Monday, November 24, 2008


Mrs. Whimsy- Have you watched Persepolis yet? If you have I would love to discuss the film on here. 

Anybody else a fan???

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Re: Education Woes

Education is the key and there is nothing cliche about it. Mrs. Whimsy, the experience you shared in your post is what I wish for all students. I admire you so much for all you have done to help your students. They needed someone like you to care for them and show them that they are important individuals. There was a time when I considered going back to school to become an educator. It was my experience in various social work positions that made me change my mind. It would be very hard for me to teach in a public school and not be able to focus on each individual student as needed. 

Youth of all ages today have a lot on their plate. Most students do not leave school for the day with the luxury to do homework, play, and eat a nutritious dinner. Working as a home-based Family Literacy Teacher it became evident to me that there are a lot of children who are barely getting by at home. If I were in the position I would make sure our government is putting as much money into our schools as possible. I think there are a lot of programs that could be initiated into public schools as well as adding more alternative/charter schools.  

I realize I am no expert when it comes to this subject, but I have spent a lot of my own time thinking about what schools could use. Perhaps these things are already out there - I don't know.. Here is a list of things I think could help schools:

-Survey families of students to see what resources the family may need
-initiate mental health programs as early as possible.
-reach out to teenagers with violence prevention more to decrease bullying
-never abide by sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me...words do hurt and kids picking on other kids should not be tolerated
-allow different testing options to account for different learning styles
-healthy food choices
-electives and allowing students the option to design their own courses 
-more money - I have been in public schools that lack toilet paper..this is not acceptable!
-helping teachers get the resources they need and flexibility to teach their students the best way possible

I think raising more awareness in the community is the first step. Mrs. Whimsy, can you comment on your experience working with the families of the students? I am curious, from an alternative school perspective, to hear your experiences! 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Education Woes

One of the most pressing issues on my radar is education. As a mother, it concerns me. As an educator, it concerns me. As a taxpayer, it concerns me. Education is the key. I know that is cliche, but it is absolutely true. The best way to help someone is to provide them with an opportunity, and we are fortunate enough to live in a country where the opportunity of education is a right. It actually hurts my heart that this opportunity, this right, is often taken for granted.

I remember working with a high school student a few years ago. He was 18 years old and in the 10th grade. He was so truant that if he missed one more day, just ONE MORE DAY, of school, he would go to jail. Not get fined. Not get community service. Not got to Juvie. He would get cold hard time in actual jail. Pretty high stakes.

Now, I barely knew this student, I didn't know him at all compared to the other students in the small classes at the alternative school. Now, finally, here he was, and he wasn't going anywhere unless he wanted a one-way ticket to the slammer. I wanted to know what made this kid tick. What the heck was so bad about school that he never wanted to come?

So, I asked him. "What's your deal, Truancy Boy? Why don't you ever come to school?" I didn't actually call him Truancy Boy, of course, but I felt the need to protect his identity in this forum. I was shocked by his response. He replied, "You just don't get it, do you? School is pointless. I am going to end up just like my parents. Losers."

Wow. He was right. I didn't get it. I didn't get how nobody had ever told him that he could be somebody. I didn't get that he felt so hopeless. I didn't get it that every message that was ever sent to him was that he was destined for loser-dom. This kid had no spark left. He actually, truly thought that he would end up living in a dirty trailer drinking cheap canned beer for the rest of his life. Nobody had ever bothered to tell him any different. So, so sad. There is nothing worse than cheap canned beer.

This was one of the turning points of my career as an educator. From this point forward, I wanted to "get it". And more than that...I wanted my students to "get it". I wanted to transform them from apathetic victims to successful, contributing members of society. Truancy Boy let it slip that he was interested in computers, and by the time he graduated from high school, he had also earned his A+ certification. He was no longer a Truancy Boy...he was now a Tech Guy. I would venture to guess that he moved himself straight out of that trailer and only drinks bottled microbrews.

So, that is the true story of one student who did not fall through the cracks. But what about all of the other students? What can we do to reach them? How can we prevent our children from feeling this apathetic? We need to raise the bar. We need to expect more from ourselves (especially if we are parents), expect more from our schools, and expect more from our children.

So, where do we go from here? How do we expect more out of our citizens when they aren't expecting much from themselves? How do we break the cycle? Where do we start?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Beyond this election..

Mrs. Whimsy,

Being a mother of two, a hard worker, and concerned person what would you like to see move forward in this country? What could one party offer that would really make a difference to you? 

In addition what kinds of things do you see in your community that need to be improved and/or changed? 

This election.

