Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hmmm... that Brezsny and a Pledge

So, I am working on another post but I am not sure if it will fully birth itself tonight, and then I checked what Brezsny was forecasting for me in the next week.  Voila, a post... his Brezsny, I don't know who he is ... but I am beginning to believe in his power.

Here's what he said...
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Every November, thousands of writers participate in National Novel Writing Month. They pledge to compose at least 50,000 words of a new novel in that 30-day period. In accordance with the astrological omens, Aquarius, I propose that you commit yourself to a comparable project in your own field. Is there a potential masterpiece on which you could get a substantial amount of work done? Is there a major transformation you've long wanted to undertake but have always had some excuse to avoid? I predict that you will attract unexpected help and luck if you summon the willpower to focus on that task.
The thing is, I have been considering making the pledge because I am so desperately behind in my work for this semester -- and I need to write... a ton before the end of the semester, before the end of the year, etc.  So, I am guessing, now, that I should, indeed, take the pledge.

Friends, readers, lurkers, universe:

I pledge to write 50,000 words in November -- I may not write every day -- though I will try... and report here the number of words written, as it unfolds.

I intend to draft some tonight ... and I will count it as though it were written on the East Coast.

Keep me honest, dear readers... with love and motivation.

I will be eating chocolate and writing -- and fretting ... so share love, if you dare.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sleeping City

Sandy did this:

So odd to see the city "asleep"...hoping all are safe now.
Keeping all those affected by Sandy in my thoughts ...

Monday, October 29, 2012

this little one

has been hanging out right outside my door off and on for months and months ... last Wednesday night, crying and crying outside my door.  I opened the door and little one ran in ... I had a hard time wrangling this cat back outside.

I asked, "where do you belong," and got lots of meows in response, unfortunately, I don't speak cat.

Friday, October 26, 2012

free will and divination...

This is what Rob Brezsny thinks about my life right now...

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): The Live Monarch Foundation made a video on how to fix a butterfly's broken wing. It ain't easy. You need 10 items, including tweezers, talcum powder, toothpicks, and glue. You've got to be patient and summon high levels of concentration. But it definitely can be done. The same is true about the delicate healing project you've thought about attempting on your own wound, Aquarius. It will require you to be ingenious, precise and tender, but I suspect you're primed to rise to the challenge. Halloween costume suggestion: herbalist, acupuncturist, doctor, shaman or other healer.
I guess that he has heard about the soul cast I have been trying to figure out how to build.  I think that the answer might be that one needs to also ask for help in that making.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quote Thursday ... poems, again, someday...

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
- H. Keller 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

UPDATED: Look like a citizen...(and a foot soldier)

This week, many pundits opined that Romney just needed to look presidential in the last debate -- and then that he had ... so I exhort you all, just look like a citizen.  But in order for you to look like a citizen, you need to vote.  That's what citizens do ... they recognize their right and their responsibility.  They do not shirk that responsibility just because either choice doesn't seem optimal.

On November 5 and on November 7th we will all still be citizens, but some of us will have exercised our right -- to make a choice, to give voice to our citizenship.

I really don't care who you vote for -- I really don't.  That's the thing about democracy -- you have your views, I have mine, and we vote them -- whichever they are.  YAY... democracy!

I know who I will vote for ... and by the way, I will not be waiting til November 6th to look like a citizen.

Someday I want there to be an election where citizens care more about said election than any dancing star or unknown singer or ridiculous starlet ... and how would the world change if that were true?

A friend turned me on to a site with some awesome bloggers recently, and one of them wrote this about voting not too long ago. I wish I were as eloquent as her -- alas. So, I share her erudite and honest reflection on our rights and responsibilities and staying true to our politics.

UPDATED -- I caught this film 10/25/12 on PBS ... makes me proud and excited to go vote early tomorrow -- for all those Mr. Armstrong's who know -- "if you don't vote, don't talk politics in here."
Watch it, it's short and super sweet and heroic.  He is a remarkable man -- much love to Mr. Armstrong and his family.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What You Can't Prepare For

I grew up in earthquake country ... everywhere else, they think, those Californians, they're so prepared for earthquakes.  Well, I gotta tell you, we weren't.

Sure, we practiced at school by getting under our desks and protecting our necks.  We learned about where it would be good to stand and not to run out of the house.

But we didn't buy survival kits or make sure we had fresh batteries or water jugs.

We prepared mentally -- for whatever might come.

When an earthquake hits, you might not be somewhere that has a desk or a sturdy table or a door frame handy.

It might be in the middle of the night and the earth shaking just feels like you have activated the magic fingers -- or things might drop on you -- or it might feel like an eighteen wheeler just drove through your house.

You just don't know -- but I always thought, I would prefer an earthquake to other natural disasters -- who wants to know a tornado or a hurricane is headed your way?

I thought this because believing that you could be prepared was simply insane... you will live through (or you won't in the worst case scenario) and you will figure it out on the other side.

I feel as though I have been living through a series of earthquakes and aftershocks for the past four weeks.

I am unprepared at every turn for how it will feel -- and all those years of living just far enough off the fault lines did not prepare me for the jarring jolts I have been experiencing, emotionally and physically.

For instance, who knew a number could cause me so much pain?  Who knew you had to mentally and physically prepare for a particular day of the month?

I did not.  I was not prepared.

October 19 came roaring in and it wasn't just an ordinary day -- it was a month since my world broke apart ... how unhinged can one person become from that simple turning of the calendar?

