Monthly Archives: February 2011

UIL practice…

and we got stomped. Been awhile since we’ve been there. On the bright side, the kids were AWESOME!
Looking forward to the next practice. 🙂

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An Open Letter to the Texas State Legislature

Dear Texas State Legislators,
Thank you so much for your concern for public school education. A few years ago, I applauded you for your determined decision to require students to take 4 years of math. At that time, you wanted the final math to be Calculus or better. I asked then how many of you had passed a Calculus or better class in high school. You didn’t respond.
A few years ago I sat in a meeting with other teachers extolling the virtues of TAKS, a test we wouldn’t “just be teaching.” But you somehow proved me wrong. Thanks so much! The same testing companies that drove education budgets in the TAAS era, drive the education budget for TAKS, and soon-to-be STARR. They say the test is essential for real education to take place in the classroom. I guess they’ve said it often enough that it’s fact…even though there’s no data to support that claim. Data? What’s that matter anyway? Sure, we have passing rates on the test. But what exactly is that measured against? I’m not sure drop-out rate qualifies since dropping out lands a student in jail today. College profs say students are less prepared for college than ever (but they’re just gripy). My students can’t spell (it’s secondary on the test, so that’s okay), write in cursive (it’s not on the test, waste of time), have no clue how to write a five paragraph paper (not on the test, who cares?!), look at me with blank faces when I say defend your position with evidence from the work (evidence? what’s that? can’t we just make it all up like we do on the test?). They can write a narrative essay…sort of. They have “voice”…sort of, but they have few technical skills. What they CAN do: ace the test. Great self-esteem booster. It’s going to make a world of difference!
And thanks for developing such a strong relationship between Texas and testing companies. Maybe when teachers get laid off in a couple months, they’ll know where to seek employment! That is AWESOME!
It’s so great that you and the governor have explained that you’re not dipping into the rainy day fund. You’re right. This multi-billion dollar deficit isn’t an emergency. Teachers just need to suck it up. More kids in the classroom? No big deal. Pay cuts? Shoot, we get paid too much already! (Teachers are just whiny. I know. After all, we get summers off, what more do we want?) Besides, I know you’re all so busy with that whole guns on college campuses thing. You are so right. I loved the movie Tombstone. More gun battles are just what we need to keep things interesting. Especially with that whole Mexican drug cartel thing going on. (scratch that. I forgot. It doesn’t matter because that’s Mexico and has nothing to do with us.)
I just wanted to touch base and say thanks so much. You are doing the best you can. Oh, if you see the governor, tell him his hair is looking good. It probably won’t move when he’s out in the March wind when all those teachers show up in Austin March 12. But that’s okay. We won’t make fun of him for that. We’re not that petty. Plus, unlike that state trooper a few years ago, we know who he is.
Sincerely,

(This is a satire. It’s something my students rarely understand these days. They used to. But it’s not on the test.)

