Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parents can mess up kids.

Parents do lots of stuff to mess up kids.  I think this time a short list is called for.  Stupid things that damage children:
1.  Not get married (particularly women are guilty of this one).  Children get half a parent set--not enough.
2.  Get divorced (mostly for selfish, "me, me" reasons).  Unless there is abuse (and I don't mean just disagreement), kids are always hurt.
3.  Get remarried (again mostly for selfish reasons).  Yours, mine, and ours is not like a cute TV show, it's often awful.
4.  Give too much freedom.  Kids need to know parents care enough to establish rules.
5.  Give too little time.  Children need lots of conversation, time, modeling of acceptable behavior.
6.  Rescue from consequences of choices.  No personal responsibility, no learning valuable lessons.
7.  Have no expectations, praise everything they do (which is the same as praising nothing they do), don't allow them to struggle to accomplish anything.
8.  Criticize often, discourage thinking or problem solving,  never explain reasoning.
9.  Ignore achievement and good decisions.

Choose a few of the things on this list and you have a recipe for children who struggle in school, challenge authority, try risky behaviors, and/or have trouble with the law.  Teachers can all name kids we have worried about because of their parents' shortcomings.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Time changes many things.

I started teaching 6th grade in 1988.  It was a school with an open design (an experiment in learning and cheaper to build in the 1970s).  Four classrooms, one enclosed, three separated by bookcases and small partitions, were located in each wing.  It was a new experience for me, and even though I had already taught for 10 years I learned a great deal.  I was working with some fabulous teachers and it was nice to be able to hear them work with students.  We planned together because we needed to be doing quiet activities or noisier activities at the same times.  We all felt responsible for the learning and behavior of all the 6th graders and they accomplished amazing things.

Unfortunately, since that first few years I have watched the mostly continuous deterioration of reading level and vocabulary among 6th graders.  There are bright exceptions, but my students in 2006 were nowhere near as comfortable with language as those I had in 1990.  I believe the lifestyle changes are responsible. Too many things, too much TV, not enough time with adults or conversation;  it can be changed, but not without effort, persistence, and lots of time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Different times, different lives.

A friend, former colleague, and spitfire student made note in her blog that children don't spend enough time in meaningful conversations with adults.  She knows that I completely agree because we've talked about it before.  My childhood and that of today's children are so different as to be from parallel universes.  Okay, I guess that means that I'm old, but while I did not have as many "things," I had people (I know, the commercial).     I think that having "things" to entertain us,  separates us from others, keeps us from creating activities, and seriously limits social interaction.  Without television, mp3 players, video games, computers, or cell phones my friends and I invented things to do.  We talked, laughed, shared, made up stories, and spent lots of time outdoors.  We passed time with each other's families, grandparents, took weekend trips camping or fishing with no DVD players or iPods to separate us.  We didn't expect constant entertainment; we didn't need it.  

Kids today have many entertainment options, but they are not better off.  They have lost an awful lot and it is difficult to get back.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Shortcuts from California

More fun with shortened expressions and lazy language from California. My daughter-in-law, Tanya, came up with more ways we use initials almost like new words. People may have ESP on their way to the ATM. If one doesn't want to watch AMC, or TNT, they can rent or buy a DVD. Someone may be a VIP, but still needs their PIN to log into their bank account.

That reminds really doesn't make sense when someone asks for your PIN number. They are, therefore, asking for your personal identification number number. Just a bit redundant. The next time a car dealer, insurance agent, or repairman asks for your VIN number, give them a blank stare.

Fight the redundancy. If we are going to be frugal in our use of syllables, we should at least be accurate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Off to California

This evening we are traveling to California to spend a few days with grandkids there.  

Some people end up with their children nearby, but we're not so fortunate.  I heard once that if you want your children to leave home, educate them.  I guess that's the mistake we made.  My mother gave me a sign that says, "We give our children two things: one is roots, the other is wings."  We seem to have done the wing part, with one son in California and one in South Carolina.  We have tickets to South Carolina in April.

