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.