Friday, May 28, 2010

Meetings, Bloody Meetings

Here I am with the bureaucrats at the Uta* State Offic* of Educatio* (you know the place I mean). Nice touch to have an engraver present, huh? This etching was done after we had spent most of an hour arguing about how to quantify "student progress".

With the exception of the tablecloth, this is quite realistic, especially my glower and knitted eyebrows. What? No I am NOT the March Hare. This is my blog, so I get to be Alice. The other participants haven't been in contact with a real student in so long, they have forgotten why they even come to work in the mornings. In presenting the formula to quantify student progress, the Mad Hatter produced a chart with an equation 5 pages long. I was like, "Couldn't we just call it progress if the student gets a higher score on the post-test than on the pre-test?"

Nooooooooo...... Then no one would get paid to come up with a five page equation. What if the student makes just one point of progress? Is it statistically significant? What if the single point of progress is the result of higher blood sugar or having got laid the night before?
I am lucky that I am invited to attend these meeting and that they have been consulting me in these matters. Better to bang my shoe in the table at a contentious meeting than to not be there. It's when your back is turned that they do this to your program.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Snow Again

My friends and relations in Wisconsin are starting to irritate me. I can see that it is lovely and warm there. They don't need to rub it in with all the Facebook posts about camping and whether or not it is time to turn on the air conditioning.

In Salt Lake, we woke up to snow. Not just a dusting. A significant, branch-breaking, foot-soaking, tomato-killing accumulation.

Think of the money we are saving by not turning on the sprinklers, yet! Shit. Who cares? We're still running the furnace.

I headed out to work in a less-than-fabulous mood. I had dug out a pair of closed-toed shoes, but the slush was coming in over the tops of them as I walked around the truck, brushing off the windows. Where is the desert I know and love? If I wanted Greenland, I would move to Greenland.

By the time I get all the way around the truck, my feet are wet and cold. Forget the windshield. The wipers will get it. I clamber in and start the wipers. S-L-O-W-L-Y the wipers inch their way along about half of their arc, then crunch to a stop. "Sorry. Too heavy." [Sigh.] I don't WANT to get out in the snow again, which has fallen down my collar already and made my back all wet. I stare at the wipers, willing them to prevail. "C'mon! You can do it!" I can hear the little motor though, which is getting pissed off.

Alright, already! But I am NOT getting out. I open the driver's side window, sending a shower of fresh snow into my lap. Holding the brush/scraper at an awkward angle, I reach the scraper out and around and start trying to help the windshield wipers. This doesn't really work; only sends more snow toppling into the car.

Yes, don't bother pointing out to me that I am wetter at this point than if I had climbed out of the car and done the job properly. I don't want to hear that.

Finally, my scraper hits the sweet spot. I push enough snow around that the wiper is able to function properly, at which time, it sends about a cubic foot of snow off the windshield at a perfect angle to slide down the shaft of the scraper and fall onto the seat next to me, soaking my ass and making my day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

All Alone

By myself! In my house! I could clean out the down stairs hall closet, or I could read Madame Bovary. Hmmm... decisions, decisions...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Letter to Edie

Dear Edie,

I got my mammogram results yesterday and they were negative. Clean Screen Number One! I wasn't worried. Had the mammo been suspect, they would have called right away. A wait, followed by a letter in the mail, is a good thing.

I didn't notice feeling anxious; but after getting the result, I felt surprisingly...better. Suddenly, I thought that the rain felt good on my face, that the Rec Center was a Utopia of human kindness and that the inside of the truck smelled nice.

I was also surprised that, in the middle of my run, I had to leave the track and go cry in the ladies' restroom.

I have discussed this at some length with my friend Shirley D., who had a mastectomy years ago. To be a person who has survived a cancer diagnosis is a great thing as long as you can avoid thinking of the people who didn't. Every time I think, "I'm lucky!" or, "I'm going to be fine." or, "Thank goodness those smart doctors found it early!", I am sending a joyful message with pain in my heart. I wanted you to be my partner in that good fortune, not the counterweight to it.

I spend a lot of time missing your friendship and wondering whether I'm living in a way that you would have appreciated. If you were here, you would snort and say, "Obviously not, since you're still mind-fucking yourself." You would prefer if I just looked forward, not back at all. Or, better yet, if I looked neither forward nor back, but just enjoyed the place I am in at the moment. You were a lot better at that then I will ever manage to be, I'm afraid. Still, I did have a flash of it yesterday. We might be able to call that incremental progress, huh?

Thanks for being a big enough, bold enough presence in my life when you were here, that I can conjure you easily when I need to. And I still need to a lot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So You Think You Can Teach Fifth Graders?

NO! I never made a single claim!

For the last two weeks of school, the fifth grade teachers ask the parents to take over the instruction of our little darlings and "share our talents". Problem is, I don't have any. And where will the teachers be while the parents are teaching? Las Vegas? Couldn't we just do some nice math drills instead?

Sara bullied me into saying I would teach something. After all, I am a teacher, right? ADULTS! I teach adults! I am afraid of kids. After much dithering and fussing and almost chickening out ("Two sections? She's got me down for two sections? No one is going to sign up for even one section! And they'll hate it! I'm calling her on Monday. I'm gonna tell her... that I have to take a fresh-air tuberculosis cure in central Europe that week!"), here I am, writing a lesson plan, just like I do all the time at work (for adults!).

I need help. I am requesting input. Here's what I've got so far.

I'm going to call the class (which is 60 minutes) something like "One-Act Slam!"

Objective: Students will work in small collaborative groups to outline, read and act out a short skit.

