Disclaimer: Some content is inappropriate for readers under 18 years of age or those offended by swear words, references to sexuality, atheism, and libertarianism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Evil of the Boob.



With today's knee-jerk reaction of disgust to all things related to breastfeeding, I could just imagine the uproar a sketch like this would cause in the 21st century. A person commented on the recent outrage inspired by a picture of a baby at a breast on the cover of Parenting magazine... I remember getting that issue in the mail and not even thinking about the implication of their daring to show a baby doing what a whole heck of a lot of babies have been doing for an awfully long time.

I totally respect the decision of those who choose NOT to do it, but some people needn't behave as though it's such a vile act. Okay, there's a a time and a place, I wouldn't do it in front of male friends or out in a public restaurant, but I believe that if I'm discreet and make sure not one inch of my fun bags is to be seen then I don't think I'm the one with the problem. What really creeps me out is why on earth people find it so disgusting, as though there's some sort of sexual implication or something. We're mammals. We lactate. Get over it.

Related to this, I don't quite know how to feel about this story regarding unethical promotion of formula in less developed countries. Is someone MAKING these people buy formula and stop breastfeeding or is there another reason besides effective marketing that the poverty stricken populations of those countries are turning to formula over breast milk? I'm not sure I've got the full gist of this...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Historical Quotes, So To Speak...

As the kids got to watch the inauguration proceedings projected up on our big, fantastic SMART Board, the history teacher announced to the class that it will be Lincoln's 200th birthday this year and that President Obama was sworn in on Lincoln's Bible, leaving them to ponder the enormity of that symbolism and the passage of time through vastly different ages in American history... Instead, we got this gem:

"Man, he 200 years old? He old. He still alive, right?"

I made fleeting eye contact with the history teacher, long enough for us both to recognize the sad horror in each other's souls.

Things lightened up, though, once he started talking about the "huge balls" each president had thrown about town and some of the kids snickered a bit. Apparently, "President Clinton had really expensive balls and more than most". In the name of frugality, "some presidents chose not to have any balls". To my colleague's credit, he did not hesitate once, nor give the look of regret I expected him to have. He's my rock. He continued to say "balls" with determined decorum throughout the quiet giggling where I would have yielded to a synonym and draw more attention to my recognizing the whole situation which would probably have distracted them further. Good for him.

After You... I'll Take the Next One.

I really wouldn't be surprised if this were true: Brits were so polite that more of them died on Titanic because they formed orderly lines or even stood back to let others into the lifeboats first. It sounds vaguely like a lost Monty Python sketch.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Does an "A" Really Mean?

Students' grades at my school are as complex as the kids are. The factors that contribute to the letter that is printed on the final report card number more than the instances I've made fun of the acting in pornos. We take into account the following factors:

  1. If the student is identified as having a disability, modifications and accommodations influence the final grade. Some assignments are shortened, some cut out completely, some made simpler etc.


  2. If the student is not yet identified as having a disability but we all see it and have to wait a whole year for our psychologist to get him formally identified and we know it'd be unfair to not give him the accommodations and modifications in the meantime.


  3. Full acceptance of late work, no matter how late if the students are in the lower level classes means grades are constantly tweaked and hardly ever carved in stone.


  4. If the student experienced some form of emotional trauma, incarceration, or extended medical condition which meant that a lot of school time was about productive as Dr Pepper in a car engine, then there's room for a grade change to possibly occur down the road.


  5. If the student made a huge effort, had good attendance, but doesn't qualify as a student with special needs, then there's a chance this will also influence his grade.


  6. Extra credit opportunities out the wazoo.


So... Say a kid takes advantage of half or more of the perks I've listed above... And say that kid gets an "A" in his classes because of those perks... And let's say another kid does not need to take advantage of ANY of them and also gains an "A"... Should a distinction be made? If so, how? If not, what are we saying about the kid who always handed in assignments on time compared to the kid who doesn't have a disability but handed everything in late and still earned the same grade? What life lesson are we teaching?

