Monday, June 30, 2008

Dreaming of Sleep

More tasks than time
Challenge every day.

As such, precious moments -

Undedicated hours

Unclaimed seconds
Gleam beyond polished gold,
Sparkle above shined silver.

Mindless minutes


Wear from sleepless nights -

Turbulent times without dreams

Or psychic relief.

Claim me back to lucidity

And simplest sanity.

Soul’s salvation,

Emotion’s energy,

Rational revelation upon

Eternity’s clock

Call habits to justify

Brain drain and cerebral calories.

Let me sleep early tonight.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ding by Stereotype

In the last week, I have gone without a single reason to rant. The only reason I for a rant was diminished by the fact that the person who hit my car so perfectly fit two driver stereotypes that there is no point in even going there.

In fact the driver so perfectly fit the stereotypes, I have started saying, “you know ‘who’ the driver was,” to people who ask me about it. So far everyone has said something to the effect of, “how *$^*# was $@! ?” (typing in symbols is tough – you never know where the ‘word’ ends and punctuation begins – but if you read carefully, you know what the symbols mean!) And so far, everyone has filled in the blanks correctly.

As a result, a rant on the subject of *$^*# drivers is pointless.

I’ve written about the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the musical Avenue Q before. One line says “racist jokes my be uncouth, but we laugh because they’re based on truth.” The dent in my car is proof positive, but it has been so often repeated, the gag is no longer funny.

Meanwhile, my car has an ouchie. Actually, it is barely a boo-boo, but I feel much less macho driving around in imperfection.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

White House? Black House? Gray House?

It should really come as no surprise that the Texas GOP, which gave us W. could come up with such a racially insulting campaign button, but I still find myself obsessing over the sheer ignorance that allows a person to actually make such an object. Still there it was, proudly displayed at the Texas Republican State Convention. Has the person not read a newspaper since 1964? Or do they still believe we can go back to a segregated society?

Conservative groups continue to put up a fight over GLBT issues and the marriage wars are going to continue for a number of years, but they lost the Civil Rights War decades ago.

I cannot imagine what button they would have created had Hillary won. I’m really still a little befuddled as to whom they fear more – a strong woman or a black man.

Republicans who would come up with such a button remind me of the Japanese soldier, discovered on a desert island in the Pacific years after World War II ended. He was prepared to fight anyone who stumbled upon the island, unaware that the battles were over and Japan was back in the mainstream of the world. Nothing about the real world around him had changed his fervor and oath to die for his homeland.

He had an excuse. Japanese language newspapers are not regularly dropped on desert islands in the Pacific. He simply, loyally, maintained his commitment to the oath he had sworn to his emperor.

No Republican at a state level convention can claim such ignorance.

The only explanation that remains is pure hatred, unmitigated intolerance of anything that is not “me,” a darkened soul. As much as I am angered by this behavior, deeper down, I pity the people who act such a way. Can you imagine living every day in a world that is so different from what you demand it be, knowing that society has bypassed your antiquated beliefs?

While fads and trends come and go, when society makes a shift in one direction, it rarely returns to a state prior to that shift. Civil rights and women’s rights are two shifts that have been made in the last 50 years that cannot be reversed. Certainly full measures of social justice for women and people of color have not been met in the United States, but the trend has reached a point of no return. With the realization of a global economy, “white” is no longer synonymous with “majority.” It was only ever that way because it was synonymous with “power.”

Now that the Texas GOP has embarrassed itself once again on a global stage, they need to reflect what it is they truly believe. Social justice for all people reflects Republican fundamentals more than it does Democratic fundamentals, but in the last twenty years, while lauding the fundamentals, the Republicans have moved far from them. If they truly valued lesser government and greater individual responsibility, they would embrace social justice and true equality for all people. Without the barriers that protect so many of their own interests, those who are “entitled” would no longer have an excuse for the state in which they find themselves. Instead, the Right, in their grasp for power, keep policies in place that promote stratification of society, that promote an “us-vs-them” atmosphere, and that eternally leaves many behind.

And so they proudly wear a button that does not attempt to hide its racist bent and boldly proclaims their personal intolerance. This liberal is gonna be praying hard for your soul because that is not what Jesus would do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Remembering Russert

Although I strive to keep up-to-date on pop culture and do occasionally comment on it here, my television spends much more time off than on, sometimes going between weekend sporting events before being turned on. When it is on, it is usually news or some kind of educational programming from one of the "nature" channels just to provide noise in the house while I'm alone and also giving me the chance to possibly learn something in the process.

The educator in me is always present.

Tim Russert was one of those voices that could always catch my attention. As hard as he skewered various politicians, fairness dominated that skewering. A Democratic Congressman would be on the spit next to a Republican operative. Party or view protected no one with Russert. His intellect and research always turned up something worth a challenge.

