27 May 2008

TWLOHA

I read about this organization/movement in our student-run school newspaper today. The author of the article is a girl who I had last semester and who had unique, insightful and thoughtful views on matters. She's not normally outspoken so I always look forward to her articles.
To Write Love On Her Arms is "dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery." I can't really guarantee it, so I can only say that if you take a moment to read Renee's story at their website, if think you will feel it was not time wasted. I think I'm going to get either this shirt or this one to support their work (and support my closet!)
After reading about Renee, I couldn't help but connect it to my favorite Oscar Wilde quote,
"We are all in the gutter,
but some of us are looking at the stars."

I love the hope and optimism embodied in that, as well as the recognition of the choice & empowerment involved in taking control of your attitude and outlook.

No need for ACT's

From the NY Times article, Wake Forest and Smith College have done away with requiring a standardized test as part of their admission processes. While they are not the first schools to do so, they are the highest rated ones so far. The article brings up a couple noteworthy points;
  • It is mostly small colleges that have done away with the test requirement. Large state schools have too many applications to get through to rely on other, arguably more authentic indicators. It is noted that University of Texas has instituted a policy where all high school students in the top 10% of their class are granted admission.
  • Although they are not required, they still may be submitted with the application, which could lead to those who do well including their score, and those who do poorly leaving it off. Also, won't the students need, or want, to take the test to compete for scholarships?
  • I'm glad they presented the concern that "the degree to which test performance correlates with household income, parental education and race" in the college's decision to move away from using them and not just focusing on "the validity of standardized tests in predicting academic success".
  • "the most important criteria for admission will be high school curriculum and classroom performance, writing ability, extracurricular activities and evidence of character and talent"...I'd like to know how closely some of these traits (like writing ability & HS curriculum) are correlated to the income, education and race variables mentioned above. I wonder if it is any less than standardized test performance.

26 May 2008

Firefly

It took a month and a half after the first time to get out for my second ride of the year. I got a nice ride in yesterday, enjoying the weather, riding along the river for a ways, checking out all the people out for picnics, all the boaters and all the people fishing along the bank. I snapped a few pix that I was happy with on the way back home.
57 minutes, 13.25 miles, 13.9 mph avg, windy, 86 degrees, 91 degree heat index.

22 May 2008

Worthwhile II





I have been lucky enough to have seven exchange students this year. I love the diversity and global perspective they bring to the classroom, plus they are just funny sometimes with their observations. This week one of these exchange students' host sister came up to me before school and said she had a big favor to ask of me. Being that I was losing my mind helping my kids cram for the AP test, putting together final tests, keeping my gradebook up to date and answering endless questions of "Am I going to pass/graduate?"...I was not really eager to take on any additional favors. Luckily, as she divulged, I quickly realized this was a favor I was going to love to fulfill. Senior night for soccer was coming up and since the host sister was also a senior, her parents were going to walk with her, which left no one to escort Maha, the Moroccan exchange student. She said that since Maha loved my class (bonus points) she wanted to know if I'd consider doing it. It made my month! This girl is in a class that has a tough mix of kids in it and is not always my favorite, but she is a shining star. Always in a good mood, respectful yet fun, mature, friendly and a hard worker.
So tonight was the game and I think they had sort of kept it a secret from her, but when the coach called over to her and pointed at me as I was coming across the field with the senior parents, she clapped and skipped over and gave me a big hug. She was very appreciative and excited. They all got bouquets and when her host sister told her one of the player's mom had made them, she said, "She is amazing!" It was really wonderful.
On the drive home I was thinking how special it really was to have built a relationship with a young adult half the way around the world from their home. And to be part of her senior night, finishing up their season and their senior year, it really was a memorable moment. I may not be her parent, or even her host parent, but I was as just as proud as anyone else on that field tonight.

18 May 2008

Worthwhile


This is the kind of perk that a career in education can offer an individual who works hard and strives to do their best. There is no rapid advancement, stock options, commission, or massive wage raises. No, here you are rewarded by honest, straightforward appreciation. And, instead of a cold handshake from a guy in a suit, this is delivered by a young adult with a beaming smile and energy radiating from them, matched by 20-some other classmates watching, grinning and hoping you like their efforts....
I did.

Do You Hear What I Hear

The earbuds that came with my iPod have gone downhill in performance lately. The right one does not seem to put out nearly as much sounds as the left, but I've had them for like three years so, it's not unheard of that they are at the end of their lifespan. So I've been looking around for some replacements. While working Saturday school yesterday, one of the students there had some earbuds that I'd seen and was interested in. She's totally into music and will be pursuing further education and a career in singing & performance, so I figured she might now about what sounds good. She gave the headphones a solid recommendation and even said that she had bought the higher priced, premium product from the same company but hadn't really been able to hear much of a difference so she went back to the basic ones. Skullcandy's Smoking Buds "Ink'd". $14.99 at Target. For such a low price, the 'noise canceling sleeve' works amazingly well. It also keeps a lot of your sound from leaking out and distracting others. It focuses it all directly into your brain, :), so you don't have to turn the music up as high. Three sizes of detachable earpieces make it even more comfortable. Highly recommended.

17 May 2008

Build Up, Don't Tear Down

So I signed up to work Saturday school this morning. It is an opportunity for kids who are struggling to come in and get work made up and get help. It was a pretty slow, boring but painless three hours. One interaction between a teacher and a student did stick with me though. The student had gotten their powerpoint presentation completed finally and was printing it out as the teacher walked in to the computer lab. "Don't you know how to print out slides?" was how he started off the conversation and it wasn't sugar-coated. "You just killed a tree." I agree that she should have chosen the Print Slides - 6 per page option, but isn't there a better way to go about getting that message across? And the worse part was, after restating "You just killed a tree" the teacher left without ever showing the girl how to change the print settings! So, next time she goes to print, guess what's going to happen...
That was a teachable opportunity and it was forgone.

