Friday, April 23, 2010

Observations via Students

My students gave presentations yesterday on problems in urban middle schools, and a lot of issues were raised, including two I thought particularly worthy of note.

1. One group argued that middle school teachers need training to teach differently. I observed that many taxpayers feel that there is too much running around after the latest educational fad in the school systems. So I asked them: how many of you noticed these fads? How many of you feel that your teachers were teaching different things/different ways? All except 2 felt that there had been no changes in the way teachers taught. Maybe the content of the curriculum changed, but not the teaching methods. The students mostly agreed: Even if you give teachers new materials to teach, they will still use their old ways of teaching.

2. One group discussed the problems of gangs, and we observed that poverty was a root cause of gang formation. So I said, "What if we redistributed income, so the rich were less rich and the poor had more money?" I was told that was a stupid idea. :) The desire to keep money one has made outweighs their desire to see gangs eliminated. I thought that was interesting (and a little sad). But I think of my expression of opinions as seeds, ideas they can gnaw over, possibilities they are at least exposed to.

(Note: lest anyone think I am trying to brainwash them... uh, no. These guys have no problem telling me I'm stupid or wrong when they think I am.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Children and Physical Activity

We all know we should increase our levels of physical activity, especially our children. Yet we never seem to make our policies work to support this knowledge.

This school has.

In terms of feasibility, I can see why it would be hard to have all classes do PE first thing, but it could be a good idea for at-risk kids at a school.

Friday, April 09, 2010


On Wednesday we had a meeting with the special ed team to discuss whether my son was eligible for an IEP. We got stuck on the idea of "effective progress." Is E making effective progress? He could both have AS and yet still be making effective progress.

We brought an educational advocate with us to the meeting, which was good because I am very easily distracted. By the end of the meeting, we were all frazzled beyond belief, but what the advocate kept saying is that the school staff were agreeing E has AS but they couldn't provide any examples of him showing that he does. In a way, I think she forced them into thinking about specifically what aspects of AS he shows. This was incredibly useful, I think. I mean, all kids have varying levels of behavioral stuff. No kid is perfect all the time. But when we had to sit there and think "Hey, E does X because he has AS," I think that started to make an impression.

Anyway, as we left things on Wednesday, we all agreed that we were going to get an independent behavioral observation of E by an expert in AS.

I spoke with the principal today. He did some investigating on his own, specifically with the PE teacher (E has been receiving his only "2"s in this area--2 means he is not meeting standards) and the lunchroom staff.

The end result? He said E needs an IEP and he has spoken to the team and the team agrees.

I was prepared to go to BSEA, the board of special ed appeals, if necessary and make our case there. But now it seems we don't have to. I hate to say Victory! or Win! as it suggests this was a game, and it's not, but it is a relief that we can now start the process with all the members of the team in agreement.

Monday, April 05, 2010


This morning in my area, PBS aired a new episode of Arthur about George (the moose who is also a ventriloquist) making friends with Carl, who has Asperger's. I have to admit, I got teary in places, especially when George pulled out the puzzle piece.

I can't explain how it feels to watch a tv show that's about my son. He is 7, and sometimes it feels like we've been living with this for a hundred years and now we finally know there are other kids like him and other parents dealing with what we have dealt with. When I watch Parenthood and see the parents in the convenience store looking for Max's special kind of chips, I know someone out there gets it.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


I've been totally flummoxed by this Rolling Stone cover for Glee. I don't know if I have a coherent analysis, but the cover is a hot mess. I'll bullet-point some observations:

1. I'm told it's supposed to be a 40s-esque Rockwell homage, which would explain the dog, I guess. Otherwise, DOG? There's no dog in the show.

2. Lea Michele is a gorgeous woman and an amazing singer. (Totally irrelevant, but I am pretty sure I saw her in the original Ragtime on Broadway.) But why why why must we see her underwear? Talk about gratuitous!

3. Aside from the cover, the show does have a strange madonna/whore thing going on. Obviously, there is some irony involved that the head cheerleader who belongs to the Celibacy Club and comes from a conservative Christian family who gathers around the tv every night to watch Glenn Beck is the one who gets pregnant. That's really a cliché at this point.

But it's amazing how consistently *pure* Quinn comes across as despite her "fall" and her pregnancy. Dianna Agron is stunningly beautiful, and she looks like she could cry without getting blotchy. Thrown out of the Cheerios and relegated to wearing street clothes, she still wears demure, sweet dresses and tops.

Meanwhile, Rachel Berry is brunette, Jewish, and ambitious. She is socially liberal (the daughter of two gay men) and aware of her sexuality. She sees no need to use her sexuality to control men (though she does get tricked into trying to attract Finn with a sexy get-up). But it is her "natural" self, complete with weirdness, imperfections, and bad clothes, that Finn finds so appealing sexually. He can't stand her in many ways, but he's attracted to her. To some degree, so is Puck.

Quinn represents "true womanhood" in the world of Lima: she is religious, demure, feminine. She is not pure precisely, but maybe she is the 21st century socially conservative version of pure: since everyone has sex and everyone can be tempted, then she is ideologically pure for "choosing" to continue her pregnancy, the same way Bristol Palin seems to be exempt from criticism from conservatives for having a child before marriage.

Rachel represents "new womanhood," perhaps. She is pure in her motives. She doesn't lie about what she wants. But this is confusing to men who are used to dealing with women who lie/hide their desires. Rachel wants fame, she wants power, she wants Finn, and she probably also wants sex. She has talent, a remarkable talent she does not try to hide.

As a Cheerio, Quinn is a phenomenal athlete, but you'd never know it when she's with Finn. She was also an excellent singer, but Finn seemed to have no idea until she joined the glee club. Quinn's needs and desires are perpetually hidden.

Wish I could write more coherently about Glee, like these people.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


We were not seriously affected by the severe flooding in Rhode Island despite our proximity. Our basement did have a few inches of water in the furnace room, but none of it expanded to the finished area of the basement. We have had minor flooding there often, so everything is mostly up and off the floor. I should also note that my husband spent a lot of time watching the situation and using buckets to catch the water as it flowed in via the chimney. He also kept the dehumidifier running.

The other morning, my daughter took the dog for a walk and she said "I counted 12 hoses" coming from people's basements. Today I walked the dog, and not only were there hoses everywhere but also dumpsters. A lot of ruined basement furniture. What a shame. :(

As local Providence bloggers pointed out, a lot of this damage could have been avoided. The Warwick Mall had up to 20 inches of water inside. Well, check out where they built the mall:

I'm simply repeating the excellent post I linked to, so I'll let you take a look. But it's amazing how society takes risks thinking that the chances of bad things happening are so small.