Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shamless Plug!

Everyone! My best friend's lover boy has a new album out on itunes- Worth Holding On To - Jeff LeBlanc... he really is awesome, go take a listen, especially if you like easy listening and good vocals. 

While I was in college, I was co-chair of our Activities Board.  Every semester, we would go to a conference called NACA, and it was all about programming and meeting and listening to musical artists, comedians, motivational speakers and getting lots of free swag. 

I missed NACA my junior year because I was in the hospital, pre-Wegener's diagnosis.  My friend bff went in my place, and that is where she met Jeff! Fate, I tell you. So yeah, just go to itunes now, click in the search box, type Jeff LeBlanc and download away!

In other news, I'm still craving Japanese food, and I think the kids got me sick yesterday. I absolutely jinxed myself too- I said about a week ago that I haven't gotten sick in months.  Now I have to dig out the dreaded Bactrim and hope that I had enough left from when I stopped taking them to knock whatever is in my system out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm baaaack!

Well I certainly fell off the blogging bandwagon for a few weeks... and I was doing so well too.

Today I am craving Japanese food.  Like seriously craving. I dreamt about edamamme, and gyoza and udon noodles... I want soup dumplings and hibachi fried rice... No clue where these cravings are coming from. They remind me of my prednisone cravings. Though if I were still on the prednisone I'd probably want something weird with the Japanese food.  Le sigh.

I've been pretty busy the past week.  I found out that I'm going to be covering a maternity leave until sometime in November, for 5th grade.  I know all my students already- the class is pretty much the same class my mom had last year.  A lot of ELLs and F-ELLs, which is great.  I'll finally be able to put to use what I'm learning in grad school.

I have so many ideas and things I want to do- but I tend to hit the ground running when I get excited about something like this. So I really need to pace myself and take it one lesson at a time.  I am going to use some of the activities my 3rd grade teacher used way back when in the 90s.  She was truly the best teacher I have ever had- and so much of what we did in her class sticks in my mind almost 15 years later.

It will probably be a lot easier for me to do what I want to do because I feel as if I won't be expected to tackle all the paperwork that permanent teachers have to do- even though I'll do it anyway.  This is my time to really prove myself.

My family reunion was good.  Very quiet this year.  It was good to see Grandma, and I wish we could have stayed at her house longer.  I miss her and I don't like that she is so far away. She will be in NY in about 2.5 weeks, but I still don't see her as often as I'd like to.

I have quite a few posts in the works, mostly all revolving around WG/living with a chronic illness.  I've been debating if that is the direction I want to take this blog- I don't want the entire focus to be on my illness though.  Eh, I suppose I'll just keep going the way I am, a little bit of this and a little bit of that all over the place.

My Summer Reading post has been updated too! I've read a few more books and have a handful on my desk from my last library jaunt. I also have a huge stack of textbooks to start reading :)

Happy Birthday to my sister- she is 20 today! Only one teenager left in our house... scary thought!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Country roads, take me home, to a place where I belong...

I feel like I haven't posted in days, but it really hasn't been that long. 

I have a very long post saved in my drafts but it isn't ready to be published.

I'm headed out to West Virginia for my family reunion- I'll probably be posting within the next few days.  Maybe I' will work on some of my fiction pieces-

I have to be in the car in 4 hours and I'm not even tired... guess this means I will be asleep most of the drive!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vilifying a Noble Profession.

Last January, I started my Master’s program at one of the City Universities in New York City.  I wasn’t thrilled about starting the program because of a few bad omens- late responses in e-mail to time sensitive issues, seemingly rude and apathetic office staff, difficulty registering for courses, etc.  I had also begun to lose interest in the program I was entering, a Master’s in Childhood Literacy.  I had never wanted to be a reading teacher.  In college, however, all I was exposed to was literacy.  There was never anything else, like special education or teaching english as a second language, or even enough math, science and social studies to pique my interest. 

I started the program anyway, because I wasn’t about to waste a semester and the $4,000+ I had already paid in tuition and fees and books.  I hated just about every minute of it.  There was one class that I had really thought I would enjoy- a class on the theory and process of teaching writing.  I love to write, and I’ve seen many classrooms struggle with their writing programs, so this seemed like a wonderful class.  And it was, minus some of the textbooks, some of the discussions, some of the assignments, and some of the people. In fact, now that I think about it, the only assignment I really enjoyed was our personal narrative assignment, and even that is a tainted memory.  More on that later, perhaps.

