Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not Lost

I'm not lost or anything, but I've just spent most of my spare time in the last week working on a power-point synopsis of 5 research articles about teaching phonics. Eighty-eight slides. Yes, 88. I presented it on Monday, now I need to finish the revisions and e-mail it to my professor and then I'll be back blogging in my "spare" time. If I'm not dead.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Feet

I went shopping on the weekend to Dillards because I'd read that they were going to have a shoe consultant in their stores. Well, I have terrible feet and I need some consultin'. I didn't find anyone at the location I went to, but I was waited on by a very persuasive salesman. He had me explain my needs--flat feet, sore knees, teacher, standing up all day....blah, blah. He commiserated and then walked me over to the wall and said, "These are what you need. You try these on, and you will be astonished. You'll never wear any other shoes in your life. Seriously."
Well, that seemed like an extravagant claim, but I put on the shoes.


Right then, my feet felt FABULOUS. Really. He brought me three more pair in varying styles. Again, FABULOUS. I walked around the shoe area, out on the tiles of the main aisle, back and forth. Still--FABU----You get my drift.

So, I bought a pair. EEk, they were quite expensive. I wore them today to school--seven hours mostly on my feet. And guess how my feet feel tonight??? Yes guessed it:
Now, I'm not suggesting that you go right out and buy some Ecco shoes, but I'm going to buy another pair next payday in another style, and another pair the payday after that, and then again and again until I have all the shoes I tried on Saturday. Then, I'm just probably going to give away most of my other shoes. Yes, I'm a convert. No, actually, I'm a zealot. With comfortable feet, after I've worked all day, standing up on my cement floors with indoor/outdoor carpet without a pad.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Going for A Ride

I was driving home this morning (from the gym...the latest attempt at self-improvement) and a car drove by on the main road with a long-haired Chihuahua sticking his head and neck as far out the window as the person restraining him would allow. The wind was blowing his ears back and his mouth was open, tongue flapping in the breeze. Dogs in cars--the very picture of Nirvana. All of our dogs loved car rides. They would get in the car uninvited. The prospect of a) being with his people and b) being able to stick his head out of the window and sniff everything (!!!) wow... Wouldn't that be cool to be a dog and have joy be so simple?

Actually, riding a motorcycle is the human equivalent, I realized just as I wrote that. Thursday afternoon I came home from school in a state because of pending re-assignment rumors in my building, and Cool Guy had just returned from a little jaunt. He was getting in one last ride before flying back East for work, but the Harley has to stay here. So I asked him if he'd take me for a blast over the mountain into the desert--just a short one. Lake Mead Boulevard, near our house, is so named because if you follow it, eventually you'll end up at the lake. We frequently ride up a little circuit that goes around some of the little inlets and bays formed by the outer edges of the lake.

So, we took off. It's a perfect time of year here in the desert. Everything is in bloom, parts of the desert actually have grass growing over vast stretches. It smells fantastically and it stays light until 7:30. It won't get deathly hot for another month or so, so all the growing things are just flourishing because of the extensive rain (and snow) we had in the winter. It was a nice ride, just long enough to clear out my angst and come home relaxed and serene. I felt like this guy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Are You As Smart As My Fourth Graders?

Actually, they may not be all that smart, either. But tonight watching Jeopardy! I did discover a category they might be able to pass. Any of my students, from all my classes in the last 14 years. I forget exactly the name of it, but it was something like, The Second Line...Each of the five items was about a famous piece of writing, but you had to identify it from a less well-known quote they gave from the body of the piece -- not the famous First Line.

The pieces were the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and the poem by Emma Lazarus that is written on the base of the Statue of Liberty.

I knew the question to each answer because each year I teach my students about these pieces of historical literature. I teach them a lot of other things, too. But I always work in these five. We learn about the six promises of the Preamble on Constitution Day. (Did you know there is a federally mandated day to teach it? Sept. 17th) We spend a week on Dr. King's life and words in January. I always have Abraham Lincoln week in February, as well as George Washington week. I think President's Day is too mushy, and it contributes to the confusion many students have that makes these two American leaders indistinguishable from one another. AAAGGHH! It is a pet-peeve of mine that people can't remember the basic facts about those two, so I belabor it with my classes every year. But...I use them to teach writing, history and math, because it doesn't really matter what the context for the learning is, as long as you are learning. I knock off the two birds that way: cultural literacy and my content standards.

Then, the next answer on Jeopardy! was about the Declaration of Independence. That just fits right in with George Washington week so nicely. It also was part of Maryland history when I lived there. The final Americana writing was the poem The New Colossus. There was a unit in my previous reading anthology about immigrants, including a magazine article about the Statue of Liberty. I have found a good substitute for those stories out here in Nevada and I still have the fact piece, so we read all about it, and read the poem and learn why it was important. And then, we write poetry ourselves as though we are Liberty Enlightening the World, looking down on the country, each telling what is going through their copper brain. They write really lovely poetry when they have something they know about as a topic.

So, I was very proud of myself tonight as I watched t.v. to realize that I've taught my students about these pieces of Americana consistently through the years. I'm a shameless propagandist as a teacher. I want my students to know about this really awesome nation and our historical icons and develop a love for it all. It's my little contribution to the future.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hey, Hey Mama

We were listening to music tonight, actually, it was a DVD of a concert on Austin City Limits of Dwight Yoakam. His guest was Buck Owens, with the accordianist Flaco Jimenez. We love Flaco because about 20 years ago we went to the Ventura Theater to see The Texas Tornadoes. They were a bunch of geezers who'd mostly been in other bands when we were young, but were now collaborating in this group. They were awesome. It was an interesting concert. We were there to see Doug Sahm, and Augie Meyers and Freddie Fender. But who knew that Flaco had a whole following? Not me...But, as the group really got rocking, and Flaco had his solo, the stage was swarmed by a loyal group of abuelas (yes, seriously, one old lady hobbled up there with her cane, and hung on the edge of the stage with the others, shouting, "Flaco! Flaco!") So, something for everyone!

