October 29, 2008

99 Balloons

This story aired on Oprah yesterday and it's too good not to share. It is a video diary of sorts from a father of a little boy born with Edward Syndrome. The video, 99 Balloons, will surely touch your heart (grab your Kleenex now!).

October 26, 2008

Evidence That We Should Think Before We Speak

My students have been researching environmental issues this month in preparation for their persuasive letter writing (to politicians) and upcoming speeches. This past week, they created and presented Did You Know...? posters stating a fact related to their topics (in order to increase interest in these upcoming speeches). One poster said something (I can't recall the exact fact) about a chemical that causes lung cancer. Here's the discussion that followed:

Student 1: Isn't that chemical in cigarettes too?
Me: I'm not sure, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Student 2: There's tar in cigarettes!
Student 1: What do you mean?
Student 2: Like street tar.
Student 1: So they scrape the tar from the streets and put it in cigarettes?
Student 2: No, but it has the same chemicals.
Me: There are tons of chemicals in cigarettes. A lot of the chemicals in cleaning products are in cigarettes.
Student 1: What?! You can't breathe those in! They'll kill you!
(At this point, the whole class breaks out in laughter)
Me: Yes, J. And that's why it's bad to smoke! Because cigarettes DO kill people!

Ha! I love my job!

October 20, 2008

Intolerable Ignorance

This is an old bulletin I posted on MySpace back in the day, but I wanted to reiterate my thoughts....

I read a very disturbing bulletin today. I don't know who originally wrote this exact post, but I have seen similar commentaries in the past. I can't hold my frustrations any longer. Please read the posting below and see my comments following:

You call me: "redneck", "Hillbilly", "Slacker", "Cracker", "Honkey", "Whitey", "Gringo", "Sage" and "Hick" and you think it's okay.But when I call you: "jungle bunny", "spear chunker", "coon", "wet back", "jiggaboo","porch monkey", "sand nigger", "rag head", "towelhead", "Camel Jockey", "Gook", "Spook", "nigger", "kike", "slant eyes" or "Chink" you call me a racist.--You have the United Negro College Fund.--You have Martin Luther King Day.--You have Black History Month.--You have Cesar Chavez Day.--You have Yom Hashoah--You have Ma'uled Al-Nabi--You have the NAACP.--You have BET.--If we had WET(white entertainment television) ...we'd be racist.--If we had a White Pride Day... you would call us racist.--If we had white history month... we'd be racist.--If we had an organization for only whites to "advance" our lives... we'd be racist.--If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships...we'd be racist.--In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights...you would call us racist.--Did you know that some high school students decided to make a club for only the white students because the other ethnicities had them. they all got sent to court for being racist but the African American, Latino, and ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /> Asia clubs were not even questioned.--You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you're not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.I am white. and I am proud.Why is it that only whites can be racists?Now watch, I'll be racist for reposting this.If you agree w/ this than repost saying "I'm not RACIST but it's true"

My immediate reaction is one of shock. How can people be so ignorant? Do they not know the history of our country? Have they not been educated about the hardships faced by persons of color? Do they not acknowledge that discrimination and racism are active still today? Do they not understand how hard it is for these people to have their voices heard?

In the past, racism was very overt. Those behaviors are no longer acceptable in our society (thank God). Now, though, racism has become covert. People are still racist - even though they may not say anything or physically do anything. Institutional racism is alive and well - and it is mighty powerful. And if we sit idly by as it happens, we are only contributing to our nation's delinquencies.

The author of this posting complained about the one measly month dedicated to black history, but I don't hear any complaints about the 11 other months that are (covertly) dedicated to white history.

The author criticized our cable network for allowing one black entertainment channel, but I didn't read any criticism about the hundreds of other channels dedicated to their white audience (because let's face it - that's who they're marketing to).

The author criticized the NAACP. Maybe the author doesn't know that we have institutions in this country that have been established to promote the advancement of white people - it's called Corporate America!

Let's not forget that it's been only 30-40 years since persons of color where even granted the same rights as whites in our country. You have to acknowledge that whites got one hell of a head start there!

The author even criticized the United Negro College Fund. God forbid we have an organization dedicated to giving disadvantaged persons (because they all are in our society whether you like to admit it or not) the opportunity to better their lives!

