Friday, December 17, 2010

Pizza and Conversation-

It's not often that my teenage kids want to have a conversation with me. They are all at the stage where everything I say is boring and predictable. I am probably boring and predictable because I'm saying all the mom things- "clean your room", "how's your grades?" "It's your turn to do..." and so on- Not to mention that, as a substitute teacher, I am strict in the classrooms, even if they are in them.
So, it's a real treat for one of my kids to have a real conversation with me, talking about things that are bothering them and having the opportunity to guide them a bit. I think it was a surprise for them to get real answers from me- not the "party line" that I must say at school, but my own real oppinions.
This one had a bit of a slip of values. Nothing that isn't forgivable- nothing that isn't just a sign of her age- but a slip nonetheless. This wasn't the first conversation we've had recently, but this one was a good conversation about serious things.
I see she's still proccessing what happened and the ramifications of what happened. Not only within the family, but the community as well. Seeing who was affected and who gets blamed for events and everyone's goals in the situation is good for her future ability to navigate these crazy waters of romance.

I'm going to give this project a try.
I do use sketchbooks, but I typically don't show them. It seems so many people's sketchbooks are organized and beautiful, like da vinci's notebooks. Mine aren't like that at all, I wonder how I'll fair doing this project.
My sketchbook is a inexspensive graph paper notebook that I keep near me for notes and doodles. I put the date in the front of it when I begin to draw in it and I put the date I'm finished there next to the start date, so I have the time range for that notebook's life. I doodle ideas there, working out the designs, writing down words that strike me as directions to go in, and other things.
I'm not sure how beautiful my real sketchbook is-or how beautiful the drawing could be (using this sort of paper) so, I'm concidering using a different sort of sketchbook. Seeing that this project has a different theme each month, perhaps keeping it seperate from the other art designs is the way to go.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

technical difficulties-

Wow! it took me all day yesterday to realize that the entire song I recorded wouldn't publish here. So, I used the windows movie maker program and clipped a lot of the beginning and some of the end to make for a more precise video. It's a shame because the band had a slow build up to the full sound and then the slow ending, where everything dropped out except the bells. It was nice to hear Maura playing.
I think the holiday concert is one of the signs of Christmas coming. It's so nice to hear all the hard work the kids have put in and to share it with the community. The drawback continues to be that the school system thinks that the tiny stage at the Middle school is adequate for all the stage performances in the district and decides to build a SECOND gym at the HS. That means that all band performances are done in a cavernous gym with horrible acoustics.
It means that all the plays chosen have to have small casts. It means kids who want to perform cannot.
I don't recall having been asked if building a second gym was more important than a theater. I know if they hadn't undercut the bid on the Elementary school, that gym wouldn't have been too small. It's ridiculous that they have a gym that cannot have the bleachers pulled out AND have a game played. Instead, they had to turn around and build another gym to accommodate all the games played.
It's windy today and bitterly cold. Hovering around 0 windchill. The Branson belle ran aground last night and they decided to wait until daylight to attempt any sort of rescue. 500 of your best friends hanging out on a boat with no beds. At least they have entertainment and a story to tell all their friends when they get home.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas concert

Last night was the annual Christmas Concert at the school. Because we are a small school, the concert included the middle school band, the middle school choir, a percussion group from the Middle school, the HS choir, HS Jazz band and HS concert band. Each group did 3 songs, so it made for a full and entertaining evening.

I can't say enough about the attitude of the band directors and the hard work they've put in. I know the other directors probably worked hard, but I really like the communication these folks have with us. I like their management style. I could tell a great difference in the Middle school band and it bodes well for the HS band in the years to come.

Maura is sporting a short brown hair do these days. (if you are keeping score) She is dressed in altered clothing and a pair of sky high heels we got her for Christmas (black sequins) She is playing the bells and you can see her standing in the back left side of the band. you don't get to hear her much until the very end of the song.

It was good seeing all the kids performing and the parents we know in the crowd. I'm glad Steve was able to see it. He flew home yesterday and is already gone again today.

I took Maura to the school this morning to take the ACT then I did a bit of shopping to make sure we were ok if the snow comes tonight. (although having the freezer makes that a lot less critical) I'm hoping to experiment today with cookies. maybe try making a wreath (if I can find the darnned thing) and continue to work on making the ornaments I have in the works.

Making glass things is adictive. Just when I finish soldering the pieces, I start thinking about cutting more glass and the proccess starts all over again. especially these small projects. My mind says "just a few more pieces, just a few more.." and the next thing I know, I've got to grind 50 pieces of glass again.

