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Friday, September 29, 2006

I'm Here 

Really I am! But I' m also tired, just got out of class a bit ago, and have to go back early in the morning. Needless to say I won't be posting a weekend roundup.

But I did want to take a few moments to wish everyone a great weekend!

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where the Boys Are 

I have written before about the rather alarming statistics that exist when it comes to boys in school. This practically leaped off the page at me when reviewing our school's testing data. With a fairly equal number of boys and girls, twice as many boys failed to achieve satisfactory scores in reading. The gap was not quite as large in math, but still very alarming.

This has led me on a research journey that I am still in the midst of. I found a district trainer who had an interest in the same area. She and I had an animated two hour conversation, looking at research and testing results. Its not just my school. Its nationwide and the statistics are ominous. Something is happening with this generation of boys and the consequences will be felt for a long time. What is going on with boys?

It doesn't seem like all that long ago when we were raising alarm bells about girls and their lagging behind boys in math and science. The girls have made up a lot of ground but the boys have been slipping for a long time. I think it is dangerous to have generations of young men growing up who have never experienced success in school.

This is from Michael Gurian, perhaps the most prominent writer on this subject ("With Boys and Girls in Mind", Educational Leadership, Nov., 2004 for those who are interested).

Our boys are now losing frightening ground in school, and we must come to terms with it--not in a way that robs girls, but in a way that sustains our civilization and is as powerful as the lobby we have created to help girls. The following statistics for the United States illustrate these concerns:

• Boys earn 70 percent of Ds and Fs and fewer than half of the As.
• Boys account for two-thirds of learning disability diagnoses.
• Boys represent 90 percent of discipline referrals.
• Boys dominate such brain-related learning disorders as ADD/ADHD, with millions now medicated in schools.
• 80 percent of high school dropouts are male.
• Males make up fewer than 40 percent of college students (Gurian, 2001).

Of course, the big question is......why? Those boys receive the same education as the girls do. They grow up in the same community and in many cases, the same household. They are subjected to simliar societal pressures.

What is valued in school? Think back to your time in the classroom. In general, students are expected to be able to sit still for long periods of time, exercise good decision making, be good listeners, and be able to remember a body of knowledge. Students are often asked to express their feelings on and idea or issue.

Guess what? In every single one of these areas boys are biologically determined to be less successful than girls. Back to Gurian again:

The male brain is set to renew, recharge, and reorient itself by entering what neurologists call a rest state. The boy in the back of the classroom whose eyes are drifting toward sleep has entered a neural rest state. It is predominantly boys who drift off without completing assignments, who stop taking notes and fall asleep during a lecture, or who tap pencils or otherwise fidget in hopes of keeping themselves awake and learning. Females tend to recharge and reorient neural focus without rest states. Thus, a girl can be bored with a lesson, but she will nonetheless keep her eyes open, take notes, and perform relatively well. This is especially true when the teacher uses more words to teach a lesson instead of being spatial and diagrammatic. The more words a teacher uses, the more likely boys are to "zone out," or go into rest state. The male brain is better suited for symbols, abstractions, diagrams, pictures, and objects moving through space than for the monotony of words (Gurian, 2001).

These typical "boy" qualities in the brain help illustrate why boys generally learn higher math and physics more easily than most girls do when those subjects are taught abstractly on the chalkboard; why more boys than girls play video games that involve physical movement and even physical destruction; and why more boys than girls tend to get in trouble for impulsiveness, shows of boredom, and fidgeting as well as for their more generalized inability to listen, fulfill assignments, and learn in the verbal-emotive world of the contemporary classroom.

The way most subjects are taught emphasize verbal ability and vocabulary. This plays to the strength of girls and to the weakness of boys. You know how your husband or boyfriend can't seem to express his feelings? Imagine him at twelve years with a much more limited vocabulary. You know how he can watch a football game for hours but can't seem to sit still for a fifteen minute conversation with you? Ever note how he nods his head in agreement but an hour later can't remember what you said? You know how guys will fix your car door handle for you and regard this as an expression of love and devotion when you'd rather cuddle and talk about something meaningful? He didn't just start all those behaviors when he met you.

I remember when people used to snicker about "shop classes". Non educational you know. The boys in those classes weren't sitting in rows, taking notes, and raising their hands to express their ideas. They were moving around, working with their hands, and manipulating objects in space.....all male strengths. I suspect boys learned a lot more than we know in some of those classes.

Most boys will be taught by a majority of female teachers at least until they reach high school. It is somewhat natural to teach others in a way that we know we learn. If you are a verbal learner it is likely that you will be a highly verbal teacher. A lot of the research indicates that most classrooms are very "girl friendly" and this is no surprise. We discourage competition in schools, concerned that it will lead to hurt feelings. Boys thrive on competition. We value quiet and orderly classrooms arranged very neatly. When I started teaching that was perhaps the first thing you were judged on....how quiet is your class? If they are quiet, they must be learning, right? Truth be known, most teachers talk too much. This is not a problem if you are a verbal learner. A majority of boys are not.

