Monthly Archives: January 2013

If you’ve ever felt judged because of the color of your skin, stand up

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

Friday culminated a week of first amendment lectures in my J1 class. The week introduced a new semester of students to the class (and to me). These kids have already touched my heart. Here’s one reason why:

We played the “If you’ve ever had brown hair,” etc. game in class Friday. You know,

If you’ve ever had brown hair, blue hair, purple hair, orange hair, brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes, been made fun of for your clothes…stand up.

We can’t play this right away. I’ve got to wait until late enough in the class that I’ve connected with the kids (five days this semester), but not so late that they know me too well. I’ve got to play along. I stepped forward for every one of the hair colors. That made them laugh and put them at ease.

On we went through about 15 or so “If you’ve evers” until we got to the zingers:

“If you’ve ever felt judged because of your gender, stand up.” And “if you’ve ever felt out of place because of the color of your skin, stand up.” And then, “if you’ve ever felt judged because of the color of your skin, stand up.” This is the most diverse J1 class I’ve ever had. Almost every kid in the room stood up. I think the kids were a little surprised I was going there with this lesson.

And then I said the words I started this blog with:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” and they said the words with me. I didn’t expect that, but it made for one of the most powerful moments in my teaching career. When we got to the whole 9-11, 2005 study showing 1 in 5 teens believed the first amendment gives too many freedoms, the kids in the class didn’t understand how that could possibly be.

Someone told me today shouldn’t be a holiday. I disagree. You see, I had a diverse classroom full of teenagers stand when I asked if they’d ever been judged because of the color of their skin. If the person who told me today shouldn’t be a holiday had seen the hurt in the eyes of the 14-17-yr-old children standing at the end of a game that isn’t a game at all, if they’d seen the simmering anger there in some of those eyes, they’d understand how very important this day is. Things might be better, but we’re not there yet.

Why I’m not anti-Obamacare even though I know it won’t solve all the problems

LoveToday’s my husband’s birthday. He’s 49. He’s rarely sick. He’s self-employed. He pays taxes. He makes a good living.

Several years ago the cost of adding him to my insurance quadrupled, so he got his own insurance, which he uses rarely. Over time that policy continued to escalate in price so he upped the deductible. It’s now $10,000, and he pays thousands of dollars a year for that coverage just in case. He rarely uses the insurance for anything other than a yearly physical. In fact, in over a decade, he’s used it three times, two of those last year.

Before he upped the deductible, he had a kidney stone. We thought he was having a heart attack and called an ambulance. We were young and didn’t know better. I think it was over a decade ago, but time gets fuzzy. That was the only time he used the insurance for anything other than a physical until last year’s kidney stone episode. We knew what the problem was and went to the ER on our own. The ER nurse was awesome, kind and helpful. We saw the doctor for all of 30 seconds. He told us my husband had a kidney stone and walked out. We paid over $2000 for that ER visit. Over $1000 for the 30 second doctor’s diagnosis. The trip to the urologist was cheaper.

He’s had a kidney stone since then, but he chose to self-medicate and get through it on his own instead of going to the doctor.

In the last year he’s developed reflux. Last night that reflux turned into something awful. I looked up the symptoms online and have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong. We’re going to try diet changes first. If that doesn’t work he’ll have to break down and go to the doctor. And that trip to the doctor will break us even though he has insurance. Insurance he pays an arm and a leg for. Ridiculously expensive insurance that is still cheaper than putting him on my state teacher insurance policy.

I realize Obamacare isn’t the answer, but it’s at least an attempt to fix a problem that exists with our current system.

Freedom Worth Fighting For

So I’m sitting in my classroom after school working on my lesson for tomorrow when all the sudden BAM! I’m nearly in tears, which would be totally uncool since we’re on deadline and I have a classroom of kids working right now.

