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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and it is snowing outside. There is about an inch of snow on the ground and more coming.

Please….not another snow day! We’ve already had six snow days with only three built into the calendar. We are already trying to figure out how to make up those days. We don’t need any more added to the pile. There is talk of extending school for thirty minutes each day to make up those days. I would certainly prefer that to extending the calendar further into the summer.

Aubree, the girl of many clothes and many stuffed animals, the maven of many clothes shopping trips, now says she needs more clothes. Why? “It is almost spring dad, and I MUST have some nice spring clothes!” That will of course be followed up by the need to have a new summer wardrobe. I like my clothes, don’t mind spending money for good clothing, but I don’t have to have a new wardrobe for each season. I know, I know, I’m not a girl, but this is getting ridiculous!

Aubree keeps me educated on what is cool and what is not. The Gap, once the epitome of preppy coolness is now decidedly not cool. Abercrombie and Fitch is where its at.

To answer Grandma1’s question from the previous post: Yes, I have seen evaluations used as a weapon. In the hands of someone who is not honest and professional, a job evaluation can be badly misused. An evaluation should be an honest appraisal of a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. To candy coat it to avoid conflict or to bash someone because of personality conflicts are equally wrong.

The Eric Clapton concert is only about a month away….I’m just sayin’.

Let me say it again…no snow day! *fingers crossed*

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cut Me Some Slack 

I was flabbergasted today when I found out some of our staff members let a student go who committed a serious legal offense. They also consciously allowed the student to destroy evidence which could have landed him in big trouble. The reason? “We decided to cut him some slack.”

I thought about that the rest of the day. I am in the position daily to “cut some slack” to a variety of people, and those decisions always come down to a judgment. When, if ever, is it ok to cut someone some slack and let something go under the rug rather than hold them accountable for it?

Do I ever cut someone that slack? Of course I do. Every situation is different and a large part of what I do involves making decisions about people and considering the totality of the circumstance. A few weeks ago an 8th grade girl was sitting in my office after arguing with her teacher and using profanity. Further investigation and conversation revealed that she had just been removed from her home because of abuse and was staying in a youth shelter. It didn’t excuse her behavior, but it certainly was a mitigating circumstance. Rather than go by the letter of the law and toss the book at her I had a conversation with the teacher involved and we agreed to meet with the girl, discuss the issue, and find a way to move forward with her in this difficult time. Was it the right decision? I thought so at the time and still do. Could I get burned by it? Absolutely, it has happened to me before.

A revered former boss of mine was always saying, “no good deed goes unpunished.” I certainly have some examples of that. Last year I had a student that I cut every possible degree of slack to. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I saw something there beyond just the behavior. I met with him constantly, talked to his parents frequently, intervened with his teachers to persuade them to work with him, and hooked him up with all the possible support services I could find. Finally, his behavior got so bad that I felt compelled to suspend him, something I easily could have done many times over many months. What I got for my trouble was cursing from his parents and complaints from them to everyone that would listen. Overnight I went from the good guy to the ogre. That good deed definitely did not go unpunished.

I once worked with a teacher that regularly engaged in unprofessional behavior and did some outrageous things. What did you see when you looked back over fifteen years of evaluations? From those evaluations she could’ve been the teacher of the year. No complaints, no corrections, no notation of misbehavior. When we were finally able to terminate her, those evaluations were a big problem. Why did no one ever intervene with her through the evaluation process? Because it is uncomfortable and confrontational, and it is often easier just to pass it along and hold your breath that nothing happens. Sad, but it is too often true.

In my previous post I may have been slightly misunderstood when talking about building relationships. Building a positive relationship does not mean being “the popular one”. Being popular with kids or employees does not always equate to building a proper relationship, part of which is holding people you care about accountable for what they do. What that kid did today I would’ve totally busted him for no matter who he was or how much I liked him. It is much like your own kids. You love them but that doesn’t mean ignoring it when they break curfew. You are not doing them any kind of favor when you do that. I often shake my head sorrowfully and tell kids, “I am so sorry that you got yourself in this position.”

I once knew a woman whose husband cheated on her. She quickly forgave him saying, “Well, he has been under a lot of stress lately.” Did he fall down in gratitude and never cheat again? I don’t think so. She cut him some slack and got burned badly for it later.

It really does all come down to judgment, doesn’t it? There are times when you have to look at the bigger picture, the greater good, and let something slide. But more often than not we are just putting off the inevitable.

This post is starting to ramble……but hey, cut me some slack!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Whither Relationships? 

No, not THAT kind of relationship!

I met individually with my professor today to discuss my article proposal, a requirement of the class. It is possible that this proposal could grow into an actual published professional article, and from there into a doctoral dissertation, nurtured and polished through several more years of work. We had a lively discussion about my topic, something which I am very much interested in, but feel is largely overlooked in today’s climate. The nutshell of my article is this:

In the past couple of decades numerous state school reform efforts, local district change models, and federal law (“No Child Left Behind”) have focused on improving student academic achievement as assessed by standardized tests. Most reforms have focused on curriculum (what to teach) and methods (how to teach it). The idea is that if you have academic goals that students are required to master and that schools are held accountable for, student achievement will increase. This model of reform assumes that the curriculum needs to be upgraded and that higher standards need to be in place for students, teachers, administrators, and school districts. These laws and reform initiatives assert that once this is done student achievement will rise.

This is not an entirely incorrect model. Certainly it is important to make sure that the curriculum reflects what students need to know in the modern world. It is obviously important to assess students to make sure they are learning the required material and that teachers and their schools are doing an efficient job of preparing students. Combine rigorous and demanding coursework, a relevant and challenging curriculum, better teaching skills, with accountability and assessment and kids will learn more, the theory goes.

