Sunday, March 29, 2009

The World is getting smaller.

David at authorblog noticed this post: POTD

Thank you, David for your generosity.

A couple of weeks ago, someone was kind enough to award me the sisterhood Award:

Thank you Natalie.

Since January, my world has expended and threatening to spill over. What used to take me fifteen/twenty minutes -write a post and scuttle in and out of the Internet- now can easily use up the entire morning. The only thing that stops me is hunger. I rush to read posts first thing after I wake, before I had my coffee, addicted to the activity of expressing some thought, or reading others'.

Two hours later, hubby brings me coffee and he sits down in front of his computer. When one of us begins to grumble, one of us gets up to prepare breakfast. It is now ten. We are still in our pajamas. He on his forums; I on my blogs. We stop to eat and put the news on, briefing each other on any commitments we might have on the calendar. Rats, we exclaim. Do we need to go out again? Can't we postpone that doctor's appointment or physical therapy or...?

Blogging and Forums are convenient ways to spread our reach into the world. It is not the same as face to face; but it is still a social activity. I know more personal details about Natalie, for example, in a week, than I know about my own daughter, who is Natalie's age, but is not keeping up her blog for her family's sake. I'm actually enjoying being grandmotherly to many young folks out there. My own grandchild is quite busy, calls seldom, and when we talk at my insistence once a week, I'm never quite satisfied that I know enough about her. I want to know more than she is willing to share. Ironic.

Some people approach blogging as a parlor game, showing off a certain skill, being polite most of the time. We could tell each other apart perhaps by the grammar and vocabulary and tone we use. Most of us tend to be sweet and nurturing most of the time.

My husband frequents various topical forums, where the subjects discussed are oiled and fried, sauteed and dished out with plenty of accompaniments. Too stuffy for me. My Tuesdays' ramblings on Education are beginning to sound stuffy.

Someone ought to study this phenomenon, this created circle of friends that seems to attract like souls. Someone ought to. Not me. I'm done with homework. Thanks for getting to the end of the post and the week still in one piece. Thanks for your responses and encouragement, too.

Friend to friend Awards

I received this beautiful heart award from Reasons to be cheerful. Thank you to such a generous soul.

I would like to pass it on to some very special friends:

Angela-Letters from Usedom

Lola-Aglio, olio e peperoncino

Matawheeze- Sixtyup

Marc =Aurel Laurels

Lori ann-Loritimesfive

Natalie-Musings from the deep



I don't know if I'm allowed to list more than eight people. There are more out there, admirable men and women who enrich our lives with words from the heart. I will mention them tomorrow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shining Light Award

Shining Light Award

This award is presented to Renee of circlingmyhead for her extraordinary and enduring spirit.

She is the lighthouse, helping mariners navigate the harsh forces of nature and maintaining their compass pointed toward home.

May she enjoy this on her birthday, March 28, and all the days and years to come.

This award is non-transferable.
Artwork by Roger Pool, Florence, Oregon. U.S.A.

Renee, for all the ways we love you: Happy Birthday! Tell me where to ship the painting!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fishing for Spring.

The tourists are in town. The few restaurants still open had a tough time on Monday trying to feed the locals and the visitors. Joyce, Ginney and I went to the Wheelhouse after our writers' meeting and expected to sit in our usual corner. We were fortunate; just ten minutes later, the place was jam packed. We are our usual, so not to confuse the waiting staff. I always get "The Platter" a fried seafood combination of cod, halibut, shrimp, scallops and oyster. Five, six pieces of superbly fried fish accompanied by french fries and slaw.

I do not cook fish. I let others do that; in our neck of the woods, they know how to obtain and prepare great seafood. I tried to duplicate the process at home. Now, I stick to my specialties, pastas and grilled everything else.

Tourists will attempt fishing, as the family is doing up on that dock, and they will visit Blanco Lighthouse, Bandon Lighthouse, the Coast Guard quarters, the various antique shops and arts galleries. Some will pay a good sum to golf at Bandon Dunes. If you google Bandon Dunes you too will understand why they charge so much.

Hubby and I will take it easy this week. We'll go to my physical therapy sessions, which are beginning to do me good. We'll let the tourists enjoy the peace and calm of this place. The hatchery( yes, there are hatcheries for different kinds of fish) dropped thousands of trout and other fish in our lakes for the benefit of recreational fishermen. It has been cloudy and chilly, temperatures dipping into the freeze zone at night. My garden has to wait for me to recoup the use of both arms, and for the ground to warm up a bit.

