Friday, December 22, 2017

Why Millennials Should Have Kids

There's a great number of stories in the media these days on why Millennials aren't having children. Most of those articles concentrate on the economics of children over the emotional investment. I find this to be a very sullen case of a generation that has documented every meal, every event and sometimes every emotion in online drama. In short, I think they need to grow up. But there are more reasons that Millennials should have kids. Let me outline why millennials-some of the most highly educated, carefully insulated and categorically managed group in history-should have children.

1. Having children will teach you to love on a level that you have never loved before.
If you buy sweaters for your dogs or toys for your kittens, if you watch then online at work courtesy of motion detection cameras, then you have a capacity to care, but not on the level that you will love a child. Babies grow into entirely separate people, which in and of itself is a miracle. More than that babies and children can think and reason and communicate on a level you will never achieve with your pet dog, cat or wombat. In the vast scheme of things, kids are just more fun.

2. Having children will help you grow up. No matter how affluent, parents too often find them must bend their own desires in order to accommodate their children. For Millennials who are used to having control of Every. Single. Aspect. of their lives, this is a good thing. Life is messy and disorganized. Whimsey and caprice are simple facts of life. Learning to roll with the punches, to deny yourself for the benefit of others is a good thing. It's the type of attitude our society needs to experience more, but seems disinclined to nurture. Having to stay up all night with a crying baby and still get up to face the day is a far more courageous action than partying with friends and moaning about the hangover at work the next day. Selflessness is an acquired trait-it builds character.

3. Having children will help you learn to be truthful. If you think you want to be the kind of person your dog expects you to be, consider how you want to appear to your children. Children are mirrors of family life. They are honest to a fault. They will let you know via word or deed when things are working and when they are not. Watching a child operate in the world is a far better template for behavior than most of what we see in the adult world. And troubled kids are a clear indicator of adults needing to clean up their acts.

4. Having children will expand your goals. Most Millennials don't think much beyond their own personal Venn diagram life. But what happens outside and beyond matters. It's been proven than societies that have fewer children value educational facilities less. Who is going to care for your ailments if there are not enough medical workers? What is more, who will take care of you when you are aging? Much of the Boomer generation is dealing with that right now. While you watch your parents care for aging grandparents have you considered who will handle your estate, your DNR orders, your demise? Who will comfort your spouse? Who will carry those family memories? Are you really willing to simply let them fade away? When it comes to that, if you only have one child, do you feel at ease leaving them alone with those memories?

5. Having children will keep you young. I've witnessed childless friends and their aging process isn't pretty. It's not that people with kids don't have medical issues, but childless couples seem adrift in our society. They are often limited to socializing with people their own age and as that group continues to get up there in years, the interaction with the current world fades. They become disconnected socially politically, emotionally. They frequently become people who only discuss medical care, funerals and politics. This more than any organic disease leads to much of the depression and dementia seen in seniors. Is that really what you want?

6. Having children will teach you fear.  That might seem like a bad thing, but it is not. Life is a rollercoaster. The depth of your fear is equal to the height of your joy. (Sorry-Khalil Gibran...) Being a parent is one of the scariest most joyous things you will ever do. You will watch a sleeping child just to see them breathing. You will wait up after dances and parties. You will feel your heart break when your child is left out or bullied. But you will also feel unbridled pride when your child gets an award, graduates, gets married or has children of their own. You cannot experience such emotion unless you take the risk of having children.

7. Having children will give you faith. While Americans are "unchurched" more, there is nobody more faithful than a parent worrying about a child. Do you think any parent at St. Jude's waits outside the treatment room praying to Science? Do you think that any parent can not marvel at the utter beauty of a sleeping child or that their own offspring are so creative, clever, talented and fun? Regardless of your faith or upbringing, you cannot truly care about humankind unless you understand that something beyond mere biology makes up the human psyche. If that's not faith, I don't know what to call it.

I think this generation of Millennials has been raised to fear everything. They want to be safe instead of free. They fear what they view as encumbrance of marriage, monogamy, children, family as some sort of trap instead of a support trellis on which they can grow. They want to know the answers to the test before they take it. They want insurance. Life is not a sure thing. It's a balance of risk and security. You can have your half caff latte daily or you can have love. You can have "experiences" traveling and doing, but your photos will eventually mean nothing. When nobody says your name, you die a second death. When you fail to have children, you may do it for yourself, but you do it TO everyone who came before. Their stories become lost. While I would never advocate for people who truly don't want kids to have them, the false cries over economics and social issues denies the very humanity Millennials claim to embrace.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Absentee Students

Recently my district had an entire week off for Thanksgiving break. Nine days from Saturday before Thanksgiving until the Sunday after is no short weekend. This evolved from what was earlier a four day weekend when my kids were in school. Then the parents would complain they had to leave early to get to grandma's house. So the districts changed the vacation period to five days. Parent then assumed that "it's only two days" and took their kids out the entire week. So again district buckled and the entire week was given to them. But that wasn't enough. I had kids leaving the Wednesday prior to the week off and one student whose family stayed in Mexico on vacation until the week after the break. Whatever happened to requiring students to be in class?

Oh sure, we have a 90% attendance rate requirement in Texas, but instead of enforcing some rules, our administrators willingly give permission to miss up to six days for "college visits" (which many times take place on ski lifts...) and allow students to miss time for cruises, family trips, etc to the point that make up work is almost impossible. And who gets to take up the slack and endure abuse from parents? The teachers.

When I was in school excessive absences were shown to be negative influences on a student's progress. When I had chicken pox in first grade and had to miss two weeks, serious consideration was given to holding me back in spite of my grades. Now students are allowed to make up "seat time" by sitting in an empty room biding their moments to make up missing classes. In talking to many students, they admit that if the advantage of seat time wasn't available, they probably could have made it to class.

