Thinking and Knowing

Or, “You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop teaching!”

I tutor a lovely international student and her son on Sunday afternoons (naturally, this makes Sunday the highlight of my week). Today she and I had a really neat discussion about Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. I suggested she read it because many of the books she has read and enjoyed in English are more British, and I wanted to suggest something that is very American. We have also had discussions (began many months ago during a discussion of “The Grasshopper and the Ant”) about the Puritan Ethic, and I knew Arthur Miller’s commentary on life in Salem would provide insights into the Puritan Ethic that I was having trouble explaining. I’ve said for a long time that the Puritan Ethic is problematic for me, but it’s difficult to explain how it is problematic to someone who does not have the American version of that in his or her cultural consciousness.

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A Modest Proposal

In which I discuss a sensible, rational plan for making sure that teachers have enough instructional time to cover the standards required while simultaneously insuring that all required testing mandates are observed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about standardized testing over the last few weeks. Part of the impetus of this thinking is that the abundance of standardized testing was a big part of why I decided to leave common (K-12) education (despite the fact that I loved it more than any other job I’ve ever had), and it makes a good “short answer” when people ask why I don’t teach anymore. Of course, that’s far from the only answer, but most people don’t want to listen to an essay when they expected a one- or two-word answer. In a previous post, I discussed the ways in which preparing students to take standardized tests may not be quite as useless as most teachers claim, but I still don’t appreciate how much instructional time they require.

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Memories and the Box

I cleaned out my Memory Box the other night, and it was an interesting experience.

The Box itself isn’t anything special – just a medium-sized Rubbermaid container with a lid. Inside, however, are so many special things. For example, I’ve saved every card my husband has ever given me. I also have every diploma cover I’ve ever earned, my Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures, my grandmother’s felt “letter” from college (I presume it was supposed to be for a letter sweater, but she never had it sewn onto anything), some cassettes that I couldn’t bear to part with (even though I have the same albums on CD now), a bunch of ticket stubs, and a whole bunch of other things. Most (if not all) of the items do not hold much in the way of financial worth, but they are all special to me for one reason or another – reminders of people I’ve loved, places I’ve been, and the people I used to be.

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“Dreamcatcher”

Today is my 34th birthday.

Wow, 34. In the words of Wil Wheaton, “I’m not going to lie to you, Marge,” it feels odd. Adult, maybe. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it. Getting older has always been a mixed bag for me; I look forward to new beginnings (as I do at New Year’s – I’m lucky that I get to reflect twice a year, and it’s almost exactly six months apart, give or take thirteen days), but I also reflect on all that I didn’t accomplish over the previous year.

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Circling Back Around

There’s a fish tank in my bathtub. It’s a pretty big fish tank – 35 gallons – and I’m so stinking excited about it, I’m almost literally beside myself. I’ve wanted a fish tank for a number of years, and I never could quite justify the expense to myself, especially since I already have a very spoiled cat. This fish tank was a gift from a new friend who is rapidly becoming a close friend, and I’m so thankful to have her in my life for a number of reasons. I don’t usually make friends easily (by now, I really hope no one is shocked or surprised by that – I’m long-winded, smart-alecky, socially awkward, socially anxious, shy, and introverted, just to name a few reasons, but I’m sure you all know that already), and she is the first real friend that I’ve made in the two and a half years that we’ve lived in Oklahoma City. So I was thankful even before she gave me this fish tank, just because I have a friend (but I am certainly super-thankful for the fish tank, too).

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No One Ever Represents Only Themselves

I learned something important today, or maybe I should say that something I already was aware of was reinforced today, and it’s this: Anytime you open your mouth, literally or metaphorically, your words always reflect on someone else, and usually a lot of someone elses. Just for the sake of argument, let’s use me as a test case. Anytime I say anything to anyone, although I may be saying it only as an individual, others may hear those words as a part of something larger. To that person, I may be speaking as:

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Christmas is Coming…

… and that means it’s prime gift-buying time. Christmas is not my favorite holiday, but I do enjoy selecting gifts for the important people in my life. However, I don’t like all the commercialization that seems to have been added into the holiday itself; I think people can have absolutely wonderful Christmases without buying a bunch of imported plastic crap that keeps CEOs rich and poor people poor. To that end, I have pledged to buy all of my gifts from small businesses and independent merchants. I know it’s a little late in the game, but I’d like to challenge all of you to buy at least one gift from a small business or independent merchant. To that end, I’d like to introduce you to an awesome person who is a hero of mine, and invite you to browse her website for any last-minute gifts that you might need. She is “Surly” Amy Davis Roth, and she makes ceramic jewelry that is available at http://www.etsy.com/shop/surly.

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Bullying and a One-Sided Sense of Intimacy

I doubt this will come as any sort of a surprise to anyone, but I’m a pretty big fan of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve come to the somewhat inevitable conclusion that I am, in fact, Sheldon Cooper in non-fictional form, and for the most part, it doesn’t bother me. I guess I finally am coming to terms with myself.

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An Open Letter to the Allopathic Medical Community

Dear Doctors,

As a member of the skeptical community, I know it must be difficult for you to deal with the fact that some people would rather seek medical advice from people who have not walked the hallowed halls of a traditional medical school. It must hurt your heart to know that some people who are sick may never get well because they put their trust in treatments that have not been proven to medical science to work. I know it hurts my heart to hear about children who are denied life-saving treatment because such treatment goes against the belief systems of the parents – and I’m not even a doctor! Right now, though, I’d like to look at “alternative” treatments that usually don’t involve life-or-death choices, such as chiropractic, offer some theories as to why people choose them, and give some suggestions for attracting these people back to your practices.

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Teaching and Learning in the Age of the Internet

One of the most interesting parts of returning to school after having taught is in watching my professors. Having spent four years on their side of the desk gives me an insight I don’t think I could have achieved any other way. Teaching is not something that can be explained, and it’s not something that can be understood without actually doing it. That experience has given me a unique perspective on my classes, and I know I’m learning more from observing my professors’ teaching styles than I am learning actual content in their classes.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not learning content – I’m learning a lot of content. I don’t even want to offer any examples, because the two classes I’m taking this semester are full to the brim of information that is new to me. It’s a credit to my professors that I’m able to absorb the new information as easily as I have been. What I find the most interesting, especially as it compares to my experiences ten years ago as an undergraduate, is the manner in which content is handled in the Internet Age.

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