Friday, December 28, 2007

Sorry Virginia.....

My Christmas story begins way back in February as I braved traffic jams from Richardson all the way through Allen three times a week as HOV lanes were constructed to improve Central Expressway/75. Not just any old HOV lane but a special HOV lane with what looks like miles of picket fence w/o the crossbar. Using my amazing powers of foresight I came to a quick opinion and prediction. Boy, that's stupid, how many of those pickets are going to get blasted to Kingdom-come every day and who will be stupid enough to get stuck in a lane where you are basically trapped in case of an accident or breakdown. My Christmas story picks up the Friday before Christmas as the 100 Farmers family attempted to leave on our trip to Grandmother's house across the Red River, over the Arbuckle Mountains, through the Ouachita Forest and into Stillwater we go. Yo ho. Here's where my amazing powers of foresight proved true as the "one day opened" HOV became a dammed(or should I say DAMNED) river of cars causing a 35 mile trail out of Dallas to last almost two hours. My powers of common sense must have been blocked by my other powers though because I was one of the idiots stuck in the HOV lane in Richardson. We sat and sat and watched lucky cars with one passenger whiz by. I wanted to believe in the powers of TxDoT during the Christmas season but the facts are hard to ignore. Sorry Virginia, the spirit of mass transportation does not exist here in Dallas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Go and listen as Uncle Jay Explains the year in review - In Song!

I'll post the video as soon as it comes out on YouTube.

Monday, December 17, 2007

100 Farmers has croaked her last today


I have four days left to wrap up Latin America. We need some serious discussion over Immigration, NAFTA, and Deforestation. I have interactive, tell what you've heard and speak your mind group activities to finish out this semester before we slink back to DEAD week and finals. The problem. I HAVE NO VOICE!!!!!! Every croaking sound that escapes my lips ends up closing my throat even tighter into a narrow straw of pain. Do we have any witch doctors or magic workers out there? I have tried everything today. Help, Help, help, croak!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's Wunderbar

We did a Unit over North America a couple of weeks ago and I played a lovely little video to illustrate Globalization and Americanization. After initially accusing me of making up the word Americanization, my classes now praise me as a supercool teacher who is one with Rammstein. I can also dangle the video like a prize at the end of class if we are completed with work. Unfortunately my daughter keeps walking around the house howling, "We all live in Amerika, it's Wunderbar!" in a large gruff voice over and over and over again. It is driving us crazy. I personally think it's wunderbar .
Amerika

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can you hear me now?

I have been feeling the need to clarify something with myself. I realized that my biggest issue this year is that I am so disappointed in quite a few of my kids. You know those kids who just don't try? Who might show up on time if at all two or three times a week. Who walk in the door empty handed and spend most of the class time avoiding any type of educational experience. Who laugh like loons at everything and make fun of everyone. Who jump up and want to fight at every imagined slight. I have a lot of those and I mean a lot. I am just not sure how to balance "the concerned, try to save these kids" teacher that I have been with "the get on with it and focus on those that want to be saved teacher" I probably need to be right now. I want so much for these kids to be successful and to GET IT. To walk out my door with some instance of "AH-ha or OH, I get it". Unfortunately, I have walked out the door too many days feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world from trying to solve too many issues that existed way before I got there. I am trying to focus on teaching creatively right now but maintaining professional sanity with the class that makes my stomach hurt. I haven't given up on those kids but I'm writing the referrals to save those that don't deserve that kind of behavior in the middle of their education. I feel like I am compromising something in myself a little but I am enjoying my kids more and I am hearing voices I haven't heard from much. No, not the funny ones in my head. The quiet voices trapped in the rabble of my classroom.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Beam me up

Have decided since I can't quit right now and haven't won the Texas Lottery yet, then my only logical solution to escaping this wretch of a school year is alien abduction. Have gotten five new students this week. Not a single one is coming in with a passing grade in Geography. One got into a screaming match with a boy across the room on day two and another didn't bother to go to school in October or the last two days. My seating chart is now theoretical. Theoretically I have these students but have not actually seen some of them enough to recognize them. In an ironic twist, I am actually proud of my lesson plans and teaching this week. I am whipped however. I am sure that I can handle an alien abduction though. I already certainly feeling probed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Motivate this

You know your class is really too large and loud when you don't even notice a big bearded man standing in your room. Subconsciously I probably assumed it was my next new student relocating from Juvie. Anyway, I politely asked him if I could help him and he said that he was checking safety details. Unlike Mister Teacher, I have my room highlighted on my fire escape plan so I was feeling pretty good. Wonder if the guy noticed that it's accidentally inverted and has my kids heading to the custodial closet? Guess not. After perusing my various escape plans taped to my door, he then asked me if I had any motivational posters to instruct students on how to act appropriately towards each other. WHAT? Huh? How does that tie into safety details? Oh darn, I forgot to put up the hanging kitty poster that says, "Be nice, don't call your neighbor a fat cow when she doesn't let you borrow a pencil for the 2,000th time." Luckily the security guy hadn't been in the room to hear that exchange earlier in the day. I looked around my room at the various word wall displays, maps, time lines, giant statue of liberty, calendars, student work and posted TEKS objective and then pointed at my class rules. I'm afraid my expectations of human behavior in the classroom are just going to have to suffice. I just haven't seen that classroom poster that says "Shut up and be nice" yet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Heaven in a bag


On my way home today I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Standing at the corner near my house was a man holding a 5-foot longish pole completely covered in packages of multicolored cotton candy. There had to have been at least twenty bags on that stick. Don't know where he was going or why in the world he was walking through my neighborhood with so much sugar goodness but it sure made me happy. How can a world with cotton candy be bad? Forget all the guys pushing their ice cream carts with bags of chicharrones. I'll be supporting the cotton candy dude from now on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lost

The past three years have really been rough for me education-wise. My neighborhood school full of people I respected and cared for was basically run into the ground by what can only be described as a unqualified, vindictive, paranoid, and possibly mentally ill principal. Last year I was offered the chance to escape to a school with some of the people I had worked with and promises of a great new position and a caring exciting principal. Within weeks, the cracks started showing in the facade of that school as deja vu set in. Paranoid rantings, personal attacks against teachers in front of the entire staff, yelling at teachers in front of their classes, moving teachers and staff randomly w/o thought to what best for students and the school because of perceived opinions she thought people had against her. The level of meanness there was sickening to your soul. Way too much like the first principal with 2/3 of the staff planning to leave by January. This year I've got administration who are there if I send someone to them but so hidden in the building that they have no effect except as reactive. I feel lost and don't know how to fix myself. There is nothing to go back to but I can't see the future either. I spent today in a great staff development and felt inspired as an educator but feel sick at the idea of going back into the classroom next Monday. How do I find myself again?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Run away, run away!!!!