We are teaching these future employees a poor lesson about accountability, responsibility and maturity. This is being aided by parents who seem unwilling to pay attention to a calendar and made worse by competition seasons that sometimes require days out of class. In the Spring we can look forward to soccer, golf and tennis students missing one day a week for the three months they compete. That's 20% of their class time. And THAT time is forgiven. But once you add in band trips, AcDec trips. Latin Club, Spanish Club, college trips and more and soon students are prolonging and delaying every project and exam. It makes grading impossible. But it makes learning negligible-with a dismissive attitude toward the process and the idea that graduation can be bought via threats and manipulation.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

On "Culture"

Some people believe culture is something you acquire via experience, travel or training. Other people believe culture is strictly defined by geography-where you were raised and what resources were available shape how you develop. And then some people believe, mistakenly I think, that culture is solely a matter of race. Let me explain why I think this last group is wrong.

I have known people of color who were born in Ghana, Jamaica and other locales. When matters of "race" as defined in American politics comes up, they admit to being mystified at how so many people can allow history or their own behavior to hold them back. I have to admit all these folks were college educated and came here legally and intentionally to pursue careers. So how come people who come here legally can overcome hurdles that people of color seem unable to surmount? If "culture" as defined by the Left, by BLM, by ACLU, by DNC and by all liberals, is a matter of race, how come so many people of color come here and succeed, often without the educational or social props our nation current provides many citizens?

What is "culture" anyway? The visible aspects of culture include how we dress, how we act, what we eat, and sometimes what we drive and where we live. Those used to be the sum limit of culture. There was a time when everyone listened to music from every culture. Unfortunately a kind of narrow asceticism has entered our nation where one must declare to be within the limited norms of stereotypes set not by the individual, but by others within the society who claim special knowledge. Thus a six year old white girl dressed as a fictional Disney princess Moana or Jasmine is accused by the media elite, such as Comsopolitan Magazine, of being racist and "appropriating culture." I'm confused by this because these are made up animated characters and as such really have no culture to speak of. While I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone to put their child in blackface or don a sombrero and claim to be a Mexican, what harm is it to dress like a cartoon of another little girl?

I'm not sure who is in charge of this cultural definition thing. It seems that like so many school elections, universities have allowed the very few who want the title to have the position. It's probably so that they can be left alone to play beer pong in peace. These mouthy little snowflakes are very open in pointing out the offenses others make to culture. This exercise prepares them to be trapped in Academia as either a student or adjunct professor for the rest of their lives because honestly, who else is going to hire them? These puffed up little twits have an entire new vocabulary of offenses to match the slate of gender nuances that everyone else is supposed to embrace. I think I speak for millions when I say-I don't give a damn what or who you do, just leave us alone.

Going along with culture is the "new racism." According to these same arbiters of cultural norms-you're racist and I'm racist and we just don't know it. If we lock our doors, we're racist. If we avoid dangerous neighborhoods, we're racist. If we don't adhere to policies that support turning over most of your income to the nearest person of color even if they make more than you guessed it-racist. Racist as a term has become almost meaningless. It's just something mobs like to shout along with "death to cops" and "f*ck---whoever". I see their mouths moving but none of their sounds make any sense. And that is because the claims of racism have become so outrageous that only the most doctrinaire liberal believes all of them.

Here are just some of the things I have heard defined as racist:
Devil's Food Cake
Black Holes in space
Reading to your white children at night. (shame on you!)
Not taking a knee
Intact families

These are just a few of them-I'm sure there are more. I don't mean to pick on these people, but seriously don't they have other things to do? Jobs? School? Something? More and more when you get on social media it's another litany of woes from the Left. I don't think they are even listening to each other anymore. Rant, rant, rant. Scream, scream, scream. Pop in your earbuds and it becomes some sort of hysterical mime troop encountering an obstacle Daddy can't just write a check to make it go away. I'm tired to death of their constructed and constrained culture imposing itself on mine. Contrary to the spox on the Left, everyone has rights. And although it's only implied, one of them is the right to be left the hell alone. I'm asking nicely on behalf of the millions of us who are thinking this, but not saying it for fear of being fired, attacked or making liberals cry.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reality now

I went to in-service today. I finished up the Dyslexia trainting and then ESL/ELL training. I also sat in a meeting where evidence of how the whole chaotic nastiness of Antifa and the public protests have seeped down to the school level. Imagine my shock at two things revealed today that happened at my socalled "good' suburban school.

1. In protest, someone is taking it upon themselves to smear feces and menstrual blood in the boys and girls bathrooms. No wonder my students ask to go in the restrooms that are fulling in sight of teachers at all times. This is beyond nasty, it's unhealthy and borderline psychotic. In the hands of students the type of things they've seen from Occupy and Antifa and BLM register as normal. So we are beginning to see the new normal in schools.

2. Pot has been around awhile. But now we have dealers selling acid that is so toxic that just touching it with bare hands can get it into your bloodstream. How it was found was on the floor wrapped in a packet of foil. Any teacher or student or custodian could have picked it up and been impacted.

If this is happening in "good" schools, what is going on in others?

Monday, October 09, 2017


When my daughter was graduating from high school, my husband was out of work.

The only thing she wanted was a dog.

My kids have grown up with dogs. Our first "children" were a black Lab with a streak of wanderlust, named Pete, and a Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix,named Sandy. My kids learned to walk clutching Sandy's back. She would circle them in the yard making sure they were safe. The world seemed fresh and bright a new. After Sandy died and we moved, Pete would slip through our fence back to our old house looking for his friend. Sandy died at 14, Pete lived to be 16.

So there were two chaotic years where we had no pets except for Thor The Thunderbunny. Christi wanted a dog. So looking in the Greensheet, she found a "free" dog. We went over to a nice house in Richardson, an upscale neighborhood, and saw this poor hysterical Golden Retriever. She was thin, she was scared and she was terrified of men. So of course we took her. Only the mother of the family cried. Looking back I wonder if whatever abuse Indy suffered was domestic violence. It took a long time for her to trust.

We named her Indy because we picked her up on the day of the Indy 500. The owner, of course, lied. She was heartworm positive and had to go through two rounds of treatment. She became an inside dog-a hilarious, smart companion who stayed with my husband and me even when the kids moved out and up.

