Heavenly Rays and Miracles

Mamacita says: When my children were little, they called these ‘heavenly rays,’ and for heavenly rays to appear, it meant that there were miracles afoot.

Heavenly rays

Heavenly rays

I spent the afternoon in court – I’m not in trouble; I’m a CASA – and it left me kind of depressed and sad.  On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store and had to count out change from the bottom of my purse to complete the transaction.  I’m sure all those people in line behind me didn’t mind a bit.

As I loaded my few bags of groceries into the trunk of my car, it started to rain.  By the time I finished, it was coming down pretty hard.

By the time I got home, it was barely sprinkling.  As I unloaded my car, the sun came back out.  I know there must have been a rainbow somewhere, because this kind of weather is rainbow fodder, but I couldn’t find one. Just knowing there might be one is still lovely, though, right?

But I did see heavenly rays.

Those sunburst things up there, those, In case you didn’t know, are heavenly rays.

Sometimes hope will appear in the midst of sadness, frustration, and even mundane activity. I had a difficult day and I was unloading my car and I looked up and saw heavenly rays. There are miracles afoot.

We are, of course, not allowed to choose our miracles, and even if we could, it would probably not be a good idea.  We would not choose wisely, even if we thought we were being wise.  Miracle selection is best left to the Expert.

Even if I did choose and got my wish, my problems would not be any better, but right now, my problems are the least of my worries.

Look up, everyone. Look up. Look at the heavenly rays. There are miracles afoot.

The Relevant Classroom

social networking, education, classroomMamacita says:  How updated and relevant do you want your doctor’s skills to be?  Would you be content with a dentist who graduated in 1985 and hasn’t updated a single skill since then?  Could you trust your children to a pediatrician who used mercury-filled thermometers and leeches?  Hey, those methods worked in the past.  Good enough then.  Etc.

Just as the best medical professionals continually update their skills and knowledge, so must our educators.  One thing that helps educators keep current is. . . . . . . . .. .

Technology.  Specifically, the social networking sites.  Yes, in school.  Yes, for education.  Social networking is a hands-on approach to learning, and if our students can put their hands on something, they’re likely to remember it.  It works for science, and it will work for everything else, too.

Using a Twitterwall in my classroom has made an amazing difference.  When we discuss a reading, for example, I hashtag it and project the conversation on the wall.  Anyone following our hashtag can follow our conversation, and participate.  Students sitting in the back of the room who would never in a million years contribute or participate, will join a Twitterwall conversation; with the wall, they can maintain their shyness or privacy and yet still speak out, without drawing attention to themselves.  Students at home can still participate, as can their parents.  Administration can participate.  Authors can participate.  Scientists can participate.  Astronauts.  Farmers.  Lawyers.  global education, social networkingGrandparents.  A savvy educator can Skype lectures, and combine classes with an educator in China, real-time.  To see people who aren’t even members of the class participate in a lesson can turn a lesson from ordinary to awesome.  And that’s just one aspect of social networking in education!

Tech will not make a mediocre teacher better – nothing will. Mediocrity is a personal choice, and today’s standardization obsession is a blessing only to the mediocre or worse. But a good teacher can become great if he/she understands that we must keep ourselves updated, relevant, and as cutting edge as possible if we are to keep our students motivated, engaged, and interested.

A doctor who chooses to maintain the status quo and not keep updated is dangerous. A teacher who chooses to maintain the status quo and not keep updated is equally dangerous. One can kill the body, and one can kill the spirit.

Sweet old Miz Jones, who hasn’t updated her skills since she graduated years ago, and who loves each kid as if it were her very own,  isn’t always the best teacher. Mean ol’ Miz Jones, who expects and requires each kid to do his/her best, behave properly, and utilizes any and every means possible to engage her students, might not be, either, but at least she’s trying harder.   A great teacher can accomplish great things with a stick and a patch of dirt, but this same teacher can accomplish even greater things if he/she is connected.

Perhaps it also depends on the context of the classroom, too – the age of the students, etc. I was never comfortable with a sweet, motherly teacher even as a small child; I wanted someone who challenged me and exposed me to the wonders of the universe and then stepped back, left me alone,  and let me explore. Then again, I was an avid reader, and that makes a world of difference.

All of education is about connections, and the social networking sites are (as of today) the ultimate connectors. Not to utilize them is to deny yourself and your students an awesome opportunity to connect the dots from one topic to another with amazing rapidity. In the old days it took a village to raise a child; in our time, the village has become a universe, and the child raised by the universe has far more advantages than a child raised by a lowly village.