All week in J-1 we’ve focused on the first amendment and we’ve looked at video clips and photos and discussed Hazelwood, Tinker, Bong Hits for Jesus. We’ve looked at Tiananmen Square and talked about student protests and communism and how horrible the massacre was and then we looked at the US and the Civil Rights protests and the kids are totally into it and so am I. These have been AWESOME days.

This class responds well to lecture with technology (NOT a POWERPOINT!), but clips to emphasize points or photos to start discussion. Tomorrow I’m going to tell them about the study released in 2005 that said:

“When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.”

And we’re going to talk about how many students believed at that time that the first amendment caused 9-11, which brings me to the BAM.

I planned on showing the Sept. 12, 2001 newspaper front pages while I lectured. I wanted the point to hit home. And then I wanted to let the screen go black and talk about the first amendment and the rights it protects once again. But when I loaded those pages onto Evernote, I suddenly found myself right back there in those days after the terrorists attacks.

I live in Wichita Falls, Texas. I didn’t know anyone personally hurt by the terrorists that day. But I watched the news non-stop from the time the planes hit the Towers. I’m a media teacher, and we had the news on already that day. I slept with the news on, waiting, hoping, praying for some kind of miracle, and then praying for peace for those directly impacted and praying for internal peace to move past the anger and hatred toward those who committed the atrocities. All the while the news played in the background until we finally couldn’t watch any more. I didn’t realize what I’d done until a few months later when I found myself waking up sure my daughter was dead. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d get up and go check on her to make sure she was okay even though I knew my fear was ridiculous. After a few weeks of that I broke down and told my doctor what was going on. I was so embarrassed! She told me she believed I’d given myself a form of PTSD from watching the news too much after the attacks. I took the medicine she prescribed for about six months then weened myself off. I haven’t had a problem since, really.

I don’t watch the 9-11 specials. I feel guilty about that in a way, but I can’t. I went to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because I didn’t realize it was a 9-11 movie. I almost walked out when the answering machine message played the first time. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s definitely one of those movies everyone should see at least once. I was shaky for a day after the movie, but I never went back to that dark place from 2001.

Today though, when I scrolled through those Sept. 12 pages, one after another after another, I had to turn off the iPad, move away from my presentation and sit here and write and pray and tell myself to focus on the good instead. On the light. On the resiliency of people. On the power of the first amendment and why people have been willing to die for it over the centuries and why people have been willing to die to TRY to get something close and why it’s essential I teach it in my classes every day. Because in 2005 1 in 3 students thought the first amendment gave too many freedoms and I think sometimes that number’s gone up and that’s scary, so scary, so absolutely terrifying because if we let that thought process continue without fighting it, the terrorists won that day.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow for the visual during the lecture. Maybe now that I’ve written this all out, I’ll be okay showing the front pages. Maybe I’ll use a still image. Maybe I’ll plug in my iPad and let the class watch while I talk with my back to the wall. Whatever I decide, I know what every student will have in their hands. It’s that piece of paper I handed out the first day of class. And on that paper are the words that matter most:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”

This whole story hurts my heart. I’ve had so many Aaron Swartz type students in my classes over the years.

The world lost a light.

The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”.

Hey Moms, Don’t Trust The Squeaky Clean Facebook Wall AKA Cashing in My Cool Card

Interesting conversations about social media at school this week. Several of the students said they no longer get on their Facebook pages. WEIRD, right?!?! I can’t imagine life without Grumpy Cat!

They said it’s because their moms are all on Facebook now. Ohhhhhhhhh.

Instead they spend their time on twitter and tumblr, places their mothers don’t understand. There was another place, too. Can’t believe I didn’t write it down. The conversation Wednesday in third period ended with one of the girls telling another not to “blast her business.” The class had to explain to me what that meant. They got a kick out of that.
So here’s my public service announcement for moms: if you’re not worried about your kids’ digital lives (learned that term this week too thanks to fellow teacher Scotty Coppage) because of their squeaky clean Facebook walls, don’t believe it for a minute. Their digital lives are WAY bigger than ours. But don’t freak out too much. They said their number one reason for leaving Facebook was all the drama. The next reason: all of us. They said twitter drama is even worse, but it’s different. I think some of them are using tumblr like their moms use Facebook.