Meantime, we can cast into the lake and hope to have a few trout for dinner.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Education: Part three-Building a life-long continuum

When we look back at this administration's ambitious agenda, we'll compare it to another president who took on the task of improving education for all children. Not
George W. Bush, though, in his own way, he did attempt to get us to focus on children with a lovely motto. I was thinking of President Johnson, his war on poverty, his attempt with various educational acts, Title I comes to mind, to level the playing field. I became a teacher way back in the sixties, when money from Title I financed our first summer school for poor readers.

There are so many fields where we educate our youth, that just understanding what's going on will take many experts and many dissertations. Any one issue, can splinter the conversation and send us all to sulk away in our corners. I hope we can think this through critically and lovingly. We have great examples to draw from, to help us see the full picture.

Our mission should be to educate people throughout their lives, pre-school to death. Our compulsory education stops at the 12th grade, or age eighteen, whichever comes first. Our post secondary education has become expensive and not easily available for those children in rural areas.

Through education, people will appreciate and utilize their many potentials, will make ethical and moral choices in their financial, personal and career choices, will become active participants in a law abiding society, and will protect the environment, their health, and the welfare of all people.

In the past few years, here in the United States, political chatter has derailed our mission. We have pitted religious thought when it was convenient to win an election, and ignored the same when the economic collapse of banks and financial assets froze us solid. People all have the same basic needs to have a safe and secure life, free to pursue their dreams and utilize their potential.

So, we need to bring the conversation back to the table and lay down some premises we can all accept:

1. To assure access for all: education is and shall remain the responsibility of government, paid entirely through common funding.
2. To ensure fairness and quality programs: families should be given choices of schools/location/ and configurations; they should not be allowed to opt out. ( I have very good friends who would be very upset with me on this one.)
3. To promote active participation: families should be partners with schools, with mutual contracts of understanding, support and assessment.
4. To develop support and cooperation: schools, families, students, community, employers, all share the burden of continuing to support educational opportunities.

5. To instill commitment: taxes and levies will support education, not just in one state or one county, but equal base of support for each child no matter where he is.

Local communities/board of education, must align their goals and mission to the nation's goals and mission; yet, and in addition, they must understand and promote local values, history and expectations. In a community such as Port Orford, our arts community is so active in schools that they automatically make this a goal in our schools.

I don't have a ready made agenda; these thoughts have been brewing for a while. They are probably in need of pruning, fertilizing, tilling under. What do you think?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Among friends.

Joyce and her mushroom friends greet me in the morning hours close to the lake where we walk. People around this neighborhood stop and talk. I met her this way a few years ago, when I had just moved in town.
She was walking her dog, an ailing fellow who was on his last legs, and was slowly encouraging him to keep moving. I slowed down, matched their pace, worried about adjusting to my new status as a retiree.
"You just took a good step," she said, and when I looked confused, she added, "you stopped and talked to us, me and Bobby. You'll have no problem making friends in town."
She was right. In less than a year, I ran for school board, joined the democratic party, and signed up to read in the SMART program. Within months, I had more work lined up than I could do in an eight hour day. I saw her around that first year and thought she was too old to be a good friend. I don't think she thinks I'm too young to be her friend.
I wish the relationship I have with my children could be this good. We are open and generous with each other. She reads my mind, divines my silences. When I am her age, I want to feel and act and look just like her. Did I mention that she drives to all her activities?
I was wrong. She has become a good friend in many ways. We walk together, are in a reading club, SMART, and the writers' group. She reads my stories and comments with candor and truthfulness. I read her stories and point out certain things. We are good for each other. My mother would be proud of me.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The Bandon Writers, two males, many women meet weekly to share their writing and receive feedback. From the left, sitting, Martha, Lilly, Ava and Oliver. In the back row, from the left, Ginney, Mary, Mike, who is bending to match Joyce, and I, the one standing, with the blue sweater. Holding his fingers up, is Oliver Lange; he and Joyce are my anchors in this journey. Both of them are octogenarian, old enough to be my parents. They are active with community projects, art, and writing.

