Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Don't Get No Respect

So I was cleaning up the other day, and I came across a lovely little gift my daughter had given me a while back. To be exact, it was on the occasion of my 50th birthday. The only thing you need to know in order to get full enjoyment out of it is that my maiden name is Newman.

She made it herself. She just makes me so proud.

What is the best old age gag you've seen pulled?

Monday, July 30, 2012

How I Could Be a Better Teacher!

I'm a teacher. I went to college and majored in English; then I spent one year in a teacher training program, and voila! I'm a teacher!

What did my teacher training entail? Well, I spent one semester as a teacher's aide. I watched a master teacher one period a day, and did my best to get important tips from him. In addition, I had several lecture classes on teaching theory. Two periods a day I actually worked one-on-one with a real student. No one really supervised this work. I used what I had learned in class to determine the student's needs and devise lessons. Occasionally a field supervisor from the university would come watch what I was doing and give feedback.

The second semester, there was more lecture and theory. This semester, however, I got to teach two actual classes. Again, this was mostly unsupervised. I worked with two master teachers who might be in the class when I was teaching, or who might be in the office doing prep work and/or drinking coffee. Don't get me wrong; these were two really fabulous teachers, but it wasn't formally their job to instruct me. They answered my questions and gave me tips, but their mentoring was completely unstructured. About once a month the university field supervisor sat in on one of my classes and again gave me feedback.

For the most part then, my teacher training involved lectures and unsupervised practice with very little feedback. The day I walked into my classroom as a real live professional teacher, I had a textbook and a list of students' names. No one told me what to teach or how to teach it. I had to figure it out. This was the early 1990s, and this type of teacher preparation was all too common.

I like to think that we've improved somewhat in our teacher education, but student teachers and new teachers are still not supervised in the same way that say, medical residents are supervised. We like to think of teaching as a profession just as we do medicine or law, but we do not train our teaching professionals to the same extent.  Teachers are still left to figure out what works and how to fix what isn't working mostly on their own. I'm seeing a change in this area, and I hope that it continues so that all teachers are given structured professional development that is adequate to turn them all into highly effective educators.

I was recently given the opportunity to read the book Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in any School written by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia. The book describes the success of the charter school network founded by Moskowitz and explains how every public school could benefit from the methods they use.

What is the secret of the The Success Academies? Teacher training! Not just initial training for student teachers, but ongoing professional development for veteran teachers. The book details the coaching, supervised practice, and cooperative learning teachers undergo when they teach at the Academies. It also explains the curriculum they feel is necessary for students to achieve learning success.

Mission Possible isn't written for just eductors; it is also directed to parents and other school reformers. Each chapter ends with a takeaway for each group: teachers, principals, parents, and school reformers. The authors want to help parents to understand what they should be looking for in choosing a school for their children. Also included with the book is a DVD demonstrating all of the ideas from the book.

Eva Moskowitz would love to hear from you and discuss education with you. You can contact her here:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hillbilly School Daze

It's time once again to turn my blog over to My Hillbilly for his weekly ramblings. This week, he's turned his wandering mind from vacations to school. I am not at all ready to turn my mind from vacation to school, but here we go:

Having done the vacation thing, I thought I would move on to school memories.  Growing up in the country, I went to a country school--you know, the one-room kind for grades 1-8.  Since they didn’t have kindergarten, my first experience of school was the first grade.  This was a really traumatic change for a half-hyper, hillbilly boy who had spent six years running free across the land!  Think about it!
An actual picture of the Hillbilly Boy!

We have movies such as Free Willy and Born Free, with which many relate.  We have groups such as PETA who try to protect animals, Green Peace who try to protect the whales, and I don’t know, are there groups who protect vegetables and plants, perhaps called the Green Peas?

 But then the hillbilly is captured and dragged off to school!  And noooo, not for a half day to kind of get the hang of it, but for the whole day!  Is there a group for the preservation of hillbilly boy freedom? No! My backside had never ever had to sit that long!  My mouth never had to be quiet for that long!  Okay.  So even in school, my mouth wasn’t quiet for all that long!  Can you believe that I occasionally, okay, quite often, got in trouble for talking?  As a teacher, Cynthia wouldn’t have approved.