Bad Weeks Happen

I am so thankful this week is over and I sure hope next week is better!
It will be because I’m going to wake up every morning and give thanks for the good things, of which there are many.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the teacher who’s on paid administrative leave for her blog where she called students whiny and more. Her name wasn’t on the blog and she didn’t name any students. If the blog was personal, I’m afraid for teachers everywhere. If it was a school blog, shame on her. I don’t know which the case is. If she was blogging on duty, what they heck? How did she have time?!
The thing is, kids are whiny.
But adults are, too. Trust me on this one. I’m a huge whiner at times.
And kids are irresponsible.
But adults are, too. Again, trust me on this one. I can give you examples of my irresponsibility time and again, but I’m not doing it here in a public forum.
The list goes on and on.
KIds have changed. Either that or I’ve gotten older and become the dinosaur talking about “back in the day…”
But expectations on kids have changed.
My students for the most part are over-extended. They do too much. They’re in too many APs. They’re constantly focused on tests and passing them instead of real learning. They have TONS of opinions, but they often can’t defend those positions because they don’t know how. (It’s not on the test, so they don’t know.) Or they do know how because it’s part of the junior AP English test.
Then there’s the whole tech revolution. These kids are constantly plugged in. They don’t know the meaning of true peace and quiet and meditation and aloneness.
If I had been expected to perform on tests, take 4 or more APs, take all the credits needed to graduate, work, and stay in contact with my friends-boyfriend-mom-dad-grandma-aunt susie-teachers-college advisor-scholarship committee, I’m not sure HOW I would’ve done it.
I have a Master’s Degree in English. I loved college. I’d go back now if I could afford classes. But I’m not sure I would’ve survived freshman year without burnout if I were a teenager in today’s schools. That said, I was a solid student but I was NOT a top performer in any subject other than newspaper and writing. I know there are a few top performers in every class, and those kids can do EVERYTHING great. I’ve had those kids in my classes, too, and I love them. But they’re not the norm.
I was a big proponent of TAKS. I loved that it was supposed to be a tougher test that couldn’t be taught. Dumb me. Of course, it could be taught. The testing companies have to sell the test prep materials. I still think TAKS could be a good tool (EOCs too) if used correctly. Use the data. Kids don’t pass? FInd out why. Monitor and adjust constantly, and hold teachers accountable if they have multiple low performing years with kids who should have passed. By hold them accountable, I mean spot checks, portfolios, oversight. That last idea isn’t a big hit with teachers, I know. But we shouldn’t be able to close our doors, do our own thing and only worry about one or two times a year an admin visits to do evaluations. If teachers have great results year after year with students, get them out there teaching the new teachers how to get those results. There’s a teacher I know who gets 100% of her students who actually come to school where they need to be to pass the test even though they’re projected to fail. She’s had those results with these kids since I’ve known her (over 16 years). She should be teaching all of us how to reach at-risk kids.

It’s been a bad week, and I’m glad it’s over. But I still love my job, even the parts that drive me crazy. Today, I shot the Polar Plunge. My school’s Student Council raised around $900 for Special Olympics with a Polar Plunge fundraiser. Students and teachers voted for the faculty they wanted to jump in the pool and the student council had a student team as well. The people in the running and the student team volunteered for this when it was 3 degrees outside. That’s something special. (Crazy! But amazing at the same time.) One of our assistant principals won best costume. It’s times like this that make the bad weeks okay.

http://www.schooltube.com/embed/c7cbf9509d6cef008b05

Bad Week

I hate bad weeks, and this was one of the worst since I was a relatively new teacher barely older than my students.
On the bright side, by the end of the horrible work week, I found myself focused on the positive: the kids working after school, the newbies taking on big challenges because the work wasn’t getting done, the way the editors work together, the look of the book, the people I work with. Life is good. And the job sucks sometimes, but it’s the job. Something I do and usually love that enhances life NOT life itself.
Nice reminder. It was needed.

Meeting Goals

I’m loving the new book. And hating it at the same time. It’s been TOUGH, but writing is taking place on a daily basis in the Lee household and that is GOOD NEWS! The new book is about forgiveness, redemption and letting go of the past. It’s targeted to Love Inspired. I hope to have a proposal ready to go within two weeks. I’ll actually have the first three chapters totally done before the end of this week. I hope to have the synopsis completely done by Sunday. Then I’ll let the proposal sit a week while I continue writing. Then I’ll go through the proposal one more time. Goal: to have the proposal on the way to LI editors by Feb. 28.
What changed: A lot. The budget crisis certainly lit a fire under me. I also realized that when DD graduated, something in me switched off. For almost three years, I’ve been treading water in life. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In that time, my relationship with God has really blossomed. And DH and I are truly best friends. I’ve learned a lot about me. It’s been a “growing up” time again. Kind of like that time between 25 and 30 was for me.
It’s kind of weird to look back on a clump of years and realize how I sunk into this deep funk.
Menopause certainly didn’t help, I’m sure. The ankle compounded things probably.
You know, God uses these times though. If I hadn’t been in this time of “treading water” I don’t know if we would have gotten involved in the college ministry at church. I think that’s been more of a blessing to us than anyone!
When I went to RRRW this month, I was ready to fully recommit to writing. I’ve been writing again for a while now, but there’s a difference between actively writing and writing. If you’re a writer, you understand that statement.
I’ve committed to writing 1 page every day this week. At RRRW we call this a WWG (weekly writing goal), and we check in to hold each other accountable. It’s been a long time, but I’m glad to have that. I’m writing one single spaced page a day. Yesterday’s page was crap, crap, crap, crap. Today’s was better. The revisions were awesome. (hopefully I still feel that way in a couple weeks!)
That’s the nature of writing, I suppose. Some days are good, others not so much, but even in the not so much, there’s something to learn. I’m glad for that.