I joined the group a couple of years ago, when I began writing my memoir. Oliver Lange, not his real name, is the group's titular head, the only published novelist in the group. If you google his name you'll discover he has written a dozen best sellers, some made into movies, too. If Oliver likes what I write, I glow and sputter and grow taller. If he doesn't, I retreat in the corner, and pray.

We all need friends and mentors, people who will show us the way, help us along the journey. I'm lucky, and grateful to many more people who respond to this blog, interpret my words, and leave thoughtful remarks. We are all pilgrims, sharing our stories on the way to Canterbury, understanding that what connects us is our human experience in this moment in history. Some of us will express our sentiments through poetry, or jokes, or dreams. Revealing pain and hope, we share our lives, we honor each other's voyages.

My best friend Joyce and I take long walks and have over a century of stories in three continents to share with each other and with the group.
Every one of us needs to be heard.

We don't know who'll be missing at tomorrow's meeting. At this time in our lives we don't want to postpone talking about the important things.
We are not young; our days are numbered, measured by the stories we tell, the connections we have made.

Who needs Paris?

I do. Now that I can't sleep much at all, having a whole bunch of pictures to peruse during the wee hours of the morning is a wonderful way to pass the time. This weekend, we can reconnect. We'll pick up a baguette and some pate for Sunday brunch.

We had landed in Paris early in the morning, but the tour folks were hard to find. Hubby and I had our first French fight. He read the instructions regarding meeting the tour guide at some landmark right at the airport; I read the same and interpreted them differently, going up and down the elevators trying to find the correct exit.Hubby assumed the French I knew would be sufficient for airport navigation; I suddenly fixated on the wrong words, not aligning signs with instructions. What a mess.

That evening, we had our first view of the city and of course, of the illuminated landmark, the stars in the middle signifying the special time when France presided over the European Union. Hubby took this picture with his phone camera. His real camera needed batteries. For the rest of our vacation in France, we dropped into camera and electronic shops looking for batteries and/or recharge cables, neither of which we could obtain.

While I shopped for soaps, tapenades, nougat, hats and scarfs, Hubby stopped at electronic shops He did a lot of waiting for the right person to assist him. He'd come out frustrated because not enough people could speak English. He should have learned French in high school like the rest of us. If only he'd start with Bonjour.

As I rested at the hotel, Hubby walked down the block, and stopped to do a very French thing: purchase a baguette and some pate.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stop and smell the Ocean

That's how it is in my neck of the woods. We pull over, find a parking area as we travel up and down the coast on U.S 101 highway and smell the Ocean, the Pacific Ocean. To the left of this picture is Humbug Mountain, just south of Port Orford, just over 1000 feet tall. We see snow on its top every winter. It doesn't last. But, when the weatherman tells us that there will be snow at 1000 feet, we can find it at the top and sides of Humbug. Below the mountain, and all around this parking lot are RV campgrounds. For $15 a night, hundreds of travelers spend weeks traveling from one campground to another. They set up their easels or cameras or fishing rods right down the beach here and draw, shoot, cast. All of them at the same time. Some brave souls don wetsuits and go surfing.

I've spent time with my grandchild and her friends collecting shells and agates. On low tide, I've dug for clams and mussels; If I want to picnic in style, I bring a pot, fill it with seaweeds and water, wait it for it to come to a boil, and then drop my harvest. If we are lucky, we can trap a few crabs too. No need for anything else, no lemons, or condiments of any sort. Just hot crabs, mussels and clams. If you brought a cooler with beer, you better follow the signs about alcohol consumption.

On our beaches, we can drive right on the sand. Crazy, but true. You see that truck? It just returned from a sand romp. It could have gotten stuck down there; and someone might have come to his rescue. The highway patrol, two or three people for the entire coast line from
Astoria to Brookings, are not going to veer off the highway too often to search for stranded motorists who might be necking on the beach at sunset.

Whatever artistic endeavors those folks want to pursue is o.k. with the officers. We have medical marijuana laws in this state, and assisted suicide. One never knows how one wants to live or end one's life.

And that brings me to the end of this week. I'm off to my physical therapy. Next week, I should be off medications, sober and alert. Or not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everything is Illuminated

Today is Media Day.

My post is dedicated to the people and industries that tell us how to live. These people package products, inform us about the world near and far, and elucidate issues that we must care about.

