Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 Things Meme

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach tagged me for this meme. You share 7 things about yourself that would be unknown to your readers. I love the idea although, since I tend to be someone who tells all, finding 7 things to share that haven't been shared before is somewhat difficult.

1. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I don't think we always find out right away what those reasons are, but changes, choices, people who move through our lives all touch us for some reason - usually a positive one.

2. I hated high school so much that I desperately wanted to drop out when I was 16. It was my plan to get my equivalency diploma and head off to college. My mother refused to let me. Instead, I spent two more miserable years in high school and went off to college. I transferred colleges after one year, went to Oneonta and met my husband on day one. Had I dropped out of high school two years early, my husband and I would never have met and Ali would never have been born. (See #1)

3. My favorite job when I was in high school was the summer job I held working in a gas station. I loved walking into the hot sun in my short shorts and halter top to pump gas. The guys always looked so surprised to see a girl doing this task. I loved breaking the mold.

4. I originally went to college to be a special ed teacher. In high school, I interned in a special school and loved it. When I looked into getting my degree, I found out that I had to get my Master's in order to receive my license. So I chose to go for a Bachelor's in elementary ed and a Master's in special ed. But while getting my Bachelor's, I loved student teaching and, although I did get my Master's in special ed, I remained a regular ed teacher.

5. I am unbelievably unathletic and, yet, I ski. I have been skiing since I was 5 and didn't know I could die skiing. I ski double black diamond trails although I will not jump off cliffs. I also am extremely spoiled and will only ski in the west.

6. I had laser surgery a few years ago. I went from being legally blind without glasses/contact lenses to having 20/20 vision. As scary as it was, I would do it again in a second.

7. I had plastic surgery (rhinoplasty) when I was in college. Now I don't look Jewish. This is one surgery I would not do again. I changed who I was by changing my nose. I wish now I looked more like the person I was born to look like. I only hope my daughter heeds my advice. She has my former nose and she looks beautiful with it.

I tag:
Christine Southard
Colleen King
Alice Mercer
Lisa Durff
Martha Thornburgh
Michael Smith
Ann Oro

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Movies - Spoiler Alert!

This blog strays a bit from my usual topics but I have to vent. Just a warning before you continue reading: I will be discussing both Twilight and 7 Pounds. If you don't want to know information about either movie, don't read on.

I should tell you I rarely go to movies. I have a Netflix account, HBO on my satellite and streaming off my PlayStation 3 system. So when I do choose to go, it is usually because either Ali wants to see a movie or I have a burning desire to view a movie everyone is talking about. Both of these situations arose recently.

Ali has been reading the Twilight series. When I first saw the book about 3 years ago, I read the back of the book and told her she could not read it. I thought it sounded too racy for a fifth grader. But by 8th grade, all her friends had already read the books and she was curious. So I did what I shouldn't have - I let her read the series without reading it first. Then we went to the movie.

You should know that, at this time, I still haven't read any of the books. It is on my to-do list but I will tell you my thoughts after seeing the movie. I came out of this movie extremely disappointed. This was basically a story about obsessive love between two teens. The girl was helpless and desperate for attention. The boy was protective and secretive. This seems like the perfect situation for an abusive relationship. My concern with this movie was that teenage girls, my own included, will watch this movie and think that is what love is really all about. Find a guy who will protect you at all costs, keep your relationship secret, don't clue your parents into anything. Ah yes...the perfect love.

Naturally, Ali and I spent much time talking afterwards. I don't want her to believe in love like this. And I only hope that the relationship she sees each day between her father and me will be a better model for her than the one in Twilight.

Next movie: 7 Pounds. Wow. I was so excited to see this movie. It was being hyped on tv, people were talking about it online, it got great reviews.

So imagine my dismay when I realized what this movie was really about. It plays as a story about a noble man, played by Will Smith, one of my favorite actors, trying hard to make peoples' lives better. And he does - 7 lives, as a matter of fact.

