My 2012 Year in Blogging

Crunchy numbers:  600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012.  This blog got about 7,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views. In 2012, there were 63 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 138 posts. The busiest day of the year was January 11th with 191 views. The most popular post that day was Goodnight Moon.

This report from wordpress.com just popped up in my email. I started my blog in November 2010. So, I have been at this for 25 months–a little over two years. An average of 5.52 posts per month. Bad numbers in the blogosphere. I am on Facebook even less. LOL I wish I had the time to post more regularly; but, I don’t. So, I will have to live with that.

I shall console myself with the fact that my posts are mostly original with only a few sharings of posts from other blogs–and usually those have a lot of commentary; most of my posts are L-O-N-G.

Let’s see what January 11th brings this year.

I will brag on one thing related to the Goodnight Moon post cited above. At that memorable 2012 State Chamber of Commerce dinner speech wherein a certain retired bank executive exhorted his well-heeled friends and colleagues to donate generously to his new 501(c) 3 and/or 501(c)4 in order to stand up against a certain special interest group–that would be Delaware’s education union–in upcoming school board election races in this state–I wonder how that worked out for Voices4DelawareEducation.

Not so well.

In the three(3) school board races [Red Clay SD, Christina SD, and Appoqinimink SD] into which a hell of a lot of money was sunk by the Voices4DelawareEducation folks–upwards of $100,000 by one rough estimate–not one of those Super PAC-funded candidates won. Nada. Zip. Nicht. None.

DSEA and friends were outspent 7-1. However, the DSEA-supported candidate in each of those three races won. Apparently, while money is helpful and even important, it is not the be all and end all of election success. Each of the three winning candidates was genuinely interested in serving on his/her local school board; they were not looking at school board service as a stepping stone to future positions. They were seen as capable and valuable by more that just union members–they had wide public appeal. They were perceived as having something to offer to the board, to district schools, and to their communities.

Naturally, I posted about the school board elections the following week: Full-bore School Board Elections. Check it out.

Posted in Blogs and Blogging, School Boards | Leave a comment

Blogsploration

I have a button on my blog dashboard that allows me to “select” a random post. I love it. I use it every once in a while just to see what it turns up. It is great to have the chance to go back to see what was said and how I said it. I am rarely much disappointed when I come upon an old post. I post fairly infrequently, and I actually take a lot of time to craft each post–hey, I take this job seriously.

If I had the time and the inclination–which I don’t–I could go back and skim much of what I have written–month by month. I could select a category from the sidebar. Or, I could just scroll backwards or forwards through my posts. I have discovered that just because it was written in October of 2011 does not mean that it still might not be relevant or say something of merit. It is not like I am reveling in my ideas or taking strange pleasure in seeing my thoughts in print. It’s just that while time marches on and things change, a heck of a lot stays the same.

Anyway,…

I hit that button a few minutes ago and came up with an old post that was titled “It’s So Easy to Recycle.” Holy Toledo. The post was first written in May 2011, recycled in June 2012, and we are still not over the inundation of buzz words in edreform. Go ahead and yammer that!

So, what do you all do when you stumble on a new blog? Do you just read the featured post? Do you scroll through whatever’s on that page? Or, do you take the time to explore?

Do you even have the time? Because if you are like me, you can lose yourself–and several hours on a sleepy Sunday–to strolling through blogdom.

Do you check out the About Me page? Do you go back to see how and why the blog started? Do you scan the categories for what might be appealing to you? Do you follow yet another link to yet another blog?

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Hard to Understand,…

There are many reasons why I get the NYT on Sundays. First, my parents always had the Sunday edition delivered; they eventually went to getting the Times every day–my mother read it from cover to cover, and was one of the best-informed people I knew. I dream of the day when I will be able to luxuriate with a daily paper like the NYT. Second, in general, the NYT represents and writes to points of view and with candor that suit my own perspectives and political persuasions. Thirdly, the op-ed page has been the home of wonderful political commentators and humorists like Molly Ivins and now, Maureen Dowd. Finally, the NYT, and its writers, regularly and reliably provide their readers with outstanding writing about important issues of the day.

Which brings me to their coverage of the recent massacre of little children in Newtown, Connecticut. It has been excellent: thorough; accurate; touching but unsentimental—not maudlin; appropriate; informative; and sensitive to who, what, where, and when that sensitivity was best deserved.