These kids are digital natives. They embrace technology and toss it like two-year-old magazines on a regular basis. Most of us moms are digital newbies, even though we’ve been using social media almost as long as our kids if not longer. Some of us are just as addicted to social media as our kids if not more so. Social media can be awesome and wonderful. It can also be destructive, and not just for our kids. We owe it to them to be aware.

Yeah, I just cashed in my cool teacher card by “blasting their business.” I’m okay with that. 🙂

 

I Refused to Miss School Today No Matter What. Here’s Why

Best class ever. Here’s why:

  1. Prerequisite: 1st Amendment understanding

Nuclear war left world devastated. Group left makes up Goodist society where the world is always Good. No violence. No poverty. No divorce. Supressive rules: censored music, censored education. Goodist Judges who speak for the people and serve for life once elected. No marriage until 25, but must live with parents until then and train for a true career so when they turn 25, they can have a good life, therefore no money problems, which is a leading cause of divorce. No open religious beliefs since religion is a huge cause of conflict; however, personal beliefs in your own home are perfectly fine. Those who don’t follow the rules or don’t want to try are sent to the nuclear wasteland. Outcasts must sit alone. The Goodists don’t let the Outcasts form a community at the beginning of the game for fear the Outcasts would try to overthrow them and their bubble. Point of project: convince those undecided to join a side. Outcasts also trying to convince Goodists to become Outcast. Goodists trying to convince undecides to join them, but they will not allow those Outcast to join them. (AT NO TIME IN THE SESSION CAN THE MODERATOR interfere with how this plays out. You MUST be like Jeff Probst. You can ask questions, but you can’t make things happen. )

THIS SESSION (end of 2012 semester Jan. 9-11)

1.  Most of class is Goodist. 3 judges chosen, they sit in front and face forward. Only judges speak for Goodists unless a judge sees a silent Goodist with their hand raised requesting the opportunity to speak.  One Outcast. About 10 undecided.

2. An absentee joins Outcasts. 2 against rest of class.

3. Debate begins by undecideds questioning the Goodists judges or the Outcasts. Only judges speak for the Goodists unless a judge calls on a Goodist society member. At any time, the Goodist judges can call for a 60-second Goodist discussion before answering a question. When that happens Goodists meet, discuss and come up with an answer, then judge responds. Outcasts can not talk to each other at all at first. They are solitary.

4. After twenty minutes of debate a Goodist who’s been reprimanded for speaking without judges’ consent three times is kicked out of Goodist community. Goodists cheer. These judges are great at letting their people talk, so they are liked.

5. Goodist judge and undercover operative of Outcasts operating as undecided gets in kerfuffle with Goodist judge over whether a Goodist teenager committing a crime would be Outcast. She says if that’s her child she will be leave with him. Half of Goodists leave. Undecided explains she’s really Outcast.

6. The original Outcast asks Goodist judges if he can have his own group and sign a peace treaty. Goodist judges agree. EVERY Outcast joins with original in new group even though he’s not given them the laws of his new society. End of Day 1

Day 2. Moderator starts by reminding groups where we were at end of day 1 and telling Outcasts we’re going to give them a chance to change their minds about the new society since they all joined without having a clue as to what they were joining. She tells original Outcast to take two minutes to come up with the laws of his society.  (AGAIN, moderator must let student draw his own conclusions. Do Not Get Involved)

7. Moderator takes the eight remaining Goodists to the hall to come up with treaty points while Outcast leader explains new law. Five minutes later Goodists come in to discover three girls left Outcasts and are solitary. Before the new leader speaks his group other than about five on the outside huddle and do a “Go Team!” chant then “1-2-3 break hand clap thing.”) New Outcasts are caller Murica and they are based on the USA and first amendment. One of remaining two undecideds joins Murica society. No one else changes sides.