I have a stealth objective. Alleged skills as a writer and a teacher aside, this is 60 minutes with a bunch of 11 year-olds. How much writing can I realistically teach? What they really need to learn are cooperative learning techniques, because I've noticed how kids this age struggle to do group projects. The most capable / bossiest one always leads, then ends up doing all the work. The more passive ones just give up and goof around. With that in mind...

  1. Brainstorm what has to happen to write a play. (They'll say, an idea, a rough draft, making changes, rehearsing, etc. At least that what I am fantasizing they will say.)

  2. Group them in groups of...oh...four. Randomly? Let them group themselves? Don't fifth grade girls fall down dead on the spot if you force them out of their cliques? Am I insured for that?

  3. Use the feedback from the brainstorming session to assign roles within the group: scribe; casting agent; editor; director. Label them with adhesive labels. Ship them to Siberia. End of class.

No? Oh, all right.


  1. Remind them that this is a SLAM, so they need to be brief but brilliant.

  2. Provide each group with a lap-sized white board and fine point dry erase pens. This will make editing easier and will help them limit the length of the thing.

  3. Give each group two? Three? No, two random, evocative photos from our photo file at my job. We have loads of photos of all kinds of things: a kid being bandaged by a paramedic; a person being led into a courtroom in handcuffs; a dude rollerblading in a business suit; you name it. So they get these random photos and they need to somehow create a story that includes the situations pictured. I let them get to it.

  1. Groups have a limited period of time to come up with a plot outline. After ?? minutes, groups share their ideas. I'm hoping that making them report back after each part will keep them on task.

  2. Same thing with composing a first draft. No need to share with the class at this point, but they have to have a rough draft ready.

  3. Students read through and edit within their groups.
Final Product: They rehearse and act out the skits for each other.

So, what do you think? My biggest fear is time. I'm not worried that we won't fill the hour. In fact, the opposite. How do I carve it down if I see the time is getting by? I'm good at adjusting a lesson when I teach in my subject area, but this is mysterious. And (this is the big thing) WILL IT BE FUN? Can it be made more fun? The othermothers are always so elaborate. Many othermothers would have a little stage with curtains, etc...etc... Bitches.

The cool parents are doing stuff like Cookie Decorating. I must be out of my mind. But I'm a shitty cookie decorator. OK, feedback?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some Things Need to be Rekindled

I really have a lot to write about these days, but I need to reestablish my blogging routine.

Nate came running into the house this evening before supper, terrified that he was about to be abducted.

"MOM! I was just playing out in the yard and this car stopped and the people in it smiled at me! I think they're headed this way!"

Sure enough, a knock at the door. Nathan squealed in fear and hid. Oh, for Pete's sake. I opened the door to find the Sabet family, to my great pleasure. Soraya and Jafar and their son Aryan. Nate and Aryan used to go to the same daycare center and played a lot when they were in preschool. They go to different elementary schools, though; so we really haven't seen the Sabets for...three years or more.

They were driving past the house and Aryan spotted Nate. He was so excited that he asked his dad to stop. Poor Nate didn't remember Aryan at all at first, but they ran off to play and left the parents to brew strong tea and talk about gardening. Jafar is a horticulturist.

I have to do better with these folks. I really like them. They live very nearby, but we don't visit back and forth. Our kids are the same age, but we don't get them together. This is totally my fault. Soraya has always been the outgoing one and probably despairs of me as just another American so-called friend who never has time.

BWOOP! BWOOP! Digression Alert! [Which is true! How can I have time to chill when I have to de-junk Sara's bedroom? She was in such agony over the mess that she finally invited me to have my own wicked way with it. Talk about the most fun I can have with my clothes on! I LOVE to throw stuff out! I got busy and filled the garbage and the recycling dumpsters. She thinks she has no storage. When you clean out the CRAP, she has plenty of room in there!



Back to Sabets. It is true that I used to avoid her a little - Nathan didn't like playing with Aryan and I didn't know how to handle that in light of how much Soraya wanted them to play together. Now, though, they get along great. I'm thinking I'll ask them to come over this weekend. Be it resolved that I will try not to get stuck in my social rut and that I will make time to cultivate my friendships.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm Back!

Where have I been? Beats me. April is OVER! But, thank God! Too many deadlines, too many obligations.

Over the past month, I have:
  1. Planned and carried off a six-hour teacher training with my colleague Anne, on How to Teach Pronunciation;
  2. Run in a half-marathon;
  3. Run in our local Race for the Cure;
  4. Traveled to Washington DC for a conference on professional development for teachers;
  5. Helped plan a school fundraising dance, which was no more successful that the one we did a couple of years ago;
  6. Wrote two ginormous federal grant proposals;
  7. And Simon had a couple of inconvenient business trips.

That's where I've been. I know, I know... Hillary Clinton wouldn't bat an eyelash. Hillary Clinton also has handlers. I want a handler.

My two fat federal grants are handed in at last, and I can start to dig myself out from under. I have been in a daze. Time to try to get some decent sleep, too.

I got up at 5:15 this morning, so I would be on time for my 7:00 AM mammogram. Better to go in early, I figure, before the day starts to get all backlogged. And it's my first post-cancer mammogram; I'll feel like I've reached a milestone to have a clean screen. This is only my second mammogram ever, after all. The first one sure opened a can of worms!

At any rate, I got dressed, had breakfast, looked at the newspaper for a few all ready to go. And just before leaving the house, I glanced at my planner and saw that my fucking mammogram is tomorrow.

Well, shit. All that lovely sleep, wasted. I took off my skirt and stockings and climbed back in bed and was finally able to doze off again, moments before I had to wake up once more for the start of my real day. The one that is actually TODAY, not TOMORROW? You know, if I had been clever, I would have gone anyway. I'll bet they could have worked me in. How many people want to get their boobs mooshed that early in the morning?

The best part is, I get to do it all again tomorrow at 5:15.