Monthly Archives: March 2008

Spring Break

Refilling the well.
That’s what this break is about. I’ve never been so emotionally exhausted from work in my life. I think it’s because I decided I owed it to every student on my campus, all 1800 of them, to do whatever it took to change the thought process of high school from students have the right to fail to we have an obligation to help them learn, even when they don’t want to.
I thought this would be easy.
I teach at an amazing school with an amazing group of teachers. No way could I do this alone. It would take most of us working together,developing a school-wide system so we’d have a response to failure.
AND that’s the problem.
There’s no system in place and there’s not going to be for now. So my original goal is impossible.
I’m going to have to be okay with being a good teacher at a great school with a great group of teachers and 20%-30% of our socioeconomically disadvantaged kids failing on a regular basis, but all the others passing in the above 90% range.
I know there are other teachers in my building who feel the same way I do, and God knows there are better teachers in my building! But for now, I have to get recharged and refocused.
I don’t think I can be okay with this for long. But it’s the only way I’m going to make it through the rest of the school year.

84 years

After 84 years you have plenty of stories to tell.
It’s hard to believe my grandma lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. I never really thought about it, but last night my cousin asked Grandma and Grandpa if the Dust Bowl was as bad as they teach in school. The both immediately answered, absolutely.
My grandpa was older and had a family of brothers. They made it through the depression relatively unscathed.
Grandma’s is another story all together.

She remembers living in Bristo, OK, in a nice house. And then she remembers the tent city in Maude.
At six years old, she didn’t know how they lost the house and no one ever told her. But she was old enough to remember moving to the tent city.
They were lucky. They had two tents. One for the kids and one for Grandmother and Grandfather. Grandmother had worked as a nurse with the lady who had the big house in Maude, so they were lucky there too. The big house lady let them set up their tents on top of the hill near the house. The rest of the tent city lived below in a valley of sorts.
She remembers going to school with all the other tent city kids. Getting swatted with a big ruler the first day because she wouldn’t stop talking.  Loving that teacher anyway because she opened the world and her imagination.
She remembers Uncle Robison from Lawton bringing up a big bag of peas and eating peas and only peas for months because that’s all they had.
She remembers the doctor operating on her baby brother, removing a cyst from his groin, on the big house lady’s kitchen table and not charging for the operation.
She remembers the babies born in the tent city. No doctors. No hospitals. And one baby born way too early so everyone in the camp took turns rocking the baby up and down to keep its heart beating, trying with everything they had for hours and hours to keep the baby alive. And then when it died, she remembers her mother’s nervous breakdown. How she screamed and screamed and wouldn’t stop until they took her away for a while.
My cousin asked if it was true about the dust and she laughed. They both said they’ve never seen another time like that.The way the earth baked under the hot sun and day after day after day the winds blew and clouds would build, teasing everyone with the possibility of rain, but then dissipated without offering relief.
It’s so strange to think they lived through that. That the stuff I think of as stories in a history book are their real memories.
It makes me thankful for what I have. I can’t imagine existing for months on peas and only peas. Or living in a tent and being thankful because at least there were two and they were on top of the hill.
I can imagine how excited my grandma was to go to school and how much she loved that teacher for opening the world to her.
84 years. Wow.


My older students informed me today that prostitution should be legal, that the whole NY Gov. controversy is ridiculous and my problem with the whole thing is because of my moral code and people shouldn’t be putting their moral codes on others.

That led to great debate and much fun on my part. An NPR report I heard today was all about how places with legal prostitution also have mafia infestations and horrible problems with human trafficking. I need to get the book and leave it around for some of those girls to read.

Then I cried when I was talking to my friend in the hall because I can’t stand the thought of all the kids who are failing in my hall being allowed to continue on that path with NOTHING STOPPING THEM. I think I cried because my precious student turned gangster happened to walk by and all I could think was WE failed him.

THEN I felt like an idiot.
Because I should be thrilled. We finished the yearbook today.

Later I said something to my kids about our long spring break. It’s a full week plus Friday and the Monday after. 9 days. But that was wrong. It’s 11 DAYS!!!!
So I felt like an idiot again.

