“writing assignments for bad kids…”

Hmmm.  Well, that’s what showed up on my wordpress dashboard yesterday as the search terms that led someone to my site: “writing assignments for bad kids.”  Nothing like promoting the idea that English is torture. 🙂  Give ’em some grammar exercises, too, why don’t ya?!

I have a student this semester who is so far beyond being a bad student that he is a caricature, a cartoon.  Yet, I’m not sure for all that I’d call him a bad kid.  Compulsive liar?  Sure.  Morally repugnant?  That’s a given.  Passive aggressive?  Duh, of course.

But I hadn’t stopped to think maybe he’s just bad to the bone.  I was more thinking that his lack of any sense of personal responsibility for his own learning has led him to get absolutely nothing out of college.  And his lack of work, any writing really of note, is what led to the F on his midterm that I just passed back.

I tend to find that the worst students are the ones who are NOT writing, not doing their work.  So my answer to the person who queried about “writing assignments for bad kids” is to say the problem is not in the assignment but in the student’s work ethic or attitude or study skills, etc.  “Bad kids” or “good” — they all need to write.  Motivating a kid to write, well, if you figure out the answer to that, I’d like to know!  I already discovered long ago that grades rarely motivate struggling students.

Just checking in…

I have nothing interesting to say.  Sorry!  Just checking in to let you know I’m still out here.  When I took a first aid class once, they said you should ask three questions about a person in distress:  Is she breathing?  Is she bleeding?  Is she comfy?  Well, I’m okay on the first two….  Not sure about the last.  But I can say that not blogging has freed up just enough of a smidgin of time for me to be able to stay caught up in my grading…. SO FAR!  LOL 🙂

I tell you what…here is another link to a funny video.  Who says I don’t think of my friends…?!

Again, I can’t get this to show up directly into my post (anyone know how to do that if it isn’t YouTube?)  But I laughed out loud at this kid. She is too precious in her wily storytelling ways!

the hippo was allergic to magic

Amelie rocks!

here’s a laugh…Finnish goats

A friend of ours sent me this link to a cartoon made by some Finns of the “Three BIlly Goats Gruff” story.  It includes the most addicting little song.  My husband tried to turn it into a ringtone.  We all sing it to one another at odd moments to lighten the mood.  My son begs for it!  I secretly watch it all the time. 🙂

I could not get this video itself to show up on my site, but it is SOOOO well worth the click.  Hope you enjoy!

http://plektra.kapsi.fi/KolmePukkia.mpg

Baaaaaa!!  🙂

Kreativ Blogger? Wow, thanks!

I want to say a big thanks to Montessori Mama, who has given me the Kreativ Blogger award!!

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You know, it feels kinda good.  I needed the boost — thanks again, MM.  Coming from one of the most creative of all bloggers I know, this award means a lot!

Now, on to the rules:
– List six things that inspire my creativity
– Pass the award on to 6 more kreativ bloggers
– Link back to the person who gave you the award
– Link to the people you are passing it on to and leave them a comment to let them know.

so…

SIX things that inspire my creativity:

  1. family night — We decided to rotate the responsibility to each family member each week  to choose an activity for Friday night that the whole family would enjoy.  Last time that it was my turn, I chose painting, and we had a marvelous time just hanging out and painting together. Never done such a  thing together ALL three of us at the same time.  Cool!
  2. Christmas — Something about that holiday brings out my creative side.  I relish the chance to make things beautiful, to use my hands to create something new out of something old (ornaments, table decorations, handmade cards….)
  3. teaching a text that students seem to find boring — Ah, I love that challenge! That’s when I revert to drawing crazy pictures on the board, jumping on top of furniture to act out a concept, bringing in wigs and hats for students to stage an impromptu dramatization of that boring 18th century poem, etc.
  4. dinner parties — I know you aren’t really “supposed” to make up new recipes when you have company coming, but I love to get creative in the kitchen for my friends.  Almost always there’s enough delicious food (if I do say so myself) in the meal to make up for anything borderline.  Even the flops are food for funny stories later on. 🙂
  5. scrapbooking — Okay, I admit it.  I actually like doing this activity.  I haven’t been able to work on anything for years, but I love how it is both a creative (making something new) and retro- and intro-spective activity.  I need to find a way to do this craft again, as it gives me much pleasure both in the doing and in the viewing later.
  6. Grandma’a life — I find my beloved grandma to be incredibly inspiring.  Writing her book is one of the most meaningful things I have undertaken in my life and one of the hardest.

Now, on to listing SIX more kreativ bloggers:

The Sruggling Writer is a wonderfully creative guy — I like how he just keeps on writing despite being busy with work and his young family. I’ve seen a noticable change in the quality of his writing, too, clearly proving that practice makes perfect. Paul, you’re awesome!

