Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Long, Long Time Ago

September 30, 2009

I caught one of my kids texting during class yesterday. It's a common occurrence on campus--I'm sure it's a problem on most campuses these days. It wasn't during a test or anything, so I wasn't worried about cheating, but it is against the rules, so I gave him his warning and then asked him to put it away. He sheepishly apologized, and then said, "Didn't you ever text during class? Did you ever get caught?"

First of all, I'd like to take it as a compliment that he thinks I'm young enough to have texted during class. Upon reflection though, I realize he has never even known a world where texting wasn't ubiquitous; as far as he knows, it's always been around. I don't mean that literally, of course; the kid knows that cell phones and texting were invented in the modern world, but they just don't stop to think about how modern it all really is.

So I told him no, texting wasn't an option for me when I was in high school. No one had cell phones, let alone unlimited texting plans. "What did you do then?" he asked. "How did you talk to your friends during class? Did you seriously just have to wait til lunch if you were bored?" He looked incredulous.

"We passed notes. All through class. If our friends didn't sit by us, we'd just pass them down the rows until they got where they were supposed to go. And yes, I'm sure I passed as many notes as anyone else." I got a little nostalgic thinking about passed notes to boyfriends about plans for the Friday night football games, and passed notes to best friends about who the new cute boy in class was. And of course, I thought about passed notes about how BORING class was that day. I get it. If I see 'em texting in class, I understand. I still ask them to stop, but I don't get mad at them.

" old school!" my charming student said.

Old school indeed.

Thought for the Day

Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moments.
---Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Gonna Live Forever

September 27, 2009

"You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here's where you start sweat."
--Lydia (Debbie Allen), from the original Fame movie

I embraced my inner 80s child today--Bree and I went to see the new Fame, which opened in theaters this weekend. We've been counting down the days, believe me! When I was in high school the original movie came out. New to the world of dance, I was entranced. Not that I believed I'd ever make a career out of the performing arts, but I was fascinated by the journey, the drive, the ambition, the triumphs and heartaches. I loved Irene Cara as Coco, and Gene Anthony Ray as the amazing Leroy. Imagine my excitement when the movie was adapted as a weekly T.V. series. I never missed it.

While this new adaptation of the franchise hasn't been garnering particularly strong reviews, I really enjoyed it. Perhaps it had the nostalgia factor going for it. It wasn't quite as gritty as the original, but it was entertainment. The movie rating was watered down to a PG version, most likely to draw on the So You Think You Can Dance audience (as well as perhaps the High School Musical crowd), and I imagine that's the source of some of the criticism. My criticism would be more about the lack of depth of some of the primary characters. I just don't feel like we got to know them as well as I would have liked--always a challenge with larger ensemble casts.

I especially enjoyed seeing Kherrinton--a former So You Think You Can Dance contestant--shine in her role. The impressive roll call of the Performing Arts Academy faculty (Charles S. Dutton, Bebe Newirth, Kelsey Grammar, Megan Mullally, and of course, Debbie Allen) was a real treat. I enjoyed their performances at least as much as many of the kids who are just beginning to aspire to their own fame.

It was worth the wait--Bree and I are both already looking forward to seeing it again.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Look Ma, No Cast!

September 25, 2009

Nicholas and I went to get his cast taken off today. The process was quick and easy, but he got a case of the hysterical giggles when they were actually cutting through the cast to get it off--the tickling vibration was almost too much for him! X-rays showed he still has a bit of a hairline fracture, but not enough to warrant any further action than just taking it easy on it and wearing good, supportive shoes. Originally he was supposed to be out of P.E. until October 14, but the doctor extended it to November 10th instead, just to be on the safe side. The kid who's never liked P.E. was actually disappointed--I think he really misses getting to run around with all his pals. I'm sure once November rolls around, he'll be making up for some lost time!

Cupcakes and Pool

Sept. 25, 2009

Wednesday was a pretty good day in our household.

