February 28, 2010

Bookbag - February

Emma by Jane Austen (audio book)
So this is why people don't like the classics. Pride and Prejudice, which I finished last year, was so much better. I wish I had been reading the hard copy of Emma so I could have skipped Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Elton.

The 39 Clues, books 1-7
I like to know what the boys are reading so I can keep up with their conversations in the car.

The Bone Box by Bob Hostetler

A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer
There has been much talk in my circle of friends about the books our kids will be reading in middle school. I thought I would get a head start on those books while I have some time. I can't believe I haven't read this one. Heart-wrenching and inspirational. Will my then 12 year old be ready to read it? We'll see when we get there.

Helping Your Gifted Child Soar by Carol Ann Strip and Gretchen Hirsch
Nothing I hadn't already figured out by myself.

February 24, 2010

He may be a jerk, but he's right

Have you seen this yet?

NYU Business Professor Slams Student

Some highlights:

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow's business leaders.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance...these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility...these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx.

Put in words kids my sons' age can understand. Don't be tardy to school. Be polite. Don't pee on the floor. Get the easy stuff right.

One way to fix ailing schools

All Teachers Fired at Rhode Island School

This CNN story details the battle in American education between teachers doing what is right and the teachers' union demanding that we pay them to do it. Who should have the responsibility for students' education?

In our house, I have that responsibility. I have fired teachers before. I have removed my child from a class that wasn't meeting his educational needs. I am on of "those" mothers. You know, the one who requests teachers. The one who is an advocate for "her" children. I check their grades at least every other day. I know when their assignments are due. I am not just a parent, but also an educator. I am also well-educated myself. I know what is required by both higher-education and the working world and I intend to make sure my kids are prepared.

Not all parents have my skill-set. Not even all the parents in my neighborhood.

New York City also thinks that poor teachers should go.

I guess I wonder who they are going to hire when they let everyone go. We have a great school and really good test scores, but there are several teachers I would not let my children have. There are applicants who would love to teach in my school, but I doubt any of them would agree to teach in a district that fired an entire high school staff and whoe population is not prepared to "advocate" for their own families.

Maybe the newly unemployed teachers should move to Los Angeles?

Teachers to Gain Control of Schools

Random Thoughts

I was going to call this "Thought of the Day" Or "Thought of the Week," but there is no telling how often I will find something I think is worth sharing with you. So, "Random Thoughts" it is.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.

C. S. Lewis

Please don't annoy me BEFORE I've had some coffee

I know my husband is quite good at his job. Now I think I know why. He annoys his employees and superiors until they just give in and let him have his way.

Let me recreate a little of our conversation this morning ... before I had even thought about coffee.

He: When are we going to see John this weekend?
(John is our cousin who is shipping out to Iraq in March.)

Me: You go up early and I'll come up after the baseball games.

He: That's too far for you to drive on your own.

Me: It's an hour and a half. I've driven it many times on my own.

He: Something could happen.

Me: Between here and C.S?

He: You could break down.

Me: I'll call you or AAA.

He: What if your phone doesn't work?

Me: Seriously? My brand new iPhone?

He: Yes. What if you are on the highway and your car breaks down and your phone doesn't work.

Me: I'm not driving on the highway.

He: You're taking the back roads? What if you hit a deer?

Me: Seriously?

He: Something could happen. What if I have my phone off?

Me: I'll call AAA, or George or Pat (Friends of ours whose houses I have to pass to get to C.S.)

He: Then we'll have two cars there.

Me: Yes?

He: Is that excessive? That wastes gas. It's expensive.

Me: Yes, but let me remind you that you work for an oil company. We get a discount on gas.

He: We'll have to drive back at night. That is an added risk factor.

Me: I don't want to talk about this anymore, just decide what you want to do and tell me.

Short pause ...

He: I don't want to miss the baseball games.

Me: They are practice games.

He: I've committed to making as many games as possible.

Me: They are practice games.

He: Are they practice or games?

Me: They are practice games.

He: I want to be there for the kids.

Me: They are practice games. Why don't we go on Sunday?

He: We'll miss church and Sunday School.

Me: Let's just go to early church.

He: Our friends will be disappointed if we aren't at sunday school.

