Nana Has Wrinkles

Learning, laughing and loving in a world that tells it like it is.

A Western?

February27

After finishing Cutting for Stone, I wanted to plunge in to another book that would be engaging from chapter one and take me to a new place in the world. Almost with panic in my voice, I asked my dear friend Nancy for a recommendation. She immediately responded by suggesting The Sisters Brothers, which sounded intriguing to me until she mentioned that it was a western. I can honestly say that I’ve never, even once in my life, read a western. But Nancy was right (she always is); this is a great story.

Author Patrick deWitt uses an extremely intriguing voice for the narrator, and I was drawn in from the get go . Though the brothers are tough, murderous types, there is an awful lot of philosophical ruminating going on in the brain of brother Eli as he rides from job to job. deWitt analyzes some pretty heady topics with beautiful prose all of which is set against an expansive backdrop of the wild west during the Gold Rush. You won’t be sorry you read this one!

posted under Good Books | No Comments »

Nana Gets Crafty

February23

When Pacah was out of town last week, I went a bit crazy on the crafts. Well, not crazy for creative Pinterest types, but surely crazy for me. Inspired by the many design blogs I peruse, and emboldened by the fact that our refrigerator doesn’t do magnets, I felt a need to have a place to post pretty invitations, special notes, pictures, and keepsakes. These pinboards (I believe we used to call them bulletin boards) were incredibly easy to make. Open picture frames, a little chicken wire, some poster board, a yard of cute fabric and you’re done.

The bunny dance flashcards are an homage to the bunnies in front of the board who for years have looked to me like they are disco dancing. Some of the vintage Easter postcards are over a hundred years old, so I’m hesitant to take them out of their plastic slips. Is that like leaving cellophane on a brand new lampshade or covering your best sofa with plastic? What do you think? Should the plastic stay or go?

posted under Life | No Comments »

An Ethiopian Saga

February21

Doesn’t that sound like a drag of a book? I though so, too. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was published in 2008, and though many friends raved about it at the time, I passed. The book synopsis often begins with, “Well, the story opens in an Ethiopian operating room in 1954…” and with that, many eyes glaze over. Verghese’s debut novel (he has authored two prior works of non-fiction) is anything but boring. It’s one of those well-written books that sweeps you into another world and causes you to lose sleep. I admit to reading at stoplights during certain segments of this one. I say parts of the novel captivated me more than others because there were stumbling blocks–saggy, overly wordy interludes describing medical procedure and bits of historical information that could have been presented more crisply. However, it was just what the doctor ordered for a gloomy week of reading in February.

posted under Good Books | No Comments »

Just a little tiny tirade

February16

 Social media is the new black, isn’t it? Even those who onced looked down their noses at these new forms of communication or perhaps harbored a fear of the unknown now embrace the power of this medium. Revolutions are started and overnight marketing sensations begin with one little Tweet or post on Facebook.

School districts wrestle with the impact of social media that comes along with open, BYOD policies. Several years ago, the school at which I taught stopped trying to ban cell phone use during the school day. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it made to do hall duty and not have to nag at cell phone users to put away their devices. Casual hallway interactions with students became about 100% more positive. For the most part, students embrace the rule that it is okay to use their phones in the hallways, at lunch or during study periods, but not during a class. It is an authentic lesson taught and learned.

Many technology directors mourn the good old days when they had control over “the network.” Back then, they dictated  content on every machine in a bulding, adding software via a CD, entering a registration code and creating a school-wide standard. Now, many educators use Twitter and other web-based social media sites to communicate with students and parents, as well as for their own personalized professional development.. However, these sites are often blocked at school by the almighty filter.

Here is what I don’t understand–why is the filter used for a second grade classroom the same used for a tenth grade classroom? Should one size fit all? Why should a teacher have to ask permission to access any website on his or her computer? This happens all the time.

The filtering effort is obviously an attempt to keep students “safe” online.  The hazards of social media sites loom large. However, students are walking into classrooms with more computing power on their phones than an entire hallway of classrooms had only a few years ago. Isn’t this the ultimate teachable moment? Shouldn’t we teach teenagers to be both responsible and appropriate consumers and producers of digital infomation? Instead, we hide them behind a filter. What sense does that make when the filter can be  easily skirted by smartphones that reside in the majority of student backpacks?

 

posted under Education, Life | No Comments »

Pining for Time to Pin

February14

In mid-March of 2011, I heard about an awesome new social site called Pinterest. After attempting to sign-up, I was informed that the site was in private beta and not open to new users. I begged and groveled. Ben Silberman, the creator of Pinterest, sent an email thanking me for my interest and giving me log-in information. To say I was impressed was an understatement.

Pinterest allows users to create boards (think bulletin boards) on which to “pin” (save) photographs, gift ideas, craft projects, interesting book titles, professional web materials and anything on the internet that one wishes to save in an organized manner. You can follow your friends or create new virtual friends to follow and share boards and pins with all of them. It immediately sucked me in, and I knew I was in trouble from a time consumption standpoint. I dumped my boards and ignored it for months, but recently returned. My, how it’s grown! You can see from the screenshot that I now only have two boards, but there could easily be a hundred.

I see interesting applications for educators. The impact on students who need both visual and auditory input could be significant. Collections of period photographs, newsreel clips, newspaper archives, or music clips from a specific era would add to a deeper understanding of new concepts in both social studies and English classes. Poetry from a variety of genres could be pinned to several different boards for comparison and analysis. The possibilities are endless. However, there is a lot of junk out there, and not all boards are appropriate for student use. Until a filter of some sort is available, I’m not sure I’d attempt to use this site with students, which is a shame, as Pinterest is trendy, hip and fun.

