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, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Neutralizing Arguments

I enjoy learning about my profession. I've learned to put a name to a technique that's pretty handy to use with kids who have learned to get their way through manipulation, pleading, and arguing. According to Bob Sornson, it's called neutralizing arguments and the basic premise is to respond to the student's arguing with an empathetic phrase and then repeat the direction, request, rule each time the student continues to whine/complain/waste valuable oxygen. Here's a sample discussion I had the pleasure of having today. It takes place after the student came to me late AGAIN with yet another excuse why, complaining that her stomach ached, had nothing with her in terms of books/papers/work, said it was in three different places, took her sweeet time to go to each to get her stuff, then returned to me continuing to whine that her stomach hurts, that she's thirsty:

TeacherLady: Okay, you've got that math homework to do, get started on that please.
The Mouth: My stomach hurts. I already did this! No I didn't. I hate that man. Can I go get a drink of water?
TeacherLady: No, I'm sorry, but you've got to get that math work done.
The Mouth: My mouth is so dry. I can't work with my mouth dry like this. The more I talk the drier it gets... Can I go drink some water, pleeeeease?
TeacherLady: No, I'm sorry you're thirsty, but you've got to get that math work done.
The Mouth: So dry. I just want some water. Then I'll get my math done.

(I've noticed an alarming pattern of kids and teens trying to bargain this way. They always want to get the reward first, then do the work for it... Maybe... Is it the generation of credit?)

TeacherLady: No, I'm sorry you're feeling that way, but you've got to get that math work done.
The Mouth: When did you get that picture?
The Mouth: Who made that?
The Mouth: This is SO BORING. My mouth is so dry...

I sat in silence, marvelling at the sheer will of young people and at her vocal abilities until she finally stopped talking. And worked. It was beautiful. Until...

The Mouth: Can I go drink some water?

The problem is that I've seen her interact with her family, and her mother makes the easy mistake of getting sucked into the argument instead of simply drawing a line and ending the conversation. If any adult in her life falls into that trap, it reinforces that kind of behavior in her. It fuels her. I watched her light up when her mother made the mistake of trying to reason with her. It gave her fodder to pick at, question, examine for holes... It made her mother angry, which in turn upset the girl, despite her excitement at being able to stir things up.

Which brings me to the following video which my colleague shared with me today. There are times when matters are open for discussion, and there are times when the kid is just trying to be a smart ass... This is one of the latter:

Falling Through the Cracks

There’s a frustrating situation that arises once in a while in a school. Special interest is taken in a child who appears consistently unbathed or with mysterious marks on their arms, or he may only come to school once a week or so... So steps are taken to investigate. “Home” is sometimes determined to be a single motel room where the mother inevitably has a less than stellar boyfriend saying with them. Then if the authorities are involved, there’s the threat of the parent being sent to jail and the parent views the school as a meddling entity since none of the kid’s issues would have been brought to light had it not been for us. So we fight the good fight, making calls, writing letters, asking questions, lending a shoulder, and then you get the notice: “Withdrawn”.

The student you fought for, worried about long after the working day is over, endured all sorts of added complications you really could have done without, but went through anyway, has been pulled out of your school by the parent. Chances are good that if the kid is put back into any school at all, the same thing will happen all over again. You know it will, because when you looked into the kid’s file you saw three different schools in the space of two years. Once they’re withdrawn, there’s really nothing that can be done but cast a thought in their direction once in a while, wonder what they’re doing now, and wonder what kind of life their own kids will have. There are some cycles that are near impossible to break, and I admire those who can when this is the only type of childhood they’ve ever known.

To the student whose mother chose her violent ex-con of a boyfriend over her own abused daughters and told the school she wished we would just take her daughter off her hands and that she wished she had never been born, I’m sorry we couldn’t do more. To the student who barely came to school, then didn’t come at all, then got withdrawn to avoid having the mother sent to jail, I’m sorry we didn’t even have you half of the time your last two schools had you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TeacherLady on Facebook

I've started a Facebook account under my TeacherLady nickname (I went with "TeacherLady Rantings") so I can keep in touch with my blogosphere friends that way... Feel free to add me to your friend list on Facebook. It'll help me maintain the illusion of an exciting dichotymous life.

Thank you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Clash of the Titans

Trailer for the remake. I can't help but say "oooh" then laugh at the cheesy Hollywood "TITANS. WILL. CLASH" words flying at you. I love me some Greek mythology, though.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things You Never Knew About Hitler and Other Stories.

I often hear the kids share their knowledge of Hitler's Jewish lineage, but this year I heard a new one in a quiet conversation between two students:

Student A: Did you know... Hitler was gay?
Student B: Yep.

What made that funny for me was the tone of the second student, as though that was common knowledge and the first guy was a moron for even uttering it. I think I'll add my own rumor to spice things up and tell them all he was, in fact, a chihuahua and the father of Scientology too.

Also, in discussing the first president of Hawaii following the fall of their monarchy, the history teacher tried to tap into their existing background knowledge they never they knew they had about president Dole.

History teacher: You know the fruit with the stickers that say "Dole"..?
Student: Oh wow... So Dole's the sticker company?
History teacher: Er no. They sell fruit.

Based on some of my less favorable experiences with doctors who succeed in missing the obvious, I think he's got a fine future ahead of him in the field of medicine.

Psyched for Psychoville!

Yes, OH YES! A second series/season AND a TV special have been green-lit by the BBC for one of my favorite TV shows, Psychoville. It's enough to make me want to grab a washed up, one-handed, bitter children's entertainer and kiss his painted, nicotine-stained lips! Is it a newfound interest in clown porn or is it just Reece Shearsmith? I'll do some research and get back to you on that one.

