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Monday, February 28, 2011

Teaching Teenagers: A Piece of Cake?

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers." 
 Socrates


If your high school students are “ rude, disengaged, lazy whiners” who “curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire and are just generally annoying” and you state this easily observable fact in public, should you lose your job?

            Does it depend on the venue? For example, walk into any local bar after 5 PM in any city in the United States and you’ll find a teacher sucking down a Corona and complaining about her students to the bartender. Would you insist that this teacher be fired for venting to her favorite therapist/mixologist?
 (Note: When a teacher starts putting vodka in her personalized mug and drinks it while teaching a 2nd period American Lit class at 9 AM, that’s an entirely different issue. Believe it or not, this does happen occasionally. Teaching isn’t as easy as it looks. Really.)

How about if instead of sharing with her bartender, this teacher wrote her comments down and posted them on her private blog/diary? No problem because that’s private, right? Well, no. These days, nothing is private. What if one of the “rude, disengaged lazy whiners” proved to be not-so-lazy and hacked into the teacher’s private blog and posted her comments on FaceBook?

Natalie Monroe, a high school teacher in Philadelphia, is currently suspended with pay during an investigation into her blog, which was hacked into and posted online by one of her students.  Her comments, quoted above, are critical of some of her students, and she apparently took a few licks at the school administration while she was at it.

Now I ask you, should Natalie lose her job because of her comments?  I personally believe that if a teacher’s students are “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners” the teacher should have the right to say so. As for writing about your school’s administrators, you should be allowed to do that, too. Just don’t expect a great reference when you want to change jobs.

Despite all this fuss, Natalie says that she wants to continue teaching. Um…Why? Just asking.

Read more about Natalie Monroe:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/17/us-teacher-blog-odd-idUSTRE71G4WQ20110217

Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Your Teen Unmotivated?

Dear Parents,

Are you frustrated by your teenager’s lack of motivation in school?

 Do you worry about your son or daughter’s future?

Are you afraid that your child will be living at home with you for the rest of your life?

Believe me, dear parents, you are not alone. This is a common problem, and you are to be commended for your continued efforts to promote the value of education. There is always the slight chance that your child will have an epiphany during one of your endless “chats” and he or she will finally “get it”. Insert **laugh** here.

Consider for a moment the plight of this distraught mother in Tampa, Florida.

February 21, 2011 (TAMPA, Fla.) -- A Tampa mother is defending her decision to stick her teenage son on a street corner with a sign that says, among other things, "GPA 1.22 ... honk if I need education."
Ronda Holder says she and the boy's father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically. They've offered help, asked to see homework, grounded, lectured him and confiscated his cell phone. James Mond III's indifference at a school meeting last week was the final straw. The next day, Holder made the sign and made her son wear it for nearly four hours.
Experts criticized the move as humiliating and ineffective, and someone reported Holder to the Department of Children and Families.
Holder insists she's fighting for her child's education.
(Copyright ©2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

If you are unwilling to give your teen this admittedly “tough love” treatment, I suggest that you join one of the support groups for frustrated parents of teenagers. Check your local tavern for meeting times.

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/bizarre&id=7970651

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Has your Royal Wedding Invitation Arrived Yet?

            “Did the mail come yet?” I asked anxiously.

            “No,” my husband answered. “Why do you care? You in a hurry to get the American Express bill?”

            I rolled my eyes. “Of course not. The royal wedding invitations were mailed out last week, and mine should be arriving any day now.”

            “I see. You know, it’s possible you’re not getting an invitation. I wouldn’t want you to be too disappointed.”

            “I know I’m getting an invitation. Remember when we were visiting Windsor Castle in October and I signed the Queen’s very own guest register? Queen Elizabeth and I are now BFF’s.”

            “We took a tour of the castle, and you signed the credit card receipt for us to get in,” Chris reminded me gently. “I don’t think that qualifies you for a royal wedding invitation.”