Indy was a very particular dog. She thought our rabbit was a puppy and licked it like one. She didn't chase squirrels, only rabbits because I think she thought they were Thor. She didn't retrieve. She loved what we called the Ch's-Chocolate (yeah I know, just a taste), Cheese and Chicken. I believe she had "cheeseradar" -she could hear me unwrapping cheese from outside. She was queen of our greenbelt park that trails along our backyard. She truly was the Alpha female ruling those that walked by. In her head though, she thought she was a little dog. She was scared of big dogs-never could get along with my daughter in law's chocolate Lab-but loved little dogs. The few times we boarded her she was always with the little dogs acting very much like a babysitter to them all.

Indy slept in our bedroom at the foot of our bed. Many is the time I would trip over her in the dark. She wasn't a cuddly dog-whatever trauma she suffered when she was a puppy prevented that-but she trusted us almost enough to let us clip her nails. Indy hated bathtime although she loved the results.
She was a beautiful, funny, caring friend. And I will miss her smile when I come home from work.

In a world where people are often untrue and unfaithful, dogs are always honest. If they don't like you, they let you know. And if they love you, you have a forever faithful friend. In the end, Indy could no longer walk. Brian would carry her outside several times a day. She couldn't eat anything, not even chicken. She was ready to go long before we were ready to let her go. She was a good girl and we will miss her. I hope if I am a good enough person, I will see her again, playing with Sandy and Pete in a place where there is no more pain and no more fear.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Bad goes to worse

So after three deaths-the death of my cousin in his sleep at age 53, the loss of my grandson's mother's child halfway through the pregnancy and the tragic suicide of the daughter of family friends it gets worse.

The Las Vegas shooting is terrible. I can't even fathom the kind of insanity that makes this a rational act. It's sick.

But the hits just keep on coming. My husband of 61 was laid off. Again. It seems men of a certain age are expendable in this economy. His friend was also laid off. My daughter in law was also laid off in a so called hot real estate economy. My sister in law was also laid off in spite of her years of experience in medical coding.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Hardest Lesson

I had to do something today that was so hard. It was so difficult that I nearly backed out. But it was also very important that I followed through because the welfare of others depended on my presence-not because I am important, but instead because sometimes people need support in numbers. Today I attended the funeral of the young beautiful daughter of  family friends. She was beautiful-blond and blue eyed. She was smart-a student at Texas A&M with her eyes on becoming a physician's assistant after first becoming an EMT. She was strong-a star player on her high school softball team. She had so much going for her. She was full of vinegar with a quick wit and ready sense of humor.

She killed herself.

Let that sink in. This beautiful, talented, smart and sassy young woman who had achieved so much and who was loved by so many suffered from a broken spirit. I don't know how nor do I know why she made this choice. All we know from the letters from her parents read during the memorial that her shiny, bright veneer hid a very sensitive young spirit which grabbed onto every criticism and allowed it to fester. We have accounts that trapped animals will gnaw off their own legs to escape the pain of the trap. I suppose at some point inner doubt can become just as deadly as cancer and grow into something so painful that death seems the only escape. Bumper sticker claims of suicide as a "permanent solution to a temporary problem" don't even scratch the surface of the situation.

Having met this young woman and hearing what her sister and friends recalled of her life, I can't believe she would intentionally inflict so much pain. Even four days later, I don't think her mother has had one hour of sleep. She's melting into tears and no words anyone can say will console her. There simply are no words in any human language that can heal her pain. Her father is being strong for everyone else and yet I can't imagine that he's not wishing to block out all that has happened, hoping it's just a bad dream. You can see in his eyes that inside he is shattered, blaming himself for failing to protect his baby girl. No loving child, no parent, no sibling or friend would cause that kind of pain unless they were in such irrational pain themselves that nothing else made sense. Some think of suicide as the ultimate selfish act. It is and it isn't. It's self-centered because the main character has bought into a litany of self-described sins from which they think there is no absolution. It's selfish because they fail to trust others enough to be honest.

Why do so many people ignore that there is always forgiveness? Our society has become so quick to blame. So many of our "sins" are more personality quirks than evil. Yet we have become a society where saying one wrong word, wearing the wrong shirt, holding the wrong sign or daring to be different can make someone a target. Even the bravest among us don't want the center stage all the time. And when we fail, for some, it's a hard fact to acknowledge. Call it pride or ego or perfectionism, for some the quest for the best score, the perfect record or the highest praise is the only thing that calms such troubled spirits. The sad thing is that for many one success just leads them to seek the next achievement-the quest never ends. Perhaps this is why some seek to end it themselves-sometimes through drugs or alcohol or other addictions and distractions. They just have to end the game.

No parent should have to bury a child. Whether they are infants unborn or men in their 50's, they are always children to their parents. I admit that I was holding up well during the memorial service until they showed this young woman's photos as a baby. Parents in general, but mothers in particular, have a real problem separating their grown children from the infants they nurtured. Mothers have problems in seeing their children as functioning adults. It's not that we don't admire our children or that we don't wish them independence and success, but it's hard to reconcile with our first images of our babies with the adults they become. This week my 93 year old aunt lost her only son at the age of 58. He died in his sleep. I don't think she mourns her loss any more or less than the parents of the girl whose sad story I first addressed. Children are always and forever young to their parents. So when a parent calls a grown child to warn of dangerous weather heading their way or to gently nag about bills or suggest more grandchildren would be nice, it's not because parents are trying to run their children's lives, but because they are trying to help them avoid the potholes and pitfalls that life can create. Sometimes being a parent is the most terrifying role you can take.