But hey, I had not been tamed yet.  And the first day, well, it lasted for weeks!  The first week lasted for years!  Half of my life was just blown away in that first week!  Who was protecting me and my rights?  Nobody!  That’s who!  This traumatic experience scarred my life!  Seriously!  Not that school was hard.  It was just that I had to sit quietly and keep my mouth shut.  It was depressing.  In fact, until I turned fifty years old and my children were long out of school, as the beginning of the school year would approach, I would start feeling depressed!  You are laughing aren’t you?  There is just no sympathy for a poor hillbilly boy!

Now most of the country schools with which I was familiar in my county, had 25 to 75 kids in attendance spread over 1st through the 8th grade.  There was only one teacher who taught all classes and all subjects.  All the children were in one class room.  Surprisingly enough, we learned quite a lot.
One-room school building

Since we had only one teacher, she would start reading lessons with the first grade.  After a short time, she would assign a lesson for us to study so that she could move on to the next grade.  She would have the other student and I who already knew how to read to help the poor readers in their study for the next day.

 Probably the positive to being with eight different grades was that we also learned by watching what was happening with the higher grades.  Of course we also learned other things from them.  For instance, almost all the older boys carried knives!  Some even had switchblades.  Naturally, I thought it was cool.  So, as I got older, I tried to carry a knife.  It didn’t work well for me because I could lose knives quicker than I could replace them.  So I gave up on it.  By the way, no one ever thought of pulling a knife on someone else.  It was definitely different from what it is today.

Speaking of learning from the older kids, one of the older neighbor boys was going to begin teaching me how to cuss!  I didn’t really know what cussing was, but he was older, so I thought it must be cool.  So, I went home that night and told my mom, "This older kid is going to teach me how to cuss.  Cool, huh?"  And, she said, “Oh no he’s not!”  She was pretty emphatic about it!  I don’t know; I thought school was for learning.  At any rate, I told Mom, “Oh well, I didn’t want to learn to cuss anyway!"  Wasn’t that an innocent statement!

The funniest thing about this was that by the next day the whole idea of it was  forgotten anyway.  Actually, in all my eight years at that school I heard very little cussing even though  I suspect that my teacher may have occasionally (under her breath) mouthed a few words about a particular half-hyper hillbilly boy.  So I heard very few bad words and saw very little violence.  And that violence really wasn’t very violent!  It was definitely a different and better time than today.  Boy, don’t you really wish that we could turn things back to being like it was, in what really was, the good old days!

From the Hillbilly’s corner!

Wow! 75 kids and one teacher teaching all subjects! That's my worst nightmare! But wasn't My Hillbilly a cute little kid? He kind of reminds me of Opie!  How do you like The Hillbilly's school story? Be sure to leave a comment!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fun with News Friday: Crazies Around the Country

Happy Friday, y'all, and welcome to  Fun with News Friday.

This news story leaves me perplexed. I don't know who to go off on here. See if you can help me out.

 It seems a young lady was in Walmart (of course it was Walmart!) when a "gentleman" approached her. Striking up a discussion, he asked her if she was familiar with the show America's Funniest Home Videos. You know the show. It's the one where everyday people take family videos, something funny and unexpected happens, and they mail the video in.

Notice how nothing that happens here sounds anything like that show.

So this guy claims that he's with the show. He asks her a couple questions, like are her toe nails polished. You know, the normal small talk women have with men they've never laid eyes on before. Then he tells her that for the show he'd like to kiss her foot as "part of the prank." Does anyone remember how this show is supposed to work? Does anyone remember anything about the producers of the show playing pranks? 

Me neither.

So, of course, she lets him. In spite of the fact that there's not a TV camera in sight. Or the fact that there's no one on whom to actually play the prank. Well, she's not completely stupid. She didn't agree to it until after he told her that if she went along with it, everything she bought that day at Walmart would be free. 

Uuuhhhh.....yeah.....    So he commences with the foot kissing.
Toes with polish
Photo Credit: Laura-S from Stock xchange

Only instead of kissing her foot, he begins sucking on her big toe! And this, she decides, is suspicious activity, and she begins to scream! The weird toe-sucking guy runs off at this point, but not before telling her, "It tasted so good, though!"

