Things I Have Never Done

Mamacita says: There are, of course, many huge important things I have never done, and there is no way I could possibly list them all. However, there are also many small, minor, unimportant things I have never done, most of which could never be listed, either, but here are some of them.

  1. I have never had a TV in my bedroom, nor do I want one in there.
  2. I still have never used an ATM for myself. I have, however, followed directions from a passenger who wished to use one.
  3. I have never peed in the shower. Because gross.
  4. I haven’t taken the local newspaper for many years, mostly because most of the local reporters were let go, the building was deserted, and the paper has more news about nearby larger cities and hardly anything that’s actually local. They also fired all the proofreaders years ago and the grammar and spelling in the paper are horrible.
  5. Grammar and spelling are important to me. Errors blast me in the face and cause me pain. I can’t take a piece of writing that contains grammar and spelling errors seriously.
  6. The older I get, the less sympathetic I am toward fools, idiots, and #45 supporters. But I guess that’s redundant.
  7. I firmly believe that a person of whatever age who can’t behave properly in public places should not be taken to public places. People have a right to enjoy a meal or movie or play, etc, without interruption.
  8. I have no sympathy for people who use their cell phone while driving. A distracted driver is a distracted driver, be the distraction alcohol, drugs, or phones.
  9. I do not understand people who judge others by the color of their skin. Is it a type of insecurity? Or just a hateful heart making itself known?
  10. We are all descendants of immigrants, unless we are 100% Native American. I will never understand people who hate immigrants. It’s so hypocritical.

There are more – many more – but I’d better stop before everyone thinks I’m a total loser. A little bit of one, maybe, but not a total one.

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Mamacita says:  This day used to be known as Armistice Day, in honor of the armistice that was signed on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.  This year, 2019, marks the 102nd anniversary of Armistice Day.

People wear poppies on Veterans’ Day.  Do you know why?

John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”

This term also refers to the fact that back in ancient times, a worker who was hired at the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour workday was paid the same as those who had worked all twelve hours.

After World War II, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans’ Day.  Many people do not realize that this is an international holiday, observed by many other nations as well as by the United States.

Schools do not teach students much about World War I, and I have never really understood why.  Most social studies classes, unless it’s a specialized elective, study the Civil War (Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn) and then make a giant leap over everything else so they can briefly mention World War II (Hitler was bad) and then leap again and remind students that JFK was assassinated (“I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris”) (“I am a jelly doughnut!”)  all just in time for summer vacation.  I learned most of what I know about World War I from reading L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside, and yes, it’s another Anne book; this one is mostly about Anne and Gilbert’s daughter Rilla. I cry every time I read it, even though I know what’s going to happen.  You’ll cry, too.  This book was written eighteen years before Anne of Ingleside, which takes place when the children are very young and was was sort of “inserted” into the list of Anne books, but that’s all right.  I would imagine, though, that at the time the books were being written and published, that might have been confusing to readers.  Anne of Ingleside has an ominous vision in it, that comes true in Rilla of Ingleside.  I have not been able to re-read Anne of Ingleside ever since I realized this.

On this day, let us honor the men and women who keep us safe, both past and present.

“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. Freedom is never free.” – President Barack Obama

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” – former president Bill Clinton

I also like this one by Calvin Coolidge:  “The issues of the world must be met and met squarely. The forces of evil do not disdain preparation, they are always prepared and always preparing… The welfare of America, the cause of civilization will forever require the contribution, of some part of the life, of all our citizens, to the natural, the necessary, and the inevitable demand for the defense of the right and the truth.”

And I’ll end this post with this one, by FDR:  “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.”

God bless America.

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2019

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 eighteenth 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.  Buses dropped children off at the empty, locked homes anyway.

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.

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.

However.  Some of my children’s parents worked at the Navy Base.  Those parents were, of course, held at the base and not allowed to leave.  School buses delivered their children to locked, empty houses.

I was, naturally, 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, 2019. God bless us, every one.

Poetry Friday: Emily Dickinson and Katie Rose Belford

It’s Poetry Friday! At long last!

Mamacita says:  Emily Dickinson knew me, and Katie Rose IS me*; that’s the only explanation.

How else could she have. . . . known?