But I want to focus some research on what I believe is a missing component, the student-teacher relationship. Simply put, I want to examine if kids learn better from teachers with whom they have a solid relationship with. What does this relationship look like? What teacher behaviors/actions indicate that they have good relationships with their students? High expectations? Personal care and concern? An interest in the individual student and not just the mass of adolescence sitting in those chairs?

I’ve written here before that there is some research that indicates that students perform academically better for teachers they have a good relationship with and more poorly for those teachers with whom they have no relationship or a negative one. But the research is not very specific about what constitutes a good relationship, and what attributes and behaviors teachers need to ingrain in themselves to nurture relationships with kids.

What if you have a math teacher who really knows her subject? She knows how to convey her knowledge to students but she has very little in the way of a relationship with those kids. You have another teacher next door who is not as technically knowledgeable or proficient, but places a lot of emphasis on getting to know her students as people, motivating them, and pushing them to achieve. Which teacher’s students would learn more?

This could be one of my scholarly crushes or it could be the beginning of an article/presentation/dissertation/book. I’ll let you know.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Time To Unwind 

I just got home from class, and of course have sixteen additional hours of class this weekend. As has become the tradition on class weekends, there will not be a weekend roundup this weekend.

My class is "Introduction to Research" which focuses on the research methodologies used to write a doctoral dissertation. Qualitative? Quantitative? Mixed Methodology? We'll have to see.

Adding on to the last post, Aubree informed me that the boy with the bad school record, "only asked me to the dance to make his girlfriend jealous. Dad, men are such .....jerks!" They do start young, don't they?

I'm going to recharge my batteries after a long day and prepare for gettting up early in the morning to go to class. I hope you all have a most excellent weekend!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

Aaaaah, sweet sunshine. After a couple of days of milder weather and sunny skies, my yard is only half covered in ice now. Of course, it still drops below freezing at night, so all the slushy stuff turns to ice in the morning.

Nothing to put a smile on your face like glancing down at your daughter’s school binder and seeing written in ink, “I Love My Daddy.”! When I asked her about it she shrugged nonchalantly and said, “what can I say? I’m a daddy’s girl.”

When I walked in the door this evening she greeted me with the news that two different boys had asked her to the dance in a couple of weeks. She turned them both down flat, one because, “he’s been suspended before and doesn’t have a good reputation.” Lord, help me keep that attitude for the next six years.

I asked her, “were you nice when you turned them down? Thank them for asking but politely decline? She said, “I said said no and walked off.”

I just received “Turnaround Leadership” by Michael Fullan in the mail today and will be reading it in the next week. This will be at least the fourth book by Fullan I’ve read.

Patrick has been phone-phobic his entire life. He never answers the phone and never calls anyone. Suddenly, he actually answers the phone when it rings sometimes and he called his cousin a couple of times. When he told Aubree to wait a minute so he could brush his teeth and wash his hands, she stared and said, “my brother is changing right before my eyes! Brushing his teeth without being asked? Answering the phone? What’s next”?

Believe it or not, I have never watched “24” until now. Terri is a fan of the show and we watched the season premier episodes. She missed a lot of last season, so I picked it up for her on DVD. Now Aubree and I are both hooked too! It is now the only TV show I watch regularly.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

January Blues 

A psychologist calculates that the most depressing day of the year is almost upon us. Using a variety of variables, Dr. Arnall pinpoints January 24th as the day we are most likely to be in a deep funk. I am glad to have the advance warning because I might need to steel myself to get ready to be depressed.

Why this day? According to Dr. Arnall, several factors come into play. Many people make New Year’s resolutions (losing weight, quitting smoking, etc.), and a few weeks later realize that they are failing to achieve those goals. That can certainly be depressing. Also, about this time those credit card bills come rolling in from our Christmas spending sprees. As we stare at those statements we realize that we are actually going to have to pay that money back now. Christmas is now a month behind us and all that good holiday cheer and warm feelings have now given way to real life issues and problems. Throw in on top of that the affliction known as seasonal affective disorder which refers to the phenomenon of being depressed in the darker, colder winter months. Using the formula the doctor provides you have a lot of depressed people. We may still have the debt in May but the warmer weather at least makes us feel better. By the fall we are looking forward to the holidays again. Then the whole cycle repeats itself and we are all depressed the next January.

I think I’m in pretty good shape this time around. I didn’t make any real New Year’s resolutions, so I don’t have to deal with that sense of failure. I don’t have a big mass of Christmas credit card debt, and what I do have will be paid off with my tax return. I enjoyed the holiday season very much but I am already looking forward to blue skies and spring weather. I am one that has occasionally had bouts of mild winter depression, but this year I’m not feeling it. I am most decidedly not feeling depressed and I don’t think that will change two days from now.

But hey….I’ve been there. There is something about those gray winter skies and arriving at work and leaving in the dark that does not put one in the best frame of mind. I miss being able to use my grill and go swimming on those warm days. I’ve also foolishly ran up credit cards around the holidays and suffered the repercussions of those decisions.

One interesting aspect of the study? People are more likely to book cruises and other vacations during those times when they are feeling depressed.

I’m not even depressed and that sounds pretty good.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hey Alfie 

I have long been a fan of the quirky, off-beat writer Art Buchwald, whose columns for the Washington Post have spanned my entire life. Buchwald seemed to find the humor in everything, including the Vietnam War, presidential resignation, and other scandals. He seemed to delight in puncturing inflated egos and goring sacred cows. I was sad to learn of his passing, even though I must confess I thought he was already dead. Last February he refused further dialysis treatments and went to a hospice to pass to the next life on his own terms. It was thought he had weeks. He lived for almost another year, giving him time to write one more book. He also wrote this column to be published after his death. In typical Buchwald fashion he tries to make a larger point and say goodbye, without being too serious.