I'll wait while you go throw up.

Everyone back? Good.


What do we all think about the toe-sucking pervert? And what do we think about the ninny who let a total stranger "kiss her feet"? And how many of us are ever going to bare our feet in public again? And how long will it take for this image that's seared into my brain to finally fade away?

Comments are open, y'all! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Photo Shoot--Wordless Wednesday

In my quest to become a better amateur photographer, I need lots of practice. Practice requires a subject, and it's not always easy to find someone willing to stand around while I fiddle with camera settings. I'd like to thank my beautiful niece for posing for me last week.

 Here she is. Anything that is less than beautiful is purely due to photographer error.

I've linked up in several Wordless Wednesday sites:
Wordful  Wednesday and also here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Hillbilly Gets Serious

I truly love my husband. He's a  wonderful man and makes me very happy. I've even given him one post a week on my blog. I'm going to have to change my "About" page to reflect his presence. Today The Hillbilly is going to get a little serious about life and vacations. Enjoy.

My last few posts have had to do with surviving vacations with my parents.  I decided to do one more vacation post and then to move on to other things.

Last year Cynthia and I took a road trip back to Missouri.  This trip was more for visiting than for sightseeing.  We did plan however, to do a little bit of sightseeing on the way.  I wanted to take a longer, more scenic route to once again see and to show Cynthia, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.  But, mostly we were just trying to get to Missouri as soon as possible.

As we planned it, I worked as usual.  I drive a route at night, so that meant that I began about 6:00 PM, drove most of the night and got to bed about 5:00 AM the next day.  I then slept a few hours, got up, got some things done around the house, got packed and left for vacation about 11:00 PM.  Since I had driven all night the night before, Cynthia began driving.  She drove the first 2 hours and I drove the next 12 hours due to her coming down with a headache.  Hm!  Seems like that happens often when we travel!  Oh well!
sinking sun during a thunderstorm

We then got in a little sightseeing, got to a hotel, slept about 4 ½ to 5 hours and then started driving towards Missouri.  This 2nd day was supposed to have been a 21 hour drive but with flood detours it took about 23 hours.  Cynthia drove a couple of times for a total of about 4 hours to give me breaks when I needed it.  I don’t sleep very well in a car anyway.  Cynthia does and did quite a lot of the time so that she could give me breaks when I really needed them. That 2nd day was kind of a killer!
Idaho highway

 At any rate, with Cynthia sleeping quite a lot, I had a lot of time to think.  The following was some of what came from my introspection!

Cynthia and I both had gone through some bad times before we met. When things were really bad for me, as I started to work each morning, I would cross Interstate 44, and catch myself wanting to just turn on to it and to keep driving!  To keep driving to any place --- to no place --- to just keep driving!  Sometimes the urge was so strong that when I got to work, I felt like I had been in a physical battle and lost!  I suppose it was just a mental escapism mirroring the fact that I just wanted to get away from my life.
Montana highway mountains

Of course, things eventually but slowly got somewhat better.  And then I met Cynthia.  Things got great!  And as she was sleeping, I was thinking how great is this?  Here I am actually getting to break loose on a HAPPY ROAD TRIP, and sharing beautiful places from my past with this beautiful woman who is my wife and the love of my life!
older couple wedding portrait

As I was driving for all these hours over some of these highways and seeing the scenes, I couldn’t help but think about my trips with my parents.  The last time I had been on some of these highways was with them some 45 years ago!  Whew!  That makes me feel old!  Anyway, I realized that I had become my parents.  I leave out on vacation in the middle of the night, drive for hours, and go see the sights.  Shoot!  They would probably be proud.  I can drive longer and further than both of them put together!  And I was thinking how if they were with me, they would, as the old saying goes, be walking in tall cotton!

Just  thinking about them and vacations with them brought some smiles and it brought some tears.  I know that any of you who have lost your parents know what I mean when I say  ---  boy, I would like to take just one more of those vacations with them!  I would even drive the whole vacation and would make sure that we had a better camera than that stinking cheap one that they had.  It got me into way too much trouble!  I have so many questions I would like to ask and so many things I wish I had said.

