Sunday, January 31, 2010

Don't Make the Customer Wait

Yesterday my husband and I were at Walmart. We were looking to buy a new television, one that was on sale. After shopping around, we had decided they had the best price for the item we wanted. We went to the electronics department, chose the one we wanted, and then tried to find a clerk to help us.

My husband went to the woman behind the counter and asked if there was someone who could tell us if they had the item in stock. She assured us that someone would be with us in a minute.

We waited.

I saw another clerk checking the price on an item. I asked her if she could help us. She said she would be right back as soon as she finished a phone call.

We waited.

Finally a young man, another clerk, came around and we asked if he could tell us if the television was in stock. He said he was with another customer, but would be right back.

We waited.

A fourth clerk came into the area. Before we could ask him for help, he waited on three other customers. He never asked us if he could help us, even though we had, by that time, waited about an hour. I thought maybe we had put on our cloaks of invisibility.

Finally the young man came back and said that he had to deliver an item to the front of the store and would be right back. He did actually come back in about 5 minutes. We showed him what we wanted and said that if it was in stock, we would like to buy one. He got a cart, went to the back room, and a few minutes later came back to tell us they didn't have any.

Now we could have probably ordered one or gone to another Walmart in a nearby town. But instead we went to a different store. They had the same television for about $50 more. They were courteous, offered lots of information, and quickly brought one out from their storeroom to load in our truck for us. Yes, we paid the extra. It was definitely worth it.

How does this apply to teaching? Don't make students or parents wait. I know that it's difficult, but they should be treated like a customer. Phone calls should returned as soon as a teacher has free time. E-mails should be answered within a day. Students requesting help should be offered it as soon as possible. They should not be put off.

If you're not going to be able to get with a parent or student in a reasonable amount of time (about one day), at least let them know that it's going to take a little bit of time and make arrangements for a time to meet.

Don't be like the clerks we encountered at Walmart. Your customers will go elsewhere.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Read the Directions

Today I have only one piece of advice, just one helpful hint.

Read the directions.

This afternoon my husband has been trying to connect some new electronics equipment. Will he read directions? Absolutely not. At least not until he's tried every possible connection without reading the directions. The only good thing I can say for this afternoon is that I didn't hear him swear, not even once. Is everything hooked up correctly? Well, not yet. I'm sure it's a work-in-progress for a few days.

I used to have the same trouble with students in class. They didn't like to read directions. Sometimes the instructions would specify that they only do a certain part of a math problem. You could always tell the ones who hadn't read the directions because they would either do the wrong part of the problem or do the entire problem. Granted, they were still getting practice, but following directions is also important.

It's also necessary to understand the vocabulary in the directions. In Algebra, if the directions say to specify the domain and range of a function, you're going to have a hard time if you don't know what the domain and the range are.

There used to be a test given to students to check on their ability to follow directions. The first instruction was to read the entire test before answering any questions. Of course when you got to the 50th question on the back of the test, it said "Don't answer any of the previous questions. Just put your name on the paper and turn it in." A huge percentage of students spent a huge amount of time answering all 50 questions. It was a hard lesson, but most of those students read directions from then on.

Evidently my husband never took that test.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Symptoms and Solutions for Seasonal Affective Disorder

In my experience, students' grades always took a nosedive during third quarter. It really never made sense because they had just returned from winter break. You would think they would be rested and ready to tackle the new semester with renewed energy, determination, and motivation. But, alas, such is not the case.

After years of questioning why grades suffered during January, February, and March, I finally came upon a possible answer. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and is a form of depression that occurs in relation to the seasons; typically winter because of the short days and lack of sunlight.

Google Health lists the symptoms as:

  • Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Decreased interest in work or other activities
  • Depression that starts in fall or winter
  • Increased appetite with weight gain
  • Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  • Social withdrawal

Any student with these symptoms is likely to have trouble keeping up with their school work. But there are solutions. The most common is light therapy that uses a lamp to simulate sunlight.

On Thursday, January 25, 2010 the Dr. Oz show offered some advice for this disorder. The following is from the Dr. Oz Website:

Get through the dark winter days with 5 tips to beat the winter blues:

  1. Peppermint oil – helps with sadness, depression. Inhale a whiff to give you a burst of energy.
  2. Fluorescent compact bulb – these bright lights can actually change the levels of melatonin in your brain inhibiting depression. They’re also very inexpensive!
  3. Chili peppers – contain capsaicin, which boosts your energy and can enhance your circulation.
  4. Ginger tea – it boosts your metabolism, increasing weight loss!
  5. Gingko biloba – makes you more alert and boosts your brain-power.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Student's Behavior

I was talking to another teacher this afternoon. She asked me if I had heard about the lock-down at one of the local high schools. I said I hadn't. She said that she didn't have all the details, but it seems one of the students had threatened to kill one of the office staff members. It's a long story, but the student was eventually sent to the alternative high school. The students in the regular high school, however, are still on lock-down because that is where the staff member works.

