Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friends Don't Razz Friends Who are Teachers

Last night at dinner, a couple of friends were questioning the release time from school the district has provided due to the adoption of a new, complex math program. I understand that it's inconvenient for parents to have to make other arrangements for their children. However, math is no longer 2 + 2, as my friend so glibly asked me.

Elementary school children are expected to tackle concepts that in the past, students didn't touch until middle school, at least. Oh, excuse me, junior high. That's another thing that has changed. Further, 3rd graders (on up) are expected to prove their answers to problem solving tasks, and to be able to explain how they solved them. We are covering geometry, algebra, coordinate graphing, you name it...I teach fifth grade, and it is amazing. Let us remember that each year in Oregon the benchmark for passing the state test keeps being raised, NOT lowered, as another friend stated - baldly untrue. And just because you hear it on the radio don't make it true! (Grammar error on purpose! What would we do without teachers teaching grammar!)

Follow this link to get a taste of what fifth graders have to know these days:
There is nothing unethical about a practice test, by the way - this comes from the state, and students have to know how to deal with multiple choice questions, deal with testing on a computer instead of paper/pencil, etc.

There was a little steam coming off the top of my head...I wish I could remain calm and try to correct their misperceptions, but I work too damn hard to hear that - and these friends kn0w it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Haku the Traveler

So, Haku the dog has left for Mexico. After a long and complicated process, he has gone to join his primary owner Megan. It was really hard for me to put him in that crate and walk away from the cargo shipment center. I know how many bewildering hours he has ahead of him; a night in San Francisco at a "pet motel", a long flight to Mexico City tomorrow. Megan will be there waiting for him and he will be thrilled. I hope in the end it was harder on me than on him. He is one of the most loving dogs I've ever known. Thankfully (I think - fingers crossed) I am done with the horrible muzak on the United Cargo shipment line. I knock on wood and hope Murphy didn't hear me. I miss him.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two in one day?

Why not? I'll make up for lost time.

Tomorrow night is a memorial for an amazing man who changed my life. His name was Art Honeyman, a friend of my parents at Portland State in the '60s when they returned to college as older students. Art was a young, rebellious, gifted writer with severe Cerebral Palsy. I had the honor of meeting him when I was only 10 or 11, and got to see the man behind the disabled body; his mouth could hardly form words but his mind was full of brilliance. I loved writing, and he shared his writing with me. He also gave me a couple of books he'd had when he was a child (which I still have). I consider him my first mentor as a writer, and he's a huge reason I became a special education teacher.

Many years went by between knowing Art as a child and rediscovering him again as an adult. He had a booth at Portland Saturday Market for a long time. I bought one of his children's books about being a child with CP, and still didn't see him hardly at all. A number of years ago I happened to be at Saturday Market, and there he was. I got in email contact with him, and saw him a time or two. We emailed and he shared a chapter of a book he was writing with me. I found out by accident, more or less, that he'd passed away last December. He was a secondary character in a film called The Music Within, about a disabilities activist who was at PSU with Art. In searching for info about the film, I discovered his obituary. I was so sad that I had no connection to his life and no way to reach those who also knew him. Much to my surprise and delight, I received an email "from Art" a month or so ago. His friends at PSU invited people in his address book on his computer (as well as those closer in the loop) to come to a party, a celebration, for him.

So, we get to remember a wonderful man whose platform for student government was Spastic Power. I will remember him always.

My bad

OK, one of my friends noted that I haven't been here blogging since....too long. I will share some random thoughts, probably influenced by being sick all week. I can't promise it will make any sense.

The year has started out very challenging for all of us at school. The schedule is like being on a hamster wheel, and we have so little control any more of what we do. There are times I don't feel that a master's degree plus 45 credits means anything at all. I might as well be a trained automaton. It's sad and frustrating. It starts out with No Child left Behind and works it way down from there. It doesn't feel like best teaching practices. In the meantime, I have to remember it's young human beings here, the whole's a huge responsibility. I love the kids or I wouldn't be here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

