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)....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You're taking what in high school?

My 15 year old daughter who is a freshman in high school just received an award for Pre-Calc. I didn't take that class until I was a senior in high school! And yet, I probably had an easier time of getting into some of the top colleges in the country than she will. How is that possible that my children are both taking a bunch of courses and learning things, I guarantee I did not learn until college. Chemistry? Are you kidding me? My chemistry class consisted of making prom decorations, and yet I aced the science portion of the ACT. Will my children do that well even though the classes they are taking are far more advanced than what I took? I can hear you readers thinking that perhaps the ACT test in my day was far easier, huh? Well, that may very well be but I doubt it. The mismatch of class content and achievement is puzzling.  "I'm vexed, terribly vexed."

I can not believe just how much times have changed from the days when applying to a state school was a shoe-in. UT and A&M were a breeze. Today, in 2011, unless you graduate in the top 8 -10% of your class you almost can't get into these schools. And yet, close to 25% of the students fail out their freshman year. In some classes over 50% of the freshmen are taking remedial classes. Are you kidding? If they qualify for college then how can they need remedial classes.?Sounds like a good way for the universities to make more money. "sure we'll take an extra 15-24 hours worth of remedial tuition from you before you begin your 120 credit hour degree" So the schools benefit monetarily, the students that are 'automatically' admitted but need remediation really just end up paying too much for their degree. They would have been better off taking their remediation at a junior college and then transferring to UT. The students who are just below the threshold for the top 10% but yet do not need remediation end up going north to OU and getting their degrees out of state. I'm sure they'd have liked to get those seats instead of those who graduated at the top of a mediocre school and are stuck taking remediation.

So if my kids took the same line-up of classes that I took they'd have no chance of even getting into UT or A&M. The class rankings in my day were simply on a 4 pt scale. There were no honors credits or AP classes that gave you a 5 point A. GPA's were never over a 4.0.  Today, if your child doesn't max out on the 5 point classes their straight  4.0 A's may put them below the top 10%. In fact over 25% of the graduating class at my daughter's school graduates with a GPA over 4.0. If you don't have a 4.8 or above you probably won't get into UT. The games we have to play to pick the proper classes based on 'points' is ludicrous.

But since times have changed I have to get with the program. So, I have my children signed up to take all these AP classes. They definitely have more knowledge than I did when I graduated but I wonder if they will have more wisdom.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top paying degrees?

Twice this week someone has posted to either facebook or twitter the results of a study that show that the two top paying degrees to get in college are engineering and math/computer science. What they don't tell you is that a math degree on its own gets you no where. I don't know of a single friend ( me included) who got a degree in math that is not teaching. That puts us in the education category which was at the bottom of this pay scale list.
   I almost think that it is unfair advertising not to insist that the students who are good and interested in math take classes that augment math such as engineering, computer science or finance. At the same time, quit glorifying the engineers as if they are the second coming. Seriously, all the 'skills' that engineers bring to the table they learned in a math class. All the problem solving and critical thinking that the studies are touting, started in a math class. So how about some love? Where's the praise for math? Engineering without math is voc ed. It's metal shop or auto hobby or wood shop.
  It's time to redesign the majors in college so that you don't spit out really bright mathematicians who are only qualified to teach other mathematicians, etc...... How much more productive can we be if we offer these math majors some classes that will translate into jobs after graduation?


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Change The Equation

This is a complicated issue, no doubt about it. To even broach the subject of where we went wrong in the STEM education standards is a vert delicate arena. I have my own theories and observations but to voice them is to stir up a huge dust storm that obscures the issues.

First of all quit comparing our student's test scores to those of the Chinese, Indians, Russians or Japanese. For crying out loud, it's patently obvious that is far easier to educate a homogenous population than the population that we have here in the US. And for pity's sake how about the 'holier than thou' Yankee states quit looking down your noses at the southern states. Do you really want me to point out the elephant in the room? Have you looked at your demographics lately? Before I even go into the issues that haunt and hamper differing races and ethnicities, it again goes back to my assertion that it is easier to educate a homogenous population than one that is truly diverse. Here are some of the numbers to highlight the different challenges that TX and CA face:

Here are the percentages of the state population that is caucasian ( non- hispanic)
NY : 60%
CT: 73%
MA: 79%
OR: 80%
PA : 81%
WI: 85%
IA: 90%

and now for TX and CA, 46% and 41% respectively. So you see that these extremely heavily populated and popular states are a  majority-minority state. So as the 'oh so educated'  people from the east coast, upper midwest and Northwest lecture us and cluck their tongues at us, why don't they applaud the fact that we 2 states are making great strides in educating the future of America. This is what America will look like in a few decades and generations. Gasp, yes, don't panic up there in Iowa, there might actually be a minority living on your street and going to your schools. We are living it. We are functioning and embracing our people.  We drive down our streets where the billboards are entirely in Spanish. We have leaders and employees that reflect the ingredients from all over the world.