On Sunday, December 23, in an article title A Bleak Procession of Funerals for Shooting Victims Ends in Newtown, I read a brief account of the last of the twenty funerals for the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Josephine Grace Gay, age 7, was buried on Saturday. The words of Monsignor Robert Weiss touched me greatly.

“This has been a challenge for us,” Msgr. Robert E. Weiss said during his homily at Josephine’s funeral mass at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. Funeral after funeral, wake after wake, he said, it had been faith, family, and friendship that held the community together. He recalled the terrible hours after the shooting stopped on Dec. 14, when he waited with families at the firehouse near the school, with parents clinging to the hope that their children had made it out unharmed.

At 3:00 p.m. that day, he said, Josephine’s parents were told that she had not survived. “It does not make sense,” Monsignor Weiss said, adding that the children did not die in vain. “If these 20 cannot change the world, then no one can,” he said. He added that it is now up to everyone to bring out the best in themselves and one another.”

“If these 20 cannot change the world, then no one can.”

This captures exactly what this event portends. This is it. This is our calling. This is our responsibility—our obligation to these six- and seven-year-old children.

This is what the twenty are owed by all of us survivors and “rememberers.” Individually and collectively, every sentient adult in America has been called upon to do the right thing—to enter into a conversation about guns, gun violence, gun regulation, and yes, gun control. The conversations must lead to change in the manufacture, distribution, sale, and oversight of assault-style weapons—both semi- and fully-automatic rifles and hand guns.

[I am a gun owner. I have shotguns and a muzzle-loading rifle, as well as a hunting crossbow, used by my son to hunt deer and waterfowl. The guns are in a locked gun safe. I am not a member of the NRA.]

The spokesperson for the NRA had the “decency” to wait one whole week after the tragedy to share their POV and recommendations. The Friday press conference was announced on Tuesday, with the promise that they would make an important contribution to discussions about what happened and what could be done to prevent future mass murders.

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

If you have not seen or heard or read Mr. LaPierre’s speech, you should. It is an amazing demonstration of hubris, boldness, and a complete lack of conscience. The Washington Post has both a transcript and a video of LaPierre’s presentation. One reason for the delay in their statement on Newtown catastrophe may have been to give their talented speech writers and gun industry people the time to craft this chilling message.

Chilling? Yes. Because it says NOTHING about the power of and the devastation wrought by that Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle used by Adam Lanza at the elementary school on helpless, innocent first graders. As back-up he carried a Glock 10 mm pistol and a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol. Both semi-automatic. He had hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

[One of the questions is why he stopped killing when he did and turned one of the guns on himself. He could have kept going—there could have been fifty or more dead in his wake.]

(I am no gun expert. However, here is what I understand: An automatic weapon is like a machine gun—one squeeze and the gun will continue to fire until you take your finger off the trigger; semi-automatic means that the gun fires as fast as you can move your finger on the trigger. Legal ammo clips contain 15 or 30 rounds; the ammo drum used in the massacre at the theater in Aurora, Colorado, contained 100 rounds. Apparently, a semi-automatic weapon can be easily modified to create a fully-automatic weapon by filing away a part or parts of the weapon, or you can purchase a kit to accomplish the same thing.)

Really. Who really needs an assault weapon? Who needs a sem-automatic Glock or Sig Sauer? Who needs to be able to fire bullets at that speed or with that power? Who needs to be prepared to take on a small army all at once?

Certainly we need to take a close look at what impact violent movies and video games may have on vulnerable people. Certainly we MUST provide improved identification of and treatment for a variety of mental illnesses that plague humans. However, more guns in our schools, armed guards or armed volunteers at schools should not be the solution. Gun control must take center stage in our resolution of this continuing problem.

Recent mass murders in schools, theaters, temples, parks get a lot of attention—as well they should. BUT, likewise, the numbers of gun deaths, accomplished one by one, across this country in one year’s time are astounding. The weapons used on the kid on the corner or the woman down the the street deserve as much attention.