The question of the day is this: How do you make classrooms more boy-friendly without dragging down the girls? I'll come back to this question in a later post.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

The battery on my laptop went kaput. I called HP, they said they would ship another one right out, and it arrived today. When I got home the battery was sitting on my desk. Patrick had the box and had made something of a shield out of it. All was well until I discovered that they sent me the wrong battery! I hope they don't want their box back.

Halloween may be a month away but Patrick is already obsessing over it. He LOVES Halloween, ranking it his favorite holiday other than Christmas. He wants a "Halloween budget" so he can pick out decorations, costumes, and candy. The funny thing is that when the big night arrives he usually gives up the ghost (hehe) after an hour or so of trick or treating. Its all about the decoration and the costume for him.

Aubree came home last night all pumped up after attending a professional wrestling event with all three of my brothers. I told her that she was still too young and way too little to lay a smackdown on her dad.

All the way to work this morning I listened to morning drive radio. The discussion? Can you go to the Air Supply concert and not be gay? I'm not much into Air Supply but I have seen Barry Manilow. What does that make me?

Where would we be without crushed red pepper? I use it on sooo many things.

I hate waiting in line at amusement parks. Actually, I hate waiting in line anywhere. But I don't think I'd eat live cockroaches to avoid having to wait.

I never thought I'd see $2.00 a gallon gasoline again. Who would've thought prices would have dropped so rapidly? Then again, how can I be thinking that $2.00 a gallon is a bargain?

I have class again this weekend. I think I'd much rather be going to another Blogger Roundup, but duty calls. This is the last session of this particular class, even though we have several more weeks to submit our project.

We have a morning assembly with 7th graders each day before classes start. This morning as they were doing the flag salute I saw a number of kids horesplaying, laughing, and cutting up. I was distinctly unhappy about this. I made them do it all over again and told them that we would do the flag salute over and over again all morning if that was what it took to get it right. They got it right the next time. Its all about expectations and not accepting anything less than good behavior.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The Human Factor 

Something is not right here. That is what I was thinking as I talked to the 7th grade girl this morning. A lifetime of being around kids, the power of observation, and yes, a gut instinct, tells me that there are severe problems in this young girl's life and that we are only scratching the surface of the real issues in her life.

In education we sometimes like to think that everything is scientific, measurable, proven, or logical. There are researched proven methods to deal with almost anything. We have policies and procedures on our policies and procedures. For things we don't have policies on, the lawyers tell us what we can and can't do. For those that we don't, there are always politicians passing laws.

But as with many other human endeavor, sometimes it comes down to your gut, your instincts, your powers of observation, and what that little voice in your head is telling you.

I've seen this little girl before. One day we were notified that her mother had been thrown in jail. No one on her emergency list was available to pick her up after school. So we sat there for hours before finally reaching someone who was "legal" to pick her up from school.

I haven't seen her file but I know what classes she is in and know what her "classification" is. She is a special student, an attractive girl with great big eyes. She's also a deeply troubled girl. Its written all over her in her actions, her words, the way she looks at you, the way she reacts.

She touches other students in ways that aren't appropriate. She flips up her skirt walking down the hall in full view of others. She sometimes flinches when I talk to her, even though I'm speaking very softly but firmly. Its like she is flinching for what I might say or what I might do. She looks me square in the eyes for a few moments and then retreats back into herself. She clutches herself and nods as I talk to her. She's scared of me. I don't want her to be.

None of the phone numbers on her contact information work of course. Even if they did, I'm not honestly sure if I should be making that call. There is something wrong at her home. Maybe its not directly with the mother but something is wrong. Her stepfather doesn't live there anymore but he is still involved with her mother. I'm suspicious. It felt creepy when I met him. I wonder what the reason is that he's not there.

I've got a whole lotta nothing, except some creepy feelings. The counselor agrees with me that something is going on. The counselor is female and I send the girl off to spend some time with her. Maybe she'll open up, if she can. She's a perfect target for abuse, you know. She's physically maturing but lacks the communication skills and resourcefulness that might protect other girls her age.

I let the counselor do her job but I can't stop thinking about the girl the rest of the afternoon. I get home and search sex offender registries for the stepdad, just in case. He isn't there but that of course doesn't mean much. Maybe I'm wrong and I would hate to ever accuse anyone falsely. Maybe something happened before he came along. Its all conjecture you know. No verbal or physical evidence that anything is amiss. We monitor and watch, but how would we know?

I could tell dozens, if not hundreds, of stories just like this one. This is what many people don't seem to understand about public education these days. "Accountability!", they cry. "More tests!", they say. "Merit pay!" "Lottery money!" "School consolidation!" "Revise the curriculum.....again!" "Fire the teachers!" (somewhat funny since we have vacancies that are still unfilled a month into school).

What are they missing? The ever so human side of the kids that walk through those doors each day. The things that are going on in their lives. The puzzles we have to unlock to have a chance of ever teaching that child anything meaningful. We do it because we love it, but I wish every member of the public could follow me for a day.

I desperately want for my school to be off that dreaded "list" after this year. I am working like crazy to make that happen. I can almost quote you the individual standardized test scores of all of our 8th graders, all 150 of them. I could get pretty close anyway. I'm seeing scores in my sleep. Give me a few weeks and I'll know all the 7th grade scores too. Many of us are working incredibly hard to make sure those kids are given every opportunity to do well on that test. Then we get off the list.

