Category: Random ‘Munchings”

Dave and I veterans of evacuation, it seems. As we were packing up our suitcases for with several sets of clothes, our electronics and all those irreplaceable photographs, artwork, and my recipe box, we were recalling the five hurricanes we’ve evacuated for. Now, we can add evacuating for two wildfires. Our adventure started on a lazy Saturday. Dave was keeping a mindful watch on a smoke plume off to the North. By late in the afternoon, he was concerned enough to force me out of my comfortable chair to pack up all our essentials. The major problem was that I had just taken a new pain medicine for an excruciating back pain. I had no relief from the back pain and the side effects were making me lethargic. I walked gingerly to the bedroom, taking a handful of work clothes still on their hangers and laying them in the suitcase. No decision process – no sorting, just getting something in the suitcase.

We gathered up the dogs and left just as many other neighbors were leaving the subdivision. The smoke plumes were quite close at this time. We parked at a safe distance just outside our subdivision to watch all the activity which included neighbors walking their horses out, people taking pictures of the fire crossing Old Hempstead Highway, and emergency vehicles roaring by. I finally realized that I had my Canon Rebel in the car and continued to take pictures with it rather than my phone. It was amazing how high the flames and smoke were and how quickly it moved across the road headed straight for our homes!

Eventually, we made our way to our friend’s home,Kathy & Bob, who made the unfortunate mistake of calling us as we stood gaping at the flames. We spent two nights and two days on our regular schedule of getting up early, heading off to work, getting some supper and heading back to bed. All the while, we are checking up on the wildfire status using internet news sites and (of all places) Facebook. The worst thing an evacuee can do is follow the news reports on the local TV sites. Not only are they grossly inaccurate, they are also depressing! This was a lesson I should have remembered after Katrina.

We were allowed back into the subdivision on Thursday. Friday afternoon, Dave had just returned with the dogs but I was still at school when the Sheriff came speeding over the hill towards our street. Two officers peeled off one direction in their patrol cars, one headed our direction. Dave hadn’t even taken the leashes off the dogs when the Sheriff yelled over the fence, “Get out now, we are not coming back to warn you again.” There was no time to pack anything! Dave loaded the dogs back into the car. He frantically texted me about the activity and the DC10 flying over dropping red flame retardant.

This evacuation found me with little more than what I was wearing, only two of my electronics (luckily, I had the recharging units) and my school bag. We stayed three more nights in a hotel near another set of friends who were gracious enough to keep our dogs again. After breakfast on Saturday, we made a trip to the store for toothbrushes, and clothes. We spent hours checking the wildfire status using the hotel’s internet and our Ipads. The maps we were seeing had the fire sending its tentacles back into our subdivision but we had no way of knowing exactly where.

We were allowed back into our home after five days of evacuation all together. The electricity had been off for at least three days but clean up was so much easier than when our refrigerator had sat for three weeks without electricity after Hurricane Katrina. There were burned fields just outside of our subdivision and trails of graded fire lines within our subdivision. A few days later, we drove around our surrounding neighborhoods. This is when we realized just how close our home was to danger and how impressive our firefighters worked to save the homes in harm’s way. We stared at the white picket fences that were melted to the ground and the reddish tint on the road from the flame retardant.

The contrast between green and charred tree trunks and bushes greets me everyday as I pull into my subdivision but I am still very thankful. Our emergency personnel and fire fighters did ONE VERY IMPRESSIVE job protecting our homes!

Random 'Munchings" Writing Entries

Last night, I watched “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” with my husband. It’s been on my list since this summer when I watched him giggling at the movie as it played on his screen on our return trip from Paris. It’s takes a lot to make him giggle, especially if it’s a kids movie. After watching the movie, I now understand why he found it so amusing. The main character in the movie was an intense, focused, and creative young man named Flint. He had an understanding mother when he was young and a completely clueless father. The people in his community usually ignored him or made fun of him, even one character bullied the young man several times in the movie. Many of his inventions failed but he was determined to find a way to make food to save his city. There were several funny situations resulting from his failures that my husband could relate to.