BUT- I'm thinking of a quilt design and it's engaging me, which is refreshing. I know sort of what I want to do, but still thinking about construction and elements in the design. I have a hard time thinking about Spring when it's winter... and I wish they would have a different theme for the show. But, the show IS in the Spring, so I guess it works and is broad enough. I have done so many Spring subjects, I'm wanting to branch out to maybe a whole year of events that begin in the spring centered around a certain subject. So, I'm gathering reference images from my collection of photos and we'll see how I do.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

PISA ratings-

Here's a humorous view of the issue by my friend, Wilfred. Here's the world rankings For education via The UK Guardian (which is why the UK is highlighted in this image)

SO, The US is ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in Math out of 34 countries participating. The test involve 15 year old students and we, as a nation, are dead average.
The fingerpointing begins. It's the (fill in the blank) the teachers, the parents, the government, the economy, the wacko fringe elements, the unequal testing groups... fault.
No one really seems to know why the kids are not performing in school, everyone seems to have an excuse. Having a front row seat (as it were) into the day to day workings of the local school, I certainly see changes in the system. Remember when you had a class assignment and a homework assignment? Remember those 50 problems you did at home? That's all gone. Why? because the kids just refuse to do them. Period. There are several kids who won't get the class assignment done and STILL won't finish them at home.
So, in view of that, maybe it's the parents' fault. Of course, that means they'd actually have to see their kids after school before they go to bed, which seems to be an issue. Seriously, between the parents who do not work 9-5 jobs and the divorce rate (which means single parents and dating) the parents are just not supervising the kids like before.
So, A few years ago, before any of of my kids participated in school activities, I realized that I had about two hours of "family time" with my kids a day. They got up at 5:30 am and got home at 4:30 pm. Less on Church night.
Then, the kids began to participate in band and sports. Less time for everything. Suddenly, we were eating a lot less home cooked meals, grabbing a lot more fast food and quick heat and serve meals and most of our conversations were in the car on the way to and from activities.
I noticed the class work changed in the schools. No homework because the poor football (basketball, track, wrestling, etc..) team kids had no time to do it. (remember when that was THEIR problem? Remember when EXTRA curriculum meant just that?)
So, This is what I see- I see an assignment given which is computer- based. I see the class head to the lab where the computers are. I see several of the kids chat and not do the work. I see several of them playing computer games instead of working. I see some kids at a loss how to find the information from the website. I see a few kids who got it done in one day. I see this assignment (a one page hand out) lasting 3 days. I see an assignment that can not be compleated at home because not everyone has a computer.
I recently realized that when I was in teacher training, it was emphasized that I was to manage the classroom by making certain I had everyone's attention and everyone was on task. If they were not, I was graded down. Now, I see very little evidence that teachers are managing their classrooms like that. Part of it has to do with the emphasis on working in groups.
I was told a few years ago that the business world was asking the education system to address the fact that business worked in teams now and that the kids should be prepared to work as a team. I saw them put that policy into effect in as young as the 4th grade- which caused, in the classroom, noise, confusion and off task activities. But the teacher was to allow all of that to go on- in favor of getting the idea of a team of work. Now, of you remember back to any time you had to work with a partner in school, you KNOW that there's one person who does all the work and the rest distract. The difference between school and work is that the slackers get fired. An interesting thought my husband added to this is, while the public schools are to be doing more team building, there are more online learning opportunities in college where students aren't even in the same PLACE anymore. What is more important to business then, team building in the 4th grade or in college?
Ah, but we expect so much from our schools. Things our society wants every kid to know because the parents don't seem to be doing the job. There's the emphasis on healthy exercise and eating, sex, drugs, checkbook use (really- personal finance is a required class)My daughter recently had a Hunter safety course in PE. Then there's computer skills (which is required at the middle school, High school and college levels) Then, there's the fact that so many kids eat free and reduced breakfast/ lunch at school.
It's a kid-centric world. To get your student's attention, you are to get on their level and make your examples about what they are interested in- lady gaga references and such. (I read that in a teacher magazine) They can't spell Pisa (or know what it is, or where it is) but they know all the words to the pop songs (and those pass for literature these days).
So, whose fault is it? I think everyone has equal shares.
The lack of parenting skills is a direct reflection of the 60's- where being yourself and doing your own thing led to kids being raised with little direction. The divorce rates beginning in the 70's where single parent households meant that the kids were less supervised and the parents more harried about how to make a living. The society that still doesn't pay women as much as men, the dead beat dads, the mobile society where family homesteads with grandparents living nearby no longer occur. Who IS watching the kids? The answer around here is daycare centers, the YMCA after school program and then, no one (unless they are in sports, then it's the coaches).
The kids. The tail is wagging the dog. Not even the best tail either. Imagine you are teaching 25 kids. The assignment is due tomorrow. 3 of them didn't do it. 5 almost finished it. 6 of them did it wrong.5 of them got quite a few answers wrong. 6 of them did well. How do you hand out grades that it doesn't look like you are a failure? The lazy kids and the kids who do not listen and follow directions are controlling your class. THEY are in control of your evaluations. Now, if you want to change that, I doubt you'd even be allowed to take a hard stand. I don't believe you'd be allowed to demand excellence or let the effort stand. It just looks bad when half your class fails. So, they extend the assignment times. They accept late work. They do it together in class. They dumb down the assignments.
It's no wonder we are average in the world.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Nelson- Adkins Museum of Art- the sculpture garden with shuttle cocks.
So, It's gotten to be a family tradition to interact with the sculptures. It began by accident when Delaney was pouting in the Chicago institute of Art and happened to be standing next to a statue with the same body expression. From there, we had Maura whispering in a statue's ear and Tyler mimicing a Picasso statue. So, it's only right that we join in with Steve being "one" with Buddah....