Of course that started me thinking about how unfair it is that one student can disrupt the education of an entire school. It means about 1200 other students have to suffer consequences because of one student's actions.

It's impossible to measure the detrimental effect something like this has on the education and learning of those other students. In this age of "No Child Left Behind," where every student is expected to meet proficiency levels, how can we expect each student to do their best when faced with these kinds of stressful situations.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Often, students who make threats like this are court-ordered to be in school. Sometimes they have IEPs that label them with a behavior disability. If this is the case, the student can't be expelled because his disability is behavior. The entire IEP would have to be rewritten and certain accommodations would have to be put in place.

I think that until the parents of the other 1200 students protest, not much will happen. Unfortunately, the preferred method of protest is to pull their children out of school in order to enroll them elsewhere or to homeschool them. Sadly, this still doesn't solve the problem for the other 1199.

The teacher who was telling me about the lock-down then asked me if I regretted retiring. You can probably tell what my answer was.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

He Made My Day!

I love it when I hear something good from a former student. This evening a student I had in class about 4 years ago in class told me that he's getting married in March and will enter Army basic training at the end of April.

He said that he took the ASVAB and then thanked me for teaching him his math. He said that he scored 117 and that he only needed a score of 47. Now I'm not sure exactly how the ASVAB is scored, but that sounds pretty darn good to me.

He made my day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not Just a Stupid Education Fad of the Day

Michelle Malkin describes herself as "a mother, wife, blogger, conservative syndicated columnist, author, and Fox News Channel contributor." Yesterday, on her blog, she evidently decided to give the liberals in government a break while she criticized mathematics education. It's obvious why "math teacher" is not included in her bio.

It seems a group of students at Mesa School in Somis, California is studying "Mayan Math." Ms. Malkin is concerned about the "social justice-tainted effort by educrats to corrupt and undermine rigorous math education in this country" and calls the topic the "stupid education fad of the day."

In my experience as an actual math teacher, I was always concerned that students know the subject matter. I always tried to teach the basics and then extend that learning into rigorous mathematics. In all my years of teaching, I never met a math teacher who wasn't concerned about this.

But there are different paths that lead to the same result. One teacher might make the students take timed tests to learn their basic multiplication facts. By taking these tests over and over, the students eventually learn those facts. Another teacher might have students work with each other using flash cards. A third teacher might have the students practice those multiplication facts using a teaching program on a computer. Is one method any better than the other? The methods all lead to the same result, but different students respond favorably to different methods. Some will learn better with the drills, others with the flash cards, and others with the computer. But if they all learn their multiplication facts, then the methods are all successful.

Who's to say that Mayan Math won't help a student learn? Teachers are always trying different strategies to reach as many students as possible. If Mayan Math causes a few students to become interested in mathematics and want to learn more about it, then it's worth it.

My fifth grade teacher taught us several different bases in math. I remember learning base 2, base 3, base 4, base 8, and base 16. The work reinforced and strengthened my learning of the base 10 system we use everyday. Learning base 2 and base 16 was also valuable in my computer programming classes, since these are the languages on which computers are founded.

Mayan Math uses base 20. It's quite possible that a student learning base 20 will be a better math student for it. They may understand base 10 better. And if they're planning to do any computer programming, learning different bases is a necessity, not just a "stupid education fad of the day."

I am all for rigorous math programs, but until you are in the classroom day after day, working 24/7 to keep 150 students achieving at proficient levels, you really shouldn't be judging. I know that some modern math initiatives are worthless, but taking 3 or 4 days during the school year to learn something interesting or fun or different or cultural does not take away from a rigorous mathematics curriculum. It may actually enhance it. But I'm sure Michelle Malkin would just think that was "Perfect dogma in the Age of Obama: Feeling over facts. Cultural connection over competence. Diversity uber alles." I just disagree with her.


Monday, January 25, 2010

School District Discusses Potential Cuts With Parents - KWQC-TV6

I was watching television this morning and the following news article was discussed:

School District Discusses Potential Cuts With Parents - KWQC-TV6 News and Weather For The Quad Cities -: "Among their solutions -- raising meal prices, eliminating the consumer science program, and laying off several staff members. Green says he's hoping he doesn't have to lay off anyone at all and is still looking at other areas where cuts can be made in order to save jobs."

I can't believe that schools still have to make cuts. With "No Child Left Behind," with the information garnered by Bill Gates about the state of education in the United States (, with the new movie at the Sundance Film Festival titled "Waiting for Superman" which also presents information about the condition of the public school system (Waiting for Superman) ... with all these, and they want to make cuts.

And one of the worst places to cut is the consumer science program. With the economy the way it is, with the job situation, with the financial health of the country at a low point, students need the consumer science program now more than ever.

I would hope that every parent, teacher, and student would make sure that important programs are not cut. Once a program is cut, it's very difficult to get it back.