But then I met my student teacher from last semester for dinner, and felt GREAT because she’s such a great teacher and I’m so thrilled for her and her students.

Now I’m home and all I can think is THANK GOD I HAVE 11 days to recover.

Bad day

The main focus of public schools: to educate the masses
The shift in education focus: To educate ALL children. To not only say but to BELIEVE all children can learn, to demand all children learn, to make sure educators know the difference between Teach and Learn.
Another shift: the increase in knowledge we expect our children to leave school mastering, and to make that major shift within the set schedule we’ve used since I was reading Tiger Beat behind the lit. book that bored me to tears.

Can it be done?
If something doesn’t change in our education system, the whole thing’s broken.
The thing is the FIX is already out there. The research has been done. The ground work laid. There are schools out there that say it is absolutely imperative ALL STUDENTS LEARN and no more will we allow children to be thrown away because they don’t want to learn.

One teacher, a handful of teachers, cannot make that change a reality.
I wish they could.

Romance Book Junction

It’s like MySpace for romance writers and readers. Check it out:

Great blog and opportunity

Robyn Grady’s blog today is super inspirational. She talks about her road to publication and her agent, and her agent is giving away a critique of a partial. Check it out:


So the other day I was looking at textbook editing jobs.  I wasn’t really interested, I was just curious.
The next day a textbook company called me about reviewing books.
I love my job, but when they asked if I’d be willing to look at a book, review it for strengths and weaknesses and catch mistakes still in the text, I was thrilled. And it really was fun.
I hope they ask me again.

The Red Pen

For years I admit it.
I was a PURPLE PEN grader.
For whatever reason, the red pen made me shudder. It made me think of Mrs. Steele my fourth grade English teacher who ripped my spelling test up because I wrote in the margins.
But then…something happened.
Over the last few years EVERYONE’s started writing in pens of a different color. Purple, green, orange, pink. See it in the rainbow? Then it can be an ink teachers and students write in.
Suddenly my purple pen was lost on the page. No one saw it.
The mistakes multiplied.
And out of the blue I rediscovered…
RED ink.
It’s wonderful. It stands out on any page. No one uses it unless they have to.
The mistakes are down. Editing is easier.
I miss my purple pens. But I won’t be using them for editing any more.

Sven Day 3

5200 words! Woo HOO!!!!!!!!

Not necessarily awesome words, but they’re words. I need to work on the excitement level.

Sven Day 2

2000 words. Down a bit from last night, but I think it’s good. It started rough, but I think I’ve worked the emotion in. It still needs some work, though. I’m going to finish the chapter tomorrow (fingers crossed) and then go back over it and make sure I’m not committing the elliptical writing sin. At least I’m not committing the nice-nice sin. 🙂

The Texas primary was tonight. Made for quite the excitement around here. It’s still not decided. One of my deciding factors: education.
In our efforts to “improve” education we’ve played games with two generations of students. The first generation we tested to death left school with an amazing ability to write persuasive essays and not a whole lot more.
Today’s generation can write you a narrative (not real, of course) like nobody’s business, but ask them to analyze something and write about it using evidence from the text or a movie, and you’re out of luck. For the most part, they can’t do it. Today, I called one of my freshmen who’s been driving me insane because he never formats his papers up to my desk, showed him his paper and asked, why won’t I grade this?
He looked at the paper, looked at me, and I could see him struggling to find the answer. It was a heartless question on my part, kind of like the time my Algebra teacher made me stand at the board until I got a question right when I had no idea what I was doing. In an attempt to help him out, I gave him the answer. “Where are your paragraphs?” And the blank look on his face shocked me.
He didn’t know what paragraphs were. Seriously.
I had to go to his computer and teach him how to enter so the next line would tab in. That last sentence I typed? Foreign language to him. I guess paragraphs aren’t on the test.
I have no problem with a basic skills test as long as we teach more. But I have a real problem with the majority of my students being unable to develop deep thought on paper, and I sure as heck have a problem with a kid not knowing what I mean by paragraph.