Category Archives: pet peeves

Teaching Tuesday: Parkland

I have more thoughts and feelings about the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida than I am currently able or willing to express. I’ve spent way more time over the last few days engaging in debates with people who haven’t set foot in a school room since they themselves were in school about the “answers” to the problem of gun violence in schools. I don’t want to turn this post into a rehash of those debates.

For the moment, I will only address one, which was from a gentleman who declared that we really need to stop blowing this out of proportion as there have not really been 18 school shootings in 2018. In his opinion, if the firing of a gun was not during school hours and did not result in death, it should not really be called a school shooting. In his opinion there have really only been three school shootings this year. He then went on to say that we needed to stop making a big deal out of school shootings because kids shouldn’t be having panic attacks about going to school, especially since students were more likely to be attacked by a shark than to be involved in a school shooting.*

I side with Everytown for Gun Safety when they define a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials.”

The reason I use this same definition is because any time a gun goes off in a school, whether it is with the intent to directly harm students or teachers, an accident which happens because someone brought a gun illegally to school or an accidental discharge from a gun carried by school personnel, there is the potential for real harm to come to students. Whether that harm is physically from a stray bullet hitting a student–like in the case Castro Middle School in LA where a student brought a gun to school which accidentally went off and injured four people–or emotional from a child hearing gun shots in their school and worrying that someone is trying to shoot up their school, the potential for damage is still there and it is still great.

So while there have only been 7 intentional shootings at school during school hours–five of which resulted in injuries or deaths–there have been 10 additional shootings on campuses across this country, four of which resulted in injuries or deaths. According to many, these 10 shootings, which resulted in three deaths and four injuries should not be classified as school shootings because they didn’t take place during regular school hours with the express intent of causing injury. Of course, since four of those 10 shootings took place on college campuses, it’s harder to identify “school hours.” After all, students are on those campuses 24/7 and just because no one was injured doesn’t mean no one could have been injured.

People who are arguing against the label of 18 school shootings seem to want to downplay the reality of guns in schools because in some cases no physical harm was done and even in the cases when harm was done, it was often only to one person and often just an injury, not a death.

As a teacher, I find this idea appalling. The idea that anyone wants to downplay the mental of physical damage done by guns on our campuses is disgusting. Just because miraculously no one was hurt in some of these shootings that have gone on this year, does not mean we turn a blind eye and pretend they didn’t happen. Nor should we only count mass tragedies like what happened at Parkland as a school shooting.

The reality is that we have too many guns being brought onto our campuses. Each gun brought into our buildings, regardless of the intention of the person who brings it in, has the potential to do both physical and emotional damage to our kids. Rather than make semantic arguments about what constitutes a “school shooting,” we need to be addressing the bigger picture and making sure that our students and our teachers are safe.

*I did the research on this and according to National Geographic, the US reports about 19 shark attacks per year and has one fatality once every two years. This is an average for the last several years, but even so, so far there have been 23 people killed by shooters on school campuses this year and we haven’t even completed 60 days yet, so his logic is ridiculous.

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Teaching Tuesday: Snow days part 2

Thanks to the glory that is an e-Learning day (electronic learning), even when we have snow/ice days, my students still have access to all of their work and instead of losing a day and having to make it up on MLK Day or Presidents’ Day or Spring break, we get to count it as a school day and we don’t fall behind.

I LOVE the concept of e-Learning days. They are not always the most effective instructional days, but we can get some extra skills practice in and I don’t feel like we’ve lost much time.

My only complaint is that since snow/ice days mean power can go out or services can have interruption, students aren’t required to have all of their work completed until they return to school the next day. Now, if we miss a Monday and are back on Tuesday, that’s not much of an issue for me. However, we missed a Friday. And not just any Friday, the Friday before MLK Day, which meant my students got a 4 day weekend.

Now, I have no problem with my students getting a 4 day weekend. I got one too and was pretty happy about it. The only problem I have is that technically their material, which they should have had no difficulty finishing on Friday (since there were no power outages in the area) wasn’t due until Tuesday when we went back to school.

About half of my kids did the work on Friday. I was able to then grade it and feel pretty excited about having all of my grading done. However, as the weekend stretched on, only three additional kids did their work. The rest were waiting until the last possible moment on Monday (or even early Tuesday morning) to finish their work. So, instead of being able to use that extra time off to truly get caught up on grading, I had to wait and once again get behind on my grading.

