Friday, August 19, 2011

multiple wives

I read a lot of books these days - many more than in the days when my house was full of the noise and laughter than are benchmarks of young families.  I read realistic fiction and biographies more than other genre but lately I have not read ANY biographies that were worthy of "blogging" or sharing.  BUT THIS WEEK, I read Favorite Wife" Escape From Polygamy and this one is indeed a compelling story that will stay with me for a while.
Susan Ray Schmidt came from a polygamist family and at 15 married into another one.  It was the way people lived and all she knew...and until she began to reflect on the life she was living in relation to Old and New Testament readings in the Bible. 
It seems hard to believe that a woman who is about my age and lived in the same era as me could have had such a different life....but was al she knew...and polygamy was indeed what she was raised to do.
My life as so different.  It was assumed that Iwould go to college no matter what.  It was assumed that I would chose one partner for life.  That was / is all I know!
As I was finishing the story on the porch this morning, I could not help but think about the MANY differences in our lives...and about how are children really do learn from what they live and experience....

Sometimes,. I joke about "wanting" a wife to clean and cook for my husband and for me - but know that I am really joking - especially now - one wife in a marriage is just fine - and what the good book intended for us to be! 

Target and Staples and Office Depot and even Walmart Know

Five Star Trend Notebook With 8
Long, long ago,  notebooks came in basic colors and binders were always covered in something that resembled blue cotton (most of you have NO idea what I mean so here is a picture!).
Even then, I usually managed to get pretty excited when I would see them stacked high in piles in Woolworths or Grants (that's what our stores were named in the OLD days!)  I know that some of my friends were FAR more excited about the annual shoe store ritual that allowed us to have a new pair of leather shoes that would last us ALL school year long. While there was a neat smell to new shoes to be sure, my long and narrow feet usually meant that I could NOT choose the trendy style or color and would have to settle on whatever they had the fit my feet!  Perhaps that is why I got FAR more satisfaction out of selecting my school supplies! 
As a teacher, I have been able to transform that back to school ritual into a virtual science and month long event!  Early on, those ads start trickling into the Sunday paper.  My daughter suggested I might be salivating when I saw that first one this summer - she might have been right!  The depth and breadth of school supplies has been almost overwhelming - even to me - a vetern back to school shopper of many years!
It is SO hard to choose the best notebook(s) and folders when the choices include beauties like these:
Office Depot Brand 100percent Recycled Fashion
So, I usually pass up the first few I "love" so that I can prolong the search just a bit.....and then after I go into school to begin the classroom set up, I find an excuse to get just a few more make me ready for a new year!  Today, I am off to buy a new 3 ring binder for all those important papers I will be getting in just a few days!
These days, I really do have more shoes than I need, so I guess I can splurge a bit on that binder!
I really do feel SORRY for kids who get all their school supplies delivered in a box....they have no idea how exciting this time of year can be!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It?

I used to tell my children and also my CCD kids (I taught challenging, middle school religious education for many years) that you should use the word "love" very carefully as it was a powerful concept that should be saved for "people in our lives" who go far beyond the word "like."  Thus I would encourage them to say, "I really like chocolate chip mint ice cream" but "I love you."  I suspect that both my own kids and all the other ones who listened to me drone on about saving  "love" really didn'tcare any more about the power of "love" than they did about their use of personal pronouns in the subject or object position (Bob and I, rather than me and Bob). 
In the effort to keep my writing "real," I must admit that I really, really do like reading on the beach, nestled under an umbrella with the sun on my legs a whole lot more than the word "like" might initially portray.  I can get weak in the knees just thinking about how that renews my spirit and energy.  I really do like walking on the beach or even walking to my pond and watching the sunrise.  At those moments, I suspect I am pretty close to the Almighty.  I really, really do like getting an incredible bargain at TJ Maxx or Marshalls and savoring the discounted shopping stub. 
However, now that I am more mature and have a whole lot of life experiences in liking and loving, I am even more confident that saving the word love is an important thing to do.  As much as I like the beach (and that is a whole lot), I love my husband far more.  As much as I really, really like a good book (think Water for Elephants), I love my children far more.  As much as I really, really, really like a good bargain at the Maxx, I love spending time with my family far more.  
Now maybe the ultimate need is for a way to differentiate the way we feel about things and experiences from the deeper connection we have to people; however, until someone comes up with a new word to do so, consider saving the word love for those people you really love!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

did you?