It always amazes me that cutting administrative staff or temporarily lowering administrative salaries is so rarely discussed. Instead we cut important courses and lay off three or four teachers so the superintendent can keep his or her $150,000 salary.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Waiting for Superman" ~ Sundance Film Festival

"Waiting for Superman" is a documentary about the public school system in America. It has just appeared at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and has already been bought by Paramount.

Though I haven't seen the film, I imagine that it will have an impact on the public schools. While the film points out the many flaws in the system, it does offer possible solutions and hope.

Below is an interview with the director of "Waiting for Superman," Davis Guggenheim. You can find it at

For more information there is another interview available on the Sundance Film Festival website at


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Government Lesson ~ Supreme Court

An excellent lesson in the workings of the United States government has been in the news the last few days. In a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision, the majority of justices concluded that corporations and unions have the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech. Corporations had been banned since 1947 from using their profits to endorse or oppose political candidates. That is no longer the case.

There has been a lot of debate on both sides of the issue. It led me to wonder if a Supreme Court decision can be overturned by another part of the government. The following (quoted from WikiAnswers) is what I found:

"No single entity - not the President, Senate, House of Representatives, state Governors, nor anyone else - has the power to overturn a US Supreme Court ruling. Supreme Court decisions cannot be nullified by other parts of government.

If the Supreme Court strikes down a federal law, Congress can always modify the law until it is such that the Supreme Court does not consider it to violate the U. S. Constitution. Then they would have to vote to pass the new law, and the President would sign it.

  1. The Supreme court can overrule it's own rulings.
  2. Congress can rewrite a law to conform with Constitutional standards
  3. The Constitution can be amended. This would require a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, and ratification by three-quarters of the states (actually, at least 39)."


Friday, January 22, 2010

National Puzzle Day is January 29

Get ready for National Puzzle Day on Friday, January 29. What can you do? Here a few suggestions:

1. Language Arts ~ English, literature, and foreign language teachers can use crosswords, anagrams, or word searches of current vocabulary or spelling words.

2. Math ~ Math teachers can develop number crosswords, sudoku (use colors instead of numbers for small children), or logic puzzles to reinforce skills.

3. Science ~ Science teachers can have students solve cryptograms or ciphers using the scientific method.

4. Social Studies ~ Social studies teachers can turn maps into jigsaw puzzles.

5. Co-Workers ~ Invite your co-workers or fellow students to a New York Times crossword challenge.

6. Family ~ Plan a family puzzle night. Enjoy a jigsaw puzzle or Scrabble or a Rubik's Cube.

7. Read a book like "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. It's full of puzzles as part of the plot.

8. Here's a sudoku puzzle to get you ready for the day!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A List of Lists for Haiti Donations

In the past week, I've received several suspicious emails asking for donations to help Haiti. Two of them appeared to be from the American Red Cross, but there were many misspellings in the text. It's unfortunate that people are trying to scam others during such a tragedy, but they are. So if you plan to donate, be careful. Make sure you are choosing an organization that can be trusted.

So many organizations are providing relief to Haiti, that if you want to help, it's difficult to know the best place to give a donation. I was going to provide a list, but there are already many lists on the Internet. So, the following is mainly a list of lists.

1. Network for Good is a website that provides links to charitable organizations. It also gives some information on what each organization does.

2. KBUR is an area radio station that has provided a list of links to charities. I would guess that websites for local radio stations, TV stations, and newspapers around the country are providing the same kinds of links.

3. MSNBC has a very good list of reliable organizations.

4. Care2 provides a list of links as well as phone numbers for many of the charities.

5. If you're short on money, but would still like to help, visit the Care2 Click-to-Donate website. You click and sponsors turn the clicks into donations. Its free for you. You can click once per day. The Hunger Site provides a similar service at

6. The following website says that when you donate, they divide your donation between the many organizations that are listed (scroll down on their website for the list).

Caution: It also helps to know how texting a donation works. The donation may not be made at the time of the text, but when you pay your cell phone bill.

Caution: Be careful of new charities. While many are legitimate, it's definitely worth the time to make sure. Often times it's best to stick with established charities. A good place to check for these is at Charity Navigator They also provide a list of things you shouldn't do (such as donate to the Haitian government). Find this list at

Others: There are also many places to donate that you might not expect, but again be careful. Check them out first.

1. iTunes: If you have iTunes on your computer, go to the iTunes Store. From there you can click on a button that allows you to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

2. Ben Stiller has been working with Save the Children to build a school in Haiti. Donations can be given at

3. The Dr. Oz Show also has a list of organizations accepting donations. Find it at

4. Donation efforts even show up in the most unexpected places. For instance, if you play Zoo World on Facebook, you can make a donation of $1.00 through a Paypal account. For that dollar, you get a Haitian Relief Flamingo for your zoo as well as 2 Wildlife Points.

