Monday, February 23, 2009

Being Toni

We are both 5'6". She is 36, Australian and a beautiful actress. I am older, not Australian, nor am I a rich and famous actress. We're not that similar, but for some reason, several people have come up to me - co-workers and strangers - and told me I look like Toni Colette. Hm.

I looked at her in several photos on the web - both from films and from publicity shots. I had never thought I looked like her. The last time anyone said I looked like a celebrity was in 4th grade and if I wore my hair in braids they said I looked like Laura on Little House on the Prairie. Oh, well, there was that guy in college who said I looked like Pat Benetar, but I think he was drunk.

Usually when someone says the you look like someone, they immediately deny it. We know our selves best , right? I was surprised when I got my 1st Toni comment. I was surfing around and admitting that we do look sort of alike when she we have a similar hairstyle and if she's not blond at the moment. And then I saw a photo of her in "In her Shoes" and I thought it was me for a second. I thought it was a picture of me for just that split second and it was freaky to realize it was absolutely not me and was Toni Colette. It looks like me when I was in middle school with longer hair. She is sitting at the kitchen table and has on a blue stripe V-neck top. [Can I post it here? I don't know all the rules. I don't want Big Brother to get me.]

I look like her in "In Her Shoes" and "About a Boy", but not at all like her in "Little Miss Sunshine" or real life. In "Shaft" she was a redhead and it's great - I think I can try on the new look before doing it to myself.

Thanks Toni - I love your films and I am glad that if I had to look like a star - it's a decent pretty woman like you.

Noe I just gotta work on that Australian accent ...................

Saturday, February 21, 2009

SO much to be thankful for

I found that my former church has sermons you can listen to online. I started listening to a few - it was nice to hear some familiar voices - the preist who married me and dh. Familiar echoes of the congregtion laughing in my church home.

Then Robert spoke. He's not a priest, just a member of the congregation in his 30's. He works at the local Target. When shoppers see him, they know he is different. One side of his body is stiff and his gait uneven. His expression often slightly vacant. Scars remain on one side of his face.

I knew him when he was in high school. I think my sister either had a crush on him or went out with him once. He was so handsome, athletic - a wrestler- attended an elite boys prep school and always wore a coat and repp tie to church. He was cool - aloof - maybe seemed a tad arrogant.

But he works at Target. Not because he was uneducated - no, he went to a fancy southern university and pledged a preppy fraternity and dated good looking girls. Drove a fancy car. Had a start in a promising career in finance as a stock broker.

He is a walking miracle. The first time I saw him back at church after the accident he was in a wheel chair and would involuntarily moan or shout out during the service. I found myself wincing every time. I heard his fiancée left him unable to deal with the situation. He was told he'd be in a hospital bed for the rest of his life. Eventually he walked with a walker ...and then without it.

He'd always tell me a joke. Every Sunday a new joke. I think he was working on improving short term memory with this exercise. Through his slurred speech which is much improved now - this is 15 years later, I think - he was full of jokes and smiles and compliments to my mom about what beautiful daughters she has.

Judging a book by it's cover can be painful. I imagine all who see the guy stocking the shelves and have no idea what he used to be like and who he still is inside. How different he is now - and how the same. They have no idea how far the effects of one unused seatbelt and one careless driver can be felt. As a mother of boys, I so pray they will always be protected.

And I thank Robert for reminding me to be a careful driver - that every one out on the road is someone's child.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dear Substitute Teacher,

All you have to do is show up, call roll, hand out my assignment and keep the students in line. It's not that hard to follow directions.

Substitute teachers - hear my plea! Take attendance! Please!! Take it properly!

Didn't you ever go to high school yourself? Passing around a sheet of paper and telling kids to write their name is not taking attendance. Kids write down names of their friends who are cutting class! Surprise! They write down names of famous historical figures! Duh! Or porn stars! Shock! The quiet kid or the avid reader misses the paper being passed and gets marked 'absent' - all because you didn't do your job!

The next day I drag in - usually still sick - and see what you have left me. A list of 22 names (minus George Washington) for a class of 23 kids. Hmmmm... so who is missing? (It's like naming the 50 states and you get to 49 and you can't recall which one you left out. ) Do you realize how much time you will save me if you just write down the name of the absent kid? It'll save paper, too. Now I'll have to spend my planning time figuring out WHICH kids are missing off the lists. And then I have to refer to the absentee bulletin, the online attendance record, the suspension list, the tardy list and the sign-out lists to see if they were really absent from school or if they cut or if they just missed the sign in sheet.

Truly, I cannot even start to thank all the substitute teachers out there. I have encountered some really top notch ones. Thanks for being so great so that when I am sick, I can stay home in misery without worrying about my desk, my classroom, my students .... we really depend on you when we need you.

Tips for High School Substitute Teachers:

-Take attendance. Use the seating chart. Being able to call a kid by his name will do wonders for the cooperation factor.