When thinking of death he is reminded of the song lyric, “What’s it all about Alfie?” A trite song verse is his way of saying goodbye, but the question he posed, but didn’t really answer, is still there. What is it all about? What are we doing here? This is the question that human beings have been asking for thousands of years. We don’t ask to be born, but we are here. We don’t ask to die, but we must. The time in between is the only thing we really control. Buchwald says it is “egocentric” to believe that we are here for a purpose, but he believes he was. His purpose was to make people laugh and chuckle and find the humor in the unhumorous. It is mind boggling to think of. There are billions of people alive today on this planet and many other billions who have come before us. Did we all have a purpose, a unique reason for being here or do we define our own purpose as we navigate through this very short life?

Our biological nature impels us to eat, drink, sleep, and to have sex. But what of the higher purposes that our minds, our ability to reason, our conscience, and our ability to grow enable us to achieve? Do we find these purposes or do they find us? My kids, both adopted, came to me in unusual circumstances. Something has always told me this was no accident that we ended up together. I chose teaching out of all the fields I could’ve chosen, at the time not really fully understanding why. That I would succeed was certainly unknown to me at the time, but now it is hard to imagine that I could’ve done anything else. Of course, those of us who believe in a higher power will assert that the hand of God guides us in uncertain times to achieve his will and our destiny. But the big question of what it is all about is often left for us to discern. Trying to answer it is like trying to catch the wind, but still we try. Sometimes it seems so obvious and at others it is just beyond the mist.

So what’s it all about Alfie?

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Weekend Roundup 1/19-1/20 

This has been quite the week. Ice covering everything and no school or work for me! I was to have a class all weekend and that got cancelled too. Now they are talking about nine inches of snow this weekend.

Memo to Mother Nature: This is Oklahoma, not North Dakota. C'mon now!

One advantage is that I did have time to read blogs and bring you this weekend's edition of the roundup. I hope you enjoy!

Patrick hasn’t had much sleep. Lime hasn’t had much time to do much but tie-dye.

Karen is getting ready for a slumber party. Breazy is ready for her house to be completed.

Leen had a blast at the Pink/Justin Timberlake concert. Jennifer had fun volunteering in her kid’s class.

Apple has some before and after pictures. Leslie has some bargain tips. (I read it even though I’m a guy…sorry Leslie!)

T. Marie was hoping to get more snow. Irina was hoping for the lab to get those computers!

Barn Goddess answers some revealing questions. Rain hopes the answer in her son’s case is justice.

Jerry discusses winter drivers. Aka Monty discusses her memories of someone very special.

Snav has an unusual talent. Rose-Michelle had an abundance of ice.

Thomai writes about Dr. King’s unconditional love. Vickie writes about her undercover work.

Lil Bit met a new friend. Sudie Girl might tell Rosie O’Donnell and Simon Cowell what she thinks of them if they met.

Jules doesn’t think Angelina Jolie can be a normal mom. Incurable Insomniac thinks it is difficult to listen to classical music and not think of modern counterparts.

Teresa says, “go Colts!” Ellen says she had a blast on her vacation.

Carol writes about a mistake made by her son. Chosha writes of some her favorite lyrics.

New Wave Gurly put out twelve job applications. Chaotic Serenity puts out her government conspiracy theory….and it involves the weather!

Joan isn’t feeling well. Andie was feeling tired.

Jack has some comments about comments. Mary Lou has some magical soap.

Malnurtured Snay suggests a Playboy cover. Pendullum suggests you view this Elvis video.

Sarah writes about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Deni writes about making up.

Janine hears the ice being scraped from the streets. Pat shows you what the ice looks like.

John is going to have some guest bloggers. Laine is thinking of all she needed to get done.
Lisa is taking a semester off. Diana is cold.

Okie Doke isn’t allowing any new readers. Redneck Diva allows us to read what she thinks of her classes.

Check it out and tell'em I sent you!

Have a safe, warm, and wonderful weekend my friends!

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Optimus 

I recently finished reading Patrick’s book, “Optimus, Praetorian Guard.” It was thrilling to receive a book from a fellow blogger, especially Patrick who is a member of my profession and a fine gentleman. I only had a vague idea what the book was about when I sat down to read it, but came away very impressed.

Like me, Patrick is a history teacher, and his knowledge of Roman history is evident throughout the book. He tells the story of Optimus, a hard drinking, fast living member of Rome’s elite Praetorian Guard. He has slain many on behalf of the Empire, including a girl he truly loved. A master swordsman, he put his sword to use on behalf of his emperor, becoming an acclaimed warrior. When he wasn’t fighting he was drinking, gambling, or engaging the services of Rome’s many prostitutes. He even hired out the services of boys on whom he could beat out his anger and frustration. Optimus is brave and valiant but there is something missing inside. He is miserable in his life, not because he isn’t successful at what he does, but because deep down he knows there is something very wrong with all the killing he does for emperors who don’t deserve his respect.

Set during the rule of several emperors including the buffoonish Nero, the book paints a picture of the secret life led by Christians of the day. Forced to keep their faith secret, they formed secret ways of distinguishing those of their faith from those who could persecute them. It was a dangerous time to hold a faith different from that of the emperor’s court.

Optimus is assigned guard duty over a troublesome man who is under house arrest. He doesn’t know what to think of Paul, a man of both serenity and intenseness. At first angry that his warrior skills are being wasted guarding a religious heretic, Optimus chafes at the bit, ready for this assignment to be over so he can go back to doing what he does best….fight. He spars rhetorically with Paul and his frequent visitor, Luke. He asks of them the question that so many still ask today. If there really is a God, how can he possibly allow all the chaos, the killing and looting, the rape, the injustices that exist on Earth? If God is all powerful he could simply strike down those who commit these atrocities, couldn’t he? Paul and Luke answer his questions with a focus on the love of God and God’s willingness to forgive the sinner.