Did you ever want something you couldn't have? Did you ever want to do something you couldn't do? Just wondering if I am the only one?Just wondering?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The headlines on the Poughkeepsie Journal this morning decried that "Some Hudson Valley Students Struggled with the NYS Tests," but I was thrilled to know that it was only SOME students who struggled!
Seriously, I was still sweaty from my morning walk / run when I googled  "NYS scores and August 8 2011" this morning. 
My heart was pounding as if I had run a sub 12 minute mile (in my dreams) as I scrolled for my district and school and then quickly compared the results to schools and districts that NYS (and my bosses) consider to be "similar!"  I suspect I felt as if I were opening my SAT results or logging on to see if I had been accepted into my first choice school! After a few hours of study, I was left with some analysis for my district and many questions. 
While the format of the ELA tests changed dramatically last year, the scores were similar to last year's scores for MANY districts.  Like the Po Jo noticed, some students did struggle but many others did VERY well in spite of the new format and lots more writing than ever before! When looking at similar schools AND COMPARING THE SAME GRADE I was pleased to notice that our "mean scaled scores" were VERY similar - in fact within what some might refer to as a statistical margin of error!    While I did notice some significant differences in grade to grade performance (4th graders across the state the MUCH better than 3rd graders), similar schools had similar results! The percentages of students scoring levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 stayed pretty much the same for MANY schools and while that is GOOD, I sure hope it is GOOD ENOUGH for those in charge of watching scores who (in the past) have felt that the only POSITIVE measure of success was if scores went UP!
 I do, however, have a bit of malaise about me as I reflect on the scores across the state and what they might mean not just for "me" and my students but for teachers and students across the state.  While students in high performing (and often wealthier districts with fewer ELLs) continue to do quite well with over 80% of their students scoring 3s and 4s on the ELA, lower performing (and often less affluent districts with often more newly tested ELLs) may have less than 50% of their students scoring 3s and 4s on the ELA.

Now what does all this mean?  I am going to go reflect on that some more but I do want those who write headlines to the PoJo to know that our NYS students did their BEST and that those of us who are on the "front lines" will plan for intensive and differentiated learning experiences for all learners who did not YET earn the desired "score."  
PS I did not say we would just do "test prep!" We'll be teaching them to be readers and writers because those who got the 3s and 4s...that is what they and write....
                                                                a little bit more!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011


As the seeds of this school year begin to germinate and we mentally and physically begin to prepare for the learning journey ahead, I've been thinking a lot about how teaching in the 21st Century really is NOT the isolated activity it once was.  Partnerships and cooperation on ALL levels is now desired and in the near future - will be REQUIRED.
I guess the root of my own thinking is in the ICT - Integrated Co-Teaching Model classrooms that I "push into" for reading and writing support as well as my own three ring classroom where three literacy specialists each take students to "their" corner and try to keep the noise to a low roar.  Another impetus for my thoughts may be the need to look beyond what we KNOW and LIKE towards assuring common standards and assured learning experiences for all students in our learning communities / schools. 
When I think back, I remember teachers who were considered "great" because of exceptional projects or field trips or "units of study" they did that made their classrooms special.  While innovation and and finding ways to engage thinking is still at the root of good teaching, parents, administrators and peers now put a much higher value on teachers who understand and create environments that foster learning as a partnership between students, parents, and other teachers. 
I guess we are becoming "partners" in educational communities in a manner similar to the partnerships that we strive to build in our own lives outside of school. 
I wonder if the qualities of a "great" teacher in the 21st Century might more closely resemble the qualities of a good partnership, "Congress" or marriage?  In my thinking, it might just be that kindness, respect, laughter and the ability to ignore each others' quirks might well be the way to work together in ANY partnership! 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Martha, Beth and Me