I read Kitty’s delightful blog  The Show Must Go On almost every day.  She is witty and hilarious and kind.  Check her out!  But bonus…she is also a gifted photographer and has another blog The Cuckoo’s Nest filled with interesting pixs.  This gal can do anything.  She even turned me on to cooking cabbage (yup, Kitty, I finally bit the bullet and cooked that thing in the bottom of my fridge — delicious!  Who knew?)

Ginny over at Praying to Darwin is a crack up.  Always makes me LOL when I read of her and her family’s escapades in the great white north of Canada.  I’ve actually snorted with laughter when reading her before.  Thanks, Ginny, for cheering my day!

I love handmade paper products (books, cards, etc.), and I really admire Diane Aldred’s work, often showcased on her blog Much of a Muchness.  She has a real knack for choosing just the right design.  She’s also a good writer, and despite my jealousy over her exciting travels, I’m nominating her as well.

I don’t recall exactly how I first found Katie Hoffman’s blog Paint Fumes, but I have enjoyed visiting it and viewing her paintings for a long time now.  I always find something worthwhile to contemplate there, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the art wold from her interesting written posts, as well.

When I first began blogging a year and a half ago, I was searching the blogosphere using the keyword “grief”  and came across Linda’s mysteroriley, a “blog I never wanted to write.”  What strikes me so much about this blog is Linda’s courage and the strength of her creative energy in the face of the painful loss of her 20-year-old son.  Linda, I admire you both as a writer and as a human being.  You inspire me!

So, there you have it folks!  And I want to encourage everyone to visit Montessori Mama‘s site, too.  She is a gifted artist, teacher, and a great gal. Thanks!

Happy Sankta Lucia Day

Yes, I know that all of you American and English readers are busy eating your Lucia buns and drinking the coffee that your eldest daughter brought to you at the crack of dawn and all that.  Sorry to bug you.  I just wanted to wish all a happy Sankta Lucia Day.

In case you don’t know (though I’m sure EVERYONE does), Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated in Sweden and Italy.  Yeh, that’s weird, huh?  Lucia was an Italian saint, a martyr who brought food to the Christians hiding from the Romans in the catacombs.  She is famous for wearing a crown of candles to light her way in the subterranean caverns (her hands were busy holding big baskets of food, get it?)  Of course, she was murdered, but not until after all the requisite miracles.  Etcetera.

So the Italians celebrate her feast day (Dec. 13), but why the Swedes?  Well, one thousand years ago King Canute was experiencing a bit of Seasonal Affect Disorder and feeling glum because, well, Sweden is relatively cold and dark this time of year.  Then he heard about Saint Lucy and said, “Ah, ha!  This is the saint for us!!” So he proclaimed that Sweden would observe her feast day, too.

The Swedes today celebrate with Lucia buns and coffee in the early morning.  Girls wear electric lighted crowns and bring their parents the food.  Boys wear funny pointed hats and are called “Star Boys.”  There’s lots more to it and all, but that’s the basics.  Oh, and there’s a song, of course, as well!

Anyway, happy Sankta Lucia Day to one and all!

Ice Storm

We awoke this morning to the news that today my kid’s school was canceled due to an historic ice storm in New England…and then I called my university and found it was also closed for the day, thus leaving the semester forever unfinished.  No leave taking means no closure.  The last day of class is a very bad day to have a weather cancellation.

Ah, well, the students, no doubt, are rejoicing that they have extra time to complete their final portfolio essays, and I suppose it will not kill me to be unable to grade papers this weekend!

So my kid and I were home today.  Hubster had to go to work, governor declared state of emergency or not, his office was open!  Anyway, kid and mom have been housecleaning and ventured out to go to the grocery store, as we are a bit low on food.  So we went to our favorite local store where they sell a lot of organic foods.

When we arrived, we found that their power was out, and they were cleaning the fish and meat sections and tossing out a bunch of perishable food.  There were only a few lights on in the large store — eerie and more than a little weird to be let inside.  But they were selling food to those who made it to their store.  We got what we needed, including the last carton of buttermilk in all of Massachusetts, no doubt.  Thank goodness — since my quick bread recipe that I wanted to try out this afternoon calls for 3/4 cups of buttermilk.  Eeghads, what would I do without that ingredient?!

As we walked to the checkout counter through the frozen food aisle, I stopped to take this photo with my phone camera.  They had saran wrapped the doors all shut so nobody can buy the food from the freezers.  Think of the enormity of the waste and financial loss.  Yikes.

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In the parking lot, I started chatting with an elderly gentleman who works at the store as a bagger.  He was on his way home.  He first asked me if my power was out at home (so nice!)  Then he went on to explain that by law the store has to throw out perishable food if the refrigeration or freezer is shut off for three hours or more.  The store will lose tens of thousands of dollars, and it will take quite a while to restock. In fact, the Governor says none of the power in the whole state  is likely to be back on until at the earliest MONDAY.