            “hmmm…I suppose you could be right. How about this? Do you think I’d get an invite if I camped out in front of the British Embassy in Atlanta and went on a hunger strike? I bet Kate would take pity on me and come to Atlanta to personally invite me. She seems like such a nice girl.”

            “Sorry, my love, but that strategy has already been taken. There’s a 19-year-old girl camped out in front of the British Embassy in Mexico City on a hunger strike. She already hasn’t eaten for 8 days, and she swears she won’t take in anything but water until she gets her invitation.”

            “Well, darn it all. If she’s already done 8 days, I’ll never be able to catch up. I’ll just have to think of something else.”

            Chris laughed at the disgruntled expression on my face. “I guess you will. If it makes you feel any better, that girl’s hunger strike ploy isn’t working anyway.”

            “Yeah, you always take a chance with something like that. I’m not really a hunger strike kind of girl anyway.  Oh look, there’s the mail truck. I’ll just pop out there and see if my invitation arrived.”

            “I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, Vic.”

            “Thanks, love.”

Just for the record, if this girl gets a wedding invitation and I don’t, I’m going to be really upset. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8332429/Mexico-teen-on-hunger-strike-over-royal-wedding.html

Monday, February 21, 2011

Teachers' Unions: Part of the Problem with Education?

          I have never been a huge fan of labor unions, except for their historical significance. There is no doubt that unions played a huge role in eliminating the exploitation of workers, making working conditions safer, and getting child labor outlawed. Labor unions were needed during the industrial revolution. But have they outlived their usefulness?
           
            I’ve been avidly watching the battle between the teachers’ unions and the Wisconsin legislature play out this past week. The teachers are adamant about preserving their unions, and as a non-union teacher in Georgia, I have been wondering whether that’s the right choice. Is retaining the union worth the battle?

            No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have placed the blame for poor education directly on the shoulders of teachers. It is not a pleasant time to be a teacher. The pressure to teach students what they need to know in order to pass one multiple choice test has crushed the life out of teaching. Federal politics interfere with the ability of our teachers to teach our children to think for themselves; instead, success is measured by the ability of our children to parrot rote answers to superficial questions.

            To date, I have seen no evidence that local teachers’ unions are able to make a difference in the political maneuverings that have caused this crisis in education. In Wisconsin, the teachers’ unions simply want to retain their collective bargaining rights. They want salary levels and benefits to be based on a uniform scale, and they want to reserve the right to go on strike when they don’t receive a raise in pay or benefits. These demands may sound like little enough to want – especially to a non-union teacher in Georgia who was furloughed 6 days this year – but don’t think there aren’t negative consequences to being a member of a teachers’ union.

            In my opinion, teachers lose their “professional” status when they’re unionized. If you are a good teacher – and a majority of the teachers I know are – then you should receive a fair salary based on your own merit. People who are employed in private industry work hard to get ahead. A teacher in public education who works hard earns the same money as the teacher across the hall who checks her e-mail while her students fingerpaint on the walls. You put in your time, you get your paycheck. That’s a job, not a profession.

            And what about that lousy teacher across the hall? Not only does she make the same pay as the highly effective teacher, but she also has immunity. It is nearly impossible to fire an incompetent teacher who is a member of a union. That teacher makes us all look bad and we should be able to replace her with someone who can do the job. Our children deserve the best.
Talk about making us all look bad...

            Finally, we teachers can proclaim all we like that “the children come first”, but when our actions interfere with the processes of teaching and learning, the parents and students perceive that the children are not actually our priority. We lose their respect. Sick outs and strikes do not help our children learn and do not enhance the image of the professional educator.

            Now is the time to stop and ask ourselves if the small amount of protection afforded to members of teachers’ unions is worth the consequences of fighting to keep them alive. Do the teachers’ unions have a legitimate place in solving the problems in education, or have they become part of the problem?

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Sent My Christmas Cards Today!

            “Why is that box of Christmas cards still on your desk? It’s February.”

