Tuesday, November 28, 2017

There's a Program For That

When I was young, I wanted to work with kids, and that meant being a teacher ...or so I thought.

I changed my mind before it was too late, and I'm glad. My instincts were correct for me. Being a camp counselor and later a Child Care and Camp Director, was for me because it is instinctive. Teaching used to be an art, but now it is a program.

Need practice on Math, Reading, and Science? We have Moby Max.
Need practice on Reading? We have A to Z Reading.
How are they doing in Math and Language? We have MClass and Acuity.
Improving in reading? Check with Benchmarking Kits.
Practice for ISTEP? NWEA.
Want to be more creative and still focus on standards? Have a Maker Space room.
Technology is the future of everything, so give even the youngest child an IPAD instead of crayons.

And then there's behavior.

Rather than ask, "When did we lose control?" it seems we should ask, "When did we have control?"

When we took away the Art of teaching and opted for scripts, we lost the natural connections that were made. So, now there is a program for that.

Actually we have had several just in the twelve years I have been in the educational system. Our latest is Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports-- or PBIS.
Catch 'em being good and ignore bad behavior.

We need a program for this?

I have problems with all of the "Behavior Management" programs. We who work with children shouldn't need a scripted program to guide us in working with children. A scripted program is only good until the next program comes along. And we all know that is about as long as it takes an administrator to go to a new conference and come back with free introductory offers.

Our latest ...mandate? ... is kids who get in trouble more often will be assigned an adult to check in with them every morning and every afternoon, to hear the child's goals and then to see if they met them. Apparently, our PBIS team heard children do better if they know an adult cares about them. So, to show these chosen kids we care, they will bring a piece of paper with goals written on them, and the assigned adult will sign the paper each day. Because... you know... data tracking.

I want to climb on the highest roof top and scream, "You seriously need a program to tell you kids do better if they know you care?!!!!"

Are teachers are so bogged down with every other "program in an app", that they no longer have the God given ability to know a child needs a couple extra minutes of their time, nor do they feel they have the time to devote to touch base? Really?

And why do we not even mention the elephant in the room?  How many administrators does it take to ensure and maintain data points? Could some of that money be spent on more counselor time in every building?

Education majors need training in relating with children. Educators need training in working with kids in crisis. But we are not counselors. We need to be part of the care team and we need to stop hiding behind "privacy rights" and "right to know". I'm sorry, but if a child is acting out because a parent is in jail, or a family member is sick, we need to know. Children often don't have words for what they are dealing with, and giving them a sticker or a dojo point because they hold it together for a morning doesn't help them deal with the emotion. And if they aren't dealing with the emotion, we are all --kids, peers, and adults, paying the price.

The solution isn't a new program or data point-- tracked but forgotten. The solution is common sense, and the bravery to do what is not easy, but instead what is right.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is a Common Sense booth at any conference attended by any administrator.

And even if there was, I'm not sure any administrator would stop to talk to the vendor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jacob's Tragedy

There is a census called the mortality census. In 1859, 1869, and 1879, they have a census for those who died in the year proceeding the regular census -- I assume because they survived the majority of the decade. My Great-Grandfather, William Klein, died in September of 1879.  While I was looking for him in the mortality census I came across the records of 5 children with the last name Felton. I was in the early stages of research so I made a note of them and the cause of death... diptheria in all cases.

As I got more into research I realized all five were related to the Jacob that I believe is a great-great uncle.

Of course I then had to look up what diphtheria is. We now vaccinate in infancy, but in 1879 there was no cure.  Diphtheria is a virus that creates a thick mucus layer on the lungs. Victims essentially end up suffocating. Tracheotomies were later performed that allowed patients to breathe until the virus worked it's course. But again, these were not yet performed.

At the time, Jacob and Sophia had 8 children. Between the 16th of November and the 20th of December, they lost 5 children each of which suffocated to death most after knowing their sibling had died from the same symptoms.

Carl Fredrick was born 27 February 1863 and died 20 Dec. 1879 age 16
Wilhelmina was born 29 July 1866 and died 7 Dec. 1879 age 13
William was born 18 Jan. 1868 and died 16 Nov 1879 age 11
Anna was born 17 Feb. 1870 and died 27 Nov 1879 age 9
George was born 18 Oct 1875 and died 25 Nov. 1879 age 4

The thought of watching any of my children harmed breaks my heart. I don't know how one would find the strength to go on after watching 5 children suffocate to death.

But both Jacob and Sophia did. As did the 3 boys they had left. Fred was 14, John was 8, and Frank was 1.

It said in his obituary, Jacob found God several years earlier. I can only imagine the faith you must have to survive that kind of tragedy.

Jacob and Sophia and the 5 children they lost are all buried in Patton Cemetary in La Porte. The flag is there to commemorate the fact that Jacob also served a time in the Union Army during the Civil War.

"Fair is where you get cotton candy."

I just watched a segment that was on Fox and Friends. There is a teacher in Oklahoma who stood on a corner with a sign requesting money for school supplies. Pan handling. Her point was to bring awareness to the lack of funding in Oklahoma specifically and education in general. 

She has been teaching elementary for 21 years
She has a Masters degree
She makes $35K a year

I divided the $35 K by 52 weeks. That came to $673 a week
Divided by 40 hours comes to about $16 dollars an hour

And a McDonalds worker without a high school degree should make $15?

If you multiply the number of days contracted (about 183) by 8 for a "normal" work day you get 1464 hours. Divide 35K by that and you get roughly $24 an hour... roughly what a substitute makes... and they only need an associates degree in something. AND they don't have to prepare lessons or grade or anything only follow what was left for them.

So why go to college? Why have ambition? What is the point in being college and career ready if your career can be making fries? 

What was that? That "living wage" of $15 an hour only provides the bare necessities of life? No luxuries? But you qualify for subsidies. And how is it OK that a teacher who has been teaching for 22 years with a MASTERS DEGREE is in the same boat as a Burger Flipper at McDonalds?

Give me a flip-floppin' break!

What is y'all's solution to making THAT "fair"?

Angry emoticons all over the place.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

30 years

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy for making us write this essay telling you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms and most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct?  That’s the way we saw each other at seven o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

You may recognize this quote from the "Breakfast Club". I graduated High School in 1987, so John Hughes movies are the soundtrack and videography of my life. But...

I didn't actually belong to any of the assigned groups. I knew people in all of the groups. I was friendly to people in all the groups. But my group became the friends of my then boyfriend and now husband. We find our tribes, I guess.

As I said, I (we) graduated in 1987, which, if you are counting, makes this the year of our 30th anniversary. About a month ago I got a notification from a member of the committee planning the reunion asking me to join the reunion group on Facebook. 

I did.

But we didn't go to the reunion. Hubby has no interest in attending. We kind of feel we are still friends with the people we hung out with then, so why do we need to attend?

I knew we weren't going, but I followed the updates. I clicked on people I knew and was curious about just to see their fb page. Curiosity you know...

There were people I went to kindergarten with. There were people from youth group at church. There were people from English class. There were the popular kids. There were the athletes, and the brains, and those who may have gotten into... let's say interesting situations. Many were talking about going or mentioning something from the past. 

And once again I felt that anxiety of wanting to be a part of "the" group. The difference was this time I was choosing to not be. 

I have social anxiety anyway, so going would have been excruciating, but seeing pictures and hearing how much fun those that went had, makes me feel like I missed out. 

