Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Faulty memory

I know that in the past several days I've heard a number of things that set my jaw clenching:  words used in annoyingly odd ways, convoluted sentences, and invented word forms.  The trouble is, I can't remember what they were.  I've got to figure out a way to keep track or I won't have enough to blog about. 

I've considered carrying a small notebook (like police detectives on television do) to write things down. But, would I always have it with me?  I wonder if a small recorder would be better?  I could mention the thoughts that occur to me.  But again, would I have it with me?  I think I can leave messages on my cell phone; maybe that will work.  It is nearly always with me, except--according to my husband--when he's trying to call me.  

My memory has become so full of life stuff, it doesn't always let me remember things at the proper times.  I once heard memory described as a giant file room.  Everything is in there, but rather than being organized in orderly, chronological, or alphabetical order, the files are strewn about haphazardly.  That sounds reasonable to me.  That's why the word or name I was searching for yesterday will probably turn up tonight or tomorrow or sometime next week...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Less accidents?

Wow, this seems to be a difficult concept for people.  A legislator from Kanab says that with a higher speed limit there will "be less accidents."  That was a quote in the newspaper.  Beyond whether or not changing the speed limit will affect anything, there might "be fewer accidents."   I guess if it is misused enough, right or wrong, it will be accepted.  (See earlier post.)

When someone says  "How are you?"  What is your answer?  "Good?"  Is that the same as purple, greasy, warm?  All are adjectives that could describe things about you, but not HOW you are.   You are likely well, or fine, or even just okay.   

You may be a good person, love greasy chips, wear purple shoes, or hope for a warm day, but they don't describe how you are.   But, notice the number of people who answer that way.  I'm probably going to lose this one. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Home Schooled get to play sports?

Some Utah Legislators have lost their minds.  There is a bill which would allow students who are home schooled to play sports with the public school teams.  There was an actual quote about how parents can always be trusted to know whether or not their children should be eligible.  Pleeeaase!

How about the parent who pulls their children out of school to "home school" when they get in trouble?  Then puts them back--even farther behind--when they annoy her.

How about the parent who told me that if her child wasn't doing well it was because the curriculum was too difficult and needed to be changed?

How about the parent who says that her child cannot be held responsible for things he says or does when he's angry?

Too many parents are frightened of being parents and making their darlings upset. This bill has the makings of a real disaster--just ask a few teachers.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Reasons to teach

I was in a small city airport last night and a young woman was watching me.  She approached because she recognized me, although my name had slipped her mind.  She introduced herself and I immediately remembered her.  She was a student I had in 5th grade some 20+ years ago.

I admit that I won't remember all my former students by name, not right away, but I did remember her.  She was smart, funny, and mature for her years.  I had her younger sister too, and have visited with her mother a couple of times while attending the Shakespeare Festival (she is a docent there).

That late night airport hug from a girl I haven't seen for two decades, who reminded me that I have always been her favorite teacher, is the best reason for a career in education.  

It was also nice to realize that while she has certainly grown up and changed, she still recognized me, new wrinkles and all.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Utah Legislature has more ideas

The Utah Legislature is just pretending to be interested in improving teachers' salaries.  Their only ideas are to make teachers work more hours, and offer a small bonus to teachers in math, science, and special education (because math and science graduates can earn far more in the business world and not enough people want to teach special ed).  None of these ideas are going to help anything.  Extending contracts means teachers teach about 49 of the 52 weeks in a year.  Yes, that will increase their salaries by 30%.  That also means that every 3 weeks the class membership will change--one third will go off, another third will come back.  This is extraordinarily difficult to teach.  It requires loads of organization, planning all concept lessons into inclusive 3-week blocks, and massive record keeping to insure that all students receive all appropriate instruction.  Think about how that would have to be done.  I wouldn't want to do it--not for any amount of money.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Less and Fewer

It was fun to see this little grammar faux pas addressed in the Tribune comics this morning.  I realize this could be another way our language is changing, but I tend to think it's more a lack of understanding of the difference between less and fewer.

Its most common misuse in at grocery store check out stands:  10 items or less.

Actually, it should be fewer.  You can count the items.

Less is for things that are not counted like less food, less laughter, less danger.