            “Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

            My husband gritted his teeth and smiled. “Cute. You’re not actually going to send them out now, are you?”

            “No, I’m not.”

            “So why don’t you put the box back in the closet?”

            “It’s a reminder that I need to send Valentine’s Day cards to the people I didn’t send Christmas cards to.”

            “Did you buy Valentine’s Day cards to send?”

            “Yes, I did. They’re in the bag under the box of Christmas cards.”

            “Perhaps it slipped by you that Valentine’s Day was on Monday. Last Monday.” He plucked a dying rose from the vase of flowers that I had forgotten to water all week and waved it in my face.

            “No, I remembered. I just didn’t get to it. I’m going to write them out right now.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “What? You don’t believe I’m going to send the cards?” I raised my eyebrows and gave him as much of the ‘teacher glare’ as I could manage under the circumstances.

            “Sure I do,” he answered condescendingly, patting my shoulder gently. I hate it when he does that, because then I feel compelled to take action just to prove him wrong.

            So consider him wrong. I mailed my Valentine’s Day Christmas cards this very morning. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spitting: One of the Seven Deadly Sins (of Golf)

            OK, so the Super Bowl is over and March madness hasn’t begun. Where does that leave us, as far as sports news goes? Luckily, there’s a huge news story from the golf circuit in Dubai this week. It’s about – you guessed it – Tiger Woods.

            So what has Mr. Woods done this time? Has he been caught hosting dog fights a la Michael Vick? Did he pull out a gun and shoot up a nightclub? Was he found high as a kite in a hotel room with a kilo of cocaine? Um…no, no and no.

            Tiger Woods committed the ultimate sin of – wait for it – spitting on the green on the 12th hole at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Watchers were positively disgusted. One broadcast announcer contemplated the horror of the next golfer to putt on that green who might possibly pick up the spit on his ball. Oh, the humanity.

            Mr. Woods has been fined “an undisclosed sum” by the European Tour for a “breach of tour conduct”. He has apologized for his actions via Twitter. Apparently, he knew about the “no spitting” rule, and for some reason forgot it.

            I would love to show you the video of Tiger Woods spitting, but YouTube has pulled it. Obviously, the graphic scene was making people all over the world hurl into their morning coffee. It was very sensible of YouTube to take action.

            This big news leaves me wondering two things. First, how much do you suppose a golf ball covered with Tiger Woods's spit would net on E-Bay? And second, when does football season start again? Don’t even mention the word “strike” to me! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dinosaurs and Cell Phones

            My new answering machine message is getting rave reviews. One man, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote the following: “I laughed, I cried... I may have to call repeatedly to hear it again and again.”

            OK, you got me. Yes, my husband did IM that review to me. For months now, our home phone land line has only received calls from people wanting us to buy something, wanting us to vote for them, or in some cases, people wanting money and our vote. Now that I work from home, I find these interruptions incredibly annoying.

            I know what you’re wondering. You want to know why I didn’t get rid of the land line years ago. I could have saved myself $33 a month and avoided having to listen to Sarah Palin’s campaign messages. The truth is it just didn’t occur to me.

            There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t have a home phone line. I smile when I think of my teenage self stretching the 50-foot kitchen phone cord to its max so I could talk to my boyfriend “privately”. Now my sons text their girlfriends, and I never get to embarrass them by making kissy noises while they’re talking. Obviously, parenting isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

            I do love my cell phone, even though I don’t know how to use half the features it’s capable of performing. When I open it to answer a call, I hope it’s Spock calling from the Enterprise. The time has come to embrace the future – or the present, for those of us who are lagging behind the times. Get rid of those land lines, people!

            “Hello. These are the dying squawks from the Scullion family land line, which has been relegated to the pages of history next to the Pterodactyl. You can contact us on our newfangled cellular phones from now on. Goodbye, AT&T. It’s been real. Please excuse me now – I have to go fire my cable TV provider. Adieu, my friends.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Saturday Plans

            “Are you ever going to get out of this bed?”