Here's the question for you to ponder though. What if we are so test and score driven that a little girl like this one goes unnoticed? What if she becomes just a number? No one gets fired if her issues go unexplored and she goes unaided. People do get fired or reassigned if those test scores aren't squared away. Test scores are important. Then again, kids lives are pretty damned important too.

So its back around full circle. I'll deal with her again, trying to find that perfect blend of being an authority figure who tells her that certain behaviors are wrong along with being caring and compassionate. Sounds like a parent, doesn't it? Sometimes you feel powerless, like all these things outside are so far beyond your control. So you focus on what you can control. We can't control what has happened to this girl in the past, but we can teach her proper behavior and provide a safe environment for her at school.

Thats what gets me up in the morning. This girl needs me. She needs her counselor and her teacher. She needs the secretary at the desk who always smiles at her. She needs people who care enough to pay attention to what she says and to what she doesn't say.

Some day long in the future I'll be done with all of this. I'll be sitting on some waterfront sipping a drink, looking out into the rippling water. How will I judge what I've done? Will I be proud of test scores I've increased? Sure. But as I watch those ripples dance in the moonlight I want to be able to say that I did everything possible to help every kid whose life I happened to touch.

I'll judge myself on the human factor.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rounded Up 

We are back safe and sound from the Oklahoma Blogger Roundup. It would be an understatement to say that we had a wonderful time.

Everything wasn't perfect. My technology failed me at a most inopportune time. I wasn't able to power up my trusty laptop, hence I was unable to live blog from the event unlike Michael, Charles, and others. Then my digital camera batteries failed me and I was only able to snap off a few pictures of the festivities. But the evening more than made up for those small snafus.

I was proud to be honored by my fellow bloggers in winning the award for "Best Writing Blog". I know it sounds cliche, but it was an honor to even be nominated, much less actually win the award. There are so many wonderful writers blogging in Oklahoma today and many of them were sitting at my table and right there in the room. I wanted to scream, "I'm not worthy!", but instead I accepted the award with a happy heart and I am profoundly grateful for those who chose to honor me in this way. Go check out the list of winners. There were some truly outstanding blogs who won awards and many others who should have. The room was full of very talented people and Don has a list of many of them here.

So where to begin? I got to be reunited with Aka Monty, one of my favorite people anywhere. If you are seated at Monty's table you ARE going to have fun. Before I go any further, let me set the record straight. Tales of Monty's ass and its size are greatly exaggerated! I was thrilled that she won the award for "Best Audio Blog". It was certainly well deserved.

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From that point on I'm afraid to admit that our awards had a lot of fun together.

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I think Steph and Lynette corrupted our ducks. There they were sitting all regal and proud, and the next thing you know they are drinking and getting into compromising positions.

I'm afraid to ask what Monty and Terri talked about when I went to the restroom. Maybe I just don't want to know.



We had a few drinks and loosened up even more, which could've been a dangerous thing. I got my groove on, as limited as my groove is anyway, and had the privilege of dancing with my sweetie Terri, Monty, Babs, and Redneck Diva. How lucky can a guy get? Win an award and then get to dance with these lovely ladies? It was great to see Babs again, a classy and beautiful woman for those who haven't had the pleasure of meeting her. It was also great to meet Redneck Diva, even if we didn't drink any appletinis. I still can't believe she drove all the way home after the evening ended. I did manage to take this picture of her before my batteries died. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

How did Terri enjoy an evening with a bunch of bloggers? Her night was made when she got to meet Michael Bates. She was a fan of his even before she and I met and I introduced her to the blogworld.

I enjoyed my brief conversation with Fred from Satellite Sky. I didn't realize Fred was an attorney. Now I know who to look up if I get myself in trouble. If I don't get in trouble I'll have to satisfy myself with enjoying his blog.

After we partied the night away for a few hours we settled down to see a premier screening of the film "Mozartballs". This quirky, engaging film looks at people who in one sense or another have a deep connection to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We had two of the film's stars sitting right there with us and it was fascinating to hear their story. I won't give too much of the film away, but I enjoyed the story of Steph and Lynette as well as the astronaut who mused about the meaning of it all listening to Mozart in space.

Now Terri is going to have my trying to find those delicious looking Mozartball treats online. After we left she said, "I am really craving some of those mozartballs now." She had to settle for the Iron Skillet Diner. After everyone left we ducked into the hotel bar and had a couple of nightcaps. I may have had some fans at the awards but Terri had her own fans among the older gentlemen seated nearby. They gave new meaning to the word "ogle".

None of this would've been possible without the hard work of Okie Doke's Mike. He put this together and made it possible for all of us to have a most enjoyable evening. We all owe him our thanks.

There were many more people there I would've liked to have spent some time with. I guess I had to save something for next year. Those of you that I had the pleasure of meeting....thank you! For those who couldn't make it this year? You missed out! Try coming next year.

Now I just have to find a place for my duck. He's resting up, and if I didn't know better I'd think he had a hangover. I may have to hide him from Aubree.

