December 22, 2005

December in Las Vegas

Merry Christmas Everyone!
Today we are taking off for Utah to spend a good old-fashioned Christmas with my family. Ha ha! It's not really old-fashioned at all, but we do have a lot of fun. In the last few weeks I've marveled a bit more about life in Las Vegas during the holiday season in December. Here are some observations:
  • People have been very friendly in all the stores I've been to recently. Some of my co-workers begged to differ as they told of their own shopping horror stories last week, but in the places where I frequent, I've noticed workers and customers have been at the very least patient. Most seem even better tempered than that! I wish I could be positive about the endless lines everywhere...
  • It had been terribly cold in my classroom and other places on campus--like the teacher's lounge. I finally took a lap blanket for times I was working at my desk. In the teacher's lounge the temperature had been observed at 56 degrees. Last week the breaking news on TV was that the temperature was going to go below freezing for the first time since a year ago. How can I complain about stuff like this is amazing to me. I can't help it if my blood is so thin from 100+ degrees for months at a time.
  • Yesterday I walked down the street to run an errand. I had a fleece jacket on over a t-shirt. I hadn't even made it out the gate of the apartment when I regretted wearing a jacket. Seriously.
  • I pulled into the driveway to my apartment complex today driving rather fast (to cross three lanes of traffic) and almost ran over the gardener who was--GET THIS--planting flowers!! Although the pansies are quite pretty, it does seem so unnatural. I wondered if we could have a normal looking grounds for the winter time with dead flowers and brown grass (yes, all the grass is green) if my rent could be lowered.
  • I never saw a palm tree until about five years ago. Now they are so common place to me. (Although they are not indigenous to Las Vegas.) It totally amuses me how all the homes and business put lights on the palm trees! It looks really cool!
  • It's unfortunate that when one gets used to the flashing lights of Las Vegas that pretty Christmas lights just don't inspire awe. That breaks my heart.
Well, off to run my last minute errands. Tomorrow I'll be cold in the toes, but warm in the heart with my family around me!
Happy Holidays everyone!!

November 29, 2005

Password Panic Redux: Leaping from the Edge

A few days ago I lost my breath and almost broke down in tears when I realized I couldn’t remember how to access one of the web-based programs my school uses. In the past month I have attended a total of 19 hours of training for various computer applications and programs. Okay? So using these programs is a big deal. I promised my supervisor that I would get the students right into them just as soon as we came back from Thanksgiving because they were up to their necks in projects. Big Brother is watching online and sends reports to the administration, so I needed to get with it.

So, first thing Monday, I found my way to a tutoring program called Skills Tutor that many of our students are actually being pulled out to use in preparation for the Testing Season. Any teacher can assign work from it, though, and I thought capitalization review could well be done on the program. So, I take out my little notebook full of tips on how to operate these all these programs, and I find my user name and password. I go to the site, which is actually called—can’t forget that “my” or you’ll be lost. I type in my user name and password—and then I notice I have to enter something in a space called “Site Name.” Frantically I flip through my notes. What the hell is my site name? I get a sinking feeling in my stomach—that feeling of failure before you’ve even started. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I sat there wide-eyed, trying not to cry over something so lame, my mind racing with whom I can ask to find out what the last piece of the puzzle is to enter the site.

I remembered one of the Title I teachers who spends much of her time pulling students out of classes to tutor has the same prep that I do, so I rush across the campus. I’m humiliated as I enter her room that I have to ask such a dumb question that I should know the answer to. She easily answers my question—has it written on her board for the student to see. It’s the first name of our school (most middle schools in this area are named after people) and a number. Hearing it and seeing it did not trigger a memory at all. I’m convinced it’s been added since I was trained on the program. Sounds like a good excuse, aye?

I feel much better about my stupidity when I see that she was searching a crib sheet she has made of all the places she must remember for the user name and password to enter into the Renaissance (Accelerated Reader) online program we have just started using. She is as frantic and frustrated as I had just been. As teachers, we have only been recently able to access the program because the ECS kept us out while she was working out the bugs with the company, so when we trained on the program we didn’t even use our own site to practice. The ECS had sent us the password, but with the piles of e-mails we get each day, the Title One teacher could not find it. Tables turned, I found myself trying to calm her hysteria and promised that if she’d just let me get back to my room, I would find the Renaissance password for her—not hers exactly, but I promised once I figured out the secret pattern, I’d send a student over right away. As I dashed back across campus, I ran into a reading teacher and asked her if she knew the user name and password. This is a wonderful reading teacher who always has good answers to my questions, but she could not help either.