And what of the kids with special needs? What about the kid who is "included" in the college preparatory math class (as per his parents' demands and for no other reason, because he certainly doesn't qualify). So he sits in the corner and is learning to count to eight while the rest of the kids are doing algebra? So he meets his Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goal of learning to count to eight and so earns an "A" on his report card, and he's entitled to some recognition for meeting his goal, but it doesn't say on his report card that his "A" was for counting to eight as compared to his classmate who earned an "A" for correctly solving for variables in polynomials. Now with this kid, it's obvious he's handicapped just by looking at the poor chap, so he's not going to steal the other kid's place in Harvard or anything, but there are other examples that worry me more...

No one aspires to be a factory employee or fast food server, but some students REALLY have unhealthily ambitious dreams. More than once, my smart-mouthed kids think they have what it takes to be a lawyer because they assume the only job requirement is being able to argue and... Well.. Be a smart ass. You hope they'll eventually figure out that law school might not be the best option for them, but then you have a situation like this: A mentally retarded student who works her ass off and does all her work is bumped up to college preparatory freshman classes, not because she's truly capable, but because she can read at the 6th grade level. Our lower level classes are so overcrowded that our criteria has... Ahem... Dropped some. So I'm obliged to help her by modifying, accommodating until it's possible for her to pass her college prep. classes. So now she and her family think she's capable of going to college- which she might actually be- given some of the people I saw when I was in college, but definitely not law school... But she has no other dream. She's going to be a lawyer.

And then there's another situation that's very similar, but in this kid's case, his mother shares his belief that he's going to major in art in college. He's even less likely to succeed in college than my other girl and, frankly, his paintings and drawings are godawful. But hey, he's got an "A" in art class so that means he's good, right? Wrong. It means he met the bare minimum requirement of simply attempting each assignment, often at the pressure of both me and his art teacher because he was late with almost every single one. What does his "A" really mean?

As a special education teacher, I totally get that we should test these kids according to their level of ability and challenge them with reasonably higher expectations, but then shouldn't that be stated alongside their grade too? It's not like employers actually look at high school transcripts so we wouldn't be branding them against future employment... I just think a kid in a 9th grade English class who reads and writes on the 3rd grade level (at best) should only be able to earn an "A" if it's made clear that the criteria for her is VASTLY different from that of her peers.

There are kids who are graduating high school who can't read any higher than the 3rd grade level and don't even have identified special needs. What on Earth does graduation from a high school mean anymore? And ask for the kids who are identified as having special needs, we've done such a good job of boosting their self-confidence that the whole lot of them are going to be rap stars, basketball stars, lawyers, and future presidents and so don't always see the value of the fantastic programs on offer at the local career and technical education schools which don't just churn out minimum wage jobs, but some really great opportunities for those who may not be successful in college but want to learn a specialized profession.

I really don’t have an answer to this problem and will continue to dwell on this for as long as I’m a teacher and beyond. I think that if we support "our" kids through their triumphs and disappointments and help them find her way eventually, they’ll be fine, but if we were to harbor and push for unrealistic expectations as some of their parents do, that would be far more harmful. Don't get me wrong, I hate to sound like a dream-crushing bitch and there's nothing wrong with having dreams... Kids can and always do dream for the stars, you just have to be there for the times they fall to the ground and with the way we send these kids over the finish line known as graduation, it's rather like chucking them off the side of a cliff with no parachute. They leave us with shitty reading skills, great confidence, unrealistic aspirations with no basis on actual talent, and the belief that life actually offers a maternal lending hand constantly regardless of their level of effort , retakes, acceptance of subpar quality work that's LATE, and second, third, fourth, billionth chances to get the job done. What a sad disservice it is.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm as Bad as the Kids.