This posting shows a great lack of acknowledgement (or education) of why such institutions were created and their necessity. I find it despicable that any person can write such a posting and truly believe that the white people are somehow being disadvantaged in this country.

And finally, I wanted to comment on the question of why only white people are considered racist. In the past couple years, I've been exposed to some highly respected authors who have helped me to redefine "racism”. I now understand that the word "racism" can only really apply when a person has power and privilege over another. For this reason, it is only whites in this country that can be racist - because only the white man has such power and privilege where his hatred of others can really affect their lives.

Think about it.

Only in America

This story is right up there with the idiot who sued McDonald's for not warning that the coffee was hot!

The article tells the story of a single, overweight, middle-aged woman (trust me, these facts are important) who arrived at a Tampa hospital complaining of severe abdominal cramps. While the professionals were busy running tests and such, said woman decides she needs to use a bathroom and oops!... pops out a baby.

Because all Americans feel they are entitled to sue the world, this family wants to sue the hospital for negligence (to pay for the baby's ongoing medical care - she suffered brain damage from the incident). Have I mentioned that the mother was fully aware of the fact that she had missed her menstral cycle for over eight months? Did I also mention that the woman's lab reports showed traces of cocaine? But, oh yes... the hospital was the negligent party here!

I especially love the last line in the article, "This woman doesn't know she is pregnant, but somebody else should." Seriously!

I Can't Say It Better Myself

This blogger, who happens to be a family friend, couldn't have expressed my thoughts better (even though he's really only expressing his own). Check out his post here.

October 19, 2008

Words to Live By

I love when I read a book or watch a movie and come across some great "words to live by." Often, I quickly write down the words in an effort to remember their message, and I thought it would be fun to share some with you.

I love children's movies. I often say that I need to have my own children so I have an excuse to enjoy the latest films in theatres rather than waiting until they are on TV (I'm still waiting for Horton Hears a Who). This morning, I watched the wonderful story of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. It was quirky and cute, and its message rings loud and clear: Believe in yourself so life's magic can appear.

I leave you with this inspirational quote from the eccentric Mr. Magorium himself:

"Your life is an occasion - rise to it!"

October 17, 2008

What Address?

This was an interesting conversation I had with one of my students about formal letter writing:

Me: (While demonstrating on our fancy ELMO projector (which I love, by the way)) This is where you write your address. Go ahead and do that now."
Student: "Wait. My e-mail address goes here (pointing to his paper)?"
Me: "No. Not your e-mail address, your street address."
Student: "I don't get it. I don't have one of those."
Me: "You know... your house number... the name of the street you live on."
Student: "Oh!!!! I don't know my number, though."
(Please keep in mind that this is a 7th grade honors class)
Me: "Seriously? You don't know what numbers are on your house?"
Student: "No."
Me: "Don't you ever get mail?"
Student: "In my e-mail."
Me: "Well, when people come to your house, how do you tell them where to go?"
Student: "My parents do that."

We are truly in a digital age, my friends!

October 15, 2008

Parent Conferences

I know it's been a while since my last post, but I have been busy saving the world! :) OK, I've really been busy preparing for my first parent-teacher conferences, which took place last night and today. I am happy to say that I have survived... one more notch in my teaching belt!

My conferences went very smoothly. I have great students this year, and that resulted in pleasant conversations with the vast majority of parents. For this, I am thankful!

There was though, one conference that has been tugging at my heart strings. There is a student on our team this year who clearly has too much on his plate. This particular student is in the honors math and language arts program, runs cross country, plays club hockey, and has decided to take on a foreign language and a new musical instrument this year. As you can imagine, this is a lot to maintain for your average middle school student (especially with such a demanding 7th grade curriculum in this district), but this student also has some emotional/behavioral concerns. To make a very long story short, our team agrees that this child's behavior needs to be addressed, and we believe that his overwhelming load has caused a lot of unnecessary stress. We, as a team, agree that we are not meeting his needs in the honors math and language arts programs.