When I found the special codes, I couldn’t help but say some healthy expletives under breath. The user name was typical: first initial, last name. The password? Our classroom number. You’ve got to be $*&%! kidding me! That is not the password to any other thing I work with. What happens next year if I’m in a different classroom? I’m torn between being happy that I could help another password-panicked colleague, but irritated as hell about the stupid password I’ve been given to forget.

I’m convinced that I’m not the only one struggling with password issues as the very next day the science teacher on my team sent a quick message out to us, perplexed as to why he cannot enter yet another online program we use for writing called My Access. He wrote: “I was trying to get on to My Access, but my username didn't work it is supposed to be [last name initial, last name] and then the password is “teacher” right? I tried to do the password reminder and it said my username didn't exist. I wrote it down but is this the wrong one?” I was sure he was correct and was as perplexed as he was. I almost zipped off an e-mail to him to tell him he was right on, but decided to check my notes first. Just to confuse us even further we actually have to add the initials of our school to the end our username. Upon seeing this, I said another, “You’ve got to be $*&%! kidding me!”—only I said it aloud this time. Without those school initials at the end, it would have been the same user name as the My Skills Tutor program. So close! No prize.

After this week, I find I am feeling a lot less panic about all of this password paranoia I have. It’s not just me. As I ask around, the teachers at my school laugh with me about our woes—but they’re not laughs of joy. More like lunatics laughing. It sound jovial, but underneath if you listen closely, there are notes of despair. Hearing these notes feeds my anger of all the things I hate about teaching. These little bits of this and that stink of Chinese water torture. The little bits about which, on a bad day we say, “It’s just another damn thing.”

November 6, 2005

The Napoleon Character I'm Most Like

You are Deb and you could drink whole milk if you

Uhm...okay. Don't even ask me how I stumbled on that that fact. Somewhere on Where's that? Dunno. Just clicked on something accidently. Kind of amusing though.

October 27, 2005

If I Die...

This is the ofrenda some students created memorializing me for El Dia de los Muertos. That is if I were dead. After this week, they might be wishing it were true! (Midterm grades, oh yea!) Anyway, creating the ofrenda was a Spanish group project where the students had to find out all about my life so they could honor me properly after my passing. Not bad for students who have only known me a few months...

October 25, 2005

So Many Books, So Little Time!

I noticed in Time magazine this week a tiny little sidebar about their critic's picks of the 100 Best Novels from 1923 to the present. Now, I love to torture my husband when we go to the bookstore by standing at one of those "Best-loved" displays and pointing to all of the books on it that I have read. He only reads books in computer language. The majority of my reading is for relaxation. He's usually not very amused with my bragging. Hey! I can't help it that I get all excited over the number of books I've conquered in my lifetime. So for the heck of it I decided to visit Time's site to see how many books on the list I'd read. Only 25! Bummer! Ah, but there are so many on the list I've been meaning to read!

I wondered what other lists existed out there, so I dug around and found some other book lists. Here are the number of books I've read on a few of them:

NEA Teacher's Top 100: 88

NY Public Library's List of 100 Pictures Books Everyone Should Know: 55

The ALA's 100 Most Challenged Books from 1990-2000: 56

"Western 100"--a list of best 20th century fiction written in or about the West: 26

The SF Club's Most Significant Science Fiction and Fantasy Books: 6

Random House Modern Library 100 Best Fiction Books of the 20th Century: 21

Radcliffe Publishing Course's "100 Best Novels of the 20th Century": 45

Pulitzer Prize winners from 1918-2004: 14

BBC's "The Big Read" - Top 100 Books: 45.5

Feminista!'s "100 Great 20th Century Works of Fiction by Women": 22

Oprah's Favorites: 28

The 100 Worst Books of the 20th Century: 13

Just because I'm a teacher it probably isn't surprising that I have read so many children's book, but considering I teach teenagers, it SHOULD BE rather surprising. That's a throw back to my days as a book seller. Had to read what I peddled!

It is startling to me that many of the books I've read on the list I haven't read recently. Of course, several of these lists are from the 20th century and we're WAY passed that now. I wonder if I have been reading just junk the last few years? Some of the best books I've read will never show up on these snooty lists, though. I couldn't find a list of bizarre, edgy books out there. Maybe I'll just create my own!