What a terrible waste, I thought.  I mean, of course, there is the safety issue and all.  But if only someone from the store had decided at 2 hours and 45 minutes into the power outage that they should donate all the perishables to the local food pantry (which still DOES have power and does not have enough food)….  Alas, instead everything is being dumped into the county incinerator.

It was quite an eye-opener for my son.  He usually relishes storms, especially when they mean no school, but I think he is beginning to understand how interconnected everything is.  His school friend’s power is out and their sump pump is not working, so their basement is flooding.  Lows in the teens tonight will mean a chilly evening for that family.  I’ve called to offer them a place to stay with us, but I can’t reach them. Friends from church just sent out a plea on the church listserv asking to borrow anyone’s generator to run their sump pump because their basement, too, is under water.

As the sun begins to hang lower and lower in the sky, I can feel the temperature dropping.  We enjoyed about an hour of sunshine this afternoon, during which time the tres and bushes tried to shed as much of their ice encasements as possible.  The outdoors were blindingly bright, shimmering with falling ice, glittering in the sun. Now everything has turned gloomy again. High winds and low temps are expected tonight.  I can only hope enough ice melted earlier to keep us from joining the one million households in the northeast currently without power.

Saving Money at Christmas…

This year, since my husband was laid off in August and had to take a job at much reduced pay, we are particulary keen to save money.  Here are a few tips I thought I’d share with you:

1) Invest in LED Christmas lights.  Yeh, I know, that means spending some money.  But those little lights add up to a big savings.  Did you know that LEDs use one tenth the electricity of standard lights?  Plus, they are SOOOO much safer — very much cool to the touch.  And they last SOOOOO much longer than regular bulbs, so this is savings that will continue for years (not to mention it’s better for the planet).  I bought the colored mini-lights because I prefer their warm tones.  The white LEDs seem kinda almost blue to me.  Some people like that, though.  Whatever.

2) Send your presents to relatives who live far away NOW.  Do NOT wait.  It is five times as expensive to send things express at the last minute because you forgot to take care of this earlier.  Save money by thinking ahead.  And this particularly applies if you are sending presents to ME!  Don’t delay! 🙂

3) Cook for people.  Seriously.  Who really wants yet another bodywash/lotion/loufa sponge set or a kitchy little Christmas doo-dad?  Give folks what they really want: chocolate.  Here’s a simple truffle recipe that will make everyone SOOOO happy you are their friend.  Warm up one cup (240 ml) of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add one pound + 6 ounces (625 g) of semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped.  Stir until chocolate is melted. If you want to add 3 tablespoons of rum or some other flavoring, you can do so now.  It’s you liver.  Put the pan in the fridge about an hour until mixture is firm.  Scoop out teaspoon-sized mounds onto a baking sheet and refrigerate again about a half hour.  Then roll each one in your hands to make it into a smooth ball, and roll balls in plain cocoa power, chopped nuts, or coconut — whatever you like.  These look so time-consuming and  fancy and taste so delicious.  But this is a super cheap and quick gift (makes about 65 truffles in less than two hours)!

4) Regift.  I mean do so deliberately.  Get together with friends for coffee at someone’s house and bring items that you want to get rid of (new or gently used).  Put them all out on a table and then everyone goes around and tries to see if any items might work as a gift for someone you know.  (Of course, this doesn’t work if the gift you want to regift came from someone at the regifting party!!)  In my case, though, I’ve got a few different sets of friends, and we don’t really give each other gifts anyway, so I anticipate no worries on that count.  This is a great way to do children’s gifts, by the way.  I mean little kids especially are almost more interested in the box than what’s inside!  And I think this is going to be pretty hilarious, too.  I mean wow some of the stuff people get — at least this event’ll be good for a laugh. 🙂

5) Do not buy wrapping paper!  Use what you can find around the house…like brown paper bags turned inside out  with red painted stars and a rafia ribbon wrapped around a cinnamon stick…or tinfoil with shiny ribbon…or the tried and true–newspaper comics page…for a small gift, create your own fancy paper from a plain sheet of white paper with watercolor paint splashed on it….  Use your imagination.  Time spent on a nice wrapping counts as part of the gift, you know.  And it’s possible to make your wrapping look like it took SOOOO much longer than it really did.

And now, it’s time for me to practice what I preach and wrap those presents that I need to send to California tomorrow!

On Gratitude … and Lemons

While waiting in the foyer of my son’s school to pick him up this afternoon, some of the children’s art on the wall caught my eye.  I didn’t have a camera with me, so please excuse the less than ideal quality of the pictures I took with my phone camera.  But these were just too precious not to share with y’all in this season of giving thanks.

