Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I had a lovely surprise.  Someone I didn't even know found my blog and commented.  Apparently this person is also a retired teacher, has sons, and lives too far away from grandchildren.  Hello.  

This new reader asked about pictures of my daughters-in-law.  I had to do some hunting; one of them is very camera-shy and the other one was probably standing next to me taking pictures herself.  I did find a couple of pictures that I'll add, so it doesn't seem like I'm just ignoring them.  I think we women are the ones who herd the kids into groups for pictures--I don't have that many of me either (no big loss).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Family visit almost over

We leave South Carolina, and my son's family, to go home today.  My mother and I have been here almost a week and she has gotten some quality time with the two great-grandkids.  The weather has been lovely, both for the Little League baseball game and the trip to the beach in Charleston (although the water was still a little cool for me, grandpa, Chad, and the kids has fun in it).

I don't know if my sons or daughters-in-law spend time reading my blog.  Maybe they know me well enough as it is.  Believe me, as fast as children grow up, grandchildren grow faster and we're hating that. 

All I ask of my daughters-in-law is that they support, love, and appreciate the men they married, and teach, love, and take care of the wonderful children they share. That is what makes me happy.  Their individual talents, opinions, and even personality quirks (we all have them) are far less important.  

Friday, April 25, 2008

More strange words

Today I read in the paper that Wesley Snipes had been sentenced to three years in jail for evading taxes.  One of his responses was that he had been "miseducated."  Exactly how does that happen? Is educated wrongly kind of an oxymoron anyway? He seems to have difficulty with accepting responsibility.

And I saw an interesting phrase on a billboard here in South Carolina.  If you buy this certain security system you will have a "twice less chance" of being burgled. I'm afraid I can't do that math.  I'm not sure what twice less is.  Twice less than what? Is that sort of like a half?

Isn't our language interesting?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From Columbia, South Carolina

Goodness, my blog is a very visual reminder of how fast time goes by.  My last entry was 4 days ago; it doesn't seem that it has been that long.

I'm in South Carolina today.  I brought my mother with me to spend a few days with my son's family.  My mother has 22 great-grandchildren, but sees my grandchildren less often than any (except for the 2 step great-grandchildren).  Mine moved farther away from home than any of my siblings.'  Chad and his family have lived on the east coast for nearly 8 years and it's challenging to stay as in touch as we'd like.  Additionally, because he has been in medical school and residency, his time is extremely limited so he seldom gets to come home.

My mother's house has always been a family gathering place and my brothers and sisters and their progeny often meet there.  Mine miss out on knowing their second cousins, but we are doing what we can.  All that is really important is that they are healthy and happy....they are.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Choosing to be injured

I was thinking about the things people choose to be upset about--like the memorial crosses for Utah Highway Patrol troopers killed.  I don't understand why atheists would bother to complain.  The crosses are not obtrusive or unavoidable. People don't have to look.

I don't like Carls Jr.'s commercials on television.  So, I don't watch them; I don't eat there.  I don't fuss that they should be taken off the air because they offend me.

I think the radio ads for Karl Malone Toyota are misleading and deceptive.  I bought a Toyota, but not from that dealership.  I exercised my personal choice.  

I have been repeatedly disappointed by the difference between pictures on the frozen entree packages and the actual food inside.  Do I insist that the illustrations be taken off?  No, instead I learned which ones were actually eatable and disregarded the illustration on the outside.

It seems to me like there are things we should be upset about, serious things, but some of this nitpicking is just silliness.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thanks for reading

I want to send my appreciation to Teacher Mama and anyone else who bothers to read my blog.  I write it mostly for myself, but everyone needs a bit of validation occasionally.  Thank you.  It reminds me that sometimes my thoughts and ideas are worth talking about and even could be shared by others.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Merit pay won't be good for schools

An editorial in the newspaper came out in favor of creating a merit pay scale for teachers.  As I have posted before, this is an idea that would create havoc in schools.  

Why would established teachers help newbies, share successful techniques, open files if they knew they would be in competition.

The cooperation and support among teachers in a school would have to dissolve.

Depending on how the "merit" would be calculated and who would ultimately be in control, difficult children and/or parents would be avoided whenever possible. Transfer applications would fly, struggling schools deserted.

Teaching is not like a business where one can control the quality and quantity of raw materials.  It is not like other professions where one has choices about which clients to accept.  

Knowing Utah's legislature, there would never be adequate money to reward all teachers deemed eligible.  Principals would have to pick and choose: "You this year, but not next."

To top it off, if the teachers left out decided to leave, where are their replacements?  With continued low pay and lower respect, who wants to teach?

The editorial can be found at sltrib.com//ci_8844694

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Teaching Courses are Full of Useless Stuff

My niece is considering becoming a teacher.  As I hear her talk about her assignments for one of the introductory classes, I don't know whether to smile or cry.  This 19-year-old was asked about her philosophy of education.  What teenager has a philosophy of anything, much less something she has only experienced from one side?  I know my own philosophy changed and evolved almost continuously.

Now she has to discuss the various reforms that have taken place in education, and discuss the reform she could support.  I guess she'll learn a bit about some of the things that have been tried--most of which made no measurable improvements.