I can't tell you how hard it was to break this news to an already-stressed mom. She has been receiving phone calls from teachers since the beginning of the year, but I think this conference was the first time she was really forced to face the issues. I felt for her... I really did. It must be so hard to hear your child's teachers say that he just can't cut it. It must be devastating to have to go home and relay that information to your child. All I could do was assure her that we're doing this because we care. I hope that message was received.

We put so much pressure on our kids to succeed. I sometimes worry that our expectations of "success" need to be adjusted. Sometimes, kids just need to be kids. It's okay if they aren't earning straight A's, taking every honors class, or finishing their cross country meets in first place. When did "average" take on a negative connotation?

October 7, 2008

Fashion Gone Wrong

Do you remember fashion in the early 90's? Big, teased hair (the bigger, the better), biker shorts with oversized t-shirts, scrunched socks, snap bracelets, hitop sneakers, MC Hammer (aka parachute) pants, Madonna-inspired cone ponytail holders... ah yes, those were the days!

At the peak of this high-fashion era, I was about 10 years old. Fifth grade, for me, was a time when I was becoming very conscious about my appearance, and I spent far too much time in front of mirrors teasing my bangs as high as possible and feathering my sides (you know you did it too!). I don't think there has been a time in my life since that I've followed fashion so closely.

Imagine my surprise today when I noticed that our school librarian was wearing a t-shirt tie. Do you rember those? I'm not certain of their exact names, but they were plastic rings (they came in several shapes and colors), and we'd weave our oversized shirts through them to hold them tight to our sides. Seriously... I know fashion is recycled, but I haven't seen these on anyone since the 1990's. And the lady in question is not one I would describe as fashionable.

Is there an old fashion trend that you're hoping will return?

October 6, 2008

Love is Blind

My girl, Eve, sure said it with the lyrics, "Love is blind."

I was thinking this evening about people who are in unhealthy relationships. I'm not talking about abusive relationships (though those certainly qualify), but I'm talking about the ones when it's so clear to everyone except for the couple in question that the relationship is all wrong (Speidi, anyone?).

I think one of the biggest problems with these relationships is the strain they can put on other relationships (friends and family). In the end, that just isolates the couple, making it even harder for reality to sink in, and by the time it does, sometimes friendships can no longer be salvaged.

Have you ever been in one of these relationships?

Or... to add a twist: Have you ever dated someone knowing full well it was a mistake from the start?

October 5, 2008

Off the Grid

Though I am fairly certain my age falls beyond their viewing demographic, I admit that I still enjoy some MTV programming. I find True Life, for example, to be somewhat education in that if provides a glimpse into lives that are much different that my own. An episode I watched this evening was, "Off the Grid." Basically, it was a group of 6 strangers literally living off of the land for one year in the middle of Wisconsin (Do you know how cold it gets in Wisconsin in the middle of winter? Yikes!).

Let my start by clarifying that I'm not so much of an outdoorsy person to begin with - I prefer my soft bed, flushable toilets and warm showers. I used to go camping every summer with my friends, but I secretly hated these trips because I was always hot, dirty and full of bug bites. I'd rather vacation at a spa!

These brave souls, however, were living in mud huts and bathing in frigid lake water with only sand to "cleanse" their bodies (chemicals were not allowed). The stretched hides for clothing and shelter. They ate deer, frogs and squirrel... squirrel! I seriously think I'd rather go hungry (and that's saying something). If this documentary was supposed to make me interested in the green lifestyle, I would say it failed miserably. It's just too extreme for me!

Now, I'm all for thinking green and doing what we can do help the environment. I look forward to a future filled with smart cars and solar panels for all. I do my best to reduce, reuse and recycle. I believe in supporting Community-Supported Agriculture, and If I had the ability to keep a plant alive (seriously... I've killed bamboo), I would even grow my own fruits and vegetables. in a garden. I think it's pretty safe to say, though, that I couldn't make it living completely off the grid. Could you?

Party Foul

Last night's homecoming dance at Maine South was cut short becuase of a bomb threat. You can read the full article here, which I find disturbing on so many levels. While I completely understand and respect why the authorities must take each threat seriously and respond accordingly, I think it completely sucks for all the students in attendance.

I remember my own excitement around homecoming dance -especially my freshman year. I remember the anticipation of my first real date, the weeks spent searching for that perfect dress and coordinating accessories, the hours spent coordinating plans (transportation, dinner, flowers, hair and nail appointments, pictures, etc.).