If I was a better writer, I'd have some snappy conclusion that would wrap up this situation. There are no answers. We'll never know what went through this young woman's mind before she made her choice. I've always heard that those who attempt suicide hope someone to save them. In a way it's kind of a test of the rest of the world. Perhaps that was the case here-I hope so. I hope she was counting on a savior or a white knight or a dragon or whatever hero her mind could create. I know that as a Texas public school teacher I will have to go through "suicide lessons" with my classes. They are mapped out by psychologists who claim to know how we can protect young people from making this tragic choice. I also know that ultimately it is window dressing-a type of whistling in the dark that betrays the fact that we will never know what demons haunt those who end their own lives. All we can do is try to insure that those we love know it and that knowing it will be enough.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New "New Math"

Yesterday I was helping my grandson with his second grade math homework. He's a bright little boy-GT identified, reading at a fifth grade level. He's good in science and has a great attitude. He's curious, excited and wants to know more. He's creative and innovative-but that's not what is valued in the new "New Math."

He doesn't understand the new math.
He doesn't understand why he's supposed to guess the answer when he can figure out the answer.
And nothing that previous generations knew about "carrying" numbers when adding applies. In fact teachers actively warn parents against teaching this archaic method of adding and subtracting.
I remember being that second grader-going through exactly the same methods of factoring.
It was 1965 and it was called "New Math." We had plastic slates with wipe off markers, a plastic abacus and an excited grad student leading through an array of math exercises.

I am a "New Math" victim. Although I understand how numbers work and I'm good enough with numbers to do my own taxes (although I have a professional check them....)I did lousy in Algebra1 and Algebra 2. I was great in Geometry and could easily use math in applied science classes, but the aim of "New Math" in 1965 was to prepare students for The Future, complete with the burgeoning promise of Computers. I couldn't do higher math. In fact the convoluted methodology of "New Math" I was fearful of even trying. I had a teacher who would mark correct answers wrong if I didn't follow the exact methods. This isn't how real problems are solved. Any mathematician will tell you there are endless methods to solve problems. Math is training in logic and logic is the product of the mind's organization. How can you read someone's mind? By eighth grade I had basically given up on math, trusting my ability with writing and reading to cover for me. That decision to monkey around with the way a seven year old sees the world can have terrible implications down the road.

I looked at my grandson's homework paper, which included breaking down numbers by ones, tens and hundreds and factoring the individual numbers to "find" the answer. I could show my grandson how to do it, but I could not explain why he had to do it in such a long winded and awkward fashion. What is worse is I know next year he will be expected to perform these twisted problems on the state STAAR test and if he doesn't solve them EXACTLY as taught he will lose scoring points even if he finds the correct answer. The problem is that like my grandson, I wasn't content with estimates and guessing. Bright kids wouldn't ever be content. Yet the methods being used insist that students deal with approximate answers rather than finding the definitive answers. What is worse is this denies students the very intellectual flexibility and independence that the system claims to foster.

If you look at this on a larger scale, this demonstrates what is wrong with our educational infrastructure. We have grad students and education wonks using social theory to impose ideology on everything from race to religion in the context of a school day. Teaching core subjects has become a side issue because from what it appears the methods of teaching every skill from writing and reading to adding and subtracting is being measured and monitored for everything but accuracy. Instead it appears that testing entities are trying to hit the sweet spot where they can congratulate themselves that key demographic groups are "finally successful." This is aligned with the insistence that teachers turn classrooms into entertainment venues complete with games and prizes. In the meantime the truly bright students are bored to tears and either test out or drop out. The rights of the normal kids are ignored in order to create a vast safety net for students who often choose not to excel.

Whatever happened to just teaching the material and expecting students to learn?
What happened to requiring students to attend class and participate?
What happened to administrators worrying more about overall student success than the failures of the random few?
I predict that like the 1965 "New Math" this too will be shelved. Unfortunately, like "Whole Language", by then five or six grades of students will have been negatively impacted. If you don't think "Whole Language" was a bust, ask anyone from age 26 to 30 how much they like to read and if they feel they were well taught or had to play catch up in high school.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Generation Hopeless

I've expressed my concern for awhile now on how young people have become so engrossed in their digital lives that they don't truly understand how to function effectively in the real world. It's more than an inability to speak coherently, dress professionally or interact meaningfully. It's a lack of basic life skills like balancing a bank account, cooking a meal, cleaning an apartment. I've talked here before about the scary inabilities of seniors in high school to look up information in an actual book. We are now faced with a generation that may not be able to write or read cursive, making them less knowledgable in spite of their digital access credentials.

My own children have complained about peers at work who use student loans to fund vacations, who are mystified that my kids have paid of their student loans, who switch jobs on a whim and take off whenever. What's sad is my own kids, some of whom work more than one job, show up ready to work and are impeded by policies that have to be implemented because of the ineptitude of their work peers. For example, my son has worked for five years for a very well known high end bike store. He's sold three million dollars worth of Treks and other triathlon bikes. He knows how to size a bike, how to repair one and how to deal with people in a way that everyone usually ends up happy. But because of new hires-some only a year younger than my 28 year old son-they now have to have a manager check every single transaction. This slows up service and prevents paying customers from having the attention they should. What's more, is that new hires are often being paid more than long time employees-which is what my daughter discovered at her job at a well known national bank. More and more it seems that responsible employees are penalized because of the goofball millennials who can't seem to do their jobs.

So I came across this story which I am putting here: Generation Hopeless

Just a few quotes-and they will sound familiar:

A survey of American millennials by One Poll found 65 percent don’t feel comfortable engaging with someone face-to-face, and 80 percent prefer conversing digitally. As a result of this, they’re less likely to understand how they’re perceived by others in real life. They struggle to strike up a conversation and can’t navigate tricky problems like workplace conflict. Their time management is shocking and they desire senior roles they can’t possibly hope to hold down.
“They’re so used to being able to filter themselves before they post something online that they get stuck in a kind of real-life stage fright,” Launerts said. “I’ve spoken to teenage girls who are more frightened of eating in public than putting a provocative picture of themselves online. That’s so frightening to me.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

We are raising a nation of illiterates.....