First off, there’s Ava, whose wonderful love of citrus first caught my attention.

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Who ISN’T thankful for lemons, honestly?!

And then there’s Jordan…

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… who loves ALL pie. I think I’m pretty open-minded, but, man, that takes the cake. 😉

Next we hear from Amanda:

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I’ll bet Caroline and Victoria are glad they rate above cornbread, though who can blame Amanda?  Cornbread IS tasty.

Finally, since this applies to YOU all, I include this message from Erin…

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Thanks, Erin.  You’re a sweetheart.  Don’t hate us too much when you find out how much we’ve screwed up your beloved world.  We’re trying to fix our mistakes now.

What are YOU all thankful for?

Why my son is sad… :-)

“I’m sad, Mommy.” (Yes, he still calls me mommy though he has now turned eleven.  For a while he wanted to change to mom and I said fine, but it was too hard for him to make the shift, I guess.)

“I’m sad, Mommy. I’m going to have to wear glasses and have braces and… be BALD!”

Sweet little guy.  “Not all at the same time, honey.”  Yeh, like that helped.

Bubby is myopic, it turns out.  We bought his glasses on Tuesday night and will pick them up Friday after school.  It will be an adjustment.  They are nice glasses, dark blue rims with open bottom, Ray Bans, featherweight lenses.  But it will be strange to see him with glasses on all the time.  I suppose we will all get used to it.

The braces, well that’s not until next year, says the orthodontist.  Have to correct an overbite.  No big deal.  He has told me that he wants orange braces.  Hmmm.  That sounds pretty gross.  And it’ll clash with the blue glasses, won’t it?

As for the baldness, we were chatting along one day and me an my big mouth — I mentioned that baldness is actually passed down through the mother’s father.  My dad hasn’t had much hair since he was…hmmm…when did he start losing it, exactly.  Ah, well, bald is beautiful.

My son has the loveliest face and beautiful blue eyes, and he is tall and strong and has a killer smile.  I know he has nothing to worry about.  But he has become a tweener and suddenly these things matter. On the other hand…

Yesterday he told me he was “really excited” about getting his glasses.  He’s sure a trooper!

1,500 messages and counting…

LadyBeams, who kindly checked in to see if I was still in the land of the living, expressed some dismay at my absence lately from my blog.  I am, as it turns out, still alive and kicking.  Drowning in work, but still with one nostril clear to breathe through.

You see, I very fooloshly descided to use technology, blogging and Blackboard, for all of my classes this semester.  HUH?  Yeh, what an idiot.  At this point in the semester, I’ve read over 1,700 messages/posts, and I’ve posted somewhere close to 500 of my own.  It’s an insane pace I’ve set for myself, and I’m far behind in grading this work.  Students are really learning, of course, but I am swamped.  Weird deja vu here.  I mean, haven’t I been here before?  Didn’t I swear I’d never come back here again…?

I guess so many messages on the class discussion boards or my students’ blogs wouldn’t be too hard to manage if I didn’t also have to grade regular papers.  Remember that I am an English professor.  That means multiple paper drafts.  Let’s see, 25 freshmen who have written three papers so far = 75. Then 15 sophomore English majors who have written three papers so far = 45.  And 28 sophomore non-majors who have written one paper so far = 28.  And finally 24 on-line students who have written one paper so far = 24.  Mid-term total = 172.  But they aren’t through yet with early drafts, about 107 more to go.  Then there’ll be the final revisions of those papers to grade, almost doubling the number: (279 x 2) – 48 = 510 papers to read and mark this semester.  Don’t get me started on reading quizzes, small assignments such as bibliographies or paper outlines or the requiresd final essay exam in freshman writing…!

I’m not saying this to complain.  Seriously.  I am NOT grumbling.  I’m happy to have a job, actually. 🙂  But the next time you hear someone say that teachers have it too good because they get summer’s off, can you just smack them for me?!

In any case, I’ve never been more on-line in my life.  I just haven’t been here…or at my friends’ blogs lately! Ah, but the semester is only fifteen weeks long.  Eventually it will end, and I can catch up then with my blogging and writing and reading, etc.  Maybe even before then….

Back to grading now for me.  Just one last thing.  As you get ready to vote in Tuesday’s election, I want you to think carefully about things like funding for public education and whome you elect for postions on school boards and all that.  Listen guys, I don’t know any teachers who don’t work like dogs all the time, even in summer.  It’s an incredibly tough job to do well.  Please support our efforts.

And if any of you reside in Massachusetts, please vote NO on Question 1, a propsal to abolish the income tax in our Commonwealth.  We can’t take a 40% hit to our state budget.  Such a move would gut public education, especially public higher ed.  Things are tough enough for educators.  Please support your educators!