The main character did not have any friends, except for his monkey, until he met the young female announcer, Sam. What I found fascinating about their relationship was how many times the young announcer spouted off a string of scientific terms and then apologized and rephrased what she said in simpler terms. It wasn’t until the main character asked her why she did this that the viewer finds out that she had remodeled herself from a geek to someone considered popular.

I wonder if the writers and producers of the movie realized that they were portraying two gifted individuals? Did they do research on gifted children or did they recall experiences they either had seen happening to their peers as they grew up? Were they writing from personal experience? Are any of them related to an gifted education researcher or teacher or raising their own exceptional children? Or are they clueless about the challenges of being on the high end of different?

If they truly know about the challenges of being overly intense, creative, determined, or masquerading as someone else, here is my suggestion….let’s appeal to the writers and producers of these movies to advocate for our gifted individuals at all ages. Imagine the impact that writers and producers of movies would have on funding decisions at all levels from the local school boards to the federal government. Even if funding did not increase, there would be an increase in understanding and patience with the issues that gifted children face as they grow up in today’s world.

Education Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

My Most Moderately Gifted Royal Daughter (my new nickname for her BTW) sent me the notes from a talk she attended at UNESCO in Paris on Nov 4. She states (and I agree) “I think it’s good for teachers in the US to be in the know about how US education is viewed on the international scene…..” How many teachers in our nation even think of themselves as a necessary link in our society beyond our country’s borders? We must think about how our students will function in the world rather than in our backyard. We need to ask the question daily: What do we need to do to today prepare our students for 2030 and beyond? Simple things like deciding that an elementary student can miss a day of school to participate in a region-wide chess tournament or providing the technical tools necessary to connect a classroom to one on the other side of the world.

Here are the notes from the talk. There is a link to the entire speech at the end of this post.

The Vision of Education Reform in the United States of America
with Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO
Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Mr. Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Education
on Thursday, 4 November 2010, 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.

SPEAKER QUOTES AND PORTRAIT

“Teachers are unsung heroes…Teachers are underpaid, and great teachers are immensely underpaid.”

“What can the U.S. learn from other nations?”

“States have become ‘compliance factories’ to federal-level educational initiatives. It is time to give them a more creative role again.”

“The best way to build consensus is to get teachers’ opinions on reform.”

“Expanding educational attainment and achievements around the world together is the only way forward.” -Secretary Duncan

Mr. Duncan was introduced at the start of the program. He is currently U.S. Secretary of Education under the Obama administration. He has held numerous posts including as superintendant of Chicago public schools, and has also played professional basketball (he was also team captain of the Harvard basketball team).

MAIN DISCUSSION POINTS
The presentation was organized to shed light on the following question: How can we provide the same opportunities to those living in economic disadvantaged or isolated areas in the U.S.? This is essential for maximizing education’s role in sustainable development. The U.S. education system, especially at the university level, is a major role model for other nations. However, there are numerous problems, at local, national and international levels, that need to be addressed through reform. A few numbers to shed light on these challenges:

The current drop out rate is around 25% in 2009 for K-12 → Crime
Over 90% of incarcerated individuals are high school drop outs → Wasted potential
The percentage of American adults who are college graduates is only around 42% → U.S. ranked only 9th in the world
Around half of Ph.D. students at U.S. universities are foreign-born, and a majority of them do not return home after graduation → Brain drain

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ENGAGEMENTS, PRIORITIES & CONCERNS
The Secretary highlighted the U.S.’s role in rebuilding Haitian schools as well as those ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. He also spoke of the particular importance of girls’ education and integration into the work force for eliminating poverty and increasing human development in the U.S. Mr. Duncan also elaborated upon President Obama’s intentions for education reform. In addition to those mentioned above, they include:

Improving teacher evaluation and respect for teachers; enhancing their career trajectories;

Expanding high performance schools’ policies and practices to all schools;

To redress problems relating to financing higher education, including banks taking advantage of low-income university students who carry great debt upon graduation