Looking at the pictures I find myself zooming in on name tags or being happy when people are "tagged". They look familiar but once I see a name I think, "Duh! They haven't changed." 

Of course they have. Many have extra weight. Some have less hair. All have a few more wrinkles. But the eyes are the same. The smiles are the same. I see the 18 year olds in them that I see in myself when I look in the mirror. Bon Jovi has a song in which he sings, "Not old...Just older..".  That's us. 

We may have classified each other as jocks, or dweebs, or druggies 30 years ago, but now we are ...
husbands, wives, lovers, mothers, fathers, or care givers. We are all strugglers and survivors

Hopefully I can convince our old tribe to go next time. 

After all we are all the La Porte Slicers Class of 1987.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Found Truth

I vividly remember being 6 years old and being on the back porch with my 5'4 mom while she switched the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I remember my 6'4 brother saying something smart alecky to my mom. And I remember my mom telling him, "You're not too big for my to turn over my knee and spank your butt."

That left a huge impression on me. I decided I would be "the good one."

My brother was the oldest.
My oldest sister was funny and happy.
Next sister was the gloomy one.
the Next sister died when she was 5 and became the one we didn't talk about.
Then me.
And last my younger sister who was -- then-- "the baby" and just annoying.

My role would be - to be "good".

And I have been.

The Love Languages talk about how we all have ways we prefer to be affirmed.

Physical Touch-- Camp made me more of a hugger and I tend to offer hugs if I think someone "needs" one, but (maybe it's so many years in K-2 where your body is fair game for poking and prodding) I do not seek to be touched.

Quality Time-- I am an introvert. Time isn't necessary, and in some cases, more stressful.

Gifts and Acts of Service make me feel like I need to reciprocate.

So that lead to Words of Affirmation. I'm the "good one". I do the right thing and I like people to recognize that.

But for the first time last week I realized that I not only want to be recognized for doing the right thing, I seek out doing things that will bring me that recognition.

I bend over backward to do things for others. At work, I never take off, because I don't want to let any one down. We get 2 personal days a year and 6 sick days. My sick "bank" has 63 days in it after 10 years. I volunteer to fill in for those who do take time off. I stay late. I work at home for free because I am an only an Instructional Assistant.

Friday I had a scheduled half day because I had to take my son to a doctor's appointment. There were 3 other assistants who were gone. I stayed through my usual lunch and recess duty because I didn't want to make things difficult-- even though I should have left before lunch duty.
I volunteered to stay through 1st grade to cover. Another assistant told me she could cover first grade. Knowing it would affect her ability to take her own lunch I resisted a bit.

Did I want to be recognized for being a martyr?

Yes. Yes I think I did.

How crazy is that?

I think I feel like I have to go big to be recognized. I think this is  mainly because "Thank you," is used so infrequently. And when it is used, it is a general, "Thank you for all you do." directed to a group of which I happen to  be a part.

That is not enough.

"Thank you for putting so much effort into planning your reading intervention. I know you spent your own money and time in doing that," would mean the world to me, because it would let me know I have been seen.

I realized last week just how invisible I have felt under past leadership. Our new principal is so much better. She gave me some of that affirmation last week before my "martyr Friday." I think that is what allowed me to finally see how desperate I had become.

Now what?

I still want to be the good one so I will still volunteer. However, I will also think before I put myself last.

The lesson to others would be to recognize that there is a difference between genuine, specific recognition and manipulation and those of us who appreciate recognition are keenly aware of the difference.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A day's work

When a group of volunteers come together, it's amazing what can be accomplished in a single day.

Friday, March 31, 2017

I made it!

It is day 31 and I wrote every day. There were so many days I had nothing to say. There were days I barely posted in time. There were days I couldn't begin to say all I wanted to say because there was no way to protect the guilty.
But I did it. 31 days of posting.

Going forward will be the trick. In honoring my OLW: Voice, I need to decide if I post every day or only when I have something pressing to say.

Time will tell.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Shopping- A "short" moment in time

I forgot she was the cashier I want to avoid.

She is the one better suited to "Greeter".
She takes forever to scan.
She talks forever to the people she knows.
She picks and chooses which items she wants to scan, even though I arrange them in categories. Because of this, the belt does not advance and I have to wait to put more items on the belt.

I forgot I didn't like her lane until I had things on the belt.
The conversation with the person in front of me was about selling your house "as is" because you can't get back the money you put into it. And how their kids are doing. And the great grandkids.

When it was finally my turn, she slowly scanned the items. Didn't advance the belt. And she wasn't able to to lift the water bottles, case of Coke, or kitty litter at the end, so she walked around the counter. I usually lift these items to be scanned, but thought this would be faster.
Not so much.

Finally, it was time to pay.
Or I tried as I always have --when swiping was allowed...
I tried while she was scanning.
You see, a new bank card was sent to me because apparently the chip is better.
 I have activated it and used it other places.

 I inserted it. Error. And the second time I got an Error. Swiping didn't work either. I tried my regular credit card with the same result. She came around and tried. Then she said I had to wait until she finished scanning before using it. She continued to pick
 and choose

 and scan.

Finally she was done and I tried again. Same result. Another cashier who was setting up at the next register came and tried with the same no result.
And again.

 She asked my cashier if she had my total up. My lady said she didn't know where she was in the process. She hit a couple of buttons and the total appeared again. The Second cashier tried chip again. And again. And swiped
and Ta Dah!
It worked.

I got my receipt and I left to the torrential downpour that had been falling all morning, and that would continue to fall all day, thinking "if I won the lottery we don't play...

I would so hire a personal shopper!"

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Someone Needs to Write a Book

The Tylonel murders that led to safety packaging happened while I was still of trick or treating age.

Adam Walsh went missing and turned out to have been murdered when I was of babysitting age.

Two students from school went camping at a local campground and were murdered when I was in High School.

My best friend and I were followed to school several days by a man in a truck who told police he "just wanted to look at the pretty girls."

Columbine happened when I was pregnant with our second child. I watched it unfold on TV while our oldest was napping.

The world is not any more or less safe today than it was 40 years ago.

So why, when I drop our 17 year old at the theater, do I worry as though the worst will happen if I just leave him there?

Elizabeth Stone said, "To have a child is to forever have your heart go walking around outside of your body."

There needs to be a What to Expect the Teenage and College Years because this angst was not covered in the baby books.

I've always thought Love You Forever was creepy and my husband says the mom in that book is a stalker. But, I'm starting to understand where the mom is coming from...

But both my guys have nixed my idea of hubby and me buying an RV and splitting time between the homes they will have with their families.

Darn. :-)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


In photography it is important to shift perspective. If you shoot a picture from above you diminish the power of the subject. If you shoot a photo from below you give the subject power. Shooting from an angle gives a subject energy.

Distance in time changes your perspective. I spent the last two days in my home town looking at it from the perspective of a visitor. My youngest and I went to the library. The library was my favorite location in town. It is a Carnegie library, and they just finished a year long renovation, so of course the inside is different. But the steps leading up to it seemed different as well. They looked the same but I remember the climb being taller. Somehow they've shrunk over the years.

We drove around trying to find locations of old relatives gleamed from census records and photos. I was trying to find connections to photos where people are posing outside houses but I don't know for sure where they are. I wanted to connect locations to people and to their place in time. In the process of looking for the houses, we drove the path I used to walk to get to my elementary school.

