Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some random thougts on teacher evaluations and effectiveness

In response to this article on our new state superintendent.

One of the complaints is that under the old system, some 99% of teachers are labeled as effective.  How can that be?! the cynics question.  There have to be more ineffective ones!  And on with the witch hunt and the standardized testing to find the supposedly ineffective teachers.

I'll believe 99% effectiveness and I'll tell you why--

1.  Our colleges actually do a good job training teachers--as they're intended to.
2.  People who are going into teaching are doing it because they want to see it done well--they're motivated because they *want* to be effective . . . for the kids.  It's too hard of a job for someone who doesn't feel like they're managing or making a difference.  The ineffective ones in many cases, wash themselves out.
3.  Teaching jobs are hard enough to come by that our principals have lots of good choices when they're hiring.  Our principals are good at what they do and hire the effective teachers in the first place.
4.  They're aided in this by the fact that many (or most) teachers have been screened pretty well by the time they're hired.  Teachers often work as subs, Title 1 aides, etc., before being hired on for a classroom.  The principals already know who these people are before they hire them.
5.  "Effective" is actually a pretty low standard.  To say it's "effective" is to say, in essence, "Eh--it works . . . well enough."  Most teachers are actually better than that.  But the "good enough" standard is not actually that hard to reach for people who have been well taught, who are experienced, who are teaching because they want to, and have been hand-picked from a large pool.  In fact--most teachers are better than that.

My mom is a teacher.  I have friends who are teachers.  And we have three kids in school.  And not only have none of my kids ever had a teacher I would label as ineffective--none of the parents I know have either.  (Check that--we did have a bad preschool experience once, but even Obama isn't trying to regulate the preschools yet).  Mostly, our teacher experiences have been phenomenal.  We had one time when we just didn't have a good personality fit between our daughter and her teacher--but that didn't mean the teacher was bad. She wasn't.  There was also one time when a teacher was just having a really rough year.  But again, didn't mean she was a bad teacher.

So let's back off on the regulations and the witch hunts.  Let's let the school districts do their already hard enough job without federal mandates are committee created evaluations.  Let's unschackle our creative, effective, motivated, hand-picked teachers to just do the one thing that they really want to do--help our kids.  Because they truly are the 99%.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: Goodness and Mercy by Patti Hill

It's 1943 and sixteen year old Lucy Richter is desperate to keep what is left of her family together.  Her eight year old twin siblings Goody and Mercy were taken to the orphanage after their parents left and now Goody is going to be adopted out.  She kidnaps the twins and flees to the dubious shelter of an aunt she's never met.

That's the slow start to a story that really picks up when the siblings get to their aunt in Colorado.  Patti Hill is a deft writer who handles a multi-first person viewpoint story with skill.  Letters from Aunt Ava from 1994, letters from a soldier in the Pacific, and 1943 scenes from Lucy and Mercy.  She tackles issues of doubt and faith, love, family . . . and God's goodness and mercy.  His hesed, in the Hebrew.  It's the word that gets translated loving-kindness, mercy, faithfulness and covenant faithfulness in English.  It's all of these and more--a concept that English just doesn't have a big enough word for.  It's that God's plans and healing are bigger than we can imagine, that our small unfaithfulness-es are as loose bracken to be washed away in the river of his love and forgivenss.

Too much Christian fiction is far too small.  Too-small people with too-small problems (and too-big angst over them) that they manage to bring to a too-small God, who can make things shiny and happy.  Patti Hill gives us a world where good and evil are tangled together in a complicated mess.  Good intentions, selfish intentions, faith and doubt, guilt and righteousness speckled through the same characters.  She gives us real people--all of them with their own pain.  And she gives us a God big enough--and personal enough--to see and hold and speak to each and every one of them.  Four stars.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Linky Fest

It's been a long time since I blogged regularly--about since our fourth was born.  He's two and a half now, and I would like to get back to it now that the most distracting stage of babydom is passing.  I admire those women who can get all sorts of coherent thoughts out with little ones running around.  I'm not one of them.  But to get things rolling, here are some of the scads of tabs that I have up that I don't want to lose.

Poetry from John Donne, for Good Friday.  And more of it.

A book on the Gypsies that looks very interesting.

Pixar's 22 rules of story telling

David Hartley Bent on the brilliantly bad Irish writer Amanda McKittrick Ros

A study of Ancient Roman hairstyles

An article on the rising number of diability cases

John Stackhouse talks about forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer

Richard Beck looks at the solar and lunar calenders and how date for Easter is determined

and finally, songs by Toby Mac and J Moss that I need to download for our daughter who is dancing to them for her spring dance recital.

