Tuesday’s Slice of Life Are Slices of Life

Tuesday’s Slice of Life Are Slices of Life

There is much I could write about today for my slice of life post and the supportive writing community of two writing teachers blog.

There is the personal angle, really foremost in my mind that today is my 30th wedding anniversary! It really is a milestone of two lives entwined with a shared past, content present, and enduring future.

I could write about a revelation that came to me while showering this morning. Many of my writing or creative ideas come to me while showering.  I have been known to write papers, create math questions, and formulate presentations all while coming clean in the solitude of the shower. Today’s revelation was that I have been compelled to prove my intelligence for the last 20 years since making the decision to be a stay at home mom. I am truly so much more….and feel the need to constantly prove it. Why is that? A case in point is that I am pursuing a second master’s degree in Environmental Education and instead of just taking courses to fulfill the requirements, I have asked to be mentored on conducting, writing, and possibly publishing a research study. Though thorough self-examination, I am not sure why I feel I need to do this, other than to prove I can. For those who read my slice last week, I am still waiting on an answer from my professors with regard to my research proposal. I am beginning to think a course might truly be better.

Then there is the blog I posted over the weekend that deals with grading policies and final weights in high school courses. I thought I would share that here because it did not catch the attention of many readers and being a teacher based blog forum, I would be glad to have some feedback. Suggestions on what to do with the information I uncovered would be welcome as well.

I could write about giftedness. Gifted education is something I have been involved in for a very long time – close to the 20 years I have been a stay at home mom!  Recently, I read a blog post sharing an article (Crushing Tall Poppies FB page sharing a SENG blogpost) about whether giftedness is innate and what the emotional costs are, if it is not.  The person writing the article really did not seem to have a full understanding of how permeating giftedness is for the person that is gifted. He equated giftedenss with achievement and that, most certainly, is incorrect.  He failed to take into account asynchronous developement and/or what might cause a gifted individual fail to perform at an exceptional level.  Click the above link to read the article if you are interested.  I was to take a foundational course on gifted education this fall (believe it or not environmental education is a great place to offer a place for gifted students to be enriched, be leaders, and be involved in community service). The absence of it being offered when I had it scheduled in my program plan is what led to the current quandary I have with revisiting the research proposal with my professors.  Everything is entwined. The gifted student population is underserved and greatly misunderstood, something I understand from both a professional and personal vantage point.

Lastly, I could write today’s post based on the Slice of Life Tuesday prompt that the TwoWritingTeacher’s offered on their home page that asks, “What summer writing are you doing now that will inspire your future students?” Although my garden club has ended, I will still hopefully have my third grade writer’s circle in 2018.   My answer to the prompt is that I am honing my writing skills by blogging daily.  In writing consistently, I am also acquiring some ideas for student writing, such as when I did my Silent Sunday post this week on Favorite Places.  I thought that this topic might be a good prompt for third graders, especially if they had a photo of their favorite place. It might also make the foundation for a short narrative story – one of the types of writing I do yearly with the writer’s circle students. I have shared some of my writing with my students in the past, just occasionally. It shows I am a writer and I understand what problems they might encounter, as well as allowing me to be supportive of their efforts.  In essence, we create a small writing community each year in which ideas, styles, and efforts are varied but all valued.  I hope to do that again for a 7th year. Any writing makes us better writers.

 

Fragrance or Odor? All in the Nose of the Beholder.

Fragrance or Odor? All in the Nose of the Beholder.

Being blessed with an acute sense of smell is both a blessing and a curse.  The tiniest of scent in the air can be picked up by my olfactory system. Scents, like music, can also transport me in time back to my first love – a clean fresh smell of deodorant, or being in college, if someone is wearing a scent one of my roommates wore – “Lauren” by Ralph Lauren. I, myself, had a preference for Liz Claiborne’s signature fragrance. Crisp and clean. Being able to recognize the fragrance my husband prefers by his reaction to me also contributes to whether the product is purchased again and again. I love to hear, “Oh, you smell so good!” when we are locked in an embrace.

Scents have been known to produce headaches. A floral perfume that is too heavily applied or too floral wafting up from the lady seated in the auditorium in front of me at a play or concert, heavily weighs on my ability to leave the performance cheerfully, without a headache. Candles also have the ability to initiate a dull ache in my frontal lobe or fullness in my sinuses. In these cases, even though they are deemed fragrances, the scent now becomes an odor due to the untoward physical state that is induced.