The people of Haiti need your support, just make sure you're donating to an organization that will get that support to them. Keep in mind that they're going to need support for many years to come. Many donations have been given, but also consider giving again in a month or in three months or a year. The devastation of this earthquake and its aftershocks will be felt for a long time to come.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It Doesn't Seem Fair

I try to not get too political on this blog because it's purpose is to give helpful hints to parents, students, and teachers about educational topics. Well, today, I think this is an educational topic. Yes, it's political, but hopefully someone will learn something from it.

The following is a video of Senator Ted Kennedy speaking about health care. Somehow it doesn't seem fair to this man's legacy that Scott Brown of Massachusetts, someone who has vowed to vote down health care, should take his place. Universal health care was one of Senator Kennedy's lifelong ambitions. It will be interesting to see if Senator-Elect Brown takes the health care plan offered to senators. After all, it is a government-sponsored program. And since Massachusetts already has health care for its citizens, I guess he doesn't have to worry about the rest of the country.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

School is So Worth It

For many students, today is the first day of a new semester. Congratulations! You're halfway through this school year.

Today I want to remind everyone about what school does for you. I'm going to quote from one of my dad's old schoolbooks. The book is titled "Conduct and Citizenship" by Edwin C. Broome and Edwin W. Adams. It has a 1926 copyright by The MacMillan Company. On pages 46-47, it says:

"The business of the school is education. It is in order that we may receive an education that we attend school. If we think back over the first years of our school life in the light of the work we are now doing, we shall see that the school was giving us the tools which we are using. The lessons which we received in reading, writing, and numbers we have used constantly in our later school work. Once we have acquired the ability to use these tools, we are ready to go ahead with the real part of our education. In the course of the years we have learned many facts, but these are not especially important in themselves. The really important thing is that we have learned how to use our minds, how to study, how to think, how to live. This is the principal service which the school is rendering us today. This power will persist even after many of the facts have been forgotten. The school is helping us to develop the ability to use our brains."

Schools have changed drastically since 1926. I don't think they even offer courses in Conduct and Citizenship anymore. But the business of the school is still education. And the school is still helping students develop the ability to use their brains. And the school is still offering the tools students will use in the future.

So, as you start the new semester, keep these things in mind. The school is there for you, to give you an education, to give you tools you'll need, and to help you develop the ability to use your brain. Take advantage of it. Get the most out of your education. It will be so worth it!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today is set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. This great man looked forward to a day when all people are judged by the "content of their character." While I don't believe we're there yet, I do think we're still heading in the right direction. And yet when I looked up the following video on YouTube, I noticed that the "Comments" section had been disabled because so many were hateful and racist. It's obvious we still have a long way to go in achieving equal rights, not only for African Americans, but for many other groups in our society, as well.

The following video is the full version of Dr. King's speech. It can be found at

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Four Websites for Improving Math Skills

When there is something I need to know or review, I find one of the following websites usually has the answers.

Khan Academy

The Khan Academy has an amazing collection of over 1000 videos on YouTube. Topics cover everything from basic arithmetic to physics, calculus, and finance. It is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide high quality education for everyone.


Wolfram|Alpha allows you to input words or equations and get solutions. They explain it this way "We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything." It's a little like a search engine, a little like a calculator, and full of information.

MIT OpenCourseware

MIT OpenCourseWare contains almost all MIT course content. It is open and available to everyone and contains free lecture notes, exams, and videos from MIT.


Brightstorm has videos on math topics ranging from Algebra to Calculus. Over 2000 free online videos are presented by some of the best educators. There are also lessons for SAT and ACT Prep, but after a free 7-day trial, there is a charge for this.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We've All Been There

Today, for some reason, I was watching videos on YouTube of teachers yelling at their classes. Now, I've been retired for a couple of years, but I could feel my blood pressure rising, just as it used to when I was teaching. However, I was not angry with the teachers. I was angry with the students.

Students can be rude and inattentive. In many cases they set up their teachers so they can watch their them lose their tempers. And now, they're filming it. I'm guessing a lot of those teachers don't even know they're on YouTube.

I was going to post one of the videos here, but decided that the videos don't tell the whole story. Yes, teachers are screaming. No, they shouldn't do that. But I'm guessing almost every teacher I know has been in a similar situation. I have been in this situation.

Every once in a while, you get one of those classes. In 32 years of teaching, I probably had one of those classes maybe 5 or 6 times. No matter what you do, they don't listen. They don't care. You could walk into class in a clown suit and they wouldn't notice. They continue their conversations and when you ask them to quiet down and listen, they act as if you've interrupted them. They'll continue to talk, they get up and walk around the room, they do whatever they feel like doing.

Unfortunately, there are always four or five students in the class who really do want to learn.

So what do you do? You can't send 20 students to the office or to the hall. And yet you need to teach. Detention is an option, but usually these are the students who don't come in for detention. You can call their parents, but that usually doesn't change the student's behavior. I found that calling parents only gives you documentation that you tried that strategy.