Back then, I had to cross 3 highways to get there. One had a stop light. One wasn't that busy. And one had a crossing guard. And the streets around the school were manned by 6th grade crossing guards with orange vests. (Those interested took turns).  I swear I didn't use to be able to see all the way to that 3rd highway from the stoplight at the first. And I swear it was a much longer walk than just 6 blocks. The parking lot at the Catholic church along the way had at snow hills at least a mile long in the winter all on it's own, so there is no way I only had a measly 6 block walk.

And driving around I noticed the homes in town are much shabbier and smaller than I remember. My yard growing up was a huge oasis of dandelions and the bees who liked to rest on them while I ran barefoot from the back door to the alley. Why did the new owners move the alley closer to the back door?

Perspective also changes dependent on how close you are to events. I was trying to locate houses and taking pictures -- freaking out youngest because I had off handedly mentioned I hoped I wouldn't get picked up for terrorist activity because I was taking pictures of random buildings. One home was only a block from my house and across the street and down three houses from one belonging to my mom's maiden aunts. I knew about the maiden aunts house, but the other one belonged to my mom's great aunt and her husband. Did mom know about that? It was a house I always liked and it still has charm.

We went to a cemetery to find the graves of distant relatives I've grown attached to. I've looked for them before, but without luck. Today we found them. This family, in early November of 1879 had 10 members including 8 children. At the end of December 1879, 5 of those children had died of diptheria. I can not imagine the pain of losing a child, 5 Is beyond comprehension. Apparently Diptheria is a virus of sorts where your lungs fill with fluid and you essentially drown. There was no antibiotic at that time to cure the disease and the tracheotomy that could have enabled breathing to occur until the symptoms passed, had not yet been tried. Finding them today and seeing that all their names were on the big tombstone was satisfying. Seeing they each had a little headstone with their initials carved on top gave me peace. Two stones had fallen over. Little Anna's had been lying down so long it was starting to sink into the earth. I picked them both up and tried to smooth the dirt around them. I brushed the moss off of the big tombstone where it was starting to eat away the etchings. I imagined a moment how it must have felt to bury your children one by one. Impossible.

We went to the museum, because my mother-in-law knows someone who said they might be able to answer my questions about some of the photos I had. I barely had the words, "I was wondering..." as I started to pull out a photo, before the woman taking my money quickly informed me she had no idea about anything,  because she had only lived there for a couple of years. She then added the other person in the windowed office hadn't lived there long either. AND she further injected that the nearly 90 year old resident historian was in, but that she researched for money. She then walked me back to the research room and asked what files I was interested in. She brought the files out and deposited them on the table. She showed the photos I had of an old school, to the historian who said (from her office) the newer version of the  school had been built on the location of the one in my photos. They asked if they could make a copy. They never asked the name of who was in the photos.

And that is when I started to think of the subject of this post. How can you work in a museum that is all about town history and not know anything about the town? There were 4 (probably volunteer) workers sitting and talking as we left. If you know nothing about the very thing you are representing, wouldn't you use your time to find out? No one checked on us in the research room. No one asked if we needed anything else. And we'd had to pay to get in. Very different from the Museum in Warsaw. They only ask for donations and are very friendly and helpful.

So, my thinking is that perspective is a complex issue.

When photographing, I think about what I want to convey with the image I am composing. Looking at the cliches that "time heals all wounds" and "distance makes the heart grow fonder" I take them to simply mean that opinions and memories are shaped by the significance certain events held in your life. Maybe La Porte was always a teeny, tiny, shabby, little place and I just didn't know it because at the time it was THE big wide world? Maybe it isn't the town that has changed. Maybe I am the one who changed; physically and emotionally

And maybe those people at the museum don't care about the history of La Porte because it was never their world. Maybe the people who care for the cemetery didn't notice Anna's stone had fallen over because she doesn't belong to them. There isn't anyone around she belongs to, or who know she belongs to them.

In the broader scheme of things perspective is everything. We can't truly fight for what we believe until we know what we believe and why. People who fight for one current event or another based on how they think-- the people they think  will be affected--  will actually be affected... Unless you can speak from personal experience --either yourself or someone you actually know-- then you don't know. We shouldn't jump on bandwagons just because we like the conductor or the song being played.

We need to look at issues from all angles. If we look up at issues, they will seem more powerful and problematic than if we stand over them. Looking at issues square stagnates them and freezes us to inaction. Where as looking at issues from all angles can give them movement and energy.

Perspective {changes} everything.

Monday, March 27, 2017

If only

Youngest and I were "kickin' it old school" today. He got to experience the joys of microfilm.

I have to say I am grateful old newspapers have been saved. It is fascinating to see how they have evolved over time. And if they hadn't been preserved, I never would have known my great great grandmother supposedly set the family barn on fire. Or that, according to the article printed, insanity runs in the family. 🙂

But technology has spoiled me. Since holding the actual paper isn't possible, I would like to read it on my computer screen that I can manipulate size and contrast easily. I want to scroll with a little mouse wheel and not a button that advances too fast or too slow or in movements that are too jerky.

I would love if someone would digitize those old 35mm film reels. How hard can it be? I mean...hello...technology.

I know some people have digitized their papers. Why can't the papers I need be digitized?

I want to know who the 15 year old daughter was that drug great great grandma away from the flames, because I do not have a great aunt who would have been that age.
I want to know if and when they rebuilt the barn.
I want to peruse the happenings in their little hamlet of Tracy.

And I can't do that at a computer screen, that is showing 35mm images, of 130 year old newspapers, that are located only in a filing cabinet, 2 hours from my couch.

And while I'm at it, let's not forget Ctrl F where I can simply type in the name I'm looking for and have every occurance highlighted so I can easily skip to them?

Old school is tedius!
Boy am I spoiled! 😀

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This is the search that never ends...

I have been scanning photos this rainy Sunday. Photos of my ancestors. It is so interesting to start to recognize faces and places -- it almost starts to feel like I know them somehow. Over the two weeks I plan to do some library research. I hope to find deeds or some other proof that will link my Great-Great Grandfather to who I believe his brothers were. 

I want to know if there was a plea put out by the church to take in my great grandmother and her older siblings after their father died. 

I want to know if there was an announcement of my great grandparents wedding to go with the photos someone sent me. 

I want to find out if my great aunt married the pastor or if he was just a student who then married my great aunt. And if the announcement they were moving to Kansas was in the paper. 

And I am hoping my son can find the story of the star that fell in my grandmother's yard in 1920. We have a tiny ring box with pieces from the star and a piece of tape with the date 1920 on it. It was a show and tell item every year. I'd like to know if it was big news or not. If possible.

Detective work awaits and I have 14 day to find out all I can. Until summer of course when I'll have 8 weeks. And then Christmas ....  :-) 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Plans for Spring Break

Plans for our two week break

Walk every day though it's hard out here in the country

Genealogy research and making my son help (bribing with the promise of Culvers) by visiting my hometown.

Genealogy research and making my son help (again thank you Culvers) in Fort Wayne.

Eye doctor.

Find a dentist.

Trip to camp.

Work around the house

Clean the yard (but I'm not mowing until at least the end of April)


Scan heritage photos

Sleep in

Friday, March 24, 2017


When a small team of brave individuals come together for the greater good, the powers-that-be will sometimes come to their senses and hope becomes the light at the end of the tunnel.

Spring Break starts now. Hope begins April 10.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why writing is hard this month

This years Slice of Life challenge has been so difficult!

The first year I participated the entire month was 5 years ago. It turns out my father passed away on the 14th of March that year. There was so much to write about then...authentic writing. Easy writing.