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I hope everyone out there had a wonderful weekend. I did.

UPDATE: Courtesy of programwitch and the Flickr site, and at Lime's request, here is a picture of Terri, Monty, and I.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Slacking 

I will not be able to complete the weekend roundup tonight. This has been an incredibly busy week and I think I'm just going to chill out tonight! I also have to get packed up to go to the Oklahoma Blogger Roundup tomorrow. I won't be there for the afternoon workshops but we will be there for the awards and all the fun afterward. I hope to see many of you there!

I hope to take my camera and have a few pics to share. I might even post from there.

All you roundup types? I'll see ya there. For the rest of you? Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

I'm glad it is Wednesday.

I met a group of my colleagues from other schools this afternoon for happy hour to discuss how our year is going. It is really nice to be able to discuss your school issues and hear other ideas and opinions. If anything, we all provided a sympathetic ear for each other. I had a raspberry mojito. I wish I could have had a couple more, but alas I had to drive home.

I came home one day and the screen saver on my computer had been changed to a scrolling "Brian Rocks My World". Ain't she sweet? The feeling is mutual.

A month into school and neither of the kids has lost their house key. You've gotta love that.

I read this story about the first penis transplant. After I finished shivering at the thought I was quite amazed to read that the gentleman had it cut back off even though it was working. The only thing worse than losing your penis? Losing it twice!

I've been working with my classmates on our group project. The biggest challenge is finding time for three very busy professional people to talk to each other and arrange meetings. So far, I've written our survey questions, another classmate grouped them into Maslow's hierarchy, and the third member of our group did some of the preliminary research. So far, so good!

Patrick ALWAYS knows when my payday is. Always. When I walk in the door he says, "DAD! You got paid today! When do I get my allowance?"

My Dallas Cowboys are 1-1. It looks like they could go either way this year.

Aubree sometimes wants to have conversations about how "hot" certain professional wrestlers are. I just can't get into those conversations.

I enrolled two new students this week, one from Louisiana and the other from Washington. I had a nice time talking to them about my former haunts.

I was taking a college student who is going to do some tutoring for us on a tour of the school. When we walked into one of the classes a girl said, "Mr. S., is that your son? He looks like you except he has hair." I didn't feel old at all...much.

Talking to this college student was really enjoyable. He is so young and enthusiastic about wanting to teach. It gives me hope for the future of my profession to have experiences like that.

I wish he was certified because we really need some teachers. We still have several unfilled slots and school is a month old.

Never in my career have the days gone by sooooo quickly. It seems like I get there, look up, and the kids are loading the buses.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Home Alone 

For the first times in their young lives my children arrive home before I do and stay by themselves until I get home from work. Usually this "home alone" time is anywhere from one to two hours. Their instructions are clear. They both have keys to the house. The first one home unlocks the door (they both arrive here by bus within a few minutes of each other) and when both are inside the door is locked. It stays locked until I get home. They are not to go outside for any reason or to answer the door. Terri and I both call to check on them. Numbers are posted on the fridge and they are urged to call if there are any problems.

They are eleven and fourteen years old and I thought it was time to give this a try. I do not have the child care situation I had last year, they are a year older, and I hope they are able to demonstate some maturity and common sense. For the most part, they have. The first problem came over the television in the living room. Who gets control of the TV? Patrick wants to watch cartoons. Aubree wants to watch movies or music videos. I solved that issue by posting a TV schedule on the wall which outlines who has "TV rights" at any given time.

They do fuss and argue with each other sometimes. Aubree takes "being in charge" very seriously and sounds distinctly parent-like which she calls to express her displeasure: "Dad, YOUR SON will not mind. He made a mess and won't clean it up. I think you should have some consequences for his behavior!"

My biggest concern of course is their safety. If I perceive that this is not working or is dangerous, then I have an awkward, unwieldy child care option that I would prefer not to use. So far, I haven't seen any evidence of problems other than too much arguing with each other. Well, there is the issue of Patrick raiding the refrigerator, but lets not get into that. :) I've tied both of their allowances to responsible behavior during the time that I am not there. That tends to get their attention. Driving home today I talked to both of them on my cell phone, mediating a dispute, and reminding them both that we are a family and have to work together to solve problems. They both bought into that.....until the next time!

Thus is the life of a working parent. I know that a great number of my students go home and their parents are not there. Many of them are responsible for making snacks or dinner and taking care of younger siblings while mom works two jobs. Is it the ideal situation? Of course not. When I was growing up my mom was there to greet us every single day when we arrived home from school. There was much comfort in that.

Life today is different. Many more parents work outside the home and are not available to be there when their kids arrive home from school. Its an economic necessity....a matter of survival. We can only hope that we've raised our kids so that they can be safe and responsible.

When I get home? A quick hug from both as they dash out the door to play! At least they are happy to see me.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Skin Deep 

My class last weekend focused on issues of race, ethnicity, and culture. In a room full of educated professional people of many different races, we discussed the impact of race in our time. Where and how does racism still manifest itself? What impact does our own race/background have on our feelings about racial issues. How can we as leaders minimize racial conflict in the schools that we lead? In what forms does segregation still exist and what can we do about it? What are some issues that have a racial/ethnic component that is not visible on first glance?