My mentor told me yesterday that I should start early looking for another job because I really should get out of our school. He said that he can't put up with it anymore. Great. I was really just hoping to borrow some Atlases. Good motivational speech there. As if I hadn't figured that out from the first two weeks of school. To top it off, one of the attendance ladies called me during my last class to yell at me because I suggested in an ARD review that her daughter was having trouble adjusting to high school. This is the same lady who writes excuse passes so her daughter shows up late to my room all the time. How do I handle this one? Want to email my principal but really just feel like running away to hide in a cave for a while.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Buddha has been blown up

I just haven't been up to blogging. In the past two weeks, I have dealt with so many outrageous behavioral issues in my classes that it is difficult to remember at times that I am an experienced intelligent teacher who knows the common sense ways of dealing with students issues. I am positively overwhelmed. The only modicum of relief is that all of us dealing with the 9th graders are on a slow simmer right now because of the rising issues with disrespect, defiance and thuggery. We are talking about it and organizing. I have also received 12 new students this past week and lost two. My classes are bursting at the seams. If too many students drop PreAP at the end of the semester, I will literally be teaching with students flowing out my door. My latest student announced to the class in the first two minutes that I will need to meet his probation officer. I couldn't help myself. I actually gave him two thumbs up and told him that I couldn't wait. When my department meets and the AP teachers complain about grading papers, I want to throw spit balls at them and tell them at least they got someone to turn something in. My classes are so removed from the PreAP and AP classes. They have no idea what idea my Gen Ed/Inclusion/ESL/just released from Juvie classes are like. I am at a loss to predict what the future will hold for some of these kids. I'd say a third have no idea what basic social manners and skills are required for every day living. I am not exaggerating either. I can say I am honestly trying as hard as I can. I make a point of saying hello to each student every class period and trying to make contact in some meaningful educational way. The kicker is that my head and heart are at odds right now. Some of those kids I am trying to help are responsible for beating up and trying to rob my son and his friend last night at the DART station at Park Lane. Don't know who personally but could probably find out. I am a little scared to go to school tomorrow. I am afraid I've lost something important in myself or that I'm filled with some simmering darkness that might spill out. I feel like my giant inner core of peace has been shattered just like the Taliban blowing up the Buddhas in Afghanistan. Five days until Thanksgiving break, five days until Thanksgiving break.

Friday, October 26, 2007

And they call it the moooon

Did anyone see the gorgeous moon in the sky this morning? The air was a lovely crisp and the moon seemed so close that there seemed to be a clarity everywhere. I love Autumn. I should probably live somewhere where there really are trees whose leaves change color and then fall to the ground. Around here, we should change the season's name to Dump. One day the leaves are green, a strong wind comes and blows everything around and the next day, there are a bunch of leaves seemingly dumped in the corner of my yard. But today, with this weather, you can call it Nirvana. My mood couldn't even be fazed by Miss Skippy June's pronouncement that Ms. 100 Farmers was indeed a B*&$%. Now Miss Skippy June has only managed to make my class four times since school started so we're not as emotionally vested as she thinks we are. I know she certainly didn't get the response she was looking for. After her declaration that I was closely related to the female canine family, I casually asked her if she had been talking to my sister again. It may not have been the ultimate professional teacher response but I unintentionally scored some serious street cred with my 7th period. The funniest part was watching her trying to flounce to her seat in a room that has been rearranged four times since she last showed up. Yeah, yeah, I wrote her up and la la la, the wheels of my administration run a whole lot smoother than my previous district's so Miss Skippy June will probably be looking at the moon from a new school next month. I hope the moon shines some clarity on her then. In the meantime, this B@#$% too busy gettin' her edumacation on to let those haters get her down. Word.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Things I Should Have Learned by Now

1. Do not grab the cookie sheet above the oven vent with bare hands.
2. You cannot put off copying a class set until the last minute because it will cause every copy machines to break all at once.
3. The BS lesson you throw together for Monday morning will cause the curriculum director to miraculous visit your room.
4. Your overhead light bulb will burn out in the middle of an important interactive lesson.
5. Check the pockets of all clothes going into the washer. I found four pens in the last load: after washing but luckily before drying.
6. You will run into someone you know when you run down to get a paper with bedhead and no bra.
7. Your most challenging(worst)kid will usually rise to the occasion with defiance, snoring, desk malfunction or profanity during said curriculum director's five minute visit.
8. Do not leave the remote for any electronic device out in your room(interpret this as in reach of students).
9. Your classroom will be steaming the day you wear a sweater and freezing the day you wear a light dress with short sleeves.
10. Your students will always complain that it is too hot/too cold/too hard/boring even when things are perfect.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My weekend summed up

Going to make this short and simple: Don't going running after eating okra at lunch.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Wait a minute

I was quite touched when a student told me last week in a very sweet voice that she prayed that I would win the Texas Lotto. It wasn't until I was driving home later that I realized that she might be praying that I leave teaching completely. Seriously, this week was easier. I am feeling much more comfortable in my skin and I feel like I might have jumped a major hurdle just getting the first six weeks of grades finalized. Of course, now come the parent phone calls about junior and juniorette's grades. I have to admit that I am a little bit lonely and am actually missing the once a week department planning meetings. It would be nice to know where everyone else is and that I'm somehow headed in the right direction. If the Good Lord blew the Lotto my way, that would work also.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Not my student...sigh......

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r43yCiKlbCo

Heard today:
"Ms. 100 Farmers, why isn't Canada its own country?"

We don't need no Noise Control

I've been trying to figure out the big difference between teaching junior high and high school(besides the fact that all the girls are taller than me now). It finally came to me today as I stared down a quiet long hallway. I don't teach with my door open. During that last afternoon class, when maybe my lesson wasn't quite as tight as it was second period but my kids weren't as mentally alert anyway, I liked to open up my door and slip my own teaching murmurs into the the light education sounds coming down the hallway. There was a cohesiveness there. It might have been a sinking tiredness on that hot Friday afternoon in October(oh god, where's Fall?) but you could walk to the door and catch the eye of your fellow teacher and smile in sympathy. Here at suburbiaville, boom! my door goes shut when the bell rings. Creak, it slams open again when it's time to go. We might quickly chat between bells but there's a definite feeling of isolation. It's almost like teaching within a bubble. Don't want those Geography germs to get into our Geometry edudome, now do we? My god, that collaboration might bring down edumacation as we know it. We've got the same kids but it feels kinda stingy. My class, my kids, my core subject. Funny thing is that I have to wedge my door open with a cart between bells because the doorstop is broken. Maybe I've been symbolically trying to rebel all month long. Cue Just another Cart in the Door sung to Pink Floyd's, The Wall.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mighty Hunter

We lost our Mighty Hunter sometime last night. He found us as a yowling big fluff of orange in a parking lot 16 years ago. He was an orange tabby's orange tabby. He talked constantly, tried to drag squirrels into the house, peed on every rubber mat I ever tried to put down and slept next to me with his paw on my arm. We knew his time was very near but it doesn't make today easier. He was the senior member of our family and I feel like I have lost a part of my past. I am going to miss my Gabe.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gotta get my ducks in a row.....uh, in a desk


Evidence that I have been working myself into a stupor this past couple of weeks: I just realized today that this student I have 2nd period looks so much like a student in 3rd period because they're identical twins. I had somehow managed to put them in the same seat too. I kept thinking that the face looked awfully familiar. I sat at my desk and just laughed at myself. I think I scared my third period. Good.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tower of Babel or Babble

