Indiana Weather Is Fickle!

Mamacita says:  If some variety in your weather is what you are seeking, you need to live in southern Indiana.  We have the most fickle of all possible weathers here.

Indiana weather is fickle!

Indiana weather is fickle!

I can’t tell you how many months I drive to work in the morning with the heater on, and drive home that afternoon with the air conditioner on.  I always keep a folded blanket in the trunk of my car, and a cardigan in the back seat.  With the folded blanket, there is always a hand-held fan in case it gets too warm for the heater but not warm enough for the air conditioner.  I also keep socks in the trunk in case my feet get cold.  Which they usually are.

Hoosiers learn early on to wear layers, because we need our sweaters at the beginning of the day, and we need our sleeveless dresses and t-shirts at the end.

Often in summer, it’s in the forties in the morning and the nineties in the afternoon.  That’s quite a span, mathematically speaking.

In southern Indiana, our thermometers are always on the move.

If you think I’m exaggerating, come visit me.  You’ll find out.

My Alma Mater Loves Money

The rotary phone of my youth!

The rotary phone of my youth!

Mamacita says: At least once a week, I get a phone call from my alma mater’s alumni association asking for money. I got another one tonight.  Don’t calls like this fall into the “Do Not Call” category?  Apparently not.

Hark, they need money.  I’m so surprised.

Hi, my name is Muffy McFreshman, and I’m calling from YOUR ALUMNI ASSOCIATION!  How are you this evening?  I wonder if this rain will ever stop, don’t you?  Golly, the golf course was nearly deserted this afternoon, and nobody at all was in the club pool.  Now, we know you’ve been out there for a while, making a lot of money, thanks to the degree this university gave you all those years ago, and don’t you think it’s time to give some of it back?  I’d love to take your contribution tonight!  Don’t you think $1,000 would be a nice beginning?  You can always raise that amount, if you like!  That’s a lovely beginning though, don’t you think?

I do, Muffy.  I honestly do.  When may I expect your check?  My mortgage is due in a few days.

What’s that?  You were asking ME to send YOU that amount?  I’m sorry, but I couldn’t raise that amount if you gave me a year in which to try.

My parents sent four kids to this university, and among of we have several graduate degrees and a doctorate.  I sent my daughter to this university, and she put herself through graduate school.  Now she’s putting herself through a post-doctorate program.  My son would like to attend your university, but we can’t afford it and neither can he, so he’s biding his time getting a series of degrees from a community college until he can afford to transfer the credits and go to your college.

I think your university has enough of this family’s money.

Also, your Alumni Magazine is boring.  I read it when it comes because I read everything that crosses my path, but really, you’re hurting your cause by printing all those articles about rich alumni, golf, cruises, and foreign exchange students who fall in love with America and intend to stay here forever because they’ve found such high-paying careers here.  All that is nice, but it doesn’t have anything to do with me.  I can’t relate to people who have enough money to cover their billls, let alone live in luxury.

Now, if you had articles about how to pay your bills when even a graduate degree isn’t bringing in enough money to cover the mortgage, that would be helpful.

IU alumni

It might also be easier to believe the Alumni Association needs money if I hadn’t seen that huge, gorgeous building they’ve built for themselves.  That thing is enormous, and it really is beautiful.  Those windows!  All that lovely stone!  The carvings!  You should be really proud of that building.

P.S.  You can buy your own darn carpet and wall art for the inside.

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 eleventh 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.

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.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: “You’ll find out when you frightened childrenget 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 Sticks.

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 torchIgnoring 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, 2015. God bless us, every one.

Remember the Modular System? It Was Awesome.


Sad but true. VERY sad, and very true. And absolutely outrageous.

Mamacita says:  Ah, the modular system.  It’s gone forever, of course, but how sad.  The modular system was absolutely perfect for the above average student.  Too bad the above average student has no rights these days.

(There are schools who have systems they refer to as “mod systems,” but they aren’t true modular systems; they’re just systems that group kids together all day.  You know, like elementary systems do.)  (Fie on those.)

School has started, and the memories of my first teaching gig are running wild in my head.  That experience was fabulous.  I loved it.  That kind of educational environment doesn’t exist any more in the public schools, and I consider that a tragedy.

My very first teaching job was in a brand-new high school that was set up in a non-traditional way: some of you may remember the “mod” system? No? I feel old.

Twenty-two 20-minute periods, or “mods” a day. A week was 6 days, and most classes met every other day. A regular class was usually two mods; a study period might be any length, from one to four mods; labs were four or five mods, etc. Academic classes were divided into large group/small group, just like college. For example, a student might have English on Days 2, 4, and 6 during mods 9 and 10. Day 1 wasn’t necessarily Monday; it was simply the day after Day 6. Attendance was taken first mod and wasn’t taken again the whole rest of the day. Students had a huge commons area for ‘free time.’ There was a SMOKING AREA on the side of the building, and teachers had duty there! The sense of openness and freedom and personal responsibility was tremendous.

Except for the smoking area, I loved it.

All the kids loved it, except the ones who couldn’t adapt to the freedom. Kids who desperately needed, REQUIRED, a rigid routine, just couldn’t cut it. But for the above-average kid, it was heaven.

Sure, some of the super bright kids took advantage of it, too, but the super bright kids COULD, and still achieve fabulous success at school.  I’m talking to you, Diana.

