Sunday, February 27, 2005

For Whom the Bell Tolls...

Our neighbor 2 doors down died this week of complications from the flu. She was only 47 and leaves behind a 5 year old daughter.

We didn't have much more than a nodding acquaintance with her. She had major issues with her homebuilder, much of it her own doing. She'd frequently ask My Beloved, who is also in construction for advice which made for an uncomfortable situation. My Beloved has a friendly relationship with the builder (who also built our house) and her sympathies were pretty much on his side. She didn't want to act as an intermediary between the two of them. I couldn't blame her , some of what was being asked of her pushed the boundaries a little to far.

Said neighbor was a trust fund hippie , with a view of money (and life in general) that was not grounded in reality. She also had some work experience as a paralegal and in her case a little knowledge was indeed a dangerous thing. She didn't believe in the old quotation of "Only a fool would hire himself as a lawyer"

The cardinal rule in construction is "Don't Piss of Your Builder" - he has ways of paying you back that you can never imagine. Especially in Texas, where all laws are squarely on the side on the builder. Texas is not known for being on the forefront of consumer or tenant rights.

So, we really never became friends. I always had a nagging bit of guilt about that. Having a greater tolerance for the more bizarre members of the human race than My Beloved I thought she was very interesting in a 1960s throwback sort of way.

And now she's gone. I'm a series of conflicted emotions. Can't honestly say that I'll miss her, since I never really knew her. I guess it's a combination of regret for what might of been, coupled with sadness for her daughter who lost her mother at much to early an age.

It's a strange feeling to realize that the house will go on the market again and someone will begin a new life in it.

Friday, February 25, 2005

No More Social Promotion - NOT!

Sounds sensible doesn't it? It's one of the tenets of NCLB. Here in Texas, if a child fails the reading portion of the 3rd grade or 5th grade TAKS test they are not supposed to be promoted.

Posted by Hello

There is one tiny fly in the ointment - and the flies as flies are prone to do are busy breeding. Retention does not put a hold on hormones or growth spurts. Puberty, especially among Hispanic and African American children makes an appearance at an earlier age than it used too.

We now have the first wave of the "double retainees" - children who failed first grade and third grade. This is the first year the 5th grade test comes with mandatory retention so we don't have any triples yet. We aren't looking forward to our first encounter. We have 4th graders who will turn 12 this spring, 2nd graders who are turning 10 and third graders who are about to turn 11. Eleven and twelve year olds are bursting with hormones and attitude and belong in middle school.

Kids, being kids look up to these kids - they are older, taller, more developed and have more street smarts. They are as one teacher put it "the leader of the lemmings". Today one head lemming convinced a girl to "make out" with him in the bathroom. Another gave his class an anatomy lesson at lunch by using a hot dog and two kiwi fruit. Yet another brought a condom to school -and knew what it was for. I hope he wasn't planning to use it (though if he was, I guess we should be happy he knows about safe sex).

Granted, we have no business graduating kids who are illiterate but keeping them in elementary school for an additional 3 years isn't the answer.

These kids can drop out at at age 16 - with only a 7th or 8th grade education at best. Scary thought isn't it?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Bright Kids are being Left Behind Too...

One perceptive reader pointed that shrub's NCLB is hurting the bright kids, the gifted and talented kids as much as it hurts the bottom slope of the bell curve kids. She's right. The teachers are under such pressure to bring everyone up to "standard"- a Herculean job if ever there was one. The bright kids, who get it the first or the second time sit through review lesson after review lesson till their eyes glaze over . I remember my own daughter lamenting "we can't learn anything new in math till Heather gets it and Heather never gets it". And Heather, bless her heart probably never did.

The Special Education kids have multiple laws on their side to ensure they get everything they need and then some. Our "Lifeskills Class" has a full time teacher and 3 full time aides . Class size - 3 children. We've one profoundly handicapped child on our campus who has a full time attendant (paid for by the school district). This person pushes the wheelchair, blends food, changes diapers, basically acts a full time caregiver. This kind of care does not come cheap - even at the barely above minimum wages our district pays to aides. I'm not saying we need to go back to the situation described in Karen, where Karen, who has cerebral palsy was denied access to a public education but there has to be a happy medium.

Our 1st & 2nd grade gifted kids get 2 hours of special services a week. Just two. I know, I provide it. We're making PowerPoint presentations and I'm not sure just who is teaching who PowerPoint.

Which group has the most time, resources and money allocated to them? Which group is likely to produce the next Bill Gates, the next Macarthur Fellowship winner or the next John Steinbeck? Something isn't right.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Some Kids are Going to Be Left Behind...

Day one of the state mandated tests (you can thank the shrub for this emphasis on testing - he unleashed it while governor of Texas). According to NCLB all kids are supposed to pass these things or the schools ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOB.