Optimus finds out that their was a purpose for him being assigned to guard Paul. His superior officer and friend, a secret Christian, had placed him there hoping that Paul would be able to convert him to Christianity. Judeaus has a widowed sister for whom he feels Optimus would make an excellent husband, but fervently hopes that Optimus will become a Christian before they marry. His plan succeeds and Optimus for the first time in his life marries. His wife is a patrician who suffered terribly under the physical abuse of her first husband. She is warm and loving, yet feisty and independent minded. The two of them fall deeply in love.

I found myself wishing a happy ending for Optimus and his new wife, but it was not to be. Continued war both inside and outside the empire continued to pull Optimus back in, reminding me of Al Pacino’s “Godfather” character who complained of trying to get out but getting pulled back in. Optimus is both a devoted Christian and a soldier and he tries to navigate these dual loyalties. His faith is put to the test when his wife is murdered and he devotes himself to raising his sons and participating in an under-the-radar attempt to install a Christian on the throne of Rome.

Patrick blends the story of early Christianity, growth in personal faith with the intrigues and plots of the Roman Senate and emperor. It is a very well written story with the themes of hope and redemption weaved throughout. You will come away with an increased knowledge of faith, of early Christianity, and a feel for the Roman Empire that you didn’t have before. As I got toward the end of the book I found myself thinking that there is more of this story needs to be told, and I was happy to read that a sequel is planned. I recommend it and urge you to buy a copy. I’m sure Patrick will be happy to autograph a copy for you, and that you will find it well worth the price.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

This has been quite an uneventful week. Due to the ice storm there has been no school this week for me or for the kids. We’ve been at home and the highlight of the past five days was a trip to Wal Mart. Fun eh? We are out of school again tomorrow and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were out Friday as well, the temperatures showing no sign of letting all the ice melt. The street in front of my house is nothing but one solid sheet of ice.

Aubree was the ice princess, skating and sliding all around the yard until this afternoon when she took a nasty tumble. It looks like she just bruised her knee, but it was quite a painful spill.

Both of the kids have a fascination with icicles which they break off and want to bring into the house.

Terri had to get a tow truck to pull her car off the side and on the main road so she could drive to work. This morning she drove one block, spun a 180, and came right back home. Some people have no appreciation for icy roads.

All this time off has given me the chance to read Patrick’s book. Look for a book review tomorrow.

We were fortunate in that we didn’t get the heavy accumulation of ice on limbs and power lines that happened south and east of here. Some of those people are still without power. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

I have class scheduled for this weekend, the first session of Educational Research. The syllabus indicates a rather lengthy paper to write and an introduction to writing doctoral style research. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Walker notes the passing of a blog friend. This is such a sad thing and I hope you’ll join me in having her family in your thoughts and prayers.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Unforgiven 

As I pondered the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, one of the things that struck me was his calls to his people to forgive those who had mistreated them, had sinned against them, and had used the bludgeon of the law to deny them full citizenship. He didn’t say that people should forget their history or ignore the past, but he implored them to forgive.

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us."

I have certainly done things in my life for which I needed to be forgiven and have had acts perpetrated on me that called out for forgiveness as well. It is easy to ask someone for forgiveness in the thought that it will alleviate some of your own guilt. But it is much more difficult to offer forgiveness to others. I’ve been truly struck by the families of murder victims who offered forgiveness to someone who killed someone they loved. I’m not sure if I would have the strength to do that. If forgiveness is anything, it is a measure of strength.

King was referring to the power of forgiveness. That which we cannot forgive possesses us, dwelling in those dark recesses we don’t like to talk about much. I heard an elderly gentleman on the radio who had somehow reconnected with a woman he divorced 27 years before. They were exchanging honest emails about the wrongs they committed toward each other during their marriage. Twenty seven years! Your first thought is, “what is the need for that? Its in the past.” But as I thought about it I wondered if they were seeking after all those years a way to rub the scars and find it in their hearts to finally forgive each other.

Terri and I were talking about forgiveness the other day (Some day I need to write a post about the incredible breadth of our conversations), the things we thought we could forgive in a mate and the things we thought we couldn’t. The hardest person in the world to forgive can be one you love or once loved. Those violations of trust from someone you trusted deeply are very difficult to forgive. It has certainly taken me awhile. I could ask for forgiveness but it was truly a challenge to do it myself.

Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. Its not excusing or rationalizing. Its not “letting someone off the hook.” It is letting go in your own heart of the bile that festers and keeps you from having healthy relationships. Can you truly love someone while nursing an unbridled hatred for someone else? When you forgive it no longer has that power over you and neither does the person who wronged you. As Lewis Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

King has a point about there being good and bad in almost all of us. We like to demonize those who have wronged us, put them in that sub-human category which makes it easier to nurse our grudges and wallow in our self-pity. When someone has no redeeming qualities, why should you forgive them? You don’t feel a need to forgive a dog who bites you. It can seem more satisfying to keep rubbing that talisman of hatred which also serves the purpose of giving you someone you can compare favorably to. Of course, forgiveness sometimes requires you to look at your own shortcomings and take your own share of the blame. None of us like to do that. But time and reflection can be powerful tonic for the begrudged soul. King also said:

"Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude."

If you’ve done me wrong….I forgive you. You can do the same for me and we’ll both feel better.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Love Maps 

One of the by-products of being stuck at home during an ice storm is watching more television than usual. Terri and I were watching a Discovery channel-like show dealing with the science of human attraction. One researcher indicated a belief that all human beings have a “lovemap”, an inside compass of the type of person we find attractive, and that these maps are as unique to us as fingerprints. (Another segment was on whether monogamy is natural, but we’ll save that for another time) What you find attractive is buried in your psyche and activated when you meet someone who fits the map.