Because if we had had a regular school day on Friday, all of their work would have been turned in to me and I could have graded it over the weekend, then come to school with a completely blank slate.

Instead, I got to start the week off behind (again). This is particularly frustrating to me because my own children got all of their work done on Friday.

If my 10 and 7 year old can do it, why can’t all of my 17 and 18 year olds?

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Free Reading Friday: Secretariat

SecretariantSecretariat by William Nack was an obligation book for me. I read it because one of my students asked me to so that she could use it for her non-fiction book project. Since I’d read Seabiscuit the year before for a similar reason, I figured this would be similar. I’d already exposed myself to the world of racing, so this book would be easy to get through, right?

WRONG! At least not for me. Now, I am not a racing fan of any sort, so I’m sure that was part of my problem with the book. Actually, it was like 90% of my problem with the book. Since I am not a fan of horse racing and do not follow it in any way, my only real knowledge of racing comes from Seabiscuit and the one time I went to the race track with my family because my aunt had won some sort competition which entitled her to a party at the racetrack. I was 15 and wasn’t even allowed to bet, so my memories of it are hazy at best.

I was prepared for an underdog race horse story with lots of descriptions of the people surrounding the horses and the races themselves. And I got that. What I was not prepared for was page upon page upon page (seriously, like 1/4 of this book) devoted to begets. It was like reading Genesis in the Bible, only for horses. This horse beget this horse beget this horse ad nauseum. I was also not expecting very detailed descriptions of horse insemination. Seabiscuit was all about one horse and his racing career. Secretariat is all about those thoroughbreds that came before him, his amazing performance and those who trained him. It made the book awfully long.

I was also not a huge fan of Nack’s storytelling. I think part of the reason I enjoyed Seabiscuit so much was because of Hillenbrand’s storytelling. I actually liked her narrative so much that I went on to read Unbroken, which was a book that appealed to me even more and I found myself engrossed in. Nack’s narrative seemed broken up by all the begets and race times. It felt more like a list than a story at times.

I was also not a huge fan of Penny Tweedy. I thought her behavior spoiled and superior throughout most of the book. If Nack was trying to paint her as a heroine in the world of racing, it is not how she came across to me. She threw too many tantrums and was far too nasty to too many people for me to like her or even sympathize with her.

For true horse racing fans I’m sure this is an interesting read. It was just not the book for me. I felt each one of the 455 pages I read and I hate when that happens.

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Throwback Thursday: Firefly and Serenity

I have loved Joss Whedon for about two decades now. Ever since I saw my first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer twenty years ago, I was hooked. Now, I’ll admit it, I didn’t see the first episode on it’s premiere night. I actually saw it when the WB reran it over the weekend. The show caught me a bit off guard as I’d seen the movie at the theater during its original run. This was due in large part to the fact that I actually worked at a movie theater at the time. If I hadn’t, I might not have seen it. The TV show was nothing like the campy, but fun, movie I remembered from high school. I was a bit confused about the different school and characters, but when her new principal mentioned the burning down of the gym at her old school, I realized it was still some version of the movie I knew.

I faithfully watched (and rewatched and rerewatched) every episode of Buffy. When Angel split off with his own series, I watched that too. I was especially enthralled when Spike managed to survive the seventh season of Buffy and moved on over to Angel.

Somehow I managed to miss news about Whedon’s show Firefly, at least until right after it was cancelled. Not that it was hard to miss considering how little publicity Fox gave it. Or the fact they aired the episodes out of order which confused people. Or that they only had it on the air for 12 of the 13 episodes. It was almost like Fox did everything in its power to tank the show.

Thankfully a friend of mine told me about it and lent me his DVD’s. From the moment I watched the first episode, I was hooked. And then I was devastated that I only got 13 near perfect episodes to love.

So when Serenity was made, I was in line on opening day. And I loved it. To this day it is still one of my favorite movies. In fact, I love it so much that each year I introduce my Film Lit students to it as part of their final. A surprising number of them end up really liking it as well and then go on to watch Firefly. Some even go on to watch Buffy and Angel. Of course, that might have something to do with the Buffy clips I show too.

Recently I learned that there are Serenity comic books. I knew that Whedon decided to add to the Buffy legacy by creating what would have been the 8th season of Buffy in comic book form. Right after they came out, my husband bought me the first few for my birthday. Then a friend lent me the rest of them. They were fun, but not quite the way I saw the show going (look, if it doesn’t somehow end with Buffy and Spike back together my interest level wanes).