Perhaps it is a good sign ... a small representation that the fissures are opening wider -- tears can come through.

Does this mean healing can happen?  What does that look like? What does that feel like?

I was not prepared for any of this.  I am not prepared for whatever else is coming.  And there are no kits for me to buy so that I can pretend to be prepared.

I am just trying to ride out these earthquakes with some dignity and some compassion ... hoping somewhere, on the other side, there is some comfort and less pain.

Monday, October 22, 2012

News Round Up - mish mash

I know there has been too much news round up of late ... I can't help it, it is all I can do some days...

I love Sherman Alexie, so I was excited to listen to this piece even if it did mean having to suffer through Inskeep's cackling. 

I am somewhat heartened by this story, even if the Texans are calling it "disrespect" rather than a risk to the environment... whatever gets it done, so whatever gets these landowners angry.

My favorite part of this story is that the professor started to research this important topic because she wanted to understand an issue important to some of her students.  Being able to look outside of one's own experience is powerful... and unfortunately rare.

This story, in full below, points to several problems with programs that are well-intentioned, poorly financed and then harshly judged.  Political solutions to educational issues will rarely be successful in my opinion...

Graduation Initiative Fell Shy of Goal

Colleen Heild / Journal Investigative Reporter/Published: Oct 14, 2012
The biggest new initiative funded through the governor's $58 million federal stimulus cache produced mostly meager results. The Graduate New Mexico program, which received the second largest chunk of the governor's discretionary funds, was designed to recruit 10,000 high school dropouts by fall 2011 to earn high school diplomas. But that didn't happen, according to the state Public Education Department. "While there is some success, it's clear Graduate N.M. didn't even come close to its goal," said PED spokesman Larry Behrens. "It appears the willingness to spend dollars was greater than the desire for student success." Of the 763 students recruited over a two year period, Behrens said, only 83 graduated. The initiative, first unveiled in August 2009, aimed to either recruit dropouts to return to school or get them on track for an equivalent certification. Richardson originally allocated about $9.4 million for the project, but later reduced the funding to about $8.3 million. Martinez, who took office in January 2011, scaled back that appropriation to $6.3 million. The Lograr Institute, a statewide initiative that is no longer active, received a total of about $1.2 million to help recruit Hispanic students to return to school. The institute was to contract with nonprofit organizations or government entities in New Mexico. "They'll be beating the bushes, finding out where (dropouts) are, assisting them, convincing them to go back, setting them up with scholarships - maybe from the business community - mentoring, study aids, getting parents involved," Joel Nudi, then director of Graduate New Mexico and special projects manager for PED told the Journal in late 2010. The program was to spend $111,000 of its stimulus money on an annual report card, but PED officials could find "no evidence of annual report card being developed," Behrens said. One aspect of the program was to expand an existing program called IDEAL NM, Innovative Digital Education and Learning. And that is "still benefiting many students," Behrens said, adding that 191 students completed courses digitally who might not have done so otherwise. Former Gov. Toney Anaya, who headed the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment until December 2010, recalled that the initiative required PED to develop "a whole infrastructure." "I don't think that the time and money that was required to develop this ‘infrastructure' is what was contemplated when the program was touted to (Richardson)," he added. Anaya said he suspected the number of graduates was higher than 100. He said other aspects of the initiative, such as training of school personnel and others, will "continue to pay dividends into the future."

Friday, October 19, 2012

little black cloud

I feel like I am waiting for the anvil to fall.

The emotions are bottled up -- the most ridiculous situations make me cry.  But I still can't cry for my brother, for my loss, for me...

My thoughts come in short phrases and sometimes single words: alone, gone, surreal, new normal, fear, monsters under the bed, heartache, heartbreak, empty.


Someone told me the other day that I need a soul cast -- as in, if we put a cast on a broken limb to heal, then we also need a cast on our soul to heal from this kind of grief.  I am not sure how it works -- how to make the cast, or how to apply it ... but I am trying.


Wednesday it was four weeks... four weeks... how does the time pass so quickly when it doesn't even seem real?  Why don't I feel "better"? What would that look like? Feel like?
I say it aloud, my brother died ... and I always include how much time has passed... I don't know why. And I see the pain and disbelief in the face of others like a reflection of my soul.  I feel bad, like I shouldn't bring up this grief.   As though, by saying it, I open the wound for someone else.  Am I trying to convince myself that he is really gone?  I say it, and then I picture him in the coffin.  That wasn't him...  he was already gone.
This is how my brain works right now ... in short spurts of ideas sometimes only tangentially related.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quote Thursday-Refuge in words

Cheli, Greg and me - celebrating Greg's 50th

Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. 
Life is about not knowing, having to change, 
taking the moment and making the best of it, 
without knowing what's going to happen next. 
Delicious ambiguity...
-Gilda Radner

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

too tired to blog

hence you will be able to take the Which Madonna are you quiz... I am not sure if this is the most accurate, but I guess I'll take it: Your results:
You are Mid-80's Madonna
Mid-80's Madonna
Political Madonna
80's Madonna
Blonde Ambition Madonna
Cause-Celeb Madonna
Disco Madonna
Veronica Electronica
Rocker Madonna
Movie-Star Madonna
Cowgirl Madonna
You are willing to Open your Heart and Live to Tell what's on your mind. Although you are maturing your Papa still Preaches to you. You are responsible, you have made up your mind and you are Keepin your baby. You love to vacation. . . in La Isla Bonita!
Click here to take the "Which Madonna Era am I?" quiz...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Silver Lining Round Up - Education Edition

StoryCorps is ponying up on the silver linings this week. And the follow up from Albuquerque Journal about teaching reading -- thrown in for good measure and to show that I am not just looking for bad articles from that newspaper.  But I am going to take issue with the "phonics" is the only way to go at the end of the article. One last one about a school that is beating the odds.