Improving teacher evaluation and respect for teachers; enhancing their career trajectories;

Expanding high performance schools’ policies and practices to all schools;

To redress problems relating to financing higher education, including banks taking advantage of low-income university students who carry great debt upon graduation

Speaking more directly to the UNESCO audience, the Secretary’s modesty regarding the U.S.’s challenges and his openness to learn lessons from other nations’ education systems (especially from success stories in Singapore, Finland and South Korea) was well received by Member States.
Mr. Duncan highlighted a number of concerns about the status quo of education in the U.S. First, a cycle of failure can be seen in the lowest performing five percent of schools (around 2,000) which produce around half of the nation’s drop outs. Capacities must be expanded to in “drop out factories”. More should be done to reach out to minorities, especially in light of the fact that a large majority of drop outs are of Latino and African American origin.

PROPOSED ACTIONS
The Secretary offered a number of solutions as he closed his presentation. First, children must be better engaged. This means providing for more extra curricular activities, a child-by-child approach, and increasing the number mentors/counsellors available to schoolchildren. Secondly, technology and media such as Skype and Facebook should be used to create cross-cultural dialogues between classrooms in the U.S. and foreign countries.

Resistance to implementing reform does not only come from teachers. Many obstacles are the fault of bureaucratic practices at higher levels as well as conflicting interests among parents, teachers, principals, and policy-makers. To garner support among teachers for implementing reform, Mr. Duncan stated that increasing teacher salaries is not enough. Teacher training and the career ladder/trajectories could be changed. Instead of having to wait until age 55 to finally earn a decent salary, why not create incentives for young teachers to perform with excellence—and then reward them with salary increases. More incentives like Teach for America could be explored to improve respect for the teaching career. Actively recruiting teachers from the top third of college graduates would elevate the profession and enhance its competitiveness.

More important, teachers should be given more of a voice in the reform debate. Currently, teacher ambassadors are called upon to provide input and critiques into national reform. This should be pursued and expanded to state and local levels.

Q&A: WHAT SPARKED UNESCO’S CURIOSITY?
During the Q&A session following Mr. Duncan’s speech, audience members were keen on finding more about how to prevent juvenile violence; what the Department of Education is doing to teach tolerance of cultural and socioeconomic diversity in the classroom; where more information about technology in education could be found; what his thoughts were on standardizing European universities; and what the U.S. was doing to alleviate the ‘brain drain’ problem.

Here is the full text of his speech.

Education International Gifted and Talented Educational Issues Random 'Munchings"

Some of you make think that this post is part of a master plan to get you to do something with those old photographs. Hardly. Actually, I try to read the magazine Shutterbug. I say, try, because it can get pretty technical. However, I just finished an article titled, “Prints are Precious: Or, in Praise of the Shoebox” (Shutterbug, June 2010) I’ve written before about photography. I really like some of the points that the author, Frances E Schultz has written so I wanted to share them with you.

“Going through the picture box. Real, original prints are a direct link with the past in a way that an electronic image can never be.” This is so true. This past summer we have the lovely opportunity to go through stacks of black and white photos taken as early as 1890 in an old house in Granville. This was a special experience and we thank Vincent and Germain for sharing their family photos with us.

“Old pictures are important – and the only thing that stands between new pictures and old pictures is time. Keep a new picture long enough, and it becomes an old picture. Never mind a life measured in teaspoons. For the last 120 years or more, our lives have been measured in photographs.” Never is this more true than when I pull out our wedding album from 1982. The event was so real and vibrant to us then. Now, they are ‘old photographs.’ Still special, still full of meaning and memories.

“Pictures don’t need to be “good” to be precious.”

“But as long as the picture exists only on a hard drive, or a mobile phone chip, or in cyberspace, it doesn’t really exist. You can’t come across it when you are moving a house, or searching through a closet looking for something else. Yes, you might invite your great-niece or an aged parent or even an old friend’s child, to look through a CD but really, what does it mean? It’s just another picture on a screen, another picture in what Clive James called the haunted fish tank. Are you, or they, or anyone else, going to do a web search for it? Not often, if at all.”

