Friday, April 30, 2010

Why teaching is so freaking hard.

I'm taking down the photos of the kids i tutor for privacy. I'll be putting up a new post maybe Wednesday or Thursday night. I am probably being overly cautious because i have doubts that many of these parents at this school even own a computer and it's very doubtful they would actually find this blog. I am however, leaving up this one.

This blog post today is a sort of op-ed piece. And i won't keep it up very long before i change it because i like the participatory part of blogging best.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I took these photos just today when i went to tutor. I tutor at a school once a week at lunchtime at one of the poorest schools in the district where the free and reduced lunch percentage is about 96-98%.

(Their teacher is Ms. Hippie's mom's best friend, Mrs. E and she is awesome. )

The kids in the first photo are not ones i tutor, but i liked this photo a lot so i put it up.
As i arrived i slipped in quietly because Mrs. E was presenting online math on a screen. So i sat down and after a bit discreetly snapped a photo, but that girl in the middle noticed me. And she said 'Oh i didn't look right in that one, can you take another'? And so i did. (She was right, the first one was not good.)

Later i went off to tutor with my three girls. That is S a hiding her face. She is so incredibly sweet. And she is often absent from school. (I have heard that her family may be keeping her home to help babysit the younger kids. But S is only 3rd grade!)

I like S a lot because she really wants to learn and she is so polite. E is the girl in pink and she is the one who cannot add 2+3 unless she counts on her fingers, so forget about multiplying. She doesn't even try because she has decided math is too hard. No one at home helps her according to her so the flash cards i bought her won't help much if they don't use them. My mission with her is not to even get her to multiply in the double digits, but to at least get her to a point where she is not afraid of math and to at least pay attention and try to understand. She is difficult. And i am not ready to give up on her, but i almost was after the first two weeks.

P... That's her in the blue coat. I had to take three photos of her before i got one i felt was natural. I had to tell her 'quit with that fake cheesy smile'. (I talk to these girls like i did my own nieces and nephews because i figure they cannot fire a volunteer, right?).

P is the drama queen that cried my first day tutoring which shocked me because I have never, since my first day of tutoring back in 1997, ever had a student cry. But what is so amazing is she is actually the best of all of them even though she is still not quite where she should be. What i love about her is she is really trying hard. She, like S, really wants to get this. Right now her own personal mission is to learn all her multiplications x 12 on her own. I actually never expected to like her as much as i do. But i really do like her a lot.

The reason i am writing all of this is because they are talking so much about education reform these days. And i only see a teeny tiny fraction of what teachers are going through. I am only tutoring 3 third graders. But all 3 are on different levels.

AND I only work with them for 45 minutes. But after 45 minutes I am fairly exhausted from trying be inclusive of all three of them at their different levels. And i wonder, how in the freaking world does any teacher with a class size of 25 do this?

And yet the news is filled with talk about education reforms and how good a teacher is should be decided by their student test scores. So i have a couple of questions to ask of those folks who believe this shit.And especially the legislators who think they need to do something about this:

#1. S misses LOTS of school because her family needs her at home. So when Sabrina scores low on the tests because she has not been present for the teaching and she has no parent at home working with her why should her teacher be punished?

#2. E should never have been promoted to the second grade, much less the third grade. If you want to evaluate a teacher on student test scores, shouldn't the first grade teacher be blamed more than the current teacher if E cannot add 2+3 in third grade?

and finally #3. What teacher would ever want to teach in a school like this if they felt their evaluation and salary depending on their students?

And i am not even working with the BD kids (behavioral disorder) because Mrs. E likes me and doesn't want to scare me off.

So to anyone who thinks that student test scores should be tied to a teacher's pay i have something to say to you, and it's what i've been saying for years about anyone who wants to rank and rant about teachers being so bad, (and DON"T even get me started about that recent Newsweek article)....Get your fucking ass out there and tutor for awhile and see what teachers are going through first.

Then come and tell me about it. Because until you have been in the classroom, i won't listen to you. And....i won't vote for you either if you believe in these reforms without knowing what a classroom is like for teachers these days.

But to end on a good note. Aren't these kids adorable? (I know you can't see the photos now, but they are indeed adorable.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday's Menu. What's on your menu?

Menu of the Day:

Music: Jealous Guy by Casey James

Book: I just finished a really good book called Waiter Rant. It's written by a New York waiter who worked in a high end restaurant. He first started a blog and it got so popular that he wrote a book. It was a great read. I'm also reading a book called Gonzo. (I think that's the title.)

What i've recently lost: i cannot find my mailbox key. I specifically remember getting my mail Thursday. But it's gone now.

In my glass: a Bogle chardonnay.

What's for dinner:
Something with tofu and brussle sprouts. How good does THAT sound?

What i keep forgetting: I need to get a new driver license and i don't know where to go since they closed my place i used to go.