Posted in gun violence, My Opinions, Quality of Life | Leave a comment

The Occasional Post

Holy Toledo. There is nothing like keeping a blog spot fresh and engaging by posting at the glacial pace of about once a month! It is not that I do not care, or I don’t have a lot to say. My work hours have been such that I have been leaving early, getting home late, and generally running myself into the ground–not to mention the week I took off to go to Maine for T-Day and then the damnable cold I came home with that has lingered way past a usual cold’s expiration date. I am still blowing and sneezing and coughing and phlegming. Yuck.

So, what’s new? It’s all about that fiscal cliff, isn’t it? It is in my world.

What image does the  term cliff conjure? Those chalk cliffs along the English Channel (“there’ll be bluebirds over, the white cliffs of Dover,…”), lemmings, Thelma & Louise, the Anasazi, the Grand Canyon, Wiley Coyote, literary notes (those little yellow/black/white books that you frantically searched the dorm for when you failed to read beyond page 127 of War and Peace), waterfalls, rappeling, Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite, Lands End in Cornwall, the Cliff House in Ogunquit. Norm’s buddy on Cheers. O.K. Enough about cliffs already.

Is it a cliff or a curb or a slope? Is it a fiscal crisis or a political stand-off? Does it even matter? It does if you are one of the more vulnerable of our citizens who could be seriously impacted by decisions made and bargains agreed to in the next few weeks and months.

It matters to me because our public school students, especially those students still struggling to succeed in school could be hurt by the combination of loss of key revenue and cost-saving cuts to essential programs in our schools and communities: special education students, English language learners (ELL), under-achieving students, pre-school aged children, and especially students whose families are living in or at the edge of poverty.

Here in Delaware, and across the country, the loss of potential tax revenue that would result from deciding to maintain tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans plus the kinds of cost-cutting that has been bandied about could have damaging effects on federal funding for education. This would have immediate and long-lasting impacts on initiatives like Title I programs in our schools, our special education classrooms, ELL provisions (for students speaking a growing number of languages), the school breakfast program, and Head Start opportunities.

And, what is the main argument for continuing tax cuts for the WEALTHY? Why, these are the job creators among us. Supposedly, it is only the wealthiest who can be counted on to invest their bounty in developing more jobs, new jobs, jobs. This tale has been repeated, ad nauseum, for months now. I think that what has been lacking in this line of rhetoric is data. Show me the money. Show me the jobs. Show me the universal wealth-bound dedication to enriching the lives of the working poor and middle-class workers by creating more, new, and better jobs.

The other crew that has reaped huge rewards for a dysfunctional tax system are major corporations that have for years gotten away with paying little or no corporate taxes. What the hell? Nobody really likes taxes, but shouldn’t every entity pay their fair share? [I actually cried when I was first married when we had to write a check to the government in mid-April to pay off our tax debt. My husband was a student at the time, and we lived on my teaching salary alone--a mere $8000 during SY1972-73. I took this quite personally. As a more mature adult and patriotic American, I no longer resent this obligation. Think of all that our taxes have brought us.]

I know a bunch of Delaware small business owners. I believe that these are the guys who, given a few more breaks and a spate of continuous economic growth, would be the source of a steady stream of new jobs. And, according to a growing number of small-business owners, there is support among them to both maintain middle-class tax cuts and to allow tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest 2%–to tax them at a fair rate–just like the rest of us.

BTW: The only big job creators I have seen in the past year have been those major political donors–the guys who gave millions to candidates of both stripes. Just think of the hundreds–maybe thousands–of jobs expanded or created by all of that money handling, art and design work, printing, photography, filming, editing, broadcasting, and talking head/pundit discoveries. Heck, these contributors probably single-handedly extended the life of the US post office for another year or two. Just think of all of the mailing involved in some of those campaigns. There were weeks in October when I received a large glossy campaign flyer every single day from both M. Katz and G. Lavelle. My poor delivery guy!

At the same time, failing to maintain tax cuts for poor and middle class Americans could have a most unfortunate effect on continued economic growth. The average tax increase would reportedly be between $400 for poor folks and $2200 for middle class families. This is the kind of expense that could actually break people who are operating at the edge. Combine a significant tax increase with one broken washing machine or an unexpected car repair, and some families would be doomed.

So what does all this mean for Delaware? This is what Delaware’s share of the funding for these programs means right now for our residents; this is what could be impacted by the kinds of across-the-board cuts that some are proposing.