These people have dream jobs somewhere where jingles and graphics create a dream-like feeling of a perfect life. They are magic makers.

The fog is slipping in from the ocean and my mind is still in dreamland.
I'm reminiscing about my first job, in Hollywood. People came in the costume shop where my best friend asked me to help during Halloween. I was not going to any party; I could help people chose their costumes and prepare to live it up and pretend for a night. Everybody worked in some dream job, I thought, creating movies and producing magazines. Even our neighbors had dream jobs, working at Disneyland in the summer months, showing the Monsanto Home, the better and healthier home of the future. Life and chemistry helped by media savvy publicists and dream weavers.

I move through my day as though I have a programmed battery. I make Starbuck 's coffee now, not Maxwell House; I must have my macchiato before I open my eyes.

Martha Stewart chose the linens for my bed, until I heard about her big lie. Ethan Allen furnished the rest of the bedroom, and my lake view is courtesy of mother nature. My picture on my profile, all my pictures are mine, chosen and shot by me. The only exceptions are the award graphics, courtesy of a blog friend with media skills. These awards are passed out in blogland.

Without newspapers, television, advertisers, lobbyists, without the hoopla people and the picture people, and the p.r. people, and the publicists- without media we would all be still in the middle ages.

I knew a time without daily papers, radio, television. The only people who had any news of the world were the few people who could afford to buy the paper that was delivered to our small town from the big metropolis nearby. When radios became available in every household, after electricity, it immediately became a sinful escape for everyone. The entire family gathered around its twinkling lights, as father fussed with the dial across the screen trying to get a station that could be heard without static or other interference.

With the arrival of radio, information and entertainment personalities became magnets. Nobody knew more than those disembodied voices on the radio.
We followed their advice.
WE still do.
Television, radio, movies, the Internet, are our modern cathedrals, illuminating stories of New Heaven and Precipitous Hell.
We all participate as consumers and producers of these stories,
WE are all manipulating and being manipulated.
We are all in this dream/nightmare together.
Tonight, after I watch Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow and Steven Colbert, mixing up with news with entertainment, switching channels a hundred times before settling on BBC news or CNN or MSNBC, or Fox, I'll retire to read The New Yorker, or the New York Times on line. Around me, close bye, I can google for information around the world, read posts in blogland that might illuminate a condition I don't understand.
Will I be safe? Will my retirement savings last me? Is my insurance up to date? How do I know? How do I separate nights and days, real and manufactured? I know I'm fuzzy headed and on medications this week. Will I feel better if I didn't take meds?
I used to trust the Pope and my president to tell me the truth. I used to trust my doctors to give only the medicines I needed. Now, I know less and I trust even less.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A schedule of a life.

Wednesday: My Backyard.

Now that I put my life back on a schedule of sorts, remember, how Mondays are about Governance, Tuesdays are Education, Wednesdays are Our backyard....and so on......

I'm bound to follow this menu because you're coming in with expectations; and as a teacher, I must deliver what is on the weekly planner. Not that following a plan is always a good thing...

My front yard and back yard are in Port Orford, Oregon, the oldest town site on the Oregon coast, and the westernmost point in the contiguous United States. Contiguous, in this instance, means the forty-eight states. Cape Blanco, with its lighthouse and majestic vistas is ready for whale-watching ,next week. I will get out, and catch me a whale of a tail to show you.

Since my shoulder problem, for new people dropping by, my shoulder froze in place with much fanfare and excruciating pain. The MRI identified the problem as Bursitis, and today is my first physical therapy session. So, I'm still on heavy medications, am bothered by sleep deprivation and lack of comfortable movement, and look forward to a time when I can use both arms. I can still type this post; and that, amici miei, is a very good thing, indeed.

Now, I will leave you to enjoy your backyard. I plan on packing my new digital camera and carrying it everywhere. From authorblog, I'm getting very good tutorials on how to take pictures; with practice and determination, I'll begin to record pictorially. Most of the other pictures on this blog are mine; but they came from a phone camera. Not bad, if you ask my opinion. Not bad.

In life, though, we can teach each other in this open university called Blog land. Not only it is open twenty four hours a day, but it is also free. What? Yes. Like air, and good will: FREE. People like David at authorblog, a profession photojournalist who gives us a great deal of his personal time with hints and suggestions, walking us through the technical aspects of setting up and shooting as though we were picking fruit at a farmer's market, people like him make this adventure so much fun to pursue at leisure.