The best thing that happened this week: I have been working on doing something about my longtime dissatisfaction with my own union. I am making calls, sending money, designing flyers, mailing letters....all to try and help get a new union president elected so that we can oust our militant hard core Teamster-y type of leader. (It's the reason i started the Facebook in the first place.) We find out May 3. It may make a difference in whether i retire next year or not.

The most productive thing i've done: as you can see from the photos, i have been painting again. And once again, i am not happy. I am trying to match the stucco colors in my Georgia O Keefe print, and while the yellow i chose is beautiful, it's too kitchen-y. (If that makes sense.) So i'll be back at it. And dammit, it took both of us ALL day to get this done and Brian says he's not helping me change it. (and i don't blame him.)

What bothers me about this: Is i usually get this kind of thing right the first time. And i've missed it twice now.

Re: the paint. The colors are above. My new bathroom color is to the left of the yellow. (I painted that last week. And the yellow is of course what we did yesterday.

American Idol: I will be glad when this is over. I still like Casey James, but my read on him is that he isn't in it to win. He is in it to be discovered. And he will. (He is VERY good and an awesome guitar player. He is as good as his Legends of the Fall good looks.) You just have to look at my video from a few weeks ago to see it. Crystal Bowersox should win but she's like having Van Gogh enrolled in a painting class at a community college. She's just too good for Idol and i don't want her making their kind of record. So my pick is Lee DeWyze, the guy who works in a paint store who sang The Boxer. (That was the first time i thought he could win.) He would benefit the most and he's very good. I love his voice. But he's sort of bland in the personality department for Idol but endearingly bland. My kind of bland, nice ego, no drama, the real deal. So those are my top three, with Lee winning.

Re: Lost: Another show i will be glad to have over. But i think i will rewatch all the episodes later where i can watch four in a row and keep going. I will remember more. This show has enough characters to populate a whole country! It's too hard to follow because so many are essential to the plot. (Maybe if i was not menopausal i could follow this better.)

What I'm worried about: We're getting a new union director in our office. I get to be on the interview team and we start this week. Toni and i have worked together for 23 years and we're such a great team. (She's a visionary and i'm the detail oriented one. It takes both of us.) I am organizing her retirement and I keep writing my speech in my head as i'm running and driving. My problem will be keeping it to 15 minutes and i hope i don't cry. Crying, especially in public in front of a crowd, is not something i do.

The funniest thing that happened this week: Nothing I can think of right now. (But i put this up hoping it get's y'all to think of something since you sometimes order off my own menu with substitutions.

Re: Oprah: do we really need a book about Oprah? I have never read a Kitty Kelly book. But i'm thinking we're already on Oprah overload as it is. What else do we need to know?

Re: a very good movie: Did i mention this before? It's called The Cove. My nephew Brian was relentless about getting me to watch this. It won an Oscar for Best Documentary at last year's Academy Awards. It's about the slaughter of dolphins by the Japanese. It was amazing. And both my husband and i went on the Take Part website when it was over. It was very well done and if you read the reviews in Netflix you will see that most everyone was moved by this movie. I thought about this film for days afterwards and i still think about it.

Ok, that's all i got. I know last week i thought of other things and thought to myself, 'i'll have to mention that in my blog" but now i've forgotten what those thoughts were.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Very Random Stuff Because It's Friday & I'm too Lazy to be Organized

Menu of the Day:

In my glass: Concannon Chardonnay. VERY nice.

Music: Brian is BBQing and is playing some weird Cajun music that i do not recognize. (Nor do i like it.)

Book: I am in the middle of a couple of books i am not crazy about. Brian is reading the Matterhorn book which I bought for him to take to Sedona. It's about Vietnam and in one page i was hooked. I want to read that book but i am waiting for him to finish. Probably it will be around Christmas.

Last iTunes purchase: Natalie Merchant's new two cd set.(equeyaya, there is a song on there for you! It's called Equestrienne.) The cd may take some time getting used to. It's very blue grassy. Not my favorite...yet, but i do like the horse song.

Re: American Idol - still loving Casey James. I hoped y'all watched my Jealous Guy video from a couple of posts ago. He did a great Elvis theme night too. I also hope he doesn't win. I think it will ruin his talent.

OK, on with the random stuff

1. Photos: I started this post with the subject Stuff i Like, (hence, the photos) but decided i wasn't in the mood to talk about only stuff i like & i didn't feel like looking for new photos.