Well, I have much reading to do...unfortunately, tonight my reading consists of reading what my students have written about the books they've read. Interesting, yes, but not quite as satisfying as a nice thick, engrossing novel...maybe this weekend. sigh

October 23, 2005

Password Panic

In the department meeting on Monday we discussed how the new program to raise our students’ skills is being implemented. We landed on the watch list this year, which is no surprise considering the number of ELL students in our school’s population. Our supervisor reminded us about interim testing and how we would be able to access our students’ results on IDMS rather quickly after the assessment is given so we can use the information to remediate.

Now, I have been meaning to get on IDMS to access my students’ test scores from last year to see if I need to refer anybody to tutoring. There just seems to be a million other pressing things to do. Plus, well, uhm, I can’t remember how to get to IDMS, and I know once I get there, I am not sure I know what my password is. I think I know, but if I don’t, how can I admit to anyone that I can’t remember how to get onto a program I am suppose to be using? I’m too young to plead age and memory loss.

The truth is that I’m losing my sanity in trying to remember all of my passwords to life. It’s mostly at work where I have to know so many passwords, but my personal life is getting a little overrun with passwords and codes, too. How do people keep this straight? Do I need a little address book just to direct me to the important places I need to visit electronically? But if I have these things written down somewhere, does that pose some sort of security risk? Or is my real risk my inability to remember all these little numbers and letters that keep my private business all locked up?

All these codes and passwords started off slowly. I have two personal e-mail accounts that I can easily keep straight. No problem there. Once I memorized my bank account number, it was only a matter of remembering which of my favorite passwords was attached to it so that I could manage my account online. This was a necessity, as my bank doesn’t send out notices in the mail, so without online access, I cannot balance my checkbook. After that it took me a month to stop confusing my ATM pin number with the gate code at my apartment complex, which is also a four-digit number, but I finally have that all straightened out in my head.

The real trouble started when I went to work for the school district. Right away I had more passwords and codes than I could keep straight. My Interact account, the district e-mail system, was not so easy to memorize at first, but luckily it uses a combination of parts of my name and my social security number. The trick was to remember what parts and in what order. I couldn’t even tell you what my user name is to log onto the system each morning because it’s automatically on the screen. Luckily the password is one that I chose, but unfortunately, I have to change it several times a year. Our ESC, which is our school’s computer guru, suggested that we just keep adding numbers onto the back of it. So if my password were “bananas”, the first time I had to change it, I would have made it “bananas1” and then the next time “bananas2” and so on and so forth. This rings true for logging in to take attendance, too. So, of course I chose the same password for both. It works pretty well, but their cycles of password changing do not match up, so I have to remember which password has which number at the end. Our ECS also suggested that we simply use our Interact user name and password for the Edline program that we use to post students’ grades online. She is a genius! Of course she knows how hard it is for the newbies to keep names and passwords straight!

So, once I learned the system of my daily computer use, it wasn’t so bad. But then the day came when I needed to call in sick! Oh holy nightmare! So I went digging through my orientation papers to try to find this magic code. There is no way I could memorize where to go, who to call, and what my password is. Is that a deliberate deterrent to keep us from calling in sick too often? I have it written down in a few places, but my biggest fear is that I’ll be half dead from some virus the students passed to me, and I won’t be able to call in because it’s a process that requires a bunch of random numbers that were assigned to me. A group of numbers that have no relationship to me—they don’t even have a pattern that I can chant in my head to learn. I guess the absolute worst that could happen is that I could get amnesia. On the other hand, there would be much more relief in not knowing I can’t remember what I am suppose to remember—much better than knowing I should remember something, but don’t.

I was coasting along for several months when this password craziness really exploded. Our school uses several online programs, and simply remembering the URL’s can be a challenge to me. Hence the IDMS dilemma where I can’t remember how to get there. Thank goodness for bookmarks, I suppose, which I should remember to use more often. If I did, I wouldn’t be having the IDMS dilemma. But then again I might, since I use three different computers on a regular basis. Besides, I can always use a search engine to find the site, but again, once I get there, I need to know a user name and password. I can’t use bookmarks or search engines to figure that out. Besides checking test scores on IDMS, we have a tutoring program, a writing program, and reading program for our students to use online. In addition to that, my yearbook program is entirely online, there are several educational and research sites we subscribe to as a school, and I recently received the complicated user name and password for the IBO program’s website. I chose to subscribe to none of these things, yet these are the tools we use in education—tools locked up in a cabinet I’m required to unlock with my memory.