This story breaks your heart and give you hope for the future all at the same time. It is about a man whose life got turned upside down, so he made some serious lemonade.  We could learn a lot about resilience and living in the moment from this guy.
Ken Rensink found his calling, teaching special education, after a debilitating accident when he was 19. Now 47, he talked about his journey with friend and colleague Laurel Hill-Ward at StoryCorps in Chico, Calif.
And, this one felt like it might have been made just for me -- this young woman tells how she learned to ask for help -- to not feel like needing help would mean that she would never be looked upon again as the strong young woman that she most obviously is.  We strong, resilient types -- we need to be encouraged to ask for help -- to be soft sometimes, too.
John Horan was dean at the charter school where Tierra Jackson was a struggling student. Part of the reason she struggled: Jackson was homeless.

Teachers use a variety of methods to get students of wildly disparate levels up to reading speed

Hailey Heinz / Journal Staff Writer/Published: Oct 9, 2012Reading abilities in a first grade classroom range from students who read with near fluency to those who don't know which letter makes the sound at the beginning of "he." In a group with such variety, and with an increasing emphasis from state officials on ensuring all students can read by third grade, elementary teachers must use a whole host of strategies as they try to reach every student. "It is a lot of different things going on, and it's whatever will work," said Jami Jacobson, the executive director of curriculum and instruction at Albuquerque Public Schools. "And every classroom is different, the needs of the kids in a classroom are going to vary … those days where we all sat at our desks and worked on one thing together, those days are gone." In Yvonne Sanchez's first grade class at 7 Bar Elementary, students spend part of their morning on separate reading and writing activities, giving Sanchez time to work with individual students. Sanchez assigns students to different activities, so they don't do the same one every time. Some students went straight for the classroom computers - perhaps not intuitive to adults, but computers are part of reading instruction in 2012. Since there aren't enough adults in a classroom to read to each student, the computer "reads" while students listen through headphones and see the book's words and illustrations on the screen. Some of the illustrations even come to life. Several pairs of students were assigned to read together. Sofia Gonzalez, 6, is a strong reader, so she helped her partner with words he didn't know. She said she likes reading in pairs. Other students did "word work," with activities based on several assigned words to improve their understanding. They were practicing words with "short i" sounds, like hit and win. They had to write the word five times, draw a picture showing its meaning and use it in a sentence. Lucia Garrett, 6, was working with the word "win," last week, and she used it in the sentence "I can win games every time." She said she enjoys reading, and immediately started talking about her favorite moment in the children's classic "The Polar Express." "Some words I have to sound out, but some I don't, because I know them," she said. The value of sounding out words, versus figuring them out from context, is an ongoing conversation in the world of reading instruction. Through the years, the pendulum has swung from strictly phonics based methods that focus on sounding out letters to methods that emphasize "whole language" by encouraging students to figure out words from context. Jacobson said the best way to teach reading is with a combination of both - teaching students how to decode their language, but also how to understand what they're reading. "You need to have a balance," she said. "You need children to have phonemic awareness. They need to understand how their language works, the mechanics of it and how to sort it out when they get stuck." But she said if that's all students learn, they won't be strong readers. "What we find is we have kids who can decode until the cows come home, but they don't know what they're reading," she said. "They can sound out a 17 letter word, but they may not ever understand what it is, how to use it or to use it in context with anything else." Rep. Jimmie Hall, R Albuquerque, is passionate about making sure phonics are included in any reading program used in New Mexico. He unsuccessfully pushed a bill in 2011 that proposed defunding any college of education that doesn't teach reading instruction in line with "scientifically based reading research and the science of reading." Hall said the bill meant to ensure that phonics are included in any reading program.

Friday, October 12, 2012

No Link News Round Up, Part III

Even though this is out of sequence, this is more proof that putting all of our eggs in the high stake testing basket breeds actions that are not in keeping with the supposed intended spirit of the NCLB legislation...

