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In trying to not be racist, you can be even more racist. [Nov. 27th, 2014|09:46 am]
This phrase has always annoyed me: “I don't see color, I see people.”
When I look at you, there are a few things I notice first, your gender, your race, and any obvious physical traits that deviate significantly from the norm. (Boy was that last phase awkward...)
Things most people would never say:
“Wow! You're a boy? Hey, I don't see gender, I see people.”
“Woah, I'm sorry, I didn't notice you were sitting in a wheelchair and both your legs are missing. I don't see scars, I see people.”
“Wow! I didn't notice that you were 7 foot 5 standing right next to me! Amazing, I don't see height, I see people.”
Denying someone's race, when it's staring you in the face, is denying a significant part of who that person is. I am a fat white female. Anyone who says they didn't notice those things about me as soon as they met me is probably literally blind. (Whoa, I didn't notice you had a seeing eye dog with you. I don't see helper animals, I see people.) Don't patronize members of any race by denying that it plays any part in who they are.

I do see color, and people can be any color.
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Dear parents: This is why we can't have nice things. [Oct. 19th, 2014|09:46 am]
Last night for the first time in years, my husband and I went out to see a live theater production of Dracula. One of my drama kids got the female lead, Mina, and, even though, it was just community theater, I was looking forward to losing myself, as I often due, in the moment, and enjoying the show.
However, every time Dracula showed up on state, the brats (no better word, sorry.) behind me started giggling. Now, to be fair to the brats, Dracula was completely stereoptyped, complete with a red lined cape that he used like bat wings. If I was watching it on T.V., I would have laughed at loud.
This was NOT television. This was live theater, and it was very obvious from the whispered comments behind me that the brats had seen the show more than once, and knew some of the cast members. Not once did the brat's parents lean over and tell the brats to knock it off. Instead, the kids were allowed to steal the show the first act, by taking some very intense emotional lines, well delivered by the way, and ruining their intensity with insane pre-teen giggling.
So I thought, maybe their parents will talk to them at intermission. Maybe the second act, they'll settle down. Nope. Their parents bought out the last of the chocolate at the concession stand, and the giggling continued through the second act.
And I felt helpless. I couldn't turn around and yell at them to knock it off, it was live theater, and that would have been more disturbing. I didn't know the kids, though we had chatted before the show. The kids were nice, but their parents were a little off-put by strangers talking to their family as if we were all humans about to have a shared experience. What should I have done?
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Gun Control [Jul. 29th, 2014|09:47 pm]
I grew up on an air force base, so I grew up used the idea that the people around me were armed. Because of their uniforms, I also had the assurance that they had had at least basic weapons training. I don't have any kind of reassurance like that out here in the civilian world, unless the person in question happens to be in uniform. I don't think all gun owners should be forced to wear a uniform to tell the world, that they have a gun and know how to use it. But, how do I, in the civilian world, distinguish armed and clueless from armed and trained? There is no way, so wouldn't it be better if I could just assume that there was some training involved before anyone was allowed to go out and buy a gun? I can assume 99% of the time that the person behind the wheel of a car has learned to drive the car. I can't assume that about the guy walking down the side of the street with a rifle over his shoulder. He's probably heading to his hunting blind, but I don't know that he's ever shot a gun or knows rule #1 (always assume a gun is loaded.). So, when I offer up my next bolded statement, don't run away screaming “OH NO'S NATIONAL REGISTRY!” Really, all I, as a non-gun owning civilian, want is assurance that when I see someone with a gun, he's most likely got training with that gun.
#1 Offer gun safety training the same way we offer driver's training.

Okay, so a gun registry scares people. They don't think the government has a right to be all up in their grill with what they own gun wise. I get that. (People are scared of their government, yet we keep electing the same type of person to government. That's a rant for a different day though.) I'm not saying that once someone has taken a gun safety course, they have to be added to a national registry so the government knows who's a licensed gun owner the way you do for a car. I do think that gun shops should be forced to make their patrons show some kind of gun safety course certificate before someone buys a gun. They could offer the course themselves, as a lot of shops do now for concealed carry permits. Now, do they have to send a list of graduates to some government authority? No. Is there going to be some abuse of the system? Yes. People are human. The thing is, if the the gun industry wants to continue operating with minimal government oversight, then they need to start self regulating better. Get with the NRA. Establish minimum standards of safety training. Start offering NRA accredited courses at minimal cost. Give graduates a wallet sized certificate saying they can buy a gun. We do it with concealed carry permits issued by the state. Let's expand that idea to an industry standard. No registry, except with the gun store who are affiliated with the certificate programs. They already have to keep paper records of guns purchases, so piggy back this onto that. It'll take a generation, but if it never starts, it'll never get done.
#2 Make it possible for everyone to assume that 99% of people with guns have training with it.