Kids are not apples or oranges or even chickens. They aren't all the same. The tests usually are no problem for the bright to normal kids - other than the total boredom that sets in while they pre-test, post test, benchmark test and review test. The kids with a low IQ (the cut off in Texas is 70) are considered special ed, and while they too have a test to take, it's geared to their ability and educational goals. The kids with learning disabilities are allowed to test with modifications.

It's the not so bright kids, the kids on the downside of the bell curve, the ones who work hard and to the best of their potential who are slipping through the cracks. They aren't eligible for Resource / pull out programs because they haven't a learning disability and there isn't a gap between their IQ and their academic performance. They are to "smart" for special ed or life skills program. But they aren't bright enough to score the 90+% that's required for a school to gain the highly coveted superior ratings. And they know it.

Not All Children are Little Engines... Posted by Hello

They attend tutoring after school and on Saturdays, do extra homework, try their very best but sometimes they just can't get it.

I can't imagine being expected to achieve 90% mastery in something that, try though I might I just can't master. I am not gifted musically. No matter how many lessons I endure, no matter how much I practice I can't sing on key nor play an instrument with any degree of proficiency. Music classes for me were pure torture and I was grateful they were only given a couple of times a week.

That's what school is like for these children. They stumble, pick themselves up, stumble again and keep on trying. It's a testament to their character that they just don't give up.

One would think the shrub would be sympathetic to their plight. He was, as he is proud to tout only a C student, so chances are he was one of those student himself!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

We are Everywhere...esp. on a Channel Near You

... on Sunday night, February 20th, 2005.

First off, Melissa Etheridge on DateLine NBC, talking of her victory over breast cancer, with partner by her side. She's bald, alive, sparkling and sexier than ever.

Melissa! Posted by Hello

Followed by The Simpsons with an episode featuring gay marriage. Patty came out! Marge, once she got over the shock was accepting and supportive.

Then Desperate Housewives. Those in know are hinting that the show will soon introduce a gay character (and it happened tonight!) . Not to mention the very persistent rumor that one of the housewives is actually gay in real life.

And for the grande finale - The L Word. Dyke Drama, high fashion and a convoluted story line.

Dykes in Prime Time! Hey, Shrub Bush no matter how you try to spin it we aren't going to disappear. Get over it!

Friday, February 18, 2005

They Have Their Moments...

The library is an after lunch hang out for some of our more voracious readers...not that they read during that time; their current focus is a Hobbit Computer game I picked up at Half Price Books. But they have to read to earn loitering privileges so I don't begrudge them a bit of time on the computers. Oddly, this lure has convinced a number of 5th grade boys that reading gets you what you want - a valuable life lesson if ever there was one. My top readers are all boys, which not usually the norm, especially given our demographics.

O.B. wandered into today and promptly burst into tears - seems one of his relatives was in an auto accident and is seriously hurt. The other boys left off what what they were doing to come over and give him a hug and hand him some Kleenex. No taunts of "crybaby", no giggles, no teasing, " - just compassionate friendship. 5 young Bantam Hispanic boys, all brimming over with hormones and machismo put aside their swagger & pride and came to the aide of a friend.

All Fridays should end on such a high point.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Another thing I've learned while obsessively reading blogs - cunning cat pictures are obligatory. Question to ponder, do bloggers graviate toward dogs or cats? We have 6 cats so I can post cute cat pics till the end of time. I also have a nasty case of the flu so my brain is foggy. After another extended wait at the Doctors office I also have new wonder drugs to replace the wonder drugs that didn't work after the first extended wait at the Doctors office. So wonder drugs and I are off to bed. No books will be packed tonight.

In case you are dying to know, the cats in question are Gabriel and LittleManTate, the kitten we rescued last fall.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Primroses in February! Posted by Hello Surfing blogs, I've noticed that snow pictures are more or less mandatory. No snow in Houston, I have have Primroses and Daffodils. We have a lot-line house with a small pocket garden and a couple of beds. I've made it as English in appearance as I can, which gets tricky when the temperature soars to the high 90s in July. This is the first time I've had daffodils and I love them - they look so cheery and perky. February is a wonderful month in Houston - I wish I could bottle it and spray a little on my wrists in August.

Daffodils Posted by Hello

The Fountain - no ice here! Posted by Hello

It Won't Leave...

Hack, sneezle, sniffle, honk, cough, sniff, sneeze..oh it just sounds really peachy at our house. No Valentine Romance, no long lingering dinner for two, no roses, no champagne toasts. I think we'll go get some take out from Pei-Wei. Won-Ton soups sounds appealing and they make a good fried rice.

Someone on the Thrift List posted a new link for e-cards. Very clever. Anti-Cards - not sappy or sentimental.

And I wasted a perfectly good day off and that's even more annoying than being sick. I planted a few herbs and listed books . E-Bay's Valentine's Day present to its users is a nickel listing day so I'll toss a bunch of books up once prime time arrives.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

It's Back.....