- Always take a class set of something for the kids to do JUST in case there is no lesson provided. Make sure it'll take the whole class period. Crosswords, sudokus, brain teasers, a copy of a recent article from the paper, a series of trivia questions.....

-Do not override the teacher's lesson. If the kids tell you "We can't do this - the teacher never taught us this" do not believe them. I will never leave a sub plan like that. I wouldn't do that to you or to them. If you feel it is an honest plea from well meaning kids that they don't understand the work, then let them work in groups so that they can help each other. The smart kids can help the slower student. I will deal with it the next day.

-DO NOT cancel class and turn on the TV or declare 'study hall' time.

-Sub at just one or two schools all the time so that soon you become as familiar as one of the full time staff members. Then you will receive more respect and cooperation from the kids. They will think of you as a "real teacher" - which you are, but they will view you as an authority figure when you are a familiar face at school.

-Watch them. Read your newspaper or book, but you have to look up every few minutes or they'll realize you aren't watching and get sneaky. Most kids are good, but you never know. If a sweet kind honor student just HAS to SMS her boy friend and tries to sneak the phone under the desk - and the principal walks in at that moment - she AND you could be in trouble. Why risk it?

-Dress and act professionally - mean business - don't be too harsh on the kids - know what school rules are and enforce them.

A note about substitute teachers.......
Why do we need them anyway? In European countries, when a teacher is absent, the class is usually cancelled and the kids just don't go to class. They just go anywhere. Or some schools have a "study hall" that is a permanent large room - open all day- with a teacher monitor and they can go there for quiet study. Why are American teens not trusted this way? Why must they have a "sitter" but European teens are fine on their own? Is it expectations of behavior in society? Is it the litigiousness of parents in the US? I don't know the answer.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Price of Education

We are guaranteed a free and public education in America. Free yeah, but the money has to come from somewhere. Most places it's property taxes, right?

I work in a place where taxes are high. Say, $6,000/year for a 4bedroom home in the suburbs. The schools have everything they need. If I need pens or staples, there is a closet in the office where I can got get these supplies. Coaches and club advisors receive decent compensation for their extracurricular activities. We have a full time In-school Suspention teacher plus stipends for after school detention monitors. We have buses for the student to come to school, go home after school, or go home one hour after school so they can attend tutorial sessions, club meetings, detentions, etc... In this community I rarely hear about how expensive schooling is. Every high school has it's own school system and superintendant. Substitutes are readily available so teachers do not have to cover for an absent teacher. If they do, they get compensated. At my school here, we have 2,300 kids: 1 principal, 4 APs, 8 counselors, 7 supervisors (dept heads who do discipline, observation and evaluation), 1 data processing specialist (for grades), 1 librarian and a library aide, 3 computer specialists and 6 secretaries.

I worked in a place for 10 years where the taxes were low. Like $1500/year for a 4 bedroom surburban house. The schools have nothing. If I needed pens, I could go to Staples and buy them myself. If I wanted to be a club advisor, I could do it on my own time for no pay. If I had a discipline problem, there was no detention, no ISS, but I could call the kid's parents - or they could get suspended if it was serious - nothing inbetweeen. We had buses to bring kids to and from school. And in this community the papers are filled with people whining about overspending in the schools and overstaffing. School districts are county wide with up to 15 or 20 high schools in the same systrem with one superintendent. Substitute pay was so low we had mutant zombies come in to sub. Or no one. Teachers regulary gave up their paid planning time to substitute for an absent colleague. For 500 kids at my school we had 1 principal, 2 APs, 2 counselors, a registrar, 1 librarian, 1 science teacher who got 1 extra planning period to work on computer problems and 2 secretaries.

A funny aside: in the high tax area they have all these Volunteer Fire Departments. In the low tax area I never recall seeing a volunteer fire department. The firemen down the hill from my first apartment were always sitting outside the fire house on this bench waiting for a call. Volunteer firemen or volunter teachers? Which one would you pick?

I am in a position to move back to the "low tax" city and work for the schools again. I have family situations and it is a place I need to be. I will never work for free again. If you want your kids in a club or to have a prom or take a class trip to Disneyworld, great, but I will not work for free. It is not fair how many hours these activities take to plan and carry out and it's crazy for the parents to expect us to do our teaching job and spend all kinds of unpaid time for extras.

Education costs. Someone has to pay. I resent being an educated teacher and a bunch of non-educators yelling about how surely we can get by with less. Educating the young people in the community is one of the most important jobs in any community right up there with the police force protecting us and the doctors taking care of us. And citizens who haven't set foot in a school in 50 years are yelling about how we don't need 2 assistant principals? Same folks yell when schools fail to discipline the kids. We can improve the schools by supporting them and letting the professionals decide how many employees they need to do a good job.

To do things right, things cost. Education costs. Someone has to pay.