“A picture, a print, a Precious Object, is different: it retains the power to bring tears to our eyes.”

Last quote from the article that I found most endearing is this:

“Print your pictures, and make plenty of copies, and remember what George Bernard Shaw said: the camera is like the codfish that lays a million eggs in order that one may survive, though I suspect that with photographs, the odds are quite a bit better than that. At least they are probably better with real, physical prints. With electronic images, it’s probably not even one in a billion. Take your chances.”

I say, print those precious photographs. Get them in a shoebox or even better, get them in an album that your great, great, great grandchild can one day pick up and flip through. Imagine them pointing to a photograph of you when you were in your 20’s and making comments like, “look at those funny glasses” or “I can’t believe they rode on things like that” or “who would ever eat that.” It their way (and our way) of linking us to our past. And that is precious!

Fun Stuff Random 'Munchings"

I’ve been thinking about my summer professional development projects since I recently visited Clif’sNotes. At the end of the every school year while I’m clearing off my desk, taking down my bulletin boards (and this year preparing to move to a new classroom), I think about the projects I could do over the summer to make the next year more successful and productive. This was my first year in the position as a GT Specialist in a public school district NW of Houston and because of this, I have plenty of good ideas. I’m keeping the list to only three so here they are:

Further develop a social-emotional curriculum for 1st – 4th graders. I know these students now; I know the environment of the school and can make this curriculum very specific to their needs.

Create a presentation on differentiation in the gifted classroom for the teachers at my school based on a book I picked up at the TAGT conference back in December. Goal: to make differentiation succinct and easy to implement in the classrooms at my school.

Create a curriculum loosely based on the problems presented in the Continental Math League program and couple them with appropriate math games. Goal: to keep kids excited about problem solving and give them lots of opportunities to practice before the math meets.

There are obstacles in the way to accomplishing these three goals. 1) I am doing an inordinate amount of travel this summer. I have four trips out of the state and one trip out of the country 2) enjoy social media online (Twitter & Facebook) that can easily eat up time 3) have no organized place to lay things out and keep them out while I work on them, however, this is easily solved if I set up the backroom. 4) And I’m moving my classroom. This is good and bad. Good: get to organize materials from previous GT Specialist into a usable format for me. Bad: because it takes time and energy.

I’m usually pretty good about accomplishing my goals when I write them down. I’m also counting on my Twitter PLN can help to hold me accountable. What are your professional goals for the summer? How can I help hold you accountable?

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

Recently, I was asked to prepare my educational philosophy for an application. The last time I wrote down my educational philosophy was during my undergraduate degree program. Since then, I’ve focused on the education of the gifted child and taught five years. Yep, things had changed; my knowledge and experience in the classroom required me to totally ditch what I had written around 1999. What I thought would be a small project became a several hour project. Now, here’s your challenge: When was the last time you thought about your educational philosophy?

MY EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY

I am thrilled to be a lifelong learner and this enthusiasm spills over into my classroom. Teachers who work with gifted students have an exciting job! My job as an elementary educator is to learn all I can, make sense of, and organize the information for all types of learners who enter my classroom. This requires me to be an independent thinker which is exactly what I want my students to become.

At the same time, I work to challenge my students to stretch those areas where they are weak and to explore new areas. In my mind, the education of the gifted student would not be complete without respecting their differences and striving to answer their questions. My classroom is ridicule-free. Each individual student is respected for who they are and how they think. I was, and still am, a different kind of learner who would have benefitted from this understanding so extending this respect to my students is second nature to me.

I believe that standards and benchmarks are only the starting point to learning for the gifted child. I believe that a student who is getting all A’s is not being challenged enough. Failure and success are important to learning: some failure is essential to developing resilience, drive and motivation to be successful, some successes are essential in building confidence and self esteem. I understand that peer pressure has a strong influence on learning, too. Students have often heard me say that they should NEVER hide or ignore who they are and what they know to get someone like them.