Discussions of racial issues are generally avoided by most of us. A series of civil rights laws designed to bring about racial equality were passed forty years ago. These laws made overt, government-sponsored discrimination illegal. But the government can't legislate what is in our hearts. It can't legislate how we deal with each other on a personal level. It can't affect how kids play with each other in the streets. It can't decide who our friends are. The government cannot make us look at another human being and not get past the pigmentation of their skin. It sure as hell can't make us love one another.

I really enjoyed these discussions because I feel that issues of race too often go undiscussed, undebated, and unsolved. Many of us are highly uncomfortable discussing issues with a racial component. We fear that we will say the wrong thing, will offend someone, or will be politically incorrect. Oh yes, we may talk about them with our close family and friends, but we are very reluctant to discuss them outside our comfort zone. Its too risky. So we either pretend that race is never an issue or we quickly paper it over to avoid getting into dangerous territory.

When I was teaching high school students I used to do a unit on stereotypes. We would discuss the stereotypes about different racial groups and how they measure up to reality. This was somewhat difficult for some of my students. One boy stayed after class one day and told me that his hands had been sweating all hour. "Mr. S., this just makes me nervous", he said. I understood. So he and I sat down and I explained to him the purpose of the unit. We talked about why it was important to discuss these issues in the open.

I think I understood him even more after last weekend. Even in a room full of colleagues who I respect, it feels risky to talk about what you feel. But as the weekend went on we became more comfortable with each other. We talked about the use of the "n word" between our black students. What is the proper way to respond to that? We talked about how our own backgrounds colored our opinion of the world. A respected high school principal examined some of his favorite colloquialisms, and how even though innocuous to him, might be offensive to other people. A friend of mine discussed how it felt growing up half black/half Cherokee. We talked about how stereotypes can lead to the "soft bigotry of low expectations". What about students segregating themselves in the cafeteria? How about Hispanic students using their native language in the hallways of the school? How do we as leaders recognize and deal with issues of race/ethnicity in our schools? Those issues aren't going away anytime soon.

There was some disagreement in the class, but the discussion was professional and I don't think anyone felt like they were attacked. It almost felt like this was a discussion many of us needed to have. We all deal with many of the same issues in our personal and professional lives.

Of course we understand that we cannot solve the issue of race in schools all by ourselves. Our students and staff bring in their own experiences, their own biases, and their own beliefs into our doors each day. We as leaders do as well. School is a microcosm of society and these issues affect us all. But we have to start somewhere, and I think that the discussions we had will benefit us all.

It may be only skin deep but we can't ignore it.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Weekend Roundup 9-15/9-16 

Rarely have I been this happy to see a weekend arrive. It seems forever since I had one.


Of course this weekend is not totally free. My brothers and I are getting up early in the morning, driving to the empty family farmhouse, and doing some needed repairs. But at least my whole weekend isn't tied up.

I am pleased to present a few posts for your perusal this fine Friday evening.


Redneck Diva reports on her Disney adventure. Susan reports on her hot date.

Snav writes about her dry eyes. Barn Goddess writes about mules.

Leen is going to a Bonnie Raitt concert! Jules is studying for her teacher certification test.

Rain was thrilled with the Charger’s victory. Thomai was not thrilled by the death of Ann Richards.

Joan tell us about her patio. Irina tells us about her burgeoning social life.

Lime shares some of her favorite no-homework excuses. Colleen shares tales from her archaeology dig.

Breazy has a birthday boy. Trick has a need for some groceries.

Teresa celebrates the Colt’s first victory. Son Son celebrates her 11th wedding anniversary.

Apple had a disagreement with a co-worker. Stacey had a good-times birthday at a wild animal park.

Leslie reports on her shopping trip. Michael reports on his blogging slow-down, new adventures, and possible upcoming interviews!

Ellen has an idea for testing if two people belong together. Phoenix has some thoughts on why we blog.

Margaret is feeling very tired. Aka Monty is taking everything personally.

Rex shares an acceptance prayer. Restless Angel shares her thoughts on never forgetting.

Babs wonders what your favorite clothing style era is. Rachel wonders if her timeline leaves her single.

Mystic Spirit is headed to a wedding. Tara is frustrated by noisy movie-goers.

Anne reports that it bothers her to be away from her blog very long. New Wave Gurly reports that a blog visitor’s town amused her.

Vickie writes a very special 9-11 tribute. Walker writes about his Weight Watchers experience.

Show'em some love. The quality of writing and sharing out there never ceases to amaze me.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends!


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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

It seems old to keep saying that my week is flying by..but it is!

A word to the wise: When you accidentally leave a whole chicken in the trunk of your car for entire weekend the olfactory result is not something to appreciate. Aubree got in the car Monday morning and said, "Ewwww dad. It smells like a dead turkey in here!" She was close to being right.

One of my classmates in the doctoral cohort sent me this link. Check it out and let me know which "animal" you think your kid is.