It is interesting, this whole idea of trying to find a scientific base for human behavior, and I’ll confess to skeptically shaking my head when I hear a researcher expounding on how human behavior thousands of years ago translate into modern behavior. But this lovemap thing did made me think. Do I have a map like that? I thought of all the women I’ve been attracted to/dated/married, and they are certainly a diverse group. But it is true that the women I’ve felt most intensely attracted to have many common characteristics.

If the researcher is to be believed, this is not something we can control. You can’t make yourself become attracted to someone you’re not and you can’t completely control who you are attracted to. Some believe it is based on our parents or even based on ourselves. It has always puzzled me why I’m sometimes not attracted to some women, who by any objective standard are quite beautiful, while being very much attracted to some that many guys would pass on. Its gotta be the map baby! Surely, on my map Alyssa Milano and Haile Berry have to be major cities and Angelina Jolie a major interstate. But if you found Paris Hilton or Britney Spears at all it would be one of those rural gravel roads.

I could list all the things I find attractive, but it is always more complicated than that. I do think it isn’t something you really have a lot of control over. It is kind of like what George C. Scott supposedly said while dancing with a woman he just met: “I’m sorry if I get an erection….and I’m sorry if I don’t.”

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Weekend Roundup 1/12-1/13 

It is a three day weekend and we are in the middle of an ice storm. What better time to read some great blogs?

Lime writes about having a 3D life and an online one. Irina writes about an adventurous museum trip.

Malnurtured Slay says there is only one worthwhile coin. Jerry says that the Bee Gees had some good music in the pre-disco days.

Snav shares her mammogram experience. Breazy shares a rather electrifying experience.

Leslie says you should clip coupons. Colleen says her male customers should just let her do the heavy lifting.

Teresa just hasn’t been in the mood. Apple just thinks there are other things she could’ve done.

Thomai loves that time of the month. Margaret doesn’t love snow days, but she understands the reason for them.

Chaotic Serenity is looking for a man pet. Roselle is convinced she is stuck in the wrong body.

Jennifer writes about raising kids with gender neutrality. Rain writes about a young life cut tragically short.

Ellen celebrates the third anniversary of renewing her vows. Barn Goddess celebrated not having to drive in bad weather to her interview.

Patrick deals with the death of a colleague and friend. Thumper deals with sharing a car with the spouse.

Aka Monty thinks she should’ve been a marine biologist. Bobo thinks family life is very important for her mother in law.

Joan wants you to delurk. Phoenix wants you to read thirteen of her favorite blogs.

Sudie Girl asks fellow bloggers for prayer. Used To Be Me prays that her moving day goes well.

Karen says that love never dies. Laine says that she likes to do some things herself.

Phyllis got lucky after making a mistake. Andie’s friend got a very special gift.

Pendullum shares her love for her husband…and Elvis. Jack shares some thoughts about double blind bloggers.

Leen had an “I hate my job” day. Restless Angel had a “Let Me Share Six Things About Me” day.

Tara is ready for “24”. Okie Lawyer is ready for the IceMan.

Walker doesn’t care much for Nancy Grace. Lil Bit cares quite a bit for these lyrics.

New Wave Gurly has been a very busy girl. Sarah was busy letting us know what “uxorious” means.

Let’s make a deal. I’ll try to stay warm and keep from falling on the ice. As for you? Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Behave! 

Test scores are looked at as the primary focus of education today and much time, effort, and money is expended trying to find ways to improve those scores. Curriculums have been revised, benchmarks have been established, and rigorous attention is given to teaching the material on the test.

What the general public is probably not aware of and doesn’t appreciate is the amount of time teachers and other school employees spend on discipline and behavior issues. The single most frustrating thing teachers tell me is not their low pay. It is not conditions of the building itself. It isn’t lack of supplies. It isn’t the textbooks. It isn’t the lack of technology. Although all these things are important, the most frustrating and challenging issue for today’s teachers is the amount of time they spend on discipline and managing student behavior.

We feel the same way in the office too. I start the day with a grant proposal on my desk, trying to do some research and write a grant that would benefit our students. That work is constantly interrupted by student discipline issues. From the mundane to the serious, student behavior issues dominate our day. It extends to our bus drivers and even the custodians and cafeteria workers.

“But Brian”, you might say, “you work in a high challenge school. It isn’t that way everywhere.” I submit that it is and that in schools across the state and the country teachers spend an incredible amount of time dealing with discipline issues that suck up very valuable class time. Teachers are under the gun as never before to raise their students to an expected standard, and every time they spend ten minutes trying to get Joe to sit down in his seat and stop doing impromptu rap performances, they feel that time slipping away. At the end of the day no one in the public will care that they did a good job in this area. They will look at those test scores in the newspaper and make a judgment about how well the school and its staff performed.

I look back to my own school experience and think why (except for those err..few unfortunate incidents) I behaved in school.

I both feared my teachers and also wanted their approval.

I feared my principal as a god-like figure in the office.

I knew that if I misbehaved at school there were going to be consequences at home that I seriously wanted to avoid.

I was intrinsically motivated to do well in school because I wanted to succeed. I was also quietly competitive and wanted to do better than my classmates.

I didn’t want to disappoint my teachers or my parents.

I generally liked school and found it interesting.

A great many of today’s kids lack many, if not all, of these motivators. I can tell you right now that by middle school the fear is mostly gone. They know that there really isn’t much that the school can do to them if they fail to obey the rules. Some of them fear the administration slightly more because they know the administrators can suspend them, but a lot of them view that as a vacation. Many of our parents work very hard to try and control their kids, but so many have lost control long ago. I can tell within two minutes of the start of a parent conference if the parent has any sway over the child. Sometimes they are worse with the parent than they are with the teacher.