The class is intently creating world maps. Some students are working cooperatively, some are solely fixated on getting the coordinates perfect. There is a slight murmur of conversation but there is education happening in this classroom. Then this cracks open the calm in the classroom, "Why can't you just speak English??!!!" My class falls silent and you can almost see and feel the walls of hostility slamming up. You have to understand that my classes are amazingly diverse. Every class represents just about every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. To make a list of all the nationalities would take up all of this blog. I'd like to say that I've never had to deal with a problem like this before in my years of teaching but I have. This situation kinda caught me off guard though. The girl who yelled this out is actually one of my better students. She is motivated, mature and very pleasant to have in class. She is African-American. The girl she was yelling at is also motivated, pleasant and has a very, very strong Honduran accent. She struggles with English at times. Absolute silence rings. I have a moment of panic. Teachable moment ideas run through my head. Damage control is of course paramount to the situation. "Frequently skipping, already suspended the second week of school" Hispanic boy jumps up and wants to bring it on. Class is now shocked beyond sound and movement. I now have two incidents to handle. Boy sent outside. Boy won't go to office. Nice big coach from across the hall assures him that he will. He's off to the office where his short term memory problems keep him from remembering just exactly why he is down there. After emails and a phone conversation with the assistant principal, young man is sent home and I am back to the original situation. Quiet conversation with first girl. Explain the problem to me please? She says, "They might be talking about me and I don't like it." In my head I'm thinking that I can't believe I am having this conversation with a 9th grader. But I explain in my best teacher voice that I don't have a problem at all with Spanish being spoken in my classroom and especially not if someone needs help. I ask her to speak to me privately next time if she believes that the conversation is directed against her. She apologizes and the class relaxes as nods are exchanged between the two girls. My 45 minute cultural sensitivity seminar/soap opera draws to an end. TGIF

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ra! Ra! Ra!

Well, one week down as a high school teacher. My 6th period continues to try my patience to extreme lengths. I have never had a situation where I have had a number of students with such defiant and disruptive behaviors in class together. I called in my lead teacher to observe the class and emailed my principals while I am trying to not focus on the negativity of that class because my others are pretty good. I've got a couple of boundary pushers in the others but that one class is a doozey. I have yet to master the intricacies of watching the announcements instead of listening to them. The fact that we actually have broadcast announcements and In Focus machines is still thrilling to me. Imagine how cool it will be when we don't have to imagine the announcements. Taking attendance every period on the computer seems to take up an awful lot of time especially since my attendance roster doesn't match my class roster and even if I print it out, sometimes kids are dropped off or added while I am taking roll. Visual me shaking my head like a dog getting water out of its coat. I have had several wonderful teacher moments as I've run into several kids I taught as 7th or 8th graders in my previous district. Woo Hoo!!! To finish out the week, I even went to the football game and learned the fight songs. I really had a good time. To sum my week up: It's different and it's hard but even though the self doubt is crushing sometimes, I know I am in the right place.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teaching or Truckin'?

I came home last night so demoralized and tired that I began wondering how much I could make driving semis. I'm sure that my fondness for Jerry Reed and Burt Reynolds could overcome the itch of long distance driving hemorrhoids. Anyway, as I drove to work this morning I kept fighting the urge to bawl like a baby. This is too hard. I don't know what I'm doing. The kids are going to declare anarchy and my name will be plastered in the headlines as the world's worst teacher. Boo hoo hoo. So what happens? My morning is fabulous. The kids are interacting intelligently, laughing at my jokes and I am organized like a baptist potluck dinner. I am hitting my stride. And then SPLAT! Sixth period. Sixth period my largest class. Sixth period my class full of really large and loud boys. Sixth period. I think they smell my fear. So all in all, I think I will declare the day a draw and head back into the arena tomorrow a little more confident. Maybe. To every fellow teacher blogger who posted about their tiredness on the first day of school, thank you. You have inspired and bolstered me. One other thing though, all you experienced high school teachers, help!!!!!! How do I bluff these overgrown puppies?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

All Quiet

I am humbled by how professional and nice everyone has been at the new teacher orientation at my new district. Even when there have been lines, people have been courteous and so helpful. I spend tomorrow at my new school with the administrators and leadership team. We then go with them to a new teacher luncheon for us sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. I feel like I am sloughing off years of dysfunctional miasma from my education skin. Now if there was only something quick I could do about my teacher big booty.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Which American Civil War General are you?

You scored as General James Longstreet, Trusted by General Lee above all his other generals (after the death of Stonewall), you have a good head on your shoulders and an understanding of the changing art of war. Too bad your people will come to see you as a scapegoat and even a traitor...

General James Longstreet

65%

General Ambrose Burnside

60%

Stonewall Jackson

60%

General Nathan Bedford Forrest

55%

William T. Sherman

55%

U.S. Grant

50%

Robert E. Lee

50%

General Phillip Sheridan

40%

General George McClellan

30%

General Jeb Stuart

20%

Which American Civil War General are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
This is really kinda indicative of what I went through last year. Oh well.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pappy

My grandfather died this afternoon. He asked my uncle yesterday what day it was and when my uncle replied, " Saturday" my pappy said, "Well, I can't die on a Saturday" and went back to sleep. I guess Sunday was the right day for this devoted Church of Christ man. I know that other people and even my own family members have faith and beliefs that support them during a death but mine was probably shaped much more by Thornton Wilder's, Our Town instead of anything I learned in church. I really believe that we will all be together someday and that my Pappy is finally getting to meet the mother he lost when he was only three months old. Even though I don't share in the belief of the christian reward at the end of of your life, the idea of coming back together with all who have gone before gives me hope and sustains me.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Broad Stretch-the Broad Foundation Award

Without going into details about the myriad of sometimes dumbfounding changes happening the past two years, I will go ahead and admit that I have been rather scornful of DISD's mission being to win the Broad Foundations award. Mike in Texas's latest blog got me thinking that maybe I needed to look further into what exactly the Broad Foundation is to make sure that I wasn't being unduly harsh w/o concrete evidence. Unfortunately, the first thing that caught my attention on their website was the 2007 selection jury and the name of Roderick Paige. Yes, former Superintendent of Houston Schools-Roderick Paige. Also former secretary of the Dept. of Education and lead cheerleader for NCLB-Roderick Paige. Wait a minute-wasn't there some sorta controversy about the prize being given to Houston? Which led me to this article in EdWeek(see below). Once again, I am left with more questions than answers. Primarily whether to question if this quest for the prize has more to do with actually making DISD a better district or just making sure that the Superintendent and others involved had a Broad Foundation lovely feather in their caps. Regardless of their personal motive, the inclusion of Roderick Paige invalidates any legitimacy for me. I guess I have my answer. Research, read and question for yourself.

