A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, November 30, 2007

I like this. I think you will too.

Once again, Mamacita has written a beautiful piece about the real meaning of Christmas.

Go read it. Trust me. This one is absolutely timely, even though it is weeks until Christmas. It might take that long to sink in in our stupid commercial culture.

And tell Mamacita how great she is. We love her.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carnival of Education is indeed a "Noble" work

Mattamatical has woven together a delightful turn around the Edusphere at his place.

Takee lookee, prithee.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 91: Clothing from drapes edition

It's a turkey hangover edition of Movie Madness Monday, and I am here to prepare you for this one-- you know it's coming this time of year. I just can't keep from singing! I saw Enchanted this weekend, and making clothes from drapes made me think of this classic.

So you know the drill. Give me some quotes from the movie about which I am hinting, without naming the movie!

"The ostrich buries his head in the sand... and sometimes in the flag."

"You flatter me, Captain."
"Oh, how clumsy of me - I meant to accuse you."

"Have you tried the barn? You know how much she adores the animals."

"I'd like to thank you all for the precious gift you left in my pocket today."
"What gift?"
"It's a secret between the children and me."
"Then I suggest you keep it, and let us eat."
"Knowing how nervous I must have been, a stranger in a new household... knowing how important it was for me to feel accepted... it was so kind and thoughtful of you to make my first moments here so warm and happy... and pleasant."

"Underneath her wimple, she has curlers in her hair."

"Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun."

***Weekend Update: The hills are alive.... with


After Oklahoma, this is my favorite. If I never see Carousel again, it'll be too darn soon, but this!

Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews.

That's it.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So long! Farewell! Auf Wiedersehen! Good-bye!

My geography class is supposed to have X number of kids. Instead, my class habitually sits at X-1.

This is a real bummer, because our school randomly distributes doughnuts to classes with perfect attendance. There is a sullen smog that has settled over my kids every time one of these days is announced, a brow-lowered, teeth-gritted, bellicosity that I am having ever more trouble holding in check.

See, Casper was enrolled in this class because it's open to all ages, and I was fine with this. Except that Casper showed for exactly half of one day. On this day, he had been here since the beginning of school but had talked the counselor into a bull session, and then he didn't want to draw attention to himself by walking into the middle of a class, so the counselor walked in WHILE WE WERE HAVING A GREAT DISCUSSION on the predictions of Thomas Robert Malthus and she walks right up to me mid-sentence, 'pon my honor, and asks me when we are taking a break. Now, I didn't look at her with my mouth agape, because my students did it for me, and with a face like mine, you don't do mouth agape unless you want someone throwing fishhooks your way. When I said something to the effect of "Maybe never, we're kind of in the middle of something here," she began whispering in my ear that there was a new student but he didn't want to draw attention to himself and so he was hoping to slide into a seat while the other kids were off on a break. Then I replied, "Oh, like you walking into class isn't going to get their attention and they're not going to notice a new body occupying a seat in the class like he's been beamed down from the Starship Enterprise?" but she didn't get the sarcasm. So since she'd broken the flow, and frankly, I actually needed to go see a guy about something, we had our break, Casper shimmered into the room like Jeeves bearing a silver platter of his secret hangover recipe, and we sailed on through the rest of the period.

I don't know; maybe all the talk about carrying capacity and J-curves scared the daylights out of him, because he has not darkened our door since, and it's been over two months. He certainly made sure to reduce the population of our little world by one.

Yes, you heard that right, friends. We're coming up on 42 days of absence, and nothing. Now officially, I am wondering just what it takes to be declared truant around this neck of the woods, because I've seen kids avoid school before, but this case has reached a new low.

Now, I personally am a doughnut agnostic, which you wouldn't believe if you saw the breadth of my beam, but it really bugs the kids when they haven't completely blotted Casper's existence from their minds-- which they do until we hear the doughnut trolley screeching down the hallway. I am more bothered by carrying this kid on the rolls for lo these many weeks with no concern or perhaps consequences whatsoever for whomever is in charge-- kid, mom, dad, grandma, Great Aunt Tessie, I don't really care at this point. Every time I mention this to the counselor, I hear that his mom called in claiming he had scurvy or consumption or an imbalance of the humors and so on. But I've seen him hanging out at the nearby pizza joint three times since his vanishing act.

Let's just leave aside the law for a second, because we all know what that's all about. Let's just forget that, ten years from now, Casper will claim he was "never given a good education" and that he's a victim of public schools and we should all just keep him full of McMuffins and pork rinds and cartons of cigarettes on the public dime. Let's forget that somehow, we're supposed to make him read and do math on grade level, and his absence on test day will be held against us in the court of Spellings. I am sure our class is probably better without an unwilling someone taking up space. But, at the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I do care that this kid isn't being educated, and at his age, he really didn't seem to have the judgment to make life-altering decisions for himself and maybe, just maybe, we should send someone over there to make sure he's okay.