New York City has recently had a surge in the number of Charter Schools present in the city’s education system.  I’m not a fan of Charter Schools, in fact, I’m pretty much wholeheartedly against them.  But- and this is a huge point of contention I have with my fellow recent graduates- Charter Schools can hire, as where Public Schools cannot.  Charter Schools aren’t union schools, the pay is horrible compared to the number of hours worked, and Charter Schools are lauded as the saviors of the education system, when in fact, they aren’t. 

Imagine my surprise when other students in my class told me that they HELPED THEIR STUDENTS CHEAT on STANDARDIZED TESTS that are LINKED TO THEIR TENURE.  I was flabergasted.  Not only was this happening in Charter Schools, but Public Schools in New York City and Westchester County (a suburb of NYC, where I went to College). 

So now these teachers help their students cheat, while my mom (a teacher) is evaluated based on her student’s performance.  Her students, who don’t speak English, who come to her reading on levels way below where they should be, who don’t know their addition, subtraction, multiplication facts- who speak in ebonics (“I already been done that” actually came out of the mouths of students on more than one occasion) and write the same way... she doesn’t teach them to cheat.  She doesn’t change their answers, she doesn’t walk around and point to the questions they got wrong so that they can change them... she follows the set rules for standardized testing.  She doesn’t compromise the integrity of the teaching profession. 

It makes me so angry! I read this article on CNN this morning, and it makes me sick to my stomach.  Clearly there is something very wrong with this whole picture, that teachers are reduced to helping their students cheat just for a pay bonus.  Most teachers I know don’t teach for the money.  They teach for the pure joy they find in it- and I am sick over the fact that these inconsiderate morons in Atlanta (and the idiots in my class) who are putting a black mark on the teaching profession.  They are a lead factor in turning teachers into villains.  It just isn't fair to the students, nor is it fair to other teachers.

No wonder we get so little respect. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Those Who Can, Teach. Those Who Can’t Pass Laws About It.

Disclaimer: I am no politico.  I’m not a junkie when it comes to all of this stuff.  But I am passionate about education and I have a problem with the way the educational system, students, and teachers are treated.  So if you do care to comment on this entry, please be mindful that these are my opinions .  I welcome respectful disagreement, but please keep it just that.

Arne Duncan is one of the most powerful men in our nation’s educational system.  As the 9th United States Secretary of Education, Duncan is the head of the Department of Education, and 16th in line to the Presidency. Mr. Duncan has never taught a single day in his life.  Interesting, isn't it... a man who has never been a teacher is the most powerful man in our nation's educational system.  Just mind boggling.

(Bear with me while I set up some statistics here.)

According to the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, there were 98,706 public schools in the United States for the 2008-2009 school year (most recent year’s stats).

The Center for Educational Reform’s website  states the following statistics, which they have gathered from the IES:

Total Public Schools: 98,916
Total Charter Schools: 5,043
Total Private Schools: 33, 740
Total Catholic Schools: 7,510

A slight discrepancy in the totals, though they claim to be using the same data to compile their numbers.  For my purposes, I'll round the total number of public schools to the middle- approximately 98,800 schools.

According to the same website, the following statistics are for dollars spent in those approx. 98,800 pubic schools, and apparently 5,000 charter schools.  (I don't consider Charter Schools to be Public Schools).

Total Public School Expenditures: $562.3 billion dollars
Average District Public School Per Pupil Expenditure: $12,018
Average Public Charter School Per Pupil Expenditure: $8,001

Now, to bring it a little closer to home, good ole' New York City.

According to the NYC Dept of Education The NYC Public school system has approximately 1.1 million students, 1,700 schools, $80,000 teachers, and a $21 billion annual budget, and is the largest system of public schools in the country.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing?  These figures presented are astronomical! They are huge! I mean, come on... $21,000,000,000??????? That's a lot of zeroes.  Granted school budgets were slashed this year, so that number may not be ultimately correct- but still.  A tremendous amount of money to spend on a tremendous amount of students who must be taught a tremendous amount of information by their teachers.  Teachers who don't make a tremendous amount of money.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

One... Singular Sensation, every little step she takes...

Before we start, a quick lesson in denotation and connotation.

Denotation- the literal, explicit, direct meaning of a word.  The dictionary definition.  Think denotation, dictionary.

Connotation- The associated meaning of a word. Remember this by thinking an idea connected with the definition is the connotation.

Let’s take a concrete example.  We will use the word “home”.

Home- A type of shelter used as a residence by an individual (or multiple individuals).

Home- A comfortable, safe place full of warmth and love.

See the difference?  Textbook definition, and then interpreted version.  Of course, home could have other connotations: broken place full of hatred and loathing.  Some people won’t have a definition of home, especially if they have never lived in one or experienced one. 