This story.
I appalled by how unaware my high school students are about our own culture. They can show you how to take a selfie and post it on Snapchat, but they don't know how to formulate a basic letter. They run rampant watching all nature of things some of which are definitely beyond what someone under the age of 18 should be consuming. I have to assume parents don't care that most of these kids have all kinds of violent, provocative images on their cell phones. I have to believe that these parents are aware of the dangerous nature of online predators when they daughters post topless selfies and their sons post photos of someone's "junk." After all, for the most part parents pay for these phones, they see the overages for texting and apps, and yet I have parents who call their students while they are in class. Do these parents not know their kids are in school or is this just some weird demonstrating of parenting in the 2010's?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Quest for Fame is Hurting Kids

I've worked for a long time in the arts. My daughter is an accomplished choreographer who has her college degree in Dance. Her degree plan required Anatomy and Physiology as part of her training. In addition her professors promoted teaching students to dance strong and safely. Many of the moves that we see from children's dance, cheer and competitive teams are not just provocative, they are dangerous.

My daughter and I share a love for dance. When So You Think You Can Dance started, we used to watch and call each other on the phone. At the time she was the artistic director for a rec league level dance company. The problem was the parents. More specifically the problem was the mothers who had watched So You Think You Can Dance as well as Dance Moms. Because of the lack of regulation, and the petty small world that dance consumes, girls were lured to other programs where it was promised they would learn the 'tricks' that would get them noticed. Many of the other teachers were older than my daughter and didn't have the benefit of her background in contemporary concerns in the dance industry. But the Dance Moms wouldn't buy into the idea of age appropriate dance and costume.

The competition industry bears much of the blame for this. It used to be that provocative costumes or actions for young children would lose points. There is something truly disturbing about seeing a seven year old bump and grind. Yet in their zeal to win, win, win, too many dance schools, often run by people who have next to no experience in the academic and professional dance world, are putting tiny children through their paces. Let's just consider for a minute the concept of dancing en pointe. To be strong enough to accomplish this you have to have trained your muscles to support your entire body weight. That doesn't happen overnight. Indeed my daughter's studio required a doctor's xray analysis of a child's ankle before moving them up. That is not the case in most dance schools.

My daughter just sent me a link to a story from Australia expressing many of the same concerns. You can read it here: Ambitious Child Dancers At Risk
Below are some quotes:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Boys, Pain and Silence

I've raised two boys into young men. I am proud of my sons.
And i thank God that my boys aren't growing up today.
I think of the way our society treats boys from kinder through college and it's a wonder they don't en masse rise up and slaughter us.

This year, through the kismet of computer humor, I ended up with an Art One class of 31 students, 24 of them being male. That's fine. It ends up boisterous and we usually take some odd side trips, but it's okay. What is strange is how some of them have attached themselves to me as a substitute Mom. I've had students do this in the past. It's usually not the star students or the worst of the worst, but instead the average kids who have quirky personalities and interests.

One kid in particular seems to enjoy trying to shock me with outrageous comments. He's a handsome kid, tall, but really goofy. He was complaining about not knowing how to pick out a tux for prom. I told him to get help from his Dad. He replied, "If my Dad actually spent ten minutes with me it'd be a miracle. He's an asshole who left my Mom when I was two months old." It was shocking and I told him I was sorry he had to go through that and his reply was "I'm over it," which of course means, he's not. He's hurting, and badly. Hearing this story, another kid stated," My Step Dad is okay, but I'm pretty much just a replacement for my step-brother who died of an overdose." Wow. So that kid doesn't even feel he's important enough to care about on his own merit. Then another boy talked about how his Mom and Stepfather travel and have missed most of the senior events even though he's heading to engineering school halfway across the country in June. What was strange is that as more boys spoke out, others were having conversations over the things they've experienced-one kid had to run away when his stepfather got so mad over a bad grade that he threw him against the wall. Another had friends buy an airplane ticket to his Dad's home when his Mom and Stepdad threw him out. Others were simply ignored over overlooked or acting out just to get someone to look.

People have talked for years about the pain girls go through in school. But girls, in my experience, are more than willing to tell you about it. Boys generally do not. They carry their pain around until it erupts in ways that are destructive to themselves and to others. Counselors, by and large, are dismissive of boys' problems until they develop to the level where students are shipped to alternative school or juvey. The same people who will intervene for girls when they feel threatened or diminished will rant and rail at boys who are experiencing the same emotions, but don't have the same outlets for their pain. I listen to the teacher next door who nurtures bunches of needy girls, but who regularly screams at her class which has many boys in it. I worry because we only have two and a half weeks of school and these boys are showing the type of pain that manifests in binge drinking, drugs, risky behaviors of all kinds. And I fear that the quirky kid who plays jazz and grows bonsai trees or the kid whose father is a radio guy on a large national sports show will do something that will cause me to cry when I see their names associated with some summer tragedy.

Our society, our schools, our nation have failed boys. The push to make things more acceptable for girls has permitted an entire system to ignore the growing problems boys experience. Bullying, learning deficits, special ed and at risk labels are all more often directed toward boys. More boys succeed at suicide. Fewer males than females are in college. We are letting them fall through the cracks.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ack! Spinners!

I want to offer my sincerest thanks to whatever idiot invented "spinners". As if my high school students aren't distracted enough chatting on their cell phones and playing games and movies on their IPads, now I get to contend with the type of behavior I thought I would avoid in high schools.Right on the heels of Pokemon Go, distantly related to the perils of Pogs, Pokemon cards and Tamagotchi, Spinners were promoted as a way to get ADHD kids to stop fidgeting.

It's a lie.

Instead those same populations, AND OTHERS WHOSE PARENTS PERMIT THESE TOYS, are more distracted, more fidgety, less engaged than they were before. I've seen this before when I found Tech Decks in my briefcase. The same kids who come to class with reams of paperwork for 504, IEP's and BIP's are also loaded for bear with every electronic gadget and toys they can carry. It's a wonder our district electric bill hasn't soared beyond all reason.

As a teacher, please, please, please don't buy these stupid things. Don't let your children take them to school. And don't believe any "professional" who claims these are a cure for your child's lack of attention.