As it turns out, there really is very little you can do. And that's when the teacher reaches the end of his or her rope. Sometimes yelling happens. Unfortunately, teachers are human and when pushed to the limit, they do sometimes lose their tempers.

So what's a teacher to do? There are programs that can help. One that comes to mind is "Teaching With Love and Logic" by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, MD. There are others as well.

The only problem is that teachers need to learn the strategies before they enter the lion's den. Once the students take control of the classroom, it's very difficult to get it back.

My suggestion to teachers is to learn effective discipline methods before you ever enter a classroom. If you didn't learn them in college, take courses during the summer.

My suggestion to parents is to teach your children that they are in school to get an education. Make sure they understand how important an education is to their futures. They are not there to goad their teachers.

My suggestion to students is to remember that you are in school to learn and to learn to think, and that's really the only reason you're there. You can't do that when you're not paying attention.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Money ~ Put In Perspective

I'm always hearing about lottery winners who lose it all. Sometimes I just have to explain something in words to really get a handle on it.

If an average person works from the time they're 21 until they're 65, they will have worked 44 years. If I estimate that an average salary is $50,000 per year, that means an average person will have earned $2.2 million dollars in his or her entire lifetime.

Now consider Missourian Janite Lee who won $18 million in 1993. According to published reports, eight years after winning, Lee had filed for bankruptcy with only $700 left in two bank accounts and no cash on hand.

I have no idea how she spent her money, but imagine this scenario. A lottery winner found a house for $1 million, fell in love with it, and bought it. Property taxes on this might have been $50,000 a year. In eight years, that would have been $400,000. Let's say insurance was about the same amount. Then the winner found a nice Lamborghini for $200,000. Insurance, gas, and maintenance for the car might cost $100,000 over the eight-year period. Utilities, phone, water, and cable might run $50,000 over that same time span. Groceries and related items for two people for eight years could run $80,000. Let's say the person was also extremely generous to charities and the community, donating one million each year for a total of 8 million dollars. And lets say various other costs amount to another million dollars.

Doing the math from the above scenario, the person would have spent $11,230,000. An 18 million dollar winner should still have $6,770,000 to invest. Even if the income taxes took 35% of the original money, the person should have $470,000 left. That's still more that 20% of what an average person (see example above) makes in a lifetime.

Now think about the money that celebrities earn. Oprah makes about $260 million a year. Matt Lauer makes $12 million. Judge Judy makes $30 million. Jeff Gordon makes $26 million.

And then there are teachers. In our local district first-year teachers earn $30,000. A teacher with a PhD and 26 or more years of experience makes $64,519. Next year they're expected to take a 10% cut in pay.

So, there you go. Some people don't earn enough. Some people earn way too much. And some people, given the opportunity of a lifetime, lose it all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Google Translation Bar

Last night I was away from my computer, so I accessed Twitter with my Blackberry. As the updates came through, I noticed that at least half of them were in different languages. Of course I couldn't read them.

However, if I had been at my computer I could have translated them using a nice little extension called Google Translation Bar. It would be even nicer if there existed such an application for the Blackberry, but I digress.

If you haven't used this translation tool, let me explain. First you need the Google Chrome web browser. You can find it at

This should take you to the Google Translation Bar extension for downloading.

Once downloaded, it will put a blue icon in the upper toolbar of the Google Chrome browser. When you get to a page that you would like to translate, simply click on the icon and choose the language to which you'd like it translated. Click "Translate" and presto, it's done!

For instance, one of the recent tweets that came through read:

And in Hebrew it looks like:
זה מדהים כמה שינויים במצב הרוח שלי פעם את השמש יוצאת


I think this would be a perfect tool for foreign language classes. It looks like there are about 52 languages available. Any one of them can be translated into any of the others.

Believe me, I would have loved this application during all those Spanish classes I took in high school. Reading Don Quixote my senior year would have been a lot more enjoyable.

So, try it. Have fun with it. You might even learn something.

If this particular extension is not to your liking, there are other translation tools available at:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Name-Calling Week ~ Start With the Adults

No Name-Calling Week starts in a couple of weeks. After watching television, listening to the radio, and surfing the web, it might help if the adults started setting an example for the students. Just look at the following examples:

1. Sarah Palin called her son Trig, who has Down's Syndrome, retarded. This is according to Levi Johnston (the father of Sarah Palin's grandchild), who Sarah Palin called a liar, fame seeker, and "Rikky Hollywood."

2. Rep. (R) Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar during a speech on health reform.

3. Keith Olbermann called Glenn Beck an "uneducated, imperceptive, panicky whack job."

4. Glenn Beck called President Obama a "Marxist."

5. Rush Limbaugh called called President Obama a "halfrican American" and "Barack the Magic Negro."

6. Rachel Maddow said "the Republican Party are the tea partiers and tea partiers are the Republican Party, they are GOP-baggers, the tea-publicans."