Moving on to the true purpose of this blog entry. 

The other day I had someone (an female, older than me) say “Aww, you’re still single? That’s too bad”. 

HOLD UP.  Why is being single a bad thing?

Let’s apply what we learned about denotation and connotation to the word single.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Summer Reading List 2011

I’m always looking for suggestions, so chime in! I’m not big on hardcore mysteries.  No science fiction.  I like realistic fiction and charming little stories.  Historical fiction is good too. 

1. Water for Elephants- Sara Gruen - Excellent read.  I wish I had slowed down a bit while reading, I probably missed a lot of little things.  One of the best books I have read in a long time. 

2. The Tenth Circle- Jodi Picoult - My first Jodi Picoult novel! 400+ pages, couldn’t put it down.  Took me a day to read it at the beach.  Interesting story idea, kind of throws you for a little loop.  I was a bit disappointed in the ending.

3. Angela’s Ashes- Frank McCourt- Just re-reading.  Trying to read as many memoirs as I have in my house so I can start to write my own.

4. The Rescue- Nicholas Sparks- Oh, le sigh.  I love Nicholas Sparks.  After I read The Rescue I picked up my own notebook and penned some fiction pieces. 

5. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone- I wanted to read each book in the series, a week beforeI went to see the final movie.  Didn’t happen, as I only got through 1-4.  Not that I haven’t read them all a million times before.

6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- See above.

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- See above.

8. The Year We Disappeared- Cylin Busby and John Busby- Just a book that way lying around in my cabana.  Picked it up because I was in a bad mood and didn’t want anyone to talk to me.  Another memoir... interesting story, but not the way I’ll be writing my own memoir.

9. The Last Time I saw Paris- Lynn Sheene- Plucked this one off the shelf at the library today, under new releases.  What a fantastic story! I wanted a bit more character development, but still couldn’t put it down.  Finished it in less than four hours. If your library has a copy, pick it up! Has a bit of historical fiction too that I loved!

10. Vanishing Act- Jodi Picoult- LOVED this story.  There were points in which my heart was being tugged in all the wrong directions, I hated the situations, what the characters were being forced to go through.  That's what I consider to be good literature, when a book makes you feel exactly the way you don't want to feel.  The end was such a heart wrenching plot twist that I didn't see coming.  I can't wait to read more of Jodi Picoult's books!

11. Heart of the Matter- Emily Giffin- Another story that almost made me feel uncomfortable at points.  I was so torn about the characters.  I felt bad for them at the same time I felt angry towards them.  (Slight spoiler follows) A woman has an affair with a married man- this is bad.  Said woman is raising her 6 year old son alone, desperate for company.  The 6 year old is horribly burnt in an accident.  The renowned pediatric burn surgeon who takes the case is a hero- he fixes this little boy so that he can lead a normal life.  Except he's also the married man.  I think I felt the most emotion towards the three young children in the novel.  Easy read, if you need something to tote along to the beach or on a train.

12. The Princess Bride- William Goldman- My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.... YES that Princess Bride.  Loving it as much as the movie, though the movie was easier to understand. 

13. Nobody’s Fool- Richard Russo- One of the few books I read in high school and enjoyed.  Sort of a depressing, tragic story.  Started reading it when I was in a horrible mood but haven’t picked it up since.

14. ‘Tis- Frank McCourt- Got through 17 pages at the beach before the kids wanted to go to the pool.  Of McCourt’s three memoirs, the only one I have read and re-read was Angela’s Ashes.  I haven’ t read ‘Tis in such a long time that I don’t even remember what happens.

15. 13, rue Therese- Elena Mauli Shapiro- I don't normally give up on books.  But I'm giving up on this one.  The story plot is about 3 pages long, and then it is just an endless barrage of "clues" that are supposed to intrigue you and make you want to keep going.  I have a decent handle on the French language, even though I don't remember a lot of it from High School I can still deduce meaning- but this is ridiculous.  If I wanted to translate a novel I certainly wouldn't do it this way.  This one is going back to the library. 

16. The Wedding- Nicholas Sparks- This is NOT your typical Nick Sparks romance.  I always expect that certain kind of story when I pick up one of his books, and it isn't the experience I got this time.  First of all, the protagonists are way older than his normal set of characters- at least in their early 60s.  I'm used to the 20 and 30somethings who fall in love and live happily ever after.  This love story (because it is a love story, regardless of the type) picks up at what is seemingly the end of a relationship.  Guest appearance from Noah (yes, THAT Noah, from the Notebook).  A sleepy read, I didn't really enjoy it.

17. Nineteen Minutes- Jodi Picoult- I shouldn't have picked this book up last night- I couldn't sleep, so I figured I would read.  I read about 50 pages and had a horrible nightmare, that's the kind of fear that this book is evoking in me.  I will finish it, because I need to know what happens to the characters, but I won't be reading at night.  *I finished it.  What a twist at the end- it took me a minute to figure out what was going on, but once it did it was like a sock in the gut. What an incredibly emotional story told by Picoult- this one was very well written, and worth a go if you can handle the emotionality of a school shooting.

18. House Rules- Jodi Picoult- I gave this one to my mom to read first, and she sucks at keeping plots a secret.  I knew what I was getting into before I read it, which made this book a little sluggish to get through.  Protagonist is an 18 year old male with Asperger's.  One of my cousins has Asperger's, so I tried to connect my experiences with him to the character in the book, but I didn't find very many similarities.  I'm wondering if my cousin is considered extremely high functioning- the character in the book was considered high functioning, but compared to my cousin, the kid in the book had some serious aspects of Asperger's.  It was almost like Picoult attributed ever Asperger's symptom to Jacob that she could, which made the book a little unrealistic for me.  Good to read nonetheless, but not one of my favorite Picoult books.

19. Hear My Sorrow- Deborah Hopkinson- This is one of the Dear America series titles.  I wrote a 100+ page paper on the Dear America Series for my Children's Literature class last semester, and this was the only book I couldn't get my hands on.  I own every other title in the series (yay ebay).  I liked this book, though I knew I would, for a few reasons.  First, it takes place in New York City, where I live.  I knew the neighborhoods and streets and places that were referenced in the book.  Secondly, I am fascinated with immigration and the effects it had on NYC.  I'm always looking to learn more about the immigrant experience, especially from the Italian/Irish/Czech experience, since those are the nationalities of my ancestors. I don't really know a lot about my family's immigration experiences, so these books are a good way for me to get my feet wet. 

20. The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare- Arliss Ryan What a fascinating read so far- and I'm only in 15 pages.  Told from the perspective of Anne Hathaway (no, not the actress), Will Shakespeare's wife, this novel debates the Shakespeare Authorship Question- whether or not Mr. Shakespeare actually wrote all those plays... I'll let you guess how this novel plays out.  If you are interested in the life and works of Shakespeare, definitely pick this one up!

21. Sing You Home- Jodi Picoult

22. Juno's Daughters- Lise Saffran

23. Sold- Patricia McCormick

24. The Five People You Meet in Heaven- Mitch Albom

25. Eat, Pray, Love- Elizabeth Gilbert

*As of 8/22, I'm still on a wait list for The Help. I'm #57 out of 143 for the large print book, and 488/583 for the regular print.  The Hunger Games is in transit to my library, and I'm waiting for Are You My Guru by Wendy Shanker, which was recommended by a lovely young lady in my Vasculitis Support Group. I also placed a hold for a book that was recommended by the Brooklyn Public Library, called Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Jacobson.

bold = completed
bold and italics = currently reading
type face = sitting in the pile waiting to be read/re-read

Classic Literature- Too old to be any good?

A friend posted a link to the The Today Show's 10 Books You Really Should Have Read in High School.  I read it, because I am a bibliophile, and I know for a fact that my High School Literature career falls far short of what it should have in the sense of "classic" novels.

With that said, I’ve only read four of the titles from the Today Show list, and two of which I read in Junior High School (both in 7th grade).  I was in a gifted education program in Junior High School, and a Humanities track in High School.  The Humanities track consisted of a program that included five years of English, five years of History, and five years of Foreign Language, including two years of Latin.

I took the standard English classes that were required of all students.  9th grade’s English classes were related directly to our History courses... whatever region we studied in 9th grade (The Middle East, China, Japan, South America), we read literature from those countries. Two English classes with novels we weren’t interested in, with the same teacher for both semesters was pure torture.

10th grade was no better.  We read- blech- the classics .  Boring, Boring, BORING with a capital B.  I distinctly remember “reading” Great Expectations by Dickens, and Cry, the Beloved Country.  Reading during sophomore year of High School consisted of Spark Notes.  Needless to say, I was bored.  Though we did read parts of the The Canterbury Tales with our former mentally insane (I’m not kidding) English teacher and I enjoyed the Tales immensely. I re-read the Canterbury Tales in their original language in College and loved it even more. (PS- All the links are to wikipedia, in case you want a taste of what the book is about).