So as these think tanks wring their hands and whisper "why can't they all just emulate how WE do it up here in CT?" Here's the answer: because our population is diverse. Deal with it. Accept it and plan accordingly. Do you spend more money per pupil than we do in TX? Yes, and you know what?  You also spend more on housing, food, gas and entertainment. It's not about comparing dollars spent or standardized test scores. How about some suggestions about how to improve STEM education for the real demographic distribution of the region?

So the organization" Change The Equation" sent letters to each of 50 governors asking them to take steps to address the dismal education standards in STEM areas. I just wonder how many of these members of the organization actually live and work in an area with majority minority populations. I also wonder how many of these members give any credit to the enormous task TX and CA are facing with educating such tremendous numbers of people, many of whom do not speak English.

I really want to find some suggestions about how we can improve here in TX. I'll try to articulate some thoughts next time....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

to teach or not to teach....

 Well, well, well. I returned home after day three of my triathlon training training. No that's not a typo, I am training for triathlon training. I was so paralyzed after my workout on Thursday that my right arm would not bend enough for me to reach my mouth with a fork, let alone a toothbrush. And forget about drying my hair. So needless to say it was a long weekend of very little hygiene.....

So back to my return from the gym today.....there was a message on the machine. It was TCU ( Dr Doran) calling to tell me he really needed me to return to TCU and teach math. Well I am never one to turn down such a flattering request. I have to say that it really is perfect timing. It's a no brainer for me. It pays enough for me to cover Alex's college tuition. It's only 3 days a week, 10 hours a week and I will only be 1/2 mile from Betsy is she needs me to run up to school and bring her things like lunch, calculators, forgotten homework, etc. The other benefits of course are the cute frat boys that will be streaming into my classes!! Seriously, Mrs Robinson, you've got nothing on me. It's really hard to believe that in a blink of an eye I went from a potential date to a potential mother to these boys. Ooh, I just realized I have even more incentive to lose weight now that my rear end will be front and center of all eyes in the class. There's nothing more distracting in a math class than a "hippo shimmy" going on at the board.

Once more into the breach..........

Sunday, May 1, 2011

well maybe not so fast

Well, I was alerted to the fact that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan today. I got a text message and then checked it out on twitter. Talk about news traveling fast. As I walked up the stairs to tell my husband to turn on the news my 15 year old daughter called out from her room that she had just heard the news on facebook. It's hard to believe that we live in a world where there is almost no lag time in big new stories.

So how does this news make us feel? I have to say that my focus on Bin Laden had faded over the past 10 years. So now I feel sort of a let down. Sort of anti-climactic. What's wrong with me? I was almost embarrassed to see the folks outside the white house cheering and survivors of 9-11 calling for pictures of his dead body. This struggle has taken so long and has cost so many innocent lives that it's hard to feel celebratory. I must admit that my feelings are somewhat tinged by my dislike for Obama and his leadership style. So, I'm trying to be objective about the news. I'm trying to give Obama the benefit of the doubt concerning Osama.    I'm going to give the President a fair nod of approval.  Well done sir.

I hope this makes us safer, but I tend to think that someone else will fill his shoes. What a tough situation. I'm actually encouraged to find that there are secret operatives working on our behalf to root out these terrorists and bring them down.

Get a job or exercise?

 So as I sit here on my ever expanding derriere and contemplate my navel, Bobby came home from golfing with the newspaper. The headline was about triathlons.
  So searching for my purpose in life as I transition from the happy housewife/mommy to whatever I'm supposed to be next..... I've considered a new career but unless something spectacular comes my way out of the blue I think my career will probably stay on the math teacher track. Not so bad when you think about the alternative. Of course the grass is always greener when I look out over my successful friends and their awesome careers. Get a grip Deb, and get real. Ok, so the reality is that I am 30 lbs. overweight, approaching 50 and I'm about to have a lot more free time on my hands. As I write this I realize just how unoriginal my 'plight' is. Geez, wtf?
   Alrighty then. So if I want to be able to get the most out of the years that Bobby and I will be spending together I better spend my time on what will make those years be the best we can make them. A job or lack of job really won't affect how Bobby feels about me. But my physical 'status' just might!! Not really. He's a great guy and will always love me, but let's face it- sexier & healthier is better.

  Therefore as of this week as finals for the TCU students wind down and I have some serious free time on my hands I will devote everyday from 9-12 to exercise and then the subsequent clean-up ( which for me takes an hour from start to finish with all the make-up and blow drying). I'm going to join LA fitness because they have a lap pool and tons of treadmills, etc. It's not far off the bike path along the river so I can incorporate the biking aspect to and from the gym.

ok, the next post will be day 1 of the mommy triathlon training program.....