Isn't the theory that the more we use our memory, the less we'll lose in old age? It sure doesn't feel like it. I might keep my memory but lose my mind. I’m patiently waiting for technology that doesn’t require me to remember dozens of passwords to protect the safety of my information—or my students’ information. Something like a opti-scan, voice recognition—or hey, in my worst moments I’d be willing to give up blood for a DNA sample if it meant I didn’t have to admit I can’t remember my password.

October 1, 2005

Stuart, do you know what the meth heads are doing to our stuffy noses?

It may have been 95 degrees yesterday, but fall is still in there air. That means that whatever I'm allergic to this time of year is keeping me stuffy and runny at the same time. Fortunately for me, some pseudoephedrine, as I affectionally call them, "my little red pills," clears me right up without drowsiness nor pain in the pocketbook.

Apparently, though, it is necessary for me to stand in line at the pharmacy--behind mothers who must have chronically ill families judging by their cart full of drugs--to purchase my $2.84 30-count box of little red pills.

And why is this?

Because of the damn meth heads.

Do I look like a meth head?

Well, I guess it could happen.

But I am not. So, thank you very much to all the low-lives out there who infect the youth with their cheap batches of chemical thrill and and blow up their bio hazard kitchen laboratories.

Thank you very much bringing on another nuisance to my life.

September 20, 2005

From the Mouths of Middle Schoolers

"I learned from experience not to run after a boy."

This is from a note the 7th grade teacher next door to me found on the floor. It just makes me laugh.

Learned from experience??

Ah, to be 12 and know it all.

About the third year I was a teacher, I realized that there was no use fighting it. The kids truly do know more than I do. I don't really believe this, but I might as well because I can't convince my students otherwise.

But you know, with true wisdom like the excerpt above...I don't know...maybe we do get dumber with age.

This 30-ish year old is keeping her ears peeled for more gems of wisdom from the young whippersnappers.

September 17, 2005

"Dad Says We Can Have Pancakes for Dinner!"

Chris and I went to Denny's for lunch last weekend, but since it was barely noon on Sunday, it seemed okay to have breakfast food instead of lunch. We often eat at those types of cafes where any kind of meal can be ordered at any time of day, and I don't feel compelled to eat the type of foods that match the meal I should be eating at that time of day, but I do often feel guilty. Like my stomach cares. Or the waitress. Or society. Nobody cares! But it usually gives me pause.

So, on this particular Sunday I decide to order pancakes with eggs over-easy. Actually I ordered eggs over-easy because the meal came with hashbrowns, and hashbrowns are best mushed up with runny eggs. With a little ketchup on top. When the food came, I suddenly remembered the best way to eat pancakes was with eggs over-easy between two pancakes. There's something about that buttery pancake taste with eggs. Syrup is an added bonus yet not necessary.

And that just brought back a childhood memory.

Are you with my stream on consciousness, here?

Just out of the blue, I broke into a story to tell Chris (I'm sure he's often confused where these things come from) about how sometimes Dad would come home from work and suggest we have pancakes and eggs for dinner. My brother Tye and I would be so excited because we weren't the type of family that ate pancakes on a regular basis, in fact we were more a cold cereal family. Plus, the idea of having breakfast foods for dinner just seemed so out of the ordinary. Almost taboo.

I flash back to those days when, for some reason, we didn't have dinner planned when Dad arrived home from work. It would be dark outside, so pancake dinners probably happened in the winter. Dad would be in his work clothes, clomping into the house with his muddy work boots, smelling of oil and cold. He would come through the pantry door and ask what was for dinner, and we'd all shrug. (Okay, this part of the story seems weird--like we hadn't a clue what to eat. Where was Mom?) So, he'd say, "Let's have pancakes." So, we'd rush to get the electric skillet out. Gunked and old, it had fried many chickens, bags of potatoes, and only occasionally, bits of liver and onion. (Yuck!) We'd plug it in to warm up, and when it started popping and creaking it's would be ready to go. It only took a few minutes to whip up some batter made from Bisquick, and in just a few minutes after that, we'd be turning out pancakes and eggs. It was all made to order, so on those nights we may have eaten at the table, as we always did as a family for dinner, but it was "Eat it while it's hot!"