Odors are unwanted or unpleasant fragrances, are they not?  It is that scent in the air that produces a grimace, a cough, or the shutting of a door. We live down the road from a farm that has cows. When it is dusk and the barn doors are flung open, make no mistake that it is an odor, that fills the air. Whew! Malodorous fragrance be gone, I say!

Having a past history in healthcare also gives rise to memories of fragrance. In nursing school we were taught never to wear a fragrance to work clinically, as it might induce an array of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and such in our patients. Remember, what is fragrance to you, might be an odor to others.  Patients can also produce a variety of odors, none of which I have ever heard referred to as fragrance.  Healthcare workers can gag too, if an odor is pungent enough, they just learn how to hide their reaction from their patients.

All things considered, I cannot imagine living with our the ability to smell. I would miss walking into my favorite coffee shop and being greeting with the fragrance of fresh ground beans or freshly brewed coffee. I would miss knowing my “scent” was stirring a reaction in my husband. I would miss the smell of fresh cut grass, a recent rain, or lilac bushes in the spring. I might even miss the odors that fill the evening air with a scent so thick you need to cover your nose so you cannot smell. I do not miss the odors encountered in healthcare. Thankfully, those are just unpleasant memories I can just barely recall. And that is the key point, pleasant scents or fragrances are memorable, invoking thoughts of place, people or time. Odors are just easily forgotten scents until we are exposed to them once again.

Enjoy the fragrance in your life, for it is as individual as each of us are!

Inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Fragrance

 

Silent Sunday: Favorite Places

Silent Sunday: Favorite Places

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Bermuda2007 195 copywatermark

hiking around Timms Hill watermark

 

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frontyardgarden copy

 

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The view in my backyard.
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The Lake at Sunset, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016

 

Have You Ever?

Have You Ever?

Have you ever done something you knew was going to irritate you, but did it anyway?

I did that today. Today, I opened a folder of notes I took while meeting with a friend over coffee about a new grading policy at our high school.  She knew I was a student advocate and wanted to share some observations on this topic of which we both were concerned. Previously, I had blogged about the rationale, or lack there of, regarding this grading policy.   I had told her I would look at the information in more detail that she shared with me. Due to my own graduate school course obligations, I have not had time to do so. Until today.  I wish I had not looked.

Needless to say, what she had discovered and what was verified in looking at saved copies of my high schoolers’ final grades, was disheartening. What was billed as a change to provide and use a standardized grade book for our high school classes, has done nothing of the sort.  Finals were thrown in with summative grades for each term. The percentage of points given over to a final assessment (final exam points if you need it stated plainly) varied widely, from roughly ten percent to over 50% in several classes. Higher weighted finals seemed to be the norm in the classes we both looked at. I am defining higher as a final weight of over 40% of total points of a students final grade for the semester.

We both realized that in some classes, there were not many summative points offered at all – roughly two to four other assignments that made up the remainder of summative points. This was not an absolute for every class, but much more common than not.

To make matters worse, I had pointed something out during our June meeting that she had not realized. This was that the multipliers on many of the summative assessments were being changed – sometimes using very bizarre numbers, like .47, .71. 2.381, or .29.  Both of us agreed that we were not sure the students knew how the change in multiplier affected their grade.  She, as both a teacher and a parent, had not even realized the multipliers were changing from class to class and even assignment to assignment. She thought, incorrectly, they were locked in at 1.0.

This is not even considering formative assignments – weighted at 20% each.

It was announced last fall, that commencing with the 2016-2017 school year, the high school online grade book was being standardized and that the teachers must put all assessments into either a 80% summative category or a 20% formative category for each assignment and/or assessment. This included all courses, even AP courses. But, you see what happened here, don’t you? The use of the multiplier still allowed the assessments to be weighted with values all over the place. The intention of the system change – to standardize – was negated by use of the multiplier. There was no standardization! Interestingly, when I pointed this out over our coffee in June, my friend stated that they are not allowed to change the multiplier where she teaches – it is “locked” in at 1.0.

Furthermore, this teacher/parent voiced concerns over the finals not being placed in a separate, uniformly weighted category.   Finals have previously been categorized as separate, although weights still varied widely. She did not know. It was the first time she had a student at the high school.

I spoke to one of the high school administrators early last fall about concerns with this 80/20 split when this system was implemented. My concerns stemmed from the high value placed on summative assessments when I have a student who suffers from test anxiety.  In essence, his intelligence is much greater than the sum of his test scores. My concerns were listened to but I am not sure they were heard.  The whole change seemed arbitrary to me, and this feeling was reinforced when I asked how the values that turned out to be 80/20 were decided upon. This other parent voiced similar concerns at the end of this school year, actually providing documentation of point values in the summative category (which included finals). We both were listened to, albeit separately, by different building administrators.  I am not sure either of us were heard. I am not sure who, if anyone else, noticed.

