Falling

Mid-September in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Morning dawns with a chill, while Daylight still strokes rosy tendrils along its rocky coast well into the night.

This is my favorite season to run along the river. Winding along the banks under the evergreen canopy of Douglas fir and hemlock, the last blackberries bake in the sun, their heady perfume wafting through the air. The last vestiges high off the ground are still good for cobbler,  if you can brave their thorny concertina wire. 

In the spring, tiny bunnies wait on the path for my approach. When I’m close enough, they spring across to the other side and disappear into the undergrowth. 

In the fall the bunnies are off-duty, but the path is carpeted with fuzzy orange and black Woollybear caterpillars moseying along to find a new sheltering piece of bark. It’s nearly impossible to run without stepping on one, so my stride shortens tentatively.  

PAVELS/ SHUTTERSTOCK

Gnats swarm in thick clouds without regard for those of us who are breathing. Frog sentries screech warnings just before plopping into water. Stagnant pools thickly braid earthy ropes of rotting leaves, scaly creatures, hidden secrets, and nature unbroken. 

Response to “America is Slowly Sucking the Life out of Education Starting with its Teachers “

1. Early education actually evens out by third grade. There is no reason to put a three year old in school.

2. There is no logical comparison to Finland or any country that isn’t as open, diverse, as big, or that has such high expectations of ALL students as the US.

3. Teachers are never considered finally professional – – professional development is never ending, and it never stays the same. Every new superintendent, principal, and education secretary brings a penchant for new “development.”  The one thing every teacher needs is more time. Not meetings, not training, not collaboration. TIME to use in planning and preparation and grading. The powers that be somehow cannot stand when there is unplanned time available.

4. Also, until we end social promotion and admit and recognize its limitations, and that of inclusion policies on the success of classrooms, teachers will continue to feel overwhelmed and under- supported.

America is slowly sucking the life out of education—starting with its teachers

A Peculiar Book Review 

Two years ago,  I won a classroom library of about 150 brand new beautiful young adult literature books at a district professional development training session. Since then I’ve been able to add a second full library collection, and many of my own copies. 

I’ve scrounged up bookshelves from surplus, Craigslist, garage sales, and the dusty corners of the garage. At the end of last year, I entered each isbn# into an online classroom library for individual electronic check out, so hopefully I’ll be able to easily track the books–and get them returned! We haven’t gotten to that point yet this year, so we’ll see how it goes.  

Since then I’ve planned to read a different ya novel every month, on top of my teaching duties, but I admit I’ve heavily failed. Best laid plans, and all that. But I was able to read a few, one of which was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I fully enjoyed this part fantasy part science fiction part historical novel part thriller. You can find a good summary elsewhere on the webbernet, but my favorite aspect is that Riggs has taken actual fabulous photos found in antique stores–you know the ones that make you wonder whose baby that is or the story behind that couple, and why it’s in an antique store instead of  displayed as a cherished family hierloom–only these are the weird ones, 

and he’s crafted background stories that connect like the old erector sets to formulate this funky, creepy tale.

Technically, I give Riggs a pass for a few raggedy seams because he’s so creative. These improve in each book that follows Miss Peregrine’s to complete the series. Riggs spins a story I didn’t want to put down; I can only imagine it’s that much more fun for kids.

 I don’t subscribe to the “it doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they read” mantra; there are concepts and images that have no business in young minds. But if it’s age appropriate, absolutely. This series is probably best for age 12 and up. There are a few adolescent scenes and scary monsters. There may be some curse words. I tend to be conservative in my assessments. 

I’ve been planning to use old pictures as prompts for my students when I can work them in, which certainly isn’t a new approach, but I haven’t employed it before. I’m excited to give it a shot and watch creativity blossom. 

If you’re looking for a book for a young person, pick up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and enjoy it first – then give it to your kids.

P. S. Skip the movie. It’s rather terrible. 

Political Question of the week #1

How many people do you know who have shifted from belief in a small federal government to pushing an all-powerful,  all-controlling central government? I’m willing to bet not many. In fact, I would be truly shocked if you know any. Not wafflers or milquetoasts, but staunchly political. I know of many people who have moved the opposite direction. Why is that? What makes a person flip 180° politically? 

I found a great series of videos that provide first hand primary accounts that are very helpful in answering this question. Here are 10 of them. Peruse and consider where you stand. Are you often overcome by emotion? Do you support lofty ideals in hope of  building utopia on Earth? Are you pragmatic, basing your beliefs on logical understanding of the economy and history? Why do you align with your political party? 

#1  Thomas Sowell-economics 

#2 John Stossel-free market competition

#3 Penn Gillette – logic

#4 Dr. Ben Carson- Personal responsibility

#5 Elbert Guillory-civil rights

#6 Melanie Phillips-intolerance

#7 David Horowitz – ideology

#8 David Mamet-common sense

#9 PJ O’Rourke – corruption 

#10 Lee Hyeon-Seo – freedom

Humble yourselves that He may exalt you

I Peter 5

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 

8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

Lifelong Education 

We tend to think that when we graduate high school or finally earn that degree, then we’re done with school. But learning should be a lifelong process. If you aren’t actively expanding your knowledge and understanding about something – anything – then you’re cheating yourself and falling behind your destiny.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a high powered executive or a bottom-of-the-totem-pole-floor sweeper. You contribute to this big blue marble of ours, and you are tasked with improving yourself. Why?

