Tuesday, August 28, 2012

If It Will Feed Nothing Else, It Will Feed My Revenge (or The Final Post About My Past Teacher Life, I Promise)

I had not planned on writing another post about the difficulties at my previous school.  With that behind me, I plan to enjoy my new, drama-free school.  I like teaching again, which is a relief.  However, we recently got some news that made me want to point, laugh, and say, “Told you so!”

Now, I’m not one to put too much stock in standardized test scores, in fact I hate standardized tests with every fiber of my being.  But after a year or so of being told that our 2nd grade program was a failure, our test scores for 2011/12 turned out to be quite good. 

In language arts, 83% of our kids were proficient – up from 69% the year before.  For a Title I school, that proficiency level is outstanding.  In math, 93% of our kids were proficient, up from 81%.  Our math scores were the highest in our district, even higher than the six English only/higher income schools.

The thing about the whole year, we knew that what we were doing was working.  Each year we turned out kids who were better readers than the previous year.  We researched and tweaked our program based on our students’ needs.  But to constantly be told differently was so disheartening and frustrating.  When we brought up the concerns with administration, it was met with anger and vindictiveness.  For our kids to have earned those test scores is such a validation of what we were fighting for all year long. 

After the year we had, the 2nd grade team at my previous school was obliterated due to our requests for transfers.  We have all moved on now, taking those high test scores with us.  I know that revenge is a sign of weakness and narrow mindedness blah blah blah…in this case it’s so very sweet. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

There Were Plans For a New Post, But All I Could Muster Up Was a SAT 9

This week’s Saturday 9 even though it isn’t Saturday anymore…

1. What was the last event or situation that got you really excited? I’m in Santa Ana this weekend spending some time at the Artist’s Village with some amazing and talented artists.  With the start of the new school year it’s been crazy, and I almost forgot I was going.  So when this weekend arrived I was very excited!
I’m also really looking forward to swooning over the Dave Matthew’s Band concert two weeks from tonight. 

2. How old were you when you started working and what was your first job? There was neighborhood babysitting when I was about 13 or so.  At 15, I started working at Red Lobster as a hostess.  A friend hooked me up with the job, and it was always a joke that I worked there because I can’t eat seafood.  Guests would ask what I recommended, and I’d say, “The chicken.” 

3. Tell us about your grandparents.  I only knew my grandmothers.  My dad’s dad was an alcoholic who passed away a few months before I was born, and my mom’s dad passed away a few months after I was born.  My paternal grandmother abandoned her family when my dad was very young, so the grandmother I knew from that side was actually a step grandmother.  I knew her as a beautiful person, but she and my grandfather were not the best of parents to my dad and his step sister.  That past effected their relationship, but I never saw that side of her. 
My mom’s mom was probably who I was closest to as a kid.  She reminded me of an old-school Hollywood starlet with closets full of shoes and furs and hats.  I’d spend weekends with her, and I remember sliding out of bed because of her satin sheets.  I thought she was so glamorous.  However she drank and smoked heavily after my grandpa died and ended up in a hospital bed in our living room for many months when I was in junior high school due to emphysema.  After a short stay in hospice care, she passed away.  The last few years of her life were not glamorous at all.

4. Do you procrastinate or are you usually on top of situations?  No, I’m not a procrastinator.  I’m usually ahead of situations.

5. What would others say about you?  Hmmmm, that would depend on the person.  But the people who know me best would probably say I’m a considerate, hard working, funny/fun, sarcastic, efficient, impatient, opinionated, and a very fast driver. 

6. Do you believe in life on other planets?  I have no idea.

7. When was the last time that you were called too thin? The last time?  Ha ha, I’m still waiting for the first time. 

8. Do you work out? Have you ever joined a gym and quit almost immediately?  I work out in some way just about everyday.  In college, I signed up for the gym but just didn’t like it very much.  I’m not a fan of walking or riding a machine.  It’s so boring.  I’d rather walk somewhere.  Right now, I walk with the dog about 3 miles each day and, if I can fit it in, do the Jillian Michael’s Shred video which KICKS MY BUTT.

9. Do you feel that you utilize all your intelligence in every situation?  Huh? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rampant Voter Fraud?