Yes, there are good teachers who don’t use tech, but think how much better they might become if they would open their eyes and use the technology their students are already using.

Oh, educators, let’s all try our best to help our students understand that the electronics they use to connect themselves with others socially are also excellent means to connect themselves with learning opportunities.  To do this, we as educators must learn to use these means ourselves.

Not to move forward is to move backwards.  Or to stand still, which is much the same thing.

And we’ve all had Mr. Ditto, at least once in our school years:

Odors, Aromas, Fragrances, Stinks, and Stenches

Mamacita:  I am really sensitive to odors.  From pleasant aromas to soul-destroying stenches. . . I just can’t deal with strong odors.  I’m a mom, so I do, but I don’t like it.  However, I also deal with lots of people every day – classrooms full of students of all ages and from all kinds of backgrounds, and sensitivity to strong odors is something I have had to suppress for many years.  How many?  Ooh, look over there!

Okay, I’ll get to the point.  Farts.

I am not a fan of the public fart.  And by “public,” I mean doing it when others are present.  An awful lot of people seem to think farts are hilarious and that the resulting stenches are laughable.  I don’t, and I can’t.

I wish it were socially acceptable to wear one of these on my nose, especially on really hot days.

I wish it were socially acceptable to wear one of these on my nose, especially on really hot days.

I don’t mind a light fragrance.  I love flowers in the house.  I wear a light cologne, myself.

But getting into the elevator with women who are wearing the entire stock of Dollar Tree  cologne all at once is killing me.  Equally stinky are the people wearing too many spritzes of Chanel Grant Extrait.  It doesn’t matter how much you paid for your artificial scent – you stink.

Cheap or expensive:  Equally stinky.

Even worse?  People who spray themselves with scent to cover up the sad fact that they haven’t showered for a while.  The combination of cheap strong cologne and dirty, sweaty bodies is a killer for me.

When you add the distinctive stench of the nicotine-addicted body to this equation, we have a time bomb, because guess what – the professor is close to jumping out of the window to get away from the smell.

However, that is a problem that isn’t on my top ten list, so I just breathe shallowly, grin, and bear it.

Whenever a lot of people are in a room, there will be odors.  It’s really the way people are dealing with the odors that is the difference between class and classless.

But I digress.  The topic is farts. Stinky, smelly farts.  And people who think it’s okay, and even funny, to smell up a room with other people in it.  Adults, even, who lift a leg and let it rip and laugh and expect others to laugh, too, and who mock anyone who doesn’t like it.

Image result for oh, the horror

Inside my head every time someone farts where I am located.

Let me illustrate.

Differences between middle school students and college students, part 8,999:

One of my classrooms this semester has several chairs that make farty noises whenever someone shifts in the seat.  The teacher’s chair is loudest of all.  When I get up or sit down, the chair sounds like a drunk in a state park port-a-potty.  When the students are writing, the room is silent except for the sounds of shuffling papers, scratching pencils or pens, and keyboard clicks.

And the occasional little ‘farty’ sounds when someone moves even the slightest little bit.

Fart sounds in the classroom, and not one student turns a hair about it.  Imagine the reaction if my middle school students heard a farty sound, even one mild farty sound.  Yeah, that.  But at the college level?  Meh.

I’m sure they do their fair share of belching and farting and otherwise gassing up the universe, but they don’t do it in the classroom, where others are also present.  They don’t do these things in the presence of others.  I compare the classroom to the workplace, where it is also not cool to let your body produce anything that negatively affects anyone else, however hilarious you might think it is.  You leave and do it elsewhere, in an appropriate environment.


Here is where we do the stinky things our bodies need to do.

Here is where we do the stinky things our bodies need to do.

My college students understand this concept that seems to be so very difficult for others to comprehend.

I love my job.

But people who love to fart in public and expect everybody in the room to laugh?  Not so much. Go ahead.  Laugh.  My family does.

My college students?   In the classroom, at least, they gots class.

“It’s The Equinoctial Storm,” said Ma.

Mamacita says: This year, there was no equinoctial storm.  In fact, this year, we haven’t had enough rain for quite a while, but last year at this time, the rains poured down as though they would never stop.