I am conflicted. And you know, I think that counselor owes my kids some doughnuts.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 90: Musical homeland edition

And here is another Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. This week in honor of the beginning of the second century for mah beloved homestate, we will, of course, celebrate all that was Green Grow the Lilacs.... set to music.

So give me some quotes in the comments section!

"I don't know what to make of you! You're too purty to be a skunk! Too thin to be a snake! To little to be a man, and too big to be a mouse! I reckon you're a rat!"

"He said I's like a Persian kitten coz they's the cats with the soft, round behinds!"
"In this country, that had better be a proposal of marriage!"

"Territory folks should stick together; territory folks should all be pals."

"You never know how many people like you till you're dead."

"Everythin's up to date in Kansas City. They've gone about as fur as they can go."

"Many a light lad may kiss and fly,
A kiss gone by is bygone.
Never've I asked an August sky, 'Where has last July gone?'
Never've I wandered through the rye, wondering where has some guy gone;
Many a new day will dawn before I do!"

"The daisies in the dell will give out a different smell
Because poor Jud is underneath the ground."

****Weekend Update:
Yeah, I'm from


You wanna make something of it?

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holy crap! No wonder I'm po.

This is why I'm not rich. Oh, plus the fact tht I'm a teacher. But-- STILL!
A child is priceless -- but raising one can break the bank. Children born in the U.S. today will cost their parents more than $338,000, on average, by the time they graduate from a public college. That's according to BabyCenter.com, based on College Board and Agriculture Dept. data. Send your precious offspring to a private university, and you can expect to shell out an additional $70,300 for tuition.

Think education is your only big tab? Think again. Just keeping a roof over junior's head will cost nearly $105,000 through age 18. Food will eat up $41,400, and health care will set you back $17,400 over 18 years.

Most parents are woefully unprepared for these huge expenditures. That's why Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner at mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price (NasdaqGS:TROW - News), teaches a financial planning class for prospective parents in his spare time. He starts each session by asking would-be moms and dads to focus on their biggest priorities. "Do you want to stay home to care for your family? Do you need a bigger home? Those are the issues you need to (focus) the most attention on," Ritter says.

Experts say the best way to plan for many of the biggest expenditures, be it college, vacations, child care, summer camp, or a Bar Mitzvah, is to set aside individual reserves of cash for each goal. "Most Americans don't do that," says Dan Yu, a certified financial planner and director at Eisner, an accounting and advisory firm based in New York City. "They just throw it on a credit card and worry about it later."

There's more to read in the article, and there's some pretty good advice there.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Now THAT'S High Church!

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the thurible from Hell.

Where were these guys when my friend Becky got married? That guy only did figure eights. Kid stuff.

And I have brought this to you, my friends, pure and "UNCENSERED."

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wanted: One case of mouse-sized Depends Undergarments

I have had the pitter-patter of little feet in my clasroom the last few days, since bleak November's wind has turned cold. No, not human feet. Verminous feet. Scrabbling, scurrying, trashcan feasting, desk-befouling little feet.

Pamplona has the running of the bulls. I have the running of the rodents. And just like in Pamplona, nature will have its way, and friends, someone is gonna get hurt. And it's not going to be yours truly.

Yes, it had the big brown eyes and twitchy little whiskers, and the tail twice as long as the body and the little round ears. But this is no Japanese anime anthropomorphized critter. Sure, my first response was "Live and let live." Bless the beasts and the children, and all that.

His advent originally reminded me of the Poet Burns' response when coming upon a mouse nest uncovered by a plow, to wit:

"Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
An' fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!"
-----------------Robert Burns

I can tell you that this little twerp's schemes have indeed gang agley, because Ms. Cornelius, although generally a lover of all creatures, is not a lover of all creatures' excrement. And there was a pile of mouse fewmets behind my bookshelf that could have filled a sandbox. So nature's union be damned.

Hmmm. Fellow mortal, indeed. As Bertie Wooster might say, "Jeeves, the poet Burns is an ass!"

So out has come the duct tape, and the brillo pads, and as a last resort the glue traps even though they are awful.

And I only had to personally ask for a broom and dustpan five times before someone finally came and cleaned it up. All I wanted was a broom and freakin' dustpan, but no, I kept being told, "Oh no, we'll clean it up." I thought about going down and puking on someone's shoes, but I don't ralph easily. (Ralph-- get it? As in Ralph S. Mouse? No? Never mind.)

For three straight days. And when finally someone came and swept up the spoor of this not-so-cow'ring beastie, he then dumped it into my personal trashcan right by my desk, so I could have the pleasure of breathing in the odor for yet another two days.

I really don't want the little brown turd machine to die. If they would just not poop and pee in my room, I would be more filled with the spirit of bonhomie and noblesse oblige. But if I find any more caraway seeds on my desk, someone is gonna get squished like a grape.

Although it is fun to watch the great big football players shriek and perch atop their desks like birds on a wire.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An intriguing theory regarding the spiralling cost of college

Could our country decrease the number of H-1B visas if college were more affordable? Here's the theory from Jim Rapoza:
Now that the U.S. Congress is in session, we are once again seeing a push by the major technology companies to get an expansion to the H-1B visa program. As always, we are hearing the same complaint that America isn't producing enough qualified engineers and computer scientists to fill the needs of major American companies.

