Friday, June 25, 2010

Under Pressure

A friend sent me  a link from the New York Times concerning cheating with high stakes testing.  Across the country, teachers, administration, and students are pressured at becoming better and better at testing.  I'm not saying that students are being pressured into learning - no - that's not quite what it is.  It's test-taking skills.  How do we improve our students' test taking strategies?

One of my best friends teaches at a school that has has been named one of the worst schools in the state of Minnesota.  Teachers are being fired and the state is threatening coming into the school and taking over the curriculum because the students are not making A.Y.P.   (Annual Yearly Progress).  Can you imagine?  Thankfully, her job is in the clear.  Her students have been taking the standardized testing and have been "performing" well.  But, she and her colleagues wonder everyday what's going to happen?  Who will be fired next?

I have news that may not be so obvious to politicians.

Sometimes students don't care how well they do on tests.  Sometimes, they just fill in the bubbles.  Sometimes, it's because they are tired of the pressure.  Sometimes, it's payback for a teacher who has given them detention.  Sometimes, students have test-anxiety. Sometimes, students' parents fought the night before.  Some students might have been hit the night before.   A lot of students have witnessed things no one should witness. 

And, so I wonder?  These administrators who roll up the tests and take a peak at the answers, they only seem to be a symptom of a larger disease.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I've been teaching summer school this past week and for next three weeks. I had to giggle the other day.  I mentioned my girls were eleven and eight.

"What?"  one exclaimed. "How old were you when they were born?"

"Twenty-five with the first.  Twenty-eight with the second."

"How old are you now?"


"Wow - I thought for sure you were - like twenty-three!"

Well - bless their little hearts.  Little Schmoozers.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Her Blankie

Natalie just got back from Bible Camp up at Lake of The Woods.  In the five days she was at camp, Nat showered once.  I noticed that after stepping out into the rain on the way home and returning to the car after a pit stop - I smelled wet dog.  I'm not naming names - but- yikes.

(Can you imagine the poor counselor in their cabin?  Ten adolescent girls in one cabin - and they've showered maybe once the entire five days. P.U.)

I dumped out her laundry and started washing away.  I found her sleeping bag.  There at the bottom of the bag was the flannel blanket I made her with the inscription "Love, Mom" in the corner.  She's pretty independent going to camp, making new friends, and making her own adventures.  She still has a need to be reminded that mom loves her!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nat and My Book Club

This summer, Natalie and I accidentally started a book club. Nat was looking at my pile of books that I brought home from school. I handed her Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief. I had just finished reading it the week before.

"Mom, is Annabeth the spy?"

"Not saying."

"Mom, did his mom really die?"

"Isn't that what the book says?"

Natalie started talking to me about the book. She loved it. When we went to the cities, she begged and begged to go to the bookstore and get the second book.

We found ourselves in the YA section of the Barnes and Noble at the Mall of America. We searched and searched and couldn't find The Sea of Monsters. We found an employee, and she set us up.

"If you like Rick Riordan, you'll love this." She handed us the first in the Fablehaven series.

Natalie smiled on politely while we talked about young adult literature - that is the cross an English teacher's daughter must bare - though I don't think Nat minds.

Natalie and I have been book sharing and discussing the books as we hand them back and forth. Right now, Nat is at camp with The Curse of the Titans, Fablehaven, and another book I thought she'd adore So Be It.

I have to admit. This is what I always wanted - to share books with my daughter and hear her gush about the adventure - to ask her what she thought of the characters.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer School Adventure

I'll be teaching English in summer school. I've been thinking about how this is going to be an adventure.

I'll be teaching Multicultural Literature, Expressive Communications, and Interpersonal Communications. One of the first stories we'll be reading in "ML" is Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" I found this Ted Talk with Amy Tan! Hooray for Tan!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A new poem...

I Dream'd in a Dream

I dream'd in a dream
I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the
whole of the rest of the earth,
I dream'd that was the new city of Friends,
Nothing was greater there
than the quality of robust love, it led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
And in all their looks and words.

Walt Whitman

Friends Forever

You know how everyone writes in your yearbook - "Friends Forever!" OR "BFF" Or "FA" or anything else like that?

Well, that actually happens. Well with me, it does. My friends from high school and I still hang.... Seriously - and it's been (cough*) eighteen years since we've graduated.