8. Now President of Murica, his vice president and the three Goodists judges meet to go over peace accord. While they are signing the treaty, one of the three solitary Outcasts asks permission to speak to Murica President and Goodist judges. She requests that the three solitary outcasts be allowed to join together. President says yes. Judges say only if the three girls are willing to move far away so they won’t be a threat to the Goodists or the new Murica society.

9. Treaty signed, but before that one of the Goodist judges tells new president she thinks the three girls really want to assassinate him and take over Murica. President asks judges if he could please have armed  secret service agents to protect him. Judges say yes. Three Murica citizens are chosen to serve as new president’s protection. President tells one agent to go kill as many of the new group as possible; however, while the treaty was in the process of being signed, 1 of the girls in the new unnamed group was silently going to the outer areas of Murica and asking individuals to join her group.1st one she asks is the undercover Outcast who posed as an undecided. The group tells her if she doesn’t join them, they’ll “kill” her instead of letting her return to her group. (At this point they call me over and ask if that would be permissible. I decide yes and tell girl if that’s the case, she will need to sit next to the wall and not say anything. Since her leader and the judges are signing peace accords, no one really notices this conversation taking place. At this time new group also tells me they’re really a violent group set on overthrowing the Goodists because they want the bubble of non-nuclear wasteland world the Goodists have created. They just want to make sure that’s okay. It is. It’s THEIR game.) Girl chooses to join new group. New group sends girl over to Murica to start recruiting for their society.  Every individual who wasn’t part of the original huddle does so. The ones in the huddle do not. (interesting.) The girl originally recruited was actually one of the huddle leaders. (also interesting.) The new people in the group sit a little apart from the original third group except two people. One: the original recruit who chose not to die and a best friend of one of the girls.

10. While peace treaty being signed Goodists left at home sit silently watching and listening. They’ve never been given a voice, so they don’t try to use it now. Muricans from huddle keep talking to each other about what they want to make Murica and throwing out comments they hope President can hear. Three secret service agents pretend to have guns and keep pointing them at new group, but they say nothing about how some of their people are moving over there. Suddenly as the President and judges are signing the treaty, one of the new recruits (best friend) runs across the room and assassinates the most vocal of the Goodist judges.

11. CHAOS ensues. Kids are loud and confused and the everyone backs away from the judge except the other judges. The judge says “You can’t do that” then looks at me for confirmation.
Game over and we go back to a circle to discuss what’s happened over the course of the last two days and how the same thing happens all over the world. We discuss Utopias, WW2, 1984, The Hunger Games, dystopian literature in general. Tomorrow we’ll break it down even further and talk about WHY THIS MATTERS.

Every year this exercise AMAZES me. I’m stunned by how it plays out. It’s an RPG, so the students have to control the outcome. If the adviser tries to, it destroy the learning outcome. Don’t do it. Let the first amendment work. It will.

You do have to facilitate. Since it’s a debate and an RPG. You have to be in control of the classroom at all times. You can’t be too strict because you have to let things happen. Make sure the debate goes on for at least a day so you have plenty of discussion points. If for some reason the debate stalls say you’re taking off your moderator hat and become an undecided and ask questions that will lead to conflicted answers. If you empower the students, they will start taking part in the discussion. In all the years I’ve done this (almost two decades) only two classes ever didn’t make this work. One year every kid in the class went to the Outcast side.  (AWESOME year, by the way.) When that happened I let them lead the discussion on why. It turned into point/counter point. The usual second and third days were spent studying first amendment cases and high school students and how they affected kids in my school district.  The second year it didn’t work, I messed up. I did it at the end of my first set of first amendment lessons, so about three weeks into the semester. The students didn’t have enough confidence in their voice in my classroom yet, so they were afraid to debate each other and afraid to question me if I threw out those “devil’s advocate” type scenarios. Wait to do this until the end of the third six weeks and it should be fun.