Four years ago, there was a difficult class we were dealing with and there was all the emotions that go with getting to the first year milestone of the death of a loved one. Again, between the two of those things, the writing came easy.

Three years ago my mom had health issues and today is the 3rd anniversary of her passing. That year we also had the worst class in any ones memory. They are still the most challenging. This is the class that caused my friend to have migraines, so frequent and severe, that she has nerve damage to her inner ear and can no longer work. I had much cathartic writing to do and the challenge of writing daily was fairly easily accomplished.

Last year I had to deal with the loss of my friend and the one who treated me as a partner and not just some incidental helper. I had to deal with a teacher who treated me worse than an incidental helper. I was someone who should wait to be told what to do and she judged, criticized, and talked about me negatively behind my back. I increased my anti-depressant dose this year because I wasn't sure if I would be subjected to her abuse again. I changed to a new blog in case last years writing was too cathartic because it was easy to write every day.

This year, while things at school are better  in that I am not with that teacher again, they are just status quo. I am in a class with a teacher who taught the last 3 years in 5th grade.  She doesn't get along with her teaching partner who is also new to our kindergarten this year. The K teacher I am with is also going on maternity leave soon. She hopes to get another week after Spring Break before she is done for the year.

My other friend from the other Kindergarten room left before school because she got a job closer to her house and the culture in our building made it easy to leave.

Because of changes as to "Push In" or "Pull Out" services and the medical concerns of a child, I am fragmented and disenfranchised even further.

So much is happening that I want to blog about, but don't have the gravitas to pull it off in such a public forum. Broad generalizations are not authentic and I need to write specifics to get across the frustrations and challenges that have led to the crisis we now face.

So I struggle to find something to write. I can't find it in me to write about little things or small moments every day when there are huge issues going on that I can't put out in the universe.

So tonight I write about the struggle.
It's real people.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Secrets kept
Games afoot
Fears held close
Prayers spoken
Hopes they are answered soon

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reading Woes

What is the goal of reading?

If you are in school, the goal is to achieve a certain reading level.

"Just Right Books" is a phrase kids know all too well.

There is such an emphasis on going up levels, that I see kids missing out on the wonder of story. The Magic of story is lost.

We test and test and, at our school, do "flight checks" with A to Z reading.

Second graders, and even first graders, are in such a hurry to read "chapter books" that the second they are allowed to check them out, they don't ever want to go back. Think of all the wonderful picture books they will never read because they consider it "too easy".

Just because a child is a level "R" in guided reading terms, doesn't mean there are any appropriate books for their age or maturity level.

Our second grade had to use Frindle as a read aloud. I LOVE Frindle. The conversations you can have with 4th, 5th, or 6th graders with this book can be deep and enlightening. Second graders can like the book, but will they really "get" it? Maybe a couple, but not in a group setting like that. And so many will never revisit it because they read it already. They will miss the "experience" because they already had a taste.

And then 4th graders will want to read the Hunger Games or Twilight series.

Rigor is killing reading.

As a family we have thousands of books. Literally, thousands. I am the "Book Whisperer" at our school. I bring the books my family has bought and read to share with kids. It breaks my heart when kids don't want to even look at a book that is completely appropriate, and that I know they will enjoy, because it isn't the latest teen love story novel.

The Book Whisperer was absolutely right when she said kids just need to read in order to improve their reading ability. We need to stop all the testing and teach how to discuss what they read. We need to build community around story and validate picture books as legitimate literature. That is when we will create greater understanding and comprehension.

Because THIS:

Now is Read to Self
Now is Read to Someone
Now is Listen to Reading
Now is 20 minutes of reading at home
Now is time to fill out reading logs
Now is time to do a flight check
Now is time to write about what the character felt when...
Now is time to take a test
Now is time to compare two works with each other
Now is time to do the five finger test--Is it just right?

is killing reading.

The difference between learning to read and reading to learn used to be JOY. In our quest to build readers at younger and younger ages, the difference between learning to read and reading to learn will only be the age of the participants.

Joy of story and quest for knowledge should be the goal for all ages.

Let's stop with the RIGOR and instead breathe LIFE.

Monday, March 20, 2017

No More Excuses

I have read the article about "That Kid" several times. Teachers love to share it and show how they have sympathy for what parents may be feeling. I get it. There is so much we can't tell the other parents.


We have to stop making excuses to the detriment of the rest of the kids. Kids with physical challenges and emotional challenges shouldn't be shoved in a classroom and forgotten. Absolutely not! But it is also wrong to shove them in a classroom with a single teacher, who must accommodate all learning abilities while struggling to keep kids safe from the child who is having a melt down on a regular basis. It is WRONG for parents who trust schools to keep their kids safe, to not be informed of the risks and concerns posed by having those kids in the same class. To indignantly defend the rights of those kids is to invalidate the rights of the kids who do behave. Kids shouldn't think it is normal to have to work in a classroom where things are thrown and threats are levied. Parents shouldn't be told that things are being handled when we are doing nothing.

If we are to teach understanding, we need to brainstorm ways to accommodate challenges without sacrificing the safety and learning of all students.

*Inclusion at specific times rather than all day is an option.
*Recruiting volunteers to help is an option.
*Being a training ground for future teachers is an option.
*Requiring parents to be involved and part of the solution is an option.
*Hiring more staff.
I'm sure there are many, many other options.

These aggressive behaviors are becoming the norm and the longer they are allowed to continue, the more difficult the learning community will become. The more the behaviors we see in schools today become the norm, the more angry and violent society as a whole will become.

It is not OK.

There are parents of those kids that are doing the best they can.

However there are more parents contributing to the behaviors of those kids.

School should be a safe place where rules are enforced and expectations are high. Excusing behavior doesn't help That Kid and it definitely doesn't help those in his or her sphere of influence.

We owe kids more.

All kids deserve more.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How do you tell the story

How do you go about writing your family story?

I am lucky. My parents were married for nearly 60 years. Hubby's parents have been married for more than 50 years. In the direct line their aren't any divorces.


But how do you tell the story?

I have parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents, and some further.

I have some pictures. I have Ancestry documents. I have bits and pieces of stories.

How do you tell the story?

I have people with technology access. I have people with access but no idea how it would work. I have people who would require a hard copy.

How do you tell the story?

A family tree with hyper links?
A reverse-o book that tells male and female from different directions?
A straight forward now to then format?
A start from the first known on down?

How do you tell the story?

I am watching "Who Do You Think You Are" and they related a quote, "The things the father wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember." I am learning stories from newspapers that my family never knew. So much I wish to know.

How do you find the stories that make people real when the people who know are all gone?

How do you tell your story?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Night with friends

I got to spend the night with a friend I haven't seen in a while.

I sure do miss working with her.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Giving Up Forecasts

To Whom it May Concern,

A winter weather advisory they said.
Chance of ice, then snow, before turning to all rain they said.
Advisory in effect from 4am until 11 am they said.

My brain translates this information to...
"Your alarm will go off, but then you will get the call that you are cancelled and you will be able to stay in bed."

As I got ready for bed, I was trying not to hope, because when I hope it never happens. But...
I was hoping the call would come before I got in the shower so I could go back to sleep.

The alarm went off at 5:30. The snooze went off at 5:35.

Winter weather advisory from 4 to 11 still in effect according to AccuWeather app.

No snow locally yet.

Radar shows ice and snow in the western counties.  Looks as though I won't be getting that call THEY promised.