            “Ever? Yes,” I answered sleepily.

            “It’s noon. Lunchtime. Do you want a sandwich?” Chris’s tone was a bit sharp.

            “No thanks. You go ahead.”

            He sighed. “You’ve missed half the day.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “While you were sleeping, I got an oil change and a car wash, bought replacement light bulbs for the outside fixtures, installed them, and pruned back the crepe myrtle.”

            “That’s great, sweetie.”

            “I did two loads of laundry, too.”

            “Oh you did not either,” I answered, resigned now to leaving the lovely dream about teaching a class of perfect 7th graders to write perfect essays.

            “I thought that would sink in. I did all the other things, but I didn’t do the laundry.”

            I sat up. It’s a sad fact that I wake up looking like a kindergartner’s purple-haired troll doll, only not quite as endearing. My breath would have driven away the fiercest T-Rex.

            “So you woke me up to do the laundry?” I yawned. “You’re a prince.”

            “No, I didn’t wake you up to do the laundry. It’s sunny outside and you need to get up and enjoy it.”
The Beatles thought having a picnic in the snow was fun.

            “Yeah, whatever,” I muttered, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. He didn’t mention the fact that along with being sunny, it was 25 degrees F with a wind-chill of 5. There was still 2 inches of snow covering the lawn. “Are we going on a picnic?”

            “Sounds like a great idea! I’ll wake up the boys and make some sandwiches.”

            “You do that,” I smirked. It would be fun to watch him try to wake up our sons (aged 24 and 17) so that they could go on a picnic with us, but my toothbrush was calling me. Sleeping away Saturday morning was an indulgence; I really could have done several loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, changed the sheets on the bed, finished the grocery shopping, and had my nails done instead of lazing about in bed. Just thinking about all those chores could make a girl feel guilty for sleeping in.

            “I guess I really should do something today,” I thought as the spray of water in the shower flattened my hair and flushed away the eye boogers. I contemplated the list of things I could have done, and chose my one goal for the day. The guilt would melt away and…I’d have beautiful nails!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Men! Enough Said....

            It was a dark and stormy night, but only inside our house. Lightning sparks sizzled in the dining room where I have my office. The low murmur of South Park came from the living room.

            “Hey, Vic, what’s for dinner?”

            I narrowed my eyes and a bolt of lightning lit up the office.

            “Alex, go ask your mom what we’re having for dinner.”

            The poor child must have been hungry, because he actually got off the sofa and gingerly walked toward the office. “Mom, Dad wants to know what we’re having for dinner.”

            “You can tell your dad that he can go to…” I looked up into my son’s beautiful baby blues eyes and substituted a euphemism for the word that was on the tip of my tongue, “…McDonald’s, for all I care.”

            The door to the garage quietly clicked shut as PJ left the house. He got into his car and waited. He’s no dummy, that one.

            Alex went back to his Dad. “Guess we’re on our own for dinner tonight,” he reported.

            “I don’t even know what I did that made her angry,” Chris answered. He raised his voice so I’d be sure to hear and asked, “Are you ever going to tell me why you’re mad at me?”

            Alex shushed his Dad. “You really don’t want to go there, Dad. That’s a rookie mistake. You know you’re just supposed to apologize. It doesn’t matter what you did.”

            I had to chuckle to myself. Such is the wisdom passed down from father to son, and occasionally back up from son to father.

            The door to the garage clicked shut a second time as Alex left the house and climbed into his brother’s car. They took off, headed for somewhere more pleasant – like McDonald’s.

            Chris hovered near the door to the office. “I’m sorry for whatever it is I’m supposed to have done,” he had the nerve to say.

            I packed my laptop into my bag and grabbed my coat. The door to the garage slammed as I left the house.

            For the near future, I’ll be living at Panera Bread. You can find me in booth 5, near the window. Good food and free WiFi. I’ll be here until he remembers what he did and decides to apologize. It may be a while.


