Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Home Depot

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is technology effective?

Through a series of unfortunate events, I stumbled across this good question:

Do educational technologies work?

There's a lot of pressure in education to make teaching flashy. Animate every bullet point on your PowerPoint, create a web page that is aesthetically pleasing, and give students every opportunity to tickle the plastic ivories of a computer keyboard and watch pretty things float across the screen.

But are we using technology in a way that it really helps students to learn better? Are they solving problems? thinking critically? grasping a complex idea? and applying their knowledge to new situations?

There's a guy who did a lot of research many, many years ago about the progressive levels of learning from rote knowledge to critical evaluation--Harold Bloom. Maybe you've heard of him? Anyway, it's easy to get stuck at the bottom.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Went to the beach today. L played with the frisbee and J tasted sand for the first time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hollywood Dental

You know that place in every Midwest mall called L.A. Nails? The one with the gargantuan plastic hand in the window displaying garish designs with palm trees? I think I just visited the dentistry industry's equivalent.

The floors and counter surfaces were ultra-polished granite. Each chair was sectioned off by glamorous looking dental workstations with their own stainless steel sink. In place of soap dispensers, there's a mouthwash dispenser. Instead of staring at a framed picture of mass-produced art, I stared at a vase stuffed with fake pink flowers and a tiny TV screen hooked up to a DVD player and speakers the size of its screen.

Keep in mind that the office is located in an aging, dumpy office complex in desperate need of renovation. Picture kick marks on all the kick boards, worn frayed carpet, and the vague impression of asbestos in all the walls (though I'd like to think that's not the case in a medical office complex).

The general theme is superficially beautiful. Perfect for a dentist, no? This is how I always pictured California. For all I know it doubles as a breast implant clinic on the weekends. I was far more comfortable in the Arden Hills, MN office where they spent all their money on a computerized filing system instead of granite floors. Actually the dentist himself was friendly enough, though he had the softest handshake in the world. It was probably calculated; you don't really want a dentist who starts hurting you before he even begins poking around your mouth.

For the rest of the morning I was trapped watching Beethoven's 5th. Twice. All in all very unpleasant, especially since I'll be returning to have another cavity filled.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A meme is a cure for "nuthin' to say"

The Rules:

should be broken.

The Eight Facts:

1. I have a knack for killing plants. After surviving all year in my windowless classroom, an idiot-proof Rhododendron died in my hot, stuffy car on the way home. I kept it in my kitchen, hoping that it would revive. Unfortunately, the leaves turned black and fell off. Better luck next year.

2. I read a lot of very little and a little of a lot. This morning, I breezed through the headlines of the LA Times, but only read 3 articles start to finish. Magazines, websites, blogs, even that incessant ticker on the bottom of CNN--I flit through it all without reading the vast majority. But every now and then, I'll comb through a book so thoroughly that I know the city it was published in.

3. It's 95 degrees outside right now. I have a sunburn across my neck, arms, and a small, embarrassing space across the small of my back where my shirt rode up as I worked on the weed garden yesterday. Very flattering.

4. My son is a biter.

5. 300 people are stuck today between Gaza and Israel, trying to get to the West Bank. Remind me never again to complain of cabin fever.

6. I'm trying to relearn Spanish. Or rather, to learn it for real, this time. I took one of my former students to Starbucks for the first time in her life in return for some stories about her sister and her upcoming trip to Mexico. Am I making a little progress? Creo que si.

7. My grandmother has an empty spool of thread nailed to her front screendoor so that I could open it as a child. She called my last weekend to tell me that she was repainting the door and replacing the screen, but she kept the spool on it. You never know when a little child might need to open the door and not be able to reach the doorknob.

8. I'm making the ridiculous decision to take my kids with me to a 3-day conference this week. I'll get up very early in the morning, drive to their standard daycare then drive back for the conference in the opposite direction of my house. It's insane, but I'm still looking forward to a mini-mini-vacation in a hotel with the kids. Here's hoping they don't cry too much and we all get a little sleep.

The victims:

I don't believe in tagging. I don't believe I know 8 bloggers to tag (who would still speak to me) even if I did believe in it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

L is a lefty

L revealed her leftist leanings promptly before breaking her wrist. While tracing out our numbers today, she undeniably prefers and has better dexterity with her left hand. The left-handed grandma is very proud.

Then L decided to run into a wall. It happened out of nowhere; I like to think she was trying to stop herself but slipped. She was crying loudly enough that we knew something was wrong even after several minutes of ice. At extended care, she made me very proud by taking the x-ray all by herself without complaint. The PAs oohed at the tiny little ulna and radius, but there it was--an undeniable "buckle" break on the top of her left wrist.

Now she has a very small cast and a sling. She's especially frustrated by trying to draw the number 4.

Friday, June 08, 2007

best idea all year

I'm a big fan of pre-reading, so this all happened before we read a line of Homer. Apparently, people in the counseling office are still talking about it.