I encourage the use of differentiation methods such as compacting, layering, menus, simulations and various assessments to move my students past the society-prescribed learning into critical thinking, questioning, community-service, and leadership opportunities where their gifts can benefit the world around them. I remind my students of the quote, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Holy Bible (Luke 12:48) and spoken by JF Kennedy in 1967. I guide my students to know when to listen, when to accept and when to act.

I love to provide learning experiences that engage all the learner’s senses. I love to bring the outside world into my classroom with speakers, demonstrations and links to other cultures. I’ve hosted students from France and Germany and personally learned how important it is to share and value our differences and our similarities. Additionally, providing competitive outlets such as chess, academic, and problem-solving competitions are essential to learning.

As a lifelong learner, I encourage other adults to keep learning and questioning too. We need to continue learning in this ever-changing world. Recent discoveries, technology and the wide availability of information give us the tools we need to find our answers. In doing so, we are providing an excellent model for our children.

My desire is to value, encourage and advocate for those who have been given much academically. It is important for me to attend local seminars as well as webinars available online to expand my knowledge and skills in teaching the gifted child. I also utilize Twitter as a means to follow & share my experiences with other educators worldwide. Meetups such as the one I started in 2009 (which has met twice and I plan to extend over the summer and next school year) are ways that I’m working to bring parents & teachers together to build understanding for these unique learners. With our collective efforts, the gifted learner in every pocket of the world can be encouraged to reach their full potential. There is much work to do!

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings" Uncategorized

Today marks the first full week back in the public school classroom in three years. I enjoyed my year teaching in a private school and enjoyed my year break for travel and learning. I learned much about myself and the world during my break. I saw the two extremes of children: those who live in squalid and dirty conditions and those who have more than they could ever appreciate in a life time. Every one of these children have deep, searching eyes and curious minds. They all thrive on interactions from the adults in their life. Our positive outlook and actions are vital to their daily attitudes. Make a child smile today! It is the most rewarding thing you can do.

Random 'Munchings"

I was digging in my hope chest the other day and came across one of my favorite college projects. I remembered the professor saying “create something that showed your journey as a reader”. I choose to imitate a cardboard grandfather clock with 12 little golden hour books that I received one Christmas. For whatever reasons, I always connect this gift to my grandfather but I really don’t know who gave it to me. I have a few of the original books left: “Littlest Raccoon,” Tommy’s Camping Adventure,” “Colors are Nice,” “Four Little Kittens,” “Little Conttontail” but they are not in the greatest of shape. They are starting to smell like old books now but the smell of the books on Christmas morning is ever present in my memories.

I used these little 5 x 3 books to find a box that was just the right size, covered it in brown wrapping paper, added the title “Reading Through Time: A Reading Autobiography” and pasted on a classic clock face. Then the real project began. I made 12 little books outlining my growth as a reader from my earliest memories on. Chapter 1 talks about when I received the books and clock, Chapter 2 recalls all my favorite books from my childhood. Since I hadn’t really seen some of these books in a while I couldn’t remember their names so I described their contents and pictures. Chapter 3 describes my feelings while checking out books in our one room public library in Holly, Colorado. Chapter 4 covered my teen years and how I used books to escape my peers, teachers & family. Chapter 5 lists my favorite novels and why I liked them. Chapter 6 talks about moving into college and what a shock it was to walk into a huge, huge libraries. Chapter 7 begins my rewarding career as a parent teaching my children to read, Chapter 8 goes into my adulthood purposes for reading. The last two books deal with my reading goals and sharing my passion with children.

As a teacher now, I see the value of a project like this and appreciate the foresight of the professor in assigning it in such a vague way. It to reflected my unique history, my growth and it is now a keepsake to share with my students and grandchildren.

Here’s your challenge: put forth an assignment for your students that causes them to delve into their uniqueness and then ALLOW them to show you what they know. Encourage them to create without limits. Set expectations of uniqueness, thinking and reflection not quantity. There is always a place for rote memorization, worksheets and tests but you won’t find those in their hope chest!