Back from TCEA conference. If you’re a teacher and you haven’t been, you are missing out. GO!
One of the best workshops I went to was Book Trailers For All. A librarian encourages other librarians and teachers to make book trailers to get students interested in reading. AMAZING stuff, and all done within copyright rules. She has the trailers separated by grade level, and LOTS of students are making their own trailers, too. Loved it. Here was my favorite:
https://www.4shared.com/embed/228516142/48bfe84c

We interrupt this space for a very important message…aka out to eat without wifi = OMG!

So we stopped on the way to Austin at this gorgeous healthy looking restaurant called Panera Bread. Forgive me, I’m new (re-new?) to WW, so for some reason my brain blocked out the word BREAD in the name, maybe because the scent of baked carboliciousness caused a momentary coma.
I scoured the menu and patted myself on my back for the choice of a mediterranean vegetable sandwich and an iced green tea with an apple for the side. (Because apples are power foods or zero point foods or something. I’m still learning the lingo. And I didn’t have wifi. And the sandwich had the word Mediterranean in it. And it was vegetarian. )
After I ordered, I remembered to get the nutritional info. 
Thunk. (that was me. DYING!)
But just for a second because it was no big deal, right? I’d eat half the sandwich and life would be good.
Wrong.
Meal arrives. Fake healthy sandwich mocks me. Green tea…is sugared. So no green tea. Substitute with water. 
Half the sandwich in I was still hungry, so I kept eating because God in heaven knows I did not want to get too hungry on the road down and end up stopping at a convenience store for a Little Debbie Smorgasbord.
I didn’t eat the crust because it was COVERED IN SUGARY GOODNESS. (Stupid healthy looking restaurant Panera Bread. You are Satan. Or CarboliciousOMG. I can’t decide.) 
That was lunch. When we left I felt a little like Wonder Woman. I mean, I gave up sugared tea and bread crust covered in sugary goodness. I was awesome. I was a rock star.  I got to where I could look up the points on the sandwich. 
Thunk. (see early thunk. same thing)
15. OMG
I’m a slow learner, though. Instead of planning dinner, I went out without wifi again. Ended up at PF Changs. 
Asked the waiter for suggestions for healthy food. Got Almond Chicken. And brown steamed rice. Ate about 2/3s of it.
It was scrumptious. And healthy. I thought.
When I looked up the points I felt like Wonder Woman again. Until I saw the servings for those nutrition facts. 
THREE!
That should be illegal. No way should they be able to publish nutritional facts on 1 plate of food and call it three servings. The WW police should be all over that one.

Lessons learned: 
Plan! 
Ask for nutritional info before eating. 
Slow down. Panera Bread actually had two healthy choices on their menu, but I didn’t see them until I was leaving. PF Changs, well, I wasn’t getting out of there without an MPM (Major Point Moment).