Despite the awards and recognition of his peers and politicians after his untimely passing last week, the moment that made me pause and both cheers and haunts me is the interview on Today with Russert's son Luke. Luke at 22 years old demonstrates a composure that proves he is Tim's son more than the similar build and family looks. He spoke of his father in such a composed and mature way it was like watching his father post-time-travel. Those around him, those who are journalistic professionals, could not control their own emotions as well as young Luke.

The video is fifteen minutes long, but I'm already ready to nominate young Luke to take his father's place on Meet The Press. If he can be this composed and well spoken so shortly after his father's death, the Washington politicians would be quaking in their boots.

The clip is fifteen minutes long, but it is truly amazing to see how well young Russert handles himself.

I would hope that Luke Russert is just an example that society is not totally doomed. As an educator, I can vouch that there are many young people as impressive as Luke - they just don't make the news. Maybe if Luke does not take over his father's spot, he can start a channel of positive news stories and help us to know that all is not lost with the future.

Go get 'em, Luke.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

(Re)Learning to Think

After nine years out of any formal schooling, I began to work on a second Masters degree this week. I realized about the second day of class that never in my life had I gone so long outside some organized education. Those nine years have taken a real toll on my thinking processes.

In the interim there have been numerous professional development sessions and various conferences, but they were one-offs and usually did not require more than a few hours at a time. I’ve grown into the habit of critical, academic thinking in sprints rather than marathons. My mental stamina over the last few years has diminished to the point that I would compare it to the physical stamina of a sixty year old chain smoker. My mind periodically demands a walk break during the seven-hour class marathon.

Actually, in the last nine years, my mind has developed the habits of multitasking. Those habits make a single source focus nearly impossible. I find myself in class with my mind trying to get three steps ahead. I’m wondering how the lecture being given now is going to connect to a concept from the text later.

I spend so much time with sense-making an connecting various pieces of my department with one another since they do not often connect in an obvious way under older visions of public education. Some of my programs are process based while others are knowledge based. As a result the two do not often appear to have a direct connection to one another other than the ultimate outcome of getting student to take advantage of the postsecondary opportunities available. Still, fundamental math skills do not have much connection to completing the resume portion of a college application – at least in the eyes of a middle school math teacher.

I work to find that connection and also to present ways for delivering it through best instructional practices.

And so in the past week, I have had to reshape my thought processes to consider how to do pure academic study. I have always been a reader and a writer, but my academic and grammar habits have become increasingly sloppy over time. In my mind, just like in my home and office, I am picky about some things while letting others go.

We all have our clutter somewhere.

As the academic study becomes more intense over the semester and I actually have to start using APA style for writing, I’m going to have to relegate my mental clutter to some closet; I now have to find the right size closet to manage all the piles I have stacked in various places throughout my head. All that “stuff” does not go away it just gets stuck somewhere. 

I should know the answer to this question, but is it possible to have a mental garage sale and pass on the clutter to someone else at a discount? I could post signs up and down my street:

Get your used mental mess! Saturday from 7:00 until it’s gone. Reasonable prices – negotiable.


And is it ethical to sell the junk left over from (former) friends or should I just donate it all so some poor soul? Too many people have not lived enough to develop clutter of their own so they can have some of the wilder thoughts I’ve had over the years. Maybe they could stand to have a bit of a jumpstart and thus begin to develop their own. As with sourdough, all it takes is a bit of starter.


Really though, I don’t want to part with anything floating around in my head, but I could stand to come up with a better organizational system. I can learn to encrypt it and put it on a jump-drive for later recall. While I’m giving the MacBook another shot at the moment, I think I will use a Windows filing system – unfortunately my brain was wired by Bill Gates not Steve Jobs.

All my metacognition over the past week has begun to pay off. I successfully managed to not study for four hours while sitting at a coffee shop! I thought about studying and the reading I needed to do. I transferred my calendar entries to the new calendar that spans the time I need now.

And I wrote this post. (Re)learning to think is much more fun than I thought it would be.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I Wish

Earlier this week a friend asked me what my wish was. The question totally stumped me.

“If wishes were horses then dreamers would ride,” came immediately to mind, but when I Googled the phrase, I found out I’ve had it wrong for years. The correct phrase is, “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.”

I learned the phrase from my friend J who was citing lyrics to a 70’s rock song. Google as I may, I have not been able to find the song and validate my mislearning from so long ago. I think J may have just misheard the lyrics and recited them the way he heard them.

Or maybe he didn’t know what he was talking about.

And that analytical tangent is why I don’t wish. I begin to evaluate all the factors necessary to make something happen and the various what-ifs. My wishes turn into cerebral chess matches as the “gonna-happen” side and the “never-gonna-happen” side battle for dominance of my reality. Google, Wikipedia, and the American Heritage Dictionary (1983 paperback edition) always have a say.