1. Children and others are watching you. If you allow yourself to petrify in front of the TV or reading only romance novels or even if you’re very active, but simply spinning in the same orbit year after year, you aren’t moving beyond the minimum. Look, I’m lazy as they come, but how can we expect others to do better than we have if we never make the effort ourselves?  Oh, sure, we have plenty of excuses. Frankly, I don’t want to hear them and I don’t care. If you’re breathing you can learn. And I’m not talking about just college or official training programs. In fact, I happen to think most universities are leftist indoctrination camps all prettied up. Find anything. 

2. You need to feel good about yourself. Stagnation stinks. Move forward.

Finishing my first 10k at 48
3. Your country needs you. Just read a comment thread of that which passes for a “news” story online. Count the idiots who spew only insults, generalizations, baseless opinions, and flat out false information. And the worst thing is they think their vapid opinions matter. They don’t. They are not informed beyond surface emotional reactions, and they are littering the world with their word vomit.

Educate yourself. Read a nonfiction book. Watch a documentary or two and make notes of subjects that seem glossed over or statements that pique your interest but aren’t fully supported. Research both sides of it. Make an informed assessment, even if it isn’t what you want to believe. Look at the viewpoint of people you really disagree with. Quietly in your own space, where you can avoid emotional baggage and simply “listen”  to understand. Then formulate arguments based on fact and reason and logic if you wish, but use accurate information, not knee jerk reactions. Emotions mean nothing, in the end. Everyone has them and they’re prone to lead us the wrong direction and into making mistakes. Separate fact from fantasy. Just because we want something to be so doesn’t mean we can either force others to cooperate or that human nature is ever going to change.

Learn to sew. Grow vegetables for the first time. Explore a trail and read about pioneers that used to live there. How does that dam allow you to live there, and who was displaced to build it? That building on the corner, why was it built long ago and who owned it? Take a painting class or learn to bake.

Educate yourself. We’re counting on you.  

Adventures in Rome: Priceless

People don’t enter the teaching profession to make money. Obviously, we want a pay check, but with the level of education required in many states (Master’s degree) and the number of hours we contribute, we’d be making far more in the private sector putting our skills and passion to work. And let me just squelch right now the oft-claimed, “at least you get summers off.” True, kinda. If we aren’t going to training or working second jobs. But we also don’t get paid for the summer. Our paychecks are divided into twelve payments so that we receive summer paychecks, but we are only paid for the school year. Also, we don’t get paid overtime. I usually put in between 50-55 hours per week.

Anyway, it isn’t lucrative. So when I decided to celebrate my youngest’s university graduation this summer with a trip to Italy, it was a decision I didn’t take lightly. It was expensive. I came up with all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t. Briefly. And then the most important reason blazed: if not now, when? Soon my baby will start a career that will possibly take her far away and keep her busy. Then marriage and babies and I’m not getting any younger, so yes, now.

I lived in Vicenza, Italy for about three years, 24 years ago. It’s where my son learned to walk, and where I carried my daughter until a few weeks before her birthday. So this trip was a sort of an emotional homecoming for me, too.
We spent 18 glorious days luxuriating in the Ligurian Sea, steeping in ancient art, feasting on local cuisine, and hiking urban streets and rural trails.

We started in Rome.

Trevi Fountain

Obviously, the layout of the city isn’t different from when I was there before. What has changed is the commercialization and focus on tourism. I remember walking right into all the sites without waiting in line – except the Vatican. But even that line has grown exponentially. It really just blew my mind. As a stay at home mom on a soldier’s salary long ago, I got to look at sites from the outside, but rarely could we afford to go in. So I decided that this time we were going to go in and see everything. I sprung for good tours that skipped the general admission lines. I cannot recommend this highly enough. It is absolutely worth it.

Vatican museum
St. Peter’s Basilica

The Bocca della Verita used to be very open and easy to access. Now it’s all closed in with scaffolding and an attendant, and the line was just wicked in the hot July sun. We stood there wilting for about an hour with temps in the mid-90s.

Bocca della Verita

When touring, I found the best way to stay sane is to be flexible. Set a few non-negotiable tours and visits (plan far ahead because many sites require reservations, even with general admission), but then relax and simply enjoy whatever circumstance arises.

The Coliseum
Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona
Palatine Hill
Circus Maximus
The Tiber River
View from the Castel Sant’Angelo
The Pieta

Eat. Everything.

Eggplant pasta
Spaghetti carbonara (I think)
Fig and prosciutto lasagna
Caprese Sandwich
Pannacotta
Tartufo
Pistachio and chocolate Cannoli
Canneloni

Clearly, I could write several posts about the food alone. We agreed before we left that there would be no discussing diet or calories at any point in our trip, and that eating local cuisine was as much a part of travel as getting there. We fully indulged. The best new thing we discovered is the afternoon apertif. Most restaurants serve free little nibbles when you buy a drink around five or so. We fell in love with Aperol spritz, a lovely concoction of orange bitters, prosecco, and bubble water. My favorite memories will be finally sitting down after a full day of walking, climbing, standing, and sweating, (we averaged ten miles per day) and reveling in the sweet refreshment. Usually we got chips or olives and crackers.

Aperol spritz

I do not regret anything I spent money on for this trip. Sure, there are things I learned later that could have saved money, and prior planning and communication that should have occurred, and travel arrangements that had to be changed and dollars forfeited. But I got to experience moments of my daughter’s cultural awakening and understanding. We shared laughter, silliness, camaraderie, (stress and patience, too) as women, that we may never have otherwise known. Worth it? Absolutely priceless.