Tuesday, August 16, 2011

playing the game

 I've been watching the unfolding of educational policy in the US in general and Texas in particular. I look back at what the  standard requirements used to be, albeit in the prior millennium, the standards were based on merit. If you took a class and received an A, you got a 4.0.  There were no levels to a class like say, Chemistry. If you took chemistry you had to complete certain tasks, take tests and your average was recorded and grade points awarded. If you scored a B you got a 3.0 , etc. There were no 5 point classes for honors, or enriched or AP. If you were gifted enough to take a difficult class and you got an A, not only was your reward the A but also the satisfaction of accomplishment and enhanced knowledge.

  So fast forward to 2011. At my daughter's highschool- a very large urban school, here is a breakdown of some of the games that you have to play.  If you are in marching band or orchestra, the class counts as a 5 point class, meaning and A receives 5 grade points, a B gets 4 etc. So a student taking all 5 point classes can have a 5.0 GPA. If you play a sport and make all A's your GPA can drop to a 4.85. It doesn't sound like much but it can knock you out of the top 10% over the 4 years. . If you play a sport, no matter what level, you only receive 4 points. If you want to maintain as high a gpa as you can ( for class ranking) then you scheme to take your PE credit ( 4 points) your senior year. I could go on for hours with examples of the nonsensical world of grade points, but you get the picture.

  Why should I care? Well in our wonderful state of Texas, if you graduate in the top 10% of your class ( calculated by the weighted GPA) you get automatic admission to UT and A&M regardless of your SAT scores or the actual curriculum. In 2008, 91% of the seats at UT were taken up by the top 10%'ers. That left the university with only 9% of the seats at their discretion. So in 2009 they capped the seats at 75% filled with top 8%'ers. Therefore, only 25% of the seats are being evaluated on any merits other than class rank. So at my daughter's school, if you are a straight A student, but you play varsity sports for 4 years instead of  something like marching band, you will drop out of the top 10% and not receive the automatic admission that the kid banging the cymbals at the end of 'send in the clowns' half-time show does.

   There are schools in the district where the average SAT score of the top 10% is barely over 1000. If you are in the 11%- 25% A&M requires that you have to have an SAT score of over 1300 to get the other road to automatic admission.  Of course, I'm not advocating eliminating the rank from any consideration, but it should not be the driving factor. It is not the most accurate way of assessing a student's college readiness. It must go hand in hand with curriculum, test scores, essays and extra-curricular activities.

 This system does not promote a well rounded college bound candidate. This encourages very strategic and uncomfortably monitored choices of 5 point classes regardless of content and value. At a time when the obesity rate is beyond the epidemic level, it is absurd to discourage college bound students from playing sports. But for some, they  will be cutting their own throats in the class rank game if they choose a sport over a 5 point choice.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Can I fake an 'ironsides' ?

So as I prepare to return to the classroom this month I am trying to decide how I can gracefully maneuver around the whiteboard. No, I did not say wide-board.

When I started teaching I was the same age as my students and was a potential date.  Tall, thin and smokin' hot ( ok, well tall and tepid) But now comes the judgement day, the rear end rapture. I have to stand in front of the frat boys and wiggle my way through some pre-calc, all the while trying to constantly divert their attention upwards.

Can I fake a mild paralysis and claim that I need to sit and use an overhead projector? I think George Costanza tried that one to get  the handicap bathroom. Where's Harry Potter's invisibility cloak? Maybe I could wear it as a skirt...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

All around awesome Alex day:)

That's a Quad A day! I am so proud of Alex right now. We spent a good bit of time this week shopping for some new clothes for him. He is so tall and thin that he can wear virtually everything. His favorite is a royal blue blazer with an awesome turquoise shirt and killer paisley tie. It really is a bitchin' outfit.

My amazing friend and hair dresser did his hair and off we went for a 90 minute photo shoot for his senior pictures. It was a surreal experience for me. To look across the studio at this incredibly handsome young man posing as if he's on the cover of GQ magazine. I tried to just stay in the background and keep my tears from welling up. I cry so easily when I think about how far he's come and how soon he will be leaving me.

We got to do some fun shots as well with some of his 'history' memorabilia. He even took some shots with a Teddy Roosevelt meets Stanley Livingston theme.

When we got home I checked the website for his SAT scores and he raised them by 90 points!! Well done , son! He should be feeling quite a boost in his self esteem after a great day like today.

Kudos to you , Alex. You are amazing!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Video blog of Rome coming up!!

I'm very excited about doing a video blog of our upcoming vacation in Rome with side trips to Florence and Venice. I've been obsessively ( imagine that) researching websites and you tube videos so that I'll have a lay of the land when we get there. It's been so long since I was there that my memory just isn't going to hack it as reference.

