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August 2007
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October 2007

September 2007 entries

What is it all for?

I found myself listening to a couple of students today as they were recounting what they had to do this afternoon.  One has an after-school job until 9; one has a practice until 6 and then a meeting, and then she'd finally be home around 7 or 8.  This is the case for many students, and I have to ask, "What is it all for?" 

And, it goes without saying that all this causes me to examine my own life as well.  I am usually at school by 6:30 a.m., trying to stay one step ahead of the students in this, my first year of teaching.  After school, I head to the physical therapist for an hour and a half long session for my disc problem which was brought on by carrying around two adorable, yet hefty, bundles of joy.  Then, I rush either to their daycare center or home so that my husband can rush off to his graduate class or rehearsal.  And my children are only 2 and a half and 10 months.  What are we going to be like when they are teens?

I feel as though at some point, something is going to have to give.  We can't sustain this kind of life for much longer, at least not if we want to have some enjoyment in life.  And nothing is more important than our children, and I have to ask myself if our current schedule reflects that.  Sure, I can't help physical therapy, Mike can't help when the classes that he needs are offered.  But we can consciously pare down our activities as a family, and as a society. 

I often encounter children who are struggling academically, whose parents are either at work, or otherwise absent when the kids are at home.  These children do more than struggle academically: they struggle socially and they lack self-esteem.  Indeed, why shouldn't they?  The message is loud and clear: "I don't make time for you because you aren't important enough to me."

It is time that we ask ourselves if this is the message we want sent to our children. 

Jena 6

Journalist Wendy C. Thomas summarizes the Jena 6 story like this:

"The story of the Jena 6 began in September 2006, when black high school students sat under a school yard tree that had been effectively reserved for white students. The next day, three nooses hung from the branches. The incident was dismissed by school officials as a prank.

As you might imagine, racial tensions at the small-town school escalated.

In early December, a black student was beaten by white students at an off-campus party. One student in that attack was charged with a misdemeanor.

The next day at school, a group of black students attacked a white boy who had taunted them with racial slurs, supported the white students who hung the noose and backed the white students who had beaten the black boy at an off-campus party.

The black students were charged with felonies, even though the white boy's injuries were so minor that he went to a social event that same evening." (

The reactions to have been varied.  I, for one, am concerned that when a group of white students hang a noose on tree on school property, school officials dismiss it as a prank.  Putting food coloring in the school fountain is a prank.  Hanging a noose, a symbol of racism and violence, is not a prank.  It's clearly an act meant to incite anger.  The fact that the school officials brushed off the incident in the first place seems indicative of an underlying racial tension in the district, if not in the country as a whole.

As for the inequitable charging of the black students with felonies, it seems in line with the national trend of prisons mostly filled with black offenders.  One has to wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Do black people really commit more serious crimes or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy that whites expect to see blacks in trouble with the law?  Sure, there are many other factors that influence crime and afflict many blacks: poverty, drug abuse, and lack of gainful employment.  But it can't be denied that an "old boys network" still exists.  And it also cannot be denied that whatever the circumstances, the story of the Jena 6 has moved our country to re-examine our view of racism in the 21st century.

"Go Warriors!"

On Friday, Michael was with the Hughesville Spartan Band at their game at Loyalsock, and I took both kids to the Montoursville game.  Before we left, as I was getting Aidan and Gabrielle ready, I asked Aidan if he could say, "Go Warriors!"  and he replied, with a roll of the eye, "Mom, can you please stop it?" 

I cracked up laughing.  The kid is 2 and a half, going on 15.


As a general rule . . .

Don't send your child door-to-door, raising money for his/her school if the said child cannot articulate what on earth (s)he is fundraising for.

Last night, while Mike was at Bucknell, the kids and I were having dinner together. 

Cue doorbell.

Cue Duke barking his head off thinking he needs to "protect" us from an intruder.

Cue Gabrielle and Aidan screaming and crying because the doorbell startled them and because the dog is scaring them.

I go to the door and some well-meaning child is standing there, unable to spit out her own name.  She asked me for "a dollar or two [bark bark bark] for [bark woof] my school [woof growl WAHHHH!!]. 

I somehow managed to wrestle the dog into quasi-submission; I noticed the child's father standing on the sidewalk (a good distance from our front door) and I tried to tell the girl it wasn't a good time and good luck with her fundraising.

I closed the door, soothed the children, despite Duke's objection that the girl was still standing on the porch, waiting presumably for me.  Finally she got the hint and left.