1. Begin at class. Students are locked out of the room. They pick up a handout and write the word “odyssey” (little o) at the top. At each location, we “circle up” and tell a story. At the end of each location, they write the destination and what it symbolizes (see list below).

2. Head to the fence around the basketball courts to simulate the gates of Troy. Recall how Odysseus helped the Greeks win the war. Set out back towards the classroom.

3. Blown away by a squall. Go to the theater. Inside the dark “cave,” tell the story of the Cyclops around a flashlight. Point out that Polyphemus was Poseidon’s son. Set out back towards the classroom.

4. See angry Poseidon in the distance (security guard); take a detour around the F building.

5. Walk through F building into staff lounge, where cookies are placed out with the sign “Cattle of the Sun God: Please do not eat.” Watch the students give in to temptation; then explain Helios’ punishment to those who ate his cattle.

6. Set out back towards the classroom. Unfortunately, the doors are “locked,” so we walked to the other entrance, past D-2. Students can take a shortcut through the land of the Laestrygonians. I ask for brave, strong volunteers who want to go first. They have to knock loudly on the door before going in. After a few start to walk through, D-2 students jump out and barrage us with paper boulders. The class retreats back outside. I explain that the Laestrygonians are mean, boulder-throwing cannibals, so we probably shouldn’t go that way after all.

7. Head to the top of the stairs to the parking lot. Tell the story of Circe who turned the crew into animals. Also mention the man Elpenor who fell down off the roof and died (gesture down the hill). Eventually Odysseus is able to escape, but Circe tells him he must first descend into the Underworld to bury Elpenor’s body and seek the advice from a prophet.

8. Descend into the underworld by walking down the stairs to the parking lot. At the bottom, tell how Odysseus makes a sacrifice to the shades who drink the blood and tell their stories. Mention Achilles, Odysseus’ mom, and Teiresias. Since it is always easier to go into the land of the dead than to escape, we take the long way back up (the ramp).

9. At the top of the ramp, circle around the far side of the D building. Before students pass between the D & E buildings, tell the story of Scylla and Charybdis. The D building will eat 6 students at once, but if you walk too close to the technology department, it will suck you in and you can never escape. Students must walk in a single-file line to get past these two monsters.

10. Just when they are almost home to Ithaca, one of the crew releases the bag of winds that was given to them from the god Aeolus, so they have to travel to the front office.

11. In the front office, Kelly generously acted as my Calypso. She chatted with the students for a bit, and they were told how Odysseus really enjoyed hanging out in the office but he also felt a bit trapped. Hermes (someone in the attendance office) calls and tells Calypso (Kelly) that the class should be sent back.

12. Calypso has built a nice raft, but unfortunately Odysseus gets shipwrecked one more time and is swept away by the current towards the library. At the library, tell the story of Nausicaa and how Odysseus pretended to be a stranger and started crying at the banquet when he heard the bard singing of the Trojan War. Inside the library, students must find the story of Odysseus (show they know how to checkout an English 9 book from the front desk).

13. Finally we return home to Ithaca, but the door is locked. The last obstacle Odysseus must overcome is to face the suitors. Explain how he disguised himself with the help of his son and his shepherd Eumaeus.

14. Let students return to the classroom and fill out survey questions at the bottom. Discuss favorite stops, see how much they remember. Mention what was left out—how could the sirens have been depicted? What about the Cicones? Finally, differentiate between the proper noun “Odyssey” and the general term “odyssey” to mean any journey filled with adventure and obstacles, even metaphorical.

Basketball courts Trojan War
Benches Lotus-Eaters
Theater Cave of Cyclops
Staff lounge Cattle of the Sun God
D2 Laestrygonians
stairs to parking lot Circe
Bottom of stairs the Underworld
Scylla and Charbydis between the D & E buildings
Front office Calypso
Library Nausicaa
D-1 Ithaca


My students took an anonymous survey to help me become a better teacher. My mom once told me the best comment she got on a class evaluation was on her perfume. Most of mine were actually fairly positive (I trashed the inappropriate ones, so that helped to skew my average). What was most disheartening was their poor writing skills even as my students were saying such kind things. I guess they have plenty to learn next year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I've been reading about the great wanderer Odysseus. Just as he finds his way to the shores of Ithaca, my own husband returns from his journey. Luckily he got away from Scylla and Charybdis, but he did lose his sunglasses on the plane. Five days, 20 years, eh--still tough. Welcome home, my love.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

popped a leak

I think one of our sprinkler lines is broken. Just after we finished planting everything on top of it.... I'm dreading the process of fixing it.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

good news

--or as good as we can expect. My father-in-law is doing well. He's still in quite a bit of pain, but it looks like they will not need to perform surgery. They put some dye in his system so they could trace the blood flow, and it appears that the hemorrhage was not arterial. This means he'll be moved out of ICU this afternoon and might even return home on Monday.

Unfortunately, he's not out of the clear yet. There is still a 20% chance that he'll have further complications. Not good odds. He will return to the hospital for a follow-up in two weeks to monitor his progress.