Sadly I made the bed and got in the shower.

Gorgeous sunrise as I pulled into the parking lot at school. Phone pictures do not do it justice.

But even wile appreciating the beauty, I couldn't help but think, "Red sky at morning, Sailors take warning."

As I walked to the clinic with a child I help, I glance out the front doors and see it snowing to beat the band.

It snowed for two hours or so and caused inside recess.

Icy conditions.

No rain. Slush. Slush on the car at the end of the day. Slush in the driveway when I get the mail. Slush causing fog after dark.

They say we will have colder and wetter weather than normal during our spring break. But I don't care. Because I think I will throw caution to the wind and just look out the window in the morning before I get dressed.

Apparently it's as accurate as what "they" do.

Gypped in Indiana

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pod People

We were short subs today so I was tapped to sub in one of the 4th grade classrooms. As a sub, the excessive use of technology was wonderful. They basically went from one app to another. Literally the only writing they did was 2 pages from their math work books and during their 20 minute writing period. That is it.

As an observer and a future education activist I have so many problems with this.

We are a 1:1 district and have been for 6 years now. So for all of you who wish you could be, let me tell you -- be careful what you wish for.

When we started -- the initiative was voted in in March or April. Devices were ordered over the summer and teachers got theirs about a week before the students came to school. At that time, K and First got Ipods; 2, 3, &4 got Ipads; and 5-12 got lap tops. FREE apps all around because there wasn't money for any apps. The free apps for Ipods by the way, went up to the letter E.

It was that way for 2 years, then they gave K&1 Ipads as well.

Free apps -- that's what we use. Special permission must be received to get a paid app and then you have to justify why you need it.

We have no actually trained IT person. We have a 26 year old business major who knows about computers.

We have blocked nearly everything in the name of safety-- and requests to get to a video or website has to be obtained from the administration before the IT department can install it.

The amount of people on the network was underestimated and the first couple of years there were many times it just didn't work. We have since gotten our own server and upgraded at least once if not twice.

In order to justify the expense of having the technology, staff are "encouraged" {sic: forced} to use technology as must as possible.

WE must prepare our students to be 21st century learners is the marching order. "Research shows....." followed by all the studies proving  showing evidence for why everything must be technology based.

We were actually told, " kids don't need to know the answer, they just need to know where to find the answer."

But there are studies showing how the excessive use of technology is leading to behavior disorders. Studies show that kids are losing fine motor control, and the core body strength to sit still. Studies show that an increase in recess time-- rather than balance balls, experimental seating, and Go Noodle --could alleviate these issues.

Kindergartners are capable of making a video presentation and monkeys can be trained to drive a car. Neither means they know what they are doing.

The kids today were fairly well behaved and quiet as long as they had MobyMax or Brain Pop in front of them. But as soon as they had to enter the world of the living and breathing they lost it.

Parents use technology as an electronic pacifier that allows them to not be bothered. I understand how hard it is to be a Technology Parent Pioneer. I can write more about that in another post. But as educators we are complicit in the society that is being created.

We say it is because technology is the world of the future. There are those who firmly believe they are doing good promoting this future.

I am not one of them. And it is not because I am unwilling to change. Life is not about immediate gratification. Love, happiness, and a thirst for knowledge are not acquired as quickly as a genie granting a wish. But in the world of technology you can find the "cheat" that answers the problem in your text book. You can play games until the only things in the world are you and your electronic device and you think you are having fun. The world is even becoming one where you can't meet someone in the real world but can through an app?

And for all the people who are pushing technology... because we have 1:1 we have e-learning days... No more make up snow days because they can get assignments through google docs. This may sound fabulous but how long will it be before they think that if kids can be taught as well with google docs, Study Island, and Brain Pop why would they need buildings, IAs, custodians and eventually so many teachers? If a teacher can put a lesson video on line for her class, why couldn't that same video be used for the entire district?

You may wish for technology because you don't have it. You may have technology and actually be using it in moderation and responsibly, but here, this is what technology is. We have been recognized for our whole hog approach.

 If you strive to get technology for all,  make sure you ask what the vision of your administration is. Be sure the best interests of your kids are at the heart of that vision and not the accolades,  glory and career advancement of the adults.

Because right now certain people are wearing a crown while kids are becoming emotional pod people who know where to find the answers to questions they don't know how to ask.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Writing Process

I went to school before the days of writing prompts. I went to school when you had to write research papers. Those research papers required a trip to the library and copious note cards. Rules like, "If you have an A you have to have a B. If you have a 1, you have to have a 2." still ring in my head.

I had a mom who insisted I "needed more light" when I was reading. She also said we couldn't do our homework with the TV on.

I have done research on learning styles. Kinesthetic, Visual, Auditory.

I've been thinking this month about my writing process. What do I need to be able to write? This is the first year that no major event is occurring or has occurred during this month and I am struggling every day to write.

 I have discovered:

*I can't have music because music without words annoys me and I love to sing. If I have music, I end up singing instead of writing.

* I can have the TV on, but it either has to be something I don't care about or down low.

*I can't have absolute silence because then every sound is distracting.

* I have a hard time writing (or reading) when there are other people around because I get interrupted and then it is hard to pick up any flow I may have achieved.

* I probably could write at the table in "writers position," but I prefer the couch with my laptop.

* I prefer to write at night because I feel writing is about reflection and I can't reflect on what has not yet happened.

* I would write better to a prompt because I was an English Major and writing is what English Majors do. But then it is about a certain genre, topic, book, theory, while this... blog writing... is about me. What thoughts or observations warrant a blog and not a diary?

I love that my boys had writers workshop when they were in school. Then they had a mixture of prompts and free writes. They usually wrote within a certain genre but could write what they wanted. Our district no longer does this, and it makes me worry about the kids in class today. They may be able to write to a writing prompt, but will they be able to write their heart? They will be able to compare a fiction work to its non-fiction counter part, but will they be able to write their own story?

Will they be able to go beyond the question being asked?

And most important of all -- Will they be able to ask the question and then seek answers just because they want to know the answers?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I am an instructional assistant or a Para as some call the position. 
I help in classes, I help with medical needs, and I do reading intervention with groups in the afternoon. I get paid for 6.5 hours at school. This is my 7th year of doing reading intervention. I research resources at home. I print manipulatives at home. I cut out and organize things at home. I've bought resources at the teacher store and from the regular stores out of my own pocket. Pencils, crayons, markers, homemade playdough, paper. All me. Things that I need to make copies of and laminaton I do at school with school resources. 

Sometimes I have a hard time being motivated to work for free from home.

We had a snow day Monday and I had a planned personal day today because my older son had an eye doctor appointment and my husband was going to be in Indy and couldn't take him. I had such a wonderful time with older son today. But now I am thinking of doing the usual with my reading groups tomorrow instead of trying to find something new. I feel I should be looking for something new but it is amazing the variety of Nothing I can do while avoiding what I don't want to do. 

The variety of Nothing I can waste my time doing while I should be working on lesson plans. 

Checking e-mail for school and home
Checking Facebook, twitter, and Instagram
Making popcorn
Eating popcorn
reading some blogs
playing Inside Out Thought Bubbles
reading a few pages of a couple of books I got from the book store today
cleaning the kitchen
watching the voice
texting my husband and also my best friend
researching Woody's Carnegie Library where my husband stopped for 
       dinner which led to researching if there were any other libraries
       in Indiana that are restaurants. (One other but is too far away. 3 
       also private residences. lucky ducks.  Indiana also had the most Carnegie Libraries)
Reading Slices
And writing my Slice for the day is my final act of avoidance

And now that my Slice is done, I think I will work on my Ancestry tree until I go to bed. 