"The alleged mental benefits of the toys have helped fuel their sales, but even a cursory look at the nonexistent science — and the history — of the spinners makes it clear that these claims are specious at best. Fidget spinners weren't created by behavioral scientists with a deep knowledge of intellectual disability nor were they created by experts in a lab; they were first patented by an inventor from Florida named Catherine Hettinger who wanted to promote world peace. She began imagining the spinner while visiting her sister in Israel. What if the young boys throwing rocks at police officers played with something calming instead? she thought. Hettinger's spinner never took off: Hasbro passed on it, her patent expired in 2005, and the spinner toiled in obscurity until earlier this year, when a series of YouTube videos featuring teenagers doing tricks with them went viral."~Time Magazine

Spinner History

Spinners' Questionable Science

Friday, May 05, 2017

Throwing Shade

I've taught for a long time.
I've taught kids who were rich and kids who were poor.
I've taught kids from trailers and kids from mansions.
I've taught white kids who thought they were black, Asian kids who claim to be Mexican and Hispanic kids who are really Americans.
But we have a problem in this country and it comes when anyone thinks how they look entitles them to be treated differently. I'm sorry if this offends, but there are reasons that African American  kids are in trouble more is because in too many cases whatever good lessons they get at church and home are undone by the music they listen to, the movies they watch and the examples they see in their own homes. How can we stop violence in schools if at home it's the norm? How can we expect to see respect given to us from kids who don't even respect each other?

Today, during the misbegotten period known as Block Lunch, I asked several students who were lying, yes you read that right, lying on the floor of the hall blocking the way during lunch to move to allow people walking to pass. See for some reason even though there are ample seats at tables and desks around the building, kids prefer to sit and eat on the floor. Why? No clue. I asked them to sit up and one young man decided to respond, " I don't have to listen to you." Oh was the wrong day to pick that fight. Then he got others the chime in. I seldom write up kids, mostly because it does no good, but this type of Lord of the Flies gang mentality is disturbing. Kids take up causes for other kids they don't even know based on God knows what evidence. What is more, because of this, teachers and other students are intimidated into tacit approval. I watched these same kids blocking the hall from one of our special ed students who is wheelchair bound. It appears that intimidation is seeping down from universities to high schools.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Origins of Selfishness

It has been a tradition in our area to offer an all night after prom party as a safe alternative to parents renting out a hotel suite open to whatever debauched imaginations of teens can compose. Usually these events were held at places like Main Event or PinStax which offer generally wholesome activities like bowling, laser tag, arcade games, etc. It was a nice way for kids who either couldn't afford prom or who didn't go for various reasons to still enjoy a rite of passage.

Traditionally it has been a function of some group on PTSA to make arrangements for this event. Reservations, raising money for scholarship and door prizes take awhile to assemble.  Generally speaking, even if prom itself was stuffy and overly dramatic, most kids enjoyed the after party. Parents appreciated it as well, knowing their kids would be less likely to get in trouble.

Our prom was officially announced. Then it was announced there would be no after prom. Why? As I found out from my inside sources (kids talk...) it was because the PTSA Mom whose job it was decided that since her little babies graduated in January that it didn't matter. I could perhaps forgive this woman if she had been heavily involved in serious work. She's not. She appears to be somewhat of a trophy wife who drives the latest Mercedes and whose children were very, shall we say, elitist.

So if you wonder where this self-centered, I am the bellybutton of the Universe, attitude comes from, look no further than the parents. I feel sorry for the kids still here. What could have been a fun, penultimate and inclusive event is now nothing. It's too late to arrange an event. We're out here trying to teach kids that commitment and responsibility matter and yet their own parents can't even take care of those things they committed to do.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Phone Addiction: It Makes Crack Look Tame

This has been the environment in our home for too long. With three boys and three little machines attached to them like the nuks they held so tightly as babies, I can no longer reach them. Their attention has been stolen by these screens. Their minds so needing the quick fix of their phones, a simple dinner conversation without a flashing screen has become torture.(Article Linked above in first line....)
My response:
I wish more parents were like you. I teach high school. Worse than that, I teach high school in a district that thought it would be forward thinking and educationally sound to have students bring their own technology into the classroom. So whereas phones were forbidden in class except when teachers needed them for online coursework, now phones are on all the time. Students walk down the hallways, earphones snaked under their clothes, listening to what I can only assume is the soundtrack they believe is underlying their daily lives. They secretly text and watch movies in class, necessitating that they have to sit on the floor in the hallways during lunch, with their chargers plugged in, so that they will be able to text during their afternoon classes.

I've been teaching a long time. Instead of increasing depth of knowledge, the impact of phone addiction (for I truly believe that is the nature of this situation) is that students lack social filters and many are incapable of carrying on a rational conversation, much less a supported debate. They are less articulate, less able to write intelligently and are essentially lacking in the ability to focus. The irony is that the imposition of technology is viewed by the educational hierarchy as something to be supported because it can be quantified. What they have not considered is the impact down the road.

Consider this. We now teach young children to read using electronic screens rather than printed books. Electronic screens are constantly moving, causing eyestrain. In prior generations, most children with vision problems were caught in first grade, when they started reading. Young children have no word for eyestrain, they only know that reading makes their head hurt. It's basic operant conditioning that explains why our kids are reading less, thinking less, doing less. I promise you that those kids in China, Russia and Denmark that are kicking our kids rearends in educational benchmarks are not learning this way. It's lazy. And it's turning today's kids into ready consumers for whatever popular fake news comes down the pike.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This Says It All

I read the following article and found it true. Our students are protected from the consequences of failure by well meaning, but wrongheaded parents, counselors and administrators and as a result we have young adults who are devastated when proven wrong. I believe this fuels much of the angst on college campuses as the main actors would rather die than be shown to be wrong. American Students Don't Know How To Fail

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Culture Impacts Everything, Even High School Art Competitions

I just finished helping put on a regional competition at my school. Nowhere else do you see what is going on in our society so clearly as at a show where kids are getting prizes. This was a regional juried art show that leads to a state competition. I wish it was as prestigious as it sounds.