I have a lot of friends who are gun control advocates, and a lot of friends who see the idea of any kind of gun control as a violation of constitutional law. The problem is, these two groups just can't acknowledge that the other side has any valid points or reasonable concerns at all.
#3 Shut up and listen to each other.
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I wonder how they know? [Apr. 8th, 2014|10:08 am]
I wonder what criteria LJ is using to decide that my blog is #14240? I know I need to post more often, so I'm putting this post in to see if my blog number changes.
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I haven't posted in a while... [Mar. 22nd, 2014|08:20 pm]
I'm too tired. That is all.
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Again? [Aug. 4th, 2013|09:04 am]
Hey! Doesn't school start soon?

Whoa... when did you get here?

I've been here forever, dudette.

Oh, are we doing this thing again?

Just go with it.

Dagnabit. Fine. Yes.

Yes what?

Yes, school starts soon.

Whoops! I forgot I said that already.

Wow. Are you sure we have to do this?

Not anymore, but since we started...

Okay, so, Yes.

Yes what?




Wait, what?

Never mind.

Hey! Catch you later then.

Sure. Sounds great.
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Tagging.. [Jul. 22nd, 2013|09:38 am]
I'm leaving a note here for myself so that I'll remember that when I take up tagging my entries again, I'll need to start with December 2010.

I'm going back through my entries and finding my etiquette, education, and writing posts and tagging them. This means I'm going to have review every post since I started in 2004 (nine years wow!) because I started whining about education almost from Day 1. I'm also locking posts that should have been locked, and unlocking those when I can't figure out why I locked them.

(This post doesn't get a tag, since I'm not tagging random life updates... I should have a random life updated tag...)
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Hey! How you been? [Jul. 1st, 2013|05:13 pm]
Not bad. You?

Getting by.

Sounds like me.

Yeah. Hey Listen.

Yeah? What's up?

Well, just between you and me...


It's not really going that well.

Oh no! What's wrong?

Nothing major, just a bunch of little things, you know?

Like what?

Well, we got down to $.42 in the bank account last paycheck.


And when we go to the farmer's market, we have to busk to afford anything.

Things are a little tight, huh?

Yeah, you could say that.

Aren't you going to the U.P. soon?

Yeah that'll be fun. How's the book coming?

Almost done!


No. But, we're on the 3rd draft. No major changes to make.

That's sweet.

We think it'll be publishable on the 5th draft.

Well! Things are looking up for you then!

Yeah, sorry they're not so good at your end.

Well, I can't really complain too much.

Like they sat, "At least you got a roof over your head."

Yeah, I really am lucky in a lot of ways.

Well, glad I could cheer you up.

Yeah. See ya?

See ya.
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On the list of things I'm not allowed to admit... [Jun. 24th, 2013|09:45 pm]

Dear Parents,
Every time you send me an e-mail or call the school asking if there's any extra credit your child can do, I die a little.
You see, it's not that I don't understand; you want your child to be successful, and you feel it's your duty to help them be successful. In fact, it is your duty to do so, that's not what causes the little death for me.
But, I have so many problems with the idea of "extra-credit" that it is really going to be difficult for me to organize them coherently. I am going to try though, so bare with me:

First, why are you asking me, instead of your student? In fact, your student probably did ask me, and I told them the same thing I'm going to tell you at first. There are tons of extra learning opportunities within my daily assignments, and your child should take advantage of them. You see, your child was hoping that you would intimidate me into giving them some extra piece of easy busy work. The worse part about that is, you will succeed. Rather than arguing my personal educational philosophy with you, once you become insistent, I will dig up an extra piece of busy work, and assign it a random number of points, if only to get you to stop calling my boss and telling her how horrible I am for not giving extra credit assignments.

Which brings me to my second issue with extra credit. I don't like fostering the point addiction you and your students have. It's not your fault. You've been trained by our education system to equate points with success. What I do with that random number of extra credit points is put them in a nebulous "citizenship" grade. In my years of teaching, I've lowered what that grade is worth from 15% to 5% of the overall grade. It's never counted for much, but for some reason, seeing those points on my online gradebook makes you happy, and causes you and your student to crave more.

But that's not all. I consider "extra credit" to mean that the student has learned above and beyond what we're learning in class. The thing is, you as a parent have already taken this class, and most likely, the classes beyond the one your student is in. If I allow the "extra credit" assignment to go home, most of the work that comes back will be yours, well-intentioned-parent. Instead of actually looking up how to solve the problems I would be tempted to send home for themselves, they'll turn to you, and whether or not you mean to, you'll do the assignment for your child, all to help them succeed. But, have you really helped them succeed?

