Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today's My Birthday

Jeepers creepers! Today's my birthday and I'm not exactly sure how I managed to get this old.

One day the calendar days flipped over in slow-mo, and now it's like gale force winds have taken up permanent residence whipping the days past at super-sonic speed.  I have–in many, many ways–become the eye of the hurricane. And trust me, it's not a pretty sight.

One day I'm standing in line for my first driver's license, getting married and celebrating my babies' birthdays, and now a nano second later, I'm thinking about retirement. How in the heck did that happen?

But most of all, I want to know who the heck is that old, tired stranger looking back at me in the mirror? My students always look surprised when I tell them how old I am. I'm not sure if they are surprised because I look younger than my 54 years or if I have that you-look-older-than-dirt appearance. I guess I can ponder that while I'm thinking about that whole "who's that staring back at me in the mirror" thing.

In the meantime, let's go through… 

Richie's Top Reasons 
It Sucks To Be Me On My Birthday 

#5…Unlike my much younger years, any cake I eat (and, oh how I plan to eat the tasty Barefoot Contessa's Carrot Cake my husband made for me) will stay with me and my hips for at least the next 500 years.

#4…Tomorrow is a teacher professional development day, and we all know how I feel about those kind of days.

#3…The day after teacher in-service day is state mandated TAKS testing day for English Language Arts.  (I feel the same about those days as I do those teacher inservice days.)

#2…I am drowning in yearbook disasters. Things (and you know how much I hate those darn tootin' things)…Things like discovering pages that haven't been started, pictures that haven't been shot and names that were alphabetized by first names, not last. These are the things that try men's souls and make one dream of retirement.

And the #1 reason It Sucks To Be Me On My Birthday? …Drum roll pah-leese!…

#1…I am working on yearbook pages on my birthday with only Howard the Shelter Cat to help me. And, as you can see by the photographs, Howard (bless his heart) is about as much help as the… Well, you fill in the blank.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Free Speech Isn't Free

[This article was first published as Teacher Blogger Put on Administrative Leave on Technorati.]

Stop the bus. I want to get off. I'm just a bit queasy about the rush to make that Pennsylvania teacher the poster child for free speech after she was put on administrative leave for blogging about her public school kiddos as lazy whining ninnyhammers. 

According to news reports, "In between blog posts about muffins, Food Network stars and her favorite movies, she [Natalie Munroe] posted long, profanity-peppered rants" about bosses, co-workers and her students.

Please understand that I love the First Amendment. I strongly believe in free speech and even have the track record to prove it. Some people think free speech is free, but free speech has never been and never will be free. As a high school journalism teacher and newspaper adviser, I admonish my students that free speech always comes with two price tags: (1) great responsibility and (2) consequences. If you are going to say it, you better be willing to pay the price for it. 

This rush to applaud Ms. Munroe for airing what is now being called her "unapologetic take on the state of the nation's education" bothers me just a bit. Teachers get all in a dither when they discover students posting profanity and/or unflattering comments about them, so I can understand the outcry from parents and students.

Many schools have policies regarding online behavior outside of school. The Student Press Law Center which keeps track of First Amendment cases shows conflicting rulings on such cases. So far, there is not a definitive Supreme Court answer as to just how far a person can push it online.

Like it or not, teachers, like many other types of public officials, are held to a higher standard because we are supposed to exemplify and model certain behaviors for our nation's young. I don't think cussing like a road-rage driver is one of those behaviors.

Interestingly enough, even news organizations have fired bloggers and commentators for their opinions. Remember the firestorm over the firing of Juan Williams at NPR? Remember when ESPN fired Paul Shirley for blogging his comments about Haiti or when CNN fired producer Chez Pazienza for violating its "standards of journalism" on blogging?

Some schools and businesses have policies about their employees' online activities. And, as Munroe discovered, posting anonymously doesn't provide protection. Many teachers, including myself, are able to blog successfully about our views on public education and life in the classroom. That probably has something to do with the manner in which we do it — sort of the difference between tabloid reporting and journalism.

Sometimes we really shouldn't speak the bubble above our head, and sometimes we're not supposed to speak the bubble above our head. Is that right or fair? Well, that's a matter of opinion.