14 May 2008

Countdown

How many more days til the seniors are done?!?!? [2 or 3, FYI] This week has been exhausting and it is only Wednesday! Senioritis really kicked in last week and now on top of that I'm trudging through stacks of papers to grade, keeping online grades up to date, constantly answering student & parent requests for grade updates, doing last minute prep for my AP kids, creating finals tests and filling in any remaining time trying to get out and see kids in soccer matches, show choir and attend some graduation receptions. I think I'm going to be just as anxious and nervous as my students taking the AP exam tomorrow morning. I really am hoping for them to do well. Partly for their sake and partly for my own self-confidence & ego. Needless to say, when 9:16 rolls around next Tuesday and my last final is complete I will be a very relieved educator.
I should mention that we had a very nice effort from our PTA last week for Teacher Appreciation Week. They brought in all sorts of food and treats every day along with a coupon to a local business. It was very nice.

11 May 2008

Stephen Colbert Solves Gas Crisis

I had forgotten how much I missed Stephen and 'The Word'. This video is great. And we just talked about the 'Gas Tax Holiday' idea in class! Good stuff. I'd love to play this clip for the students.

Inflation, Visually

This chart on the NY Times page has gotten a lot of praise on the economics mailing list that I'm on. It is all the things that a quality visual aid should be, easy to understand, providing more information than would be convenient if it were just written out, captivating & interesting to the reader and offering a different way to look at the information. If I only had a classroom & InFocus projector to show this to my students!
Try out the zoom and click around the chart too! I spent some time looking at the Food section thinking if it reflected what I've seen in my trips to the grocery store.

09 May 2008

Return of the Hammer & Sickle?

This article definitely caught my eye this morning. Russia brought back the tradition of a massive military parade on Victory Day, something that hadn't been done since the days of the Soviet Union. There were also posters and signs with the hammer and sickle on them. An auspicious event, no doubt. And Putin used it as a visible signal of where he plans to be during Medvedeev's Presidency...right in his ear.

07 May 2008

Ronaldo Headlines

I haven't blogged anything soccer related for quite sometime. So I'll give you three...
First, the Champions League final is set for May 21 in Moscow. It will pit two English Premier League heavyweights, Manchester United and Chelsea. I am not totally thrilled about it because I really enjoy the cross-border appeal of the Champions League, so a final with two teams that have played each other a half dozen times already this year is a little anti-climactic. Regardless, I will be finding someway to escape from school a bit early that day so I can watch. :)
Secondly, a little Beckham footage. He scored a brace (two goals in one game) last week and both were pretty nice. Check them out, that first one is a cracker and the second is a textbook unsaveable Beckham free kick.
Lastly, a headline on Soccernet was so ridiculous and bizarre I just had to share it, "Tranny Hookers Admit Lying About Ronaldo." It is actually a serious story that has had some major fallout, including loss of girlfriend and sponsors. More complete details here .

06 May 2008

Bush-McCain Challenge

Got this link from MoveOn.org. Check it out and see if you can nail all 5 questions. I could only get 3 out of 5...there are too many similarities!
Bush-McCain Challenge

05 May 2008

Redneck Woman Gets G.E.D.

Congrats to Gretchen Wilson for being a positive role model to, not only her daughter, but to all teens as well as high school dropouts. Despite what has got to be a crazy schedule, she made getting her diploma a priority and achieved her goal. Yee haw!

04 May 2008

Yay Spring!

Gorgeous weather today. Sunny and 70 degrees. Started the day with church, breakfast and a walk at Gray's Lake with caboose and homebase. Followed that up by sitting outside, checking papers and soaking up some much needed vitamin D. I also snapped a couple photos as I walked back from the coffee shop that I thought embodied the feeling of the day. Grilling out seemed required so I made some tasty burgers (with fresh grated Parmesan cheese in them) in the afternoon and also ate an entire quart of sliced strawberries. Mmmm.

01 May 2008

Perspective

At school this week I had two instances where I was given a reassuring and clear look at two students who exhibited great perspective.
The first one happened when I crossed paths with a student that I had last semester. I completely enjoyed having this girl in class; hard worker, incredibly optimistic and upbeat outlook, kind and funny. And all this despite having some seriously tough situations in her life so far. So she had just gotten back from a school trip to Mexico and when I asked her about it, unlike other kids might, she didn't start talking about how fun it was to go to the clubs or the low drinking and smoking age down there. She started talking about the poverty and the homeless children in the streets. We talked for 20 minutes about it and, even though she doesn't have much to give, she was very determined to try and find a way to help. She's only been back a couple days and she's already contacted people about getting involved with programs to help. Incredible.
The other episode happened a day later. Graduation reception invitations are getting passed out all over the school. One student came up to me in the hall and gave me his announcement. This kid has worked very hard to get an A in my class and his warm personality is easy to see, even though he doesn't talk a lot in class. I was asking him where he was heading to college and then if he knew what he was going to major in . He said he didn't know, but that he just wanted to work hard. I paused for a second and he told me about his mother, father and sister being killed in his home country [Sudan]. He said how his aunt had took him in and helped get him to America. He followed that up by repeating, "I just want to work hard" a couple more times. The contrast between that sentiment and what a lot of other students are excited about for college really had me thinking for while.
Two really top-notch young adults, sharing a little perspective.