First of all, Wednesday was the day that my oldest decided to ask a good friend to the Sadie Hawkins dance. When I was in high school, girls just had their friends go up to the friends of the boy in question and say something clever to the effect of, "If my friend asks your friend to Sadie's, do you think he'd say yes?" If there was encouragement, a note would be passed during the middle of math class where the boy would read, "Do you want to go to Sadie's?" and he'd check a box labeled Yes or No. Simple.

These days, high school kids often go all out to think of really clever ways to ask each other to dances. If a boy simply asks a girl to the dance (or vice-versa), it's seen as something of a let down, as if that's not really throwing yourself out there, exposed and vulnerable. Bree's invitation wasn't over-the-top, but it was still pretty cute. She baked a big batch of cupcakes (she's known for baking for her big group of friends 'just because,' so it's not out of the ordinary for her to show up with brownies or cookies or cupcakes), and handed them out to her pals at break between the first two classes of the day. On one of the cupcakes, she had written the word "Sadie's?". She handed the special cupcake to the boy, and he smiled, gave her a hug, and said, "Of course!" Aw, how sweet! He's a sweet kid, and they've been friends for a long time, so I'm sure they'll have a great time.

Later in the evening, Doug decided to go out to a local pool tournament that he had heard about. He is a crazy-good pool player, and has really been on his game lately. There were some solid players in the race, but none that he couldn't beat on any given day. Well, Wednesday was his given day, because he was the last man standing, and he walked away with the prize money. It wasn't as much prize money as he was hoping it might be, but it was more than he went in with. Even cooler though, was that they were holding a raffle drawing for a pool table for all the entrants in the tournament. It turned out that the winner of the tournament got an additional 20 tickets entered in the drawing, so his odds of winning were dramatically increased. As you might guess, based on the way the rest of this post is going, he won the pool table! I had just walked into the pool room to pick him up just as he made the winning shot for the tournament, and then right after that they did the drawing, so I got to be there for that, too. We have no place in our home right now for an 8 foot pool table, so we are trying to figure out if we're just going to store it or try and sell it, but just the fact that he won is astonishing. We never win anything! (I guess we can't say that anymore.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I've Got My Dancing Shoes On

September 23, 2009

It's premiere week for the newest season of Dancing With the Stars (can it really be season 9?), and once again, we've got the Tivo on high alert. I used to be a bit of a reality TV snob, to tell the truth; I was above watching THOSE shows. Never saw Big Brother, or Survivor, or Fear Factor, or American Idol, or any of those early run reality series. When I heard that there would be a reality show featuring dancing, however, my ears perked right up. One episode and I was hooked. Although the title 'celebrity' is somewhat loosely defined within the context of the show, there have been some genuinely interesting and charming personalities, and some surprisingly good (as well as train-wreck bad) dancers.

Not only has it been great fun to see who would show up to dance toe-to-toe on the ballroom floor, but it has been an added bonus to get to meet some of the professional dancers who are enjoying a real spotlight on their talents and personalities. They have, over the course of the years, become celebrities in their own right. I also find it refreshing that the judges are able to offer honest and constructive criticism without being rude or mean-spirited, as is the norm at least one other show I can think of off the top of my head.

So how's the line up this season? Well, after a two night round of dancing, we've seen 16 celebrities hit the floor. While I'm not sure I can pick a favorite to win yet, I can tell you that there are three couples I'm going to be rooting for.

1. Donny and Kym--I'm sure if you are anywhere near my age, you remember back to your early youth when Donny and Marie were at the top of their careers. Yes, I was one of the many who had a Donny poster up on my wall. I was going to marry the purple-socked one, if ever I had the opportunity to meet him in person. Almost as exciting as marrying Donny was the prospect of being Marie's sister. I loved her. (Don't judge me--I was twelve.) Oh, I can't tell you how excited I was to find out that Donny was going to take a turn on the dance floor, competing for the silver mirror ball!

