Sunday, November 07, 2010

Is Anybody Out There?

In the time I have been off blog the world has changed. Can we make it better again? I hope so. How would you change things if you were given the opportunity?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is Merit Pay a Good Idea for Teachers?

No, no and no! Because there are too many factors which a teacher can't control: the econony, familiy situations, death (of a student, or student's family member, for example), the weather (they are NOT cooling our rooms as much now to save money and in Arizona that can be devastating during standardized testing time), having a main-streamed yet challenged student (who brings down class averages) or having an especially difficult class. Not to mention personal challenges the teacher might be going through. No one, no where has addressed these issues when discussing merit pay. We all know teachers who have encountered these factors and he or she has no control whatsoever over them. Is that fair? It is the terrible, awful, no-good, very bad (to borrow from Judith Vorst) situation that is like keeping the whole class in from recess (unfair) or the unbelievably stupid "rewarding" of the students with trinkets, food or candy (see Alfie Kahn's brilliant, Punished by Rewards.)

It sounds easy; pay the "good" teachers. Yet the good teachers will tell you that some years a class does surprisingly well on standardized tests and no one seems to know why. Was it the lack of the above mentioned factors? Yes, sometimes, and no, sometimes. Teaching is as much art as it is science. (Invariable some expert will assign a reason, when it is simply inexplicable.)

Having taught for over thirty-one years I can tell you that I have seen it all. I have seen every half-baked fad that comes out of a big university be the latest and greatest and it seems to work, only to fall out of favor. Usually the reason is that teachers weren't following the program directly. Remember the "open classroom"? Few do, thank goodness.

Are there things that are low-cost and no cost that make for good teaching and self-motivation among students? You bet. Ask us old-timers why we are still here. Ask why we still love teaching?

The greatest compliment I ever got was when a student asked if I'd still teach if I won a million dollars. I didn't get a chance to answer because another student answered for me. "Yes, she would," he answered, " 'cause she loves to teach." That is real merit pay.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

On Not Writing 25 things about Myself

I have been tagged, as has nearly every breathing human in Facebook, to write 25 things about myself. I cannot bring myself to complete this and I can't give a really good reason other than it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. I have read lots other people's lists, some funny, very few with any originality, and some were self-indulgently braggy and creepy. Mine would just be another list of facts or opinions, and quite honestly it would not be interesting; physical characteristics and quirky habits. Maybe it is because I am so ordinary, but I don't mind that. There is a kind of peace in ordinariness. So there will be no list of 25 things from me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Never thought I would see ...

... the Arizona Cardinals heading to the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hey! Arne Duncan, are you listening?

I wrote a whiny post because I heard some things about the new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, that has me very concerned. I changed my mind and deleted that post, but anytime Mr. Secretary wants the input of my thirty-one years of experience I will happy to pass it on.

Monday, December 29, 2008


This past October I spent my fall break in an absolute frenzy of pitching and tossing at my folks house. It was not as bad as the Collyer brothers, two legendary pack rats, but it was getting close. My mom and step-dad only had about 20 years to fill up their house, so they were decades behind the Collyer siblings. Mom, prone to compulsive shopping, married a man who she knew to be a chronic collector. Not a good combination.

Don Aslett was the first to write about de-cluttering and his advice was simple; throw practically everything out, and don't buy anything you don't need. Brilliant? Yes. Easy to do? No. It is easy to do that with other people's stuff, like my mom's and step-dad. After that weekend I was ready to toss and that was where the problem started. I knew I could not do that to my own kids.

In de-cluttering one has to have a plan so that things go back to a logical place in order to retrieve things easily. (The rule of thumb is being able to locate something in under five minutes ... some even say a minute. Yikes!) Place number one to clean was the large hall storage area. Place number two the large walk-in pantry. The third place is the garage and the last, the two-story barn. Admittedly, half the garage and half the barn was old school stuff of mine. I came to the realization that even in these hard economic times most everything was useless. When my dear departed mother-in-law was moving out of her Arizona home, and was (we did not know it at the time but the signs were there) in the early stages of Alzheimer's, could not bear to throw anything out. She would give those things to me to carry to places such as the Goodwill and the old ladies at church. I did not have the time or energy to deliver an old bag of disgusting old shoes or tiny scraps of project materials, for example, to anyone so I threw them out. I did not tell that to my mother-in-law, however.

The next step, and I would think this would be obvious; one has to remove the stuff from whatever place is to be cleaned and go through it. THIS INVOLVES SPREADING IT OUT. The de-cluttering shows on TV do that as standard operating procedure, and I think that for MDH (my dear husband) he probably understood that on some deep level, but his memory is long and my reputation is bad on this account. I would spread it out. That's it. I would get it out and become totally paralyzed, leaving the back porch and an unused bedroom in chaos for years. Yes, years. So when MDH saw stuff from the hall closet spread out in the foyer (and believe me the contents of that hall closet were almost all his famous cleaning up method: putting it in a box and shoving it in a closet. When he saw the contents of the closet spread out he wanted to know (what he felt was a reasonable question) when it would be put away? He even offered to help. (Translate that!) To put it mildly he touched a very raw nerve; a root-canal-ish raw, tender nerve. I did what any reasonable, level-headed person would do; I blew a gasket.

We are on speaking terms again, but I now know that I must find another way to do this cleaning and that is the Neil Armstrong method of one small step for man (or woman) kind. And, taking a page from our president-elect, it must be done in a no-drama way. It must done a little at a time.

So, sadly, I was not able to clean up as planned, but being that angry takes a lot out of a person, and I would like to never have to go there again. (My dear old mother, who has this infuriating way of being wise far beyond wise, says that we only get mad when we are wrong. I don't think that is always true, but it is true often enough.) So, I must accept that the clean-up will take longer than I had hoped. Unlike most people we have the space and that is a problem in itself, but I will keep you posted, and for the time being the hall closet did get cleaned, but the boxes and boxes of photos will still have to be sorted. Those will not be tossed.

In the meantime, the garbage cans are full.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Guess What's the Biggest Road block to Cleaning Up?

My husband.