Published: September 24, 2003
Despite Disputed Data, Houston Backers Say District Merited Prize
By Catherine Gewertz

When the Houston school district won what was billed as the nation's most prestigious prize in urban education, the honor added yet another layer of luster to a district whose academic success helped mold federal education law and propel its former superintendent into the country's top education job. Nearly a year later, the winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education is defending itself against claims that its gains were illusory. And critics are wondering how the judges could have awarded the $1 million prize to a district that substantially undercounted its dropouts.
Even as the district was accepting the Broad Prize last October, it was struggling to address a high dropout rate that had troubled officials there for years. Many people locally knew that the rate was far worse than was suggested by Texas' required calculation method, which in 2001 pegged Houston's dropout rate at 1.4 percent.
"We've told our community for years that our dropout rate is complete baloney," said Jeff Shadwick, a Houston school board member. "Nobody around here was surprised when in fact it turned out to be complete baloney."
State Rep. Rick Noriega, a Democrat who represents Houston, finds it troubling that the biggest district in Texas was held up as a model when so few of its students complete high school.
"Without question, our achievements have been horribly inflated," he said. "The Broad Prize ignores the significance of the dropout rate. We won the prize at the expense of those students [who don't graduate]. You have to ask yourself if it's worth it."
The promotional materials for the prize, awarded by the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation, tout its "rigorous, comprehensive process" for selecting the prize winner. The process is driven by "compelling data and complete analysis," the materials say.
The data analysts affiliated with the Broad Prize steered clear of Houston's own dropout figures—which the Texas Education Agency later found to be inaccurate in 15 of the 16 schools audited—in assessing the district. Aware that dropout- calculation methods vary nationally, they used a report from the Manhattan Institute, a New York City-based think tank, which estimated the portion of a district's 8th grade class that went on to graduate from high school.
On that list, Houston ranked 43rd out of the nation's 50 largest districts, with a graduation rate of 52 percent.
"Both the review board and the selection jury were well aware of the dropout situation in Houston at that time," said Bradford C. Duggan, the president of the Austin-based National Center for Educational Accountability, which analyzed data and conducted site visits for the Broad Prize. "But their rate wasn't that unusual compared to [other] urban districts'."
Worrisome Symbol?
Noting that honors for urban districts are all too rare, some educators lament that Houston's has been brought into question by the dropout controversy. They worry that the scandal could dim the prestige of the Broad Prize, which was awarded this week for the second time, and erode its intended result: to boost public confidence in big- city school systems.
"We desperately needed this example," said Ted Sanders, who is the president of the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy-research group, and who serves on the review board that determines the Broad Prize finalists. "If it is now tarnished by the lies of a few people," he said, "that would be a shame."

Philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, announce Houston as the winner of the first Broad Prize for Urban Education last October. Supporters say Houston deserved the prize, but skeptics say recent revelations of data problems there call into question the district's claims of success—File photo by Allison Shelley/Education Week
The creation of the prize was announced in March 2002 with great flourish at the U.S. Capitol. Philanthropist Eli Broad was flanked by a bevy of congressional leaders and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Houston's former superintendent. Major newspapers covered the event; Education Week, whose coverage of leadership issues is supported by a grant from the Broad Foundation, reported that Mr. Broad hoped the honor would be the educational equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The list of judges for the Broad Prize boasts luminaries in education, politics, and business. At $1 million, it is the richest annual award to a district: $500,000 in scholarships goes to the winner, and $125,000 in scholarships is distributed to each of four finalists.
When Houston won the award last October, again in a ceremony at the Capitol, President Bush sent a written statement congratulating the district for showing what can be done "to help ensure that no child is left behind." Federal education legislation by that same name, passed the year before, had imposed strict new accountability provisions modeled in part on Texas' example.
Those who have long believed that the "Texas miracle" may produce higher test scores but not necessarily higher-quality learning, see the prize as a symbol of what is worrisome in demanding greater accountability for academic results.
"The Broad Prize is part of a carefully crafted political and public relations campaign to create the appearance of doing something without making a serious investment in schools," said Linda McSpadden McNeil, a Rice University education professor and a longtime critic of Texas' test-driven accountability system. "Test scores can go up. But it's a short-term gain at the expense of long-term learning."
But those who believe the state's accountability system has helped the 210,000-student district raise student achievement defend the prize and the district's other national acclaim as richly deserved.
Many people, both inside and outside the prize-selection process, believe that Houston's achievements are unsullied by its problem in accurately reporting its dropout rate. They point out that many factors went into Houston's selection, and they contend that it shows solid and significant improvement in student progress overall, and in raising the achievement of poor and minority children.
"Dropout statistics are notoriously unreliable," said Susan H. Fuhrman, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education. "Any district that might have won that prize might have had the same problem. It doesn't change my view that Houston deserved it. They didn't win it because they were perfect."
Many Factors
Because districts' data on dropouts were unavailable, unreliable, or calculated differently, Mr. Duggan of the National Center for Educational Accountability said his group used the Manhattan Institute figures. For districts not included in the institute's report, the center used that same method to calculate the graduation rates for finalists.
Other factors analyzed by the judges included state test scores over a three-year period, including how poor and minority students performed relative to their wealthier and white peers; results of college-entrance exams; data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress; the numbers of students taking Advanced Placement classes; and the rates of attendance and special education designation, Mr. Duggan said.
During visits to the finalist districts, teams interviewed administrators, teachers, and school board members about policy and practice, from curriculum to the use of data to monitor student performance.
Dan Katzir, the managing director of the Broad Foundation, said Houston's dropout rate and its more recent trouble with unsupported data have not altered his view of whether it should have won.
"Despite that, Houston really is a place people can look to demonstrate best practice moving children, particularly those of color and those from low-income families, up the academic-performance scale," he said.
To Laurie Bricker, a member of the Houston school board, the district's acclaim and controversy show both its strengths and flaws. "We have data-integrity issues that need to be resolved, just like many other districts," she said. "Our district showed we are just as vulnerable as any other district in the country."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday's Thirteen

Thursday's Thirteen Books on my Bookshelf Randomly Picked With My Eyes Closed
1. Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C.W. Ceram
2. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne(seriously, as if I had to tell you that one)
3. Sabriel by Garth Nix
4. God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell
5. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
6. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
7. Expiration Date by Tim Powers
8. Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino
9. The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney
10. Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans by T.R. Fehrenbach
11. Noodling for Flatheads by Burkhard Bilger
12. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
13. Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening

Pink Elephant


I did something very childish but also very satisfying today. No, I did not pick my boogers. I hung up on my sister. Took the cellphone away from my ear, clicked it shut, turned it off and put it away in my purse. I fully believe that if I had not done this, then some really awful truths might have come screaming from my brain and out my mouth. My family is known for the large "pink elephant" in the room at every family gathering. We all know it's there but no one is going to stick their neck out to acknowledge it first. I don't know if you would call this "pink elephant" resentment, familial demons, jealousy, delusion or just plain craziness. What I do know is that we never play Trivial Pursuit anymore after the "I don't appreciate you talking to me like that" commotion of the Christmas get-together of 2004. We are a restrained people and Trivial Pursuit is now verboten. Today, my sister was riding high up on top of that pink elephant and instead of just telling her how po'ed I was and how absolutely horrible I thought she was being, I kicked the pink elephant in the butt and ran away. Right now I really don't want to think about the aftershow consequences but I kinda enjoyed the circus there for a minute.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No words

Pappy has ripped out his IV and refuses to let anyone into the hospital room. My Aunt and Grandmother have been peeking around the curtain in his room to monitor him. My Dad went to work for a while today but is back up to the hospital to make plans for Hospice. No one seems to know exactly what this entails. When my mother's mom died, hospice care was provided for her at my Aunt's house. It was very comforting to her to be somewhere familiar. The last day of her life was extremely traumatic for everyone though because she was very delusional and kept screaming for help. The hospice nurse had been called but did not show up until several hours before my grandmother died. The care she gave to my grandmother and to us was superb once she got there but I really think we were in way over our heads. My grandfather is allergic to most pain medicines even if they could get him to take anything and I am afraid that he is in pain right now. I feel so lost right now. I don't know how to help my Dad or grandmother.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy Keanu Sausage



I am posting this happy little video to counteract the blazing annoyance I felt at the person who posted this little comment on DallasISD.Com .