I'm writing questions for a survey of teachers, parents, and students in my school. Two of my classmates are also writing questions. We will sort and combine the questions and my classmates will visit my school to do face-to-face interviews. Our task? Use the survey results to identify a problem. Survey the research on this particular problem. Write a proposal to address the problem. Should be a lot of fun AND a lot of work!

Last week a fight broke out in front of my grandmother's house next door. When I walked down the sidewalk there were about fifteen teenagers (15-18), mostly boys in my grandmother's front yard and two of them were duking it out. Most of them scattered when they saw me coming. About a minute later several police cars rolled up. I was not pleased and I let those kids and the police know that this was not going to happen in my 87 year old grandmother's front yard.

We busted a 7th grader today for possession of marijuana. That still just amazes me that kids so young are involved with drugs.

When you spend 21 hours of your weekend in class it feels like you haven't even caught your breath. I'm just sayin....


I was listening to the radio on the way home today and they were interviewing a party planner. His rate? It starts at $40,000. His biggest budget was for $10 million for a bah mitzvah where he hired Shakira, 50 Cent, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, and Don Henley to perform. My question? What can you possibly look forward to in life after a party like that?

The kind of person who would throw their kid a $10 million party is probably the same kind who would leave a waitress a $10,000 tip.

The understatement of the month award has to go to former teacher Debra Lafave who was convicted of having sex in school and at her home with one of her students. She said that she made "a really, really bad choice". Yeah Debra, I'd say so. She threw her life and career away to fool around with a teenage boy. Words just fail me.

Terri rocks and I love having her here with us. I just wanted to say that.

I'm still making plans to attend the Okie Blogger Roundup. I hope to meet some of my fellow bloggers there!

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, September 11, 2006

The Drive 

My 25 minute commute each morning is my time to wake up fully, get my head together, think about any unresolved issues, and plan out my day. I often have the radio on, volume turned down, to hear any morning news or find out about traffic issues.

As I cruised historic Route 66 this morning I heard coverage of the ceremony at Ground Zero this morning. I listened to the mayor's brief welcome and then a woman reading a poem to her deceased husband. Then they started reading names, a survivor reading the name of their family member. I heard the solemn toll of the bell and my radio crackled lightly during the moment of silence.

I thought about the people reading those names. I wondered how they must have felt this morning. It had to be so difficult, yet somehow affirming to return to that place this fall morning. Half of the bodies from this attack were never recovered in any form. For family members this must be where they feel close to those they lost. They were here.

I've always been a very emotional person, though I spent much of my life trying to hide that fact. I felt a wave of sadness and empathy wash over me as I made my way through the traffic. The woman who drove by me in the Cadillac....was she listening to the same thing I was? I looked up into the bright blue morning sky as I drove and I said a silent prayer for those families. I didn't feel the tears on my face until the first one reached my chin. I didn't wipe them off. I drove silently to work, alone in my thoughts.

I pulled up into the school parking lot, dabbed my face off with a napkin, and got out of my car. There were some boys standing outside tossing a football around. Suddenly the ball was arching across the parking lot headed right for me. "Heads up Mr. S", a boy yelled. I caught the ball and looked back at several smiling faces. I tossed the ball back and walked inside the building, immediately greeted by several students and staff members.

I thought to myself about the problems and challenges we face in this school and in my own life. But whatever those challenges are, we are here and have the opportunity to conquer them. Those people whose names I heard being read don't have that chance. We best honor them by making our own worlds better places.

With that thought I smiled, unlocked my office door, and went to work.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

5 Years 

It doesn't seem possible that five years have passed between the 9-11 terrorist attacks and today. I've been watching, reading, and listening to different perspectives on this tragic event. Distance does give some perspective, but even five years later those sights, sounds, pictures and words still tug at something deep inside.

It could've been any of us you know. Infants and senior citizens died on 9-11. Wealthy people and very poor people perished. People of many races and religions died needlessly. The wife of the Solicitor General of the United States and a waitress at the top of one of the towers met the same fate. A middle school student going on his first airplane trip. A secretary at the Pentagon. A firefighter who'd been through many hairy situations. A husband planning on taking his wife on a surprise anniversary trip the next week. A former F.B.I. agent who was responsible for security in the Towers. A weary businessman coming home from a trip.

If they could somehow speak to us, what would they say? They might tell us to do everything in our power to make sure nothing like this happens again. They might ask us to make sure that those responsible were made to answer for this crime, no matter how long it might take. They might ask us to take care of those they left behind. They might ask us to remember this day in a way that expresses horror at the event but honors their sacrifice.

This generation of Americans lost its innocence five years ago. Flush from victory in the Cold War we thought that we had no enemies that could do us serious harm, especially right here in our own nation. We thought the oceans, our wealth, and our might would protect us. We found out in a horrifying way that none of these things were true. Events a world away brought fanatics to our land who were willing to die to kill as many of us as possible. If we bring any understanding away from all this it is that the rest of the world matters and we cannot ignore it.

It is a political season and many people in this country will disagree on how to best fight against this threat and to prevent something like this from ever happening again. This is natural and as it should be. A healthy domestic debate flavored all wars this country has ever fought. But we should be united as a people to honor those who lost their lives and in the broad goal of preventing such a horrible loss of life from ever happening again.