Unfortunately, above-average kids weren’t the majority.

The experiment was ruined by those kids who just cut classes every day and hung out in the smoking area or the commons, or who left the open campus at noon and never came back, day after day, or who wandered aimlessly, lost and confused, trying to figure out where they were supposed to go on Day four, Mod seven. Even though they had a schedule in their hand.

Many parents never quite understood the concept either, and objected. Mostly the parents of the kids who never quite understood the concept.

At the time, I really did think I’d died and gone to school-heaven. I envied the students. For someone like me, that kind of ‘schedule’ would have been perfection. For many kids, it WAS perfection. For the first time, a school was actually catering to the bright trustworthy kids.

It didn’t last long, of course.

It lasted two years, and then the school board decided to go back to ‘traditional’ scheduling. Unfortunately, the new building had not been designed for anything traditional; it was too open.

So they cut up all that lovely open space into little cubicle classrooms with no windows and turned into a traditional six-period high school. The smoking area stayed for a few more years and then common sense kicked in, the only time common sense was ever utilized in the history of this building.

The building was planned and built for grades 10-12. A few weeks before it was finished, the board decided to send the freshmen there, too. And then they wondered why it was too small from day one.

It’s a shame. Even though it was too late for me as a student, for the first time in my life I had been exposed to a concept that catered to the smart kids, the reliable kids, the GOOD kids, the funky kids, the quirky kids, the kids who could be trusted with a little time.

But, as usual, because of the other kind of kids (and their parents) we lost it.

I am thinking as I write this of two famous writers and their philosophies. One is Plutarch, and the other is Mark Twain.

It was Plutarch who said, “Being about to pitch his camp in a likely place, and hearing there was no hay to be had for the cattle, ‘What a life,’ said he, ‘is ours, since we must live according to the convenience of asses!’ ”

Plutarch's ass.

Plutarch’s ass.

And it was Mark Twain who said, “”In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

School boards, Congress. . . they’re all political and neither listens to the people they’re supposed to represent.  Unless, of course, someone has big money.


Mark Twain could always be counted on to speak the truth.

Of course, Twain also said “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”


And please don’t think I am heartless, although I’m sure many of you do. I firmly and thoroughly believe in a good sound remedial program; that’s what I teach now.

I just don’t believe that the remedial and special programs should dictate or slow down the programs for the entire student body.

Freshman Innocence, Then and Now

Mamacita says:  You lookin’ for innocence? A long time ago, in a universe far, far away, there lived a teenage girl so naive it was honestly dangerous.

She had been nowhere.  She had done nothing.  The good-night kiss, lips together, on the front porch, light on, father listening to every word and rustle because his bedroom window was also the porch window, was as far as she’d ever “gone.”

Most of her clothing was ordered from the Sears catalogue.

Most of her shoes were purchased at Jeff’s Shoe Store, a local shop that carried brand name shoes, if by “brand name” what you mean is “Keds.”

Not that that mattered to this girl’s mother, who bought saddle oxfords in winter and made the girl wait until May to get what she still refers to as “tennis shoes.”  Which the girl had to use SHOE POLISH on to keep them snow white, although she occasionally cheated with baby powder.  The point is, they had to be kept snow white.

One of the things this teen looked forward to most, about going away to college, was wearing whatever she wanted from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.

The problem was, she had no money to buy anything different from what her mother had packed for her to take up to the dorm.

So the girl had to improvise.  And by “improvise,” I mean the girl went out in public looking like a something that crawled out from under a boxcar, mated with a cartoon gypsy who had been exiled from the tribe for having no taste, tripped and fallen into the place where the art students threw out their dirty paint water, and misinterpreted the mirror as saying “You look so groovy, girl!”

The girl did do one thing right away, though.  She walked down to Target (which was then called Ayre-Way) and bought a pair of jeans.)  That’s right – the girl didn’t even own a pair of jeans.  And now she did.

And so began the freshman year.  It began a day later than it should have, because the girl couldn’t leave her hometown boyfriend who was leaving for Purdue the next day.  They went on a sentimental picnic, where the girl pressed lips, still together, in a place other than the brightly lit front porch, built a campfire the size and shape of a caterpillar tractor, sat around it until it turned to sparks and sad, sad ashes, and was taken home for another kiss, this time on the usual place, on the usual places, with the usual bright lights and fatherly commentary.

And so it begins this week for other people’s teenage daughters and sons.  Hopefully, this year’s crop won’t be as stupid and naive and stupid and naive as I was, but then, even back then, nobody else was as stupid and naive as I was.

It’s a good thing all my boyfriends were decent guys, that’s all I’m sayin’.  Because I knew nothing.  NOTHING.  I once went to a porn movie at a drive-in with FOUR GUYS.  They treated me like the gentlemen they were.

There is such a thing as being dangerously innocent.  When a girl is eighteen, she really needs to know a few things.  These days, teenage girls know maybe too much, even.  But I could probably guarantee that none of them would go to a porn movie at a drive-in with four guys.  Not all guys are gentlemen.

It would have been so easy to. .  .

But they didn’t, so everything was all right.

I was lucky, though.  Your daughter might not be so lucky.  Teach her a few things before you send her away to college.

Then again, these days, our daughters probably know more than we do now and could teach US a few things.

Not mine, though.  She was an innocent, too.

I swear.