hunger isn’t measurable by any kind of state statistics so the standards must be taught regardless of the growling stomachs. It would be easy to schedule the students’ lunch at noon but that would mean paying the cooks for an extra hour.

You will get a thirty minute prep period on many days, but don’t count on getting your papers graded or xeroxed then, since this is the time many parent or principal conferences are scheduled. Substitutes are getting harder to find, so probably you will be dropped down into an absent teacher’s classroom during your prep period, unless a parent asks for you. You should plan to arrive at school before 7:30, since parents sometimes like to drop by for unannounced conferences before they go to work. Don’t count on getting home before 5:30, either, since after school is the time many more meetings are scheduled. Spur of the moment is a favorite time for parents to talk to their child’s teacher. Besides, after school is the time you will have to do your xeroxing, since your actual break is taken up with other people’s business on most days. This can be done, of course, only on those days that the copier is operable.

After you get home, the business people should not plan on watching much tv or spending a lot of quality time with spouse or children, since they will have from two to four hours of grading and preparation each night. Not to mention the phone calls from parents.

On the days when they do not have recess duty, the business people will be permitted to use the staff restroom as long as another survival candidate is supervising their class. It doesn’t matter if the teacher is sick or not. The size of your bladder makes no difference. No bathroom trips except one possibly very short trip, on those non-duty days.. The business people must never get diarrhea. It just doesn’t fit into the schedule. Teachers must also purchase kleenex, anti-bacterial hand wash, bandaids, sanitary napkins, safety pins, hair elastics, nail files, pencils, pens, and paper for the use of their students. They must also buy a thermometer, and know how to read it correctly. All of this is, of course, done with the teacher’s own money.

The business people must continually advance their education on their own time and pay for this advanced training themselves. This can be accomplished by moonlighting at a second job, which most real teachers actually do, or by marrying someone with money. The winner will be allowed to return to his or her job.

Pass this along to your friends who think teaching is easy, and also to the ones who know it is hard. They will both benefit. "

I do love a parody, as long as it's intentional and not just some walking joke like Benny Hinn.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:44 PM | |

It Blew Up In The Middle Of Our Video!

I subbed this morning for an instructor who had to go to a meeting, and it was a good experience. About half the class showed up, and two of the guys sauntered in forty minutes late, but even so, I had fun being there and I hope the students did, too. I love my college so much I'd probably scrub the bathrooms if they asked me to, and post about how much I enjoyed it.

I'm getting ready to email the instructor and I hope she throws the book at the two latecomers, because they did not have a good excuse at ALL. Slackers. And, if all those no-shows don't have a REALLY good reason for being absent, I hope she gives them zeros for the day. That is what we're supposed to do at this level, anyway.

I'm not mean, honest. I am just a firm believer in everyone doing his/her proper jobs.

I was at school today from 7:30 a.m. 'till 9:00 p.m. I might be a little tired.

And it WASN'T my fault that the campus server blew up in the middle of my class tonight, either. Although the sparks were lovely. . . .

I'm home now, and there's nothing quite like little cats curled up as close to you as they can get, purring away and twitching their long tails in dream-filled happiness.

There is no truth to the rumor that they only love me because there's always a 'mouse' nearby.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:43 AM | |


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