I knew he’s also created Angel comic books, but I didn’t look into those. I liked the show, but it’s my third favorite of his shows (Dollhouse is my least favorite).

Until two weeks ago I had no idea he’d also created a comic book series for Serenity. When I found out, I logged on to my library to see if by chance they had them. Amazingly enough, they did. I put what I thought were the first four on hold, however, at this point I’m still not sure the order of the books. I’ve looked online and while I found a post about the correct order, it lists books I can’t find at my library or on Amazon. It also definitely does not list them in the same order my library (and Amazon does). So although I am a bit confused, I’m going to read them in the order I think they go in and if it’s not right, I’ll be ok with that and just enjoy them.

So far I’ve only read the first one (I think), Those Left Behind. It was definitely fun. It probably would have made a great episode of the show. I love seeing the characters drawn just like the actors and I love reading their words, which of course I hear in my head in the voices of the actors. I love getting to “see” Nathan Fillion play out more adventures of my beloved Mal. It’s not quite as good as more episodes would have been, but it’s a nice consolation.

I may have to get copies of them for my classroom for students who fall in love with the movie to read.

 

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Wildcard Wednesday: My new phone

I finally got sick of having the world’s dumbest smart phone. Ok, that’s probably not completely fair or completely true, but calling it a piece of junk was being kind.

It’s my own fault. In an attempt not to spend an arm and a leg on a new phone, I opted for one of the cheapest smart phones out there. The phone itself was fine. The problem was that it only had 8 GB of storage on it and a little over half of that storage was used for all sorts of system files I had no control over and could not delete. Even though I bought a 16 GB SD card, it hardly helped. Only some of my apps could be saved to the SD card, so I was constantly getting the message that my phone was at low storage and updates could not be made.

Every photo or video I took had to immediately be uploaded to my Google account. I constantly had to delete my internet cache. I also had to uninstall updates for all of the apps that came preloaded onto my phone (like Google Drive, Hangouts, YouTube, Amazon, T-Mobile, etc).

It wasn’t horrible when this was something I had to do once every couple of weeks. I could even deal with it when I was doing it weekly. However, when it got to the point that I was getting that message every other day, I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I gave in and drove myself to the T-Mobile store.

While I did not go crazy and get a top of the line phone, I did make sure that this new one had plenty of storage. That was really my only must have.

My new phone has 32GB and even adding tons of apps directly onto my phone has left me with 16 GB left. And I haven’t even put my memory card into this phone yet. I can’t. I mean, it fits and everything and would give me 16 additional GB of space, but for some reason that no one at the T-Mobile store can figure out, my new phone will not recognize the audiobooks I have downloaded to the memory card. My new phone has Overdrive and has played every book I’ve downloaded from my local library, but for some reason it does not want to acknowledge the existence of the two dozen or so audiobooks I have on my memory card.

For now I am leaving the card in my old phone. I figure I can use it like an iPod and just play the books when I want to hear them. As soon as I finish them, I can delete them from my memory card and stick it in the new phone.

Aside from this strange snafu with the memory card, I really like my new phone. It’s still nothing overly fancy, but it does exactly what I need and didn’t cost more than my mortgage payment, so I’m cool with it.

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Teaching Tuesday: Grading over break

It may be the most wonderful time of the year for many people, but now that the holidays are technically over, I have to kick my grading into high gear. Yes, that’s right, along with visiting loved ones, opening presents and ringing in the new year, I have also been grading essays. Lots of essays.

Miraculously, I was able to get all of my Advanced Composition grades done before I left school for break. I decided to ignore everything else that needed to be graded in all of my other classes in order to get all of these grades finished. Unlike my Advanced Placement English classes, my Composition class is only called “advanced” because it is for seniors. We also have a plain Composition class which is for juniors. It’s more like Comp I and Comp II than anything actually advanced.

I like teaching Advanced Comp, but since it is a course that every senior at my school has to take in order to graduate, I get a wide variety of ability, interest and motivation levels in that class each semester. And that means it is always the class students are actually in danger of failing. And since those students are always seniors, I do my utmost to get their grades in as soon as possible so that students who do not manage to pass can be put into some sort of remediation to get them back on track for graduation.