2. Kelly and Louis--After last night's show, she really won me over. People expect her to be brash and loud and obnoxious, but she was sweet and hard-working. She really wanted to do well. Her lovely smile showed how proud she was, and how much she had surprised herself with her beautiful performance. When the camera cut to her mom in tears and a proud standing ovation from her dad, I knew the cameraman was manipulating me, but I didn't care. I want this girl to do well!

3. Mark and Melissa--Melissa's fine and all, but really the draw here is Mark. He's my favorite pro--so smooth and charming, and brilliantly talented. When he dances, I can't keep my eyes off of him. I hope they are able to stick it out for many, many weeks.

After last night's performances, I don't expect that any of these favorites of mine will be the first to go. We'll see, though. I'm off to check out tonight's elimination now!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Sept. 22, 2009

If last week is any indication, we are truly back in the swing of things, as far as school activities for the kids.

Brianna went to club sign-ups last week, where she signed up for several different clubs. Like she doesn't have enough going on with all of her AP classes and choir and youth groups. The organizations she signed up for were: Key Club, Jr. Larcs, the Improv club, CSF, Student to Student (bringing awareness about the Invisible Children), Cooking Club, and Link Crew. She's also involved with Project Hope, which is an on-campus group which pulls together kids from all leadership roles on campus in order to help promote positive self-esteem in teens. The really great thing about this kid is that is seems no matter how many things she gets involved in, she stays on top of her grades and all of her schoolwork. She's definitely got a good sense of balance and prioritizing.

Nicholas is really doing amazingly well in his adjustment to junior high. Although not initially thrilled to find he'd been put into journalism class as an elective, he's beginning to be excited about the prospect of seeing his name in print. He also found his way to the Star Wars Club, the Chess Club, and Robotics. (Good thing he's not into girls just yet; these are not the kinds of activities that attract the attentions of lovely young ladies.) Honestly, the fact that his principal is the club advisor for the Star Wars Club is one of the things that got him most excited about starting junior high. It's been an incredibly motivating and positive thing for him so far this year

Danielle has already had several soccer practices and two games. (They didn't go well. It's not whether you win or lose, right? Still, the team gets points for a cool name--they are the Queen Cobras.) She's also joined choir for the first time this year, and is looking forward to being involved with drama, Chess Club, and softball. Having been in drama last year really brought her out of her shell a bit, and she's really blossoming. As a matter of fact, she just told me a couple of days ago that she'd love to try out to be her school's mascot next year, which I find awfully cool.

What does this mean for me? Lots of taxi mom time, lots of practices and games and concerts and meetings. Investments in the form time, money, and Teddy Grahams and gatorade. Lots of pictures--lots and lots of pictures. Lots of memories. Lots of joy in supporting my healthy, happy, involved kids.

Things are good...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thank Goodess it's Over

September 19, 2009

I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Why is it that even after 19 years Back to School Night still gives me butterflies? There is a world of difference between teaching classes of adolescents and speaking to large groups of adults. Normally I avoid public speaking at all costs--literally makes me sick to my stomach. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to avoid having to do my annual rapid-fire five-speeches-in-a-night gig. I'm not sure what I think these parents are going to do--I've never had anyone attack me or heckle. Everyone is always sincere, mostly pleasant, and interested in knowing how to help their kids succeed. Nothing wrong with that. Parents often come to me afterward and let me know that their kids are enjoying being in my class. Still, Back to School Night freaks me out, and I am glad it's over.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's a Two-Way Street, Except When It's Not

September 18, 2009

Sometimes, you find yourself in the unique position of being able to see out of both sides of the mirror simultaneously.

Being a friend, one with whom you exchange ideas, experiences, and affection, is a two-way street--a road of mutual reciprocity. Except when it isn't. Over the years, we meet people along our path through common interests or real estate, as it were, and we connect for a time. Some of those people are temporary fixtures in our lives, some of them much more permanent. Some drift away and then fate or circumstance brings you back together again. All of these friendships serve important purposes in our lives at any given time.