7. Rachel Maddow said Pat Robertson was an "unintended consequence of the First Amendment."

8. Rush Limbaugh called former President Jimmy Carter the "nation's hemorrhoid."

9. President Obama called Kanye West a "jackass."

10. Katy Perry recorded a song titled "UR So Gay."

11. Kanye West's rival, 50 Cent, called Kanye "gay" because of his interest in fashion and design.

12. Numerous tabloids have labeled stars "fat." Stars that have been ridiculed include, but certainly not limited to, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Osborne, and Jessica Simpson. While some may have put on a few pounds, they were anything but fat. It's little wonder so many people have a problem with body image.

These are just a few of the name-calling incidents that have occurred recently. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why children call each other names ... look at the adults they have for role models.

Rachel Maddow Show; January 13, 2009

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Importance of Social Media ~ Haiti

About a month ago I was at a Christmas Open House with a group of teachers. The conversation turned to Twitter and Facebook. Someone mentioned that I was the one who knew all about it. One of the retired teachers wanted to know what the big deal was. She just didn't get it.

I tried to explain, but it was difficult. First, I don't know all about it; I'm still learning. Second, I love Twitter and Facebook, but to try to explain its appeal is a challenge. I said that I had been able to contact friends and relatives on Facebook that I hadn't talked to for years. I also explained that by being a fan of news networks on Facebook and following the news channels on Twitter, I was able to keep up with all the news in real time.

She still didn't get it. I finally told her that she needed to experience it for herself.

Well, tonight, maybe those people who don't "get it," will. The horrible earthquake in Haiti demonstrates just how important the new technology is. The only connection to the outside world seems to be satellite Internet. The only communications are coming from Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. The news programs are relying on social media to get their information.

And the news is devastating. Eighty percent of Haiti's population is below the poverty level. People survive on $2.00 a day. The vegetation has been stripped by people trying to survive which has caused mudslides and blocked roads. There were four tropical storms in 2008. There are millions of people living in a space that should house only thousands. And now buildings have collapsed, thousands of people are assumed trapped and probably dead. There is chaos.

Relief efforts are already underway, many organized on Twitter and Facebook.

It's time for schools to realize the immense importance of social media in today's world. This should be tomorrow's social studies lesson.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lattice Multiplication

To any student having trouble with multiplication, the first thing you should do is memorize your basic multiplication facts. All math from 2nd or 3rd grade on is based on these facts. You don't want to have be looking them up on a table or putting them into a calculator each time you need them. Just imagine doing a complicated Calculus problem and having to put 8 x 7 into a calculator because you never learned those basic facts.

When you start multiplying larger numbers, lattice multiplication may help you understand your work a little better. Lattice multiplication is also fun.

Below are two videos. The first will demonstrate lattice multiplication. The second will explain why it works.



Sunday, January 10, 2010

My One Great Wish for All Students

If I could be granted just one wish for all students it would be that they have a deep-seated, never-ending desire to learn.

If they could all have just this one thing, nothing else would matter. They wouldn't let anything stand in the way of their education. It wouldn't matter if they were rich or poor, if they were black or white, or if they were male or female. It wouldn't matter where they live, what they wear, what job their parents have, or what school they attend. All of these would just become excuses for not learning.

If a student truly has that desire to learn, they will find a way. I've seen students with all strikes against them rise above the fray. They search out people and books and situations that foster their education. They discover that everything they do and everyone they meet provides an opportunity for learning. Nothing stops them.

Yes, my one great wish is that all students could experience this passion for knowledge. Perhaps we can find a way to help instill this desire in them. Let them know how important an education is. Give them books. Support their interests. Keep adding fuel so that desire for learning keeps burning bright.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Am I Qualified to Blog?

I have been reading a lot of blogs over the last few months and I often wonder what qualifications the author has. I imagine that some people who read this blog may have wondered the same about me. So today, just a little about myself.

1. I was a math education major in college, but my advisor worried that I might have trouble in the math program. She made sure I enrolled in language arts courses as a backup.

2. My first real job after college was writing blank radio advertisements for a research publication company. I worked there for two years writing pages for automobile dealerships, beauty shops, grocery stores, theaters, mortuaries, feed and seed stores, and any other business that might advertise on the radio.

3. I spent 32 years teaching high school math. Besides teaching, much of the time was spent writing tests and quizzes as well as all kinds of reports. I also taught science for a few years and one year of World History. These two courses involved lots of writing.

4. Every few years I had to take courses in order to renew my teaching certificate. Over the years I gained teaching certifications in World History, Sociology, Psychology, General Science, Physical Sciences, and English, as well as my original certification in Mathematics.

5. For quite a few years I have edited two different newsletters. One is for a local astronomy club; the other is for a teacher's society.