So I thought it would be awesome to do some video blogging and share with other travelers. I hope it turns out well. I've got a handy HD digital video camera so I'm hopeful that it will work.

Google maps with the street view has been a god-send. I've been doing a virtual walking tour of the neighborhoods in Rome this past week. I've already scoped out the tabacconist, the wine bar, the greek restaurant and the bank just around the corner from our apartment in Trastevere.

Another great website is the Rome Bus/metro ATAC website. You can enter the start and end of the daily jaunts you want to take and it will tell you the best route including the number of the bus/tram/metro and maps of the stops. Considering I'm planning on hitting about 12-13 sites each day, and considering my feet have been giving me fits, I plan on making liberal use of the buses!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Heading to Rome

 It's been 28 years since I've been in Rome. Hell, most Caesars didn't rule that long.  I wasn't exactly walking the streets in a toga, but they were still using Lire back then. Those were the days when I could get 1500 lire to the dollar. Pizza cost less than $1 a slice. Dinners were about $4 and a leather jacket was $10. Not any more. The Euro is at about $1.40 to one euro. So I'm curious to see just how weak my dollars are.

We are renting an apartment in Trastevere. It sounds wonderful and I think we'll have a much more memorable stay than in a hotel. We've used this service VRBO three times before and we've always been very happy with it.

We are taking a few trains around for day trips. We are  going to Firenze, Venezia and Napoli. Man, when I think back to my train trips in 1983, I cringe to think about how we traveled. It was a very fine art back then, and one that I must say that I was the master in. I would find out  on what track the train was pulling in . I would leave the luggage with my traveling companions on the platform and I would jump on the still moving, arriving train and push my way into an emptying compartment. Then I would disrobe the 5-6 layers of clothes that I had put on and throw them in the seats to make them look occupado.  I'd open the window, wave to my friends , who would hand the luggage up to me through the open window and then they would shove their way to the compartment. Voila! I had a seat for every ride in Europe!!
   Now this time around we are traveling first class with reservations. It will be a completely new experience for me. I just hope it is as much fun:)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do we need more space?

Is it just me or am I suddenly living in a house full of really big people? The house we've lived in for 12 years has always seemed adequate. Most outsiders would think I am being silly to feel cramped in my beautiful two story tudor house. I'm sure I would here the usual comment like " generations of people have raised much bigger families in much smaller houses than you" ahem. But it is really making me feel claustrophobic. We have about 2400 sq. ft. which seems ok, but all three bedrooms open onto the same landing about 6 feet from each other. Even though my son is about to go off to college next year, he will still be home for xmas and summers. For the first time he asked if we could get a place with more space. He has always been my ever faithful kid who never asks for much, so if he's feeling like it's time to move then I think that maybe it is.

A fixer-upper is on the market and I am sorely tempted to buy it. It is much bigger with a much bigger lot. It is one story and it is a mid-century modern. I really, really like it. But here's the dilemma......if I want to move out to CA in 3 years when Betsy graduates then I should stay put in my current house. Should I be so fixated on moving to what I consider 'paradise"? Should I be more realistic and stay here in Ft Worth with all the friends we've made? How much do you chase your dreams before you realize that you have wasted the treasures that you have? I feel like an Aesop fable character. My mom's philosophy is bloom where you are planted. I've never really liked that saying. I've spent most of my life having to live where my dad's job or my husband's job took me. Which of course, you sort of have to do when you depend on your job, duh.

I feel disloyal to my current house. It has been a great place to raise our kids. But the other house seems like such a great opportunity. My friend, a realtor , is going to show me the house on Thurs. In the mean time I'll keep getting things fixed up here and try to neutralize the paint pallet just in case I want to sell....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

tick tick tick....ding!

Whew, I feel like I am running out of time to teach my son all the things that I dreamed of teaching him. You'd think that 18 years worth of interaction would be sufficient, but somehow I feel like I've been on auto pilot since about 4th grade. I can barely remember the passage of all those school days. I must have been conscious,  but it beats me what wisdom I have imparted to him. Have I taught him how to handle himself when he gets stopped by the police for speeding? How do I teach about how to handle a broken heart without allowing him to go out there and get it broken? How do I convince him that the heartbreak is worth it once he finds the love of his life? How do I teach him to be passionate about his beliefs but at the same time be able to keep the lid on his tone of voice when having a disagreement with someone? Basically, how do I teach him about real life without him having experienced much of it yet? How did I learn about it myself?
   It's so hard to believe that my baby is going to be a senior in high school- an 18 year old man.  It sort of reminds me of when I'm packing for a trip and I have a nagging feeling that I have forgotten something really important. Socks ( check) underwear (check) toothbrush (check)....