If you start to play around with Pinterest, be sure to Link with Love. Give credit where credit is due and add a link on your board that refers back to the original creator of the work you are pinning. As Pinterest grows, theft of art, photography, design, and original thought has grown, as well. Kal Barteski, a wonderful artist whose work has been stolen and sold by others, has spearheaded on online campaign to encourage proper attribution of original work. This organization deserves the support of all internet users.

LINKwithlove

It’s a double edged sword, this Pinterest. There are so many beautiful things online. Photography, typography, craft projects, words, books, creative food ideas, and interior design sites are great fun to look at and mark for further study. However, when I keep all of these resources in one place, they nag at me. They make me feel as though I need to do something significant with them. Maybe enjoying them is significant enough.

posted under Education, Life | No Comments »

You make me happy when skies are grey…

February9

Wilma is a steady Eddie. She is always pleasant, soft-spoken and kind. However, when the grands and great grands come a-calling, a special sparkle is visible in her eyes. It’s a sweet moment, even when observed through a camera lens.

A Very Good Book

February7

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was just published on January 10, 2012. Find it on Amazon and look at the customer reviews. I’ve rarely seen a rating that high, but it is very well deserved. Written for a Young Adult (YA) audience, the book’s examination of universal truths will appeal to mature readers of all ages. It’s the sort of book that will make high school students ponder their place in this world with the gift of a new lens through which to examine their thinking.

Green’s writing is beautiful, almost poetic at times. The characters he creates are solid, lovable, and believable to a certain extent. Their dialogue, at times, stands in the way of believability, as do a few plot twists, however, it’s easy to overlook those faults in light of the big pictures.

The book is about two teenagers living with cancer and dealing with big questions: Will my life have mattered to anyone? Will anyone remember me when I’m gone? What is the reason I was placed on this earth? Both characters are intelligent, curious and grounded by a reality many teens never contemplate. It gives each of them a unique, powerful, and yet very poignant voice.

This book is one that most people will read at least twice–once to get through the story and another to enjoy its beauty.

posted under Good Books | No Comments »

Let’s solve that budget crisis, shall we?

February2

This isn’t rocket science, folks. There is a solution to significantly reducing the deficit, but NO ONE is talking about it. In 2006, the IRS reports that $385,000,000,000 of taxes went uncollected.  These are tax dollars owed, as reported by individual taxpayers and corporations, but never paid. That amount of money, at that point in time, would have erased the deficit ($248.2 billion) with $136.8 billion left over. In 2001, the uncollected amount was $290 billion. Why is this collection rate only calculated every five years?

I’m astounded that such a poor effort is made to increase IRS collections beyond the level of 85.5%. Having served on a local school board, I know that taxing entities can never collect 100% of what is owed them. My school district calculates its income from the county at about 96% for that reason.

This story was buried in our daily newspaper and I heard no talk of it at all on television. If I were running for office, this would surely be one promise I would make. Collecting even 90% of the amount due to the IRS would be huge. How many schools could reduce class sizes with this money? How many school buildings could be repaired with this money? How many lives could be changed if only a fraction of these funds were recovered? I guess we’ll never know because no one seems to care. It’s shameful.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-06/irs-says-u-s-tax-compliance-gap-reached-385-billion-in-2006.html

posted under Life | No Comments »

What will they think of next?

January31

Strollers and swings have been standard baby gear for decades. The people at 4Moms.com have taken this equipment to a whole new level.

This is their Origami Stroller. It folds itself, having a built in generator to power that mechanism. It also has an LCD screen that monitors temperature, mileage covered on each trip around the neighborhood, and the child’s position in the stroller. (I am mildly offended by  the comment about grandmas on the LCD picture. Come on, now!) Here are a few pictures:

The 4Moms swing is called a Mamaroo. It was designed to mimic the soothing motions made by parents trying to comfort a fussy baby.  I’m intrigued by this one, but puzzled by the list of replacement parts. After paying a good sum of money for this product, one would hope replacement parts would not be necessary for years.

First Year Teachers

January26

I have a soft spot in my heart for brand new teachers. It’s such a wild ride, that first year. Here are a few things that must be addressed just in the first month:

• remember names, faces and teaching assignments of the department and school staff, as well as that of the central office administration

• become familiar with building layout, schedules and daily procedures

• conquer the fine art of loading and unjamming the variety of printers used in each office

• decipher the power structure and politics underlying each staff

• begin to understand the culture of the building and community

•  master technological expectations, including ActiveBoard or SmartBoard use, digital record keeping, website maintenance and management of blast emails to parents

• figure out where to get paper clips

Add to that the expectation to master the state curriculum, local standards and create engaging lesson plans with authentic assessments, and it’s enough to bury even the savviest educator.

I’ve recently heard several stories of first year teachers being criticized to the point of losing all of the confidence with which they started the school year. Rather than working with, or even acknowledging, the good aspects of what is being done in the classroom, teachers are criticized for everything they are doing poorly. These hard-working young professionals are being held to high standards, as well they should. However, if they treated students in their classrooms the way they have been treated, I know they would be disciplined by their principals.

Education is under fire these days from all fronts. We do not need to be turning on each other. We need to nurture new teachers in word and in deed. They are eager, they are the future of the profession, and it would serve everyone well to treat them with the respect they deserve. If you hired them, you should support them.

posted under Education | 1 Comment »
« Older EntriesNewer Entries »