So we are left trying to be consistent and creative with kids, trying to have order in the classroom and in the school. We try and keep all the kids in the classroom without damaging the ability of the teacher to work with the kids who aren’t misbehaving. It is easy to see why it would be frustrating to the teacher. Some teachers are more effective in classroom management than others, but virtually all of them have to deal with problem behavior on an almost daily basis. I am sincere when I wish some of the critics of public education would come spend a week substituting in class. You have no idea if you’re not there.

School is a reflection of problems in the larger society. Ignore this problem and they won’t suddenly turn into well-behaved tax paying citizens when they turn 18. Kick the worst ones out? Then they are roaming the streets and getting in even more trouble. Get parents more involved? Absolutely, but as previously stated many parents have lost their influence over their children. I know of several middle school aged boys who have been physically abusive to their mothers. More counseling services to deal with anger management and behavioral issues? My school has two full time therapists and a social worker. They are working hard with kids and I hope it will make a difference over time. Mentors? Sure thing. There are some excellent mentoring programs that need to be expanded and need more volunteers. Alternative schools? Yes, these schools can be helpful with some students but some have behaviors that even alternative schools cannot deal with.

One of my teachers is a retired sheriff’s deputy. He teaches and coaches during the day and often goes and knocks on doors in the evening, talking to parents about their kid’s behavior, attendance, and grades. He doesn’t get paid for this. He does it because he cares about the kids and wants to help them. When he points his finger at a kid and says, “do that again and I’ll be sitting on your momma’s couch tonight”, he means it. He is doing the Lord’s work, unnoticed and generally unappreciated except by those who know him. He does all of this for a salary that a 20 year old assistant manager at McDonald’s would sniff at. No, they aren’t all like him, but there are more of them than you think.

So……anyone want a teaching job? We’re hiring!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and everything is rolling right along.

Well, Aubree isn’t exactly rolling. She missed her second day of school, but we were able to secure a babysitter for her today so I could go to work

I recently received a ticket for the first time in a great many years. My offense? Not wearing my seat belt…*hangs head*. Everyone else in the car was buckled up except for me.

We had just left the movies and Aubree wanted a sandwich from the Subway next door. I gave her ten bucks and sent her in. She returned with a sandwich, chips, small drink and 42 cents. 42 cents????? I went back in and told the guy at the counter, “I sent my daughter in here with a ten dollar bill to get a sandwich and she came back with 42 cents. That doesn’t seem right.” After he shuffled around a little it was discovered that the change should’ve been $5.42. Much better. We drove out of the parking lot discussing the incident, drove several blocks, and I looked behind me to see flashing lights. Was I speeding? I didn’t think so. The very young looking state trooper said, “Sir, you aren’t wearing your seat belt. I’ll have to write you a citation.” He did and I am twenty bucks poorer now. I would’ve been better off not protesting the sandwich charges and buckling my seat belt instead.

I received a book from our new blog author, Patrick, and I am very much looking forward to reading it. Maybe I’ll be the first to write an Amazon.com review!

Few times have I seen a great team as utterly shut down as Ohio State was by Florida the other night. Wow.

I've been perusing OPEN magazine, an online magazine focused on Oklahoma with an interesting concept and several fascinating stories.

I am working on a project that is taxing my arts/crafts ability to its limits. While the rest of you were making things from construction paper as a kid, I was holed up with the latest Hardy Boys book. Patrick, on the other hand, can seemingly make anything out of anything. I may have to draft him.

I spent some time today with a grandmother in her 70’s and physically handicapped, trying to raise seven children. Four of them are from one of her daughters and the other three are from another. Moms and dads are nowhere to be seen. Several of the kids have very significant behavioral problems and she is at a loss as to how to deal with them. It is so very sad.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reverse Stigma 

Aubree is the latest in our house to go down with whatever bug is going around. First me, then Terri, now Aubree is feeling rather puny. She was feeling bad last night, and when I went in to wake her up this morning it was even worse. So I called into work and stayed home to take care of her. She isn’t old enough to stay home by herself

My good friend Thomai mentioned in a previous comment the stigma attached to single motherhood and how single fathers are viewed as heroic for being the caregiver to their children. There is much truth in what she says. People often have reacted in surprise and admiration when finding out that I was raising my kids. I consider myself in no way a hero…just a parent. I do think that the experience has made me more sensitive to the single parents I interact with on a daily basis.

But it does cut the other way sometimes and this is a perfect example. Some years ago the same thing occurred as it did today. Aubree was very young, very sick, and I had to stay home to take care of her. There was no one else available who could do so, and I stayed home to tend to her needs. I was working in an administrative position and some time after I returned to work the word came to me that one of my central office supervisors was displeased that I had taken those days off. There was a strong presumption, me being a male and an administrator, that I should simply have someone else available for such things. Day care doesn’t take sick kids, my dad was very ill and couldn’t risk having a sick child in the same house, and I had no one else. When I confronted the supervisor with this set of facts and asked him what I should’ve done in that situation, he said, “I’m sorry for saying anything but it just struck me as odd.” Odd that I would take care of my kids? I think it was just odd to him that a man would handle tending a sick child. I was tempted to tell him, “pay me more and I’ll hire a nanny!”

But hey….that is nothing compared to those looks I get when I take her to the nail salon!

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Buyer's Remorse 

A recent poll by Woman’s Day magazine surveyed over 3000 married women and the results were very interesting. Over 1/3 of the women surveyed stated that they would not marry their husbands if they had it to do over again, and another 20% had doubts if they would to it again. I didn’t see a comparable poll for men, but other surveys over the year have shown that men as a group have a higher level of marital satisfaction than women.

There are no mulligans in marriage (unless you are Carmen Electra or Britney Spears), and you can’t simply ask for a “do-over”. You can get a divorce, but it doesn’t change the fact that you were married, doesn’t alter the history, and doesn’t give those years back. They are what they are and you’ve done what you’ve done.

