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August 2009 entries

"Care for a spot of tea?" -- I think I'll pass

In Sunday's (8/30) edition of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, next to an article highlighting the international, community-building event of the Little League World Series, a headline reads, "2,800 come for tea".  On Saturday, the "Williamsport Tea Party" was held at Brandon Park to urge people "to take back their country from leaders who are 'taking them down the wrong path'".  Bob Basso, former NBC news director and actor, dressed as Thomas Paine and addressed the crowd in character.  The Sun-Gazette reports him as saying "it's time to renounce political correctness, embrace English as the nation's official language, and for everyone to put aside ethnicities and identify as Americans."

Yep, that's what it says.  I hope I'm not the only person shaking my head in dismay right about now.  

Political Correctness -- yes, really, what do we need it for?  I mean, we don't need gender inclusive language which respectfully acknowledges over 50 percent of our population.  While we're at it, we ought to bring back some of the good ol' racial slurs that have fallen by the wayside.

English as Official Language-- you are probably thinking that as a teacher of English, I would defend this stoutheartedly.  Indeed, English should be our official language.  What bothers me is the assumption that comes along with this statement, the assumption that because English is our official language, we should allow no other languages to be preserved or spoken.  We've all but eradicated Native American language--  our practice of taming the "savages" and placing Native children in boarding schools prevented languages from being passed on to new generations.  Why not do this with Spanish, too?   And we should probably make Dora the Explorer illegal.  Why do our nation's children need to be learning a second language?  If we hold strong, English could be Earth's official language.   

Put Aside Ethnicities and Identify as Americans:  I certainly hope the Catholics in attendance at these Tea Parties are listening closely -- after all, we pledge an allegiance to Rome.  "Ethnic" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background."  Please read that again.  So, according to Basso's assertion, we can no longer identify as Christians, Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindi, Whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, the list goes on and on.  It's only Americans from here on out.  If we remove our rich heritage and ignore our cultural past, what on earth does "American" even mean?

Following in that stead, I propose that we ban all Irish shamrocks, Italian horns, English muffins, French Fries, Chinese food, sushi, Greek gyros, Guinness, Vodka, bratwurst, and I think that my neighbor who has the audacity to fly the Canadian flag under the American flag in his yard should be arrested.

Basso also claimed that "all politicians on Capitol Hill are the problem."  If my AP students wrote that in an essay, I would circle it and remind them not to make sweeping generalizations.  ALL politicians are the problem?  As Lot would ask, "Is there not one righteous?  Not even one?" 

I am pleased to see people moved to action and assembly.  We should exercise our rights.  I have to question assertions that the "Tea Party" has no political party agenda, and I have to wonder why no persons of color are in the nine pictures in the paper.  The voice of the American people does deserve to be heard -- provided it respects logos and does not intentionally marginalize the very ideals upon which America was built. 

The Birthday Fairy

decorated my classroom last night.  OH wait!  That was just my friend Miss Hopkins!  She made me an awesome cake and gave me three really cool books that I can't wait to read, in addition to some other gifts.  Soooo thoughtful.



Aidan didn't understand why we weren't having a party at the Children's Discovery Workshop.  In fact, because Thursday is a class day for Mike and a rehearsal night for Clue, we just had a normal day.  Tomorrow, we have a family night to ourselves, so we'll do something then instead.  Aidan made me an awesome card at school and Gabrielle said, "No, it's not your birthday" this morning, but she was pretty tired at the time, so I'll chalk it up to that. 

I'm looking forward to the end of our first week of classes (just starting to get a routine in place) and a long weekend (Does ANYONE know why we have Monday off?) and some time to relax. 

My Last Night of 28

Looking back at the past year, I would say I've become more and more aware of and nearly obsessed wtih my mortality.  Since my dear friend Jim died nearly a year ago, I have been trying my best to avoid an early demise.  I know I can't prevent every possible ailment or even a happenstance accident, but I know there are things I can do to promote longevity -- I've lost 33 lbs. and run 3-5 miles on a daily basis.  I try to eat healthier and I try to reduce stress and increase positive atmospheres and opportunities for joy. 

Do I always succeed?  Well, no.  But that's part of the growth process, too, I think.