To tell it now seems so mundane. Big deal. You ate pancakes for dinner. But then it seemed so special. It wasn't another night of fishsticks and rice. It wasn't chicken and green beans. And it thankfully wasn't another night of hotdish. (I have a gazillion ways to make hotdish.) It was pankcakes. It was special. I was a kid. It was the simple things in life.

Actually, it still is the simple things in life. Perhaps that's why these flashing memories of the strangest things at the strangest times are the best.

September 5, 2005

Cruel Shoes

The day before school started I was doing some last minute shopping at the mall. I was searching for some cool clothing that look professional. I found a cute outfit at Mervyn's that was not practical at all. Well, maybe not an outfit because I don't think I'll wear the pieces together, although I could. The black crops are cute--as if I need another pair of black pants. The pink satin cami is way cute and perfect for the pinstrip suit I bought earlier this summer, although I am still not sure about wearing tops that look like lingerie. The black shrug wasn't practical at all considering it was 105 degrees outside when I bought it.

But it was while I was walking out of Mervyn's on the way to the parking lot that I found the cutest shoes! They're like Mary Jane dress shoes, tennis shoes, and they're SKECHERS! I never met a Skechers I didn't like, and I decided these were perfect!

That was before I wore them. By 7:00 a.m.on the first day of school--an hour before even school started--I was crippled. Some of my helpful friends said, "Put on some bandaids." I did. Shortly after 7:00 a.m. They rubbed off. Cheap-ass bandaids. Another one said, "Girl, you're shoes are too big, that's why you have blisters." No, I was walking with my toes shoved up front so IT WOULDN'T RUB ANYMORE. There were never any blisters. Just open wounds.

So, what's a girl to do besides suffer? Grin and bear it? All in the name of fashion, yesiree! Well, fashion for one day because for the rest of the week I had to find something professional to wear with my leather sandals. And I'm sure at some points I was neither both professional nor fashionable. Sigh. So much for trying.

The root of this shoe problem is that my feet are not used to being trapped. My heels are going to bleed no matter what shoes I put on--no matter how long I've had them or how painful it was to break my feet into them the first time. It's not just back-to-school time, it's TOUGHEN-UP-MY-FEET-FOR-REGULAR-SHOES time. So, wish me luck as I befriend the devil that lives in my shoes. Gotta dash now to Rite-Aid and stock up on band-aids.

My new favorite shoes. Aren't they cool? No, they're cruel.


August 19, 2005

Overheard Conversation

Today when I was posing as a mom at the park with my step-kid, I overheard the conversations of some of the mommies there. There was one mommy who was particularly talkative in asking the other mommies about what preschools they'd looked into.

That conversation later turned to not wanting to put her child in public schools here, and this was something the other mommies agreed with. Since I wasn't included in this conversation, although I was just a few feet away and none of the mommies knew each other prior to this morning at the park, I didn't feel like I could give my two cents. Well, I couldn't give my two cents and not have some sort of brawl, which is so not appropriate at the park on a Friday morning in front of a handful of preschoolers.

How do people who have not yet enrolled their children in school have such bad opinions of the public school system?

In another part of the conversation, the talkative woman said that her next car would be a Hummer. Gas is currently $2.75 a gallon.

These are the people who have good value judgements.

August 15, 2005

Interrogation by a Four-Year Old

What are you doing that for?
What would you do if a dump truck drove here?
What would you do if fourth and fifth graders were here?
What would you do if your school was preschool?
Can I have ice cream?
Do you have any birds?
Do you like cats?
What if I had a dog this big [size of his hand] and put it in this box?
Do you know who wants a doggie?
Do you have Dr. DooDoo 2?
Can I use a scissor to cut these off?
Can I use a scissor to cut these off?
How come?
Is it alright if I rip these off?
Can I put a trash bag in here?
Could I have a snack?
How come they are so noisy upstairs?
Why do we have to take a bath?
But why can't we stay up?
Can we stay out here to watch the movie?
Huh, Kris?
When we take a bath can we come back out here to watch a movie?
Why do the people upstairs make noise?
What if the roof is cracking and the person falls down?
What if this is upstairs and that was downstairs?
That'd be funny, huh?
Do we have to take a bath now?