In fact the dictionary’s role in my daily life became topic of a debate when I realized that it was indeed the 1983 edition (the first major new dictionary in 10 years the cover proclaims!). Twenty-five years later terminology for devices that didn’t exist back then dominates our functional vocabulary. The very technology that has made the old dictionary obsolete also makes the purchase of a new one unnecessary. I have the Internet on my phone – I don’t even have to have access to a computer.

And so, I forgot how to wish a long time ago which is really a shame. Some magical spark disappears when wishes evaporate from the consciousness. Maybe it’s a skill we lose when we forget to use it or grow up to find that wishing isn’t allowed. Children all master the skill, but between childhood and adulthood, except for a talented few, wishing goes away.

Star light
Star bright
First star
I see tonight

I wish I may
I wish I might
Have this wish
I wish tonight:

I wish to wish again.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Going Sane

Why do others feel compelled to panic at someone else’s bad news? It truly confounds me that they feel as if they are not truly supporting you unless they are running around screaming and flailing.

Really? Does that help anything?

Maybe I’m a natural counselor in that I remained completely calm on the surface and still am. I have never accomplished anything by screaming and failing: I’m not coordinated enough to manage screaming and flailing while actually THINKING about things. I schedule my meltdowns because unscheduled ones rarely do any good.

The news revolved around financing for my job. I knew going into the position a year ago that there was a good chance the job would not be funded beyond a year. Word came today that it was not in fact funded beyond the end of the month (conclusion of one year). I’ll have a job by the end of the month, so I’m not terribly concerned.

My heart broke today when shortly after finding out there was no funding for my position (which is really ok – if I get a certain promotion, I would get rid of my current position), I found out there was no funding for the other two people who work in my office – and it was my job to tell them.

How do you go about telling two people you truly respect, admire, and LIKE that their jobs are not being funded for the next year? I knew I wanted to do it as soon as possible to give them the quickest heads up possible, but it was the last thing I ever wanted to tell anyone. And I was angry. It is one thing for me to think my own job is not worth saving, but how dare they affect the jobs of those who are worth saving; the people who do the day-to-day work that makes a difference in the lives of students. My insides tumbled around for about thirty minutes until I was able to tell both of them at the same time.

They took the news remarkably well – better than I did inside. Maybe inside, they were upset as I, but they kept their calm and managed the news and went right about looking for new jobs. I could barely stay in the office in their presence.

Somehow I managed to stay sane through the day and came home and just chill while I thought about options and tried to decide exactly what it was that I want next while I make sure my co-workers get what they deserve.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dear Hillary

Dear Hillary,

Please stop. For those of us who truly love and respect you, please stop while you maintain that love and respect. I began this campaign season fully supporting you and was certain you would bring a new character and example of leadership to this country and the world.

As a child of the 60’S, I lived through the presidencies of Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and now Bush II. Your husband’s presidency is by far the best I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Sad to say, but that has been against some very low standards. Still, despite his personal weakness, he was a remarkable leader for the nation.

Entering the election cycle, I viewed you as the steel, the strength, that made his presidency as potent as it was. And so it was without giving any of the other candidates consideration that I embarked on my “elect Hillary” mission. You possessed the precious metal to regain the honor of the office. Sadly, as the campaigning progressed another side of you emerged. Through all of Bill’s dalliances, you remained stronger than Tammy Winette could have ever sung, yet when all the states did not roll over and succumb to your feminine ways, the vindictive Clinton showed her face.

There were thousands of jokes about how Bill must have felt crawling into bed next to you as his indiscretions were counted. Suddenly, we, the voters, became Bill. We were treated to your wrath, indignation, and genuinely mean spirit. As Obama’s message of hope became something we more and more craved, your anger distanced us more and more.

This weekend, as you asked for the rules to be changed at the end of the game, that hostility to the real common man became clear. As an educator, every day I work within “No Child Left Behind” which daily disenfranchises more students than it empowers because it unjustly judges. Still, we play by the rules, take the embarrassment when it comes in the media, and go back the next day to educate children. In my school 80% of the students enter 9th grade reading at the third to fifth grade level. We are considered low-performing because we have a four year graduation rate of 67%. In three year’s time, we move 47% of the students from elementary level to high-school graduation level.

The rules are not fair, but we play by them.

With Michigan and Florida, you knew the rules. The state parties knew the rules. The voters knew the rules, and yet they continued to break them. How then do you expect me to support you in such a dishonest and obviously manipulative grab made only out of desperation? Every day you draw this out. Every attack on the party and on Obama you make, makes me respect you less.

Your recent behavior and that of your most fervent followers, has made be see you as nothing more than the current regime in sheep’s clothing. You are not the woman, the senator, the person I thought you were. I’m hurt and broadly disillusioned. Senator Obama was not my candidate of choice, but after observing you in the last few months, he has become my only hope.

If you really love this country, you will gracefully accept defeat and give us a chance to move forward into a brighter future for all than the Republicans would ever allow even for a few.

Thank you.