But the point of this post, really, is Dwight Yoakam. Cool Guy was working in the garage, possibly building bunk beds for the girls, maybe working on the motorcycle...and he came to the kitchen door to call me out to listen to a song that just came on the radio. It was in 1985 or 86 (can't remember) and the song was "Honky Tonk Man" by a new guy. You could hear the awe in the DJ's voice as the song ended, "That guy is going places!" he extolled. Well, yeah. Here is a video of Dwight that someone took at a bar of Dwight singing the song, before he'd recorded and released it as a single. The album "Guitars and Cadillacs" was a monster hit. We always felt like we'd known him before he was big, since we heard him on the radio that night. The album was issued in 1986 and it was huge. We've seen him in concert a couple of times and I'd go see him again.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I'm Too Stupid for My Clothes...

(The title is a take-off on that song about "I'm too sexy...") okay, lame. I know.

But, here's why I used it:

I was accepted into the graduate program for Curriculum & Instruction at UNLV and then a friend talked to me and explained several reasons why I really ought to switch over to the Educational Psychology department instead, and I agreed with her. So, I started the whole process of doing that, and suddenly discovered that the March 15th deadline was actually February 1st. OH MY!! So, I was scrambling around gathering up information and recommendations and applications. I even had to get a tetnus shot update. I've aged out of the requirement for the MMR shots. Cool. I think.

So, I got every piece of paper collected and I drove over to the college to turn it in because I didn't trust the mail to get it there before the deadline. The secretary went through my packet and checked off her list. (My giant, eight colleges-transcripts folder was being sent over from the other department.) But when she got to my GRE scores, she looked it over, and pronounced:

"This is pretty low. They don't usually accept anyone with this low of a score. Sure, the verbal is high, but the quantitative score (math) is really low. I don't think you'll make it." I felt great hearing her say this. (NOT) I wasn't really sure what she was expecting for me to do next. So, I just thanked her for looking to see that I'd turned in everything and left. Blah.

However, today, I received a letter telling me that they have recommended admitting me to their MS in Ed Psychology degree program. They will forward this recommendation to the grad college and I'll get a final letter from them telling me oui ou non.

S0, apparently, I wasn't too stupid. Even though the class I'm enrolled in (because I didn't withdraw my admittance to the other grad program yet) is kicking my butt. It turns out this class I'm taking is the first class of a PhD program. Title: Seminal Articles in Reading Research. And it is very hard--I'm to read about 25 articles about reading research from the last 50 years or so--these are the leading thinkers/scientist/educators in the field of reading--and then we analyze the research in class. Or we mostly listen to the professor tell us what is right and wrong with the various theories. I am, however, actually learning something. I was able to ask a few intelligent questions recently and come to some conclusions on my own. It's amazing. All the other people (all 6 of them-it's a seminar) are women who work in the district offices and have master's degrees already and work on teacher training for their careers. I feel like a Kindergarten kid in high school. But, as I said, I think I'm beginning to "get" some of it, finally.

If I succeed in passing this class, then the master's program ought to be do-able, no? I'll let you know in May.

[By the way, if you're thinking, "Didn't she already write about being accepted into graduate school before, several times?? Well...yes. I did get into San Jose State for an on-line degree two years ago, and then I discovered I wasn't technologically flexible enough to handle it. Then, I was accepted into the C & I program last spring and didn't enroll yet...so, at last, I'm in a class--I've started a degree, sort of, and I think this is the last time I'll switch programs. I think I've found something I'll be able to finish.]

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Mighty Change of Heart

I've always had the habit of taking out my scriptures during the Sacrament and reading something. It keeps me on topic, it keeps me from watching the deacons and getting distracted by goofy things they're doing or wearing. Now that I don't have anyone sitting with me who needs my assistance in being reverent, or at least quiet, I also have the leisure of reading a little during this time.

This week I randomly opened to Alma 5 and began to read Alma the Younger's sermon to the people about their need to experience the "mighty change of heart" experienced by his father in response to the preaching of Abinadi and also, of course, Alma the Younger's own stunning change of heart experience.

14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

Then, because it was Fast Sunday, a variety of people got up to speak. They all talked about big changes that were coming, or had come, in their lives. It was as though someone had orchestrated the topics. There was the first-time father talking about the impact of the little girl in his life. There was the father of a missionary, their first son, leaving for the MTC on Tuesday this week. There was the sister who'd been baptized three weeks ago and her interesting experience with the Spirit testifying of His presence at her baptism. (She is deaf, and had to remove her hearing aides for the immersion part, yet she "heard" the baptism prayer.) Then, a woman whose family had been sealed in the temple on Saturday spoke. After her, a brother thanked everyone for all their kindness toward his wife about the recent death of her father.

The change that Alma talks about refers to a spiritual transformation. I realize that all of the changes I've mentioned are actual, physical changes. But the people talking about them were all relating the spiritual changes that accompanied the physical ones. It was a powerful meeting. I was very moved to hear everyone tell of the effect their knowledge of God, the plan of salvation, and eternity has had in these times of big change for them and their families. It was the difference between happiness and joy.

In my life, it makes a huge difference to know that this time, mortal life, is just one piece of the whole thing. It allows me to be kinder, calmer, and to put my sorrows into God's hands. He always exchanges them for joy. That is what I recognize as the mighty change of heart for me.