In the past I argued that it seemed crazy to say that there aren't enough technology workers available, when every one of us knows a few highly skilled technology workers who are either unemployed or underemployed.

But I do agree with the technology companies on one point. America isn't producing enough new qualified technology workers. And the main culprit is our failing higher education system.

I personally know a young man who is currently working toward an accelerated bachelor's and master's degree in engineering. An honors student in high school, he is currently in his sophomore year at a state school where he is maintaining grades consistently above a 3.5 average.

So far, so good. Sounds like a perfect future candidate for those desperate tech firms. But this year he seriously considered dropping out of the program and may face a similar decision next year.

What's the problem? As a middle-class kid living at home with his single mom, he can barely afford to continue at the state college he is attending.

Sure, as an honors student he received a decent number of scholarships. And he gets a good amount of student loans. But the scary thing now is that even at a state school, this young man is facing a bill well over $12,000 per semester. With the scholarships barely making a dent in this bill, by the time he gets his master's he could be facing a student loan debt over $100,000.

This boggles the mind. Twenty years ago I attended a private university for much less than this. And at that time friends of mine attending these same state schools paid very little per semester and left college with almost no student loan debt.

How could things have changed so much? The state school system was supposed to be the path to success for the middle class. Now they can't afford to attend without mortgaging their future. It would be one thing if salaries had grown similarly, but a kid getting out of college today isn't making that much more in initial salary than those who graduated in 1990.

And, oh yeah, it doesn't escape the notice of this young man that a majority of his professors come from overseas, where in the vast majority of cases they attended college for free. Can you believe that we are raising a generation of bright kids who sit around wishing they had been born in another country so they could get an education in the field that they love?

I look at the amount of money that some of these technology firms are putting into pushing to get H-1B visas expanded (and to expand their own presence in other countries) and I wonder what that money could do if it were redirected to help the future technologists of America.

How many kids who are now thinking about leaving could finally get their degrees without the fear of crushing debt? How many future technologists who have given up on even attending college could feel safer making the decision to get a science degree?

In a recent statement in support of expanding H-1B visas, Roger Cochetti of the Computing Technology Industry Association said, "It's all part of keeping America competitive."

Well, I'm sorry, but when it comes to keeping America competitive, the key battle isn't in letting in more smart people from other countries; it's in making sure that the future smart people from here don't end up getting left behind.

Amen. When I went to a private university in the 1980s, with the help of loans and scholarships, I managed to eke out a degree even though we were a one-income working class family. It really wasn't a question of not being able to afford college, since I had also been accepted at three state schools that were rolling in oil money. Now I see my students facing the prospect of 10 times as much debt as I accumulated just to go to a regional university.

Most of the pressure seems to be states cutting back on their support of higher education in their budgets, or at least that's what the officials at these colleges claim. It's ridiculous. A state that cuts back on education soon finds itself short of educated workers.

It's elementary.

Labels: ,


Drug-resistant staph infections are on the rise.

A school in New York has found a student and an employee with MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. A student in Virginia died from the infection, and 21 schools were closed and cleaned as a result.

It's never too late to repeat: I wipe down the surfaces in my room once a week, and wash my hands frequently during the day. I have actually had students who have had virulent staph infections and not even know it.

It's really frightening.


I don't practice Santeria, I ain't got no crystal ball.....

What kind of day did I have today?

Well, let's put it this way: I may just get out the silver tray and the forty candles, although it IS tacky to wear white after Labor Day.

Cue the Sublime song! For some reason, I'm also channeling Bull Durham right now.

But seriously, I hope to God I never work for a principal like that.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 89: Saucepan brassiere edition

Here it is time for movie madness Monday, and I feel the pull to the dark side-- since we just lost a blasted hour of sunlight. So why not just engage in a little lowest-common denominator humor?

Here's how we play: I give you some lines from a movie, and you respond in the comment section with your own lines from the movie without naming it. It's easy!

Sadly, I have been dealing with these kinds of kids all day. And it is wearing me out. And I think that they don't know they're behaving like this movie's characters. Hey, we all do sometimes. So here we go:

"Don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I'm training to be a cage fighter."

"Just follow your heart. That's what I do."

"You know, there's like a butt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff."

"Just make yourself a dang quesa-dilluh!"

"I don't know how they do things down in Juarez, but here in Idaho we have a little something called pride. Understand? Smashing in the face of a pinata that resembles Summer Wheatley is a disgrace to you, me, and the entire Gem State."

****Weekend Update: Don't get shave your head in despair, it's


This one finally grew on me.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Completely Divine Carnival

Do you want to know What It's Like on the Inside of a haunted schoolhouse? Then head over to the Carnival of Education at the Science Goddess's place!

It's De-lightful! It's De-lovely!


free statistics