Texas test scandal ex-school chief gets 3.5 years

JUAN CARLOS LLORCA/Published: Oct 5, 2012EL PASO, Texas (AP) - A federal judge sentenced the former superintendent of El Paso Independent School District to more than three years in prison Friday for his participation in a conspiracy to improve the district's high-stakes tests scores by removing low-performing students from classrooms.
Lorenzo Garcia's scheme to prevent hundreds of sophomores from taking the accountability tests fooled authorities into believing that academic standards had improved in his West Texas district - resulting in a boost in federal funds and personal bonuses totaling at least $56,000.
Garcia pleaded guilty to two fraud counts in June; one in the testing scandal and another in which he misled the school board so that his lover would receive a $450,000 no-bid contract to produce school materials.
On Friday, federal judge David Briones sentenced him to 3½ years in prison on each fraud count, to be served at the same time. Garcia also was ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution and fined $56,500 - the amount he received as a bonus from the district for its success on test scores.
"As superintendent, I am responsible for everything that went on in my district," Garcia said before the sentence was read to him by federal judge David Briones.
Court documents indicate at least six other people helped Garcia organize the testing scheme.
Mark Morgan, the FBI director for El Paso, said outside the court building that the investigation continues, but he would not comment on whether more arrests are coming.
The 3½-year sentence had been agreed upon in a plea deal between Garcia and the government. Robert Pitman, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, described it as "fair" and "a significant deterrent."
"Garcia abused the trust of the citizens of El Paso. He shamefully turned his time and attention to fraudulently obtaining performance based bonuses for himself. Today, he was held accountable for this breach of trust," Pitman said in a statement.
Garcia, who was hired in 2006, implemented a plan with several other administrators that allowed for the pre-testing of 10th-graders to identify those who were likely to fail the standardized tests. The method, known as the "Bowie Model" because it was employed with the most force at Bowie High School, was intended to keep low performing students from taking high-stakes state tests used to measure its performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Other large districts also have been ensnared in scandals to raise test scores, most recently in Atlanta, where educators gave answers to students or changed answers after tests were completed. But none has been so brazen as to cast off low-scoring students.
After the scandal came to light last year, Texas officials placed the district on probation, named a monitor to oversee it and said the schools showed "utter disregard" for the students' needs.
In El Paso, 10th graders who performed poorly on the pre-tests were held back in the ninth grade or promoted to the 11th grade before the state tests were administered. To keep other students from taking the 10th grade tests, the district held those who recently transferred from Mexico in the ninth grade, told older students to leave and obtain a GED elsewhere and threatened some students with fines for allegedly living in Mexico, outside the El Paso School District's area.
Garcia had one employee photograph students crossing the border so they could be forced out on the grounds that they lived in Mexico, rather than within the school district.
In some cases, when the district needed to improve its graduation rate, it gave students credit for computer-based classes or "turbo-mesters," which were 90-minute sessions in which students earned a full semester worth of credits.
"One girl got two semesters in three hours, in the last day of school, while her teacher was collecting books," said former principal Stephen Lane, one of five people allowed to testify before Briones sentenced Garcia.
The whole idea, said former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, was to make students "disappear" before they were tested.
In the short term, the strategy worked. Test scores improved in most high schools and the district's overall rating improved from "academically acceptable" in 2005 to "recognized" in 2010 - the second-highest rating possible.
Former students, their relatives and teachers affected by the scandal packed the courtroom for the sentencing.
Lane, the former principal of Jefferson High School, said Garcia came after him "with a vengeance" when he resisted the scheme. He recalled the moment after Garcia fired him and had police escort him from his office. The then-superintendent told Lane to have a great weekend and say hello to his wife.
"I can't think of anyone you helped other that a few misguided mistresses, your cabinet and yourself," Lane said. He added later, "I could stand today here and tell you to have a great weekend and say hello to whatever female is with you, but that would be childish."
Jeanette Valenzuela, a 20-year-old former Bowie High School student, transferred from neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with grades she thought would put her in 10th or 11th grade. But instead, she was placed in the 9th grade.
"They said it was because I had no English. But now I see what happened with my grades, why I was flunked," she said. Valenzuela dropped out and became pregnant three months later. Now she works in a clothing store in downtown El Paso.
"I want to go back to school, so I can provide for myself and my child," she said.
David Alvarado, who graduated from Bowie, said he was placed in ninth grade when he transferred from Ciudad Juarez.
"It was all repetition from what I already knew," he said. He thought it would be better the next year, when he was almost immediately promoted from 10th to 11th grade.
"My biggest surprise came as I was preparing to graduate," he said. "A friend of mine showed me the yearbook. It said I was a junior." He graduated anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quote Thursday, again and again...

it does not mean
to be a place where
there is no noise,
trouble or hard work.
It means to be 
in the middle 
of those things
still be clear
in your heart.

Hoping this brings you some peace, and that it allows me to open the door to some...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No Link News Round Up, Part II

Here are two stories about the local school district announcing their desire and intention to "engage" parents... read carefully -- is is engagement or something else?

Parents: How would you like to be engaged?

Hailey Heinz / Journal Staff Writer/Published: Oct 5, 2012This afternoon I'm working on a story about Albuquerque Public Schools' efforts to more meaningfully engage parents in their children's educations. It's one of the district's four broad goals for the next three years, and I've written about it here. The story I just linked to was published back on my birthday, making it additionally worth reading.
The reason I'm writing this particular story now, is that APS is holding a community meeting Monday, to gather input from parents about how the district can engage them better. Details here. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the main APS offices in Uptown. As an aside, the Uptown office is now officially called the Alice and Bruce King Educational Complex. There's a pretty sign and a nice picture:
But I haven't made the transition to calling it that in the newspaper because: a) Alice and Bruce King Educational Complex is a lot longer than City Centre, and b) I'm not sure people will know what I'm talking about, even if I shorten it to "King Complex." Maybe I can slowly start calling it that online, and start a movement.
But I digress (which I get to do, because it's MY blog). The point of Monday's meeting, and of the story I'm working on today, is that having involved parents is one of the most important drivers of student success. But in an ever changing world, I think it's worth asking just how parents want to be engaged. Do they want to be called in for face to face parent meetings, or would they prefer to have frequent email and text message exchanges with teachers? How important are language and translation services? Do parents care more about their school building having a welcoming atmosphere, or an easy to navigate school website? I'd like to hear from parents in the comments here, and I will post back next week with some of what I hear at the meeting.
See here that this is not exactly asking the parents' opinion but setting up the parents to be "involved" with the district in its own pursuits...