This first poem helped me understand faith.  The second confirmed my belief that Dickinson rocked because Katie Rose Belford and her mother both mentioned it and loved it.  And you know something; when one of a junior-high-school girl’s book heroines loved a poem, that was confirmation.  Lovesick Katie Rose confides to her mother that Dickinson’s poems help her get through hard emotional times, and Katie Rose’s mother, widowed young and left with raising six children, all with big appetites, without her husband’s life insurance because he cashed it in and put it in his just-started bookstore, and supporting them by singing and playing the piano at Guido’s Gay Nineties five nights a week, surprises Katie Rose by confiding to her that Dickinson wrote one for her, too; Mrs. Belford takes comfort in the second poem, which amazed Katie Rose.  Whoever expects one’s MOTHER to, well, understand such things?  (And oh, calloo, callay, all of the Katie Rose and Beany books have been RE-ISSUED!)

I Never Saw A Moor

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

===========================
You Left Me, Sweet, Two Legacies

You left me, sweet, two legacies,–
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content,
Had He the offer of;

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and
me.

*YA fans will understand.

Two legacies. Certain of the spot.

No, YOU’RE crying a little.

Education, Students, and Hope

While it is true that I tend to rant and rave about how far too many students (one is too many) can’t read or write or add two numbers together, and how far too many students (one is too many) can’t behave themselves, have no intention of learning anything, and have dedicated themselves to preventing the nice kids from learning anything, either, it is also true that I have nothing but admiration and fondness for the students who work hard, pay attention, behave themselves, and laugh at my jokes have a pleasant attitude. Add a quirky sense of humor, and I’m hooked.

I never minded the “stupid questions” and I still don’t mind them, because if a question is sincere, it is not a stupid question; it’s a legitimate question and isn’t that what it’s all about? I love a student who asks questions; that student means more to me than a student who answers questions. If the question is about a connection between the lesson and something out in the world, even better. Better? It’s FANTASTIC!!!

I’ve had my share of teachers who were interested only in what was in the textbook. Questions that dealt with a connection or a tangent were dismissed completely; I’ve actually seen students punished for asking questions. I know tons of teachers who are lost without the answers pre-printed in their Teacher’s Edition.

What the heck is up with that? I have always assumed that a teacher who doesn’t already know those answers has no business standing before a group of learners in the first place! Sometimes those Teacher’s Editions have mistakes in them, and I’ve known teachers who will count the student’s correct answer wrong because the teacher is fixated on believing that the Teacher’s Edition is always right. I do not believe that these are good teachers, and I really don’t care what kind of scores that particular school is making. Scores are not education, but if I start in on that one again I’ll never make my dental appointment in a half hour.

Now, we all know that there are kids who will pester the teacher with questions just to get attention or get a laugh from his/her classmates; that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about students with eager minds who genuinely want to know something. I’m talking about students who suddenly see and understand a connection between a few words in our book and something out there in “real life.” I’m talking about the wide eyes and the amazed expression and the gasp of realization that teachers come back year after year hoping to see. I’m talking about that moment when the student gazes at his/her pen and realizes that it’s actually a magic wand, and that with that wand the student wields power the likes of which make atomic energy seem feeble.

Every year, teachers have less and less authority. Every year, teachers must work in environments that would have most adults calling the authorities on the first day. Every year, teachers must deal with a population that is dangerous to the point of being criminal, and every year teachers risk their lives to try to bring a little light to the few actual learners and workers who hover quietly, in fear of their lives, too, on the sidelines. Every year, teachers must deal with parents who won’t support them, children who won’t try, administrations that won’t guarantee a safe habitat for either the teacher or the students, and buildings that are crumbling. Our students are hungry and sleepy, and far too many of them know far too much about the dregs of society: some because their families ARE the dregs of society, and others because they spend too much unsupervised time watching the trash on Jerry Springer and various television shows that teach our young people to be smartassed single parents who sleep around, long for designer shoes,  and respect nothing. Every year, teachers must deal with more and more evidence that too many stupid people are breeding, too much time, attention, and money is spent on the lowest common denominator in the building and not nearly enough on the students who would really love to be taught something, and the very real possibility of being disciplined or sent to the Rubber Room if they speak out, try to help, or in any way upset the status quo of our extremely dysfunctional school systems. It’s dangerous to speak out, and it’s dangerous to show up for work, and it’s dangerous to walk across the parking lot before and after school, and it’s dangerous to mow your lawn on the weekend because you never know which disgruntled moron – parent or child – is going to show up demanding “justice,” ie entitlements, favors, exceptions, and freebies.

But I digress.