August 8, 2005

'Tis the Season for Cool Office Supplies

This weekend my sweetie and I were in one of those Office______ stores. I can never remember if it's Max or Depot. Whatever. Tons of office supplies. I know it's a dangerous place, but I really needed a press board folder, and that's the only place I was going to find it. Things were going pretty well. I resisted all the special "Back to School" displays. We were on our way to the check-out when my sweetie points out folders for a nickel! Seriously! I paid a dime each (for about 50 of them) at Target last weekend. You know I couldn't pass up some cheap-ass folders! I might need them in my classroom. And then it all begins...


It's bad enough that I have a major obsession with office supplies, but being married to somebody who is also obsessed is just rotten luck. That type of insanity needs a gauge! Of course it makes sense to stock up because as soon as the Back-to-School selling season is over, loose leaf notebook paper goes from TWO BITS to TWO BUCKS. Let me grab my cool new purple $1 calculator...that's about a 800% mark-up. Is that right? I dunno. Anyway, any fool who can do basic math--or not--should realize this is the time to STOCK UP!

So that means, folders, paper, notebooks, pencils, markers, scissors, rulers, Bic Pens, pencil sharpeners, erasers, Post-Its, oh and highlighters! And that's just for me! Oh! And I gotta get some more of those cool highlighters! The ones like my husband bought a few weeks ago. No we can't share! Look how lovely they are:

Aren't they beeeeeaaaaauuuuutiful?

Teeny tiny!

And they write so nice and bright.

Oh, it's a office supply lover's dream come true!

Is there a 12-step program for this?

Office Supply Buyers Anonymous?


August 5, 2005

Why Did You Come to This Site?

(a) you're a friend.
(b) you're my parents and you love me.
(c) you received an e-mail saying, "Check this out!"
(d) you went surfing through Blogspot for answers about life.

If you answered a, b, or c, this post is for you. If you answered d, you can stick around or browse around. Whatever.

First of all, thank you all for stopping by for a visit. That reminds me of Frost. Hehehe.

Anyway, from talking to many of you I know you are among the 68% of online Americans who don't even know what a blog is. If you're here. You're experiencing a blog RIGHT NOW!

A blog is a web-based publication that is published in reverse chronological order. The newest post is the first one you see, aye? It's short for Web log. A person who maintains a blog is called blogger, and the act of maintaining a blog is called blogging. There will be test on this Friday. Okay? Can we move on to important stuff? It'll be fun, I promise!

The largest use of blogs is probably by journalists--both professional and wannabes. To me, it's a little overwhelming deciding on who has the most accurate news. I mean I already distrust journalists and their spinning. I could just discount all of the blog journalists out there, but some of them have much integrity. So, yeah for them!

There are also quite a few blogs out there that act as forums or discussion boards for workplaces and learning environments. This is a really great format to get news and information out within a workplace--not to mention for people to post opinions, ideas, and concerns. Great communication tool! I wonder how it would be if my workplace used blogs instead of 20 e-mails a day to post important news. Hmmm. Would it be more efficient? And then the learning environment usage. That's a big reason why I am here trying out this blogging stuff, but I'm still working that out. There will be more posts on some ideas I might have on how to use it in my classroom. Or read the one I wrote recently.

There are a lot of blogs out there that are selling things or are like a destination from a search engine. Those irritate me. I wouldn't even mention them except I keep bumping into them on my Internet travels. Beware!

Some people are using blogs to keep in touch with family and friends from afar. Better than e-mail! Post it once. Then everyone comes to your blog to check out what's new. This idea really warms my heart! You can see your grandchildren grow up from hundreds of miles away after all! I wonder if this might be the new scrapbooking?

A lot of blogs are for people like me who want to express themselves artistically, whether it be through writing or visual art. I've been quite inspired this summer, so I hope to maintain some writing--maybe just creative thoughts on everyday topics. It's a free way to publish myself--even if nobody except my husband reads it. "Honey! Go to my blog! I just posted!" As if he couldn't just read over my shoulder. It's more for my enjoyment, I guess.

Although I am really excited by my new project, blogs have been around a long time. Some web designers who linked interesting websites started it all. But you know, those guys and gals are always way ahead of the rest of us. They're probably going around saying, "Blogs! That's so 1999!" and using some other really cool technology we cannot even fathom. Now there are so many blogging sites out there that it was a little overwhelming to decide where to go. Blogger is the best known blogging tool. (Diaryland and Pitas were apparently the first, though.) So, I stuck with what is most popular. Oh, and I happened to buy a book because I didn't know if I'd figure it out. Turns out it wasn't TOO challenging.