I have absolutely no business writing a new post tonight.  Feeling a little buried in school work already this week, my plan was to bring some of it home with me and work on it tonight.  Alas, the gardener, who is STILL dealing with my stupid sprinklers, called causing me to leave school in a hurry where I left all the work sitting on my desk.  The alarm is set for 5am to try and catch up, so until then… 

This past week partisan voter laws have been in the forefront.  In order to address “voter fraud” Pennsylvania wrote a law that all citizens must show a picture ID in order to vote at the polling place.  I guess if voter fraud were really a problem, the laws might be necessary, but it seems like a solution that is in search of a problem.  With only ten documented cases in the entire country since 2000, it seems as if there have got to be bigger fish to fry when it comes to our governmental systems.

But then things became a bit clearer when the PA Majority Leader, Mike Turzai, made the partisan remark when sharing his stellar list of accomplishments, “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation -- abortion facility regulations -- in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”  Hmmmm…

It would seem as if this law was designed to skew the results of this year’s presidential election.  Pennsylvania’s own Department of State has reported that 758,000 eligible voters will not be allowed to vote under this law because they don’t have a photo ID.  Remarkably, the demographics of that number are the young, the old, the poor, and minorities…those who tend to vote for Democrats. 

The law was taken to court last week and the judge stunningly upheld the voter ID law, stating it will be handled in a “Non-partisan, even-handed manner”  He wrote that requiring a government-issued ID "is a reasonable, nondiscriminatory, nonsevere burden when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life."  For many of us, having a driver’s license or passport is the norm, but when you’re too poor to own a car or open a bank account or travel internationally, the need for an ID beyond proof of residency with an electric bill may not be applicable. 

To keep things fair, the state is required to educate it’s residents about the new voter ID laws with advertisements.  The job of doing that was given to a lobbying firm who has paid tens of thousands of dollars towards the Romney campaign and the man in charge of the campaign was once the Executive Director of the state’s Republican party.  With Turzai’s comments, it’s a wonder how that education is going to turn out.

In Ohio, voting hours were on the table.  There has been much debate about early voting and who gets to use it in Ohio this month.  While hours in counties who lean to left were going to be shortened, counties who lean right were allowed to keep extended voting times.  Interestingly enough, the board making the decision sits 3-2 Republican. 

After heavy criticism of this alleged disparity, Ohio’s Secretary of State ordered that all counties have to abide by the same polling hours.  Well Duh!

With the mechanisms of the vote in the hands of partisan elected officials, can any decision about elections, ever, be considered non-partisan? “Non-partisan oversight” has been thrown around over the last week or so.  But really, can an oversight group made up of human beings with leanings to the left of right, truly be objective?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday 9

This week’s Sat 9 questions are fairly painless…

1. What do you think is the most unique thing about your generation?
I think I’m a Gen X-er, right?  Hmmm…All I can think of is that we’ve watched technology expand exponentially over our lifetime.  Mainstream tech was virtually nonexistent when we came into the world, and now we can’t live without it. 

2. Do you speak out as often as you should?  I’m fairly opinionated, so probably more than I should…

3. How often are you tough and unreasonable?
I’m pretty tough, but not necessarily unreasonable.  I can be stubborn, but only about reasonable things. :)

4. Do you believe that sometimes you learn more from a failure than a success?  Of course!  A combination of success and failure is quite educational.

5. Do you feel that you always have to win?   I’ve never been terribly competitive with games.  In fact most of the time I don’t win and I don’t care.  However, I am competitive with myself.

6. Do you think tradition matters? I do think traditions are important.  They’re part of our past; our history.  In some cases there is a line where tradition impedes progress, and in that case moving forward is probably more important.

7. Do you tend to root for the underdog? Who doesn’t like a good underdog story?

8. Have you ever felt that you want to exceed your parents’ successes? No, I’m too busy living up to their expectations. 

9. Of all the cartoon characters that you know of, which is most like you?  I haven’t watched a cartoon in years….Maybe Bugs Bunny because he’s so sarcastic.

And what about you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Days Like These, A Cubicle in an Office Building Sounds Kinda Great

Today was the first day of school.  Actually, teachers had to be back yesterday, but the kids started back today.  Happily, the day went very well.  Thank goodness I finished setting up my classroom yesterday mid afternoon after weeks and weeks of unpacking and preparing.

stuff 117 stuff 115 stuff 116 It’s been years since decorating my room, and there was some amount of obsession about the color scheme.  After a small decorating meltdown - the lime green pencil boxes which I buy EVERY SINGLE YEAR were not available this year at Walmart. I had to settle for dark blue ones.  That was like the first scratch on a new car.  Once the pencil boxes didn’t match, I got over the worry about being all matchy matchy and just finished setting up the darn room.

There were, as expected, some nerves about the first day at a new school.  They didn’t really have to do with the kids or the parents though.  The staff here is great; really low key and welcoming.  What I had the most anxiety about was simply…how do they do “it” here.  Being fairly procedure oriented at school, not knowing all the school wide procedures caused some anxiety.  But the worry was for not, and all in all the day went very smoothly.  I’ve got a nice little class who are really as cute as can be.  A handful are goofy boys who, because they are still 6, think they are the center of my universe and want my attention all day long – not at all unusual.

The only thing that made this a terrible day was that it was about 108 degrees outside.  In my opinion, that’s just too hot for school.  I started my day this morning looking quite nice in a cute black dress and having a very good hair day.  By recess, the good hair was piled on top of my head and the nice dress was sticking to my glistening skin.  Blech!  It made the first day of school very hard.  Having to teach playground rules and behavior and walk to and from the classroom when it’s that hot outside makes me wish I had a cubicle in a cool office building.  Sometimes I’d like to be an office person who doesn’t have to leave that cool office until they go home at the end of the day.  I’d be bored out of my mind, but from August to October, at least I’d have some semblance of professionalism and not be a sticky, sweaty mess.  The cubicle is also a nice thought during rainy days as well. 

One day down, and only 179 more to go until the next summer break!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Need An App For That

Over the last few days, I’ve been lugging around an exceptionally heavy purse.  At the movies last night, I almost threw out my back trying to lift it up to look for chapstick.  After taking out the metal tape measure and box cutter that I put inside last week to carry them home from work, things lightened up a bit.  I did a bit more cleaning inside the bag and realized, after the metal tools, the heaviest thing I’ve been carrying around is this gift card wallet.
stuff 168While some think they are impersonal, I think gift cards are a great gift.  I have a ton of them – so many that they don’t fit in my regular wallet.  For many years I kept them all in a drawer.  However, out of sight, out of mind, I guess, and I never remembered to bring them with me when I went shopping.  Using another wallet to carry them around inside my purse ensured that I’d have them with me at all times.  The problem is, a wallet full of cards is really heavy. 

I’ve seen some smartphone commercials with people using their phones to pay at various shops.  After searching the iPhone’s app store, I found that a few shops let you store gift cards/prepaid cards on your phone.  For free, I downloaded Starbucks’ and Target’s app.  After just a few moments, I had both accounts set up and the gift cards entered.  
 stuff 171 stuff 172
So now when I go to either store, I can use my phone to select and pay by using a gift card. The phone is simply scanned, and the remaining amount is updated. 
stuff 169After everything was set up, I removed eight cards from the gift card wallet, which lightened the load significantly. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that would store and scan ALL gift cards? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Olympics

Every two years the anticipation of the Olympics sets in, and I’m quite excited to watch the events.  My first memories of the games are 1980’s Winter Olympics in Lake Placid where the US Hockey Team won the gold in the “Miracle on Ice” and of course, the 1984 Summer Games here in Los Angeles where all the events were televised live and the coverage was comprehensive.  Unfortunately since then, I’ve personally been disappointed with the games.  Let me restate that, I’ve been disappointed with the television coverage of the games.  We were probably spoiled in 1984 because for us there wasn’t a time difference.  We were able to watch the events from start to finish without it being tape delayed or edited to fit a shorter period of time. 

Needless to say, this year’s coverage has been a bit frustrating.  There were the controversial incidents like cutting out about 10 minutes of the Opening Ceremonies to show a Ryan Seacrest interview, and due to tape delays, the network’s announcements of the results before the events were even televised.  There was something kind of appalling watching respected newsman Brian Williams saying things like “If you don’t want to know the results yet close your eyes or look away for a moment.”  But in addition to those biggies, I didn’t care for the way the events were edited to show just the highlights, and in some cases only the US’s highlights.  The broadcast would go to a commercial and when they came back the score had doubled in team events or several athletes had there turn and we missed it.  Between the edits and the early announcement of results I’ve constantly felt like I can’t get a handle on what is going on exactly. 

The event that I’ve been most interested in is the Equestrian.  Having been a show jumper myself I just love watching the horses and riders.  Since it’s not as popular of an event as, let’s say, gymnastics or swimming, the coverage was already very limited.  The schedule posted online was not necessarily the schedule on the television.  I can’t tell you how many hours I recorded and fast forwarded only to find the events were shown before or after the time that was scheduled.  The US team ended up having disappointing performances in all the events thus far which limited the coverage even more.  However I really enjoyed seeing Canadian Ian Miller who rode for years and years in grand prixs on his famous horse Big Ben and who holds the record for most Olympic appearances with 10.  He rode a new horse this year who I just fell in love with. 
The British show jumping team was tremendous  and took the gold in a jump off that I DID get to see.  But I’ve yet to see an equestrian medal ceremony televised.

With those rants being ranted, there have been some great moments this year.  Even though the Opening Ceremonies were very different than 2008, I was impressed.  There was so much pageantry and national pride displayed.  The Bond/Queen clip, the Health Services/Children’s Lit, the Parade of Nations, and the torch lighting were my favorite parts. The US women winning the all arounds in gymnastics was exciting.  I also enjoyed watching the “inquiry” initiated by Béla Károlyi last night which led to Aly Raisman’s bronge medal.  My adrenaline was pumping during that one, but it could have been due to the earthquake we had at the very same time. (We’ve since had 30+ in the last 24 hours).  The women’s beach volleyball final tonight was super fun too with both teams being from Southern California! 

There are just a few days left of 2012’s Summer Olympics.  When it comes down to it, the best part of the Games for me is, while nations’ governments fight and blow each other up, there’s something so symbolic about these athletes from all over the world coming together and playing side-by-side.  They shake hands whether winning or losing.  Our world leaders could certainly learn a thing or two about that.

What’s been your favorite part?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Getting There

Before my teaching supplies, books, and furniture were delivered to my new classroom, it looked like this…

stuff 076 
After 103 things were moved over the second week of the July, my new classroom looked like this…
stuff 087 stuff 085
Even though I spent most of the summer unpacking and setting up, it was awfully nice to have that time to do so.  The last time I moved/unpacked 10 years ago the school was brand new and we weren’t even allowed inside until about 5 days before school started.  Needless to say, my new room will be much more organized and thought out than the previous one due to having this time.

As I’ve mentioned before, my new school is actually the oldest school in my district and in my valley.  It’s been a school since 1876, but it moved around and had been rebuilt numerous times due to growth and fire.  It’s been in it’s current location since 1928.  Of course, there has been some updating and remodeling since then, but compared to my previous school, it’s pretty old.  In order to even start unpacking and setting up, it was necessary to deal with some cosmetic touch ups.
 stuff 077a
This silly computer table was the biggest eyesore in the classroom.  All the other rooms in my wing have this table but it goes completely across the whole wall.  There is a computer server to the left of the table (not pictured) and when whoever installed it did so they hacked away half of the table, leaving the edge seen in the photo rough.  In addition, the table was a mess.  The surface was stained and torn and dirty.  I decided to cover it using contact paper to at least start with a clean looking table. 

Upon further investigation, I found that the damaged surface was actually contact paper…layers and layers of contact paper.
stuff 088There were SIX layers to be exact…like rings of tree!
stuff 091After about a half day of work the sticky mess was removed and I was left with this…    stuff 092 
The surface was so much better than it had been, but I still decided to recover it because of the stains, and it looks so much better.
stuff 099 

There are also about 20 feet of bookshelves (yay) in the room covered in wood-finish contact paper. 
stuff 076 The surface wasn’t as bad as the table, but they were dark and the paper was lifting. 

stuff 094  stuff 103 It’s amazing what a little light-colored contact paper from the Dollar Tree can do to lighten up the place.

The last of the worst was the cupboard doors.  We have so much useful storage space in these rooms, but the doors are a mess.  Eventually, the cupboards will be refaced, but it may not be until the end of the school year.
stuff 095 stuff 096 stuff 097 Using butcher paper and the borders bought to decorate my bulletin boards, I spruced up the cupboards a bit too.
stuff 105 stuff 104It’s so nice not to be looking at the scratched and cracked cupboards anymore. 

Slowly but surely the room is coming together, and I am pleased so far.  I’m completely unpacked and now setting up the room and preparing for the new year.  For now, I’m taking a couple of days off from the classroom.  Once I finish at the end of the week, I’ll post photos of the finished product. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Parent and (Adult) Child Relationship

On Tuesday, my mom set off on the next phase of her summer journey.  Since she now resides in Hawaii, when she is here in California she stays with me.  Our personalities are quite a bit different.  She is an extreme people person who wants to be around them (me) all the time.  As much as I like being around people, there are also times I like NOT being around them.  Sometimes that makes living together when she is in town a bit difficult.  The thought, “We have been together for 24 hours.  What can we possibly still have to talk about?” pops into my head every other day or so when she is here.  Therefore as much as I love having her home, I’m also happy when she takes off again.

I’m lucky if I can shake her for an outing with some friends when she is here.  If I do, I feel like I’m back in high school.  To this day she asks, “What time will you be home?”  Usually my response is, “Um, Mom, I’m an adult.  It’s my house and I can come home whenever I feel like it.”  She then goes into the spiel about how I’m still her daughter and how she can’t sleep if I’m not home.  I remind her of all the times I go out when she’s in Hawaii and she sleeps just fine.  In the end, I give her a time frame and text if it changes.  I’ve learned that’s just easier than arguing about it.

This trip in particular has made me very aware that she is getting older and, as the only child, I am the one who needs to make sure she is taking care of herself.  Back in April, she had rotator cuff surgery on her right (dominant) side.  It’s a pretty brutal recovery process that’s she’s still working on.  If that weren’t enough, in June she had carpal tunnel surgery on her right hand.  She’s kind of mess right now trying to recover from the first surgery while still in quite a bit of pain from the second surgery.  So imagine my surprise when she announced she was leaving Hawaii for a month and half of travel to Europe and then separate visits in California, Nevada and Montana…with a right arm that’s basically useless.  There was no talking her out of it either – I even tried to forbid her from going, but who was I kidding.  She’s about halfway through her journey and has done ok, but can’t carry her luggage and does suffer from pain at the end of particularly long days. 

When she told me I couldn’t forbid her from taking the trip, I reminded her of a time she forbade me from leaving the house.  During my senior year of college, I came home for Christmas.  The day before Christmas I came down with a bad cold/sore throat and ended up not being able to go to the family dinner the next day.  The morning after Christmas I woke up feeling a bit better so decided I'd keep my day-after-Christmas shopping  plans I had with a friend.  When I came downstairs ready to go, my parents told me I couldn’t go – I had been too sick for Christmas so I needed to stay home and get better.  I was shocked, having lived on my own since I was 17.  We had a huge fight – me saying if I were at my place I’d go and they wouldn’t even know, them saying I was in their home and wasn’t going.  In the end, I didn’t get to go.  “And that was ONLY a cold!” I told my mom.  I guess I inherited my stubbornness from her because she didn’t budge.

So now she’s off again, and I’ve got my house back.  But I’ve found myself texting her to check where she is and that she arrived safely, and continuing to express my worry for that arm of hers. 

Raising a parent sure is hard work.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Summer is Pretty Much Over Now

How can July be over?!?!  The last school year JUST finished for summer break, and here it is over already.  School starts up again in two weeks, Ugh! 

July’s calendar page for The Kathryn Wheel’s challenge
stuff 002

When I wasn’t in my new classroom trying to unpack 103 things (STILL unpacking by the way) I was able to spend some time working in my journal.  I’ve been using acrylic a lot this summer to build layers, but have been left a little frustrated with the waste.  We are so dry here that I can’t keep the paint wet on the palette or the paper for more than a minute or two.  With watercolor it takes much longer to dry up and once it does, it can be used again.  I’ve tried adding some acrylic mediums, and although they do take longer to dry they feel sticky and I can’t get them down as smoothly as I’d like. 
stuff 003 stuff 004 stuff 005 stuff 007 stuff 008 stuff 009 stuff 010That was my long winded way of saying I’m not as pleased with some of the pages as I’d like to be.

More cards were needed this summer, so I hammered out a few more this month.
And on a final art note, all of Monday was spent in Laguna Beach visiting the Sawdust Festival and attending the Pageant of the Masters
photo3 photo2
Last year a bunch of us went for the first time.  The Pageant was truly great, and this year it was even better.  It probably has a lot to do with being more familiar with the art in this year’s show.  We were also a whole section closer so were able to see the “paintings” very well even without binoculars.  The Pageant doesn’t allow photographs, so I found some online at the OC Register and The Beverly Hills Film Directory.  Both links have nice articles about the event and how it’s pulled off.

m6penx-b78955392z_120120705130321000g7118js6l_3 pageant%202pageant%203pageant%204This year’s theme was “Genius”.  The whole concept is simply amazing.