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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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Just to get the timeline straight here.... [May. 11th, 2013|10:11 pm]

So, Thursday morning: Rich hears a huge crack somewhere in the house that wakes him up but he can't identify it. Nothing was broken in the house, so he goes back to sleep. Friday we're picking up some branches down in the yard and notice that part of the tree out front has broken off and is wedged in perilously close to the power lines. (The part that is broken off is the size of a small tree itself.) I call Consumers, and am told that since the branch isn't actually touching the wires, I need to call back during business hours Saturday morning. My response is, "So, if the wind kicks up and actually knocks the wires down, I can get you to do something then?" "You have to call back during business hours."
Okay, nothing happens overnight, so I call and explain the situation this morning. I explained once again that the branch
1.) The size of a small tree.
2.) It's not currently touching any wires, but is only 2 feet away from them.
3.) When it goes down, unless it hits a very narrow window, it will come down on the power lines.
They told me there would be someone there in 3 to 4 business days. I expressed my disbelief that the branch would survive a strong wind, and we all ended the call.
Not much else we could so, so Rich and I decided to go ahead and catch Iron Man 3 today. (It was pretty good.) While we were out, a storm rolled through, and we while were worried that the tree-sized branch had wiped out our porch, possibly hurting Mao (who lives out there when we're not home.), when we got home, the porch is okay (at least right now.), but the branch is resting upright on the sidewalk tangled in the branches of the tree... and the power lines to our house.
We haven't lost power or anything (knock on wood.), but it's 10:00 at night... and Consumers' is probably going to have to pay someone a lot of money to fix a problem that should have been addressed this morning. I would like to think that I was reasonable during all the calls. Rich confirms that I sounded reasonable. Maybe that was my mistake.
So, we call Consumers at about 2:30 today (now Sunday.) , since we still hadn't seen any kind of crew out to fix our problem.
It turns out, that someone mis-entered the work order, and since we didn't actually have a power outage, the order had been cancelled. (No one called to check on this.) I'm in tears on the phone explaining that I'm scared because a branch the size of a tree is threatening to cut off our power... so whoever I'm talking to this time submits a new order. Now it's 9:30 at night, and I don't think they're coming today, even though I was told at 2:30 they'd get someone out here today.

And if that wasn't enough, the blower on our furnace isn't working, so now we're huddled with the animals in front of a small space heater that will hopefully keep the bedroom above 60 tonight. (It's supposed to get down to 32.) Okay, this month can officially end now.
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Novel Update: [Apr. 5th, 2013|05:03 pm]

Back in November, I joined NaNoWriMo and wrote 50,000 words worth of a novel. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, however, after talking to my husband, we agreed that only the beginning was actually "done". The very end didn't need much reworking, but the middle up to and beyond the climax was a mess. Now by "done", I don't mean, publishable. Far from it. Even the first part is so full of self contradiction, I get annoyed rereading it now and then. "Done" just means it stands on its own for now. (We have to go back and read the whole damned book with a new york accent to make sure we kept the tone right. I tend to go British if I'm not careful.)

Since it was a murder mystery, the very middle is where the investigation takes place. Also, since it is a fantasy, the middle is where you find out how the world we're in works. Making these two things mesh has been challenging, but ultimately, Rich came up with a list of 81 'scenes' that needed to happen based on his plot ideas, and what I had already written.

The 50,000 words I had written constituted about 30 of the 'scenes' that needed to be there. I wasn't even half done! As of this afternoon, I have 27 scenes to go, so I'm 2/3 "done" with our second draft!

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Sometimes you just gotta get it off your chest... [Feb. 27th, 2013|11:07 am]
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I know I'm a whiny brat for feeling sorry for myself, when there are a lot of people who have it tons worse. I mean, at least I'm able to pay my bills on time, right? But every paycheck since December, I've had to let the account dwindle to under $10 before the next paycheck comes in. Any leeway we had hiding in the credit union has been picked dry $20 at a time. (It's down to $15 now from a high of $300 last year.) While March is a 3 paycheck month, I've already rescheduled bills payment around that, so it really won't matter.

I've come to the conclusion that even though I would like to think so, we're not really "middle class." To be fair, Rich isn't working, but when he did, it was costing us more to get him to and from work, and us eating out more often, and other sundry expenses, than he brought in. (Theoretically, he was bringing home $400 a week before taxes when he was cooking at the sorority. He ended up working 50 hours to earn 40 hours of pay. They didn't pay him extra when he did the shopping for them twice a week. He was expected to squeeze it into his scheduled time somehow. To be honest? We were both relieved when Thunder got him fired.) I know "poverty" is $15,510 for a two person household, thank you google, and I earn almost 3 times that in a year, but we're just not getting ahead.

Our politicians should spend their first term in office trying to live off the median income of their constituency. I'll be generous, they can either take the median income from everyone their district, or the median of what the teachers in their district make, whichever is higher. I'd be willing to reimburse them for travel expenses, but they have to pay up front for those, and wait for the business office to audit their receipts and cut them a check. Maybe they'd finally understand what living paycheck to paycheck means.
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