If any of you are interested in trying out blogging--or have a blog, let me know! I'll figure out how to post a link to your page. (It's on page 41 of my book.) That's how people find a lot of blogs--by the links they find from other blogs. How do you let me know? Leave a comment. Under each posting you can comment. So, don't be voyuers. At least say hi!

Thanks for stopping by!

If you want to see some other blogs, good and bad, look at the top of screen. There is a button that says NEXT BLOG. It will randomly take you through other blogs at You'll see the good and the bad--not to mention maybe even learn some new languages along the way.

If you really could care less about blogging, you're not the only one!

August 2, 2005


What’s that noise?
looking out the window
all is still
not even the chimes chinkle
step outside the patio to investigate
Aaagghhh! Louder!

WHAT is that noise?

back inside
for decibel relief
can’t be my angry air conditioner
overworked in the summer heat
it’s coming from the neighbors

WHAT IS that noise?

out the front door
tracking the annoyance
bracing myself
high-pitched whine
maybe a weed trimmer
needs tuning


no answers waiting on the porch
high fences block views of yards
leafy limbs peek over the top—
it has to be coming from the trees
heat and noise are blinding
Make it stop!


the answer lands on my arm

Damned horny cicadas!

July 31, 2005

Disturbed Youth

If you want to be close to the family you have to hear all of the crazy kid stories my parents just can't wait to embarrass me with. One night I crawled into bed with my parents, but the alarm clock going off in the morning scared me. So I hid it. I took my first plane ride when I was just a baby, and well, uh, babies just gotta go poo sometimes. A sip of my grandpa's Oly gave me the courage to walk. Oh, and what about that time my mom took a picture of me and my dad after a successful hunt, and later when I found the picture I decided to do a little hunting myself? Evil dead deer picture! Die!

A nice father and daughter photo with dead animals in the background is not viewed as at all strange in my family. Putting meat on the table for the rest of the year is an enormous, well-deserved celebration. We have several pictures with members of my family showing off their kills--one of my favorites is my brother, age 8, with a huge string of rainbow trout. So, it's not the content of the above picture that makes me wonder, it's the condition of the photo.

According to family story, when I saw the picture, I stabbed it repeatedly with a pencil. My mom says I did not like the picture. I can't help but wonder if the picture upset me so, how I must have enjoyed posing for it! Did I not like seeing so many dead animals? Did the violence perceived in my toddler mind deserve the death of the photo preserving it? Disturbing. As an adult I revel in the levels of morbidity this family photo contains.

This Is Really About My Students

I don't remember when I first stumbled across blogs...but I thought it might be a useful tool for me in the classroom. Over the years I've wanted to use more technology in my classroom, and often started the year off with good intentions, but I never sustained it. Oh, I use the computer everyday to help me with forming my instruction, but the students don't have much opportunity to use computers. Or technology of any kind. There were many years I didn't even have an overhead projector. The computers I did have in my classroom were perpetual lemons. It was so anti-technology.

Sara Kajder and Glen Bull in their article "Scaffolding for Struggling Students: Reading and Writing with Blogs" (Learning and Leading with Technology Oct 2003) articulates all the reasons why I should use blogs.

  • Economy--students know the forum to which they are writing requires succinct language. Hey! Anything that gives voice and audience focuses student writing!
  • Archived--because the entries are dated, this serves as great documentation of student progress
  • Feedback--publishing is one thing, but this whole forum fosters an environment that encourages feedback.
  • Multimedia--hello? Technology! I'm loving being able to illustrate my posts, wouldn't my students? I loved the literary magazines my students would publish with artwork that either they or others submitted--and that was just on paper! Think of the possibilities with blogs!
  • Immediacy--that's what our whole world is about! And each generation expects it more than the previous. Expects what? Instant gratification.
  • Active Participation--students are writing for a purpose. They are reading their classmates' writings. It's so interactive.

But then Pessimistic Peggy (my alter ego) says:

"Are you friggin' nuts? What about security and privacy and making sure students don't post stuff that is completely inappropriate?"

Yea, so she's got a point. It's a scary place out in the big, bad WWW. And if any students are going to push the envelope and get me in trouble for exercising their right to free speech, it's going to be my students. I haven't even met them yet, but it's just my karma. I could probably talk to my tech person and get some Intranet thing going. It wouldn't be too bad just publishing within our school, but then we couldn't share it with the world!