And I'm feeding the horse. We did some others, but I think I like these the best. The guards got a bit on the alert when you play like this, like they almost need to say something, which is amusing.

We happened to drive by the federal reserve and saw they had a museum so we stopped. We had to show our ID and get a name tag to get in- of course a metal detector... but then once in, was a slightly interesting show of historical money and specific history of the KC branch. We were free to take pics of all parts BUT where they are dealing with the real money. But, it was a bit mindboggling to see a warehouse VAULT with money stacked on pallets on shelves with deep perspective going off in the distance. A warehouse of MONEY. I really can't rap my mind around that part of it. I liked the historic money exhibit. In the end, they give you a small bag of shreded money. It was interesting to know they have a HS art competition using shreded money. I hope to share that with the art teachers here.
Also along the way we drove past the Train station which , besides being the amtrac station, has a science museum which is why we found this guy loitering outside in his festive gear.
So, of course, this post is in reverse order of what we did. Someday I'll remember to put the photos in backwards of how I want them to be. We spent the most time, by far, at the art museum and enjoyed it tremendously. We stopped on our way out of town to eat and then we forgot to keep our eye on finding the hwy 13 exit so we went too far on 71 before we remembered to look for it. Turned out- we had to cut east on small roads to get where we wanted to be, but hey- we saw an amish wagon with lanterns driving so that was interesting.
This was just what I needed to get me out of the dumps I was in.
I needed some adult one on one time. I needed to see something different from what I see all the time. I needed some art pick me ups too. Back to work on all sorts of projects.

The BIG 50-
Ok, I was dreading the celebration. Not really the age, but the opportunity it gave all my kids to make old jokes for the day. Surprisingly, they were darned nice about it all. We went to dinner in Branson and Carrie and JJ, Megan and Debbie joined us. Sure there were a few jokes about it being a "cold day in Hell" and "when Hell freezes over" because it WAS darned cold that night.
I had such a good time. Some guy from the restaurant sang Happy birthday to me in Italian (with a very lovely voice) and honestly, the gifts were surprising. Maura bought me two shirts that were very nice for my figure. Tyler found Munys for me (I love those plastic guys) and Steve really surprised me with plans for a trip to Kansas City.
We left the next morning and got to Kansas City in plenty of time for Museum number one- the Toy and Miniature Museum. OK, so there's WAY more miniatures than toys there and, after awhile (not being that enamored with tiny stuff) it got tedious looking so many dollhouses and miniatures. The women working there were VERY enamored with tiny things and several of them waxed on and on about their collection. I would have liked to see more dolls from different time periods and more toys too. I don't think I cared much about the room full of marbles. The special exhibit was "50 years of Barbie" but, I gotta tell you- it was lightly covering the subject matter. Even so, there were a few things that caught my eye. The very old teaching toys were fun and a fortune telling doll was fun too. It was great seeing the doll Barbara Vannoy made. I remember when she made it and marveling over all the details. I expected more of that kind of thing in this museum.
If I were to give any advice about the museum, I'd tell them that it was great that they had two founding collectors who shared all their hard work but that they really needed to keep asking for a variety of things to round out their collections. I'd say that the "toy" part of their collection was light. I'd tell them that having more dolls covering all the different major eras and production would be better than seeing every variety of toy stove. The space dedicated to stoves vs dolls was shocking. More toys! fewer marbles.What about paper dolls? Ask someone to donate their hotwheels collection.
Real ethnic collection would be good too. Heat the building in the winter. Volunteers should ask if you need help but refrain from lectures. We had 5 different women go on and on about stuff, but the one question I had, they couldn't answer. LOL
Finally- let people take pictures. What's the big deal about that? Better gift shop.
We left feeling a bit overwhelmed by tiny stuff and underwhelmed by fun and we headed to the motel. It was a lovely room and we settled in then headed back out to discover more.
We noticed the market wasn't far from the motel, but it was not really open. I think this is something to do in warmer weather and something to look forward to another time. We drove to the Power and light area which is supposed to be the hot new entertainment area in town but really, nothing grabbed us. It looks like the kind of place you go for a specific destination- a certain restaurant or club, but isn't really conducive to walking around and discovering a place.
We drove on to the Country Club Plaza which is much more the shopping/ dining destination.
Quite a few high end stores there but we were hungry and ate at PF Chang's. Afterwards we did a bit of shopping then headed back to the room for some nice romantic one on one time.
This was day one.