Looks like tomorrow will just be the phonics readers I assembled for first grade. Guided reading from the sight word books I assembled for Kindergarten. And Syllabication work from the binders I put together for my 2nd graders. 

So I guess I accomplished lesson planning after all. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Drive Through Amish Country

Indiana is not all in the same time zone. Here in the North-Eastern part we are on East Coast time. In the Northwestern part, where I am from, they are on Central time. Because of this, as I travelled on Saturday, the light on the farm fields was amazing.

I left at 8 so the sun was up but at that perfect angle that makes the photographer in me drool. As it is generally frowned upon to do digital SLR photography while driving, I had to be content with just enjoying the moments.

I had the new Ed Sheeran on the WiFi jack.  I love his music so much. This album is so personal and autobiographical my thoughts kept wandering to personal thoughts of my own.

 I was going to see a relative of my mom's who had old photos that she wanted help identifying.  I thought of my mom and dad, and the fact that the  anniversaries of their deaths are coming up. Dad's will be five years tomorrow. Mom's will be 3 years next week. I found parallels in the songs. Stories Ed Sheeran told that I wished I could do as succinctly played on the radio as the stories I wished I could tell played in my head.

I had to pass through Amish country to get to my destination. Passing buggies and people riding bikes with the sun bathing the fields in golden light made me think of my ancestors who settled in my hometown. German ancestors who rode in buggies and farmed fields by hand and hung laundry out to dry on lines are who I am from. I wondered if anyone else driving was in awe of the beauty all around. Do the Amish notice anymore since it is what they live every day?

As I drove, I thought about the fact that I was driving a vehicle and waiting for the part of the drive where I could go 65/70 miles an hour. A van that could comfortably hold 7 and that had heat.  I was listening to music I transferred from my google account to my phone that I then cast it to the WiFi jack, because the CD player is not working. All the while passing people who have no idea who Ed Sheeran is and have chosen a life that seems so much harder than the one the rest of have chosen.

The dichotomy really struck me.

Coming home, the sun was once again behind me and was starting to set all golden again. The relative had a portrait on the wall of my grandfather's family where he is between 12 and 15. I took photos of it. She had albums of my mom's side of the family that she gave me. There are photos of my grandfather as a young man before my grandmother or my mom. There are photos of family gatherings where everyone is in a big group. I had no idea there were photos of people at the beach or posing by the DANGER Railroad crossing sign in the 19teens and 20s.  I thought everything then was still formal and posed by professionals.  Every picture I see makes me want more. Is there someone somewhere who has a photo of my great-great grandparents? What about the other sides of the family? Where are those photos?

 I should be satisfied.  I know this. 5 years ago I had no idea the pictures I would now have. I am grateful.

Grateful but I want more connections. I want to see me in those faces. I want to see my children in the childhood faces of my ancestors. I want to know their stories. Are any of them the same as my story?

Grandpa is between his mom and dad -- the youngest in the family --born in 1897.  What stories could he tell if he were alive today?

I looked it up and the Amish do not believe in posing for photos. Perhaps the connection they have to the past through community is enough to satiate the need for knowledge of what came before.

I want more.

It's amazing what a little music, while driving through Amish country bathed in golden light, can bring to mind.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A little wish

A wish for snow upon the street
A wish for snow beneath the feet
A wish for the early sound
  Of too much snow upon the ground
A wish we won't have wait and see
  If a delay will move from hour 2 to 3
A wish we cancel from the start
Is a wish I wish with all my heart.

They are calling for only 3-5, so timing is everything. 😎

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Just future topics

A very eventful day has led to not enough brain power to write coherently. So based on events of today my future posts will be about

Driving through Amish country
My first accident
A meeting with an 84 year old relative leads to an amazing gift
Lunch with my sisters
My new gift


For now it is time to stop everything since it is technically an hour later than it is.

Friday, March 10, 2017


The full moon isn't until Sunday.

 I checked because today definitely had that "full moon" feeling to it. Kids picking at each other and retaliating when that someone picks back. You know, general crankiness. But driving home from picking older son up from college, I started thinking about communication and the lack of skill in communication.

Kids at school have fewer and fewer skills in relation to communication. They want what they want and they want it now. I realize this has always been true to a degree, but they have eventually learned that there is give and take in life. This is no longer the case.

Today, in school, they have "turn and talk" but it has to be on the topic at hand. Kids have to utilize technology at school and parents choose to use it as a babysitter for their children and a way of self-medicating for themselves. Children no longer discuss books, they respond to a prompt concerning what they wrote. There are no conversations around the dinner table or while driving in the car. Even a 5 minute ride to school in the car has children watching the built in TV instead of engaging in conversation.

Recess is a thing of the past and those schools that do have recess have a short amount of time. We intervene at the slightest hint of disagreement because we are worried about escalation that will lead to someone getting hurt. There is always a parent who will call and complain if their child gets a scratch, so we impose rules with lawyers, not children, in mind.

Parents orchestrate their children's lives out of necessity of time and a society that has actual stranger predators who seek to do harm.

When are children not monitored by an adult who halts difficult situations?

And now we have adults who are on college campuses who refuse to listen. We have celebrities and politicians and pundits who believe whoever talks loudest wins the argument. They want what they want when they want it. Everyone is so busy yelling and repeating themselves and getting into the role of indignant and oppressed that they don't stop to hear the words the other person is speaking.

Are the choices really WIN or lose for most things? Is there no middle ground on most subjects? How will kids learn how to communicate if there are no role models on how it's done? If it takes a village to raise a child, then this global village better start listening at least half as much as they strive to be heard.

If anything is a matter of life and death the need to communicate effectively is it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Biggest Anxiety

I can't stand the phone. To be more precise-- I can't stand talking on the phone. ( I will text all day long.) Not to make appointments. Not to find out information. Not to talk to family or friends. If I actually do have to make a phone call, I have to plan out what I'm going to say, what I think the other person will say, and how I will respond before I pick up the phone.

It wasn't always this way. In High School, I may have caused my parents to add call waiting to our phone.

But now I have mini panic attacks if the phone rings-- even if I recognize the number. Sometimes I will even let it go to voice mail so I can decide if I need to call back or if it is possible to answer in a text or e-mail.

I just can't stand hearing voices and not having the body language to go with it. Even if it it is to be a difficult conversation, I would rather it be face to face or in writing.

Am I the only one?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Inside recess again

North Eastern Indiana
We have had to stay in for recess due to:

Cold temperatures: +15 wind chill is the  minimum and it gets colder than that often especially since our school occupies what used to be a corn field.

Ice: Not often but there are times it isn't with the salt and sand.

Rain: I actually accept this as a legitimate reason to stay in.

Today we added a new reason.

Wind: It was gorgeous looking outside but the office deemed the wind too strong. To be fair, we did lose power because somewhere a tree fell on a power line. But I still would have loved to see the Ks running out their Wild in the wild, wild wind.

So, I guess wind is on the list of things that ruin recess. And next week the cold returns.

Wish we had that retractable dome playground. 😆

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Elephant in my School

Elephants abound in our school.

We had a two hour delay day in which the topic was "the purpose and expectations of collaboration." This was continued at our usual 1/2 hour delay Monday morning meeting the next Monday. And the 1/2 hour delay yesterday. (by the way our 1/2 delay usually takes 45 minutes which gets staff to class 5 minutes before the kids are allowed in.)