Whenever we have a lot of rain in the fall, the words “equinoctial storm” cross my mind, and I think about Caroline Ingalls – she was Laura’s Ma, you know – because the rains came down hard and steady.  Torrential rain.  No thunder or lightning, just rain, but still.  In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, Chapter 3, page 27 (hardbound), she tells us that

       For three days and nights the rain fell steadily, slow, weepy rain, running down the            windowpanes and pattering on the roof.

      “Well, we must expect it,” Ma said.  “It’s the equinoctial storm.”

      “Yes,” Pa agreed, but uneasily.  “There’s a weather change, all right.  A fellow can feel it in  his bones.”

Now, an equinoctial storm is a storm of violent winds and rain, occurring at or near the time of an equinox, either spring or fall.  The 2016 Fall Equinox was on September 22, but, you know, close enough.

Laura’s storm occurred just before the Long Winter blizzards began, and if you remember (and of course you do!) that those blizzards that began in October didn’t let up until May, you’ll understand why severe autumnal storms of pretty much any kind really creep me out.

The forecast for the coming winter is harsh, according to all the woodland creatures and persimmon seeds, and those things know.

Persimmons. In Indiana, they're everywhere.

Persimmons. In Indiana, they’re everywhere.

I love the chapter, still in The Long Winter, where Pa explains to Laura about the wild things knowing what kind of weather is coming, and why humans don’t have the same instincts about such things as animals do.  It’s in Chapter One, if you’re curious, and on pages. 12 and 13 if you want to turn right to it.

Here in southern Indiana, we like to predict our winters with persimmon seeds.  Cut the seed of a ripe persimmon in half and look at the image on the inside: If the image is spoon-shaped, expect a lot of heavy snow; if the image inside the seed is fork-shaped, expect a mild winter; if the image is knife-shaped, expect icy, cutting winds.

So far, most reports have been spoons.

Uh oh . . I'm pretty sure that's a spoon.

Uh oh . . I’m pretty sure that’s a spoon.

Persimmons are good for pudding, too.  If you’ve never had persimmon pudding, you’re missing out big time.

But I digress, which is something I’m very good at.

I’m expecting a cold, snowy winter.  Or, as I prefer to think of it, a white Christmas. Continue reading

9/11/01: Memories of the Fall

9/11 tribute Mamacita says: I’m guessing that many most bloggers will be posting tributes today, and telling the blogosphere ‘where we were’ when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Here is mine. This is actually the twelfth time I’ve posted this on 9/11, so if it seems familiar, you’re not crazy. Well, not on this issue, anyway.


The morning began like any other; we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat back down to watch Channel One News, which had been taped at 3:00 that morning in the school library, thanks to the timer. But Channel One News didn’t come on.

Channel One News, a news program aimed at teens, did not come on that day.

Instead, the secretary’s voice, over the intercom, told the teachers to “please check your email immediately.” We did. And we found out what had happened.

I scrolled down the monitor and read the end of the message. The superintendent had ordered all teachers to be absolutely mum all day about the tragedy. We were not to answer any questions from students, and we were especially not to offer any information to them.

The day went by in a blur. Many parents drove to the school, took their kids out, and brought them home. Between classes, frightened groups of students gathered in front of their lockers and whispered, gossiped, and cried, and begged us for information. By that time, the superintendent’s order had been seconded by the principals, and we were unable to give these terrified kids any information. In the computer labs, the MSN screens told the 8th graders the truth, but they, too, were instructed NOT to talk about it to the other students. Right, like THAT happened. The story was being repeated by 8th graders, and it was being told we’re-all-going-to-die style.

At noon, many of the students were picked up by parents and taken home or out for lunch. Those few who returned had a big tale to tell. The problem was, the tale was being told by children, and few if any of the facts were straight. The atmosphere in the building got more and more strained. We are only a few miles away from an immensely large Navy base, where ammunition and bombs are made, and we’ve always known it was a prime target, which means, of course, that we are, too. Many of my children’s parents worked there. The base was locked down and those parents did not come home that night.

frightened children

Administrative stupidity did this.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: “You’ll find out when you get home.”  This, to children who weren’t even sure they still had a home to get to.  A rumor mill can be a horrible thing.

This, added to all the rumors and gossip spread by children, turned my little sixth graders into terrified toddlers.