In science class today, the teacher was lecturing on safety procedures as they're about to start doing labs in class. One of my students (The Black Goth Kid) is prone to making outrageous remarks or questions just to get attention (ie. "Can we blow things up?", "Can we cut open dead bodies?") throughout the poor teacher's lectures, and today was no different. He asked if he could stick a pipette in his mouth, or something stupid like that, to which the science teacher responded:

"I should hope none of you guys stick my equipment in your mouths"

His facial expression then went through that well-known sequence known to all teachers... First, confidence with the innocent intention behind the start of the sentence, then startled hesitation, then determination to continue with the sentence because you've already got 95% of it out of your mouth and if you stop now you'll make your double-entendre even more obvious, then the reluctant smile as you realize, hey, it's kinda funny. It just so happened that, in my boredom, I was daydreaming about that very behavior (with my husband) and so was doubly startled at the sudden irrational fear that my thoughts had been found out, and so I struggled to hold back one of those snorting laughs that happens at the back of your nose and throat but failed to silence it completely. The teacher and I made that fatal eye contact and he tried to turn his laugh into a cough and I tried to look really intently and seriously at the paperwork in front of me and strangle the laugh out of me as silently as possible.

What really confused me was that NOT ONE KID LAUGHED. My guess is they were all asleep, because otherwise they would have leaped on that one like wolves on a three-legged rabbit.

I really need to work on the maturity thing, because one day I'll shout out "That's what he said!" at a job interview or funeral or something and have to migrate to yet another country to avoid yet more embarrassment. Hey, why do you think I moved to the States in the first place?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This Post Isn't Very Kosher or Halal. Sorry.

This post is dedicated to PHSChemguy, Calen, and Chris and any other great lovers of the missing food group known as "Bacon".
BEHOLD! Bacon air freshener! Trying to cover up the funk left behind by a forgotten lunch stuffed under your car seat?
Bacon mints! Make sure to pop one of these in your pie hole before every job interview, evaluation, and date! (Except if any of the people involved are practicing Jews or Muslims.... Otherwise you may start something that won't end without a slap, a lawsuit, or an attempted conversion coming down on you.)
Bacon flavored toothpicks! It's better than picking up used ones of the floor of a BBQ restaurant!

...And the ever popular: bacon flavored waxed floss! Very handy when trying to wrestle that stubborn piece of bacon out from between your teeth without sacrificing its taste!


There are more, but I'll leave you to explore their products yourself. The site is Accoutrements (or click here directly for their bacon/meat section) and as far as I can see, they only sell wholesale. So, party favors/next year's stocking fillers for everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baby Due Date.

My midwife said that the sonogram I did a little while ago determined that they were off with my due date... They now say I'm due 11 days later than they had initially predicted. Meh. No biggie. As uncomfortable as this pregnancy is, I'm sure it'll be worth it if this kid is half as amazing as the last one we produced. Otherwise I'm going to have to go all Dickensian on her ass and shove her up chimneys for a living to compensate.

I'm beginning to feel good about how much I praise my daughter and how my positive attitude is rubbing off on her. On a daily basis, she tells me what a great job I'm doing when I correctly identify all my farm animals, eat my food, and wipe my bottom then wash my hands after using the facilities. It's funny how little shame you've got left after producing offspring because I don't even bat an eyelid when she loudly asks me if I plan on "pooping" when we're in a public toilet and a gaggle of women overhear her. I just politely thank her when she offers to get me a sticker for "using the potty like a big girl".

History Teachers.


It seems, this year, that my favorite overheard comments originate in history class. On the one hand, I'm always excited when students ask questions or try to get clarification without fear of being laughed at because it's important to eliminate misunderstandings, but on the other hand I have to restrain myself from yelling "What the fuck...? That's hilarious! You really think that way?" and laughing in their faces. Being an effective and dedicated advocate of my students learning AND self-esteem, I don't do that. Out loud.

Example from today:
Female student: Did Roosevelt kill Hoover?
History Teacher: Uh. No.
Female student: Oh. Cuz it said Hoover was easily defeated by Roosevelt.

For me, the exchange conjured up images of Depression era puffy white men in a Star Trek-esque battle, complete with unconvincing rocky terrain that looks suspiciously like badly painted styrofoam, ripped shirts, and that signature battle music in the background. I know these kids are fairly well isolated in their own little bubbles of existence, seeing no further than the end of the day or their own street, but I was stumped by this one:

Male student: Mr. History teacher? Do farmers still help us today? I mean... Do we still get things from farmers?