I'm off to Bandon, a town up the highway, home of my clinic and Bandon Dunes. If you google Bandon Dunes and Pacific Trails, you'll find that these are outstanding golf resorts, world class, designed like the original golf links in Scotland. They are worth every penny, I hear.

Perhaps, hubby and I will stop by and have lunch at the Dunes, and enjoy the same vistas as the players who have to dish out $300 or so to play one round. I'll do this research willingly. Besides, a good meal is worth its weight and calories in gold.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Education Post: Part two

"I can tell you; but then, I'd have to kill you!"
Do you know where this phrase comes from? If you do, you are a movie watcher; better, a movie worshipper, because, to have remembered this phrase, you watched The Princess Bride more than once.
My eldest son obsessed over this movie, memorizing every single character's lines. His daughter, can also recite the same, sharing a love for the same movie.
If your schooling felt like a movie you couldn't wait to see over and over again, if you rushed back every day because you loved your teacher, and adored your classmates; if your school work was displayed on the refrigerator; if your family spoke about the lessons you received with enthusiasm and appreciation for the work that your teacher did; if you had confidence in your abilities to handle everything that came your way; if you were that child, feeling love and concern all around you, from every adult around you, you were a happy child in happy circumstances, and your schooling and the passion it created in your family benefited your life.
In the next few weeks we'll explore the business of educating our youth. We'll also discuss what the Obama administration is doing to improve education, and how it translates at the local school level.
If you want to get ahead of the class, I recommend the New York Times editorial: " Ending the 'Race to the Bottom'", published on March 11th. Happy Reading. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while, know that I have worked with 5th graders and with the SMART program before the injury that I'm presently nursing.
I'm happy to report that the 5th graders sent their letters of congratulations to the President. I will share their letters in the next few posts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Governance is everybody's business.

Government is perceived by most of us as a big dinosaur that is too big to maneuver, too expensive to feed and to amorphous to understand and get our arms around.

Most of us feel competent enough that we don't need to be watched or evaluated. As adults, we think we can govern ourselves. "Thank you. Stay out of our way."
At times, we feel belittled and dwarfed by constant supervision, and mountains of rules. We do know plenty of people that ought to do a better job; and if the boss did his job, well, then, things would go so much better. But us, we, we are o.k if left alone. Only when there is a food contamination scare, or a strike from the teachers' unions, or a hurricane knocking down power, we feel that someone ought to be supervising more and protecting us more.

Ethnic and cultural differences may affect how we perceive our bosses, how we interact with them, how we carry on with our responsibilities. Add religious beliefs to the mix, or beliefs about classes of people, and the task of governing gets complex.

In the western world ,we live under democratic governments, where people have a right to be represented regardless of their economic or social class, and where laws govern our interactions. Hierarchies and communication links will insure that every one on the assembly line gets a voice. There are structures and laws to safeguard the health, welfare and civic rights of individuals.

Everything becomes null and void if people perceive their interests are not being met. Selfish motives will trump every other altruistic motive. Cheating, whining, stealing. all might occur even before the individual realizes why he's so angry. He may even form groups of like souls, and together work to disparage and undermine the very institution that feeds them and their families.

Right now, around the world, there are many people who feel like that. Unless we learn what makes good governance and work at maintaining and balancing interests, we will be tossing around in a small vessel, though the big vessel is moored right besides us.

My point is we need good governance. We need to work at improving its functions, streamline its tasks, and identifying continuous quality improvement.

Good governance begins with a desire to improve its functions on a continuous basis. Good governance is at the heart of Democracies.

The view from the top

Looking at a town from the top of a mountain gives us clearer outlines, a cleaner sense of the interaction among people, their jobs, their environment and their history.

Looking from a distance of 65+ years one can see areas that have become congested, neglected, and abused. One can also see beauty never seen before.

Descending back to our corners of the world, we know what needs to be done at fever-pitch immediacy. We see the waters surging and destroying levies, winds toppling trees and shattering structures. We have seen; and we can't remain silent.

We can join to clean roads, build bridges, shovel dirt, teach children, feed the hungry,
interdependence made obvious, the runoff from one farm into the other, the struggle of the fish to pass the damns and return to spawning sites.