Oh I can't wait to see how many hits my blog will get from poor buggers doing Google searches for "clown porn"...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Four Letter Word

I will forever regret the fact that I will most likely never get to sit and enjoy a pint and hours and hours of conversation with Billy Connolly. He is so genuine. The above sequence begins with a song he wrote entitled "Four Letter Word". I posted this in response to BothEyesShut's post on swearie words. He tells so many charming little anecdotes from his life growing up in Scotland. Be prepared, he's Glaswegian, so he makes more sense if you knock back a few pints first.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


How many ways can you wear a little black dress? Sheena Matheiken is shooting for 365 as part of a combined statement in fashion, sustainability, and fun in the name of charity. Check out her page at The Uniform Project. Some accessories are donated but her goal is to get donations to fund the education of poverty stricken children in India. It also reminds me that there's absolutely no point to my having a wardrobe full of stuff I hardly ever wear yet insist in holding on to for year and years and years.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dear God, Sorry to Disturb you, But...

I finally made use of the massage gift card my husband got me for my last birthday and ended up having quite the philosophical discussion. While I normally prefer to remain absolutely silent and have whoever’s handling me do the same, we ended up chatting almost the entire time. He was the first male massage therapist I’d ever been to, but fully expected him to be gay, giving me nothing to worry about. Indeed, he was, so I didn’t have to tense up at the thought of his accidentally brushing my boob or other lady bits. We discussed politics, intolerance of homosexuals, cultural differences, great wines, and atheism.

I was so tempted to ask why most homosexuals vote for Democrats over Libertarians who actually have the balls to back gay marriage, but I didn’t. They probably don’t vote for them for the same reason I don’t, at least in the presidential race. I’m too chicken to back what I perceive to be the losing horse, so I just resort to the lesser of two evils.

While he felt claustrophobic being forced to be in the closet in certain circles, he had it two-fold in the fact that he felt unable to be open about his atheism too. I felt strange actually recognizing that I felt in the closet too.

Back home, it was unheard of for anyone to be a “non-believer”. As a wee one, my “friends” would rat me out to our Islam teacher like the little SS informant wannabes that they were. I had to lie to keep from being told I was going to hell, my family was going to hell, and my best friend who was Christian, and my little dog too. I decided that if there was a hell, I’d rather go there with people who I loved and who loved me and loved life and a freaking sense of humor than be trapped for all eternity with a bunch of hypocritical “holier-than-thou” wieners who felt it more important to follow ancient dogma and spread fear, mistrust, and bitterness under the guise of keeping the best interests of other’s immortal souls at heart when they really just love any excuse to exclude people, judge people, and look down at them. At least if they practiced religion in a loving, productive way I wouldn’t have developed such distaste for organized religions. I recognize that not all believers act the way they did, but my early experiences with religion were all pretty much like that. Witch hunt after witch hunt. Who can we accuse next? To those who practice a religion with love, charity, and joy, thank you. To those who are troubled by my lack of faith but who don't believe I should die a horrible death, thank you.

When I moved to America, I foolishly thought that separation of church and state actually existed and I’d be free to follow my own lack of religion to my heart’s content. I was proven wrong when I tried to buy white wine for a recipe one Sunday morning. I felt like asking if I really had to be held to someone else’s religious beliefs, but I could tell it wasn’t the cashier’s fault and that she was powerless to help me out. I happened to go to a private college for my undergrad, so it was a small Catholic establishment. I’m in their house, so I have no problem having Jesus peer mournfully down at me from every office and classroom, but I could see the perception they had of the rest of the world and it was limited to say the least.

I soon learned it wasn’t altogether acceptable to mention one’s lack of religion or belief in a God in my little corner of the United States. I couldn’t even get away with honestly admitting that I’d be willing to believe in a God if there was unquestionable proof because that wasn’t good enough and it would inevitably lead into the whole “faith is built on not having proof” thing and which drives me nuts.

I don’t try to convert people to my beliefs, and I appreciate it when they afford me the same respect, but what they always struggle to keep to themselves is the complete inability to grasp how I might have any understanding of what is “right” or “wrong”. That I could have an internal moral compass as opposed to needing someone or something else to function as an external one seems to completely confuse many of them.

So this is my coming out of the closet: I don’t believe in religious dogma. I don’t believe in the existence of a God or gods. I don’t believe in the devil. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I believe people are imperfect and it’s a great goal to strive for perfection, but my vision of perfection and yours might be very different. I’m okay with that as long as no one gets hurt. If your vision of perfection involves harming others in the name of your religion, that’s not a difference of opinion, you’re just an asshole.

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Thank you.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Perfect Day

This just totally chilled out my squirmy six month old... And then is ended... Drat.

Tim Burton's Superman

I love Tim Burton. However, there are times when I recognize that he may quite possibly be on some sort of MAJOR hallucinogenics. What, in the name of Krypton, was he thinking when he came up with this concept for Superman? Granted, the movie that did come out was pretty mediocre at best, but Nicholas Cage? I like him too, despite that horrendous inability to accept his natural hair loss, but... In THAT costume? Holy Kal-El. Seeing Mr. Cage's expression in this video convinced me that they must have been sharing the same bong/crack pipe/whatever.

Sorry, I know this is old, but this is the first time I ever saw this. And I wish I never had.

I love Tim Burton and Nic Cage, I really do... But a comic-book nerd has her limits.