APS Hopes Parents Get Involved

Hailey Heinz / Journal Staff Writer/Published: Oct 6, 2012Albuquerque school district officials have a new parent engagement policy, and now they are looking to flesh it out with details.
The policy, which the board approved in August, "affirms that the involvement of family and community partners is critical to student success" and lays out four pillars:
? Fostering safe and welcoming environments.
? Strengthening relationships among families, school staff and community.
? Expanding communication among families, community and schools.
? Cultivating equitable and effective systems in the district.
But just what these pillars mean in practice will be the focus of a community meeting Monday at the main Albuquerque Public Schools offices. The meeting is intended to gather comment from parents about how they would like to be engaged.
In addition to the new policy, increasing family engagement is one of APS' four broad district goals for the next three years. The district has already begun a number of initiatives toward that end, including a review at every APS elementary school for its family friendliness.
Kris Meurer, APS director of family and community supports, said the reviews look for things like how visitors are greeted when they enter a school, whether someone promptly helps them and whether someone is available to translate for parents who speak only Spanish. The assessments also check for things like whether signs are clear and whether it is easy to find the front office.
Meurer said she hopes her staff will have reviewed every elementary school by the end of this school year. After each review, the findings are used to make plans for the school, if needed, to improve its family friendliness.
APS also has made it cheaper and easier for volunteers to get background checks and to get into schools. While prospective volunteers still must have a criminal background check, the process no longer requires fingerprinting and now costs only $12.
Meurer said APS is also working toward involving volunteers with district initiatives beyond the classroom. She said this might be particularly relevant for parents with secondary school students, who no longer want their parents volunteering in the classroom.
"We're looking at how we can use volunteers in helping us with truancy prevention and intervention, how we can use volunteers as we begin to roll out the plan for bullying prevention," Meurer said.
APS is also starting up a "parent university" initiative, which is still in the planning stages and won't be up and running until next year. Parent universities, which have been started in other parts of the country, offer free classes in subjects like parenting, financial literacy or understanding new curriculum like the Common Core standards. Meurer said she hopes registration will be open this spring, with classes starting in the fall.
This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

ugh edition - News Round Up

I am sure that Abigail is a lovely person living in her fantasy post-racial bubble, but, please... are we really going back to the Supreme Court? We ought to just be able to hold up the achievement gap stats and then have people like Abigail talking about MERIT slink away quietly. My daddy and my brother got in and I didn't -- and I was turned away because I am white ... now I am denied the network of UT Austin ... [me crying silently in the background, picture it]

Well, if she wanted there to not be a box for race, why didn't she just decline to answer that question? Surely that would have solved the problem (according to her logic).

Ugh... Eeyore wants to go out and play -- I mean sit under a tree and think depressing thoughts, and I am inclined to join him... so that's it for the round up today ... silver linings are trying to shine next week.

Monday, October 08, 2012

No Link News Round Up, part I

Ugh... I am having a harder time finding links that don't break or ask you to join up for a service... so this round up will feature full stories.  This means that I need to do it in a few parts because there are quite a few articles of interest.

These articles feature EDUCATION, not surprisingly, more than anything else.

The first piece (going in chronological order for convenience sake) considers the relative ease or difficulty in teaching reading. It is mostly a promo for a longer piece I am looking forward to reading.

Teaching reading is fundamental, and not as simple as it sounds

Hailey Heinz / Journal Staff Writer/Published: Sep 28, 2012
     You'll probably find that a refrain on this blog will be, "It's complicated." And no, not the movie, although I am fond of it. Many things in education sound simple, and everyone thinks they're an expert because they attended school. But when you dig a little deeper it becomes more nuanced.
     This morning I sat down with Jami Jacobson, Albuquerque Public Schools' newly minted director of curriculum and instruction, to talk about how the district teaches reading. We chatted about the ongoing conflict between different philosophies of teaching reading: should reading instruction emphasize phonics and how to sound out words, or should it be all about context and meaning? You may be totally unsurprised to learn that the best strategies use some of both.
     We also talked about how teachers can structure their classroom so students at all levels of reading ability can be learning at the same time, and how parents can help support their students in learning to read. My full story will run Oct. 9 on the Schools page of the Journal. ...
The next piece considers one Pueblo's (ACOMA) tracking of educational data.  While I really appreciate and support the idea of using data to make positive improvements, I am not sure if I see that or just another example of over-reliance on numbers on standardized tests:

Laguna Acoma finds that tracking nearly everything improves student performance

Hailey Heinz / Journal Staff Writer/Published: Oct 2, 2012The staff at Laguna Acoma Junior Senior High School is really into writing things down.
Math teacher Berna Marquez writes down students' current grades in their notebooks every week. She has them make graphs that show their progress on test scores throughout the year -- an assignment that is partly an exercise in graphing, but she says it's more than that.
"Data is very important when it's personal," Marquez said. "They get to see, 'I'm not doing very well.' But numbers don't mean a whole lot if you just verbally tell them. But when you show them on a graph, it has much more impact."
That philosophy starts at the top, with the school's administrators, and traces to school leadership training that the principal and assistant principal received at the University of Virginia last year.
Gov. Susana Martinez announced last month she has set aside $3.5 million to provide leadership training to principals from the 319 schools that received "D" and "F" grades under the new school grading system. The leadership training, according to a news release, will be anchored in the Virginia program. In the same release, Martinez lauded the success of the program at Laguna Acoma Junior/Senior High School.
Test scores at Laguna Acoma still have a ways to go. Among high school students who took the SBA last year, 39.5 percent scored proficient or above in reading, and 44.2 percent scored at least proficient in math. But both numbers are up from spring 2011, when just 28.2 percent of students were proficient in math. Reading is up more modestly, from 36.6 percent.
Administrators point to the gains as proof the University of Virginia model is working.
Principal Tom Trujillo and assistant principal Gerald Horacek used money from a federal School Improvement Grant to travel to Virginia for the training, which combines strategies from the university's business and education schools. The idea is to give principals leadership strategies, which in some cases are borrowed from the business world. Horacek stressed that the training is not about running schools like businesses, but about giving principals the kinds of leadership skills chief executives have.
And like Marquez's emphasis on writing down student grades, Trujillo and Horacek put a strong emphasis on writing down things they've committed to do, like more frequent classroom observations, and writing down the school's achievement data.
On the wall of a conference room, they have posted charts showing the state standards students must know for the 11th grade Standards Based Assessment, and how each junior is doing on standard. It's the beginning of the school year, so many boxes on the chart are red, meaning the students did not show knowledge of the standard on a pre test.
That's OK, Trujillo said, because those topics haven't been covered yet. Students will be tested again throughout the year, to help teachers hone in on the standards that specific students haven't mastered, and help get them ready for the SBA in the spring. Trujillo said before he went to the leadership training, his school collected lots of data that were never put to use.
"The University of Virginia told us we were data rich, but information poor," he said. "We had all this data, but it stayed in the hands of people that didn't use it. We needed to get the data out of the hands of the administrators and into the hands of the teachers, and down to the students. That's an area that we drastically improved in."
Other changes also have been adopted at the school, which has about 360 students in middle and high school. Trujillo and Horacek spend more time observing teachers in their classrooms and giving them feedback, which sometimes means administrative work gets pushed to the early morning hours or the evenings. Schedules also have been rearranged to give those who teach the same subjects a common planning period to collaborate.
Several teachers said they think the changes in the school are working.
"I've been teaching for 18 years, and this is the second or third year we're trying to implement this, with the instruction being data driven," Marquez said. "And I totally support it, because I've seen tremendous growth with the students."
Even students say they see change over the past several years. Brent Riley, a high achieving senior, said the school is very different than when he started there.
He said he and his classmates are tested more often -- at the end of every three week curriculum unit to see whether they learned the standards the unit was intended to teach. But he doesn't mind, saying it helps him chart his progress toward getting ready for college.
"I'm the type of student who likes a challenge," he said.
Finally, for this installment, an editorial about the scholarship system in NM that is built on sales from the lottery -- and what the editors, ostensibly, think that an "equitable" or at least "workable" solution is for the use of the dwindling money.  Note the lack of discussion of need -- either educational or financial that might lead to someone needing a scholarship.

Editorial: College Predictors Will Save Lotto Scholarships

Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board/Published: Oct 4, 2012In 1995, then Gov. Gary Johnson signed bipartisan legislation creating the New Mexico Lottery Authority. What made that legislation, and the subsequent 12 years of legalized gambling, more palatable to many New Mexicans is the program's mandated mission of raising money for higher education. It's time for the Legislature to face fiscal reality and finally focus that law so it goes beyond just handing out college tuition to all comers and instead awards it to students who have a decent shot at graduating. Currently the program guarantees eight semesters of full tuition for recent N.M. high school grads who maintain a 2.5 grade point average in a state college or university. The retooling is necessary because the New Mexico Lottery Success Scholarship fund is on the edge of insolvency - the Legislative Finance Committee is projecting it will be more than $5 million short in two short years. Declining ticket sales, skyrocketing tuition and increasing student applications - about 75,300 students have gotten a lotto scholarship - have made it a fiscal victim of its popularity with the looming potential of becoming an empty promise. And that has the Legislature flipping a coin with two unpopular sides: 1. Either give the scholarship to fewer students, or 2. Find more money. A 2010 LFC report wisely pushed option No. 1, linking qualifications for the scholarships with predictors for recipients actually graduating in nine semesters. Those included increasing the minimum course load from 12 to 15 hours, setting stricter eligibility requirements for research institutions and four year colleges compared to two year colleges, setting high school performance standards (GPA, college preparation or class rank), requiring remedial coursework be taken at lower cost institutions, and excluding remedial courses from the required course load. Option No. 2 is a non starter, considering the state sponsored gambling was sold to the public as a way to get kids through college and especially in this tight economy. LFC members appear reluctant to even go there - a good thing. Chairman Sen. John Arthur Smith says using general state funds is not an option, and vice chairman Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela says "we're trying to balance the budget. We're looking at not trying to divert recurring revenue from the general fund at this point in time." On the lottery's 10 year anniversary, one of the original sponsors of the enabling legislation, Sen. Stuart Ingle, R Portales, said "we want (the scholarship program) to where it stays something you can rely on." If that's going to happen, the 2013 Legislature will need to make adjustments to honor that sentiment, as well as the one about legalized gambling putting students through (not just into) college.This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Friday, October 05, 2012

messages from the universe

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Many people seem to believe that all of America's Christians are and have always been fundamentalists. But the truth is that at most 35 percent of the total are fundies, and their movement has only gotten cultural traction in the last 30 years. So then why do their bizarre interpretations of the nature of reality get so much play? One reason is that they shout so loud and act so mean. Your upcoming assignment, Aquarius, is to do what you can to shift the focus from small-minded bullies to big-hearted visionaries, whether that applies to the Christians in your sphere or any other influences. It's time to shrink any tendency you might have to get involved with energy vampires. Instead, give your full attention and lend your vigorous clout to life-affirming intelligence.