While we were driving through part of the Grand Tetons, I was thinking how great it would be to get to share this with our children and grandchildren.  I was also thinking how much fun it would be to talk to them about their grandparents.  When my children were young, we lived close enough to my mom and dad that they were always walking or riding their bikes to see them.  My parents usually had candy, ice cream, cookies, or something else they could talk them into giving them.  Mom would make them pizzas and milk shakes.  Dad, big overgrown kid that he was, would take them on rides on a trailer to the back of his farm.  The kids thought my parents were great!  They were!  Grandparents are supposed to be fun!  As a friend of mine said about his mom after he had kids!  “Who is this woman?  She was never this sweet, fun and loveable when I was growing up!”  Truthfully, my parents were also fun as parents.
The Snake River in Idaho

Working on this post made me think about life!  In songs, I have heard life called a highway, I have heard it compared to a river, and I am sure it has been compared to different things.  Personally, I think life is a journey.  Sometimes you are on a highway and things are smooth.  Sometimes you are on a rough  gravel road  or maybe you run off the road or get lost.
Swinging wooden bridge Missouri

Sometimes you get stuck or have a wreck.  All kinds of things can happen!  Sometimes it is your own fault!  Everyone makes mistakes!  Sometimes it is caused by people around you.  Sometimes even by people you love and trust.  Everyone likes to feel like they are in control of their journey, but so many things can happen!  The fact is, the only thing you can really control is yourself!  You can control what you do, how you react, how you treat others.  Fortunately, God judges us only for our own lives!

From the Hillbilly’s corner

You can see why I love him, can't you? He's a keeper. I took all these photos on the trip he's talking about. There's a lot of beautiful country out there. Also, don't let him fool you; he loves driving, so I let him! 

 Who drives on your road trips?

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Well, What's in YOUR Purse?

Another blogger recently shared what's in her purse. Yes, she emptied out her "messy" purse and shared its contents with the world. I"m sorry, but when it comes to messy purses, this woman is a a slacker. She didn't even come close to to what's in just one pocket of my purse!

Because I love you, I'm going to share what's in my purse. This should make you feel much better about what's in your purse. I live to make you feel better about yourself. Here's the purse, before cleaning:
red purse filled with stuff

If you look closely, you can see that the straps are showing signs of wear. This is due to the fact that once I find a purse I like, I use it either until it falls apart or until I begin to look like a homeless person because of it. I'm really fussy about the number and placement of pockets in my purse. It's hard to find a purse I love, so I hang onto it when I find one. Yes,  I realize how neurotic that sounds.

Here's what was in the purse.
A pile of the contents of my purse. A big pile.

 You feel better already, don't you? My family makes fun of my landfill belongings, but they all know where to find anything when they need it. So.

Let's analyze this a little more closely because, honestly, there's nothing in there that's not an absolute necessity. Okay, maybe the dirty tissues.

You may not think that everything here is necessary, and yeah,  maybe I should have thrown away the lip gloss packaging. But the toilet seat covers? A must-have! I live in California where ALL public restrooms have toilet seat covers. The Hillbilly, on the other hand, is from Missouri where they have apparently never heard of toilet seat covers. Maybe I should write Missouri a letter and let them know. Well, if you're not used to placing your bare bum on a porcelain seat that has hosted other bare bums...I figured out how to deal with it, okay? I carry my own. You do what you have to do!

Yes, it's been a year since I was last actually in Missouri. What's your  point?

Moving on.

The children at church make the rounds of old ladies with purses because we're usually good for a treat. I'm the tic-tac and gum lady. It's time to replenish.

These are my two sets of keys, one for work and one for home.

This is a two-week-old shopping list. Two weeks in purse years is not old at all!  I got a little nervous about posting it since it contains both prunes and fiber. The Hillbilly was getting ready to bake a prune cake! Honest!

These are business cards that I carry around to pass out. Yes, this is a shameless plug.

I also carry around some gift cards in case we ever get around to using them. Notice I said "we." My purse is also The Hillbilly's storage bag. You ladies know what I'm talking about.

A student gave me this as an end-of-the-year gift. I love Starbucks, but I never go. When school starts again, I'll give the card to my teaching partner and best buddy Julie. Julie makes the coffee runs.
The Hillbilly got this gift card for Father's Day. We live 15 minutes from Bass Pro Shop. The Hillbilly loves outdoor stuff. I have no idea why this card is still living in my purse.