Golden Hours Book/Clock

Random 'Munchings"

I’m am fascinated with what children know and do in other countries. One incident left a lasting impression on me regarding two girls about 10-12 years old. Several of us jumped into the dingy to go ashore after anchoring for the evening in a beautiful little harbor south of Angra des Reis in Brazil. We went in to check out the bar and restaurant. My husband, Dave, and Diane decided to stay on the Empty Nest.

It is fairly common that the locals come out to each boat to drop off menus or offer to help. As our small group made our way back to the boat, we saw there was a small, wooden colorful canoe tied in front of the Empty Nest. Turns out there were two girls on board talking with Diane, who had the most linguistic skills with Portuguese out of all of us. It appeared to be an animated discussion. We arrived just as the girls were climbing into their canoe, which almost turned over, the bigger girl righting it quickly and expertly. They’ve done this before. Both started paddling on with no preamble or discussion to the next boat in their harbor.

Dave and Diane recounted their time on our boat with us. The girls (or their mothers) had made single strands of beads with a small handmade stuffed dolphin or star about every 3 inches and they were selling them to the visitors in their harbor. Diane said she tried to negotiate the price of their work but the girls wouldn’t budge. Dave told us that the girls were actually quite animated and fun to deal with. By the time they left, they had sold six of their creations at their set price.

Two strong messages came out of this exchange for me as a teacher: children are capable of much more than we think. These girls functioned in their environment with ease, no one telling them what to do, no testing to standards, no adult looking over their shoulder. The second message that I got from this exchange is how the girls stuck to their original objective. Even though both girls were probably illiterate, they knew what their work was worth. They were not willing to take any less for it but at the same time, they made the exchange friendly. Everyone was happy as the girls left for their next business deal.

Several times during our trip, we saw children selling things on the side of the road. Two memorable times were at a construction site on the road and in the historical neighborhood of Rio. One child was selling a local popcorn like snack, the other was selling beer to our open jeep tour stuck on the road because of a local parade. These children are doing what they have to do to survive. Many, many more around the world are doing the same. Our children sit in classrooms feasting on whatever the state says they must learn to be successful. Then they go home to feast on the internet, tv and music. We, as a culture, need to insure that our children can function expertly in whatever situation they find themselves in. Real-life situations and real-life problems are much more effective teachers than any worksheet or test.

Random 'Munchings"

Sorry, I haven’t posted recently. Not much had inspired me lately, then we took a 12 day trip to Brazil/Rio sailing with friends. More about that later.

What I really wanted to write about was a discussion that my daughter and I had a couple days ago. She’s currently doing her internship in the education branch of UNESCO in Paris. She attended an interesting task force on teachers. I decided to explore this a bit deeper by going to their site online. I found this very interesting statistic in the action plan document: Without adequate numbers of professionally qualified teachers, access, quality and equity of education suffer. Globally the recruitment, deployment and retention of 18 million additional teachers is needed by 2015 to reach the goal of universal primary education with a pupil- teacher ratio of 40 – 1.

Forty students to one teacher worldwide by 2015. Sounds reasonable if you live in the US or other developed countries. If you live in the desert, deep in the outback, or in the slums of Brazil, this number becomes more daunting. How can one teacher be supported and encouraged in less than desirable conditions?

Eighteen million teachers are needed worldwide by 2015. That’s six years from now. So today, say, ten million teachers are needed. That’s quite a demand. Our world deserves teachers, our children deserve to learn. For those of you who are teaching right now – you’re doing a great thing! Let’s inspire more individuals to teach and support international programs that work to provide education to all!

Added: 3/18/09 This tidbit of information came across my screen and I thought it appropriate to add to this article from The American Board of Certification for Teacher Excellence “Need for New Teachers – America’s children will need 2 million new teachers by 2014.”

Random 'Munchings"

Just before the election I noticed that I am just about two weeks older than Barack. It has been unusual to run into individuals born in ’61 but a week or so later I listened to a fellow sitting behind me at the airport tell another that he was born in ’61.