First, for some reason visual arts is the only group that exists in our state that has a state level competition outside of University Interscholastic League-which means to most administrators we are virtually invisible. In order to counter that, some teachers in Houston organized a regional competition under the umbrella of Texas Art Education Association. It started out as a simple, good idea. It was an outlet for students at the high school level to show off their artwork and perhaps experience some interesting workshops.

But, as with all good things, it has outgrown it's original purpose. Just like our Federal government, many of the same officials who began the organization are still in charge. They have moved up the food chain to become Art Coordinators and are thus far removed from what is expected in the average classroom today. And just like any other administrator, they pile on more expectations without considering the endgame.

Secondly, there's the website to consider. This website was drawn up and created about eight years ago. In internet terms, it's a dinosaur. There are countless links, drop down boxes, and mazes of vaguely labeled pages. This is the first clue that things are not as simple as they seem. Just finding the correct page to print a list of names requires the investigative skills of Sherlock Holmes. Trying to use them, since they were all composed with what appears to be a Windows 95 mindset, requires the patience of Job.

In a world where we are urged to move to paperless solutions, we, the hosts of the competition, went through no fewer than 20 reams of different colored paper to print labels, forms, judging forms, teacher forms, disqualification forms and more. The website, which I already mentioned was outdated, glitched and printed three of every single form. Three. So we had to spend about three hours Friday night removing and discarding duplicate forms, then filing them alphabetically. Needless to say this was time consuming at a time when we had many other things to do.

Did I mention in my district we're virtually invisible no matter how well we do? Only two out of 70 art teachers from our district and five out of 200 teachers in our school signed up for paid positions to help us. We asked, we cajoled, we begged, we gave them free lunch...not even our district art coordinator-who's paid far more than I am-could bother to show up to say hi at a regional event that included every single high school she allegedly coordinates. It's like we're the Wallendas and there's no net.

Worse still is that students must have forms on the back and their teachers were clearly informed of this fact months ago. Yet, probably 20 percent of the teachers came wandering in to ask about printing entry forms and even reference resource photos on site. Isn't it bad enough that our current students don't read directions--do we really need instructors modeling that type of behavior? But I digress

Third, is the behavior of the teachers was overall okay. But as with anything ten percent of the people cause ninety percent of the problems. I've already mentioned the problem with forms. Forms have been on the website since November. There's no excuse for people to show up for a regional, 2000 student plus event sans the required documentation. Yet, there it was. I was running the control room from the library and I had no less than ten requests to print multiple forms, images and such. What is more, on work that should have come from photos taken by the student, teachers were actively changing the images! But, because they whined and because the state president was there, it was insisted we print everything. No personal responsibility there.

Fourth, at Qualifications, where the size, media, artist name and forms are verified a girl's drawing, which was good, was disqualified because she told the worker she got the image from a Google image in direct opposition to the rules stating "all photo sources must be original to the student or directed by the student." Even old family photos are no longer acceptable. (I know-draconian measures but we've had SO MANY PEOPLE plagiarize copyrighted works that there was no other option.) The girl ran off with her form to her teacher who then pulled off the photo, said it was his mistake it was on there and that it was an image "from her mind." Jeez. Students were supposed to go to Forms first-to check their forms and then Qualifications to check their image. This was outlined to teachers via emails,  maps and signs. Many students simply skipped Qualification because they and their teachers KNEW their documentation would be DQ'd. This meant that at the input level, we underpaid wage slaves in the control room had to chase down images to get them requalified.

All these things take time. Did I mention the website was outdated and glitchy? After getting the scoring forms, the scores had to be in put into the official website. The website would be fine for a few minutes then go down for no reason. Since I was in control room I was filling in wherever logjams cropped up. Input was slow but steady. As we finished that job, the score papers were separated into stacks by teacher. Also artwork that was not going on to Area competition, which was the afternoon segment, was being returned to designated areas for teacher to retrieve later at a specific time. This was stated to the teachers, who were supposed to sign up for Remind-a texting messaging program. So why were teachers showing up, taking papers,  before the time? What happened then was we found that some of the runner had not turned over scoring papers to the input people. So we needed to go back through the stacks and find them so we could balance the number of works scored with the total number by adding in the DNA's. We had a list of forty artworks where no papers were found. I suspected one teacher, a particularly unpleasant sort who complained about one of the nicest judges and who had a parent try to file a lawsuit last year, of taking papers from her stack and showing them to the students before authorized. Four of her pieces were on the list of missing scores. This will be important later.

We finally made it to Area judging. I never got to see a single piece. While this judging is going on teachers are picking up other works and their papers and I'm organizing for them to pick up medals. The database prints a medal count supposedly in real time. It's getting later and later-I've been at the school since 5:30 AM. The administrator in charge is antsy to go and starts locking doors, shutting down restrooms and hallways. She insists we move my entire medals set up to the cafeteria. I need a printer to get the latest print out of receipts with medals. She finds one and I'm told that Area judging is nearly done. Because we have three buses of kids still hanging out, I opt to print and get as many medals as possible and send the rest to them this week. Most teachers understand. But the teacher mentioned before gets all huffy to the point that she has our principal copy the eight sheets showing her kids got a certain score which is not reflected in the receipt I have because not all the data has gone through. THOSE PAGES WERE THE ONES WE WERE MISSING BECAUSE SHE TOOK THEM WHICH IS WHY THE NUMBERS ARE SCREWED UP! I have never before been so tempted to punch a woman in the face.

We bag medals with help of a few kind souls who see there's no way one person can do this. All the other paid staff bailed at 6:00PM and it's now 8:00. If we don't want to be there until midnight the numbers have to be taken NOW. So I tell people, give me your contact information on the receipt and I'll contact you and get you the medals. The same people who brought every single one of their students (more than half the total at the event) are the ones who bitched the most. They are also the ones who repeatedly produced the most problematic and questionable works. They go out the door and we four teachers spend the next two hours taking down signs, picking up trash, moving the art that is advancing to a safe space.