The students I have now are not, for the most part, like the students in our public schools. Today, for example, we were discussing the fact that many words we all consider to be English were actually stolen borrowed from other languages. The students caught on immediately to the fact that if a person speaks English, a person is actually also speaking Spanish, and French, and Italian, and Russian, and German, and Yugoslavian, and Aztec, and Hawaiian, and Chinese, and Outer Mongolian, not to even mention the dialects of the Fiji Islanders and assorted Scandanavian nations, because our language is not only vaguely reminiscent of Shakespeare’s English, it’s also a big stewpot full of every other language on the planet. This is a partial explanation of why we have so many odd spellings and strange plurals and exceptions to all the grammar rules. I love it. Today, my students loved it, too.  Watching them love it made me love it, and them, even more.

I tried this lesson back in the public schools and several parents complained because I was telling their kids that the language of the true patriotic Americans wasn’t “pure.” Of course, this was the same group of parents who were irate because we were talking about homonyms. Can you guess why? I mean, jeepers.

See above, “Too many stupid people are breeding.”

But a student who asks questions, questions that show a longing to KNOW, questions that demonstrate an understanding of a connection. . . questions that tell me that there is yet hope for the human race because in this classroom, today, students were laughing and excited about a few WORDS, and looking at their pens in awe as though they’d just that moment understood the amount of power they had with it?

This is why teachers come back, year after year. This is why we hope. This is what makes it all worthwhile. This is why we risk everything we have and everything we are.

I wonder how many professions require as much hope as teaching? I’d bet money, if I had any, that educators lean on hope even more than the medical professions and the ministers do. Posted in EducationJane GoodwinJaneGMamacitaMamacitaGScheiss Weekly Tagged behaviordangerEducationgood mannersHopeJane GoodwinJaneGlearnersMamacitaMamacitaGpowerquestionsrantsScheiss Weeklyschool systemsschoolsstudentsteacher’s editiontestingtextbook

Beware the Ides of March

Beware indeed.

Mamacita quotes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:   Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the Ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.

And what, pray tell, are the Ides of March, that Caesar needed to be warned against them?  Should we all beware the Ides of March?  What are Ides?

There is no reason for any of us to beware the Ides of March.  Or the Ides of May.  Or the Ides of October.  Or the Ides ol July.  All months have Ides; however, the rest of them have Ides on the 13th of the month.  But I digress.

The Ides of any month are simply the 13th or 15th of the month.  (see above.) The soothsayer was merely warning Caesar that something bad was going to happen on March 15.  Caesar had already had other warnings – one from his wife!  Caesar was very superstitious and took the warning seriously; however, this didn’t prevent him from leaving the house on March 15 anyway and walking out into the public forum.  What could possibly happen?  All his best friends would be there!  So he walked out of the house and into the forum. . .

. . . . where his best friends were waiting for him with daggers, whereupon they jumped him and stabbed him to death.  For his own good, and for the good of Rome, they believed.

Caesar was just too ambitious, they thought.  So, rather than risk his rise to power and popularity, they offed their best friend.

Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius – the three musketeers, the Bobbsey triplets, the inseparable pals.  Caesar trusted them; he loved them; they were his friends.

Which is why, when Caesar saw who was attacking him, he cried out, in disbelief, “Et tu, Brute?”  Which means, simply, “Even you, Brutus?”

But Brutus and Cassius, and the others, had realized that their pal Caesar was a little too cocky for Rome’s own good, and when even one’s best friend brags in public that he was as elite and cool as a god, one must do something to protect the nation.  Remember your mythology – every time a mortal bragged that he or she was like or better than a god or goddess, bad things happened to him/her.  Really bad things.

“Beware the Ides of March.”  And now you know what that means, and why Caesar was warned to be careful of that day.

It was, like, you know, cuz the soothsayer somehow knew that Caesar’s dearest and most beloved friends had had enough of his bragging about his coolness and were going to take him down.  And they did.

But even when I was a kid and first read that scene, something inside of me SAW the expression on the man’s face when he realized that his best friend in all the world had stabbed him in the back.  It was a heartbreaker.

And now you have a perfect example of another expression.  Backstabber.  Stabbed in the back.

Shakespeare is so awesome; I loved the language even as an elementary student.  It’s exactly the same language that you’ll find in the King James Version of the Bible, which I also love.

Perhaps one of you can also answer a question that has puzzled Shakespeare fans for years:  Why in the world did the man bequeath his second-best bed to his wife?

I tend to agree with Jane of Lantern Hill, who was of the opinion that “Perhaps she liked it best.”

P.S.  Don’t be afraid of the language.  Relax, and try to see the poetry and the amazing graphics in Shakespeare’s witty turn of phrase.  It’ll knock your socks off, if you let it.