What you learn, as you work in education, is that ideas come and go.  They get reworked, renamed, tweaked, researched, and implemented.  Then, another idea batch comes around, and so on and so on.  Publishers, researchers, bureaucrats trying to justify the importance of their positions and the value of their thoughts.

In reality, the only thing that really matters is the relationship students have with a good teacher: a teacher who knows the material, has techniques to help kids understand, and cares about the students.  The HOW is nowhere near as important.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What to talk about?

Some days I wonder if I've run out of stuff to blog about.  I've been married forever, so the young love stuff seems foolish.  I have no children (or grandchildren, darn) home to do cute things or ask funny questions.  The minutiae of my daily life doesn't seem interesting.  

But yesterday my mother and I got caught by a mall kiosk salesgirl.  She was selling some very expensive creams and potions, tried a couple on us, and voila, our skin looked younger.  So, partly because of guilt over the time she had invested in her pitch, we bought some stuff.  We didn't buy all she would have liked us to, and she had to drop her prices to sell what she did, but it was more money than either of us had ever spent on  face creams.  I guess if we just think we look better that will be good enough.  If you see me and think my skin looks nicer, tell me.  Maybe I won't feel as foolish for letting this little girl play with my brain and my wallet.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Doomed to grandchildren far away

My youngest son is interviewing for positions in Florida.  He has just over a year left in his residency and apparently lots of places are in need of orthopaedic surgeons.  The problem is that many of them are on the east coast.  I guess that's logical because, besides California, most of the population is in the east. It doesn't make it easier for grandma and grandpa, especially since the kids have spent the last eight years in New York and South Carolina.  

The multi-specialty group he met with this weekend really wined and dined his family, and he has several more interviews scheduled at other towns, in other situations, but mostly in Florida.  Most of all, I want he and his family to find a situation they really like.  I just wish it were west of the Mississippi so we could be closer.

Becoming a doctor takes a special level of dedication and delayed gratification.  Many people look at their college graduation as the beginning of their careers, the entrance to their futures. Doctors have another four years of medical school, which is far more rigorous than any undergraduate program, then several years of residency--depending on the discipline chosen. Residency is killer.  A couple of years ago the medical establishment came out with the notion that residents should work no more than 88 hours a week!  That's amazing as it is, but lots of programs just pretend to follow it.  I know my son has worked more than 120 hours in a week. 
He is looking forward to finally being able to have a semi-normal schedule, have time to play piano or guitar again, play catch or basketball with his son,  help his daughter ride her new bike,  and spend quality time with his wife.  All while finally making enough money to do some things he wants to do.  It will be 14 years since high school graduation; that's probably long enough.  We just wish they could be closer to home. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Teaching is hard work #2

Here is the rest of my original letter to the Trib.  

I think, if someone were to check, they would find that a great many of our teachers graduated in the top 20 % of their classes.    In order to be successful in this profession teachers have to be highly--and continually--educated in their fields; they must be a bit of a psychologist, nurse, therapist, referee, coach, writer, planner, secretary, and confidante.   In many states, schools have specialists for music, PE, technology, and art.  These specialists give teachers some time during the day to check papers and provide feedback, to plan for follow-up or review, to develop new lessons for the 16-20 students in their class.   Not our schools.  Elementary teachers must be well-versed in all the curriculum areas.  We teach everything, to half again as many students, and do all those other things on our own time.   This is not the kind of job everyone aspires to.

But this job we love is getting more and more difficult.  We are under mounting pressure from above, wanting higher student test scores.  Parents also want their children to do well, but are sometimes so mired in their own problems that they can’t do the things their children need.  Parents with their own crises find teachers easy targets on which to vent frustration or lay blame.   Occasionally, school is the only stable, dependable place for students. 

Take any 30 unique individuals, with their 30 separate, wildly-disparate backgrounds; their varying home-lives, far-ranging abilities and interests, and make them learn all the things they will need to know in the same limited time.    In addition, be certain you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, cause anyone to feel inadequate, or assign too much homework.   As much as I have loved my years with students, the time and emotional energy required now is surpassing any rewards.  If I were starting now, I’m not sure I’d choose teaching again.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Teaching is hard work

A year ago I wrote three separate letters to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune about teaching.  I guess they were too long, or dull, or said things no one wanted to hear because they were never printed.  Maybe, over the next few weeks, I'll add pieces of those letters to this forum.  Anyone who reads this can decide whether or not I had something important to say.


I know that a lot of people think teaching is a cushy job:  hang around a few kids, take long vacations, and earn a paycheck for not a lot of work.  After all, how hard can it be to teach 6-year-olds how to read? They’re so sweet and lovable. 

Teaching 27 6-year-olds, in one room, takes more patience than any CEO could muster.  Knowing how to reach the shy, the aggressive, the neglected, the demanding, the spoiled, the undisciplined, the gentle, and the sensitive with reading concepts is a rare ability.  Some will come to school already knowing lots of words and some won’t be able to identify letters of the alphabet.  Some will know how to sit quietly, and take turns, and socialize nicely with others.  And some will have tantrums when they are frustrated and hit, bite, scream, or throw things.  They all should be expected to read on schedule when they leave first grade?

Many people belittle what teachers do.  They are convinced that they could do it and, therefore, we should be doing it better.  If we did, then we’d be more valuable, more deserving of compensation.  We must teach because we can’t do anything else.