School, Week 2, Monday

I really will try to keep the school whining down to a minimum, but after all, this is one of those "it's my party" sort of things. Things have changed so much in 25 years of teaching - we used to have a lot of freedom and room for creativity. Everything is now so regimented; I'm locked in to a schedule I really have no control over - the good part is that the specialists have common times to work with kids who need the help. So, everyone who teaches fifth grade math does it at the same time, as with reading, etc. It leaves precious little flexibility. Since I am coordinating with a co-teacher in our bilingual program, we have that layer on top of the rest. It is exciting to see how much language these kids have learned in the last 3-4 years, I will say that. They are learning how to relate culturally in a deeper way, too. That's the good part.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Most Embarrassing Moment

Last night may top the list of embarrassing moments in my life. I went to dinner with S and two male friends (whose spouses were out of town). We had a lovely dinner, and the waittress complimented us on how well-behaved we were - compared to the last time! That's what makes the following even funnier.

As we were getting up from the booth, S said his hat was on the floor. It was near the wall. I gallantly offered to retrieve it, and lay down on the bench, stretching for it. As I am short, that meant really laying down on it. Turns out the bench was NOT attached to the base but merely set upon it. I felt the bench sliding toward the floor, pushing me off and under the table....I was trying to figure out what the hell was happening, heading for the table base in slow mo...pinned between the table top and the bench! The table began to tip. People were gasping, "Is she all right?!" The crash of glasses, plates, and silverware followed, which all landed on the opposite seat.

I was extricating myself as quickly as possible - STILL HOLDING the offending hat in hand as I crawled out from between my rock and hard place. The waitress said, "We'll get that fixed right away!", no doubt envisioning the next lawsuit. I gave him his hat, and strode out the door of the restaurant, my face burning. Our little group let me know this incident would be repeated many times in legend and tale...

What's your most embarrassing moment? Can you top this one?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today's Funny from the Kids

We brought together the two classes of fifth graders learning Spanish. To introduce themselves, they needed to tell a partner how they were given their names. Of course, this is all in Spanish. One boy was introducing his partner, and basically said his parents got his name off a kleenex box. We all started to howl - 46 kids and two teachers. He had really said it was off a brand of Irish Cream, not kleenex. A boy after my own heart...

A Date No One Wishes to Remember

This day can't be ignored. I heard on NPR this afternoon that NYPD now has a Muslim chaplain and they are doing a lot of outreach. It was really very positive and hopeful. There was an Arabic police officer who was interviewed. He said he had great support from his fellow officers, asking if he was all right or suffering harrassment. He did mention that someone screamed at his wife to "go back where she came from", but that she was born in Brooklyn. That was also closer to the event, and feelings were probably still high, but understanding one another is a place to begin to heal.

I'm trying to imagine myself as someone who lost a loved one that day, and knowing I can't speak from that kind of pain - I would never try to pretend I know what it is to be in those shoes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brand New Blog

Wow - here it is, a clean, fresh page all stretched out before me. I'm not sure if it is virginal, or just a reflection of the blank state of my mind. In any case, I've threatened to start a blog - mostly because I want to share with you all my very important and no doubt correct opinions about almost everything.

School has started; I am back teaching 5th graders. I drag my feet at giving up summer (much as do they), but when they walk in the door I'm very happy to be there. Today's funny tidbit: a boy had a scab on his nose which came off. I told him to get a tissue to dab at it - the next thing I know he is looking at his reflection in the faucet on the sink to check it out. How can you help but laugh?

Underlying my thoughts and settling on my heart right now is the knowledge that my niece is once again fighting cancer at 43 years old; a hard fight, numerous surgeries and resurgences. My massage therapist's husband is in the end stages of life with a brain tumor; he's had two years since the diagnosis, and his wife and two children (still school-age) walk this last road with him. I am so sad...The great news is that one of our young friends has been found cancer-free after her second surgery and resulting treatments for a brain tumor.

My sister-in-law is cancer-free, thank God. She was dropped by her insurance, and because of her preexisting condition may not be able to get coverage after COBRA runs out. Do I think we need health care reform? Yes. Do I think it's a backdoor way for the government to control everyone's lives? No. Will it be perfect? Undoubtedly not. However, consider the consequences of inaction. I burn when I think of the wealth lining the pockets of folks in the "industry" who don't have anything to do with care provision. I wonder which plan to choose by Tuesday, because my premiums have increased 25% this fall. And I am lucky, because I do have health insurance in the first place.

Thanks for letting me unload.