So. We spent 3 hours discussing "how to collaborate." We are a school of about 350 kids K-6 including fuctional life and preschool. 2 of each grade level. The grade level teachers talk all the time. For the most part, they plan together. The big honking elephant in our school is not how to plan together. The problem in our school is we are not a team. We are individuals and cliques. We are people who have been told we can't discuss one thing or another due to "privacy issues" when in fact it is due to administrator control issues.

Does anyone have meetings that make sense?
Why is it so hard for administrators to actually seek solutions with the kids in mind and from those responsible for working with them involved?
No one has THE answer. Administrators need to be leaders.

Listen to concerns spoken and implied
Educate all involved about the basis and reason for decisions
Ask questions to fully understand the problems at hand
Determine the best direction in resolving issues
Engage the team in determining solutions
Respect differing opinions
Seek success as a team

Am I asking for too much?

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Blank Page Questions

Is it enough to put words on a page? 

When you consider audience, should you have a common thread that keeps readers coming back? The people I read do have a common thread or theme that makes me want to hear what they say.

 That's what I think about when I sit down to write each day. 

Why would anyone want to read about my family game night one day and my quest for pictures of sandhill cranes landing by a pond the next and my genealogy find a third day? 

The blogs I frequent, in addition to a common theme are well written. The ability to write well comes with practice but few people can master all genres equally. Do I pick a form and hone that? Do I use March to experiment and find my genre niche or do I have a blog to play form and genre? 

What is the point and purpose of having a blog? Is it a diary or a letter or are my posts musings or ideas in search of an audience?

I don't know. And that is why I post late every day. And why after March my postings drop dramatically. Why do I even have a blog? 

I need to figure this out. 
Another blank page awaits tomorrow.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

In Search of a Story Draft 1

My guys went to the big city today and I had the afternoon at home on my own.
I found out yesterday that my father-in-law's estranged brother died a year or so ago. The details are sketchy but it seems as though he estranged himself from the rest of the family. Even his own children were not aware he had died. This thought makes me very sad because my in-laws aren't sure of the exact date. I've done research on hubby's side of the family as well as my own -- just not as much, so I looked for more info but found little.

While my guys were enjoying the movie Logan in the big city, I had the TLC marathon of "Who Do You Think You Are?" playing on the TV and I worked on my genealogy research.

I am 99% positive I will never find any kings or queens or royalty of any kind in my tree. Nor does my husband. We do have farmers --lots of farmers. We have widows and widowers and orphans. We have military and those who maintained the home front.

There are so many bits and pieces when put together that make a story.
In laws have picture books that the town they grew up in put together. Sussex, New jersey, where they're from, asked for historical pictures from those who had lived there. They received so many they have 3 volumes. Within those pages are faces and places that are foreign to me, but as I asked questions my in-laws had stories to share. This led me to wish each town would do this.

State history is a 4th grade standard. What if there was a town standard? I've learned so much about my home town through research of my ancestors. How much more would I have learned if school and forced / encouraged me to interview relatives from home. How much more pride in my home town would I have had if I had known more than the story of Belle Guiness (one of the first female serial killers)?

I know people move -- more today than in the past -- but knowing the history of where you are gives you a stronger foundation.

Did you know Dr. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic went to medical school in La Porte, Indiana? Did you know La Porte had a medical school? Did you know that medical school was on the same property as the elementary school I went to? I didn't. And I bet there aren't many from La Porte who know either. And the shame is that that is only one aspect. La Porte has been a dying town since manufacturing moved out 30 years ago. Would pride help save dying towns?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Music in the Dark

Darkness allows you to focus on the words
on the beat
on the emotion.

At a dance or club
when they turn the lights down
for a slow dance

Driving down the road
heading home
or away
Street lights and head lights
keeping  rhythm with
heart beats
Moving pictures of
the mind

Music surrounds

And music always remembers

Friday, March 3, 2017

End of Round One

Testing is over.
Except for the make-ups.
And I have some thoughts.

We've all seen the meme with all the animals lined up and they are being asked to climb a tree. I think we all agree on how idiotic this is, yet here we are participating in the lunacy.

We work every day to find out how each child learns best and would do so even if "differentiation" weren't the buzz word of the day. Some go to extreme lengths to help kids find their best learning environment, such as Starbucks seating and ambient lighting. We teach them to go back in the text and highlight essential information. We teach them that team work is essential. We teach them to use resources. We teach them to ask for help on things they don't understand.

Then because the government wants data, We put them in a room in desks that are now in rows. We cover the resources on the wall we've encouraged them to use all year. We give them the number 2 pencils to use and collect them at the end. We tell them to clear their desks. We tell them stray marks will harm results so they can't highlight or underline or circle important information. We read from the same script as every other teacher in the state (and if we were to all be common core and taking the same test we could be reading in unison with the entire country). Then we say, "You may begin."  We circle the room stopping when a hand is raised to say, "I'm sorry, I can't tell you. Just do the best you can."

And we die a little inside.

Studies have shown a person tests best in the environment in which they learned the material. So, we pull the kids who have accommodations and have them take the test in a different room with a teacher who is not their own.

It's wrong.

But not just because it's not appropriate. It's wrong because it is data for data's sake. The tests supposedly reflect how individual teachers are doing and how the school and district fare. But how does this affect how we teach?

For some reason "we've" decide the curriculum isn't "rigorous" enough. And we now have kindergartners writing persuasive letters using at least 2 reasons why or why not. Because it will be important when they first take the test in 3rd grade? Knowing their address is no longer relevant, but knowing how to write an informational text such as Penguins can... Penguins are... and Penguins have... is very relevant.

1st graders read and discuss "The Lemonade Wars" because it fits the economics portion of first grade standards. As if first grade needs economics.

We complain. We say we are disheartened at what it does to our kids.
And then we put the "TESTING" sign on the door and remind them that once we start handing out booklets there is to be no talking.

We admire those who post their letters of resignation and applaud their courage. What if we joined them before it came to feeling like giving up is the best option and fought for the change we know needs to happen? To paraphrase Margaret Mead, "Could a group of  thoughtful committed citizens {change education}? Indeed they are the only ones who ever have." I'm afraid the answer is no. Too many of us are sheep and those who would lead the charge to change can't afford to take on the issue alone.

So today we put the "TESTING" sign back in the box.
In another month or so we'll take it out again for round 2.
It will still be inappropriate.
We'll do it anyway.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bucket Filled

Youngest had a band concert tonight. Or should I say he participated in a band showcase. Every band the high school performed tonight. Advanced (son's group), 8th grade, and Jazz in the auditorium then Color Guard, Winter guard, and percussion in the gym, then Jazz band 2, Intermediate band, and 7th grade band in the auditorium, and finally Winter percussion and Winter Winds in the gym.

As we waited for the program to start, I saw one of my kids who is now in 7th grade. I said Hi, and he came and sat down with us. He is one of those kids that drove everyone crazy. He likes to put one toe over the line with a smile on his face to see where the line really is. Some felt it disrespectful. We had discussions on knowing when to stop -- that point being before the head of the adult in charge exploded. He is funny, and smart, and just a little bit of an imp. Love him. He told me he and one other from our school were in the high school winter percussion and invited me to see him perform.