You could certainly say that we should have caution in interpreting these survey results. After all, any survey is simply a snapshot in time (ask President Kerry). Expressing doubt that a decision you once made was the right one or wishing on the day the pollster called that you hadn’t done it does not by itself constitute a crisis. What married person hasn’t had a moment like that?

It does however raise some interesting questions:

Why are women generally less satisfied in marriage than men? Is it that women have higher expectations of what a satisfactory marital relationship is? Is it that guys given food, sex, and access to the remote control are happy, while women want and expect much more? Popular literature and culture have extolled the romance and magic of marriage, setting a very high expectations bar. When the marriage inevitably doesn’t measure up to this romantic nirvana, disillusionment and disappointment set in. I think it is reasonable to say that where your expectations are in relationship to the reality of who you married is very important in determining how successful your marriage will be. If you don’t expect much and don’t get much your satisfaction level would remain fairly high. If you expect nightly wine and roses and get a couch potato….well, you aren’t going to be too happy.

Or is it that buyer’s remorse is just a natural state of mind? Remember when you bought that new car, all shiny, sleek, and sitting in the lot? Out of all the cars you could’ve had, you bought that one. Yeah, it doesn’t get very good mileage and may seem a little impractical….but damnit, you wanted THAT car. A few years later you are still making those payments and its beauty and sleekness don’t have the same appeal it once did. You think to yourself, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. I could’ve had that other car or maybe waited awhile and made do with what I had.” A spouse isn’t a car, but you get the idea. What was once charming or maybe didn’t really matter becomes annoying over time and you resent it. Is it so unnatural to look back and wonder, “did I do the right thing?” I’ve listened to high school students wax rhapsodic about marriage and thought to myself that maybe someone should be injecting some realism in there somewhere.

Many would argue that the state of marriage is in rather bad shape. The divorce rate soars ever skyward with each passing year. “Till death do us apart” has been replaced by “until I’ve had enough.” People know when they marry that in spite of their vow it really is a temporary state, worth about as much as Nick Saban’s contract with the Dolphins. I suspect that people have always had the buyer’s remorse, but changes in society have simply made it easier to act on that remorse. There really isn’t much we can do to put that genie back in the bottle and you can argue that we shouldn’t even try. Is it really better to keep people trapped in loveless marriages? It seems like we could do more on the front end with honest discussions about expectations and the reality of buyer’s remorse.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Weekend Roundup 1/5-1/6 

Welcome to the first weekend roundup of 2007. So far it has been a great year!

I think you might enjoy some of these most excellent posts:

Colleen has thirteen interesting tidbits. Lime has some of her greatest hits HNTs.

Breazy shares the progress on her house. Walker shares his New Year’s Eve festivities.

Lil Bit notes that words have meaning. Rain notes the contributions of the brothers Grimm.

Leslie shares a delicious sounding recipes for baby back ribs. Jules shares some of her artwork.

Barn Goddess rocks out to Rob Zombie. Sudie Girl wants to be able to rock out to The Police.

Ellen felt a little like a stuck Pooh. Irina feels like there are significant decisions she has to make.

Patrick remembers winters past. Ursine Calamity remembers the past year.

Apple had a quiet new year. T. Marie had a very nice gift from Belize…and coffee too!

Sarah shares some party pics! Leen shares the story of her trip to my neck of the woods.

Jennifer was sick of being sick. Chicky Babe was sick that the latest James Bond wasn’t very convincing.

Sallie doesn’t like games. Margaret doesn’t like it when students die. It is so very sad.

Teresa reflects on the past year. Faith reflects on her relationship with her dad.

Carol has some goals for the coming year. Mary Lou has been a busy girl.

Joan doesn’t like cookies. Redneck Diva didn’t fight with her husband…and that may mean trouble!

Tara is ready for the new year. Chosha is ready to do things she hasn’t done since last year!

Roselle had a fun New Year’s Eve. Snav has fun playing with words.

Karen says, “gee whiz!” Rachel says this year is going to be different.

Phoenix has an update on Raven. Steph has an update on last year’s New Year resolutions.

Okie Doke wonders if you know where your fire hydrant is. Aka Monty wondered about the large number of people diagnosed with autism.

Okie Lawyer says that size may matter. Trick says that she and her guy have an understanding now.

Vickie writes about new beginnings. Thomai writes that all is still not well in New Orleans.

New Wave Gurly is back from the west coast. John is not feeling much sympathy for Saddam.

There now. Wasn't that satisfying? I hope you savored the experience as much as I did.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends!

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Who Wants To Live Forever? 

There’s no time for us
There’s no place for us
What is this thing that builds our dreams yet slips away
From us

Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever....?


(lyrics by Queen)

I heard a radio talk show host discussing reports that new technologies would eventually lead to people living practically forever, or at least much longer than they do now. He said that some scientists view aging like any other disease, something to be attacked, studied, and cured. Nanobots would scurry around in your body, cleaning out arteries, dicing up fat, attacking cancers, and repairing worn out parts before you even know they are going bad. Assuming you avoid swimming with alligators or jumping off tall buildings, you could be a modern day Methuselah.

Imagine a 200 year old person with the inner body of a 25 year old. You could take your great-great-great grandfather with you on those skiing trips. Social Security might need a bit of re-tooling, as it is not designed for people to draw hundreds of years worth of benefits. You could always raise the retirement age to…what….120?

Who wants to be 250 years old? I don’t want to die any more than anyone else does. Just think of all the books I could read and write in all those years! Not only could I watch my grandchildren grow up, I could watch their grandchildren too. It could be dangerous though. At the rate I’m going I could have like 20 ex wives. Scaaaarrrryyy!

In some ways it is not surprising that we contemplate this. Think about how medicine was practiced just a scant 150 years ago, with holes being drilled in the head to relieve pressure, limbs being hacked off when they became infected, and leeches as a medical tool to clear out diseased tissue. It was not uncommon for a mother to have multiple stillborn children and a large number of kids did not survive to their second birthday. Modern medicine has truly been miraculous in extending life in ways our forefathers could not have imagined.

