Saturday, July 17, 2010

Moving out of my comfort zone in honor of Matthew..

I've made a decision to do something very un-ME-like.  I am signing up to do the Ride for the Cure in November. Its a fundraiser for the JDRF, and not only will I find a way to raise $3000, I will also ride over 50 miles to help find a cure for Matthew, and all the people like him who suffer every single day with this disease.

I don't consider myself one who goes out and pounds the pavement for causes.  Sure, I've run in the Koman's Race for the Cure, but that was more about ME than it was about cancer.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  I was pretty sure I could, even though I knew I would not be fast.  And other than my dear godmother, Georgia, I've been blessed by not really being affected by this disease, although I know that I could be one of those one-in-nine very easily.

This is different.  I ride for Matthew.  I ride for the boy I love more than life, in hopes that he will, in his lifetime, be free from this disease.  It affects every aspect of his life, every day of his life.  I have a lot of the worry, but he bears the brunt of it all. And he does it with grace, dignity and a sense of humor.

So - I decided to ride.  I'm not a big cyclist - the furthest I've ever gone is 18 miles.  I know I can reach the 32 mile marker, so that's not enough of a challenge.  I'm going for the 54 mile route. (I'm not crazy enough to think I can ride 109 miles...)  I have 4 months to get ready.  I have the most marvelous cheering section imaginable.  I have hope that my efforts WILL make a difference.

If you want to read about The Day Everything Changed, you can GO HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT IT

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Something else to make my blood boil...

New Evaluation Laws Split Teachers Even More

Listen to, or read this when you have a moment.  Its by NPR, so take your political bent where you find it, but this chaps my hide!

There needs to come a time when politicians stop treating teachers and students as if they are widgets.  Students are not machines; you can not reliably put in the same content, as you would put money into a vending machine, and be assured to get a reliably measurable product out.  Tying teacher evaluations to student performance will lead to a worsening of the education system, not an improvement of it.

There are too many variables in place for this system of evaluations to work.  There are way too many unknowns for teachers to be comfortable with the idea.  I agree wholeheartedly: there are teachers who should not be in the classroom.  I've worked with some!  My own children have experienced them. (OK, 1... one kid, had one teacher who needed to retire like 10 years ago.. the other ones have been wonderful).

The inherent problem is this: teachers cannot control the lives of their students.  Until we can, basing a teacher evaluation on what the students do is unfair and possibly leading to tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

Teachers arrive every fall with a clean slate, more or less.  We have our curriculum.  We have our bag of tricks to reach those kids at the end of the bell curve - the ones who struggle and the ones who soar far beyond the scope and sequence of our teaching.  But every year, those kids are different. We have them under our 'control' for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, assuming they have parents who even remotely value education and actually make sure they get to school.

We cannot control if they learn.  We cannot change the family who takes their child out of school for every sniffle.  We cannot do anything about the parents who don't care if their child does homework or not.  We cannot instill an appreciation of learning into a family where it is perfectly acceptable to get an "F" for a grade.  We cannot control the number of special ed kids we have in a class, or the number of kids whose parents are getting divorced, leaving their children in an emotional wake that will take years to dissipate.

When teachers have their evaluations tied to student achievement, you are looking at teaching through the wrong lens.  Teachers, like me, who serve special populations will never 'measure up' on these political charts - my students may make 1/3 a years' worth of progress during a school year.  Does that mean I am a bad teacher?  Or does that speak more to the talents and shortcomings of my students, a group of individuals over whom I have no control?

Teachers will leave.  Teachers are already stretched thin, and while some teachers make upwards of $70K a year, none that I know personally do, and at the end of the day, it might just be easier to work at Starbucks than to put up with increasingly demanding legislation from those who have never been in a classroom.  You cannot take the rules of the board room and expect them to work in the school yard.

Teachers, as a population, are already fed up.  Pile unfair evaluation practices on top of them, and you will see many give up.  The teacher short-fall will be great, and it is  my guess that soon the evaluation for hiring a teacher will be .. "Can she fog a mirror??  Yeah??!!  You're HIRED!"  Good choices are never made in desperation, and I can see this is the path our local schools are heading down.

Thanks Washington...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming

I've taken the last month "off", so to speak.  A while back, I told myself that I would work hard to get a blog post up every other day, but in truth, there are days when, really - NOTHING of note happens, or, so much is happening that it will take a few days for the "stuff" to filter through my brain and give me something to write about.

We moved on June 18th.  Need I tell you in which of the two scenarios I've found myself?

We're nearing the 4 week mark in the house now, and I am pleased to say that we can fit one car in the garage.  Originally, I told myself I'd be satisfied with reaching this goal by Halloween, but DH kicked it into high gear, and the Passat fits nicely into his new home.  Not sure the Saturn will ever fit.. long beast that it is.

We purged a ton before this move.  We donated boxes and car-loads of stuff to charity, and the neighbors, and still found ourselves in need of a dumpster for the rest of it.  Purging felt good, especially after 9 years of gathering 'stuff'. I firmly believe the word "someday" needs to be stricken from the vocabulary of every home owner... as in "someday we might need this" or as in "Someday, I want to repaint the doors".   Dump it, or do it - Do, or do not.. there is not try! We held on to so many useless things with the notion that we would, in fact, need them someday.  Except, we didn't.  Or, only needed them so rarely that there was really no point to keeping them.  Folding tables, extra folding chairs - all quite useful when I would host scrapbooking parties, but truly, it's been 7 years since I have done that.  Bye-Bye...

I believe purging 'stuff' not only frees up highly valuable real-estate in your house, but in your head, as well.  Less stuff, less stuff to worry about.  Less stuff to worry about, more energy able to devote to important stuff, like getting the house settled! (Less stuff also equals less stuff to put away, thereby making our goal of getting settled infinitely easier!)

We are all getting used to the new house.  I only have to look through one or two cabinets now to find what I need in the kitchen, and the boys all have places for their toys and other necessities that survived The Great Purge of 2010. 

Maybe now with my house, and my head, less cluttered with stuff, I will be able to get back to writing.  Blogs, books... both!!!

No promises, but I'm certainly in a better place now to at least try! (No... DO, or DO NOT - sorry Yoda, I forgot.. there is no TRY!)