There are some friendships, though, that outlast their original purpose or shared context, but remain intact due to nostalgia or habit. That's fine if it's mutual, but can be awkward or difficult if one attempts to maintain the remnants of the bond while the other distances him or herself. When only one recognizes that the time has come to move on but doesn't choose to reach out and cut the ties, it can cause hurt feelings or confusion on the part of the one left behind.

I myself am guilty of doing just this--allowing a friendship to languish where the common bonds that once held us together are mere memories, fleeting glimpses of the past. Rather than simply break it off, I have just hoped that time and distance would subtley hint at the chasm that has grown between us and allow her to move on. It hasn't, and I am too much a coward to simply call it what it is.

And then there's the other side of the mirror--the one where I continue to pursue a friendship where it appears that there is no longer one, despite my better judgment. Something inexplicable causes me to hang on to what is no longer there. I suppose I am guilty of the same optimism that lots of us are, seeking to find acceptance and welcome in the ones who have given it before.

Without knowing why, despite the clarity that I see looking in and looking out through the mirror, I continue to stand a coward in the face of one and an optimist in the face of the other. Knowing is one thing; acting on it is quite another.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Should Have Been More Specific

September 16, 2009

I write a quote up on my board in my classroom everyday, usually something intended to impart wisdom or to be inspirational. One of my favorites is, "Don't talk unless you can improve the silence." (Vermont Proverb)

It's kind of a funny way of trying to get them to think before they speak, to offer up ideas they have actually processed a little, and to be positive with those around them.

I should have been more specific. In my fourth period class, we are stuffed to the gills--at least ten more students are in this class than can really adequately be accomodated. Fine, no problem, we figure it out. But someone in that class--someone from the back left quadrant--is passing gas EVERY DAY. Loudly. High-pitched, but powerfully loud, he (I'm assuming--would you call that a sexist assumption?) lets one go, usually four or five times during the period, almost always during a lull in the noise. He appears to lie in wait for these quiet times just to make himself heard. As if there would be a problem with this. Of course, this turns the rest of my generally well-behaved, fairly mature seniors into three year olds. Yes, I said SENIORS. This kid apparantly does not care that most girls do not find this behavior attractive. If there was an odor involved, perhaps the students would find this less funny, but fortunately, there's not. It's just noise, but noise that has the kids dissolving into childish giggling fits. And because they all seem to find it amusing, no one is 'fessing up, and no one is pointing fingers. And there are so many dang kids in there that I have no idea who it is. So far, my generalized, "If you need to go to the bathroom, please go," has had no takers.

So yes, I've decided. My quote of the day needs amending. "Don't talk unless you can improve the silence" doesn't quite cover it. I think it's going to have to be, "Don't add to the noise unless you can improve the silence." Of course, my students seem to think it is an improvement over the silence. I just can't believe that these are the kids on the brink of moving out and supporting themselves. God help them!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Now I Know

After weeks of being behind, I'm finally caught up with my Google reader! (Some of you may have noticed comments on posts from three or four weeks ago--sorry for the delay in catching up with everything that's been going on.) I was tempted to just wipe the slate clean and start from scratch, but I just couldn't do it--I didn't want to miss out on anything!

So now I'm current, up-to-date,. and in the know. Time to fill up that Google reader again; get writing!

Monday, September 14, 2009

VMA's, or How Kanye Stooped Even Lower

Sept. 14, 2009

Last night, Doug and I sat down for a little mindless pop-culture fun--we watched the Video Music Awards. We both love to see the fashion and love to hear the live performances, even if we aren't up on all the videos being nominated. It's all about the fun and celebration.