I used to think that people who fear or resist getting old were just vain.  I no longer think that.  I wouldn't say I'm afraid of getting older --- but that's really just because I don't want to admit that it scares me.  Mike's sister and her husband came over for dinner tonight, and it dawned on me that one day, we will be the old ones.  One day, which will come faster than any of us are prepared for, we will be Nan and Pap and Don and Donna (Michael's grandparents and great-uncle and great-aunt). 

While there is something to be said for focusing on the "living" part of life instead of end of it, I can't seem to help myself from thinking about the end . . . often.  I suppose it's part of my teacher training bleeding over to my personal life.  As a teacher, I begin with the end in mind.  What do I mean?  Well, for example, I gave my students a diagnostic multiple choice test today, on the second day of school, to get a baseline measurement for the AP test that they will take in May.  They've got to know what's coming at the end to prepare properly.  And I think life works out that way, too.  We all know that the end of our lives brings death -- what happens after that isn't as concrete and we mere mortals struggle with "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). 

So, then, where do we go from here?  For me, it is striving to be the best possible version of myself that I can be every day.  It's, as our principal suggested this year, asking myself if I gave my students my best today every day --- that also goes with families and friends and heck, even enemies.  It's seeking the voice of God and the truth of life in the midst of a crazy world consumed with consumption and clinging to loved ones through good times and bad. 

Praying for God's blessings on another year of the gift of life.

Gender Issues in the News

I've implemented something new this year in my Gender Studies class -- I present Gender Issues in the News for us to talk about each day (eventually, I'll expect the students to be finding the issues).  For example, yesterday, I showed them the infamous PETA billboard in Jacksonville, FL.:

Peta blubber ad 

which has since been replaced with this less offensive ad:

Peta ad replacement 

And tomorrow, thanks to my friend Michelle, I'll be showing them this news clip:

Watch CBS Videos Online

It should prove to be an interesting addition to the course this year. 

Back-to-School Eve

The big question thrown my way these days is, "Are you ready for school to start?"  And, to be honest, I really won't know until tomorrow comes.  I notice that despite this being my third year of teaching, I still feel anxious about getting it "right".  Though I should know by now that yes, teaching requires a LOT of preparation, but we never really know what's going to "work" in the classroom until the students are there to interact with.

This year, I have a daunting responsibility -- to teach Advanced Placement English Language and Composition for the first time ever at Montoursville.  The perks are obvious -- juniors (hallelujah!), 90% or above in English to get in to the class, and small class sizes (just ask first period . . . ).  And I love the content -- rhetoric, argument, nonfiction, all the things I love and want to learn on a higher level.  But, also obvious, an AP class comes with the national standardized test which basically decides my fate.  Ok, maybe it's not THAT bad, but it certainly feels that way right now.

In addition to the AP course, I have two sections of Gender Studies -- nearly 60 kids total.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm psyched that the course is that popular, but group discussions with 27 kids in a class is going to be ummm...challenging.  I intend to break up into smaller groups a lot so that kids can actually get a word in edgewise.  

I have a study hall with 31 students . . . which should be interesting tomorrow as I only have 27 desks in my room at present -- thank God for the library! 

So, am I ready?  I think so . . .  

More Number Confusion

Aidan watched Kipper the Dog this morning; Kipper is a British cartoon dog and in the episode we viewed this morning, Kipper's friend went "on holiday" and Kipper fish-sat his pet goldfish for him.  Tonight, as I put Aidan to bed, he said to me, "Guess what the neighbor did today."

"What did he do?" I wondered.

"He went on holiday and he won't be back until 5 years ago."

Trying to buy time while I pondered the possibility of quantum physics and time travel, I asked, "How do you know he went on holiday?  Did he tell you where he was going?"

"No, but he put fifty million hundred bags in the back of his car, so I know he was going on holiday."

The actual translation of this is that our neighbor's mother has been visiting and I surmise that they took her home today. . . not five years ago. 

Parish Picnic

Thank you to all who made our 2009 Parish Picnic at Kremser's Landing possible.  We had a great time!

Clue Floor and Parish Picnic 040crop  

The perfect action shot of the egg toss! 

Clue Floor and Parish Picnic 021 

In case you were wondering, there is no age limit on the sack race.

Clue Floor and Parish Picnic 039 

Fun for everyone!

Clue Floor and Parish Picnic 036 

Umm...yeah.  Mini Me didn't quite get the concept of the Egg Toss. . .