I grew up living across the street from a set of grandparents; I did lots of things with them. We do the best we can now.  We make sure we travel to see them every few months.  Grandma always sends boxes of goodies before holidays.  We talk on the phone.  Last October we got everyone together in Orlando for a week so they could spend time together.  It's harder to keep everyone close, but it is so important.  

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New expressions

I just read in a news blurb that someone "overshared" in a blog.  I am assuming that means that they wrote something that turned around to bite them.  Hey, we all do that, but isn't it just putting your foot in your mouth-- figuratively speaking?

Maybe that's just a natural extension of another expression I've heard for a while--overthink.  Is it possible to think too much?  Pondering possibilities is not a good idea?  Then can one underthink?  That seems to be an extremely common problem.

I definitely know people who overspeak.   (I just thought they talked too much, but overspeaking definitely sounds much more learned.)   Could overspeaking lead to oversharing?  Is this caused by overthinking or underthinking?  

Oh heck, I'm just going to stick with over-eating.  At least that makes sense to me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Americans are lazy speakers.

Americans seem to be lazy speakers.  We mush together multiple-syllable words because they take too long to say--just listen to radio and television commercials.  

We also shorten words so that young people often don't know there is a longer word. For example, even young people understand sending and received a fax, but likely have no idea it comes from facsimile (or even what that means).  They know that the prom crowd sometimes rents limos, but do they know that limousine is the original word?  I don't imagine they know what the e in e-mail means, although they can likely figure that one out.  

And there are lots of initials that have taken the place of words: SUV, ATV, GTO (one from my youth), BLT, and text messaging is creating more while I'm writing this.  After all, why say several words when a few syllables will do? 

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dialing a phone?

If you're over 30, you may remember when we had to dial a phone.  It's something we still say: "Dial your sister's number for me."  Kids recognize the instruction, but have probably never wondered why we say "dial."  Do alarm clocks "ring"?  I know mine beeps.   "Roll up that window," is another expression that is no longer accurate .  One can't even buy a car anymore with windows that must be "rolled" up.  Ask someone under 20 why we say it that way, and see if they know.

Most of us no longer type a paper, buy a record, or listen to an album.  (I've noticed that the music industry to trying to get away from its outdated terms.)  Junior high classes are now "keyboarding" rather than typing, but most of us still type papers even without ever using a typewriter.

My husband claims that young business types still use "cc" to indicate they are sending a copy to someone, but don't know it has anything to do with carbon paper (don't even know what that is).  

Sometimes our descriptive language seems to change very quickly; sometimes things change faster than our language can keep up.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Words, words, words...

Do you ever read the Corrections section in a newspaper?  I guess editors need to correct factual errors, but they don't want to take up too much space to do it.  They don't want it really obvious that they screwed up, but want to be able to point out that they fixed their errors as soon as they were found.  

I'm guessing that is where words like "misspoke," "misstated," and "misidentified" came from.  They are in my computer's dictionary, but I'll bet they are relatively new additions, added because of media use.  They sound nicer than "didn't know what I was talking about," or "didn't check to see if I was right."

Oh, you know you can buy "treed property"?  I doubt that's the same as a treed mountain lion, but it does use fewer words than a "property that has living trees."  In print media that have to be purchased, space is money. So might someone have misstated that treed property was available?  Is graveled property available?  Weeded property?  (Wait, that means something different.)  Did I just misspeak?  Geez.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I put in a half-day in a fifth grade class yesterday--substituting.  It was at the school I retired from so I knew some of the people.  It was nice to see old friends, but there are lots of new faces there too, including the principal.  All in all, it was not really the same school.  The students, however, are pretty much the same.  

These kids were the same age as my oldest grandson so I kept trying to visualize him there.   I only spent 3 1/2 hours in that classroom, but I already picked out a couple of students with bright, interested, smiling eyes, a couple of smart, serious thinkers, and at least three who really need reading practice.  These are only my first impressions, but it did remind me how much I enjoy working with kids.  The district/state/federal mandates are usually time consuming and useless.  The students are the important parts of education.

I believe the relationship students have with  good teachers cannot be underestimated.