"Oh, and there are plenty of GREAT teachers in DISD. For those who choose the suburbs, they aren't better. In fact, they are weaker, because they choose an easier classroom. Maybe THEY are the ones in it only for a paycheck? In DISD, by God, you earn your pay."

After months of internal strife and gnashing of teeth, I thought I had come to terms with my decision to leave. This however brought back flashbacks. The truth is that I do feel guilty about leaving. But to assume that I won't earn my pay makes my blood boil. So I am thinking happy Keanu thoughts now as I start planning for next year. BTW-they are happy Keanu dreams circa Something's Gotta Give not Bill and Ted's.

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Pappy

My grandfather made the decision this afternoon to stop taking all of his medications. He has been in and out of the hospital this past year and this last trip has seen him in and out of delirium and pain as they try to find out what is causing his blood pressure issues and weakness. It was such a shock when I got the news because even though he seemed to be in really bad shape at the hospital yesterday, we really just assumed that he would be back at home again in a couple of days. He said that he has finally reached a point to where he is just too tired. It's so incomprehensible to me because he has been such a tenacious fighter his whole life. He was in the hospital close to death when I was born. My father was on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific and didn't even see me until I was 6 weeks old and only then because they sent him home because my Pappy was near death. My Pappy has been crippled with rheumatoid arthritis since his early 20's. He is now in his mid 80's. He always held a job, became a minister for a church he literally helped build, maintained a really large vegetable garden until this spring, indulged my grandmother's huge flower garden, cared for grandchildren, chased after great-grandchildren and was even up on the roof last year sawing up a broken tree branch. When I mean crippled by arthritis, I mean an almost bent-over skeleton with a cane. The medicines to control the arthritis have done quite a bit of damage to his digestive system over the years but the biggest damage came from radiation treatments given to him during WWII when he worked in the naval shipyards of San Francisco. But he never really complained about it. He'd ask for his cane, pull himself up and off he'd go. To hear him say that he is just too tired to do it anymore speaks volumes. It makes me so sad for my grandmother and my Dad because they are both quiet people who don't seem very emotional but feel things very deeply and personally. I am actually glad that my Mom called me tonight to let me know because I feel that it gives me extra time to shore up my own feelings in order to be strong for my dad. His steadiness is very important to him. I am praying that Pappy slips away quietly in his sleep and the pain is all gone. My comfort is imagining him rejoining his family standing tall and proud. I think that is the image he has always had of himself anyway.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen Photo-Op: the Lost Years

Thirteen photos that are stuck in limbo on my computer. Yeah, yeah, it's a cop out but I am feeling inarticulate this week. It could be because I just got my cholesterol and glucose results back and am now forsaking colas and sugar. Alas poor monkey. Bonus points to those who can identify where the vacation pictures were taken.






Friday, July 20, 2007

If You Could Choose Your Principal

Learn Me Good brought up a very interesting idea about the need for more male role models in the elementary schools. In my elementary there was one male teacher and his entry into our hallway was always a major occasion among the older students. I of course diverged in my thought processes to dumbfoundedly realize how relieved I am at the thought of a male principal next year. My last two principals had people skills on the negligible side. Both of them were coincidentally women. Both of them were coincidentally possibly needing psychiatric care for bipolar disorders. What type of stereotypes have I developed in my mind because of the past 5 years? Do I think women principals are too emotional? Do I find male principals less threatening? Is my relief at a male principal because I secretly feel him to less capable or that I can get along with a male superior better? There are a lot of dynamics here that are worrisome to me. What exactly am I hoping to see in a principal? One who knows their stuff and directs me as he/she sees necessary or one who leaves me the hell alone to do my job? If you had a choice, would you choose a male or female principal?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Four Things Meme

I am only doing this because I respect Ms. Cornelius so much. I am at lovely TCU in Fort Worth this week enjoying an AP Teacher Institute. They are certainly taking care of us and I am in a class with some really dynamic teachers. Woo Hoo!
Four Things
Four Jobs I've Had:
Short-order Cook
YWCA Counselor
Christmas Gift Wrapper
Waitress
Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:
Sixteen Candles
Bridget Jones's Diary
Arsenic & Old Lace
Wizard of Oz
Four Musicians or Groups I'm Obsessing About Right Now:
Blue October
Blind Boys of Alabama
Death Cab for Cutie
Sufjan Stevens
Four TV Shows I Love:
Star Trek-prefer Next Generation
Doctor Who
Addams Family
Homicide
Four Places I've Vacationed:
Four Corners
Jamaica
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Balmorrhea(West Texas)
Four of My Favorite Dishes:
Kheer-Ok, I know it's technically dessert but I love it.
Tom Kha Gai-this is a Thai chicken coconut milk soup that I could literally swim in.
Chili Rellenos
Charcoal Pork Salad over Vermicelli
Four Sites I Visit Daily:
Ms. Cornelius
Texas Teacher Chatboard
Education in Texas
The Education Wonks
Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
Balmorrhea, Texas
Edinburgh, Scotland
Rhine Valley, Germany
In a perfectly cleaned house
Four People I am Tagging:
Mike in Texas
Mister Teacher
Educator on the Edge
California Teacher Guy

Friday, July 06, 2007


Another t-shirt site I recommend for shear silliness. Finally watched the extended version of Return of the King. I miss the days of eagerly waiting for the next Lord of the Rings movie to come out. I have already bought my ticket for the midnight showing of Harry Potter. There is a group of us teachers from my old school who meet for movies based upon kid books, especially Harry Potter. We may look a bit silly and long in the tooth but I guarantee we have more fun. We also look darn good in wizard hats.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"The older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others."

PHILADELPHIA, Pa., 1787 -

I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve of it, for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope that the only difference between our two churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrine is, the Romish Church is infallible, and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But, though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister, said: "But I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right."
In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults - if they are such - because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered; and I believe, further, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution; for, when you assemble a number of men, to have the ad- vantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?
It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded. By BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1787)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Trinity Vote

Gerry J. McCarthy / DMN Photo Staff
I try to avoid getting too political on my blog but I am happy to say today that it is very cool to see Democracy in action. Many years ago, we voted on a bond package to improve the Trinity River here in Dallas. Nothing has been done yet and the plans we voted for are not the ones that have materialized in the works. Trinity Vote gathered over 80,000 signatures supporting a vote to prohibit a proposed toll road from being built in the Trinity Park. Now, the Trinity only looks like a mighty river during the flood stage above but it would certainly look a lot worse with a six lane toll road running through it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Meme by default

I'm going to do this even though I think my tagger Mister Teacher may be stretching the truth on some of his random facts.