In Memory of Michael's Uncle, Jerry Bowes

A year ago today, Michael's uncle Jerry succombed to cancer after an extremely valiant fight.  We miss you, Jerry.  Aidan still has his silly yellow boots you loved!

A poem by Christina Rosetti (1879)


Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Bonus Questions

First of all, as a teacher, I find the ever-present student request for "bonus" questions and "extra credit" to a bit absurd.  Here's a clue: if you can't manage to complete the regular assignments with reasonable success, why do you expect me to make up the difference?

When I wrote my first vocabulary quiz for my college-prep English students, I included a "bonus" question that was actually quite a challenge.  The kids were shocked, almost offended that it would be "so hard."  Ummm...isn't that what a bonus question should be?  Out of 3 classes, 3 students got it right.  That seems fair to me.

I also notice that they get a bit, um, shall we say apprehensive about testing.  On test day, I have a steady stream of students, stopping by as they are able, to see "what's on the test" (as if I haven't told them oh, about 100 times).

I just finished writing a vocabulary test, on which I included 3 bonus questions.  The first two were legit, vocab-related questions.  The third was:

"Just how much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?"

hee hee hee.  I can't wait until next week to see their faces when they get to that question . . .

"Girls are Mean"

The other day, one of my English classes was discussing a story that dealt with gender stereotypes.  For the sake of discussion and to bring to light the assumptions that my students held about the opposite sex, I divided the class into two groups: males and females. 

I asked them to generate a list of attributes and jobs for their own gender.

The guys easily grouped up and began talking to one another, listing all sorts of things from, "Guys can eat a Baconater" [author's note:  this is an incredibly large burger with lots of bacon sold by Wendy's] to "Guys need to take care of their families."

The girls, on the other hand, were reluctant to form a circle and instead were rather separated and not talking.  When I encouraged them to talk to one another, one girl exclaimed, "I don't like working with girls.  Girls are mean!"  Several other girls agreed, telling me that they really only liked one or maybe two close girl friends, and the rest of their friends are male.

This is by no means a new phenomenon.  Competition for male attention combined with superficial messages from the media have long pitted girls against each other, and the term that educators and psychologists use is relational aggression.  I asked the girls in my class what they thought about the fact that we seem to suspicious of other females.  I asked them if we really should be doing this to ourselves because in fact, girls understand other girls much better than guys understand girls (after all, there are entire books arguing that we are from different planets!).  They agreed that it wasn't good, that they should be able to be friends and not have to worry about it, but that girls were "catty" and they were the ones who "always start the drama."

Because my lesson focused on other things, I had to move on, but this is certainly a cultural issue that I will again address.  I was pleased to hear, though, when I asked the class to tell me the gender that came to mind when I said an occupation, that our youth don't seem to genderize jobs as much anymore.  I named jobs like doctor, lawyer, teacher, parent and was met with a chorus responding, "That could be either a man or a woman."   

Lessons Learned

This week has flown by!  I've learned several important things this week...the most noteworthy is that giving all 5 of one's English classes a test on the same day is a colossially bad idea if one wishes to have any semblence of a weekend.

But, alas!  Lesson learned, and tests graded.

Where has the weekend gone?

I admit it, I have been spoiled by 3 day weekends for the past 2 weeks.  Classes began on Tuesday the 28th, and then we had Labor Day off the following week.  Now it seems as though my first two-day weekend in a while has just flown by.

A couple of observations:

1. Group announcements should really be kept brief, especially if you have them written down for people to take home with them.

2. Sunday is a good day for leftovers.

3. Making a spreadsheet of your income and bills is just plain depressing.

4.  Being lazy and watching movies with Aidan on Sunday nights is fun!

5.  Umm...that's it really, I just thought there should be 5.

The "Sex" Article

Just an interesting observation . . .

I gave my senior English students an article entitled, "Modern Girls and the Modesty Movement."  It basically talks about this cultural phenomenon that is happening in America where young people assume that the rest of their friends are OK with casual sexual relationships (i.e. sans dating) so they go along with them, even though personally they are not OK with casual "hook ups."  The result is that young women who engage in sexual acts at earlier ages have high rates of depression, suidical thoughts/attempts, low self-image, etc. 

The author, Wendy Shalit, calls for a return to modesty, a rejection of the cultural "norm" of "hooking up."  She wrote a book called Girls Gone Mild.

We read the article on Friday, before a long weekend, before my "kids" went out into the world of the weekend and faced crucial decisions of their own.

They came back on Monday, asking if we were going to "talk about the sex article again."

While I'm happy that they even remembered a topic we covered 3 days prior, I found it interesting that they didn't ask to talk about the "modesty article."