 I am struggling to understand the messages I feel the universe is trying to deliver... today I am going to focus on this one from freewill astrology.  It is less depressing than the ones I experienced on Wednesday.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Poetry Thursday ... poesia del jueves

Is the sun the same as yesterday's
or is this fire different from that fire?

How do we thank the clouds
for their fleeting abundance?

From where does the thundercloud come
with its black sack of tears?

Where are all those names
sweet as cakes of yesteryear?

Where did they go, the Donaldas, 
the Clorindas, the Eduviges?

-Pablo Neruda
from The Book of Questions
Es este mismo el sol de ayer
o es otro el fuego de su fuego?

Como agradecer a las nubes
esa abundancia fugitiva?

De donde viene el nubaron
con sus sacos negros de llanto?

Donde estan los nombres aquellos
dulces como tortas de antano?

Donde se fueron las Donaldas.
las Clorindas, las Eduviges?

-Pablo Neruda
de El libro de preguntas

I received this book from a friend ... sometimes I just pull it off the shelf and read a few questions... hope you enjoyed these.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

musical healing

Here are some of the songs that my siblings and I collected for Greg's slide show ... it was epic with over 200 images, but the mortuary was very accommodating, letting it loop throughout the viewing day.

I added these:

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Silver Lining News Round Up

For the past few weeks, I have not really been following the news in the way I usually do -- actually only using it as a sleeping aid, and avoiding bad news as much as possible.

So, here is my best attempt at some silver lining, boy do I need it right now.

These were in my draft folder...
I enjoyed this story about pro sports players speaking out in favor of gay marriage... it's about time.
The Other Side of Joe Biden
Sometimes Joe Biden surprises us ... as I noted during the convention. Some bloggers I read highlighted his speech from 9/11 -- here is a story about the speech with the text of the speech.

Here's another that requires some squinting to see the silver lining, but trust in me, and the lord, if you do that kind of thing.  It is a story about a school doing the right thing when abuse is brought to light, albeit belatedly.

Here is what I have collected in the last ten days or so... The bad news is that the LATimes has figured out how to track the mobile now ... so you might not have full access to the articles.

I found this piece contains some silver although at times tarnished ... it talks about a program for sharing housing with mentally ill folks in the community. I think it is a model worth studying and perfecting.

This piece likewise has tarnished silver -- but I think the kernel of the message to let go of anger and hate in order to find healing is timely, at least for me.

One more piece of tarnished silver ... I don't think we should try children as adults, so I am glad that this law will allow those folks to appeal their convictions -- but it is definitely some backward silver lining here.

I can't share with you the guy who got to Catalina on a jetpack ... but you can see how it might be cheering.

This story of the California Dream Act fills me with hope -- and reflects the spirit of my brother... read with pride. We can do this, as a community.

Because October is breast cancer awareness month (I've had my mammogram this year, have you?), the local paper where I am from is doing a series of articles on survivors -- both those who beat it and those who have to carry on after losing loved ones.  This piece demonstrates the changes kids go through when losing a parent. It is hitting a little too close to home right now as I worry about my niece and nephew -- but I appreciate the lemonade this family made out of some rotten lemons.

A late entry -- the MacArthur Genius Awards were announced, and Junot Diaz got one - you might remember him from one of my other silver lining round ups, if you haven't already read his stuff, go out and get some.  Another winner is someone working on helping families as well as bringing communities together in Oakland, one of my favorite places in the world.

This one suits my mood pretty perfectly -- there are lemons from which we can make lemonade, even if that lemonade means confronting issues that we usually eschew.  Here is one.  I am very proud of this young man -- instead of exhorting millions to go out and buy more guns, he is advocating the opposite.  Keep calling those politicians to the carpet.  In my experience, and that of many others, the only effective weapon against hate is love. And the root of love is peace.

This last one gives me some hope for social media.  I have to put it in its entirety because the AP links break, but I think it's worth it.  When I first started reading it, I was skeptical because I wondered how having a concert would help alleviate poverty or even bring awareness to the problem. As I continued to read, I was pleased with the thought that went in to the planning of the event with regard to really getting the word out about this serious issue.  There is some good that can be done with social media -- I just wish we wouldn't spend so much time and energy on the not so good stuff there.

