Friday, June 26, 2009

In the Middle of...overwhelming Deja Vu

Many of you know that my own #2 (our affectionate name for Matilda prior to her birth), Dani, has recently returned from 10 months in New Zealand. She referred to her trip home as time travel since she traveled over 30 hours and arrived here a mere 6 hours after her departure time. Not being a math person, this completely confuses me! She came home changed in many ways, not the least of which is her engagement to Nelson. We are all so excited and a little wary. Given Danielle and Nelson's enthusiasm for protecting the earth will we be wearing and eating things that should be part of the next "Survivor" series? Never mind, wherever and whatever, we'll be there!!!

Well, Dani's return was the start of "Camp Dani 2009" for Annie and Matilda who have travelled through several states, spent hours and hours in the car and slept in a variety of cribs in order to visit the friends and relatives that have been missing their Aunt Dani. God bless Joe and his infinite patience.

Meanwhile, school has ended for me and I have embarked on one of my many summer projects. My goal is to scan and save all of the family photos. Seeing Annie and Tilda just before their summer birthdays made me choose 1982 as the 1st album to attack. That was the year Dani was born and Kristen was Annie's age, hence the Deja Vu. I began at 10 AM and finished around 3PM. Whoa...I'm going to need a longer summer!
Here is a little taste of Past meets Present:Kristen and Danielle 1982

Danielle with nieces Annabelle and Matilda 2009

If you love these, and just must have more, you can see all 107 at


Sunday, June 21, 2009


The Path of a Boy (should be read "Man")

From diapers and bottles
Baby powder wars
Naked swings
And throwing rocks in the creek
(for hours and hours)

Around block parties and lemonade stands
Rain boots in the gutters
And horseshoes at the pool
Colanders that became helmets
(if you wear them on your head)

Past “Star Wars” and “007”
Super soaker wars
Cell phones
And ever changing video game systems
(no mom it’s not a violent game)

Through man hunt in the woods
Your first kiss
And the heartbreak that followed
Show me how to tie my tie
(I need your help even when I pretend not to!)

Into practice sessions
Guitar and Retro men
And music tours and marathons
Axis and Allies
(Will the World ever be the same?)

The paths that have conspired
To draw you away
And into yourself
Away from family and friends
(But always bringing you back again!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In the Middle of...Questioning the effectiveness

We often complain in our school that the students are the way they are because of the lack of parenting in our district. Many parents seem to be more comfortable assuming the role of friend and equal to their children, allowing the school to take on the task of teaching manners, morals and more. Schools serve to educate beyond the academic and the definition of what they must address is ever changing; this I accept.

Facing the threats of air raids during WWII, teachers instructed students in the art of staying safe (did anyone really believe a wooden desk would stand up under a dropped bomb?) When the dangers of tobacco became evident, smoking and cancer became a part of the health curriculum and the "smoking court" at my high school was officially shut down. Sexually transmitted diseases and Aids led to instruction in safer sex practices ( abstinence the "wooden desk" of our generation?)

So my colleagues and I willingly accept that we may be the only hope many of our students have of learning simple human decency. Saying,"Please, Thank you, excuse me, and I'm sorry" have become part of their formal education because it is not expected or required by those outside our walls.

However, we are increasingly guilty of the very sins we accuse the parents of. Guidelines, rules and repercussions are established and then inconsistently enforced. Students are learning that they are not held accountable for their behavior. Skinner proved long ago that inconsistent reinforcement led to the greatest repetition of a target behavior, why don't we know better. Pick rules that are important and reinforce them consistently.

Take something simple, like gum chewing for instance. We have a rule, I'm not sure I agree with the necessity of said rule, but it is a rule. However, at any given time probably 2/3 of the students can be observed chomping, chewing and blowing bubbles as they walk through the halls. This may not seem important to you, unless you are the one who happens to step in the wad discarded on the floor, but the message is clear; the rules are not important, so why follow them?

A more serious example? One student, who has been in "in school suspension" more than any other 8th grader in recorded history, actually missed his 1st period class for 2 months (yeah, my class!) and has failed every core subject this year, will be joining us on the end of the year picnic and moving on to the high school!! This after he was given several "just 1 more chance" warnings. Again, the message is the same, follow the rules if you want because no one really cares. Where is the line that can not be crossed? When is one held accountable for the choices they make?

If we are in the business of preparing kids to be responsible, committed and compassionate members of society, I'm worried.