1. I am scared to death of balloons. I can't imagine my reaction if I ever come face to face with a hot air balloon.

2. I used to be a Rainbow girl. Those Demolays sure were cute.

3. I have four cats and a black lab. I believe the dog thinks it's a cat too.

4. I don't feel like I could belong to either political party right now.

5. I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.

6. I could take a road trip any time. If the gas wasn't so expensive that is.

7. I have a boxing devil puppet hanging above my monitor. The nuns are in the garage.

8. I would probably be a better teacher if I could wear shorts and flip-flops every day. Okay, at least a more comfortable teacher.

TaDa:

The rules are
1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Now, I am going to tag:

daveawayfromhome-sorry.
juniorhighteacher-miss your blogging
The Pig's Tales
CaliforniateacherGuy
Polski3
EducatorontheEdge
Teaching in the 408
The Science Goddess

Just for Grins

The sun is shining today in Dallas. Just ate some bodacious barbecue and am fixin' to paint my kitchen a lovely shade of orange. Hooray summer. Hope you like this video. Captain Kirk, Peter Falk, Christopher Walken...oh my....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday's Thirteen: Driving Songs


My current love these days is my pink Nano that I got for Mother's day. It was an absolute life saver when I took myself and the little farmers on an impromptu gallop to Austin. The shuffle feature kept me alert and it was very interesting to see how the songs that popped up often matched the mood between the sometimes warring farmers in the backseat. Don't worry, no matter how tempting, I didn't have the earplugs in my ears. Got the handy FM transmitter to go with it. Woo Hoo! No more warping CD's in a hot car in a broiling Texas summer. Anyway, here is a list of the first thirteen songs that drove us South down I-35.
1. If the House is a Rockin'...Stevie Ray Vaughan
2. Talkin' at the Texaco...James McMurtry
3. The Pirates Who Don't do Anything... Veggie Tales
4. Texas 1947....Guy Clark
5. Overkill (Acoustic version)...Colin Hay
6. Normal Like You...Everclear
7. Visions of Johanna...Bob Dylan(I was going to name my youngest Johanna until my stupid ex married a woman by the same name.)
8. Walk Away Renee...The Four Tops
9. Just Like Heaven...The Cure(Stuck in construction traffic in Lancaster singing to the truckers in the lane next to me)
10. Still In Love With You... Al Green(that's the Reverend to you)
11. Tenderness...General Public
12. Illegal Smile...John Prine
13. Australia...The Shins

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not quiet because I want to be

Social anxiety disorder is a persistent fear of one or more situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing. It exceeds normal "shyness" as it leads to excessive social avoidance and substantial social or occupational impairment. Feared activities may include almost any type of social interaction, especially small groups, dating, parties, talking to strangers, restaurants, etc. Physical symptoms include "mind going blank", fast heartbeat, blushing, stomach ache.
Hi, My name is 100 Farmers and I am scared of people. We had a party today for our youngest 100 Farmers and I am drained of all energy and thought. I love planning parties and the whole creative process but the actual thought of interaction ruins the days leading up to the actual event. I haven't slept and I've had acid reflux come up the back of my nose. I come by this honestly: my father actually gets physically ill before extended family events and my mother is just certifiable. The funny thing is that it doesn't happen like this in the classroom. I might feel nervous the night before school starts but being in front to those kids has never been an issue. I have accidently spit on the overhead during a presentation, gone flying across the room after tripping, fallen on my rear out of my chair and even belched. I just laugh with the class and the larnin' goes on. As I get older though, I am finding that my nervousness is actually getting worse. I tried Lexapro for a while but really hate medicating myself. I am afraid that I might be limiting my kids from what constitutes normal interaction. We never had people over to the house growing up and absolutely never went anywhere as a family. Well, camping alone as a family on an island at Texoma doesn't really count. How do I reverse this though? It's not like I was raised by wolves but sometimes trying to get the words from my brain to my mouth is like learning to speak. When people comment about quiet I am, they don't realize that the person they see is not the person I am inside.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rain, rain go away

Quit raining all ready. We get it. The drought is over. I am developing webbed feet and a short fuse. I want to see the sun!!!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

No more bellini's after dinner dream

Dreamed that I ran into my friend "Don" at the grocery store. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and army pants a la Trapper John from "Mash" style. Anyway, what is strange about this dream is that "Don" has been dead about 18 years. He fell off a mountain while on a weekend pass in Germany while serving in the Marines. That really has nothing to do with the dream but is an interesting aside. Anyway, "Don" was telling me how happy he was and that he was teaching at this really great school for disadvantaged boys. He insisted that I had to come teach there with him. So, in the contractual no-man's land that I am in right now, I go. Who is his co-teacher in this wonderful new school? By Gosh, it's my principal from this past year. Boy, are they teaching and they're helping the youth and they're happy and for some other strange reason, their students include all boys that I have taught the past 10 years. Some from my first year of teaching, some from last year, different schools but all at the age that I taught them. Poor kids, some of them have been magically transformed from 25 to 15 years old again. Ooh, puberty times two. Sorry guys. So, I jump in and we're teaching and so proud of ourselves for what we're doing to help these poor youth and the impact that we're having. Remember, it's a dream. Then I woke up. What the hey? Why am I dreaming of someone permanently stuck in my mind as a 22 year old Marine? Why am I dreaming of my principal? Why have I doomed my former students to another gawky go at acne? Is this a guilty dream for going to the suburbs? Who knew that peach schnapps activated your dream conscience? Who knew that I have a thing for Alan Alda?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Regrets: Am I out there?

Way back in that life that doesn' t belong to me anymore, I came back home to Lubbock from visiting my folks to find that someone had broken into our house. This lovely person had broken in through our baby son's window and smoked several Marlboro's while choosing what things were of interest to him. My wedding set knives, a camera, jewelry boxes, my curling iron, 7 rolls of undeveloped film from my son's first year of life, my wedding album, my high school annuals, my junior high yearbooks, my scrapbooks from elementary and Rainbow Girls, and my family picture album. Now I should note that he did leave behind my son's baby book. All of these albums were collected from various parts of the house. Some were taken from a chest underneath my son's crib. Some from inside cabinets. Some from our bedroom. Some from the living room. We were in college at the time so we were really slim pickins but he managed to carry away about 10 years of my memories during his visit. Now you might be asking why I refer to our burglar as a he? Funny thing is that about two months and a residence change later, I got a cute letter from an inmate at a prison in New Mexico. He had seen my picture in Texas Tech's yearbook and thought I was a real sweetheart. He described his Fraternity days at SMU, drew me funny little pictures of himself as an inmate with his Greek letters on the pocket instead of his inmate numbers and invited me to keep him company via our correspondence. Did I write him back? Oh yeah. Played it stupid to get more info about him but kept getting more cutesy letters talking about his time in prison for a crime that he wouldn't even have been put in jail for in Texas. After those couple of letters, my heebie jeebies got the best of me and my correspondence with my prison buddy came to a halt from my side. I just threw away his letters without opening them and shortly afterwards I left Lubbock for good. Goodbye marriage, goodbye Lubbock. Good Riddance. If I spent time mooning over every object that got lost, stolen or destroyed, I would howl at the moon every month. It's gone and I can't change it. But I do regret not following up on that inmate. I wish I had contacted the prison officials or the detective who investigated the robbery or something. There is ten years of ME out there somewhere and I don't want it back. I hope that stuff has long been thrown away. But that stuff is a heebie jeebie that I can't get rid of because it's like a part of myself being owned by someone else. I regret not doing something about that.

