25 January 2006

Some winter weather finally! & Random brain droppings.

Looking out my window is a pleasure when there's snow on the ground and more falling from the sky. We were forecast lots, as much as 5-8 inches, but got about 2 and maybe as much as 4 by the end of the day. I wish I had time this weekend to run away and ski, but I do not. I've got a work event to attend Saturday night and the another cooking class at Lyndhurst on Sunday which will end up precluding any skiing I might do on Sunday unless I was taking Monday off of work, which I can't. Should be good skiing weather, too, in the upper 30s and partly sunny. Unfortunately, the farthest I could get away would probably be Peek'n Peak in western NY state, which isn't a bad place to ski, but not my favorite, that honor would have to belong to Breckenridge in Colorado. Anyway.

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted about The Black Table shutting down? Tomorrow's the day. I never posted to the site myself, just enjoyed reading what everyone else posted. Today's update is the final Black List, which I love to read. You never know what people are going to submit. I like the random-ness of it all, plus the grades that they assign to whatever they are reviewing are funny.

I'll miss The Black Table, but I have found another fun author to read, planet mom, and funnily enough, she shares my name. Exchanged some nice e-mails with her; I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. I've never wanted to write the Great American Novel; but maybe something that someone would read. I don't have many ideas floating around in my head for fiction, but I am a really big fan of Charles de Lint, who writes what he calls "mythic fiction" and I like the possibilities of faerie being just at the edges of our perception. So maybe there’s an idea there. I’ve never really thought of myself (necessarily) as a creative person, but perhaps I am. Or perhaps that changes as you move through life.

Julia’s blog had a story about her son’s teacher saying he was gifted the other day. I too was labeled “gifted” somewhere around 2nd or 3rd grade and was in accelerated reading and English classes. Looking back, it makes me smile a bit because when you look at my standardized test scores, from the IOWA test we took in 4th and 8th grades to the SAT, ACT and LSAT, I consistently score high in language arts, reading comprehension, English composition, and then way down near the bottom for math & science. I liked science, just didn’t “get” it. I love to cook and bake now, and baking especially IS chemistry. I don’t know what made the school administrators decide that I was “gifted” but I am real glad that they did. I would have been more than bored if I hadn’t had the enrichment classes. We read J.R.R. Tolkien in 5th grade, had to follow an adult (long long before “Take your daughter to work day”) for about 3 days in 7th grade, and wrote papers that required more work than many things I did in college. The gifted/talented classes ran from I think 2nd grade through 7th. Then they put us back into mainstream classes in 8th grade, which was a pretty big mistake. We drove the 8th grade reading teacher insane. Literally. I’m not proud of this, but it is the truth. The man took a sabbatical about halfway through the year because of what we put him through. As an adult, however, I place most of the blame on the school district; we were bored. They put all of the really smart kids in the same class period with a teacher who was completely unprepared for us. After having spent the last 5 school years doing things like studying the evolution of democracy and being given the freedom to pursue things that interested each kid, they put us into a reading comprehension class. Duh! Half of us read War & Peace in 7th grade and the other half chose something else by Tolstoy. One or two of the smarter kids puzzled through the Russian. For fun. (Were we geeks or what?) Then they wanted us to move light-years backwards. No wonder we drove the teacher nuts. We did some terrible things. We organized our misbehavior. Had a schedule. Isn’t it amazing that I remember these details? The 8th grade history book was a 600-page behemoth; we would all bring it to class and all drop it on the floor at a specific time. It must have weighed about 12 pounds. Noisy. Then we’d all scoot our desks forward little by little until the aisle between the first row of desks and the blackboard was mere inches. While he was teaching, writing on the blackboard. He’d turn around, and we’d be right there. Which I now imagine was kinda terrifying. Then when he’d order us to move back, we’d overcompensate so that the last row of kids couldn’t get out of their desks. The instigators ended up getting suspended for a couple of days, but really, the adults had almost no control over the situation. The worst thing that I personally did was borrow someone else’s glasses and wear them only in his class; I insisted that he change my seat so I could “see the blackboard” about once every 3 days. Moving, of course, to yet another friend who I would then proceed to chat to through the entire lesson. A few years after we did this, the school system decided that when the gifted program ended, they would offer the choice of foreign language classes to the kids who had been in the program.

All this makes me think that maybe friend Jen is absolutely right to home school her kids. But I think I’m against home schooling. Mostly because although the pubic school system is undoubtedly broken, I don’t think that the way to fix it is to pull out all the kids whose parents can afford to home school them. There’s gotta be another way. And then there’s the fact that socialization IS learned and that home schooling doesn’t teach social skills, exactly. If you only have to interact with your own family, you will never learn how to get along with someone who is different from you. It took me a very long time to learn how to interact with kids my own age, because I was always mature for my age. I spoke in complete sentences and whole paragraphs even at a young age, from “oh” to oration in nothing flat. I loved to read from age 2 on, and could read all by myself at 3. I haven’t ever stopped either; I’m always reading something, and usually 2 or 3 somethings. Fiction, non, doesn’t much matter. My parents worked really hard to make me pull my nose out of a book and to interact with neighborhood kids, but my closest friends were almost always older than me by 2 or 3 grades. I ended up skipping out of high school after my sophomore year, first to be an exchange student and then to start college a year early. I was in a hellava hurry to get going! By being only a year younger than most incoming freshmen at the local uni, I didn’t stand out too much unless someone asked me how old I was or if I wanted to get a drink with them, then they were usually surprised, as in “what are you DOING here, why aren’t you going to high school?” For all that, though, it still took me 5 ½ years to finish my degree. So being “gifted” didn’t really make a difference in the long run, I guess.

I work on a regular basis with someone who is a teacher in the public schools, and she tells me all the time that the “No child left behind act” which is Pres. Doofus’s answer to what’s wrong with the school systems is also broken. They’re required to test much more frequently, and all that does is cut into the time that they are able to learn new things. Then there’s the fact that you end up teaching to the test, so that more kids pass. O-hi-a’s got a voucher system that allows you to put your kid into a private school if your local public school is rated “failing” and they also recently enacted an open enrollment rule that forces any public school to accept any kid, no matter where they live, as long as there are enough spaces. Competition, as you can imagine, is fierce for desirable schools, which only “open” a few spots a year to comply with the letter rather than the spirit of the law.

OK, enough for today. I type the entries in Word for spelling and grammar checking which is easier for me than blogspot’s speller, and this has run on for several pages in Word, which is more than a bit longer than my usual entry. Cheers!

No comments: