Friday, June 1, 2012
Monday, April 25, 2011
All of us have heard plenty about education reform, and we each would like to paint our demons varying shades of red. Is it the cash strapped school system, teachers who sit back like tics and suck in the rich public dollars, or is it a failure of our society to emphasize education in the home AND at school. I will seek to address these issues as I make my claim (contrary to a politician who merely points out glaring flaws without any suggestion for change, watch carefully, they do it all of the time) that public schools can not be fixed simply by changing out the staff every two years (no war is won if your commanders are rotated out every six months).
Do I think that our public schools are desperate for funds? Yes I do. Why is it that many schools can no longer afford to operate a budget that would allow a similar curicullum as to that I experienced as a child growing up in three states? This not only applies to art, gym, woodworking, etc., but also to the aides and teachers who facilitate those students who struggle with basic academic requirements. Some might say, “throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it”, well as a working-class individual, I know that if someone threw a bunch of money my way, I could find good use for it. Ok, no one wants to pay more taxes, fine. How about we allocate one-quarter of the amount that we paid to develop a war chopper that will not perform in the sand? Just asking. You can do your own research.
Are teachers fat tics sucking the lifeblood out of our economy? Hmmm… only an idiot would make the assertion that teachers are over-paid. Let’s just take an aerial survey of a government employee's (i.e. governor) home versus the housing of the average fourth-grade teacher (google earth should do it if you’re curious). I know I have seen my children’s teachers shell out bucks from their personal accounts to fund a child’s education, not to mention the "donations" (donation is sly for, "I felt so horrible, his socks were soaked because his shoes had holes in them. Besides I got them on sale") of shoes, clothes, and warm blankets that these teachers quietly pass on to students in need without comment. Does that mean that all teachers are the cat’s meow? No, not every contractor is the best, nor every surgeon (though when I finally save up for that lobotomy, I hope I get the top dog, at least a C average or better in Med School), nor every truck driver, but does that mean we condemn the entire profession? .
Let us presume that you are a teacher of any class, any grade. You have multiple students who come to school without clean clothes, solid meals, support, or affection. How do you motivate these students to succeed? Suppose you have a student born of a foreign language (before all you naysayers on the immigration front can say boo, let me remind you that if you are white, this isn’t your native land, it is only slavery, disease, and progressive violence that has cleared the way for you, so let’s not begrudge another the bounty of which we have taken advantage of for so many centuries [anyone remember those “No Irish Allowed” signs of the 1890’s]), where is your supporting linguist (probably working for the U.S. Military, they get all of the good linguists)? Second language students (regardless of reading proficiency) take the same ISTEP, so watch those numbers. Haha, before you go blaming those ESL (English as a Second Language) kids, check your statistics: The higher the percentage of students in a district receiving free lunch, the lower the tests scores, regardless of race, color, or creed. So now that we have found a direct correlation between objective data and low test scores, perhaps we should address that issue. Which is, of course, low income. Can we make everyone rich so that we are all smarter, cooler, and better-dressed? Nope, but indiscriminate teacher lay-offs aren’t the solution either. If you doubt my facts, look them up (poverty levels vs. standardized test scores). You also might want to look in on U.S. scores versus those of so-called competitor nations. We might do well to do a little emulating.
Mitch, old buddy, old pal, I challenge you to one month as a substitute teacher. You merely need the first of your two expensive degrees to pull it off. You work it, and then I might consider your stuff worth reading. You have an Ivy League education; it bewilders me that it never occurred to you to obtain first -hand data. Perhaps you are busy. Just let me know what issues take precedence over education and I will cut you some slack.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Greetings! For those of you who may not know, I have been working as a substitute teacher for my local school these last few months. Being somewhat new to this area (If you can’t track your family tree back three generations in a Midwest town, you are a newbie. It’s a kindly type of pigeon-holing used to place you within the context of your forbearers’ social history. For Example: “Are you related to Tom who used to run the service station back in the 80’s till he got the gout? He was a helluva guy, ‘cept for his problem with the drink, and the women, never mind that battery charge, that was jus’ a misunderstandin if you’re askin me” To this I always reply “Wilson is my married name”, Prompting a discussion of any known Stinsons in the tri-county area.), I have become used to a certain level of anonymity. I have always felt relatively free to approach the gas station in various forms of bed-wear, hair unkempt, personality dimmed. No longer. Just last Thursday I was taking my six-year old for a walk, and of course he wants to stop at the war memorial, which is a lovely stepped affair topped with properly armed soldiers. At this point he always wants to perform various poses for the cell camera. No problem at all! He then asks that I strike a pose whilst he mans the camera. Having very little shame, and a keen sense of fun, I comply. I strike my most-fierce Incredible Hulk pose, replete with menacing growl, when two 6th graders, with whom I am acquainted from work, pass by and yell the mandatory “HI MRS. WILSON”! (middle schoolers speak only in caps when they are about the town). What am I to say at this point, “excuse me girls, but I have left my dignity in my locker, could I have a pass”? So, now that it has warmed up, and puberty and the possibility of chance encounters have lured the students into the streets, I am stricken with a creeping case of public behavior phobia. In fact, just today I was climbing the porch steps, carrying my haul of Alco and DG merchandise, when I hear “MRS. WILSON!” I instantly freeze, and like a Columbian drug mule, I look down at my bags as though they are about to give away some dark, and better kept secret. Some of you might insist that I have a guilty conscious. Not so. I seldom get up to no good, but rest-assured, if I do, it will be well beyond the tri-county area (I had a student last week aggressively assert that she saw me in the Lafayette mall. She said this in the manner that I would use when confronting someone I had witnessed sleep-walking in the nude, while sucking on a pacifier). This brings me to my recent hair-care conundrum. Again, for those of you who do not know me well, I am not an overtly feminine gal. I prefer books to mirrors always, have very little knowledge of, or interest in, current style or fashion trends (hence the polygamist hair). I would much rather have a discussion on the merits of various types of anti-freeze, as opposed to hashing out the pros and cons of various brands of shampoo (Dex-cool is a horrible plot by General Motors to increase parts sales). Now that I am before the young public eye, I feel that some effort must be made in the grooming department. I had my hair cut, but the “stylist” was a purist so she only docked me two negligible inches and gave me one layer. She demonstrated for me how to straighten my still, very long hair. All is well. I buy the product, hubby orders expensive straightener to be delivered. I am all set to dazzle the youth with my presentableness. Until….I read product (some smoother cream meant to protect my hair from the torture I mean to do it after many years of neglect. The cost of which could provide 2 female college students with a memorable night at the bar) directions. These begin verbatim with “spread 1 or 2 hazelnut-sized amounts of product in the hand”. Ummm…I have hazelnut coffee creamer, sans picture. Now I generally think that I have the subject of nuts well in hand (snicker), but I am stymied when trying to conjure up an accurately sized image of a blasted hazelnut. Of course in my inexperience, I assume that too little will fry my hair into crunchy bits worthy of New Jersey hooker, or that too much will give me the greasy appearance of a pasty twenty-something who totally rocks at World of Warcraft, but hasn’t seen the inside of a shower in months. So there’s something of a learning curve to this whole preening thing. Thirty-two isn’t to late to learn by far.
Monday, July 19, 2010
You will all have to forgive me for this post, as I feel a little complaining/ranting is in order. Last week started out mildly enough, I had survived hand nursing four guinea pigs for several days, and things were looking up. DUM DUM DUM DUM….cue dramatic music. Unfortunately, my luck ran out Wednesday afternoon as one of the pigs died from aspiration. You see, guinea pigs are ridiculously eager eaters, and will suck milk right into their lungs despite the stressed and sleep-deprived ministrations of their caregiver. Sadly, I lost a second pig to this same fate on Saturday. This spurred me Sunday in deciding to abandon nursing them, and install them in a cage with pellets, grain, water bottle, etc. Well, the best laid plans are meant to be smashed into a hopeless pile of crap. Our boar guinea pig (with whom I had hoped to install the babies), had them wedged under the food dish in less than a minute. Buying a fifth cage for our temporary pets (am hoping to send them to good homes soonJ ), was not an option, so I set to building one out of supplies on hand; namely the plastic mesh from an old baby gate, pvc poles from a discarded play-tent, and an ungainly Tupperware dish. All was going as well as can be expected, when I suffered a characteristic lack of coordination. You see, I was crafting and removing said supplies with a pair of Chicago Cutlery scissors. Now I’m not sure if these things were intended to de-bone chickens or what, but they sure as heck do a bang- up job of cutting thick plastic. Things got dicey when my pinky, displaying dexterity here-to-for unseen, decided to bend itself into the bone crusher (I’m not sure if this is the intended purpose of this lil feature, but between the blades and handles of these scissors, there is what looks like a giant wire stripper with TEETH)! I will try to post a picture of the offending instrument, but given my recent luck, I won’t count on any success. The upshot of all this is that my neighbor has offered to put a stitch in the nail if it does indeed decide to fall off. I love having skilled friends. Put Sunday to bed watching a depressing movie that ended on an iffy note, and hoped for tomorrow, Orphan Annie style.
Late Monday morning finds me trudging, on foot to our local gas station, which if given a pot of coffee and a redbull, I could theoretically hit with a rock from my back porch. So what if I have been cleaning all morning and haven’t bothered to change out of my comfy, pocketed, manly sleeping pants? Well….I walk in and see the clerk, cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of her mouth with an ash built to at least three quarters of an inch, stocking the drink station. She reluctantly leaves her post, cigarette in tow, to “service” me, and gives me the most disgusted up and down look I have seen since junior high. Now I’m no expert in social stratification, but I’m thinking that if you are filling in mornings at the gas station, smelling of patchouli, with an ashtray full of suspicious leavings, and a face that says truck stop parking lot, you have NO cause to be critical of another person’s mode of dress. After my weekend, this woman’s behavior made me want to abandon a lifetime of pacifism, go out in that parking lot, grab the largest rock to be found and relieve my government of 10 years of social security payments (she didn’t look the health conscious type, so this is actually a generous estimate).
And the hits just keep on coming….
All set to head to the over-priced local haunt to get my fix of chocolate chips, I am interrupted by a phone call from an unknown number. Alas, it is the ole college debt rearing its ugly head. Here follows a near verbatim snippet of our conversation.
Vulture: It appears you have an unpaid debt of XXXXX.
Me: What?! I went to Purdue, not Harvard. I never borrowed such an amount!
V: Well, XXXX amount of that is due to incurred fees.
Me: What fees? Is that a Liberal Arts degree penalty fine?
V: No, that is a fee allotted to your debt managers.
Me: What? Did the government hire a tribe of out-of-work Sierra Leone warlords to track it down, cause I think I would notice them in my neighborhood!
V: That fee is besides the point.
Me [two full minutes of incredulous ranting]
V: Well, with nine monthly payments of XXX (the sum of a modest house payment, or four hours with a high priced escort), we can have you in the black and there will not be a negative report made to the credit bureau..
Me: Not likely pal. If the government wants their money so badly perhaps they could take some extra from the Citibank payoff and do me a solid, or…they could give me a job and take it out in trade.
V: Your being unreasonable ma’am. Surely you could afford that sum.
Well that about sums it up for now. Nothing has died today, haven’t lost any necessary range of motion in the extremities, and I have finished my summer reading program. So, I guess it could be worse. After all, I don’t have to poo in a Wal-Mart bag…
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
In our house, we have a bathroom. Yeah, I know we are living pretty posh. Last week I forced my ten year old to read an article about a shanty town in Nairobi, in which the dwellers (particularly the women and young girls) are so frightened to leave their improvised huts at night that they are forced to evacuate into plastic bags. Said bags are then tossed out of the shacks, hence their moniker: “flying toilets”. The resulting waste mounds have led to an increased risk of disease of course, prompting an upstart company to invent the bio-degradable flying toilet. You might ask yourself, why does this woman force such knowledge onto her impressionable young child. Perspective friends, I can think of a good fifteen people who may be in need of a good dose of it. Anyhow, back to my decadent bathroom.
I have been accused, by at least one person, of harboring a tendency towards obsessive compulsive disorder. You see, I live in a 100+ year old house. Apparently, those many moons ago, builders weren’t compelled to incorporate linen closets into their middle income houses, hence the towel shelf. Lucky for me, when we moved into our glorious home, my mother-in-law donated a two-shelf stand to hold up my bath towels and other wash accessories. This god-send I strategically placed against the wall opposite of the shower. Given that I am the only woman in a house full of males, it is a safe assumption that I am the one doing the most sitting. As I sit, ridding myself of coffee, I am forced to contemplate the arrangement of the towels many times a day. We have striped wash cloths, solid wash cloths, and also both of towels. When I arrange said items after washing, I coordinate them. It has been my great misfortune to have my husband notice this tendency of mine. He has taken, at every opportunity, to sliding a solid towel in with a striped one, a striped wash cloth into a solid pile, etc. I am starting to feel like Julia Robert’s hubby in that movie “Sleeping with the Enemy”. I am contemplating hiding all of the bathing accoutrements until he repents, excepting one hand towel. The resulting video I shall post on you tube tagged as “Brittney Spears Nude”.
Also, just asking, but why is it that it is now possible to get a degree in Social Networking??? As I sit, proud un-employed bearer of a useless History degree, I can’t help but wonder if my time couldn’t have been better well spent pursuing a degree in Online Social Network Automated Grammar and Faux Pas Correcting. Imagine the embarrassment that could be prevented if there was application that would prevent you from tweeting, face booking, or myspacing your every marital spat, drunken rant, or infectious disease update??? Lives could be spared. Not to mention the fact that no one would ever be able to report that they were going to “hook up with their bff tomarrow” (it is killing my ocd, and my spell check to leave that as is, but I am just pointing out, tomorrow does NOT have an A in it people).
More stuff you don’t need to know. In order to justify the insistence that my boys participate in our town library’s summer reading program, I too signed up for the adult experience. I don’t know how many of you are readers, but I am a book addict. There is no other way of define me. Not surprisingly, after twenty years of reading adult literature, I pretty much know what I like. Unfortunately, the adult requirements (including reading six books in six weeks, which is pretty easy, though I have felt a little guilty reading on the side) include CATEGORIES. For instance, one book must be in a genre new to you (unless they have invented a new one, that isn’t possible for me, I read “The Bell Jar” for that one), a novel set at the beach (read some librarian recommended cookie-cutter character tripe called Beachcombers), an outdoor adventure (post-Korean war novel I picked and totally dug called “The Surrendered”. If you’re searching for new stuff, I highly recommend it), something Beautiful Throughout (really?!), etc. Why is it that you cannot pick your own six books??? How am I to know what category a book will fit in till I read it anyhow? One book to go, the “beauty throughout” selection (librarians recommendation, the very one who suggested the sappy “women’s read”). Wish me luck. Starting “The Flowers” by Dagoberto Gills. I will hope for the best and promise myself to the new Ha Jin novel.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Over the last several months, I have engaged in a rather bizarre hobby. You see, it all began with the high-speed, low-drag fancy phone and all of its lovely applications. Typically on car trips when I have left all reading material at home, I turn to the phone to amuse me. Mind you, I do not avail myself of these capabilities when I am driving. I am of the opinion that in every relationship, be it friendship or otherwise, there are passengers, and there are drivers. I was born to ride along. This has nothing to do with gender roles or any other social conventions. Hubby is a professional driver, and as such is surely over-qualified to drive the precious mini-van. I, while having never receiving a single traffic violation as a capable driver, will gladly defer to Aaron the driving reins. I would much rather gaze listlessly into the ubiquitous corn fields, but after several years of marriage, I have found that it is best to engage my mind as a means of distracting it from the stresses of Aaron’s “defensive” driving maneuvers. I digress. Anyhow, the phone has an application that allows me to view all coupons, sales, and what -not for the entire nation. The real perk of this is that it provides links that allow me to sign myself up for all imaginable sorts of free samples. Let me tell you, I sign up for all of them. My mail man must think I have a qualified mental disorder (which would explain the grin and reluctance to actually touch my hand when I meet him for the mail). Recently I received my requested sample of a brand-name feminine hygiene product. Now, I see the box and I think, jeepers they sure did waste a lot of cardboard on the packaging for this little tidbit! Ohhhh Nooo!!!!…I have lived a full 31 years, I have seen industrial fans, air conditioners, sledge hammers, etc., but never before have I seen an industrial maxi pad. This thing was prodigious! I could seriously tack it to the Chihuahua, send him out in the rain, and he would come in dry from nose to tail. I am thinking that if you need that sort of absorbency coverage, you should consult your GP. I am not confusing this with a Poise pad or any other type of bladder leakage product. I have a degree in History which is useful only when filling out crosswords and identifying menstrual napkins.
As fun as all my hobbies might be, I have lately begun to wonder if I am not venturing into the territory of the “old”. You know that place where you no longer know what is “happening” and cool. Sure, I keep abreast of world events, new novels, and delicious new home appliances (Dyson vacuum you will be mine some day), but do I really know anything about the current culture? I have never watched a full episode of Lost, American Idol, Grey’s Anatomy, Dancing With the Stars, ad nauseum. I am even afraid to admit that this isolationism has encompassed the music genre. I have no idea what is current in the popular music category, and have no exposure, barring Saturdays when my neighbor cleans her house. This was never more evident than on my thirty-first birthday when my husband, another couple and I decided to venture into the college bar. Said bar has a piano bar area. The song requests, which I couldn’t name if asked and probably shouldn’t given the self-imposed PG-13 nature of all of my online postings (anyone who thinks what you post online is private, no matter your “security” settings, is a darned fool. I am quite sure none of my grandchildren will want to google me twenty years hence and view pics of me performing body shots [not that I would ever do that] on grandpa) baffled me.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Pleading amnesia with regards to last summer‘s outdoor experiences, my family and I recently inaugurated our new old camper. The weekend began with a crisis of logistics. In a pick-up that legally seats three, we parceled out our children (to the gracious in-laws, and their big honking 6 seat dually) till we were left with my ten year-old son, Aaron, the German shepherd, and myself. The seat lottery, heartily rigged, lodged the German shepherd in the bed of the truck, tethered to my wrist through a lead in the sliding window. Did you all know that dog slobber makes the most delightful scattered spray pattern when traveling at 55 miles per hour? Neither did I! Well, we are not the squeamish type, and we gamely wiped away the spittle from our necks and faces and set ourselves up for adventure. Aside from the minor set-backs (door to camper swinging open on the highway, a mysterious dripping, and a campsite that was the obvious victim of recent flooding), our first night of camping was concluded with smores and air-conditioning.
Day two commenced with my ritual walking of the dog. Armed with a plastic bag and a dose of caffeine induced optimism, I trotted my neurotic pet out into what could be considered the campground lawn. This grassy area is surrounded by concrete plots occupied by various motor homes. Samson and I proceeded unimpeded. Its early, naught but the thirsty mosquitoes seem to be stirring. Doggy proceeds to hunch into his evacuating stance, I ready the bag, and proceed to demean myself. As I stand I feel a tell-tell tug at the lead that signals that Samson’s attention has been drawn. Before I could shout the word no, Samson begins lunging with all his might at a Shi-Tzu with over-confidence issues. I plant my feet to stop the pull. Alas, I am wearing flip-flops, and every blade of grass is coated in dried river-bottom silt. I begin to slide. Seeing my fate, my shouting reaches fever pitch. The little girl walking the bait scoops her doggie into her arms, and beats a hasty retreat. This is not before I am dragged to the ground. It is at this point, as I am standing up, reevaluating my station in life, that I realize that I never cinched the poo bag. I look down at myself to discover that I have been splattered with offal (little known fact: some animals, when placed in situations such as long car rides, new environments, and dubious drinking water, display gastrointestinal distress resulting in loose or watery bowels, uh huh). As if my situation weren’t already life-affirming, I noticed that every camper within earshot, had mysteriously awoke and had been following my predicament with great interest. I trudged back to camper, eyes downcast, swearing viciously.
If any of you are pet owners, or child rearers, you have probably played the game “Name that Smell”. You may not have precipitated it, but at one point in your life, you have turned to another, and the dialogue has went something like this:
Person A: [sniff sniff] Do you smell that?
Person B: What?
A: Over here, cant you smell it?
B: Now I can, what is that?
A: I don’t know. Where’s it coming from?
B: I don’t know, smell over here. Does it seem stronger here?
You get the gist. Well, we had ourselves a rousing game this past weekend. At about high noon, ye ole camper began to heat up like the social security office on the first business day of the month. The poor air-conditioner was doing its level best, but just couldn’t seem to effectively circulate any air. A fan was procured. About 20 minutes later the smell arrived. I am not blaming the fan in any way. Numerous suspects were suggested, namely the dog. I countered that I had been with the dog nearly all day, and if a 100+ lb dog cops a squat anywhere in your vicinity, you are bound to notice. Other suspects included: flooded septic receiver, old reservoir, and an indiscriminant camper toilet user, etc. I hope to have this issue resolved before this weekend’s upcoming trip. Wish me luck