And that's probably a good lesson to learn.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The I'm-Sorry-I-Forgot Edition of the Education Buzz

Welcome to the Sorry-I-Forgot-To-Post-the-Last-Edition of the Education Buzz--an eclectic smattering of educational type things buzzing around the EduSphere.

I was supposed to have posted this a week ago, but with ice, snow and cold, I guess I had a brain freeze. Instead of working on this,  I got caught up in all those episodes of House Hunters International.

So now that we all survived the cold and snow (for the most part), let's see if there's anything worthwhile buzzing about in the EduSphere––and by "buzzing about" we're talking about more than the sugar rush from Valentine's Day (and what that does to the under 18 crowd). 

Well, you better pay attention and quit passing notes. Check out what Pat over at Successful Teaching has to say. She has some great suggestions on how to teach notetaking.
Nancy Flanagan in Teacher in a Strange Land ponders that famous inaugural speech, "Ask not…" given 50 years ago while Joanne Jacobs tackles expectations and says "we need to do a much better job educating children in K-8 so they’ll have real choices in high school."

Darren over at Right on the Left Coast smuggled out some interesting stuff and needs some translation help. See if you can help him out.

Red State Progressive discusses whether college is getting easier while The Education Closet gives us three reasons education is mediocre

We can always count on Old Andrew over at Scenes from the Battlefield to let us know about some more of those bad ideas going around.

Mr. Eason over at Social Studies in the 21st Century poses how we should be "Rethinking Education in Web 2.0."

Kate over at Parenting Is… offers up an interesting question.

Curmudgeon gives us a special Ground Hog Day message and a frustum. (And, yes, I did have to google to see what that was. And, yes, I know I'm pathetic.)

Well, I guess that's about it. I'm hope no one got lost in the shuffle since I was late in getting this carnival out. If so, my apologies. Or maybe some of our regular contributors (Steve Spangler, Jane Goodwin, Mr. Teacher and Assorted Stuff) seem to have had a brain freeze as well and forgot to contribute. 

The next edition of the Education Buzz will be hosted over at Elysabeth's Emerald City. It will be up on Wednesday, March 2. You can send your submissions using this handy, dandy form.

If you would like to host an edition of the carnival, please let me know by emailing me at Also, don't forget to let me know if you find any broken links or problems with this edition of the Ed Buzz.

As always…
“I’ve got this feeling that there’s something that I missed…”
–Snow Patrol

And, if I did, my apologies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stupid Air, Yoga Mats & Personal Space

Sometimes during our eight minute passing periods, my hall monitoring buddies and I take a deep breath and ask a steady stream of rhetorical questions.

Questions like "Do you think we're invisible today because they're acting like we're not standing here?" Or, "Just how much stupid air can one breathe before one becomes stupid?"

I'm not a 100 percent sure, and I probably should check with my BFF Jennifer the science teacher, but I don't think anyone can quantify the density of stupid air. If they could, then maybe just maybe there would be a Nobel prize in it for someone, or, at the very least, a Starbucks gift card.

All of this rather explains why I go to yoga class two to three times a week. I love yoga because it's the only place I know where you can actually detox after breathing in too much stupid air. If I didn't believe hot yoga  sweats all the stupid out of you, then I would have to ponder the sanity of bending one's body into a pretzel in 90 degree temperature. (OK, so maybe I look more like a potato chip than a pretzel.)

Lately though, I've become a tad bit obsessed with personal space issues, and the classes I once attended to relieve stress, tension and yearbook debacles, now have created their own little quirky stress.

Two months into the new year and 22 months away from the Mayan Doomsday calendar, a slew of people decided to start attending yoga. Now, let me clarify a few things. I am not a big fan of strangers. I am not a big fan of mindless bantering or chit chatting, and I most certainly am not a big fan of the "getting to know you" crowd of acquaintances.

OK, let's just say it: I am not a big fan of people in general which probably explains why I have three dogs and now Howard the Shelter cat.