I wasn't a big fan of Russell Brand when I first saw him a couple of years ago hosting one of these things. He was a little too boorish for my tastes. Then I saw him in both "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and in "Bedtime Stories." He's a funny dude! When I saw that he was hosting, I was looking forward to it. Although I'm not sure he was the most entertaining host, he at least did a fine job of attempting to smooth over Kanye's inexcusable stealing of the thunder--("Love to everybody! It's all about celebration!").

Which brings me to the highlight (or rather, lowlight) of the whole affair--the thing that I'm sure has everyone talking still today. Taylor Swift, little doe-eyed deer of a girl, won her first ever VMA. She looked shocked, thrilled, and humbled. As she began to express her gratitude, Kanye, in a move that tops even past Kanye behavior, strode on stage, took the microphone, and essentially steamrolled past Taylor to claim that Beyonce's was the best video, implying that she had, in fact, been the one who deserved to win.

Oh, so much is wrong with that! Who let that young man on stage during Taylor's acceptance speech? Did no one see that coming? Clearly that wasn't in the rehearsal. Wasn't there anyone who thought, "Hey--that guy has a bit of a history, especially at awards shows, of being a little unpredictable and well, obnoxious. Wonder what he's up to, going out on stage right now?"

Taylor looked utterly at a loss, and Beyonce looked embarrassed. She was not trying to have the spotlight on her at that time, in that way. By the time Kanye had finished his rant, time was up and they ushered both Kanye and Taylor off stage. I felt incredibly bad for her, but still felt she maintained her composure amazingly well for a 19 year old. If he felt so compelled, so MOVED to make a statement (as he often is), then he could have preempted some of his OWN screen time to do so--during an interview that was all about him, maybe, or he could have posted about it on his Facebook page. It still would have been rude, and it still would have been, like most of his 'statements,' something of a sour grapes moment, but at least it wouldn't have been stealing the thunder of the young girl who deserved it and was robbed of her moment.

Later in the show, when Beyonce won her award, she won me over. I've never disliked Beyonce, but I've never been a huge fan, either. She's just not so much on my radar. But she graciously stepped aside and used her time in the spotlight to allow Taylor the moment Kanye had ruined for her. Beyonce essentially forfeited her own acceptance speech, because she remembered how important her own first award was, and how much it meant to her to be up on stage. She didn't want Taylor to have missed out on that experience. Now that's class. Pay attention, Kanye--this is how people are supposed to treat each other.

(By the way, I'm not one to advocate booing. It's rude behavior under any circumstance, in my opinion. However, I'm not gonna lie and say it didn't bring me just a small bit of satisfaction that Kanye got booed after that, whenever his name was announced. See Kanye? People don't like rude people! Time to grow up, my friend.)

There are people who will say that Kanye got exactly what he wanted: everyone is still talking about him today. Obviously, I'm one of those. But I promise you, I would much rather people NOT talk about me than say the kinds of things people are saying about him today. If that's the kind of thing that makes him happy, I'm sad for him. Not sad enough to ever buy a CD that puts money in his over-privileged, self-entitled, arrogant pockets, but sad, nonetheless.

Why does all this matter, anyway? It's just a Hollywood awards show. There's so much more going on in the world, so many more important things. True. Absolutely true. But when we see people treating each other like this on a public stage, broadcast to the world, is it no wonder that we have politicians caught on video being rude and disrespectful and boorish to one another? Or high-profile athletes behaving like spoiled children? Is it any wonder that in everyday life we see people who are more interested in their own agendas than they are in the effects on other people? This whole attitude of "act now, apologize when they make you apologize later" is getting old. Wouldn't it be a better place we live in if we all tried to think before we act? Just a thought.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I spent my evening last night in the company of some fine people--talented, funny, and interesting. Oh yeah--and fictional, some of them. I'm pretty excited about the return of GLEE. Hubby and daughter and I all watched the premiere several months ago, and have been anxiously awaiting the beginning of the actual season. The show was lots of fun--a good combination of quirky and funny and touching. (Not to mention the powerhouse voices!) I was also thrilled that we wouldn't have to wait nearly as long as usual for the newest season of So You Think You Can Dance, which premiered its new season last night as well. (We are huge fans--we've even gone to see the tours each year, and won backstage passes one year as well. It was quite cool!) Finally, although last night wasn't the 1st episode of the season, it was Top Chef night. I'll tune in to see Tom and Padma any day. (Plus, watching the show makes hubby want to try all kinds of new culinary adventures, so that's a bonus!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's School Address