But here is the real story. This man caused an accident where 7 people died. So he decides to commit suicide. He plans it out very methodically. In the process, he gives away his house (person number one is helped) and then donates body parts he can live without (bone marrow, lung part, etc.). Finally, he puts himself into a bathtub full of ice (have to maintain the body parts he cannot live without) and kills himself. His eyes and heart then go to the other people he chose to help. So very noble. The last scene is one where the heart recipient and the eye recipient meet and both are so happy. Music swells. Hearts soar. The End.

I sat in the theater with my jaw hanging opened. How could this movie have been made? Let's make suicide more noble. Unhappy with your life? Feel guilty about a terrible event? Don't live on and make life better. Kill yourself but be sure to donate your body parts so others can be happy.

Maybe I just missed the message. But I was so disappointed with what I came out with. Ali and I had another long discussion after this one. "Imagine," I said to her, "how many people he could have helped had he chosen to live and help others." This is the message the movie should have given.

I hope that the next movie I choose will have a better message for me and my family.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Slow Processing Does Not Mean Unintelligent

My daughter, Ali, is in 8th grade in a public school. She is in both math and science honors classes, in the Junior Honor Society, and has always been a good student. Now, I don't tell you this to brag because, as anyone who follows me at all knows, Ali is struggling in some of her classes this year. Since she has always been in enrichment classes and honors classes, I couldn't understand her poor test grades. At first, I chalked it up to a poor attitude and harrassed her into studying more. Okay, really all I did was make her cry every night.
Finally, I decided to try a different tact. I got her a tutor for math and was pleased to see progress. Her review sheets and homeworks were all receiving A's and she was feeling better about her skills. Last week she took her first test since getting the tutor. She was well prepared and looking forward to success. She got a 75%.

How did this happen? She got an A on the review sheet, her tutor said she was ready. What went wrong? I looked at the test and noticed that, on a four page test (yes, four pages!), she got everything correct on the first three pages. On page four, she got everything wrong.
It turns out that Ali is a slow processor. Okay, this is really nothing new. She has always needed time, after hearing a direction, to actually begin the task. She needs lots of wait time during discussions. We have always just dealt with this at home. In school, it never affected her before because tests were never timed or were never so long. She was always the last one finished with a test, but managed to do well. She understood, as I do, that speed has NOTHING to do with intelligence and skill.
So I emailed her teacher and asked if it would be possible, as it was in 7th grade, for Ali to complete the tests during lunch. I didn't want her to get extra help. I just wanted her to feel proud of her capabilities and being timed was not working for her. The response I got was an emphatic no. "Honors students never get extra time for tests. They don't need it. Only children with IEPs get extra time." Translation - if Ali needs extra time, she does not belong in the honors class.
Frustrated, I discussed this situation with my co-teacher, Christine, and my aide, who has two classified children of her own. It started a discussion about the children in school who are not classified. In our classroom, we give every child what he/she needs. Who decided that only classified students need extra time or computers to type stories or fidget toys to play with or breaks during lessons? Why have we allowed ourselves to cater only to classified children in this way? Why is it acceptable?
It is my belief that every child has special needs. Some are obvious and those students usually have IEPs. But some are not. Do you have a student who is capable of being successful on a test if he/she just had ten more minutes to finish? Do you have a student who understands a complicated book if it is read to him/her? Do you have a student who starts to fade halfway through your lesson? Do you have a student who can explain content verbally better than in writing? Why not give all of these students what they need, even if you don't have a piece of paper telling you you need to do so? Shouldn't every child have the opportunity to be successful?
It is time to really embrace differentiated instruction. Stop waiting for a piece of paper to tell you you need to offer services. Look around. What do you see? How can you help your children be successful in all areas? In the end, you will have those "fall through the cracks" students succeeding like never before, the classified students not feeling so obvious about their disabilities, and the top students finding that they have skills they didn't even know existed. Shouldn't we all want this?
'Just Keep Walking' www.flickr.com/photos/51035677132@N01/1416909158