For much of mankind’s existence we have searched for the “fountain of youth”, a way to beat nature, to overcome the natural degenerative flaws these bodies are born with. People pay ridiculous sums of money to have their bodies or heads frozen, hoping for a rebirth at a time when technology can fix what ails them. I don’t know what to think about these nanobots and other futuristic technologies, but when one looks at the history of just the past 50 years it is not a stretch to think that things like cancer, alzheimer’s disease, and cardiac disease will some day be treated easily. The promise of technology lies out there, glimmering with the possibility of extending life itself.

Would this make those lives any better or just stretch out empty existences? Would the collective wisdom gained from all those years of living benefit the rest of mankind? Would there be enough room for all of us on this seemingly shrinking planet?

Its quite a chunk to wrap your brain around, isn’t it?

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It really doesn't seem like midweek when it is my first day back at work. Yes, school is back in session!

When you've been off for two weeks it does take the biological clock to re-adjust to getting up so early again.

We had a local television station come to our building today to do a story on our reduced suspension rate as compared to last year. Compared to this time last year our suspension number is about 1/3 of the previous year total. How did we do it? A combination of utilizing other alternatives (in-house suspension, Saturday school) and simply trying to exhaust all other alternatives for less serious offenses.

The TV reporter was doing some panning shots in the cafeteria. One boy very seriously told us, "I can't go in there and be on TV. I've got a warrant out for me." He is probably telling the truth.

I'm afraid that Terri has picked up the same bug that kept me off work for a few days before the break. She's miserable!

She and I are both the same kind of person when we are sick. Don't mother or pamper me. Basically, just leave me alone and let me wallow in my misery!

I've done some cleanup with my blogroll and plan to add some more blogs in coming days. Most of the ones I deleted just don't exist at that link anymore. If you've moved and I don't have your link over there...please let me know.

Aubree and Patrick spent the day at my mom's house today, their school not returning to class until tomorrow. Mom also takes care of my infant nephew during the day. When Aubree got in the car she said, "Dad, I'm exhausted. How would you like to carry a baby around all day?" Ummmm. Been there and done that my dear.

How did we spend New Year's Eve? At home with the kids. Aubree provided us an up-to-date countdown as midnight approached. When the hour struck I cued up "Auld Lang Syne" (The Glenn Miller version), and we all hugged. The kids headed off to bed and we had a couple of drinks to celebrate. Then I made a few phone calls (including several to blog friends!), we listened to some more music, and we headed off to bed. Not exactly a wild time, but very enjoyable.

Now comes the looooong stretch of school with few holidays to break it up.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Three Lives 

In the past week many people have passed from this Earth. I take note today of three of these individuals, each one leaving this world under different circumstances. We all know that we begin to die from the very moment we are born. These bodies are not meant to survive forever, and none of us are even guaranteed our next breath.

Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States died of natural causes having lived into his 90’s. He played an important role in some of this country’s most pivotal events in this century. We never know for sure how well our perceptions of public figures mesh with their private behavior, but by all accounts Ford was a decent man thrust into the limelight at a critical time. He never wanted to be president, but a strange combination of circumstances left him in the Oval Office. He died after a long career of public service and was mourned today by his family, national leaders of all stripes, and ordinary citizens. I’m sure this was something he could not have imagined growing up as a boy, an athletically gifted young man whose biological father abandoned him. I read today that Ford had called Tom Brokaw two years ago, asking him to speak at his funeral. He knew he was nearing the end of the road, had made peace with his God, his demons, and his family and friends. He passed away, leaving a legacy to a nation, his family, and all those close to him. Who could ask for more?

Saddam Hussein met his life at the end of an executioner’s rope. Like Ford, he lived a life of historical significance. Unlike Ford, he died being reviled by millions, responsible for untold numbers of deaths of his own countrymen. Among his victims were his own son-in-laws, the husbands of two of his daughters. He achieved power through brutal force and died the same way. The man had choices. He was the powerful leader of an oil rich country. He didn’t have to gas Kurdish villages, drain historic swamps, or issue hit warrants on his political enemies. It could have been different. I wonder what he was thinking as he was led to the gallows. Regrets? Bitterness? The answer died with him when the rope snapped his neck.

Darrent Williams was a 24 year old football player for the Denver Broncos. He died in a hail of bullets fired into his limousine. He was young, healthy, rich, at the peak of his career, a long future to look forward to. He played his college football just down the road from here at Oklahoma State. When you are 24 years old, dying is usually the furthest thing from your mind. He played his last game of the season and died before the sun rose the next day. He wasn’t prepared. He couldn’t have known. No time for regrets, for reflection about his life, to ponder his existence, to prepare for the end. From all accounts he was a fine young man, and his death is a true tragedy.

Each of these lives are like thousands of others that come forth with each birth and end with death every single day of every single year. We all know about them because they are prominent individuals, their deaths scrutinized and discussed. Others will pass today, some mourned by many, others virtually unnoticed.

Most of us will never have the power of a Gerald Ford, the capacity to rule over millions like a Saddam, or the athletic gifts of a Darrent Williams. We are just ordinary people but we still have the capacity to live extraordinary lives. We don’t know when our time is but we do know how we live. As a new year begins, my only resolution is to continue to strive for a life of significance. I’m not talking about significance in the sense of fame or fortune, both of which are beyond my grasp, which is just fine with me. I refer to significance in the sense of achieving goals, affecting others in a positive way, being worthy of love from those close to me, and living up to my potential. Yeah, it’s a cheesy resolution in the sense that I could be back here next year making the exact same one. But everything I want to achieve, everything I want to be, can be wrapped up inside of it.

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