Me: Seriously?

He: Yeah, K. is depending on us to be there.

Me: Seriously?

He: Well, I know we've only been once, but I think they want us there.

Me: (I say nothing and put a pillow over my head in a vain attempt to drown out the incessant chatter.)

He: So, when do you want to go see John this weekend?

I can't take anymore and the conversation ends when I get up and leave.

February 22, 2010

Word of the Week

ed·u·cate   [ej-oo-keyt]

-verb (used with object)

1. to develop the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling.
2. to qualify by instruction or training for a particular calling, practice, etc.; train: to educate someone for law.
3. to provide schooling or training for; send to school.
4. to develop or train (the ear, taste, etc.): to educate one's palate to appreciate fine food.
5. to inform: to educate oneself about the best course of action.

–verb (used without object)

6. to educate a person or group: A television program that educates can also entertain.

1580–90; < L ēducātus brought up, taught (ptp. of ēducāre), equiv. to ē- e- + -duc- lead + -ātus -ate1

—Related forms
o·ver·ed·u·cate, verb (used with object),-cat·ed, -cat·ing.
pre·ed·u·cate, verb (used with object),-cat·ed, -cat·ing.

1. instruct, school, drill, indoctrinate.

educate. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/educate

February 21, 2010

Elite Public Education

The Fordham Institute published a study on "private public schools." Those being defined as schools in which low-income students make up less than 5% of the student body. I wanted to see where my school fell on the scale. None of the schools in my district are on this list, by the way.

Here is a random school from the list - Groveland Elementary, in Wayzata, MN:

Percent Low-Income - 3.13 %
Percent White - 90%
Persent Asian - 4%
Percent Black - 2 %
Percent Hispanic - 3 %

And now my school:

Percent Reduced or Free Lunch - 13%
Percent White/Asian - 75%
Percent Black - 6%
Percent Hispanic - 19%

And here is a school less than five miles away:

Persent Reduced or Free Lunch - 5%
Percent White/Asian - 83%
Persent Black - 3%
Percent Hispanic - 14%

What keeps them off the list, I wonder? The number of Hispanic children. I think if they would check the percent of Hispanc children in school against the average Hispanic population of South Texas, they would find that 14% percent is actually pretty low.

Considering the numbers this Memorial Elementary in Weslaco, TX put up:

Percent Low-Income - 0.11 %
Percent White - 5%
Persent Asian - 2%
Percent Black - 0%
Percent Hispanic - 93 %

Kind of blows some of your preconceived notions out of the water. Doesn't it?

Is your school on the list?

February 19, 2010

Books for Boys - revisited

I have read a number of articles lately about the dearth of books for boys, like this one in Education Week.

Authors Share Tips on How to Hook Boys on Books

Sorry, but I think these articles are missing the point.

There are some wonderful books for boys out there. Books with wonderful male main characters. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Nick McIver to name a few. We just finished The Call of The Wild and are quickly moving through Robinson Crusoe. The books for boys are out there. I will admit they are not as numerous as books for girls, but part of me says, "Thank goodness." I don't need a boy's version of Twilight or How to Be Popular or The Summer I Turned Pretty.

In my opinion the problem is not that the books aren't out there. I think the problem is that we expect less of the boys and they meet those expectations. I will never forget the day my son came home with a choice from the library, selected just for him by the librarian ... Captain Underpants. This for a boy who had already finished The Chronicles of Narnia (in their original order he likes to say). I personally returned that book to the library and suggested if the librarian needed help in the library during my son's library time, I would be more than happy to come and volunteer (she never did call).

Why aren't we reading to our boys like we read to our girls? Why can't we send our boys off with adventure classics and show them that classic does not mean boring? Why don't we have mother/son book clubs just like we have mother/daughter book clubs? Why don't you take your son to a book signing?

I don't think the problem is a lack of books for boys. (But go ahead and bring them on ... if they are good we will read them.) I think the problem is that we read less with our boys and expect less of them. Let's be honest, the problem starts at home.

Are you in need of some great "Books for Boys" resources? Check out the side bar with some of my choices from Library Thing or follow these links ...

Boys Rule Boys Read!
Guys Read
Book Club 4 Boys