You know, other schools are doing this. They have stringent usage policies. Parents could be made aware of the dangers of not paying attention to student Internet usage at home (danger is greater at home since most schools have zealous content blockers). And if a blog is created for school, it has to adhere to the policies.

Pessimistic Peggy also said, "How are you going to assess student blogs? We're talking 150 students! Are you on drugs?!?! You know how confusing it could be to have all those sites floating out there. Plus, exactly what are you going to assess?"

Peggy has my back, you know, but this issue isn't half as bad as the potential evil use of technology. Of course it depends what is in their blogs as to how I'll evaluate them! Duh! And it's not like I'd read the whole thing everytime--a piece at a time. But then that part about being confused...well, she has a point. Although I wouldn't have to carry home a stack of papers or notebooks, it is harder for me to manage things I cannot touch. I don't care how long I've been using a computer, that concept is still tough for me. And although I can look forward to everything being legible (unlike some students' handwriting), it is harder for me to read off a screen for a long time--not to mention all that scrolling. But I'll just strap on my wrist guard and my glasses and I'll be fine. (Do I sound geriatric or what?)

Actually, a friend of mine sent me some info on blogs that some outstanding teachers are doing in their classrooms, and for many the focus is on CLASSROOM or SMALL GROUP BLOGS. The NWP Blog Project has some great resources. Why not start with baby steps, Khrys? Duh! Do a classroom blog! Showcase some work! Or have students do some response group stuff on a blog. I think the NWP Blog Project is going to be my new best friend. Well, that and Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed site. Perusing those sites will keep me busy for a good long time as I explore using blogs in my own classroom. Oh yea. Baby steps.

July 30, 2005

Life of Photography

focus sight through a lens
what was once blurred, sharpens
a clear perspective
zooming changes it all

what was once blurred, sharpens
compose a perfect shot
zooming changes it all
hold steady, remain calm

compose a perfect shot
finger clicks, thumb swings
hold steady, remain calm
life immortalized

finger clicks, thumb swings
focus sight through a lens
life immortalized
a clear perspective

Twin Lakes, California (Fall 2002)

July 29, 2005

East Trop

Where are the people?
Holed up in their
crowded air-conditioned dwellings?
Out for the evening?
Don’t they have children
who romp and play outside?
Are they pleasant people?
If I dropped by to say hi
Would they answer the knocks
from a stranger outside?
Or should I fear
what lurks
behind closed doors?

Just down the street,
Why are the stores so crowded?
What has sucked the life
out of these tired,
droopy shoppers?
Are any of them my neighbors?
Do we share walls?
Will our purchased goods,
later used,
end up
joined again
in the trash bin?
What does that say
if only our rubbish
has a common bond?
If we met at the dumpster,
would they at least
share a momentary glance?
A familiar smile?
Any humane gesture?

Is it possible to feel
at home
in your own home
in a place
you don’t know
nor trust
your fellow pod dwellers?

In this bustling, transient city
are my neighbors lonely, too?
Or are they just too busy
to feel a little?
Do they wonder about me
stealing furtive glances
at them in line?
Where I go when I’m not home?
If I’m laughing or crying
behind locked doors?
Are they too fearful
of the unknowns?

July 28, 2005

"Huh? Blog? Wassat?"

Why does blogging sound interesting to me? I've seen quite a few while surfing out and about. There's some good stuff out there! Well, okay there's a lot of weird-ass stuff that I don't understand, too. To each his own! While wandering about, I thought it might be something I'd like to try, too. So, I'm stumbling around blindly trying to figure this out. What is this is all about and why people do it. I've asked some friend what they know about blogging, but few of them have any idea what I'm talking about. I'm not sure if we're all culturally illiterate or technologically challenged--or both!

I'd love to be a more diligent writer--yea, me and a million other people. I've spent much of my summer in the Southern Nevada Writing Project Institute, and it has totally refreshed me. Our catch phrase: "It will change your life!" Well, now that my life has changed, I don't want to revert back to my wannabe ways. Like I wannabe a writer. How lame! I've been many things in my life, but I've been a writer for over twenty years. It's just that sometimes I don't practice. I wannabe a practicing writer, I guess. I just gotta fight with life to make sure I get my share of time to dedicate to the craft.

Will this blog give me opportunity? We'll see.

BTW. I have other reasons for experimenting with this? Any guesses? Stayed tuned!