The 9-11 tragedy was a deep gashing wound that impacted us all. Now the wound is healing but future threats still exist. Our challenge is to do everything in our power to prevent such an event without losing our freedom and national character. This is the challenge of our generation.

To all who lost loved ones on 9-11-01 I offer my condolences. I hope that we as a people can do more in the years ahead to help you make some sense of it all and to heal your wounds.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

TGIF 

Today means the start of another round of weekend classes. I just got in a little while ago. It has been a long day! Obviously, I don't think I'll be posting a weekend roundup since I must be in class again in the morning.

My class is on pluralism/diversity and how it relates to leadership in education. There are a lot of interesting topics that I'll be writing about down the road.

What does it say about me that I am sitting in a doctoral level class, listening and participating in a discussion, and thinking to myself, "that would be a great blog topic!"?

In any case, have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Patrick's Future 

A large part of my meeting with Patrick's teachers yesterday was spent discussing his future, specifically the next few years. This is a questions that has nagged at me throughout his childhood. Although you can never be sure what will become of any child, for someone like Patrick this is a complex question.

For those who are not aware, my son Patrick is 14 years old and in the 9th grade. He has formal diagnoses of Pervasive Developmental Disorder and a place on the autism spectrum of disorders. He is impulsive and can be very immature for his age. He struggles in social situations with peers his own age. He takes Concerta to help with his impulse control and to be able to focus on classwork.

My son is also very bright. His intelligence is in the normal range and he is close to grade level in reading and at grade level in math. He is capable of following complex instructions and diagrams, loves to assemble anything, enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together, and has an incredibly fertile imagination. You should see the things he can build with a coat hanger, a toilet paper roll, a box, and some tape. He always has inventions on his mind. He told his teacher he was going to create something to help her......some anti-wrinkle cream!

In spite of his quirks, most people who spend a lot of time with him learn to love him. His teachers always love him. He intrigues them and he has a way of getting into your heart. He can alternately be very affectionate and very stubborn. He does very well with a structured routine and it is very disconcerting to him when that routine is altered.

One of the things we discussed was possible work assignments for Patrick when he turns sixteen. There are a variety of options and opportunities, ranging from grounds/maintenance to cafeteria/kitchen to some type of jobs in retail stores. There are programs that allow him to spend part of his school day working and actually earning money. One thing Patrick definitely appreciates is the value of money!

There are also various programs to help him find meaningful training and work when he turns eighteen. At this point I don't know precisely what that will look like. It brings up some questions. Will Patrick ever be able to live outside my home? If so, in what type of situation? Will he be able to work or will he draw disability instead? What type of opportunities are out there for him? What is my role in that?

I know that I will have to be there for Patrick in ways that most parents are not for their adult children. On one hand it scares me to death to think of him living away from me. But I also worry that if he is totally dependent on me as an adult, what happens when I am no longer around?

I've thought about these questions most of his life but have always put them aside. The time is now approaching where it is time to consider all of this. Patrick is my son and I love him to the depths of my soul. I want him to have every possible opportunity and I want him to have a safe, stable, and secure future.

There is much to ponder.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

It really doesn't feel like the middle of the week. Holiday weekends will do that to you.

That could make me excited about the weekend just being a couple of days away, but this weekend is filled entirely with classes. I guess it is better than spending a ton of evenings in class, but I need to mainline some adrenaline for these long weekends.

One thing that sucks about weekend classes? No football!

I sent a link to this website that deals with gender differences in education. This has really become a pet project of mine. I will probably order this book, the one I am currently reading, and one suggested by Teresa to use as book studies with my teachers.

My brother went and did it again. He bought professional wrestling tickets for Aubree and her cousins. Is she psyched? Oh my. Her dream is to get a hug from "Rey Mysterio".

On a whim, Terri and I ordered some coffee online from Cafe DuMonde. I've had the real stuff several times at this New Orleans landmark and it just sounded good. It arrived yesterday and it tastes good too! Now if only I could have a beignet!

Doing my part and all, I spent about 50 minutes each day doing a shift supervising hell "in school suspension". In between giving the kids my most stern looks when they make a sound, I also manage to get some of my scheduling work done on the computer. Multi-tasking at its finest!

I met with Patrick's teachers today to review his I.E.P. A part of the discussion dealt with his future, high school and beyond. There are some important decisions to be made in the next couple of years and I want to make sure and maximize his opportunities. I'll write more on this later.

I'm heartened to see that Kayla is doing well in her recovery.

I'm very busy and very happy. You can't beat that.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Spirit 

I mentioned in the previous post that I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial this weekend. It was an incredibly moving place. I keep thinking about those 168 chairs sitting on the gentle, grassy slope. Each of those chairs represents a human being whose life ended abruptly on that spring day over eleven years ago.

People die each and every day on this earth. Someone probably died since you started reading this post. We all understand that our time on this planet is limited. All of us will die some day. We understand that the aging process marches on relentlessly, intent on claiming us all some day. We understand that accidents happen, that a moment of inattention on a busy highway can cause death. We don't like it but we understand it. We understand that dread diseases take those still in their prime. It sure isn't fair, but we know that we haven't yet created cures for all of these diseases. Death stalks us all and can claim us at any moment. We know that.