I purposefully place my yoga mat in the corner so there's a wall to my left (for when I fall over) and a wall behind me (for a gajillion reasons). My right flank usually is  protected by one of my yoga buddies Becky or Jennifer, which usually leaves only the very front of my mat exposed to stranger danger. If I'm lucky, easy going Allee usually takes that spot and all is well.

Sometimes, though, I have no luck at all. Sometimes Becky and Jennifer opt out of yoga. Sometimes Allee isn't there. Sometimes those nights are crowded, but other times I can be one of only four people in the room and someone will roll out their mat mere inches away from mine.

Even when Missy Chrissy Pretzel (Numero Uno instructor extraordinaire) tells the other yogis that they can spread out, Missy Mat Encroacher doesn't move over.

I have even resorted to moving my mat twice opting to leave the safety of the wall for more space. Once I even moved someone's mat when they went to the bathroom. I've even stuck my leg out under the guise of stretching to keep strangers from violating my personal space zone.

Still, none of that stops those Missy Mat Encroachers from plopping inches from me.

I don't get it. It's not like I'm sending out friendly karma vibes or anything. I hesitate to write about any of this because one of my former students (Zina the Warrior Goddess) probably is rolling her eyes about now. She lives in New York City and now is studying to be a yoga instructor. I'm sure I'll hear all about how un-yogi like this space issue thing is. I'm sure I'll hear about how in all of those classes mats are just mere inches away from each other and how beautiful and energizing it can be. Jeepers creepers, what's next? Sitting around, holding hands and singing Kumbaya?

I have one response: I live in Texas. Beautiful Texas with all its wonderful sprawl and wide open spaces. I love space.

Once I told my yoga buddies I was going to pop the next person upside their little yogi head who plopped down too close to me.

"I'm not sure this yoga thing is working for you," my friend Jennifer said.

"What do you mean?" I said.

"You know, as a stress reliever," she said.

"Really?" I said. "I thought I was much better."

"Kickboxing. I think you should go back to kickboxing," she said.

"Maybe you just need some of that yellow crime scene tape to put around your mat," said another teacher who overheard our conversation.

I think he might be on to something.


Just a reminder:
Don't forget to check back here Wednesday for the Education Buzz--Life's a Carnival

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snow Days, House Hunters International & Monday

After almost a week off, we finally will return to school Monday. You would think those four snow days would have provided a golden opportunity to get caught up on all the things I was behind on.

Think again, my friend.

There's only so much yearbook stuff one can do from home. And as far as all that grading? Well, can you say "projects"? Projects as in poster board size. Projects as in too big/bulky/burdensome to bring home to grade.

There's something to be said for being a math teacher with their little scantron sheets, thin stacks of papers and test generators, but then I would have had to have learned math and math things. (And we all know how I feel about  things.)

And those things would be really, really bad things. Things that involved formulas and numbers and equations, and probably things that involve imaginary numbers. (I have trouble enough with imaginary friends. I don't need the stress of imaginary numbers.)

So once I finished with all the yearbook page proofs I had and planned all the assignments I could plan and pretended the other stuff could wait another day, Howard the Shelter Cat and I opted to spend our leisure time watching House Hunters International specifically the beach vacation ones.

I had to laugh when someone claimed to be a school teacher with a half million to a million dollar budget to buy their little slice of paradise.

Yeah right. I don't need to be a math teacher to know none of that adds up.

School teacher?

Maybe a school teacher with a trust fund.

Or a school teacher with a winning lottery ticket.

Or a school teacher with a sugar daddy.

My BFF Jennifer (a science teacher) always says we made poor choices in life--choices that didn't involve financial freedom.  Choices that instead involved long hours, lots of grading and no perks (unless, of course, you count the occasional chocolate candy bar thrown into our mailboxes). 

Yep, it's all about choices. So tomorrow I'll get up, hop in my trusty blue mini-van, swing through Starbucks for an espresso jump-start and go to school.

Who wants to buy a beach house in Nicaragua any way? Am I the only one who remembers Contras, Sandinistas and rebels? And what about all those drug wars going on in Mexico?

Frankly, I don't think I need that kind of excitement. I have a feeling I'll have more than I can handle come Monday.