My Kindle. Duh!

Let's empty our purses and see if we can figure out who teaches eighth grade.
 How are you feeling? Do you  need anything?

Don't laugh! Someday you'll be menopausal too. 

Nothing here that I don't actually need, right?

Okay, maybe I'm a little heavy on the motel room lotions here. What goes into the purse doesn't necessarily come out of the purse, at least not soon.

Wallet, check book, and more business cards.

Lots of necessities

The residue including Grandpa's reading glasses that The Monster broke during church Sunday. It's okay. The Hillbilly insists on wearing dollar store reading glasses, which in this case seems to be a good idea.

So there you go! Once again I have publicly humiliated myself for your pleasure. I hope you enjoyed this little  tour through the depths of my purse.

What would we find in your purse that you don't see here? What do I carry that you don't? Did anything surprise you? Leave a comment and let me know.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Man-Eating Fish Captured: Fun with News Friday

Hi, there and welcome to another Fun with News Friday. This is exactly the second Fun with News Friday here on Commonplace Crazy, and it's so new I almost forgot all about it. But don't you fear because even though I got a  late start, I have a great story for you!

Ladies, if you love your man, do not let him go swimming in Lake Lou Yaeger in Illinois. In fact, I'd keep my man out of any water in the state of Illinois. It seems that a fisherman caught a man-eating fish in Lake Yaeger. I use the term man-eating, not person-eating, very deliberately. You see, it seems the pacu fish enjoys dining on men's... umm...nether regions. 
Pacu Teeth
According to Wikipedia, the Pacu is a fish native to South America and is related to the piranha. Lake superintendent Jim Caldwell tells us, "Pacus primarily eat nuts, aquatic vegetation and snails." 

You don't know how much I wish I were making that up.

Natives of Papua New Guinea would disagree with this description of the pacu's diet. According to these folks, in 2011, two fisherman died from blood loss after a pacu ...well, basically...castrated them.

No word on how the South American fish got into the lake in Illinois or whether he was living alone or had any man-hungry companions with him. Either way, I'll be keeping The Hillbilly far away from any lakes in Illinois for a while. Or any lakes in the Midwest. Or California. Definitely South America...

And THAT...is Friday Fun with News!

So what's new in your world?

Some details of this story were found here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Getting "Into" Grammar

Lady tired from studyingRecently a reader asked about the difference between "into" and "in to." Thanks for the toughie! I had to do some research on this one, and it's not easy to explain but I'll do my best.

The specific question was, "Is it ever okay to use two words, in to, instead of one word, into?" Because this is such a difficult topic, I'm just going to answer that question and not get too deeply into the differences between them.

Consider these sentences. 

1. Without knocking, Edward rushed into the house.
2. Without knocking, Edward rushed in to to find Bella in Jacob's arms.
3. She ran back in to get her coat. 
4. I turned the essay in to Mrs. Meents.

I think we can see in sentences 2, 3, and 4, it wouldn't really make sense to use into

If it's followed by a verb, always use in to.
Mommy peeked in to see if the baby was sleeping. Here, "to" belongs with the verb "see."

Be careful if there is a possibility of confusion when talking about "turning into." Turning into the parking lot, shows  directionality. Turning into a butterfly, shows transformation. Turning your homework in to your teacher does neither of those things. Consider these two sentences:
I turned the book in to the library.I turned in the book to the library.
If you can separate in and to, it's clearly two words.

So to summarize, yes, you can and often should use "in to" instead of "into." Always use it before a verb. Also use it if you can separate the two words with the name of an item or person.

Harold went into the store. He went in to buy a grammar book. You don't have to go into the store. You can go to Amazon!

I hope that helps. I hope it makes a little sense. Let me know if you get it at all. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'd Rather Be a Grandma than a Mom

Hi everyone. It's a double whammy today. While The Hillbilly has taken over here today, you can find ME over at my friend Trish's place. Trish is the wonderful blogger at Contemplating Happiness. I've written a guest post explaining all the reasons why it's better to be a grandma than a mom. So be sure to check out both posts! Thanks.

Coming tomorrow, another grammar lesson. Into vs. In To.