I can't even imagine how disappointed these students must have felt when their dance was cancelled less that an hour into the evening. All that hype, all that excitement... cut short. And why? I am willing to bet that the threat came from a selfish teen who wasn't invited/permitted to attend the dance and decided to take it upon himself/herself to ruin everyone's party.

I hope the police are able to identify the caller and that he/she is forced to pay for the losses (hair, nails, limos, etc.). Seriously!

October 3, 2008

One Less Guest

If you are in a serious relationship (and you have been for quite some time) and you receive an invitation to a wedding sans guest, are you still expected to attend? What if said event is out of state? I've been wrestling with these questions since receiving an invite to a friend's wedding a few weeks ago.

I know that my single invitation is not personal; I understand that guest lists multiply very quickly. My problem is that I need to make a decision, and I'm none too thrilled about either of my options. It is completely out of my comfort zone to make the trip (have I mentioned this wedding is out of state?) and attend the day's events alone (If you know me, you understand why this is such a big deal. I don't even go to the bathroom alone.), and I don't want to be a bad friend by not attending.

What to do? What to do?

October 2, 2008

A New Understanding

On this week's Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, my understanding of pedophilia was challenged, to say the least. In this episode, the detectives dealt with persons who were clearly sexually aroused by children but had never engaged in any criminal behavior (they even exchanged photos of children on the internet... fully clothed). This was a new concept for me, but if you think about it, all pedophiles must have started with a fantasy. I'm sure most offenders would agree that they tried to resist their urges, knowing the consequences of their actions, but they were eventually overwhelmed by their own desires.

The episode leaves me questioning whether or not it is possible for people to have these strong urges and to truly never cross the line. Are these people just ticking time bombs waiting to explode? If so, don't we have a responsibility to our children to find ways to prosecute these men before they cross that line and destroy lives? Unfortunately, law enforcement cannot convict someone for his fantasies - at least not yet.

The Search for Truth

An e-mail circulated our building today from an irate parent, who contacted our superintendent (not the teacher in charge or even the building principal... this man went straight to the top) in regards to a documentary shown on last week to the seventh grade academic teams. Tomorrow, you see, begins our environmental research unit, and in order to give students a glimpse into a hot button environmental issue, we show An Inconvenient Truth.

After this father fully admitted that he had not seen the film himself, he demanded that it be removed from the curriculum. He was "livid" that his twin daughters were exposed to this type of "liberal, political material" and "appalled" that our district would be so "irresponsible" to present this information to students. Furthermore, he demanded to know when the other, "scientific" side would be presented to students as well (this is where I laugh).

Of course, our response (this was not a parent on my team... thank God!) was that this film is presented as one perspective and that students will spend the next month researching alternative views and that all popular research is somewhat biased. We are fully supported by our principal in this effort, so it sounds like this daddy will have to take his tears elsewhere.

I am well aware that my school is located in a very conservative, upper-middle class Chicago suburb, but I guess I didn't consider how close-minded some people could be at times. I believe that a well-rounded education includes information from multiples sources, so that when these students can learn to be critical thinkers with the ability to discern for themselves what is true. Isn't this what we want for our children?

October 1, 2008

Diving In

I was blessed this past weekend to be able to spend time with some of my friends from college, some whom I had not seen in more than four years (Yikes! Has it been that long since we graduated?). In the midst of our conversations, one of my friends asked me why I didn't have a blog. I confessed the following two reasons: 1) I couldn't think of a creative title and 2) I have nothing "interesting" to share (read: I'm not planning a wedding, having/raising a child like everyone else I know).

I decided this evening, that I was going to take the plunge. I figured it's only fair, as I spend many hours reading everyone else's blogs (even people I don't know), that I contribute to the blogging world. The title of my blog was inspired by my students during my student teaching experience. It is certainly a play on my actual last name, but my mentor insists the deeper meaning cannot be ignored. I don't know that I've saved any lives quite yet... but it's something to which I can aspire! :)

While I'm still neither planning a wedding nor expecting my first child, I do think I have some things worth sharing. Mostly, I look forward to having a place to share thoughts/ideas/opinions, whether or not anyone reads them.