On Mondays we will deal with Governance , from issues affecting this hamlet, to the status of the economy in Oregon.
On Tuesdays, we'll address educational issues and what the current administration hopes to accomplish.
On Wednesdays, our backyards, rivers, forests, ports and natural areas will be featured.
On Thursdays, communication ,media , status of knowledge gathering, status of newspapers and reporting of the news will be featured.
On Fridays, the arts, music, painting, photography, movies, and all other aspects of culture will be reported.

For the weekend, we'll shoot the breeze, try new recipes, learn a new language, garden, take a trip, share stories, throw a party, go shopping for hand-made goodies, or just do nothing.

This is quite ambitious work I plan to undertake. I will attempt this pace for one week, then evaluate the results. The areas that receive the most comments will probably survive and become regular features. Those that struggle might become victims of the marketplace.

Last week I dedicated some songs to my regular visitors. I hope some of you dropped by , and listened for your song. Let me know if you liked my choice for you. The trouble with giving gifts on line is, you never really know if people received them, or worse, if they liked them at all. I promise, I will not send you empty-handed...........................................................................................................
With such an agenda, visitors can drop in when they are interested in the topic.

As of today, the number of regular visitors exceed the number of students in a regular classroom, even college courses. It's hard to know you well if you don't raise your hands, ask questions and wave at me now and then. I tend to walk around, stop by your desk/blog and ask questions about your interests. We are all adults here; we know when we need to take breaks, drop out, or divulge more immediate and necessary information. Let's enjoy the journey.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A New Day... Over the Rainbow...Just one of those things...Swing low...Up a lazy river....Young Republicans... Reasons... I want to thank Karen from Border Town Notes for awarding me the Superior Scribbler Award. Now, I'm trying to download, import the actual award, so I can display it proudly. I will keep on trying for the rest of the day.

In the meantime, thank you all of you who stopped and commiserated with me regarding blogging rules. I appreciated your support. But, as one commentator stated so succinctly, if you say something worth while, people will stop.

I have nothing to add today. Your time is precious on a weekend. Get out, if you can, take in a movie. We, hubby and I will go grocery shopping. I'll sit in the car while he shuffles around the market with my list. My bursitis is getting better; but, I do not want to take a chance tiring myself out.

Have a good weekend. I'll return Monday with a list of topics for the week, including the Tuesday post on Educational issues. (Have you caught Charlie Rose's interview with Arne Duncan, our new Educational Secretary from Chicago School District?)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Rules

You know who you are, navigating up and down this street.

Rule one:
If you READ THIS POST, say hi, leave a comment.

Rule two:
If you sign up to follow, I need you to wave at me now and then. I'm sitting down; it's not polite to pass by without a wave now and then.

Rule three:
If you don't have a site, how can I drop in and visit you? I don't need silent stalkers. If you want to be a silent stalker, go follow someone your own age, your own interest.

Rule four:
If you signed up and don't interact within a week, I will drop you. This is not a Ponzi scheme, you know, the more people the better.

Rule five: I can sit pretty and do nothing for weeks, or disappear from this street. You have the right to drop me. This relationship has to be mutually supportive.


Intermission: End of Act I- Obama 's Educational Agenda

I will continue to pursue the topic of education in the next weeks. Since the topic is dense with layers of facts and interpretation, I will break the topic up into various aspects. In between these posts, we'll wander in other directions, observe other sights, integrate other interests.

Once a week, on the same day of the week, EDUCATION will return as the theme of the post.

Meanwhile, disclaimers :

-I hold the chairmanship of the local Board of Education. My opinions on this post are strictly personal, and in no way represent the position of the Port Orford/Langlois 2cj School district.

-The Board meets in open sessions with published agendas and invites the public to observe all of its deliberations, and participate in decision making. In addition, board policies are available on its website to be accessible at all times.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Van Gogh? or How I see this mess.

I'm standing here in the town where Van Gogh spent a lot of his time, to honor the famous painter that did not get much respect in his life time. I'm standing to honor the man and to ponder about our values, how we show what we value, and how we promote the same across generations. This week in the States, our President is talking about values too.

WE value our children and their education..

Yesterday, President Obama spoke about getting rid of poor teachers and reward the good ones. I couldn't agree with him more.