This weekend, Sarie got married! Road trip! Hooray!!!! We packed ourselves into Heather's Trailblazer, and drove the six hours down the cities.
I wish I had pictures from back in the days when we were eighteen and dancing at the Plummer dances. I just know that we always end up laughing at the days we were young and head banging in the Plummer City Hall.
We know everything about each other. We know each boyfriend and the hang ups each one had. Angie, on the left, was the first of us to get married. I was the second. We've danced at each others weddings and even held each other through many of life's disappointments. We've laughed at famous stories of attending wedding dances with "flashers." We know each crush and giggle every time it's brought up.

I'm not sure how many people can say they've had the same friends for over twenty years?

Dear Kids

Dear Kids,

I went to your parents' wedding, and even though you could not attend, (you don't exist yet) I got to be there.

Your mom was beautiful. Grandma Jean was beaming. Grandma and Grandpa Foster were glowing. And even though, it was raining outside, we danced for joy at the union of such beautiful people.

Your mom and dad picked out the most beautiful poetry and music. Their vows were sincere, joyful, and funny. We all cried because we were so happy!!

Your mom has the kindest, open heart. She loves loving people and hearing their stories. I always strive to be as wise as your mother, and I hope you always consider her advice to heart.

I haven't known your father as long as the twenty-four years your mom has been in my life. I just know I love how he sparkles because he wants to give her the world. I want you to know that I love how much he loves her.

So, Dear Kids, I know your dad has been writing you for the past few months on a blog of his own- but I just wanted you to know how a simple friend was there and got to see the beginning of your family

Your Future Friend,


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If You Love Twilight - Don't Read This

For the past few years, girls have been raving about the Twilight series. Both young women and men have been telling me about the deep love of Bella and Edward, so I finally broke down and borrowed a book from one of my yearbook girls.

Yes. It was a fast read. I finished it in a weekend - easy.

Yes. It had a solid plot. It had lots of action. I didn't read the book and wonder where it was taking me. I understood that there was a direction in the story with some sort of resolution.

No. I wasn't happy with the character development. I've read plenty of books that are only about character development with no plot. That's plenty annoying - but this book was all plot to me with no character development. Bella is obsessed with a man. Annoying. This is the character development.

What bothered me the most is the obsessive love. The whole IDEAL of love. How Edward is SO perfect and how he only thinks of Bella.


I wondered if I was the only person who felt like this. Am I the only old bitty lady looking at this book and thinking "Tsk Tsk What would Simone De Beauvoir think?"

I found myself groaning at the thought of my students reading the book and thinking that there is someone out there like that for them. I shuddered at the thought of girls everywhere dreaming of their "ideal" man.

I wondered if I was the only one who ever considered the truly creepy side of Twilight as I sat in parent conferences and moms told me that they are "so" excited that their daughters are reading Twilight. How I tried not to groan. Even in the teacher's lounge I heard "Oh Edward, he just draws you in." I nearly gagged on my food.

What gave me a bit of feminist hope though - was at a graduation party. I had the younger sister in class. I was telling the grandmother how the little dear was such a breath of fresh air. All the other girls in the class were reading Twilight or The Clique series (That's a whole different post). And here, this little red head was reading Memoirs of a Geisha.

Another sister and friend cheered across the room! "YOU don't like Twilight!? Hooray! What a bunch of dribble! Why would anyone believe in such a dumb relationship? How creepy to have a guy watching you sleep!" Creepy!"

OH joy! There are critical minds just like mine! Hooray for them!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Last Day

Yesterday was my last day of school. I have to tell you - it ended in tears. Not the gentle, graceful tears that are easily wiped away but sobs that flooded out and required tissues and shirt sleeves.

The realization that I wouldn't be around to see their future hit me like a punch in the gut. I've whispered in a few ears "Remember you are college material." Those girls may think I'm insane, but I realize there may not be someone at home talking it up. A lot of times there's someone at home shouting "Do you think you're better than me!" Three years from now, I won't be there to kindly smile and say "What college are you thinking of? Do you need a recommendation?" I realize I'm passing the baton on to the teachers who are staying. I trust they will say those words to the ones who need to hear it. I just wish I could be that one extra cheerleader.

What happens to a dream deferred?
by Langston Hughes

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

I suppose that poem is a little dramatic. But it rolls and rolls in my brain over and over.

The realization that teaching jobs aren't a dime a dozen hit me hard too. Maybe I'll end up in another school. Maybe I'll end up going back to graduate school. Maybe I'll end up finish that Spanish degree.

I may need a new poem to think about.