The first one is of my nieces and nephews (though my sister's daughter, my oldest niece, Jessica is missing from the photo.) I took this photo...i believe in 1994. Kylee/Modern Hippie is the one up front looking perturbed. Josh is in the background wearing Kylee's sister's glasses (he looks so happy!) ; Kylee's sister Ashley is second from left; Josh's brother Brian in on the far right. (i've posted about him here before too. ) My sister's son Chris is on the far left. This photo hangs framed in my bedroom. Next photo: i like our little condo abode with it's hardwood floors; Wine label: Oh, this Darby wine is a wonderful viognier/rousanne blend. (I traveled all the way to the north end to Metro Market to buy a bottle for tonight, only to find that it's on order.); Last photo: I love snow and i love the peace symbol - (kills two birds)

2. I am still watching Lost. and i am still not convinced I will get it when it's done. I think what i might do this summer is watch all seasons on Netflix in a row and then i think it will make sense to me . I did this with West Wing once in the mornings when i woke up and it was so much fun.

3. Just once i would like someone on Lost to say something like this:
"Is today Wednesday or Thursday?"

4. It occurred to me that the MOST redeeming characters on Lost are the characters who in real life might be discriminated against : Hurley (for being obese AND being committed for mental illness); Nerdy (Benjamin and Daniel); Sayid (for being Iraqi); Rose (for being black); John Locke (the REAL Locke, for being disabled at one time), Jin & Sun (Asian); Sawyer (criminal). this came to me one night when i couldn't sleep and my mind was racing. And i did think i might be on to something until i tried to think ...was there a gay character? .... and i don't believe there is one. So there you go. theory dismissed.

5. This is why i can't view Lost intellectually. I can't think or search that deep. I am a 'what you see is what you get' kind of person. ( Lost is Lotsa work. )

6. After my really good games & my 127 average I bowled a 73 last week. I think my idea of having a bowling career is over.

7. I wish my blood pressure was the same as my bowling score.

8. We started getting the newspaper again. (It's too hard to read online. Plus the obituaries don't show the photos and that's what i look at first.) Anyway lately i've noticed what seems to be an increase in litigious people. First, i read about the families of the four police officers who were murdered in the coffee shop. The families were suing our county for nearly 200 million dollars because the jails weren't monitoring phone calls where threats were made. (You heard about this murder last Thanksgiving season if you watch CNN and Anderson Cooper - the suits have since been dropped with three families. ) It made me crazy. The person responsible who should be sued is the dude who KILLED them (but he's dead now). But that's not the only lawsuit. Another lawsuit is a family from Russia who is suing for the murder of their daughter. And there are others too. Is it the economy? Or did i just not notice before?

9. The backlash for the police officer lawsuit was so great when it was filed because the community had supported those families big time, including more than $2 million in donations. ( I thought the best argument against this lawsuit was that every family of every soldier who died in Afghanistan and Ft. Lewis should sue the government.)

10. Then i wondered.... where does it stop - suing for what you don't feel is right, suing for entitlement from the wrong source? Shoot, maybe we should sue our parents for stuff we don't like about ourselves because of their DNA! Yeah!

11. And i thought, i would like to sue my mom for having large pores. And my allergies and high blood pressure.

12. I think that is worth about 15 million dollars.

13. Maybe i should sue God instead. He must have deeper pockets than my parents, right?

13. Ok, i think i'm done. What are your random unorganized thoughts?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

jojo sedona.

These are photos from yesterday's hike. I am not a hiker by nature, even as Ms. hippie does point out that i am a runner. But as a runner i always know where i am going. As a hiker, i can't be sure. But Brian went up the day before me and so i knew i would be okay going where ever the trail took me.

What was super cool was on the way back i found a set of car rental keys in the red dirt almost immediately on our way back. So i took them figuring since there were two car rental keys on the same ring that the poor folks would be in the parking area. But as we kept going Brian and i worried that maybe they had gone ahead and we wondered how we should leave the keys.

But it wasn't a problem because as we stepped out of the hiking area into where the cars were there was family of four hovering around the Ford focus (which was the label on the keys i had found) and when i held up the keys the woman ran over thanking me over and over and threw her arms around me telling me that she was going to hug me as she was doing it. She was of some kind of Indian descent and i thought how cool because it is not likely her culture to hug strangers. Her two really beautiful pre teen children kept thanking me over and over and her husband looked rather stunned. It was a lucky thing because it was getting to be late afternoon and the keys could have been easily lost in a rock crevice never to be found. And it was a ways out from the town.

As i looked back at them after saying our goodbyes the young girl was doing a prayer thing with her hands and waving them to the sky saying Thank you.

So that made my day, going hiking for the first time ever and being a hero.

It may not be the right weather for the Grand Canyon we are told by the owners of this place today because it snowed just a ways away from us today. though it was hot here this afternoon.

The patio shot is our second night here. We love our cabin. This night was the night we drank two bottles of wine (though it was over about 6 hours) and did videos of each other doing interviews. When we watched them the next morning they were pretty funny. If i could figure out how to shorten it i might put one up.

We have met some pretty cool people and some people who drive us nuts too.

Ok, that's all i got. We are hanging out in the lodge because it's snack time and this lodge area is so cool. We got to meet the woman who owns this place who used to live in Tacoma and knows some people from Pierce College where Brian works. That was cool.