11th grade was an upshot in the dark- a whole, long, glorious year of creative writing.  I loved every, single minute of it (just as I enjoyed every, single minute of the year of creative writing I took in College).  But then again, this was writing, not reading literature.  BIG difference.

12th grade was the year I doubled up.  I took AP English, which was DIFFICULT, even for me.  Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Sound and the Fury, the Bible, Cold Mountain, The Poisonwood Bible, Heart of Darkness, Crime and Punishment, The Great Gatsby... we barreled through books, pulling them apart and putting them back together, while my teacher droned “Where are the words? What do they mean? How are they used?” (his personal battle cry).  If anything AP English really did prepare me for college English classes. 

I also took electives- Literature and the American Musical (!! fun!!!) and 80s and 90s Lit.  Both were fantastic and I really did enjoy the books.  We read Ragtime and Wicked, wrote our own musicals, and dove into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Nobody’s Fool, The House of the Spirits, and Like Water for Chocolate (the four preceeding books being my absolute favorites in every sense of the word). 

But going back to the Today Show List-- in case you don’t want to click on their link, here are the titles:
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (1922)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
I’ve included the first publication date for each novel, in parentheses after the author’s name.  The most recently published book in this list is 51 years old.  The earliest published book on the list is a mere 198 years old.  Average year of publication = 1903.

Umm... seriously?  

Torturous Early Summer Wakeups...

I had trouble falling asleep last night (and subsequently staying asleep).  My alarm went off at 8:15am this morning, because I had a driver's ed lesson at 9:30.  My driving instructor warned me that he might be a little late, because he was coming back from a road test in Staten Island... He just called and cancelled the lesson, since he is sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the Belt Parking Lot.

So now I am awake, showered, and dressed at it is just about 9:30.  Swell. I am definitely going to need a high dose of caffeine to get me through the day.  Plus side- I don't have to babysit or help babysit today... a slight reprieve, since my sister and I will have all the kids tomorrow, Friday, and allllll day Saturday.

While I couldn't fall asleep last night I was thinking about the purpose of this blog.  Why am I writing it?  I write my entries as if I were talking to an audience (even though I'm pretty sure no one reads this).  A very talented and published author of a series I hope to write for one day gave me the advice to write- every, single, solitary day.  So I am truly trying to keep up with that. But it doesn't always happen.  So perhaps my vision for this blog is a little off-kilter?  I can write about living with a chronic illness, but that might be boring to healthy people.  I can write about being an unemployed teacher, but that makes me too angry sometimes.  I could write about the state of the world, politics and the zoo our country has become... but I don't know all that much about politics. 

So until I figure out this blog's true purpose, I'll write a variety of entries and see what feels most comfortable.

Upcoming Topics on Don't Ask, I'll Tell You Anyway.
  • The Denotation and Connotation of the Word "Single"
  • Arne Duncan and ideas and image
  • 10 Books You Really Should Have Read in High School (according to msncbc's Today show) That I Never Read and Why I Don't Think Some of them need to be read (phewph run on sentence)
  • Being a Graduate Student in a World that doesn't even throw the leftover scraps to those continuing their education
  • My Summer Reading List

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shooting Stars and New Babies!

I forgot to mention last night that I saw a shooting star! It was strange- the kids had been talking about seeing shooting stars (they were really seeing heat lightening) for hours... I carried the baby to the car, and we looked up (planes and babies seem to go hand in hand) and whoosh! There it went.  I've always wanted to see a shooting star.

In even more exciting news, my cousin is currently in labor and awaiting the arrival of her first child!!! This baby will be the first great-grandson in our family-- My cousin has been in labor for almost 24 hours, and that baby boy of hers just DOES NOT want to come out!! Hopefully within the next few hours or so I will have a new baby cousin :)

EDIT: HE'S HERE!!!! FINALLY!!!!  All 9 pounds, 13 ounces and 21 inches of perfect baby perfectness <3

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eyeball massages for the grownups!

Had 6 of the 7 kids (8, 6, 5, 4, 1, 1 month) plus a cousin at the beach today- exhausting is not the word, and I wasn't even with them as long as my sister was.

We affectionately call the five-year old "Moose", mostly because he is built like a linebacker and can even take me down with the least bit of effort.  He must have realized that all the adults were tired because he came and gave us all "massages".  He even "massaged" my eyeballs.  Then of course, the four year old had to get in on the massage action, because we payed Moose with hugs, and honestly what kid doesn't like hugs?

I'm tired so this is super short, but there is nothing else like getting an eyeball massage from a five-year old to remind you of the innocence of children in this world, while everything else is such a mess. 

Thanks my hunnybug Moose <3