One last Vis-a-Vis

One of my favorite teacher bloggers is saying sayonara to teaching. His daily observation on teaching, his gaffes, and misdirections have kept me looking forward to reading his blog every day. You have made me feel like a co-conspirator in educamational anarchy. Good Luck and here's to a lucrative deal no matter where you are. Hip, Hip 123 I Love You.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Favorite Buttons

Kudos to Education in Texas. Here are some of my favorite buttons.





And last but not least, I wish I had worn this back during my waitressing days.



Saturday, June 16, 2007

And now for the other side of the story.....

Things that make me proud to be a teacher......
1. The 7th grade TX History teacher that prepares the most exciting lesson plans for her kids and makes those classes ROCK. Did I mention the radiation, chemotherapy and shunt in her chest these past three years? This woman is one of the strongest persons that I know.
2. The Science classes building and then shooting rockets over the building. I think we may have freaked out some people in the neighborhood but we got some kids back into school with this.
3. Okay, I am a nerd but I loved the Comic Book and Gamers Club. I can say with pride that I rule Wii Golf and that Wolverine is the best X-Men. BTW-they incorporated reading, math and technology into these after school clubs.
4. The technology teacher who goes out of her way to get us the best technology for our classes. She also has a gentle way of getting our worst Luddites to use technology better in their classrooms.
5. The principal who greets those kids at the curb everyday, frequently pops his head in the classroom door just to say hello to you and "his Kids", walks that school constantly, seems to know every kid and delivers your paycheck to you with a candy bar.
6. The teacher who has the most amazing gift for involving even her most special of special ed students in all classroom activities. This woman goes beyond accommodating in a way that lifts her entire class up.
7. The counselor who mentors students and teachers. The kids love her because she is always available for even just a chat or a hug, but also because she is sensible and really expects the best from them. That's why we teachers love her too.
8. The collaboration that goes on with my team. When those kids begin to realize that all we ever do is talk about them, they seem so bemused. I also think they really like the idea that we've got their back.
9. That teacher whose class is hard, that doesn't take late work, who makes you redo an assignment when it isn't up to her standard, whose room is so so organized for learning that the kids can't wait for the next assignment or project. The students may complain about the rigor but they kvetch with pride in what they've learned and can do.
10. The kids. I love saying that I teach kids. I am proud to be a teacher.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wednesday Whine

My Top Ten List of Things that Should Never Happen at a School
1. A teacher selling the snacks and water designated for testing days.
2. A teacher taking her 7th period Social Studies class to gym every day for 12 weeks because the class is out of control and she can't handle it.
3. A teacher discussing her new boyfriend with her classes. What's so bad about this? The new boyfriend is the roommate who has been living with her and her husband.
4. A principal announcing to a group of fellow principals that the only white kids that go to her school are white trash.
5. Money for new student restrooms being diverted to replace carpet, tile and paint in the front office. Oh, Did I forget the new office furniture?
6. A teacher who sends her AVID classes to the library everyday while she prepares state AYP paperwork for the principal.
7. A teacher who stole a printer from one teacher, pens from another, personal stationary from another............
8. A teacher selling spray paint to junior high students. I don't know what is worse: the fact that he sold a state controlled item to students or that he pocketed the money and never actually delivered the paint.
9. Failing to provide essential 504 accommodations or SPED testing because your SST doesn't meet.
10. Keeping this person principal for four years.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Old Red Courthouse Life



Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

John Lennon



If you look very, very closely, you will notice the men hanging off the side of the dome. I wouldn't and couldn't do that job. Just imagine the errant winds whipping you around and the scramble to get down when a ferocious summer storm whips up like it has the past couple of days. Just imagine the view that you get everyday though. Now I sometimes go a little stir crazy during the summer and it has hit me a little bit earlier this year because I am cooling my heels waiting for my contract to be prepared. I realized yesterday while laying on my back watching the ceiling fan at 6 o'clock in the evening that my restlessness has regressed into a zombie-like state. I'm spending so much time waiting that I forgot to keep living the past two weeks. So today, we hopped on the train and headed downtown. We just walked and looked at everything. We went to Dealey Plaza, we went to see the cow statues, we went up Reunion tower, we checked out books from the downtown library, and took pictures like tourists. It was hot, we were attacked by mosquitos in front of city hall but I wasn't staring at my ceiling fan. It's not the same as hanging off the clock tower at the Old Red Courthouse building, but it's a much better way of living than eyeballing cobwebs.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Same old whine, second verse

How much influence does your principal have on the climate of the school? If the teaching staff is dynamic and cohesive but the boss person is sometimes mentally unstable(sometimes off his/her rocker), how much does it affect what goes on in your classroom? Here's the quandary: I have been offered a job in a neighboring suburb. I have also been offered a really cool position at the school I'm currently in. Here are the details with bonuses in italics.

New school: five classes a day, 20-30 kids a class, really good district, have never taught this particular subject, different district from my kids, Suburbs, 20 minutes from home. Lovely new classroom with lots o'technology, 3000 student body, don't know anyone(anonymity).

Old School: six classes a day, 10-20 kids a class, in the news constantly in turmoil urban district, really good at teaching this subject, all TAG kids, same district as my kids, Urban, 15 minutes from home, derelict portable with questionable technology, 1200 student body, know too many people but have a fantastic work reputation(leverage).

Some fellow teachers are aghast that I am even having trouble deciding. Some say stay, some say go. Do you stay with the familiar newly packaged, more pleasantly flavored poison or jump off that ledge into the unknown? I know what this principal is like and that is such a factor. The team I'd be working with is soooooo good but I am so afraid of not taking this chance offered to me. As a good liberal teacher I'd suck it up and enjoy teaching my best in my teeter totter of a portable. As someone who's been burned by two consecutive unstable principals, I think of that new classroom and giggle like a child opening a present. Oy ve.

Monday, April 09, 2007

She Ain't Going Nowhere?

She Ain't going Nowhere

Standin' on the gone side of leavin'.
She found a thumb and stuck it in the breeze.
She'll take anything that's goin' close to somewhere.
She can lay it down and live it like she'd please

She ain't goin' nowhere, she's just leavin'.
She ain't goin' nowhere she can't breathe in.
And she ain't goin' home, and that's for sure.