I have been a teacher and an administrator for decades, developing programs, hiring and training personnel, balancing all the services necessary to support education.

Three people in my immediate family are teachers, the day-to-day variety, young adults who spend their own cash so that the work they do is supported at the desk level, every desk, every classroom they are responsible for. Their time, even their leisure time, is all about providing activities and lessons that are creative, challenging and highly supportive. Their work goes beyond any slogan. When we meet, all we talk about is schooling. My husband, who has spent some time in the classroom, understands these obsessions, but still feels left out. Teachers do not have hobbies that do not relate to their job. Taking a vacation and providing support materials for their lesson are one and the same. We have a family obligation to support our children who are teachers.

All of their discretionary cash supports their classrooms.

President Obama is starting at the political end, not at the functional beginning. During his campaign, he spoke about pre-school education. That's a perfect beginning. A child is ready to absorb social skills, concepts and habits that will prepare him for the formal reading and writing lessons. At this point, the entire family can be engaged and trained. Even second language learners can get a leg up at this point. In many big cities in America, there could be more than one hundred different languages spoken in schools.

But President Obama started the conversation with a challenge to the unions. That was wrong. We are not adversaries. Yet, the position the President is taking will pit unions against administration and against the very government that is trying to support their efforts.

Unions need to deliver and promote quality practices, as in the case of Medical Associations, or Contractors Board. They need to police and maintain high standards of professionalism. Many times they are busy protecting staff that is marginal at best, staff not willing to become qualified, busy maintaining the status quo. We need to bring them in the conversation; we need to engage them in solving the problem. Our interests are the same.

Teacher quality will improve when the budget is prepared at each desk, each classroom, with specialized materials, distinctive tools as necessary for best practices to be successful. In a language class, a television is a basic tool, cd's and games and access to language manipulation devices, such as tape recorders and books on tape should not be extras for schools in wealthy districts; They should be available everywhere. We have never asked the teachers what they needed to do the best job. We have crowded classrooms, buildings that lack adequate heating and ventilation; textbooks that go back a few years, and not enough of them for children to have one text at home, and one at school to avoid carrying such heavy items in backpacks that are already burdened.

We are not even talking about paying for time to work together to assess, monitor and build specialized lessons. We are not talking about services that are so necessary as counseling, trama and social adjustment, as well as learning difficulties. We are not talking about paying teachers extra if they volunteer in hazardous neighborhoods. These needs are not even on my list yet.

I worked in Los Angeles. Not every school is in distressed areas; but many are. Teachers in these areas do not survive more than a couple of years. I have a son who has worked in one of these schools for fifteen years; and the fight to survive goes on.

Next time, I'll talk about the elements necessary to improve the big system.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What to do.

If we don't hurry, we'll miss out. Now is the time.


Let's just follow this crowd. They must know what they are doing.

Besides, doesn't shopping make us feel great?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Elusive Dreams

(Thank you David from Authorblog, for recognizing this post as Post of the Day.)

These are moments we have, when dreams can still be there,hidden behind brambles and dead branches. If we cleared things out with a pruning tool and looked clearly across the pond-the murky waters and the fog, the structure that is our life will shine through.

Getting old is one thing; it denotes movement, change. We still feel the power to take action.

Being old is an entire different thing; it is a state of decay; leaks and dampness and sheer neglect have thrived in dark corners; doubt and self-loathing have spread like water marks: their significance worse than their appearance.

We may not want to clear the brambles and the dead branches.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Parking lot notes

( The expression above refers to information shared after formal meetings, where people actually speak their mind openly, usually on their way home, in the parking lot. so, this is just an aside, really useful for my peace of mind.)

I injured my rotator cuff, and I am not able to do much writing, or thinking for that matter. It's amazing how often we take our appendiges for granted. WE actually need every one of our parts, to help other parts do their job. I couldn't even open the meds's bottle with one hand, or do other things. Try it, and let me know what you can accomplish. This posting, for instance, could not have been accomplished last weekend when the injury occurred. It had to wait for two days before I could get meds. (We live in an isolated village, no 24hrs pharmacies or clinics, the beauty of isolation has its dark side.)

I'm in fog. So, anything I say is suspect.

However, on the bright side:: no cooking, no dishes, no laundry, no picking up, not even driving. I watch television. Does that count?

Sorry, if I don't connect with the good folks out there.