Photo can be found at Alex Young Photography:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/glenelg48/favorites/page6/?view=sq 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gloria and the Drama Queen

            “Gloria, can I tell you something really personal?”

            “Of course you can. You know that.”

            I leaned in closer to her, risking leaving the restaurant wearing a blouse covered in low-fat ranch dressing. “I think I might be pregnant.”

            Gloria’s response was instantaneous. “You’re not pregnant, sweetie.”

            “How can you be so sure?”

            “Didn’t you have that surgically taken care of a few years ago?”

            “Well, yes, but you hear horror stories about women in their 50’s who have ‘miracle babies’ because it wasn’t done right. That’s gonna be me!” I wailed.

            Gloria chuckled. “No it’s not,” she reassured me. She handed me my mojito and motioned to the waiter. “She’s going to need another one of these. Add extra rum to it, please.”

            I obediently sucked down the last of my drink and handed the empty to the waiter.

            “You need to hurry,” Gloria whispered to the waiter, waving him away with both hands.

            I narrowed my eyes at her. I rarely drink, and don’t recall ever having two alcoholic beverages at one sitting. “What’s going on?”

            “Remember when we went to see that really funny play right before Christmas?”
 
            “Sure. I had a great time. The Japanese restaurant afterwards was fabulous.”

            Gloria sighed. “You are really in denial, girl. We went to see Menopause.”

            I froze. The forkful of lettuce in my hand luckily clattered back on to the plate. “You’re not trying to imply that I’m…that I’m….”

            “I’m not implying anything,” Gloria said gently. “I’m telling you that you’ve started going through menopause.”

            “No way! I’m not old enough!”

            Gloria’s raised eyebrows said it all.

            “OMG!  It’s true, isn’t it? How can it possibly be true?” I sobbed for a moment into the new drink the waiter handed me. “My life is practically over!”

            “You’re such a drama queen,” Gloria laughed. “It’s not the end of your life. It’s the beginning of a new chapter.”

            “You’re a good friend, Gloria. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I took a sip of the mostly rum mojito and smiled sweetly at her.  “But that’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard.”

            Gloria snorted. “Isn't that what friends are for?”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gloria, a Groundhog, and a Sea Turtle

“This sure has been an exciting week!”

“It has?” Gloria replied. “I must not have gotten the memo.”

“You can’t possibly have missed all the excitement on Wednesday when Punxsutawney Phil predicted that we’re going to have an early spring. Don’t you want spring to come early this year? Aren’t you tired of Febru-ugly already?”

“You know I dream about lying on the beach in Hawaii every night. I’m just not into the whole rodent-predicting-the-weather scene.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No.”

“Well, I guess I’ll have to make excuses for you since you didn’t grow up in Pennsylvania. Alex didn’t get it either.” I have found that many southerners lack the appreciation-for-the-groundhog gene.

“Smart boy” is what I think she muttered under her breath. I ignored it.

“And on top of the groundhog excitement, the Super Bowl is on Sunday!”

“Oh, yeah. That’s a sporting event, right?”

“Now I know you’re just yanking my chain. The Super Bowl is not just A sporting event, it’s THE sporting event. This year the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing.”

“Uh huh,” Gloria grunted, unimpressed.

“I would like to see the Green Bay Packers win, but I doubt they will.”

Gloria sighed and accepted that I wasn’t going to leave the topic until I was good and ready. “Because they don’t play as well?”

“No, I think they have a stronger defense than the Steelers, actually. It’s just that a sea turtle in Myrtle Beach, SC – her name is Gabby, isn’t that cute? – predicted that the Steelers are going to win. You have to see this!”



            “Cute turtle,” Gloria commented, choosing to ignore the whole predicting-the-Super Bowl-winner part of the footage.

“Look at this again.” I backed up the video to the part where Gabby grabbed the Steelers’ helmet picture with her sharp beak. “Do you think she’s predicting that the Steelers are going to get ripped apart by the Packers? She’s really taking a bite out of that helmet.”

