Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Axe?

I'm going to take a break from my usual drivel and actually post about something professional.

In my district, there is a substantial history of having a better than average foreign language program. Back in the day, there were "Junior High Schools", which consisted of 7th, 8th and 9th graders. High Schools were 10-12th. Beginnning in 7th grade, students could take the first year of Spanish, French or German, if it fit into their schedules and/ or they were so inclined. The course material was the same as that at the high school level, so that any kid in the district taking Spanish 1 got the same content, no matter which school.

Students could continue language study upon entering high school and were then able to take wonderful upper level courses in literature and civilization before taking the AP plunge. Many students were able to CLEP out of foreign language requirements and several had enough credits that they entered college with almost a minor in a foreign language.

Fast forward to the 90's. The Junior High Schools were made into Middle Schools. 9th graders went to high school, 6th graders to middle school. Our high school moved to the 4-block concept. "Exploratory" classes were offered to the 6th graders.

Enter the new millenium (millenia? I don't know.) Our every move is driven by test scores. Test scores from tests that don't count for anything. There is a big push to create more time in the day for math and reading. Rumor has it they are planning to cut foreign language from the middle schools entirely. It's only a rumor, but it exists because there has been some discussion about it.

This saddens and angers me on so many levels. If anything, second language instruction should begin at an earlier age, not later. Is this really the best our district has to offer its students?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Baño Update

Ok, so I've been a bit of a slacker blogger lately. Suffice it to say that last week's time change? Where we sprung forward? Kicked my ass. It did not help that last Sunday morning I needed to be at the 8:00 (am) mass, which was really the 7:00 (am) mass, at 7:35, which was really 6:35, for Girl Scout Sunday. Since I am a leader for Claire's troop and an official Helper for Lydia's, I really needed to be there. Then my senses completely took leave of my body and I ended up not sitting with the girls. There were all these parents in the gathering space before the mass and I figured there were enough adults there, so I'd go ahead and sit down. I think I was projecting and doing what I wanted them all to do and instead did it myself.

We are officially in Remodeling Hell. Before I bore you with those details, let me first say that there are definitely some things I like about my big old house. Here is one of them:

This is the detail of the leaded glass window on our stair landing. Lovely.

Here is another:

This is the heating vent in Lydia's room. It is the only one like it in our house. The others are also attractive, but no other has the sunburst design.

And another:

This is the interior shot of the small, center windows on the second floor. They are in our bedroom-there is a third window as well, but it's in Mr. T's closet. They have 3 for symmetry, not function.

Now for things we have destroyed. Right now, the bathroom upstairs (that's right, THE bathroom upstairs. We have a half-bath on the main floor and a Turkish prison motif bathroom with a shower in the grungy, slightly scary basement.) is in complete destruction. Let me show you why:

I don't know if you can exactly see, but there is a vanity, then a toilet, then another vanity. So, when you sit on the toilet, which at some point, we all have to, you are wedged between 2 ugly vanities. The previous owners painted over wallpaper- a very blah taupe color. Those who know me know that I am not a beige/taupe/neutral color kind of person. I like me some color. Color! So, the first thing to go was one of the vanities. A close-up:

Check out the light sconces that need to be replaced:

Could they be any uglier? And why the bare bulb? And why did the previous owners live with this? They had a flat screen plasma tv hanging on the wall - why not invest in some decent sconces?

Oh, and at one time I guess people liked heaters on timers over the bathtub. But, apparently, there is the whole issue of rust:

The sad thing is that it still works, but when you turn it on, it smells like burnt dust. It's going.

Oh, and in addition to the painted over wallpaper walls? Grey paneling that has also been painted over. Also going.
So now, the bathroom is gutted. The tub is there, but everything else? Gone. I'll post pictures of the rubble. Hopefully by summer we'll have a new bathroom, all ready for action.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Red Pen Blues

Well, my plan to take a mental health day last Friday was thwarted by a freak snow/ice storm Thursday evening, resulting in most of the area schools to have a snow day. March certainly came in like a lion this year. Rootin' for the lamb to do its thing at the end of the month.

So, with my extra day of freedom, why do I still have a monster stack of papers to grade? Because just looking at the stack exhausts me. Because I know that when I get to certain students' papers, I will hang my head in frustration and wonder what the hell goes through their minds some days. Because I hate grading papers.

Sometimes I play a game where I look at a student's name before I tally their scores and predict what their grade will be. I'm usually right. If I'm not it's either because the kid was having an "off" day, to either positive or negative results; or because the test I've given is not so good, or I haven't covered the material adequately. Sometimes it's a combination of all.Which is why I have to grade papers. And I hate it.

In May, I won't care, though. Because in May, Mr. T and I are going here. The girls will go to Camp Grandma and we will make a little weekend out of it in the Windy City.