You know, my kids do well in school – well above average,  so I am not upset about their grades at the end of the term.  But, is not an equitable system what we are after?  I have yet to cross-reference the findings this other parent provided me with my own. Both of our students took some of the same courses, but from different teachers….will the final weight be the same? It should be. I do not expect to find that outcome.

I also will cross reference data I have now with data from courses taken the year before (2015-2016 school year) the 80/20 system was started. I am sure I will find some very different weighting. Should not have all this data analysis been done by a district administrative team before implementing a building wide system change? I would say emphatically, YES! Should not have “fake students” with “fake grades” have been generated and examined before using a building of secondary students, some of whom are trying very hard to get into good colleges, were used as guinea pigs?  Again, yes, of course.

To make matters worse, the decision to implement the new 80/20 policy was thrust upon our student body and community of stake holders just as school began for the 2016-2017 school year.  It was a decision, I am told, made by a person who no longer works for the district! Talk about wreaking havoc and jumping ship! Whoa! The mates are left cleaning the decks, to be sure!

In the end, although I am looking at this information and even writing about it here, I am not sure what I will do with it. I have spoken up before, only to have my students bear some form of retribution. Yes. Really.  I am not sure I want to take that chance again. It seems my efforts to point out how we need to improve the system end up helping other students but not my own. I have tired of that occurrence. What is clear is that we have some work to do to make our system equitable.  Strangely enough, just as I started looking at this data today, a book arrived from my ASCD membership on building equity in schools. I will read it (already started) and go from there.

equity book from ASCD

Enriching Travel

Enriching Travel

Where have you travelled this summer? Have you taken your kids? Have you enriched them by exposing them to a landscape, culture, music, or food other than your own? Let me know in your comments.

Travel has always been an important of exposing our boys to the diversity of our country and world. I know budgets are tight and it is tough to travel with kids, but really you should try go at least one place in the summer and take in something that is not “the norm” for your family. It can be free. It doesn’t have to cost money to experience a different place or culture.

We have always travelled with our boys. They have been able to see some great sights. Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) was a favorite. This was their first exposure to “real” mountains. Our love for hiking might have started there. Hiking is free, you can do it anywhere. What a great take away from a vacation experience!

Gettysburg National Battleground was another favorite, as was our trip to Philadelphia the same year. What a contrast between history and modernization! Philly is a great city. I worked there for a short time, near Fairmount Park, and have fond memories of it. The history is rich and exciting when children are able to see things they learned about in school, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Battlefield can be unnerving when you take the time to read the signage and understand how many lives were lost on our own country’s soil because of its philosophical divisions.  It’s best we expose our children to this history in an effort not to have it repeat in some awful fashion.

Culturally, we stayed in downtown Philadelphia, amidst the great sky scrapers with all the noise, smells, and activity a city has to offer. For three days, we walked – everywhere. We did not touch the car once in was parked in the hotel’s underground garage.  We ate at the Reading Terminal Market, walked to the Franklin Institute, strolled to the Independence Mall area and exposed our boys to life in a city. One of the things we saw was a man on a street corner, across from our hotel with a huge albino snake wrapped around his neck, charging five dollars for a photo.  It was an experience that is memorable. And, no, we did not even get a photo.

We have been able to take wonderful beach vacations, too, in the U.S. and abroad. Carlsbad California has a wonderful, wide beach that is empty in December, as were the beaches in La Jolla and Coronado.  The beaches on Sanibel and Amelia Islands have been long remembered for shelling. The beaches on Maui and Kauai are loved for the awesome views and power of their waters that instill respect and cautiousness, while still being able to be enjoyed.

Sometimes, a skill learned on one vacation gives way to being able to enjoy it on another. This was the case with hiking. Since we learned to enjoy hiking at RMNP, when we went to Kauai five years later, hiking through the rainforest to reach a beach (the only known way in and out – other than by boat), was something we just had to do!

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Hike in only beach on Kauai, 2013. © Carol Labuzzetta

By now you are thinking, that is great but it did cost money to get to those places. True. But, you can scope out local historical places where you live and learn from just taking a day trip with a picnic lunch. We live close to the Mighty Mississippi, history surrounds us, as it does almost anywhere you live in the United States. Take a trip down the Great River Road and visit the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. Go to some lookouts up river near, Pepin, Minnesota and look for Bald Eagles. Speaking of Pepin, take a ride to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood cabin. Imagine your family living in that tiny cabin and surviving the long, cold Minnesota winters. Incredible!