One can have fewer dollars, therefore less money; fewer hours, so less time;  fewer french fries, and less fat.  It's not all that confusing once you know the difference.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Words we've changed

I was thinking about some of the words that we've changed in recent years.  We verb nouns often--yes, even in that sentence.  We Google things.  We text each other.  We fax, and we e-mail.

Sportscasters (again) seem to have a particular ability to change the way we use language. Basketball players don't jump, they sky, or elevate.

Even reality television has adjusted our speaking.  Makeovers have a big reveal.  In that case they turned a verb into a noun.

I know language is fluid, just listen to some teenagers for a while, but I believe we should be cautious about too much too fast.  We do want to make sure we understand each other... don't we?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Utah schools need more help from Legislature.

Utah teachers are some of the most poorly paid in the U.S.  Their class sizes are the largest in the nation.  In the years I taught 6th grade, I never had fewer than 26 students (usually 28-30) even though 'official' class sizes were 22.3 or so.  One awful year I had 37 students.  That year I only really got to know the main trouble-makers, and one or two excellent students.  There was no time for individual help, no time for in-depth instruction.  It was classroom management and crowd control.

Our exceptionally conservative Legislature has underfunded schools for years.  Many of them seem to have no respect for teachers.  It is almost like they think we are expendable--what we do could be done by anyone.  Utah has lots of kids and there are fewer and fewer people who are willing and/or able to help them learn.  

The problems won't be solved by one-time bonuses or grants to extend the year for a few teachers.  We need a serious, long-term commitment, and it's not a likely outcome this year.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sportscasters and their made-up expressions

As promised, my #1 son had a few choice additions.  These were things he has actually heard.
Blowbyability (noun) The ability of a basketball player to 'blow by' his defender while dribbling the ball.
Beasting it (verb) The overall attitude and desire of a basketball play who plays hard all the time.  
Athletifreak (noun) A term to describe an athlete with exceptional (freakish) ability at  jumping or quickness.
Handle (noun) Now used as a noun to describe a player's ability to handle the ball. (He has an incredible handle when running the fast break.)
Bigs and Smalls (noun) Used as shortened expression to illustrate the different sizes of ball players. (They have a great combination of bigs and smalls.)

Thanks kiddo.  These were primarily basketball today.  Maybe more to com

Merit pay for teachers

I just read the postings following a editorial piece about teacher pay.  Here in Utah, teaching is seen as a calling--particularly for those who can't make it in the business world, or those who are lazy and don't want a real full-time job.  Both notions are laughable.

Teaching is an amazingly difficult profession, full of frustration and annoyance, powerlessness and masochism.  Yet it can be immensely rewarding.  What other profession would have some young adult calling your name in a mall, or coming up to visit in a department store?  An appreciative hug from a 21-year-old that was in your class when he was 12 is a powerful reward.

Merit pay is such a slippery slope.  It pits teachers against each other rather than encouraging cooperation and support, and support is absolutely necessary for new teachers.  Merit is also difficult to measure.  Do principals make those decisions?  Parents? Students? Other teachers? Whose opinions are most valued?  Why?  It's way too sticky for quick decisions. 

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Why is it that sportscasters feel it necessary to make up so many strange words?  Is it because they want to find a different way to say the same things over and over?  When did 'physicality" become a word?  A golf announcer once talked about a player's 'impactfulness.'  Huh?  

I need to check in with my oldest son.  He listens to a lot of sports and he will know of some other made-up words.  To be continued...

Friday, February 1, 2008

New shoes

Watching Rachael Ray one day, I saw a nifty kind of shoes.  They were called Masai Barefoot Technology.  The episode had viewers trying products and the person who tested these shoes loved them.  She said she lost weight (partly from enjoying walking), but she also tightened and worked muscles in her legs and behind.  Sounded good to me, especially since I like to walk but after a couple of miles my feet hurt.  And, of course, a little toning is never bad.

I've certainly never spent this much on shoes, nor has any salesman ever taken as much time and care with my feet.  They are strange to walk in--unlike any shoe I've worn before.   I hope they are good to me; if feet hurt everything is miserable.  And I do not plan to be miserable in Italy in May.

I'll let you know.