Events like Oklahoma City or 9-11, serial killers, or other cold-blooded murders affect us in a different way. As a group, we will live longer than the generations that came before us. But it is difficult to accept that there are those among us who will snuff out a life purposefully. What makes such a person?

The Oklahoma City bomber grew up like many of us, attending school with classmates, particpating in activities, playing with other neighborhood kids. He served in the military. He sat next to us in restaurants, walked down our streets, munched popcorn next to us in the theater, and pulled up next to us at a traffic light. How did he become the kind of person who could murder children, leave others as orphans, or kill someone's husband, wife, mother, or father? He viewed himself as serving some higher cause, but except for the size and scope he was no different than the mugger who slits someone's throat for the contents of their wallet. The people didn't matter to him. They only served the purpose of getting him what he wanted. In the case of the mugger it is money. In his case it was notoriety. He didn't even consider what this would do to ordinary human beings whose only crime was going to work that day.

I also saw the other side of the equation this weekend. There were a group of people walking around wearing blue jumpsuits. On the back of their suits were the words, "San Diego Search and Rescue". I saw a man about my age, sporting a ponytail down his back, running his fingers over the part of the original wall that was standing. When I got home I did some research and discovered that this outfit was heavily involved in the rescue operations following the bombing. These people were making a return pilgrimmage. I cannot even imagine the sights they saw. But here they are again, many years later returning to the scene in honor and remembrance.

What the terrorists and murderers of the world don't understand is that you can kill any one of us but you can't extinguish the human spirit. In a sense we are those people who are represented by the chairs and they are us. I remember how my home state came together after that bombing. I remember my friend on the local police department speeding up the turnpike to help out. I remember my students dropping their lunch money in a box to aid the victims. I remember the national and international support that flooded in.

Their message was simple. We are all in this thing together. We all matter. We can come together when it counts. We're all in this together. We can carry the torch forward for our children and grandchildren.

The little faces of Chase and Colton Smith keep jumping into my mind. They were two and three years old when the blast and collapse took their precious young lives. They didn't have a chance to grow up. They would be teenagers now, around the age of my own children. They didn't have a chance to go to kindergarten, play baseball in the summer, or find turtles in a shallow stream. The bomber didn't care, but we do. We honor them and all the others, make sure they are never forgotten, and let their spirit live on in all the rest of us.

I'm sure those San Diego rescue workers would agree.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Back Home 

Terri, the kids, and I are home from our little mini-vacation this weekend. We had a very nice time and it felt good to get out of the house for a couple of days.

Some notes about our trip:

Now it is back to work and school for us. I have a busy week at work and classes all next weekend. Its time for the fall blur to commence.

I hope everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend. We certainly did!

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Weekend Roundup- Labor Day edition 

The summer winds down and Labor Day is upon us. This weekend is meant as a celebration and reflection for those who work to make this world what it is. Whether you work in an office, a truck, a school, a factory, or anywhere else, this is a celebration of our collective efforts. I hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Susan has the latest update on Kayla. Amazing girl. Leslie has an update on her baby.

Irina wonders why the ban on sodomy was outlawed but not laws banning adultery. Colleen is wondering when her allergies will go away.

Jack has a secret. Lime has reports from her kids after the first week of school.

Jules isn’t happy that her online bill pay didn’t work correctly. T. Marie isn’t happy to see summer fading away.


Greek Shadow has some thoughts about the war in Iraq. Sudie Girl has some thoughts on therapy and blogging.

Restless Angel has her eye on some DVDs. Breazy has her eyes open..she’s having a hard time falling asleep!

Barn Goddess discusses young children sleeping in the bed with their parents. Ellen discusses how she is feeling during treatment.

Teresa introduces us to a life coach. I’m looking forward to introducing myself to Redneck Diva at the Blogger Roundup.

Vickie discusses Kayla’s courage. Roselle discusses good and great writing.

Sally wished she could’ve watched Big Brother. Phoenix wished she wouldn’t sneeze when she needed to pee.

Joan wonders why her dog is eating corn on the cob. Walker wonders why “Survivor” is dividing people by race.

Sarah’s friend is opening a cupcake store. Sass is able to do a hyperlink!

Rain has some things she is grateful for. Thomai has a question she is tired of hearing.

Chicky Babe wonders…button fly or zip fly? Leen wonders why the system was so lenient on a woman who cut her child’s tongue with scissors.

Snav played some poker. Margaret asked for a schedule change for her daughter.

Aka Monty took down her podcast. Awwwww! New Wave Gurly took herself a trip.

MrsCoach2U’s husband is ready for some football. Lip Schtick wasn’t ready for what her sick cat had in store for her.

Jerry dedicates a Marty Robbins song. I wonder if Tara has an Indigo Girls song to dedicate?

Today I went to some classes and was explaining our all girls/all boys classes that we begin next week. A 7th grade girl asks, "so this means I will only have girls in my classes?" I answered, "yes, that is exactly what it means." She thought for a few moments and asked, "does this mean I'm going to turn gay?" I had to wave and leave the room to keep from laughing.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend my friends.

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