On the bright side, I have plenty of WPs left and I’m going to earn some APs in a few minutes.
AND
I looked it up. I know exactly what I’ve eaten, how it counts and how it’s going to work into my week now. I’m not full, I’m satisfied.
And I have an apple in my purse for tomorrow. 🙂

Picture today: DH and me in Vegas the winter after I shattered my ankle. I was so afraid to make the trip because I’d just stopped using my cane. (3 years ago).

cross-posted

ANOTHER weather post

It was supposed to snow today. It was supposed to ice over night. Instead it’s a balmy 44 outside and we have a nice little rain. That’s the North Texas weather I know and love. Fool the weathermen. It’s what we do. 🙂

I won’t be watching the Super Bowl. I’ll try to catch some of the commercials.
I used to love NFL. I was a huge Cowboys fan. My love all things Dallas Cowboys was shaken when Jerry Jones (Satan) fired Tom Landry and then let reporters give him the news. Jerk. But I hung on to my fan status.
Until Michael Irvin got caught with a stripper and cocaine and told the girl it might ruin her life, but he was Michael Irvin. The first touchdown he made everything would be forgiven. He was right. No one cared that he was a jerk punk thug child-man paid to play football thumbing his nose at the law.
I fell out of love with the Cowboys. And slowly lost interest in all things NFL. I know it’s wrong to color an entire sports league with the actions of a few, but it seriously annoys me when these over-paid entertainers hurt people and then are welcomed back with open arms because they can catch a ball, run faster than others, throw a ball or tackle like nobody’s business. The few destroyed my love of the game.
On the bright side, I (re)joined WW yesterday and I won’t have to struggle through party foods. 🙂

SnowZilla

This is one of those weather posts. It goes on and on.
First, let me just say: I. Was. Wrong. (see last post for what I’m talking about)

I was calling the event that devoured the last week Snowpocalypse2011 but a friend told me there’s no way it was snowpocalypse. They lived through one of those last year.
So in the Lee household we changed the name to SnowZilla.
It started with ice. Several inches of the nasty stuff. It fell from the sky a full two hours before predicted then changed to snow. The 40 mph winds hurled the nasty stuff around the house building all sorts of drifts the likes of which I haven’t seen since a childhood in Minnesota.
And then the temps plummeted. Single digits for three days. And rolling blackouts because it was so cold it affected the flow of gas…I don’t understand the science behind that, but I know people who were affected said it got ccccoooollllllddddd in their houses when the power was out for 45 minutes.
We knew school would be out for two days, but the ice wouldn’t melt. It just stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
I tried to use my school key on the house Thursday. It didn’t work. School was still out.
We ended up out of school four days, missed a UIL tournament.
We got the joy of taking DD to her job all but the first day. The car ice skated through the streets. Luckily, we survived. I say luckily because of the numbers of people flying down the roads in their 4-wheel drive SUVs. Ya know, when they were spinning, it didn’t matter that their vehicles had 4-wheel drive. Grrrr.
The Focus with its traction control did okay. The snow plows (I think there were two) made it to town Thursday night at 7ish. We saw them pulling into TX-DOT. And they got to work right away. (Rumor has it most of the plows were in Dallas getting the SnowZilla’d roads down there ready for the Super Bowl. I guess I understand. People are saying they’ll never bring the Super Bowl back to DFW because of the nasty weather. Whatever. I’ve always known Jerry Jones was Satan. I bet SnowZilla was his monster.)
Finally today we got the melt. Temps topped 50. It felt like summer out there. The roads are finally starting to look decent (Other than the SnowZilla sized potholes!). DH and I took a walk around the neighborhood. It was…awesome.
And now
More snow’s expected tomorrow morning. (noooooooooooo!)
People keep saying “where’s global warming?” on their FB statuses. It’s not called global warming anymore. It’s climate change. And I have no idea if we’re responsible or if weather patterns change and that’s why the dinosaurs died and the Mayans understood all this when they said 2012 was The End for mankind. I don’t really care. But I know climate change feels pretty real in Wichita Falls, Texas this week. And if at all possible, Universe, I’d like my old climate back.

I’ll post photos tomorrow.