So that's my history in the world of writing, just in case anyone was curious. Does that me qualified to write a blog? I guess the readers will have to be the judge of that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How I Do The Things I Hate To Do

I hate to clean house. I hate laundry. I hate doing dishes. I hate sweeping, dusting, mopping. And I really hate cleaning the toilet.

But I do them. I even did them this morning. Why? Because I prefer things to be clean rather than dirty. How do I do them? I usually open iTunes on my computer, select a couple hours of my favorite songs, and I go to work. I like the music and it makes doing the jobs I don't like go much faster. It actually makes them enjoyable.

Even Mary Poppins said "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." Well, the cleaning is my medicine and the music is the sugar.

As students and teachers, anytime you have to do something you don't want to do (homework, paperwork, reports, research), try a little music. If music doesn't work for you, find something that does. Mix the work you don't like with something you do ... a favorite TV show or movie, a few pages of a novel or magazine, or a few minutes on the treadmill. The work will be done before you know it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January is National Hobby Month

I just found out that January is National Hobby Month. I think hobbies are so important. It always amazes me that some people have no hobbies; they don't seem to be interested in anything. I don't understand it.

My favorite hobby is astronomy. We have an observatory nearby that we visit several times during the year. We get lots of visitors: church groups, boy scouts, girl scouts, school groups, astronomy classes. There is an Alcohol & Drug Dependency Clinic group that visits a couple of times a year. The clinic tries to get their patients involved in activities to help break their cycle of dependency.

Nearly any pastime or interest can be a hobby. There are collections, scrapbooking, sports, bird-watching, gardening, baking, knitting, pottery, dancing, photography, reading, painting, decorating, beer or wine-making, puzzles, model trains, caving, card games, fishing, jewelry making, and a myriad of other activities and interests.

This year, I want to learn how to play guitar. I also want to learn Pysanki (hand-painted Ukrainian eggs). Hopefully, they'll become future hobbies.

So get back to a hobby you once enjoyed or find a new one to take you through the year. Don't say you don't have time. Even a few minutes doing something that makes you happy can make all the difference.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anti-Bullying ~ Where To Start?

We all know bullying when we see it. We all know it is wrong. And yet we all have either bullied someone or been a victim of someone else's bullying or both.

There are as many reasons for bullying as there are bullies and victims. If a bully doesn't have a reason, s/he will find one. I grew up in a neighborhood that seemed to be full of bullies. One would throw rocks at me in the summer and ice balls filled with rocks in the winter. When I started crying, he'd call me a cry-baby. The only reason he did this is because he was a bully, and I was there.

On the other hand, my next-door neighbor was constantly annoying me. One day I had enough. I took off my shoe and started hitting him with it. I just wanted him to cry, but he wouldn't. The bullied had become the bully. And that's the way it often is.

Thank goodness I had parents who stepped in. When I was bullied, they would call the boy's parents. When I tried to be the bully, I was immediately taught right from wrong.

As for the boy who threw the rocks, I guess his parents didn't step in. About a year ago his name was in the paper for domestic abuse. It certainly didn't surprise me. I was only surprised that I hadn't read his name in the paper a long time ago.

There are no easy solutions for bullying. It has been around forever. Throughout history, there are stories of bullies. We all went to school with them. Sometimes they are parents or teachers or bosses. Wherever they are, everyone else must learn to deal with them. How much easier it would be to stop it at an early age as my parents did with me.

Schools and organizations are trying to combat the problem, but it will take everyone, including students, parents, churches, and the community. There are also programs that can help. A simple Internet search for "anti-bullying programs" will turn up quite a few. One place to start right now is with "No Name-Calling Week" January 25-29. You can register or get more information at . I'm sure it won't be the ultimate solution, but at least it's a place to start.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

No Name-Calling Week

I may be a little early with this, but No Name-Calling Week is January 25-29, 2010. I thought if I posted this now, it would give people time to put together some activities.

The following information is quoted from their website.

"No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a young adult novel entitled "The Misfits" by popular author, James Howe. The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression. Motivated by the inequities they see around them, the "Gang of Five" (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and run on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. Though they lose the election, they win the support of the school's principal for their cause and their idea for a "No Name-Calling Day" at school. "

"Motivated by this simple, yet powerful, idea, the No Name-Calling Week Coalition, created by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, and consisting of over 40 national partner organizations, organized an actual No Name-Calling Week in schools across the nation during the week of March 1-5, 2004. This year, No Name-Calling Week will take place the week of January 25-29, 2010. The project seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools, and to provide students and educators with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling in their communities."

For more information, see

Monday, January 4, 2010

Every Once In A While

Today I had a good thing happen. I was at the grocery store and ran into one of my former students. I actually run into her every once in a while because she works there. But today, she and I both had a little time to talk.

She was one of those students who was always bubbly and fun to have in class. She certainly hasn't lost any of her enthusiasm or bubbliness.