Sept. 8, 2009

President Obama addressed the nation's school children today, exhorting them to stay in school and work hard to achieve great things.

Well, President Obama addressed some school children, but not mine. Due to parent protests and concerns, our school district thought it would be best to tell teachers that they were not permitted to show the live broadcast. There was concern that the President might try to 'indoctrinate' our children or push an agenda other than his 'stay in school' message, so the easiest way to avoid the controversy was to simply tell teachers they could not show it.

The trouble came to light when the Department of Education released proposed discussion questions to go along with the President's speech. Honestly, I can see why someone who was leery of the President's motives might have been a little concerned about some of the questions (i.e.--What can you do to help President Obama?). Some of these children have parents who don't want to help President Obama, so why would they want their children to have to answer that kind of question? I get that. But within the context of the whole question set, you can see that the question was directed at what can students do to help the President lower the drop-out rate and encourage kids to stay in school. Not terribly subversive stuff. Vague questions? Perhaps. Dangerous message? Hardly.

There were lots of parents who said, "It's not Obama's job to tell my kids to stay in school. I do just fine giving them that message myself--let him parent his own kids." Well, I tell my own kids to stay in school, too. But if any of y'all wanna chime in and tell 'em to stay in school, too, I won't be mad at you. I let their aunts and uncles tell them to stay in school, too. And when their teachers tell them they need to work hard and put their best efforts into their school work, well, that's also okay. And if my son or daughter pays a little closer attention because the President of the United States had something to say about education, I don't count that as a bad thing.

Similarly, there were lots of adults who thought that President Obama was spending his time on a relatively trivial matter to promote his own self-image, when perhaps he should have been focusing on more important issues facing our country--the economy, healthcare, unemployment. And yet, what could be more important than the education and the future of the youth of America? The kids in this country will determine the direction our country goes in the future; addressing them and reinforcing that what they do as individuals matters is vital.

Our nation's President spoke to the students of this country today. His message was positive, encouraging, uplifting, and partisan-free. This was not a political message, nor was it one that warranted the high level of controversy that it generated in school districts across the country. Nonetheless, a vocal group of parents in my district generated enough concern that students were not allowed to see it in classes today when it was aired. If it had been, in my household we certainly would have had a conversation about what they saw and heard. This is what we do anyway--I talk to my kids about what goes on in their day, and what their perceptions are, and why they think they're learning about whatever they're learning about during their days.

As it was, we sat down and watched it together tonight as a family, and still had our discussion. That's not a bad thing, by any means. But it does sadden me that our teachers were not given the respect and professional courtesy to choose whether or not the speech was relevant to their curriculum. I am disappointed that we did not have enough faith in our teachers to feel that they could conduct open and honest discussions. It is frustrating to me that we do not have enough respect for the office of the President to allow our children to view and participate in a historic address. My kids saw what happened--after the fact. They see and read about history all the time, but the impact of the immediacy of being a part of that history? Well, that opportunity doesn't come along very often. It did today for some kids. Some kids, however, missed out.

I Can't Believe...'s only the third week into school, and already I feel like I need to clone myself to get everything done! Papers to grade, soccer taxi to drive, PTC and Robotics meetings to attend, lessons to plan, notes to sign.... And did I mention that my annual second-week-of-school-cold has shown up in full force? Like clockwork, every year. (I'm pretty sure sneezing on my students' papers is not the best way to prevent the spread of the flu.)