In the spirit of "true confessions" I admit that I REGULARLY pick up the Martha Stewart magazine in the check out line at Walmart and skim through the pages where she shows how someone with LOTS OF FREE TIME and lots of PATIENCE might craft an incrediblly beautiful table / bedroom / bathroom or centerpice.  I really do ADMIRE the beauty she creates and in the spirit of true confessions, I have been known to TRY to recreate a FEW of her simple pieces in my own home.  I do not, however, buy her magazine every month because I really do NOT have the time / parties that might justify bringing all those ideas into my home every month!  I do however, reguraly scan her magazine and mentally note a few that make me smile. 
In order to support my creative side in a less stressful manner, I do read Real Simple magazine -a more realistic and approacheable version of Martha for those of us with full time jobs and less compulsive OCD tendencies!  I love the organizational ideas and put lots of those ideas into my mental "maybe someday" file! 

And in the spirit of true confessions, I also follow BETH NEWINGHAM'S blog          
and educational journey on a pretty regular bases.  I absolutely adore the images of her classroom she shares willingly with the world and the creative and artistic "bend" she has brought to "designing classrooms"! 
 I really do consider Beth to be the Martha Steward of teaching!  She obviously works VERY hard and is a dedicated teacher whose classroom is an amazingly inviting place! 

NOW, once again in the sprit of true confessions, I really must admit that my classroom is FAR from Beth Newingham's classroom in physical appearance and in organization.! 
These are images from Beth's room from her website.....

Beth also blogs for Scholastic and she is a WONDERFUL source of great ideas! 

While I do LOVE to get ideas from the PROS (especially during these days in August when Staple ads remind us that school will soon be back in session), I know in my heart that MOST of us do not have matching furniture and many of us share tight spaces and crowded classrooms. 

So, in the spirit of true confessions, it's OK to drool over Martha and Beth but it is ALSO JUST WONDERFUL to be making a few signs and downloading some images of the circus

 because YOUR room is REALLY a 3 RING CIRCUS!  



Half Full

The other day, we had quite a late afternoon storm roll into Stormville.  Now, storms, for those of us who live in Stormville, are not all that unusual and we who live in this aptly named burg are prone to snow, ice and rain storms that are memorable and infamous.  There was a duzy last winter that caused hundreds of people to be trapped in their cars overnight awaiting "rescue" on the interstate that divides our mountain in the middle of the Hudson Valley! 
Anyway, after the pouring rain and 30 minutes of relentless hail began to pull away from our mountain ridge, we were left with one of the most powerful sunsets of the season.  Half of the sky was consumed by an intense, thick dark cloud that totally obscured the sun from view while the other half of the sky promised that the future would be brighter.  I put aside my grad student paper reading initially becuase the papers were getting wet on the porch during the storm; however, I put them away a little longer as I marveled at the magestic beauty and promise of that sunshine.
I have looked at the little image from my Droid phone several times in the past few days and marvel at how that little image captured from my porch chair really does sum up my summer and all of our lives.  There are storms - lots of them -that roll in even if you do not live in Stormville!  Some come slowly and we stress over their inevitable arrival while others roll in without warning and without our preparation.  Sometimes the storms cause intense pain and sometimes our view is obscured for quite a while.  Sometimes, we can barely breathe as the intense storm consumes us; yet, the OTHER side of the storm offers us the promise of a future that is brighter.  
All this made me think of my grad students whose lives I have made stressful and busy during these last crazy days of the summer semester.  I am SURE they gave up a few nights of sumemr fun to complete their coursework and case studies for ME!  I am also sure that MANY of my students will face stressful days and sleepless nights as they prepare mentally and physically for their "first days" in new classrooms and for their "first classes" of the new school year.  Like the storms that roll through my valley, each of them will watch as MANY small and some large storms pass through each of their lives during the days and weeks ahead.  
I hope that each of my students is able to see around through inevitable clouds and "dark times" towards the sunshine and promsie of the good days because even though it may SEEM that OTHERS have "golden lives" free of storms and stressors, we all have many small and large storms and stressors that obscure our view of the sunshine.