Thousands attend NYC concert highlighting poverty

LOU FERRARA, Published: Sep 29, 2012

Musician Neil Young, right, performs with his band Crazy Horse including Frank Sampedro, left, and Ralph Molina, at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday Sept. 29, 2012 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) - Neil Young, the Black Keys, Foo Fighters and others wowed thousands who turned out Saturday night for a free concert in Central Park to call attention to poverty worldwide.
Dubbed the Global Citizen Festival, the concert also featured K'naan, John Legend and Band of Horses, with Young's performance capping off the evening. Video of the event was streamed worldwide as about 60,000 music fans crowded the park's Great Lawn, the midtown Manhattan skyline twinkling behind them.
Legend made a surprise appearance, playing one song "Imagine" at a piano on stage, a short walk from where the song's author, John Lennon, once lived. The five-hour show was a mix of tight sets from the bands, roughly an hour each, mixed with videos and information from guest speakers about global poverty-related problems like infant mortality and polio.
"Feels good to be here," Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl told the crowd during a break between hits like "Learn to Fly," ''Best of You" and "My Hero." Grohl, members of the Black Keys and others joined Young on stage for the finale, his anthem "Rockin' in the Free World."
The concert was scheduled around the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month and organizers used an innovative approach to ticket distribution so that many concert-goers were forced to learn about an array of global problems in order to get a ticket.
Anyone wanting free tickets had to register at, which then required users to watch videos or read information about poverty-related issues. Each time material was consumed, users could earn points toward a drawing for tickets. Points were also accumulated by sharing information by way of Twitter or Facebook.
"Our social media campaign has been off the charts," said Hugh Evans, CEO and co-founder of the Global Poverty Project. The approach demonstrates a new model for harnessing digital tools that might be repeated for other big events with political or social messages.
Organizers said more than 71,000 people had signed up online, resulting in more than 3.5 million page views. On average, they spent just over six minutes consuming content or sharing information. Nearly 200,000 pieces of information were shared on Facebook, and just a bit more than that on Twitter. About 170,000 people signed petitions via the site, and there were 98,000 videos viewed to completion.
Evans said the project achieved its goals, set out last year, of getting more than 100,000 people to take action related to extreme poverty while telling a new story about the challenges. To that end, the site conveys information in detailed, documentary-like accounts and uses an array of video, graphics and stories that are friendly for mobile and digital consumption.
Financially, he said, the project also achieved its yearlong goal - working with an array of organizations like the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the Earth Institute and Rotary International - of garnering $500 million in commitments to help fight poverty.
So now what?
Evans said that he's hoping the audience, built online and at the concert, will continue efforts by tweeting President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to halve extreme poverty by 2015, which is the key U.N. anti-poverty goal. And Evans is working on an announcement in October or November about "a major rock band" getting involved with the anti-poverty efforts.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
--Howard Zinn

Last week, we buried my beautiful older brother.  He was, like all people, a complex person, but I think he was universally considered charismatic.  I don't know anyone who ever said no to him or that wasn't won over by him. 

I am struggling to put into words all the emotions that are coursing through my body and brain.  This is what I can handle right now.

At my brother's viewing, funeral mass, burial and bbq celebration of his life, there was a sea of purple shirts representing the Special Olympics of San Gabriel Valley.  They are my nieces teammates, the athletes my brother coached, their parents and families.  They were so loving and giving of their memories of my brother... he ran along side me, cheering me on, one young man shared with my sister.  Another coach told us how he encouraged one young man to get out of his wheelchair and use the walker -- with only one issue unresolved, that my brother hadn't gotten to... putting a light on the walker.

Sweetness exuded from these people, touched by my brother's generosity of spirit.  We knew, sort of, that he had taken a special interest in the group.  We mistakenly believed that it was mostly about how much this was helping his own daughter come into her own.  No, it was more than that ... it was how he had given over and over, in every way possible, to this group of people.  They love my brother -- it is so hard to use the past tense.  And they were so willing to share with us the stories of my brother's generosity, love and dedication.  I can picture Greg's huge smile, and I can hear the encouraging words he showered on them, making them feel at the same time supported and pushed to higher heights.

At the velorio, our family received another gift.  I watched as some young people walked tentatively into the mortuary during the viewing time.  A young woman and a young man -- looked around, and caught my sister-in-law's eye.  They were talking with her so I figured she must know them, but then she brought them up to me.  They told me they were Oxnard College students in the OCTV program.  They told me how he had come forward to help the students fight for the program when the district wanted to use it as the means for balancing the budget.  They told me the administration had said the program did not produce success stories... but they said, my brother was one.  And he was willing to help -- not just to fight for the program, but the students themselves.  They told me they needed to go back to school for a class and a meeting, but that they would be back for the velorio.  And, so they did... not just these two but others.  Not knowing anyone in the building, having just met my brother some of them a year ago, some of them months ago ... they went to the podium to tell those gathered how much Greg had meant to them, how much he helped them to get to know the industry, how he shared work leads, invited them on shoots, and promoted them despite the fact that this was a competitive industry.
Greg with his family this summer.

We knew my brother was generous -- that he, like my dad, would take the shirt off his back for another without a second thought.  But we really had no idea just how many lives he had touched.  Even before we got the gifts of these tributes to my brother, my little sister had decided we needed to use Greg as an example of how we can all give back ... or pay it forward.  She dreamed up this idea to create flags to distribute at the beach party.  My older sister also wanted to have a poster with a picture of Greg that people could sign.  My niece "volunteered" to draw the picture -- and she made a gorgeous rendering of his smiling face, arms crossed in his trademark gesture, and she added him leaning up against a tree.

Then, we gathered seeds, stuffed them into straws, and made flags to adorn them.  On the front side of the flag, under "Greg's Giving Garden," we put logos for my brother's favorite teams:  [Los Angeles] Raiders, LA Lakers, LA Dodgers, and the San Gabriel Valley Special Olympics.

This is what we wrote on the back of the cards: 
Greg derived great joy from helping others.  In his spirit, we invite you to get involved in your community:  volunteer at a track meet or a food bank, serve a meal at a homeless shelter… and plant these seeds as a living reminder of Greg's giving spirit.

If you doubt that small acts can transform the world, I introduce you to my brother. May he rest in peace as well as inspire some folks to also perform some small acts.