Honestly. I know a lot of our foods are so highly processed it's hard to imagine any genuine plant or animal matter went into their production, but seriously... Out of morbid curiosity, I really should have asked him where the heck he thought his food came from, just to get a taste of the inner-workings of a frighteningly limited perception of the world. But then maybe that would be like gazing into a stupid-ass alien crystal skull and losing my mind in the process.

To momentarily divert my course with that train of thought, going from one history teacher to another sexier one who owns a whip... Trey Parker was right. My ass is still sore after that one. Oh Indy. What have they done to you? Surviving a nuclear explosion in a fridge? Your son magically gaining the ability to swing through the trees fast enough to head off a ground vehicle? How tragic, to have fallen so far... I still love you, Indy, baby. Had I been one of your students, I'd have written on my eyelids for you too. Sigh. There were only ever three Star Wars films and only ever three Indiana Jones movies. Even the one with Short Round.

Okay, end of history lesson.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Slacker!


My husband and I enjoy quite a bit of technology in our house. Sure, our Roomba needs repair, but our DVR still keeps all our favorite shows on tap for the rare moments we should have to catch up on one of them, our MP3 players are constantly updated with the latest podcasts in addition to our stock pile of favorite music and comedy tracks, our door is fitted with a number pad to save the trouble of digging out our keys, to name a few of our favorites... But a new one my man recently bought us is the Slacker Personal Radio. He found a great deal for the G1 model through Woot, so he bought us one each.
You hook it up to your computer (usb), identify what genres of music you enjoy through their website, then wirelessly you download hours of music for each genre to listen to at your leisure. You don't actually need the portable device to enjoy the service of hearing music for free, but it acts as a sort of MP3 player for travel. It refreshes and downloads new bunches of songs periodically and when you're in a wireless hotspot. We don't want to pay for the premium service, but the penalty is minor... You can only skip songs six times per station (genre) per hour and you may hear a brief commercial which you wouldn't with the premium service. I've yet to hear one. A cool feature I don't get to enjoy much as I use my Slacker while driving is that you can click to get background information on the artist and album. You can also press a button to indicate which songs you enjoy so that the program can better select music to suit your tastes. You can even indicate you never want to hear certain songs ever again.

What's strange is that this inspires the same sense of bitter-sweetness I feel in a bookshop or library. I'm exhilarated at the thought of all the works I've yet to experience, then feel melancholy at the knowledge that I'll never get to experience enough of them to satisfy me. So many artists, so little time. Anyway, we both think it'll be a healthy opportunity for us to be exposed to new music we may grow to love. We're just hoping the company doesn't go under any time soon, taking this great chance to expand our horizons away with it.

Phew.

Sorry, chaps. I won’t be posting much for a while due to my taking two college classes on top of my full time job, having an uncomfortable pregnancy, family life, and trying to squeeze in some mandatory “reading for pleasure” time too.

I have to very briefly comment on the awful situation going on in the Gaza Strip. There’s nothing I could say that hasn’t already been said by someone far more erudite and knowledgeable than me, and I certainly don’t have any new insight or solution to offer, so instead I’ll offer my deepest sympathies to anyone, on either side, who has lost a loved one and I’ll offer my pity, regret, and shame to those on either side who caused those deaths. Naively, I had hoped that the region could follow Ireland’s lead in laying down arms when no one thought they would in our lifetime, but we’re looking at two entirely different creatures. The rest of the world wasn’t so invested in either side in Ireland, nor were there manipulative external pressures, egging on the continued combat in Ireland using it as a stage for their vicarious conflict with the supporter of the other side. But anyway…

Now that I've explained my absence, on with the show...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Talent!



First listen to the sexy voice of the bunny from this old British Cadbury's advert I remember from my childhood... Then take a look at who the voice talent is and prepare to be surprised! That woman has the most impressive range of accents and voices.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Shining: A Romantic Comedy?



I have seen different versions of commercials and editing really does make all the difference in the world. Obviously, this one is in jest and you may have already seen it before, but I've seen some for real movies that hugely impact my interest in even trying to see the movie at all.