She's not sitting and cryin' on her suitcase.
She has no second thoughts by the road.
But she's feelins than need some reparin'.
And she did not give a damn that it showed.
Guy Clark

My family moved to Big D back when Plano was actually a separate town. I have had a love/hate relationship with it ever since. In my heart of hearts, I have always thought of that teeny tiny town that we came from as HOME. I have been toying with the idea of moving back home-ish for years now. Of course, it's not really home anymore. Housing developments have popped up everywhere and all of the farm land and rolling hills have for sale signs on them. My grandparents have a small house on a huge lot but in an area that is becoming the wrong side of town. The schools are much better than they were and things are much quieter. For now. My kids are in good schools here. Separate schools. One in a magnet and the other in an elementary across the lake because our neighborhood school doesn't cut the mustard. Our neighborhood is good though with a rec center around the corner. I can only afford to rent and not actually own here though. What is the problem? I feel like going home again. Or just leaving. I feel as lost as I did as a 10 year old. I don't know if I can bear to come back to this district another year. It's not the teaching and it's not the kids but the combined issues, politics and policies of Big D have become more than I can handle. I don't know if I can leave my kids in this district while I teach somewhere else and I'm afraid to take them someplace else where they might fall behind. The next six weeks are going to be very interesting. I almost think that having the choice to move now is harder than being forced to move back then.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bad Uncle Sam


I am in the throes of preparing for TAKS and trying to create a memorable resume that will cause people to chase me down the road in the hopes of hiring me to teach for them. I have nothing memorable to blog. Think this t-shirt would leave a lasting impression at a job fair? I would love to wear this the last day of school. Of course, it might actually be my last day of teaching.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Udderly Convinced



I so want this t-shirt for our first staff development this summer. How do you think it will go over with the powers that be? I am addicted to this website because of a long standing need to paper every binder that I have with witty stickers. At least I think they're witty. My own delusional way of sticking it to the man. So sad.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Man's Best Friend

Dear Mr. Pickup Man,
I nearly caused a wreck trying to get off HW 75 in McKinney when I saw your dog running back and forth across your open flatbed. See, I just didn't want to be there when your dog fell out of the truck and was run over. Lucky me, I looked over my shoulder and saw you swerve around stopped traffic at HW 380. Guess what I saw? Your poor dog fall out of your truck. How in the world he missed getting run over by you, your horse trailer, or on-coming traffic-I don't know. How he missed the cars on the service road or how you missed getting run over yourself running across 75 after him I don't know. All I know is I pulled over to the side to see if I could stop him and watched you scoop him up and pat him on the head. I hope he is okay. I hope you took him to the vet. I hope that you learned your lesson and put your poor dog in that big pickup cab with you from now on. I got back in my car and cried and shook for quite a while before I could drive away. Mr. Pickup man, your dog was put through something terrible today and you received a little grace from God today. I hope you pass the word around that your dog is so precious that you will never, ever again put him in the back again. I hope that you tell others and that they take better care of their dogs also. Why isn't it a law that dogs don't run free in the back of pickups? Unfortunately, this article is seven years old.

Texas A&M Veterinarian Says Dogs And Pickups Don't Mix
COLLEGE STATION - It seems as if everyone and his dog has a pickup truck in Texas - and dogs may be the worse off for it. Texans love their pickups, and dogs seem to love riding in the back, a sight so familiar it has become commonplace. But it can be downright deadly for dogs, says a Texas A&M University veterinary professor. "We see numerous cases of injured dogs who have been hurt because they were riding in pickup trucks," says Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine's Small Animal Clinic who is familiar with such injuries. "These dogs' owners just don't think a serious injury will happen, but it often does. And very often, the dog is killed or has to be put to sleep." There are no Texas laws governing dogs riding in pickups. Zoran says many dog owners don't want the dog in the front cab because it's either dirty or wet, or they believe the dog enjoys riding in the pickup bed. "They place them in the back of the pickup and go barreling down the highway at 70 miles per hour, and that's when disaster can strike," she adds. "Dogs have padded feet, which means they can't grip or hold on well at all," Zoran explains. "If the driver has to make a sudden stop or sharp turn at high speed, the dog has one way to go - flying out of the truck. The injuries that result are very serious." If they survive the fall, many dogs go on to suffer broken legs, hips or backs, the Texas A&M veterinarian notes. "One of my best friends lost a dog that way. He turned, the dog jumped out of the pickup and he ran over him," Zoran recalled. "He was devastated and said it was the best dog he had ever owned. He didn't think anything would ever happen to his dog in the back of his truck." "It's legal to let a dog ride in the back of a pickup, but it's certainly not something we recommend," Zoran believes. Zoran says if a dog is in the back of a pickup, it should be placed in some type of carrier or tied down with a harness or restraint. "There's probably not a veterinarian in Texas who hasn't treated a dog injured from riding in a pickup truck," Zoran adds. "It is so common now, especially in rural areas, to see dogs leaning over the rail in the back of a pickup, but owners should realize that it is not a safe place for a dog they love."
Contact: Keith Randall at (409) 845-4644 or Deb Zoran at (409) 845-2351 06/22/99

Monday, March 12, 2007

The EVIL READING TAG

*Look at the list of books below.
*Bold the ones you’ve read.
*Italicize the ones you want to read.
*Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.
*If you are reading this, tag you’re it. A friendly raspberry to Learn Me Good.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)-such a wonderfully written book.
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)-incredible book though Salem's Lot is still my favorite.
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)-it all started here.
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)-I Still think that Jo married the wrong guy.
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)-started it and will not finish it.
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)-had my towel during labor. Ford was right!!!
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)-Oh, soooo dramatic!!!!
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)-I love the entire series but Prince Caspian is my favorite.
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)=my lord the movie was bad!!!!!
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)-someone shoot me if I ever try to read her again.
34. 1984 (Orwell)-still get it and Brave New World confused. 10th grade required reading.
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)-very silly in retrospect.
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)-guilty read.
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)--I bawled for days reading this book. I think it traumatized me.
45. Bible-honestly, I mostly look at the pictures in the family bible.
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)==Anyone read Teacher Man? Loved it.
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)-my family during the Depression.
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)--my hubby made me read it. No big deal, sorry.
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)--still haunted by the moldy wedding cake image.
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)-I don't get it. Oh, the poor, poor rich.
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)--Hellooooo Christian Right Republicans.
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)-read it in Espanol.. Boy I used to be smart. What happened? I think I might try this again in English.
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)--been avoiding this for years because my sister is tooo crazy about it. 70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)-memories of reading this as a 13 year old floating on a tube tied to a tree at Lake Texoma. Why was my mother letting me read this?
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)-I LOVE THIS BOOK in a girlie voice.
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)-required 7th grade reading. Boy, my teacher loved Mystery Theater.
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)-Everybody who was anybody was reading this in high school. I didn't. Boy I am hard-headed.
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)=1984 anyone?
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)-this book helped me to leave my first husband.
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) This is a simple book but oh so sweet.
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)Ponyboy!!!!!!
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)--I can't stand James Joyce.
101. Jurassic Park-I thought Jeff Goldblum was cast perfectly for the movie.
102. Learn Me Good-of course.