Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Love this

Consider two scenarios:

If you live a sedentary life, gorge yourself on high-fat foods, and puff two packs every day; your doctor will likely lecture you about your lifestyle and assign you some homework – diet, exercise, and no more tobacco. If you ignore the lecture and neglect your homework, next time you visit your doctor chances are you won’t score well on tests of blood pressure, body fat index, or lung capacity.

No halfway intelligent person, giving the situation a moment of thought, would blame your doctor for your ill health. Your doctor merely has the skills, means, and job to make your ill health visible.

Now consider a 16 year-old kid from an inner city where crime is a given, fathers are an endangered species, and cocaine is a food group. Born into poverty, this kid never saw a book until first grade. His elementary school years were marred by spotty attendance because of chronic illness – lung infections from the mold and rodent excrement in his housing project. When he did attend he struggled to concentrate, having had no breakfast and often no dinner the night before. Now he skips school more often than not, and when he does attend it's only to peddle drugs for his gang, or get high himself; like he did the day of the standardized test. Having missed most instruction and being too lit to read the test, he failed.

The teacher didn’t create the poverty this kid was born into, nor run off the kid’s father, nor encourage the kid to join a gang or use drugs. The teacher didn’t chase the kid away from school four days a week. It took 16 years of neglect and misfortune to create the mess who walked into that teacher's classroom. Out of 16 years, the teacher's cumulative influence totaled maybe 24 hours.

What halfway intelligent person, giving the situation a moment of thought, would blame the teacher for that kid's test score?

Apparently quite a few, since people nationwide cling to the notion that thousands of teachers – all college educated, licensed, and having years of experience – suddenly need to be fired. Count U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan among the “fire the teachers” zealots. When a Rhode Island school board fired the entire staff of Central Falls High School, Duncan praised the move. “Education officials are showing courage and doing the right thing for kids” Duncan said. Others might say that school board showed political posturing; rallying their anti-teacher support base for the next election.

Placing blame for the achievement gap on social conditions, rather than on teachers, is a slap in the face of political correctness. The mere suggestion that factors outside the school setting influence achievement only brings more blaming, shaming, and even name-calling from anti-teacher factions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Payton's Half Birthday

Poor Payton's parents didn't plan out her birthday very well.  (Uh... planning pregnancies just isn't our thing.)  Her birthday is January 5th.  This is usually the day we go back to school after winter break.  Everyone is tired, fat, tired, and with the onset of school...tired.  (did I already mention that one?)   We have done it once before and it worked out so we decided to again throw Payton a half-birthday party rather than one actually ON her birthday.  For the past year Payton has been telling me wants  a Minnie Mouse party.  This was just fine with me since I had this Disney cartridge for my cricut and was dying to use it on something.  So we invited our friends, got ready to go and had a Minnie Birthday!  It was all very cute.  I made the kids their mousekatool box that they would need throughout the party.  Inside were the 'tools' they would need.  For example: there were coloring books set out on the table.  But uh oh!  There were no crayons!  What do we do?  Oh toodles???  Inside our Mousekatools?  CRAYONS!   Or, when we went to eat.... there were no cups! What do we do!?  Oh Toodles??? (You get the idea)  I made the ears and pretty much everything else you saw.  WE served the kids hot-diggity-dogs and had an Ice Cream Sunday Bar. They jumped on our bouncy slide and played balloon games and best of all... I didn't have to paint a giant princess castle made out of boxes or hang up a circus tent in my living room or cover the walls of my foyer so the kids could finger paint Curious George style.   We had a blast!

 Couldn't help but post a picture of my little man! Thank you Stephanie for bearing him for me!


Swim Team.  This has been the longest season of my life.  Well, that may be exaggerating a bit, but that's what it feels like.  Practice EVERY morning and meets on Thursdays.  It's exhausting!  To start off, Payton made her way on to the swim team this year and completely skipped the bubbles and went straight on to the team.  She was swimming the length of the pool unassisted from June on.  She came in last most weeks, but as one mom from an opposing team snidely remarked to me when she failed to decrease her time in an event, "She's ONLY four!"  Ok Ok I got it lady!  She did great though!  I was so proud of her all season!  Emma was also still in the 6 and under age group this year.  Being that she is 6, she should have done very well and she did!  She wasn't the best on her team but she improved her times each week and did great.  There is one particular girl on our team who is a phenomenal swimmer.  Fiona. 
She really is great and her and Emma are the same age so they are constantly swimming the same events.  At the second swim meet after swimming against each other all night and Fiona winning they were both slated to swim the Butterfly.  This is an even that doesn't occur until about 9:30 so Emma was EXHAUSTED!  Neither girl had a time for this event so they both had to swim in Heat 1 and happened to be the only swimmers in the pool.  I wasn't expecting much as I had never seen Emma swim fly successfully but she thoroughly surprised me and and did GREAT! She stuck with Fiona the whole time and only lost by less than 2 seconds!  She ended up coming in 3rd in the entire race which is great especially since it is an 8 and under event!  However when she got out of the water the poor girl just started crying.  It was partially due to being overly tired, but her tears stemmed from defeat.  "I always lose to Fiona!"  I felt bad for my little girl and struggled between wanting to push Fiona in the pool make everything better yet also wanting her to learn that she isn't always going to win and sometimes it just stinks.  Throughout the summer I have tried to stress that swimming is in some cases an individual sport where you try to beat your own times and not worry so much about everyone else.  I also told her that Fiona was a great swimmer who really worked hard and she should challenge herself to work that hard and maybe one day she could win.  That doesn't mean much when you aren't getting blue ribbons though.  Fast forward to the last week of swim team.  After swimming at a friends house and seeing that indeed Emma could be competitive if she wished to be, I challenged her before she swam back stroke to really want to beat the person next to her.  She was swimming in lane 6 and if you know anything about swim team lane 6 is not where the winner of the race normally swims.  (Hint: it's Payton's signature lane!) However, tonight was different.  Fiona was in lane 4 and when the race started Emma came out strong.  Halfway through Eric and I realized she had a chance and when the race was over we were looking at our FIRST 1st Place Win!  Emma ran over to us and the only thing she could say was, "I beat Fiona!" and then in a softer wisper, "but I didn't tell her that."  She was so happy and it really was a great way to end the season.  Unfortunately it didn't end there.  The 7-8s on our team really aren't that great.  There aren't many of them and they couldn't do all the strokes well (hence Emma's 3rd place win in fly).  Due to this our Medley Relay (an 8 and under event) was made up of all 6-yr-olds.  
This being the case Emma was asked to go to the county meet simply to race in the medley relay.  Mind you they swim against a bunch of kids 2 years older than them so we weren't expecting much.
This past Sunday we traveled down to Georgia Tech, which really bothered Emma.  She wasn't happy about all the yellow and blue.  She was mad at her coached for picking such a place for this meet.  (I tried to explain it wasn't their fault).  Hers was the third event and despite a very late start for Emma her team placed 2nd in their Heat of 5.  So I guess that means they didn't come in last!  Pretty respectable if you ask me!
We really did have a great season.  We all learned a few things and most importantly we had a lot of fun!