Well put, Concerned Girl. I agree with a lot of what you have said. I think the Yooks and the Zooks are focused on different things...different reasons propelling them to butter their bread in their customary way. It is interesting to look at things in oversimplified terms like a children's book. Interesting because it makes things even more complicated.

I have always been pretty opposed to the two-party- dominated nonsense that we call politics. I am now stuck in a very difficult position. Do I vote third party and "throw my vote away" or do I choose the lesser of two evils? And what would that choice even look like?

From my perch up here on the wall, one party is prettier and says a lot of nice things about helping people. It is all ducks and bunnies on that side of the wall. The other side is far less ducks and bunnies over there. That side is not fuzzy or soft. It is hard and loud. It's oh, I don't know, an air conditioning unit. So, what's a gal to do? Ducks and Bunnies or Air Conditioning Unit? Now this has turned into a metaphor within a metaphor. First the Butter Battle Book and now the Baby Animals and Appliances. This is out of control.

I like the principles behind Democratic ideals. I want people to have all of their liberties. And live in a society with options. I don't like how those options always end up to expand government in ways I don't see fit.

I also like the free-market ideals and personal responsibility that the Republican's stand for. I also like their views on education. I don't like how religious convictions get into the mix.

So, I found myself in quite the little pickle here. Ducks and Bunnies or Air Conditioning Unit?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Re: First on the Agenda: This Damn Election

Unfortunately I have not read  Dr. Seuss's "The Butter Battle Book", but I think I will as soon as I can. The very thought of this book makes me think about how our society works and why there are so many walls built on what should be common ground. I would like to state my reaction to the description of this book and then tie that in to my thoughts towards the 2008 election. 

 I think the concept of this book is brilliant in a way that a simple act like buttering bread can cause such problems in the lives of the Yooks and Zooks. I feel the way one butters their bread is a freedom that both the Yooks and the Zooks should be able to exercise whenever and wherever. What is wrong in this fictional society that forces two groups to become so angry and forcefully build a wall to keep them divided? Both the Yooks and the Zooks feel so strongly about their buttering styles that they cannot even ascertain the idea of learning about each other's differences. 

This book can open up the door to many discussions on so many important topics. Where do we learn to butter our bread? Do we always do as we are told? Even though I will always butter my bread on top I would not outcast an individual who likes slippery hands. From a systemic perspective I feel people abide by rules and learn values from their adult caretakers as well as his/her environment. To me a good caretaker will show their child  the way but let him or her make the final decision. This does not mean that I think it's appropriate for people to do harmful things to each other like obliterating an entire group like the Yooks(?). What I am getting from the synopsis of this book is that both sides cannot look past their own way of thinking. 

Right now we have the Yooks and the Zooks in the very real present. We have those who believe in gay marriage and gay rights, abortion, and those who do not believe in either. I admit that because I strongly believe in and advocate for equality for every individual it is hard for me to really understand someone who opposes. I have every right to believe in the things I do but I should exercise my right to also understand where another group comes from. I have always proudly sided with the Democratic Party because I see the people that have power using it wisely to help others. The theoretical wall that I have a hard time knocking down has people like John McCain and Sarah Palin on the other side. People that say that their way is the only way. We only get this one life. I am so fortunate for all that I have, especially my freedom to be pro choice, and it makes me feel sick to my stomach to know someone doesn't want me to have that.

I admit that I don't think either party will ever be perfect but change is needed for a better future. There is A LOT of work to be done and who knows how much will get done in the next four years. That being said at least someone is supplying the bricks so that others can build the house. I really rambled on and on here but I want to hear other thoughts? What kind of issues come up for you in reading these posts? Do you think it is safe to keep even a theoretical wall?

Thanks Natalie for initiating such a thought provoking first post!!!


First on the Agenda: This Damn Election

Did you ever read Dr. Seuss's "The Butter Battle Book"? It is about a cold-war type standoff between the Yooks and the Zooks, two groups that live on opposite sides of a big wall. They are divided by theoretical differences, one group buttering their bread on the top; the other buttering their bread on the bottom. These opposing views keep them divided and uncompromising. The result is the creation of a series of weapons constucted to obliterate the other group. Even a child can see the error in their ways. With that said, I feel as though I am stuck in this book. At this point, I am unable to see over this wall. Unable to understand why on earth this group can't see how ridiculous it is to butter their bread the correct and proper way.

Being caught in this giant chasm of theology is frustrating to say the least...especially for someone who is usually able to see and appreciate the basic theories behind all perspectives. Even those drastically different than mine. I hoping to initiate a dialogue in this open forum to assist me in understanding the Zooks. What am I missing here?