I loved this week. Once again, the first amendment wins and once again my students leave the classroom with a lesson they’ll never forget.

It’s kind of like tricking them into working HARD without them realizing it. 🙂 Sneaky teacher. Yeah, that’s me.

*This lesson started as a lesson from the Freedom of Information in Texas organization. It was a freedom of religion exercise about the Church of Goodism. The kids never got into it like that, so I changed it. Turning it into a dystopia and making the religious element one of several points makes this a lot of fun.

I’m so, I’m so, I’m so scared! Teacher Fear’s Good for the Soul

I never planned on being a video teacher. I’m a print girl. I think I must’ve been born a print girl. I love the scent of newsprint. I kind of miss the days of lightboards and cut and paste and giant layout sheets and headline counts. The smell of the newsroom with a press is second only to the scent of a library.  Video: Not so much.

I mean I understand photo composition. I understand the art of story. I don’t understand video. But I know that’s the direction media is moving. Print alone no longer works. We live in the age of convergence.

For three years I’ve cheated as a video teacher. I’ve learned editing, and I’ve helped kids learn how to create a project with a beginning, middle and end that doesn’t violate copyright. BUT if you asked me the “rules” of broadcast, I couldn’t tell you. Thanks to JEA National conference and Don Goble, the Ladue Horton Watkins High School teacher, that’s changing.

I’m kind of terrified.

I told the kids we’re going to learn together. Back when I started teaching this wasn’t a problem. I learned newspaper and yearbook with my kids, and honestly, I still do. Shoot, my first yearbook editors taught me everything because I knew nothing. I don’t know why it’s so scary this time. Maybe because words are my forte, so yearbook and newspaper fit my image of me.

So, yeah, I’m going to learn with the kids. And we’re going to share every step of the way. Our first lesson: A 30 second intro to Room 247. The focus is on wide, medium and tight shots, lighting, backgrounds and actions and reactions. Most students are using the trailer feature of iMovie. We’re sharing our work Thursday and Friday. We’re sharing. As in I’m sharing mine too. THAT’s what scares me. Usually when I share my work, I know it’s solid. Often the kids can make it better, but as a whole it’s good. THIS is different. When we talk about what they like and what they don’t like and what could be better and suggest how to make it so, I’m not the one with the answers. I’ll be finding the answers right along with them.

I’ve never been the “sage on the stage” kind of teacher. I believe strongly that if we’re teachers we should also be students. Good thing.:)

Mrs. Lee’s A/V Pro class, room 247. This is going to be fun. #

Extra Credit to anyone who knows where the title of this blog came from. #

Rape Culture

If a girl says no to sexual advances, it’s rape. If the girl can’t say no because she’s passed out, it’s still rape.

In case you missed it, on Jan. 1 Anonymous forced the hands of authorities who tried to minimize the crime that took place when a teenager was raped at a party this summer in Ohio.

New York Times reporters Juliet Macur and Nate Schweber had already posted  a solid story on the case that ran Dec. 17. Then after the Anonymous leaks the story broke nation-wide.

Spend some time looking at the comments following the initial CNN story, and you’ll know why I started my blog the way I did.

Today’s follow up concerns me more than anything else, I think.  From today’s story:

“On Thursday, the police chief who initially investigated the case before the Jefferson County prosecutor asked state officials to step in said he’s puzzled why no one intervened in the alleged assault.

“Why didn’t somebody stop it?” Steubenville police Chief William McCafferty said. “You simply don’t do that. … It’s not done.”

Someone might need to tell the police chief it IS done. ALL the time. And maybe it’s done all the time because most of the time the girls don’t go to the police. Maybe they don’t go to the police because instead of championing them, instead of saying we’re going to tell the truth about rape every day until people finally understand if they say no it’s rape, and if they’re drunk and can’t say no it’s still rape, we get this from the AG prosecuting:

“My heart goes out to the victim,” DeWine said. “The victim continues to be victimized every time something shows up on the Internet. There’s nothing I can do about that, but it is very, very sad.”