As a student in PreCalculus and in Statistics, she had set high goals for herself. As a math teacher, I was proud to hear her say today that she had just graduated from college with a degree in Finance. She said that she had been offered numerous jobs, but she wasn't interested in relying on a commission for her income. She had decided to stay with the grocery store, work her way up, and eventually have her own store. She is going to have a wonderful career.

I couldn't have been more proud of her. So often, teachers never see the results of their work. It's great when a former student lets you know how they're doing. It's even better when they let you know that in some small way you helped them reach their goals.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Choose Your Attitude

It doesn't seem possible that tomorrow is Monday, January 4. We are well into January and 2010. The holidays are over. Everyone will be returning to work or school. Some of you are looking forward to it, knowing that it is a new beginning, a time to start again.

For others, you may be dreading going back. Just remember, you can choose your attitude. You can be unhappy and resentful. Or you can be glad that you have the opportunity for an education. You can be happy that in these times of unemployment, you have a job.

Getting that education, getting that's worth it. Keep at it. You'll be glad you did. Just decide that it's what you want. As I've quoted before (from "Soak Up The Sun" by Sheryl Crow), "it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Action Plan for 2010

Yesterday I listed many of the things I learned in 2009. Today I want to list the items I plan to do in 2010. I don't call them resolutions because if I resolve to do something, and don't, I'll feel bad. If I simply plan to do something, and don't, I can just say it's just postponed until a later time. I won't feel nearly as bad that way.

At school, we were always filing action plans, so my Action Plan for 2010 is as follows:

1. To Accomplish Tasks On Time: As you can see, I've already missed this one. This particular post that I am currently writing should have been done yesterday, but it was a holiday, and so it was postponed until today.

2. To Be Aware: I plan to try to be aware of each and every thing I do. No more mindless eating. No more worrying about things that have happened in the past or things that I think might happen in the future. I plan to be present in the now.

3. To Keep A Cleaner House: I like it when it's clean, it just doesn't happen too often. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but a little dirt will keep your immune system healthy. At least, that's what I hear. I should have a really healthy immune system.

4. To Learn To Play Guitar: I used to play a little guitar...very little. But I received a new acoustic guitar for Christmas. I can pick out a few melodies already. There are even lessons on YouTube. Yeah!

5. To Achieve A Healthy Weight: I lost weight during 2009, but still have quite a few pounds to go. I don't want to think of it as dieting or as having to lose weight. I just want to eat healthy, stay on a plan, and be healthy.

6. To Read More: It seems everything I read is non-fiction...newspapers, blogs, directions, magazines, owner's manuals, insurance forms, Internet articles, how-to manuals. I need to read more for enjoyment. Now I'm not saying that an insurance form doesn't provide hours of entertainment ........ oh, yes, I am.

7. To Do More Scrapbooking: Two years ago I organized all my photographs so that I could put them into scrapbooks. I think I finished about 2 pages. This last year I finished 4 or 5 pages. My plan is to put together one page a week. That should be easy, right?

8. To Continue To Exercise: I must exercise everyday. I only missed one day during 2009 and that was New Year's Eve (2 day's ago). I just couldn't work it in that day.

9. To Continue To Meditate: I need that one hour of quiet time everyday. I need it to relax, clear my head, think, pray, connect with the universe, or whatever is necessary for that day.

10. To Continue To Blog: I just started this blog in August. I'm planning to continue it everyday. I'm afraid that if I miss even one day, I may not get back to it. It is something I enjoy, but it is time consuming. Fortunately, I still have a lot of opinions on things.

11. To Continue To Use Social Media: I've read several articles and blogs today that state that Facebook and Twitter are sooooooooo 2009. I hope that's not true. I've really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones. I know that everything changes and I'm sure that social media will change also. Hopefully, it will change for the better.

12. To Learn More and More and More: Students would often ask me "What am I ever going to use this for." I taught math and I would go through the whole spiel about how math is the backbone of everything...that no matter what job they pursued, they would need math. That explanation worked until they reached Algebra. Suddenly, they didn't see how it pertained to anything. We would go through countless examples of how Algebra is used in business, in medicine, in science, in finance, in social studies, and on and on. The immediate response was "I'm not going to do any of those things." The whole truth of the matter is that they were probably right. Right now, teachers are teaching students skills for jobs that don't even exist. When a students asks, "How am I going to use this in my job," the truth is, we don't know. Students need to learn the skills of reading and doing math. They need to learn how to think by studying science and social studies. They need to learn an appreciation for art and music. And hopefully they can take the skills and attitudes they've gained and apply them to any future career that comes along. That's how I feel about what I'm doing now. Even though I'm retired, there is still so much out there to learn. I know I will never learn it all, nor do I have the desire to learn it all, but I want to keep learning all that I can. Every year I learn more. I can't wait to see what 2010 has in store. I'm sure it will be new and exciting. It may even be something that has never existed before.