$152 Million for Highway Planning and Construction   Delaware will receive $152 million in federal funds in FY 2012 to help it plan, build, and repair highways and bridges and support other transportation improvements. These investments in infrastructure help all residents travel safely and efficiently and promote economic growth and job creation.

$43.4 Million for K-12 Education   Delaware will receive $43.4 million in FY 2012 in Title I funds for K-12 education, which are funds granted to local school districts serving disadvantaged children. In the 2009-2010 school year, 175 Delaware schools serving more than 101,000 Delaware children were eligible for Title I funding to support K-12 students.

$15.4 Million for Head Start   Delaware will receive $15.4 million in federal funds in FY 2012 for Head Start, which helps preschool-age children in low-income families in all three counties build the skills they need to succeed in school. Head Start and Early Head Start preschool programs served 2,059 children in low income Delaware families in 2009.

$9 Million for School Breakfast Delaware will receive $9 million in federal funds in FY 2012 for the school breakfast program, which provides free or reduced price breakfasts to children from low- and moderate-income families. A nutritious breakfast improves children’s health and helps them start the day ready to learn. In 2011, the program served an average of 36,700 Delaware children each day.

$16 Million to Make Drinking Water Safer   Delaware will receive $16 million in federal funds in FY 2012 to construct additional water treatment facilities and ensure clean drinking water for more residents.

$1.1 Million to Provide Meals to Homebound Seniors   Delaware will receive $1.1 million in federal funds in FY 2012 to provide home-delivered meals to frail seniors. About 3,206 Delaware residents received meals through this program in 2010.

I don’t know about you, but these are the kinds of vital services that I believe need to be preserved and protected. This is a social justice issue of the highest order. It’s not just common sense—and common decency—that tells us that these investments are more valuable than giving more tax cuts to the richest two percent.

They’re also more effective at boosting the economy. Noted economist Mark Zandi estimates that every $1 invested in infrastructure generates $1.44 in economic growth and every $1 invested in aid to states generates $1.34 in economic growth. In contrast, spending $1 to extend the Bush income tax cuts doesn’t even break even; it generates only 35 cents in economic growth.

We admire financial success in America. But when the rich get tax breaks they don’t need and the country can’t afford, and the middle class has to make up the difference, it’s just not right. To strengthen our economy, we need to improve our aging and crumbling infrastructure. We need to support our schools and make sure all children are healthy and ready to learn. We need safe drinking water. We need to provide for the elderly and other vulnerable people.

It’s time to end the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent. I have no hesitation in supporting this position.

Posted in My Opinions, Political Action, Public Education, Quality of Life, Student Success | Leave a comment

Childhood Poverty Can Be Bad for Kids

No time to blog about this now, but I think that this is an important concept: childhood adversity or trauma can have a lasting impact. Not only is the article interesting, but so are the comments included below the piece Research Traces Impact of Childhood Adversity by Sarah D. Sparks, found in the Education Week on-line newsletter EdWeek Update from November 9, 2012.  Just getting around to review all of the on-line bits that I saved from the past week.

I also heard an interview regarding this very topic last week on NPR.  Cannot recall if it was on Fresh Air or some other program. Interview of an adult who made good after a very challenging childhood. While she relishes her achievements, she also recognizes the constant reminders in her adult life of her rough earlier life. For example, food insecurity during childhood has made her particularly conscious of food availability in her current life and she told of having had difficulty controlling eating once food was readily available to her as an adult with a successful career. For more details, check out my posts titled Trumping Childhood Poverty, Part I and If Childhood Poverty is Part of the Problem–What Does It Look Like?

Educators see the impact every day of childhood poverty on the children they work with. During an interview yesterday, I was asked which social justice issue I believed required / deserved the most immediate attention. I answered right away: CHILDHOOD POVERTY.

Posted in Public Education, Quality of Life, Student Success, Students and Schools | Leave a comment

Nervous about Tuesday?

Isn’t everyone? How many words can you come up with to describe how you and your friends and neighbors are feeling? It has not interfered with my sleep, but I do know folks who tell me that they have lain awake nights wondering and worrying how the presidential election will turn out. I will be glad when Wednesday rolls around that the flood of political ads will be finally staunched, but, I am keeping my fingers crossed that the big one is a win for my guy. I am forever hopeful that there will be no change in the White House.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“Teaching reading IS rocket science.”