Unfortunately, this year I had quite a few students who were straddling the line between passing and failing. For far too many their fate was tied up in their final. Thankfully all but two managed to pull it off. One of my kids passed with a 59.5%, but it still counts as a D- in our grading program, so thanks to the last minute effort he put in on his final, he did it. I was grading until about half an hour after the teacher dismissal bell rang, but it was worth it to walk out of the building with one set of grades completely finished.

That big push to get all my Comp grades finished meant a LOT of essays to grade for both my juniors and seniors in Advanced Placement English. Since these students are actually advanced and taking the equivalent of college level classes, the requirements for their essays are heftier, my expectations higher and the amount of grading is double my regular Comp class.

So far I’ve only managed to get two sets of finals graded. That means I have a heck of a lot to get done in the next few days. I have to make sure I have it all graded by Friday as I still have to leave some time for planning for the next grading period. While I may have the entire year sketched out, I don’t have the day to day for every class finished yet and that is what I have to get to work on. I have a feeling the next few days are going to be crammed with reading essays until my eyes start to cross and the words run together.

It is moments like this when I am reminded of the thousands of casual comments I’ve heard non-educators make over the years about how lucky teachers are to get so much “time off.” While I will absolutely acknowledge that there is a difference between having to get up at 6 am every morning, drive in to work, teach for a full day and then drive home, and the ability to schedule my work time when I want to do while sitting in my pjs and taking breaks whenever I want to, I’m still going to spend a large chunk of my “time off” working very hard to make sure my students receive the best possible feedback on their work as well as the best lessons I can put together for them.

My “vacation time,” is almost never actually a vacation. At least not like it was before I got into education or in that year I took a break from teaching to work at a book store and then in publishing. Any time I had off at those jobs was exactly that: time completely off.

While I wouldn’t trade teaching for either of those careers, I will admit that I do get nostalgic from time to time about having real vacation days.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Laundry is the bane of my existance

I do not like cleaning my house. I know that many people are in the same boat I am in. We clean because we have to, not because we enjoy it. Sure, there are those complete weirdos out there who love the thought of getting out a vacuum or a scrub brush, putting in some real elbow grease and getting things to sparkle.

I will never be that girl.

As much as I generally despise most household chores, I will admit that when I clean my kitchen or bathroom or living room, I do get a small wave of accomplishment and maybe even a bit of pride in how good it looks. It’s never long lasting and it’s never enough to make me want to clean, but it’s enough for me to at least feel good about the time I spent cleaning.

This is true of pretty much every chore I do around the house…except laundry.

Laundry is the bane of my existence. No matter how hard I try, there is always at least one load of laundry in my house that needs to be done. I’m not sure how it is even physically possible for four people to go through clothes the way that we do, but every single time I turn around, I have to throw another load into the washer. Rarely in my house does anyone wear more than one set of clothes per day. We use towels more than once. We wear jeans more than once. We wear jammies for multiple days. Every weekend I wash at least four loads. And yet one of the five laundry baskets in this house is ALWAYS overflowing.

Oddly, it’s usually my son’s.

I don’t actually mind gathering up the laundry. Putting it in the washer and starting it is on real problem either. Moving it from the washer to the dryer is pretty simple too. However, the second that drier buzzer goes off indicating those clothes now need to be taken out of the dryer and folded…that’s when my body starts rebelling and I do everything I can think of to avoid folding clothes.

I hate folding clothes in large part because no matter what I do there are always clothes to be folded. I feel like Sisyphus every time I even get near the laundry room. In fact, right now, I am staring at a clothes basket full of clean laundry that is just waiting to be folded and put away. And I know I have to do it because the next load is in the dryer, which stopped quite some time ago.

Despite my knowledge that I will eventually have to give up, give in and get folding, I have been known to hit the “damp dry” setting on my dryer two or three times to avoid the inevitable.

How can we have so much laundry? Why does it never cease? Why do I dream of being suffocated in a laundry avalanche?

Ok, it might not be quite that bad, but if I had to pick one task to never do for the rest of my life, it would be fold laundry. It’s not that the task is hard. It’s not. I know it. It’s so very simple. It’s just the frequency with which it has to be done that makes me look for absolutely anything, and I do mean anything, to keep me from having to grab that basket and start folding. I’m pretty sure I’d rather watch golf on TV than fold clothes.

How many times can I turn the dryer back on before I start doing real damage to my electric bill?

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