Ideally, in my class, the grade your child has reflects what they have learned. If your child is to the point where you feel they need extra credit, you are probably asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is, what can my child do to learn what he hasn't yet? I stay at school daily at least an hour after the final bell. I use that time for grading and planning the next day, but I willingly forgo that and stay later, much to my husband's dismay, in order to tutor those kids who come in to take advantage of the time I'm there.

I understand that your child is not a good test taker, but ultimately, paper pencil tests are the most efficient way I have to assess the most students against the learning goals I'm teaching towards. What you have to understand as a parent is that, since your child is not a good test taker, I am going to have to find other ways to assess their knowledge. So, I invite my students to come in after school if they have failed a test to retry the test, with me reading a second version of the test too them, and we work through the problems together. If the student was having a hard time reading, this will address that weakness. If the student just has a hard time concentrating for more than 5 minutes at a time, we'll take several days to retry the test. If your student doesn't meet the goals we've been targeting in class though, I am going to tutor them, and send them home with problems to try on their own. These are not extra credit, nor even required, but attempting them means they might be more successful when they retry the test a third time.

The thing is, your student most likely won't try those problems, unless I assign them a certain number of points. And, most likely, they'll get you to do those problems if they are worth points So, even while I'm working with your child, I'm inwardly wondering whether this time it will be worth it. I'm an optimist at school, so, I'll do it anyhow, hoping that this time will be the one time a student does what I've asked. But the pessimist I am at home knows better.

So, please, stop killing me one phone call or e-mail at a time. You don't really want extra-credit for your student, you just want me give your kid a passing grade without them having learned the standards I'm trying to teach them.
Thank you,
Your Child's Teacher
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Memorial Day Weekend 2013.... [May. 27th, 2013|03:01 pm]
Ups and downs...
So, on the up-side:
I competed at Alma with the Grand Rapids and District Pipe Band. We placed 3rd out of 7 the first day, and 7th out of 7 on the second day. That was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. I was interesting to see how another pipe band worked. I got a lot of good advice from Mike Gunn, the GR&D pipe major. I'm looking forward to getting back together with them in two weeks (I still owe them for the hotel room. They're paying for half, but I owe them the other half.) for another gig, then again on the 4th of July for parades in the U.P. (We're taking the dog on that vacation as an experiment.) Rich and I made a mini-vacation out of it, since his sister was able to dog-sit for us, and it was good to get away for a few days, even if I was busy piping most of the time. This morning, I was back with the Kalamazoo Pipe Band for memorial day parade and ceremony in the cemetery in Dowagiac. We actually had 11 pipers, which was more than I've seen in one place for Kalamazoo in along time. So, things are looking up for our band. We also had two snares and a bass drummer (my father in law!), so there we were sounding pretty good, despite the "liquid sunshine" pouring down around us. All in all, a decent piping weekend.
On the downside:
Saturday morning, GR&D decided to participate in the parade through Alma before competing. That part was fine, except that I had wrenched my ankle about two weeks ago, and it wasn't quite done healing yet, and a two mile parade killed my ability to walk on it without any kind of agony. Sunday I wasn't in as much pain, but I was still limping horribly. We got home Sunday night, and sometime between when Rich went to bed at about 1:00 AM and I got up at 7:00 for the parade in Dowagiac, our main water line had become disconnected from our hot water heater, and flooded the basement about 6 inches deep. So I turned off the water main, and finished getting ready for that parade. My ankle is better than it was Sunday, but still healing, so the parade was a little agonizing. There was a downpour pretty much the entire parade, and our furnace went out about two weeks ago, so getting warm has meant huddling in front of a space heater today while we wait for Harvey, my father in law, to come over with his plumbing tools to hopefully reattached our main to the water heater again. *yeesh*
The house is mad at me. This year we've had the toilet leak all over the floor (thankfully the intake pipe, not the sewer. Knock on wood, quick!), the hot water pipe under our bathroom sink break, the blower in our furnace die, a branch come down and almost take out our porch and our power and phone lines, and now the water main in the house falling off. I let the house insurance lapse for two days last week (not intentionally. I made a few mistakes, but it worked out okay in the end.) Rich and I are having a hard time pulling things together financially since we bought the new car. (And there's something wrong with the driverside front tire in the new car.... which is going to have to wait a paycheck for us to address is, because even mini-vacations aren't cheap.)
We'll make it through.
Also, the amish family running our CSA is moving back to Indiana, so we had to track down another CSA. We'll let you know how they do. They were cheaper for the season, but only deliver 12 boxes during the summer, instead of the 18 to 21 the Yoder's tried for.
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