Newsflash: If something hadn’t shown up on the Internet, nothing would have happened. At least that’s the way it looks in the NYT story.

My heart goes out to the rape survivor, too. I hope she sees justice in a system that has a hard time dealing with acquaintance rape.

Here’s the deal. People go to parties. People drink. They shouldn’t have to worry that their “friends” are going to rape them because they’re drunk.

Here’s another deal: People, even teenagers, have the right to hook up…even if it’s casual. And that past sexual history should have no bearing on a case where they were raped.

I don’t know the facts about the Ohio case. I know I’ve seen this same thing play out over and over and over and every time people blame the girl and try to minimize the crime by saying she shouldn’t have…

When I was a freshman in college a police officer told us if a girl says no to sexual advances, it’s rape. If the girl can’t say no because she’s passed out, it’s still rape. At the time I wondered why on earth they had to tell us something so obvious. I wonder why we STILL have to say it.

***I’m not going to comment on Anonymous. That’s a whole different blog post.

 

 

Countdown

I’ve loved this year at school, but this break has been amazing. I’ve slept in, cleaned closets, found photos that made me laugh (on my Facebook if you want to see). I’ve spent time with family, lost Phase 10, eaten too much low carb food and created a “lowish” carb almond butter mousse to die for that’s now reserved for holidays only (recipe at end of post). I’ve spent hours with Emmie on my lap, survived another blizzard, and I’ve shared a million and twelve funny memes on Facebook, the best of which remains Grumpy Cat Star Wars. I’ve written (not enough) and read and read and read. I caught up to the end of the GRR Martin Game of Thrones series (SOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!), I finished Peggy Browning’s Fifty Odd book (SOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!), read Ally Carter’s Uncommon Criminals (Sooooooooooo Good!!!!!!!) and started the latest Dresden, which so far is….Soooooo good!!!

See a theme? That’s been this break. Sooooo Good.

###

Recipe for Deadly “Lowish Carb” Almond Mousse

1.5 cups heavy whipping cream, splenda (I used four packets), a little vanilla: Whip it up

In a separate bowl combine 1 box cream cheese, 1/4 C almond butter (or more), sugar free chocolate syrup..just a little–maybe 2 TBSP, half that amount of sugar free carmel syrup.

TASTE that mix and see if it’s yummy. If it needs a little more sweet, add some splenda, one packet at a time. It doesn’t need to be super sweet because it’s rich, rich, rich.

 

Once it’s perfect, fold in the whipping cream you’ve already whipped up.

Top with dollop of whipped cream and a tiny bit of sugar free chocolate syrup.

OMG soooooooo good and sooooooooo bad.

Emmie Afghan

Even the Acknowledgments Made Me Laugh

by Peggy Browning

by Peggy Browning

I’m a follower of Peggy Browning’s Fifty Odd blog, so buying the book was an easy decision. I knew I’d laugh. I knew Browning would make me think and make me thankful for what I have. I had no idea I’d experience the full spectrum of emotions as I read. I took my time with the book, savoring each chapter like a weekly treat. It’s a collection of columns much like Sharon Randall writes, so Fifty Odd lends itself to leisurely reading; however, the deeper I got into the book, the more I found myself wanting to know more. Those weekly treats weren’t enough. I ended up reading the last half of the book in two days. Browning shares so many truths in this story. From love to loss to body image to motherhood to grandmotherhood to bucket lists, Browning delivers vignettes that touch the heart. It’s definitely a collection I’ll return to again and again. When you get to the end of the book, don’t forget to read the acknowledgments. Don’t read them first! Get through the book so you understand. When you close the book you’ll smile to yourself and you’ll cheer for Browning who chose the road less traveled.

I highly recommend this book, especially for women. In fact, I think I’ll buy another few copies for gifts.

Fifty Odd: Viewing Life After 50 Through Rose-Colored Bifocals by Peggy Browning available on Amazon.