....the sniffles, sneezes, runny nose, watery eyes, and sore throat....and tomorrow is a holiday and I won't be able to enjoy it properly. If I'm lucky enough to get a Doctor's appointment I will get to spend part of my day waiting. I already devoted the previous Friday to waiting!

Maybe I can get an appointment for Wednesday afternoon and miss the faculty meeting! Now there's a cheering thought!

Friday, February 11, 2005


It seems, that despite the rush, rush here, rush, rush there tone of our lives that we spend a great deal of time cooling our heels. Not just little blips of time, such as waiting for the train to pass or being stuck in traffic but great big blips of time. Last week I alloted 2 hours toward waiting for the Doctor, this week it was a 3 hour stint at the auto repair shop.

Is this anyway connected to rise in laptops, iPod, cell phones, PDAs, Blackberry etc. etc.? In our driven world, must we all do something (perferably two somethings) during all this enforced downtime?

Today, while waiting for the car (which was about as interesting as Waiting for Godot) I had my laptop and was busy tweaking a PowerPoint project for a lesson I'm working on. One other person was plugged into her iPod while studying and a business man was reviewing contracts and talking on his cell phone. One woman was actually carrying on two conversations at once - one with her job on a land line and another with her mother on a cell phone. One sturdy nonconformist was napping - though how he could sleep through all the noise is still beyond me.
So not only did we have much activity going on, but there was some serious multi tasking going on as well.

Once my car was done I headed home and was caught by a very long freight train. I read the newspaper while waiting.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I Didn't Wanna Do It...

....write a political post. But the President's budget was released today and I'm reeling. Cuts in education, in Medicaid, community block grants, public housing, student loans, veterans benefits - almost all the domestic programs but homeland security are going to the guillotine. Yet, he's handed the Pentagon a 4.8% increase, in addition to setting aside an additional $81 Billion dollars toward the war in Iraq, and that's in addition to the $25 Billion that's already been allocated.

So, it looks like we'll have plenty of guns for our future soldiers. Never mind that they won't be able read the manual, are underweight due to inadequate prenatal care and wont' be able to attend college nor pay counseling when they are deployed home.

I teach so the education cuts really hit home. Teachers do so much with less, yet they are asked to cut back and make do till there isn't enough fabric to sew the button onto Joseph's Little Overcoat.
Posted by Hello
Take a look at some of the teacher blogs out there - Snazzycat & A Series of Inconsequential Events are two I've come across recently. These folks are the ones who are making the world a better place for all of us. The Shrub should hang his head in shame.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Somebody Won...

The Super Bowel, just can't remember who...I think it's the team My Beloved wasn't cheering for because she's awfully quiet all of a sudden.

Me, I watch for the commercials. The Pepsi pitches baffle me - I assume that's an age thing. The beer ads are inane beyond belief. But then, they are aimed at the 20something male so they are most likely hitting their target audience. FedEx had a unique spin. The white cat & spaghetti sauce one was clever but I can't recall what they were shilling. There goes 5 million dollars down the drain!

Oddity- Ads for the half time show. Is there anyone in English Speaking world who wasn't aware that Paul McCartney was performing? He's aging well. Granted,you could hardly see him amid the fireworks and laser light shows but the performer always plays second fiddle to the special effects when it comes to the SuperBowl and the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Olympics. At least he kept his fly zipped.

It's over for another year. Now the media will have to find something else to hype. I hope it's not Michael Jackson.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Blogs are Alive....

with the sound of music.....and it's a disturbing trend. I surf while My Beloved watches the endless parade of sports on ESPN & the Golf Channel. She doesn't want to miss one moment of the scintillating commentary on whether the receiver was in or out of bounds by one quarter of an inch so absolute quiet is in order.

I'm happily surfing away, collecting credits from BlogExplosion and BlogClicker. I click and odd, tinkling music starts trickling out of my computer. I have a laptop, which I bought for speed and portability, not sound quality. Any music coming out the teeny, tiny speakers sound like it's being rendered by the "It's a Small World" Choir, coming to you live from Walt Disney World.

Folks, this is not a good thing if you want readers to linger at your blog and read your pearls of wisdom.

I hear music and I move on - I don't even wait for the seconds clock to count down!

Friday, February 04, 2005

It's the Pigeon's Fault! Posted by Hello

Cough, sniff, Sneezle, Hack

It's everywhere. Every class I've seen this week has had 3 or 4 kids absent. Teachers are out. It's running rampant on the blogs - humm.....if my computer can catch a virus from the internet can I catch one too?

Well, I caught it. I have no voice. It gave out during a particularly spirited rendition of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. Stay tuned for the sequel - The Pigeon Needs Some Niquel.

Two hours of waiting at the Doctor's office for a 10 minute consolation. With a medical student who isn't any older than my own daughter. Not only do I feel sick, I also feel old.

And after a stop at the pharmacy I also feel poor. And I have health insurance. What do folks do who don't.

I should go pack books but the pillow is much more compelling.