I love this quote. I picked it up from a colleague and friend who taught reading for her entire career as a reading specialist and classroom teacher. I taught reading for 17 years as a third and fourth grade classroom teacher. And, as a science teacher for the last 22 years of my career, I also continued to teach reading skills and strategies in support of basic reading instruction. Until last year, my home school used to be one of the few middle schools around to have dedicated reading instruction every day for grades 6-8 in lieu of the more standard ELA (English language arts) where reading and English are mooshed together.

Teaching reading IS rocket science. This quote from Louisa Moats says it all.  Dr. Moats is a nationally recognized authority on how children learn to read and why some fail to learn. It turns out that Dr. Moats has become quite the controversial person, but that is not the focus of this post. I will mention that she is a proponent of methodology like Reading First. The point that Dr. Moats is making is that it’s not easy to teach another person, or a number of small persons, to read. Once you get it, reading may seem relatively easy; however, that process of letter recognition to sound association to word recognition to meaning connection can be quite a challenge. Diagnosis of reading difficulties is a combined art and science. I know. I have done it many, many times. But, I digress.

This is actually a simple post. I love books and I love reading. Reading for pleasure has become a luxury that I cannot often afford. I find that I don’t have a lot of spare or discretionary time. This is nothing new. When I was teaching, I was not able to dedicate many periods of extended time to curling up with a good book for a good, long read–except during the summer when I could luxuriate in reading a new spy thriller or murder mystery—my two favorite genres. In Maine, I could put away a book a day, especially if I pulled my night owl trick and read until one, two, or even three in the morning.

During the school year (my new job as state union president still responds to the traditional school year calendar, even though I now work year-round), I find myself saving books for when I travel. I do read books related to my job—non-fiction, which has its own level of satisfaction. And, I do subscribe to a number of magazines and read those bit by bit whenever I get the chance. Not such a big commitment of time or even intellect, in some cases.

However, I just finished reading a fascinating article in a recent New Yorker magazine (October 1, 2012) about the emergence of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea. [I know that this is not necessarily a fascinating or appealing topic to others, but I am trying to make a point here. And I have warned you--I do geek science!]

Jerome Groopman’s article “Sex and the Superbug” is essential reading, IMHO, for anyone over the age at which one might become sexually active–used to be around sixteen, I would guess. But if I had a twelve-year old son or daughter, I would be having a serious sitdown about this news.

Gonorrhea has been a scourge for centuries. However, through proper and timely diagnosis and treatment, the incidence of this disease reached an all-time low in 2009. At that time–a mere three years ago–leading epidemiologists  believed that gonorrhea could be almost eradicated in some Western countries within ten to fifteen years. But it has made a comeback—and with a vengeance. You can google “sex and the superbug” for more information, including a complete copy of the article. It caught a number of people’s attention.

My point here is that it is my penchant for reading and my capacity to read and understand potentially complex texts, to understand complicated ideas and concepts, and to finish up with both the big picture and the details that makes learning to read such a satisfying and productive occupation. Reading is an important lifeskill. Literally, reading can save one’s life. I plan to have both of my young adult sons read this piece.

The fact that reading can also provide hours of entertainment and enjoyment is the icing on the cake.

Here are a few more good quotes related to the value of reading. Again, these come from my friend who retired in June, 2011 and is now enjoying hours and hours of reading—but then, she always made time for a few good books. She often had (and still does) 4-5 books going at one time: one on her I-pod, one in the car, one upstairs, one downstairs, etc. Books on tape are a godsend. She wisely and systematically uses the public library as her own. I admire her dedication to books.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”   ~Frederick Douglass

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”    ~Emilie Buchwald

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away,  And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”   ~Roald Dahl,  from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I [haven't] read.”    ~Abraham Lincoln

“I cannot live without books.”    ~Thomas Jefferson

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” ~Groucho Marx

“Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?”  ~David Balducci

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”    ~Albert Einstein

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”   ~Dr. Suess, from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”    ~Ray Bradbury

Posted in A Good Education, Interesting Bits, Literacy, Reading, Science, Science Education | 2 Comments