There we are.  A little bit of the fuel of the rock tumbler in my brain.  Blessings on you all this Easter Weekend.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A few random thoughts on various children's books

In Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are," when the forest starts to grow in Max's room, the moon appears to be a crescent.  At least, there is only a crescent of it that is bright.  At the end of the book, when he sails back into the night of his very own room, the moon is solidly full.  Am I making too much of a bit of artistic variation?  Maurice Sendak is too good of an artist for this to be accidental, I think.

"Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" just keeps getting better and better the more children I read it to.  All four of my very different children have loved it in very different ways.  Our first, fascinated by words and letters from the get-go, loved the letters and would spend as much time poring over the alphabets at the beginning and end as on the story itself.  And she could recite the story itself (and did--"reading" it to Grandma over the phone) before she was three.  Our second daughter loved any book with a strong rhythm.  "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" was tied with "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb" for her favorite.  Our third daughter, for reasons which never did become clear to me only wanted to talk about the "coke-na-nuts."  Our fourth, our son, is proving himself all boy.  One of his first words was "Boom!" and he will chime with the "Boom!  Boom!" right on cue in the story when all the letters fall out of the tree.

Speaking of  "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb," what's with all those monkeys?  My mom says that the book reads like someone's LSD trip out of the 60's.  I don't think I disagree.

The late Jack Kent had a wonderfully subversvive sense of what is real and what is not.  "Mr. Meebles" (1970) features the boy Donald's imaginary friend who comes to life when he claims the note that Donald writes about him.  I think that it's actually a story about story-telling, and closes with one of the most brilliantly surreal, post-modern pieces of dialogue that you're likely to find in a picture book:
  "How can you be here when I wasn't even thinking about you?" asked Donald.  "You're just an idea, and--"
  "And an idea doesn't exist unless somebody has it.  That's what you told me," said Mr. Meebles.  He reached into his hat, pulled something out of it, and said, "Well . . . I HAVE it.  You wrote it down on this piece of paper yesterday and went out without it."
  And so it was that Mr. Meebles no longer had to depend upon Donald.  Mr. Meebles was still only an idea.  But the idea was his own now.  Donald told him he could keep it.
And so our characters take on a life of their own.

 "Mr. Meebles" is out of print, but "There's No Such Thing As a Dragon" (1975) is readily available.  The theme here is distinctly less abstruse.  A dragon shows up in Billy's bedroom one morning, but Billy's mother tells him that dragons don't exist.  It has to run off with their house on his back before Billy's mother is willing to admit to the existence of evidence which challenges her preconceived conclusions.  I'm grateful to my mother-in-law for saving these from my husband's childhood stash.

The province of British Columbia gave "One Gray Mouse" out to every newborn born there in the year 2000, so we received it with our eldest daughter.  It's one of the best color and counting books I've seen, and there are a lot of both of those.

I'm enjoying Simcha Fisher's Advent book recommendation blog series.  I may never read "Goodnight Moon" the same way again though.  It had never occurred to me before to be bothered by the fact that there's a bowl of mush left out all night at room temperature--but I doubt now that I'll ever be able to forget it.

What's struck you as an adult, reading or re-reading children's picture books?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Anchoress, over at First Things today, quotes theologian Timothy Muldoon:

“The Lord of the visible and invisible is calling to us through the voice of our most authentic selves with the words “discover your real self. Then give it away.” 

I find this very interesting.  It undermines, beautifully, the broken, self-immolating, idea of service that so many Christians (especially women) are subjected to.    

First.  It is only logical that we can only truly give ourselves away if it is truly ourselves that we give.  If we give something other than what we truly are, we give falsely, and indeed, we give what is not our own to give.  We can only righteously and rightfully give that which God has given to us.

Second.  The process of self discovery is not merely for self-gratification, or for the ever-ellusive self fulfillment.  It is to discover what it is that we have to give.

Third.  God made us in order for us to be give ourselves away.  It is only in the giving that the purpose of our being finds completion.  Merely discovering ourselves cannot bring fulfillment.  That would be like laying the meal out on the table and then standing there and smelling it, but refusing to eat.  Only the meal consumed has, as we cheekily tell the kids, fulfilled its destiny.

(Hey there--aren't you going to eat your dinner?  You're making your food feel bad, sitting there on your plate.  It wants to be eaten.  Being eaten is its purpose in life.  Listen--can't you hear your broccoli saying, "Eat me!  Eat  me!  I taste good!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Edgar Allan Pooh

Fan fic crossovers can take you some strange and wonderful places.