“That’s probably it,” Gloria agreed facetiously.

“Whew,” I answered. “I was worried there for a minute. You know, animal predictions are right a lot!”

“Of course. Statistically, the probability of an animal being right when choosing between two things is 50%. You could flip a coin and it would be just as accurate.”

Don’t you hate it when your friends use logic – and mathematics – against you?

I laughed. “I know. It’s kind of fun, though, don’t you think?”

“If you say so, girl. Do you want to see a picture of my new cat?”

“Oh, he’s adorable, Gloria. He’s so small! I love his tiny white paws.”

“Thanks. He’s a sweetie.”

 “So what does he predict?”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhogs and Common Sense

     “It’s Groundhog Day!”

           My husband smiled. He and I had both grown up in Pennsylvania. To us, Punxsutawney Phil was a personal friend.

            “So?” Alex asked. He was a Georgia peach through and through.

            “What do you mean – SO?” I asked. “It’s the day that Phil will tell us if we’re going to have 6 more weeks of winter or have an early spring.”

            “Isn’t it pretty much guaranteed that we’re going to have six more weeks of winter? Today is February 2nd, and spring starts on March 20th.  That’s – let me see – six weeks away.”

            Don’t you hate it when your kids use logic against you? “That is not the point of Groundhog Day,” I argued. “It’s about the weather, not the calendar.”

            “Uh huh,” Alex answered in a not-quite patronizing tone.

            “If Phil sees his shadow, the next six weeks will be cold and wintery. If he doesn’t see his shadow, the temperatures will be warmer. It’s a slam dunk. I mean, you have to trust a groundhog that has been predicting the weather for 125 years now.”

            “Punxsutawney Phil is 125 years old? Isn’t that kind of unusual for a rodent?”

            “He’s a very special groundhog,” I protested.

            “I’m sure he is.” Alex’s tone and the gentle pat on my arm crossed the not-quite-patronizing threshold into outright sarcasm, bless his heart. I swear he was trying to smother a chuckle as he left the kitchen.

            “Where did I go wrong?” I wailed to my husband. “He doesn’t believe that Phil can prognosticate the weather.”

            “I don’t know, dear,” Chris answered. “Maybe you should focus on the fact that a healthy dose of common sense has been instilled in him.”

            I glared at him. “What does common sense have to do with Groundhog Day?”

            “Nothing at all,” he replied with a grin. “Want to watch Bill Murray relive Groundhog Day over and over?”

            It was an annual ritual for us. “Of course.” I am fond of tradition – and fat furry rodents.

Phil Phacts:
1.      Punxsutawney Phil first prognosticated the weather in Pennsylvania in 1887. This year will be his 125th anniversary.
2.      Although normally groundhogs in captivity live to about the age of 10, Phil has been taken care of so lovingly that he is now well into triple digits.
3.      Like many other Americans, Phil has a bit of a weight problem. He weighs about 20 pounds now; the average groundhog in captivity weighs about 13.
4.      The US National Climatic Data Center reports that Phil is correct only 40% of the time. What do they know, anyway?
5.      For the first time ever, Phil will use Twitter and texting to tell the world his forecast. Oh, and you can also check his status on FaceBook. That is one clever groundhog!

Find out Punxsutawney Phil’s annual prognostication immediately! (7:30 AM Eastern Time)
1.      Phil’s tweet will come from the Pennsylvania Tourism Twitter feed.
2.      To sign up to receive Phil’s prediction by text, you should text “groundhog” to 247365.
3.      Phil’s FaceBook page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Punxsutawney-Phil/103061141793

Want more information about Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day? Check out this informative and amusing article in the National Geographic Daily News:  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/110201-groundhog-day-2011-punxsutawney-phil-weeks-winter-us-weather-anniversary/

You should see these outstanding photos of Phil. The Official Website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club is http://www.groundhog.org/

Haven’t seen the 1993 movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell? Really? It’s a classic! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107048/