At the end I am so tired I can't feel my feet. What should be a fun, exciting experience for students and teachers was neither. I not only don't want to put on this event again, I don't even want to urge students to participate. I don't want to go to the state event in San Antonio and I certainly do not ever ever ever want to see the self-serving teachers who made this such a miserable event . We worked so hard. We got food trucks, on site macarons and ice cream, snow cones and more. We did it without our administration doing much and in fact coaches and directors actively tried to stop us. What should be an honor for our school is tarnished because nobody, NOBODY in this district or this organization give art teachers the same kind of support they give every other subject. I was so tired I was too tired to eat or sleep. All I could do is sit while my legs ache and my heart is so heavy because it is evident that no matter how hard we try or I try, we are taken for granted.

When I retire, which is coming probably next year, I will run off this and send this to every single member of TAEA because until someone tells them what a huge mess they have created, nothing will change. Until then, I'll keep this handy. I want to remember why our schools are the way they are and why our culture is at risk. And a culture where people can simply ignore rules, or worse, set up rules for some that others don't have to obey, is a culture where elitism will always occur. We see that with our government, with power trips around the world. That this organization would allow some teachers to bully others who are simply trying to put on a damned high school art competition demonstrates how low people can go. There's really nothing left anymore but for everyone to be selfish and contentious over everything. I give up. Oh and by the way, if you are a state level official showing up to oversee a regional show, sitting around schmoozing with your besties in the breakroom is not the way to help. Get up, stop making exceptions and HELP.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tit for Tat

I am not sure how the namecalling, the labels and epithets further this national dialogue. How does littering my Facebook page with "liked" articles calling the president Hitler and subscribing those who voted for him as bigots and geeks do anything to knit together this broken nation? For eight years I watched as everything I had done for years-being a mother, being a wife, being a good citizen, being patriotic, supporting our military and police-was called into question. I am not naive enough to believe 100% of any group is good or evil, but the repetitive drone and smears of the Left are making me not dislike them as a group, but avoid them as individuals.

My sister in law lives in a million dollar home on the beach in California. Her husband has a hefty pension paid for by the state of California. Basically they are highly funded welfare cases. She's a liberal. Today she posted on my Facebook a lengthy diatribe calling Trump Hitler and vilifying those who didn't blindly choose to vote for a deeply flawed Hillary Clinton. This daily harangue, some of it deliberate disinformation and misinformation, has legs.

My grandson's mother has half sisters and family in Seattle. Since discovering her family roots, she has decided to embrace a strident leftist tone. She has talked about taking her sons to the local women's march. I know the kind of signs and "costumes" are out there. My grandson can read-because he's smart as a whip. I don't want him exposed to this toxic spew of hatred.

My other sister in law lives in Aurora. Her husband pays all their bills. They spend to the limits of their credit. She's a liberal and also lobs FB bombs at me.

I'm not one who likes launching grudges, but why is it okay for them to throw all of this at me and I am not permitted by the social conventions and something I like to call "manners" from dishing back in kind. So I've dumped them both, coming short of blocking them just in case in their childless states they need help.

I'll dial 911 for them.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A helpful list....

Below is a helpful list of contacts should you be tired of what passes for humor on various shows lately,most notably Saturday Night Live. Feel free to use it and share. Let your opinions be known. Ironically I picked this up from a liberal website.

Both Facebook and twitter accounts are included. Have at it. This is not over.

Kohl’s - @kohls

Campbell’s - @campbells

State Farm - @statefarm

Cheerios (General Mills) - @cheerios @generalmills 

T-Mobile - @Tmobile

NBC Sunday Night Football (NFL) - @SNFonNBC

Lincoln Motor Company - @LincolnMotorCo

Toyota - @Toyota

Sensodyne - @Sensodyne_US

Sears - @Sears

Kia Motors - @Kia

Metro PCS - @MetroPCS

Sprint - @sprint

Farmers Insurance - @wearefarmers

Nissan - @NissanUSA

Time Warner Cable - @TWC

Lexus - @Lexus

Korean Air - KoreanAir_KE

Audi - @Audi

Honda - @Honda

Neutrogena - @Neutrogena

FAGE Total Greek Yogurt - @FAGEUSA

Payless ShoeSource - @PaylessInsider

Wells Fargo - @WellsFargo

TJ Maxx - @tjmaxx

Yoplait - @yoplait

Subaru - @subaru_usa

Swanson (Campbell’s) - 

University of Phoenix - @UOPX

La Quinta Inn - @LaQuintaInn

Olay - @OlayUS

GMC - @ThisIsGMC

Target - @Target


Microsoft - @Microsoft

Subway - @Subway

Redds’s Apple Ale - @Reddsappleale

Hyundai - @Hyundai

National Geographic - @Natgeo

PlayStation (Sony) - @PlayStation

Sony - @Sony

Johnson & Johnson – @JNJNews

Jack Daniel’s - @JackDaniels_US

Ford - @Ford

Morongo - @MorongoCasino

Disney - @Disney

Disney Aulani - @DisneyAulani

JC Penney - @jcpenney

X-Box - @Xbox
Mercedez-Benz @Mercedesbenz

GE - @generalelectric

American Express - @AmericanExpress

Cover Girl - @covergirl

POM - @pomwonderful

Old Navy - @oldnavy

Head and Shoulders - @headshoulders

Jeep - @jeep

Verizon - @verizon

Absolut - @absolutvodka

HBO - @hbo

Macy’s - @macys

Hulu - @hulu

Axe - @axe

Tide - @tide

Aflac - @aflac

Kit Kat (Hershey’s) - @kitkat

Hershey’s - @hersheys

Guitar Hero (Activision) - @guitarhero

Activision - @activision

Ross - @Ross_Careers_ny

El Pollo Loco - @ElPolloLoco

Supercuts - @Supercuts

Bud Light - @budlight

Grub Hub - @grubhub

Amazon - @amazon

AMC - @amc_tv
Jack in the Box - @jackbox

Wienerschnitzel - @wienerschnitzel

Men’s Wearhouse - menswearhouse

Hilton Hotels - @hiltonhotels