As teachers, we were furious and disgusted with the superintendent’s edict. We wanted to call all the students into the gym and calmly tell them the truth in words and ways that would be age-appropriate. We wanted to hug them and assure them that it was far away and they were safe. We asked for permission to do this, and it was denied. Our orders were ‘silence.’ We hadn’t been allowed to hug them for years, of course, but there are times and places when hugs ARE appropriate. No matter, the superintendent stood firm: no information whatsoever.  Other administrators in other school systems were doing it right – calling assemblies and explaining calmly to their terrified children exactly what had happened, and assuring the children that they were safe

Not our administrators.  “Tell them NOTHING” was their edict, and we had to follow it or face the consequences, and the consequences for insubordination in this school system are devastating.

The day went by, more slowly than ever a day before. The students grew more and more pale and frightened. We asked again, and again he stood firm that no information whatsoever was to be given out.

By the end of the day, the children were as brittle as Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix.

Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix.  Brittle as a traumatized child.

Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix. Brittle as a traumatized child.

A few minutes before the bell rang to send them home, a little girl raised her hand and in a trembling voice that I will never forget, asked me a question. “Please, is it true that our parents are dead and our houses are burned down?”

That was it. I gathered my students close and in a calm voice explained to them exactly what had happened. I told them their parents were alive and safe, and that they all still had homes to go to.

The relief was incredible. I could feel it cascading all through the room.

I was, of course, written up for insubordination the next day, but I didn’t care. My phone had rung off the hook that night with parents thanking me for being honest with their children. That was far more important than a piece of paper that said I’d defied a stupid inappropriate order meted out by a man who belonged in the office of a used car lot, not in a position of power over children’s lives.

I'm the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

I’m the superintendent and I am stupid. Very, very stupid.

The next day at school, in my room, we listened to some of the music that had been ‘specially made about the tragedy. I still have those cd’s and I’ve shared them with many people over the past few years. It is true that kids cried again, but it was good to cry. It was an appropriate time to cry. We didn’t do spelling or grammar that day. There are times when the “business as usual” mindset simply is not appropriate.

I wish administrators would realize that kids are a lot tougher than we might think. Kids are also a lot more sensitive that we might realize. It’s an odd combination, and we as educators must try our best to bring the two ends of the emotional spectrum together and help these kids learn to deal with horrible happenings and still manage to get through the day as well as possible.

9/11 tribute torch

We will always overcome.

Ignoring an issue will not help. Morbidly focusing on an issue will not help. Our children are not stupid, and to treat them as such is not something that builds trust. Our children deserve answers to their questions.

How can we expect our children to learn to find a happy medium if we don’t show them, ourselves, when opportunities arise?

I’m still so very sorry, children, that I was forced to participate in that dreadful conspiracy of silence when just a few spoken words might have eased your minds.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2016. God bless us, every one.

Female Comic Book Heroines!

Mamacita says:  As an immensely huge (shut up) comic fan since before I even learned how to read (comics are wonderful for helping little kids learn to read!) I never really noticed the lack of female super heroes because there always seemed to be some.

The Legion of Super Heroines

The Legion of Super Heroines

If the males were in the majority, it didn’t bother me because the stories featuring the females were my favorites. I also didn’t envy or resent seeing men solving problems sometimes. Wonder Woman (and her former selves Wonder Teen and Wonder Tot) and even her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons), were all awesome.

Wonder Woman and Hippolyta


Batgirl was cool.




No kid who loved the vintage Legion of Super Heroes saw problems of that kind. Supergirl, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Shrinking Violet, Light Lass, Dream Girl, Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass, the White Witch. . . and these were just DC women.  I knew their real names.  I knew their planets of origin.  I knew their crushes.  

When their costumes and backstories were changed, I was furious.  I might still be furious.

DC comics logo

DC comics logo

The Marvel women were equally awesome, but I was a DC girl.  I didn’t fall in love with Marvel until years later.

Marvel Comics logo

Marvel Comics logo

But I digress.  We are discussing the DC heroines.

Who were allowed to grow up, marry, and have children, by the way.

And when they grew up, “girl” or “lass” was replaced with “woman.” Saturn Woman. Phantom Woman. Teachers used to forbid comics and Mad Magazine, but for my generation, these are the things that made us WANT to read, because Tom, Betty, and Susan just didn’t cut it as far as interest went.

Tom, Betty, and Susan

Tom, Betty, and Susan: horrendously boring family of elementary reader fame

Too many elementary level stories are ridiculously boring and not worth bothering, in fact.  But we won’t go there.  Not with this post.

Later, we will.  Just not now.