I decided to stay a while and hubby and son came home. I spotted one a girl from school. Her sister came over at that moment and I suddenly felt like a rock star. She gave me the biggest hug and then drug me up to some others who had also been in my reading group last year as well as others from my school that were now 7th graders. I told them I would stay to watch them play. They were really good even though you could tell they were nervous. More hugs before they left with their parents.

The winter percussion was starting so I stopped in for a minute before I left for the night. Oh my stars were they awesome! (although I might choose different costumes).

After a day that had its ups and downs,  seeing such passion for creating music and best of all seeing kids that mean a lot to me ended it on a high note. I think I just may be a part of somebody's "educational story" and that feels pretty good.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Parents are the problem

Here in Indiana we had storms move through overnight, so I am tired and grumpy. Maybe not the best way to kick off writing month because the frustration is more raw.

So many educators push back against criticism of the education system laying the blame on poverty. Yes, there are hungry children.  Yes, there are homes where kids lack shelter. And absolutely a child can't learn if he is hungry or she is homeless. We need to help those children.

But, I am going to be controversial and lay the criticism at the feet of parents. Children are not a "To-Do" list item to cross off your life goals list.

 "My body- my choice" should not refer to the life that grows inside a woman. The choice a woman makes should be to have intercourse or not.

Most birth control is pretty effective if used correctly. Not having sex is 100% effective. Choose the father of your child carefully. They will be a part of your child's life for the rest of your life.

Once you have children, they become important. Yes, you need to remember who you are, but who you are is not the same as the you before kids. Kids shouldn't necessarily be the center of your universe, but they should rank above your sex life. Kids have steps, Halfs, and mom's boyfriend's kids that they call a sibling. A child should have a home. Not a favorite suitcase.

The latest movie may be something you are looking forward to. Hire a baby sitter. Dead Pool is not for 8 year olds or 7 year olds or 6 year olds. Dead Pool is rated R -- that means you should be over the age of 17. That should be a hint that you maybe at least preview it-- to see if it would be ok. And for the record, it still isn't for a 6, 7, or 8 year old.

My husband went to a presentation a long time ago where they discussed  poverty. The notion that people in poverty live for NOW. If they get money they spend it right away on "fun things" because they don't know when they will get money again. My friends who have been teaching for a long time confirm this.  They say they will visit a family at their home and there will be a big screen TV and multiple game consoles and games. However, the kids won't have a bed. And there isn't a table or chairs where they can eat. Where does the concept that an adult's happiness overrules their responsibilities as a parent? And why do we let it slide with a shrug of the shoulders or a frustrated sigh and think if only the parent(s) had more government money things would be better for the children?

We can throw all the money in the world at the poverty dilemma, but it won't change the mindset.

I grew up with government cheese and powdered milk. My dad hated having a boss telling him what to do, so he worked for himself a lot. Christmas was thrift store finds or homemade gifts. As soon as I started babysitting at 11, I was, for the most part, the one who bought my own clothes. I heard my mom beg for more time to pay bills. I know she was embarrassed when she had to use food stamps.  Because they didn't have much money or any real financial stability, when my dad died my mom negotiated a bargain price on cremation based on the fact the funeral home had handled many of her family's funerals --and locked in the price for herself. I have been there-- in the poverty cycle. And I don't feel sorry for myself.

My parents didn't provide monetary things. My parents provided stability. They provided expectations. They provided boundaries.  There was a point in time that I thought them selfish for not providing for us all the things I thought I "needed." After working with kids whose parents get more government money than my parents ever did, but spend it on fun-- not caring they aren't providing for their kids, makes me grateful. I am grateful that while I still think my dad was selfish for not keeping a job because he didn't like being told what to do, they put food on the table and gave us values. They stayed together for nearly 60 years until death parted them. And that is after losing a child when she was 5. They didn't give up because things were hard.

So stop putting the blame on the government not doing enough, or having a high enough minimum wage, or think throwing more government  money at people who still manage to fund cigarettes and beer is the answer.  I am not smart enough to say what THE answer is, but I honestly believe making excuses isn't it.

Why the diatribe? It gets frustrating when kids are rude, disrespectful, and even violent and we don't want to bother the parents. These incidents have happened this week. Obviously I can't go into details but the one in particular is not even from poverty. The one is from selfish parents who put their own needs before their child's. And will continue to do so because parenting is hard. And parents aren't expected to put in their best effort if they don't want to.

"You can't tell a parent how to be a parent."

Maybe not. But maybe there could be a rubric?

I'll be less grouchy tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Testing Season

It's Indiana
Friday we didn't need coats at recess
Saturday it snowed
Sunday was sunny but windy
Monday was beautiful for a day in February
Today- Tuesday- it was supposed to be a high of of 64
it wasn't
Instead it was damp and windy and cold.

It is currently raining.

So you may wonder
what Season it is...

It's the beginning of March
in Indiana

The weather may be unpredictable
but the one thing we know for sure...
               It's testing season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


"Hi. I just inherited a box of photos from my great aunt and I saw that you had an individual on your tree that matches the family and I was wondering if you are connected and interested."

This is the gist of an e-mail I read on the way home from running errands with my husband.

My head exploded with excitement! If we had been driving a team of horses I might have snapped the reigns.

This person is a member of Ancestry and saw on my Ancestry tree that we had the same relative in common. A relative who moved from my hometown to the Kansas prairie and started a family. He mentioned he had photos from Kansas as well as my home town. The possibilities running through my head were endless but the dream I mentioned out loud to my husband was the possibility that it was of my great aunt's wedding and that it might include a photo of the family altogether so I could see what my relatives looked like.

I told him my connection and he agreed to e-mail me photos.

Later that afternoon I received a few from Kansas.  And that night he sent me twelve from my home town. And you know what? There was a photo of a couple with the woman in a wedding dress!

Freak out!

I opened my family tree and got to that branch of the family to try to match faces to how old they would be approximately. Going on the assumption that the couple were my great aunt and her new husband I figured out who would be married and therefore with a spouse, who would have had kids by then and how old they would be, and who else might be there and photographed considering it would have been 1889. Some things were a bit off but others meshed. The crazy thing was the woman in the photo did not look like the one in a photo from Kansas several years later. Some of the kids with parents didn't look old enough. And my great- grandparents who had married two years earlier were no where to be seen.

So I allowed myself to go down the "what if" road.

What if the wedding couple was actually MY great- grandparents? Things fall into place if this is the case. If the wedding couple is my great- grandparents then I have all of my great- grandmothers siblings and their families if they were old enough at the time. And a photo of my great-great grandmother who would have been about 53 in 1887.

Some people that were photographed are unknown to me. More detective work is needed. But the scenario in my head is this:  My great grandmother's family was rather poor. My great-grandfather's family were fairly prosperous.  Maybe his family paid for the photos. Then, when younger sis married and moved to Kansas she took the photos of her family with her, since heading to Kansas with her Lutheran preacher husband meant it was unlikely they'd be back anytime soon.

This is the story in my head. The story I want to be true. But that makes it hard to make an unbiased opinion on the photos taken 30 years apart that I am comparing to decide if they are mine.

Does she look 50ish?

Do these people

Look like 2nd woman from left and 4th man

How amazing is it if these are actually my great grandparents in 1887?

And that leads to the next question.
The next quest.
The next obsession.

If the photos sent to me represent the great grandma side, and
it actually was my great- grandfather's side that paid for the photos, where are the great grandpa side of the family photos?  Because both of my great-great grandparents on that side would have been alive at that time.

And Oh how I'd love to see them!