There are many enriching and exciting travel experiences you can provide your family that do not cost a lot, or even anything at all.  Take a drive off the beaten path, you will be glad you did!

 

Musings on Mid-Summer

Musings on Mid-Summer

Sharing some thoughts on a mid-summer morning.

  • Wicked weather in the mid-west, repeats itself often with severe thunderstorms living up to the warnings that precede the wrath of their horizontal rains.
  • Flash flood warnings at 2:20 a.m. waking you from a restless sleep.
  • Books being read. Books being finished. Books being started. Just read.
  • Beginning to look forward to the new school year, not back at the last.
  • Squeezing in some gardening on hot, humid days, if only for a few minutes.
  • Picking blueberries in my own backyard for the third time in a week.
  • Teaching our youngest how to drive and not having to grip the side door any longer!
  • Weeds, weeds, and more weeds.
  • Homegrown vegetables starting to ripen. Tomato. Eggplant. Pepper.
  • Myriad of milkweed patches minus caterpillars eating the leaves.
  • Soccer on green fields turning brown as the days shorten but the temperature remains hot.
  • Tennis on steamy, heat radiating courts, racquets slipping from hands greased by sunscreen.
  • Time to pursue hobbies – creating new jewelry, publishing curriculum.
  • Appreciating local art and artists.
  • Looking at backpacks on Amazon, wistfully realizing we missed the fantastic deal on Prime Day.
  • Walking with friends, two times a week, even if it is 95 degrees – our own form of “hot yoga”.
  • Getting ready for vacation. Or returning from vacation.
  • Dreaming of pink sand beaches and turquoise water.
  • Considering colleges.
  • Cleaning out dresser drawers.
  • Popping your bike tire, knowing the construction has taken its toll on your form of transportation.
  • Being thankful for patch kits.
  • Being reminded to wear a bike helmet, even if your friends do not.
  • Safety first. Coolness Second.
  • Checking on goats at 9:30 at night and realizing they need water.
  • Preparing for the summer course mid-term, even when you do not want to.

This is life. This is summer. Soon, the season will change.

Curiosity

Curiosity

Recently, I have become curious about my audience of  blog readers. I have been bloging daily since March 1st and only have missed a handful of days. This is an awesome accomplishment, one which I am proud of making. My posts seem to yield a consistent and slowly growing contingent of regular readers. Some readers are regular commentators, as well. Just like anything public, it is nice to get feedback on what you are writing and how you are connecting with people.  I know when I have hit upon a nerve, when readers agree with me, receive different perspectives, and more, when I am able to have a few lines of feedback from my readers.

However, my curiosity is more about those who do not comment. I know linking to  my Facebook page brings my posts to more readers. My son, who is soon to be a new graduate student and my sister-in-law, both loyal readers, brought this to my attention. Previous to their observations, I did not realize that my slowly growing of followers number on WordPress is actually larger due to the Facebook links to my blog.  Like a lot of things in life, more is better.

But, who are these readers? Are they people I know that are reading my blog surreptitiously? Are they able to find a connection while reading my posts? When they like a photo that is featured with the post, are they liking just the photograph or something I said in the post? Without comments, I do not know.

Occasionally, I write about things that might irritate my readers. I can be critical, hopeful, biased, and forgiving all in the same post. I know my blog is not funny, nor is it meant to be. I am not a funny person. I have a good sense of humor, but writing humorously is not my forte.  From my experience working as a classroom volunteer,  I know that authors write for different reasons. My reason for writing is not to entertain, but to inform.  I think there are local issues and observations that need to be discussed because if no one discusses them, the problems continue to exist. I want to stimulate your critical thinking skills, your problem solving skills, and maybe start a conversation about things that might be important to you – to all of us. I tend to express myself better using the written word. And, since I have tried more traditional ways of communicating concerns, of which some have worked and some have not, I thought blogging might still allow me to address issues I am passionate about – namely, education and the environment – without becoming overly frustrated that my audience is hearing me but not listening.

But, I ask this: are you reading my blog off my Facebook page? If so, I would really like to know. If you do not want others to know, why not send me a private message? What topics have I written about that have resonated with you?  What makes you curious enough to read my posts but not leave a comment?  I am curious about you, my readers – especially readers I know, readers that have personal experience with the topics of which I am writing. Am I reaching you? I am curious.

In any case, thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment, especially if you never have before.