Why do we identify so much with the year we were born when we don’t even become aware of things until 5-7 years later? Those born in ’61 missed out on the Vietnam War protest and barely have memories of segregation. We were only 2 when Kennedy was shot. We were in an elementary classroom when a man landed on the moon and we watched Gilligan & Brady Bunch after school every day. We are the fringe of the baby boomers from the end of WWII. Are we qualified to be in charge?

Will our youth, playfulness and intellectual experiences plus the benefit of the technology be enough to to move our world forward?

Random 'Munchings"

I thank Lauri over at Laurie’s Reflections for for inspiring me to write this entry. I can easily relate to her questions about what to do with the Christmas photos of friends and relatives she’s been sent. Every year, I put away the Christmas cards to cut up to use as tags the next year. When I pick up the collection of photos, I just can’t throw them away so I carefully put them in a box. I don’t have one place to put these groups of photos. I find them in all kinds of places as I unpack my Christmas decorations every year. It’s like I hold the souls of my friends and family in my hand and throwing them away would be a sin. I need an altar or shrine or at least a special place for them.

Laurie jumped into my head and read my mind when it comes to my everyday photos! My parents just sent me a portion of the photos that my grandparents had accumulated over 70 years of marriage. I remember sending them Adam’s artwork as a 3 year old and pictures of Amber’s graduation from high school. Grandma kept everything she received from her kids, grandkids and relatives in the handiest box or envelope. I will keep them on the counter for a while, then I will put them somewhere, too.

When I have time, I put together a scrapbook. I have around 15 now from the past 25 years. I don’t do it because it is a fad or I just saw a program on a fancy new trick. I create something for me that I think others will enjoy someday down the road. It does take time which we all have so little of. I’m not up on the newest tricks, don’t buy the fanciest empty albums. I just get started. I sit amazed when I look at how many I have assembled.

The most recent was a recipe scrapbook using my grandmother’s recipes and photos of family sharing food together. Each time I make a scrapbook, I struggle with what order, my objective, and what to include. Then I forge ahead to put together something. I have no idea if anyone else will like what I’ve done. Mostly it is a process was a labor of love and quite satisfying to me. I’ve done everything in my human power to preserve my memories except to chisel them into a stone tower like the ancient conquerors did.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of the photos that I’ve collected! I have 5,368 photos residing in digital form on my computer right now. This represents my picture-taking skills from about 1995. Photos prior to 1995 have been carefully archived onto CD’s and stored away in the security chest. I imagine I am not the only one like this. New questions come up: should I print them, if I print them what do I use so they last over time, should I store them in more than one place, or put them online? Using digital albums like iPhoto has one great advantage: they are in chronological order and the date it was taken is associated with the file (if it is set correctly.) If I were persistent when I imported the photos in, I could tag each one and sort them by subject, too. Which leads me to my next question. Will my great, great grandkids be able to see them? Which format will exist 60+ years from now?

Everyone has a different reason for taking photos. I take photos because my long-term memories are always fuzzy. My brother and husband are so good at recalling things we’ve done. I’m not. I use my photos as a crutch to help me remember. In the process, I create for others to enjoy and remember.

Fun Stuff Random 'Munchings"

IMG_3184
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

I stepped out my back door with my nothing-spectacular camera and took this shot.

Enjoy!

Random 'Munchings"

People are a distinct species known as the homo sapiens sapiens. Do you realize the full impact of the thought that you are ONE in 6,751,687,611 humans in the world according to the best estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau on 01/05/09 at 00:06 GMT (EST+5)? My mind has been churning lately on just how many homo sapiens sapiens there are and have been in the world. Each with their own thoughts, desires and needs. Each looking daily for their sustenance. Do you realize right now that a mother of two may be cooking a meal in her big kitchen fully stocked at the same time that a mother of ten is cooking over a fire in a worn pot using what she can find? Do you comprehend that around half of the 6,751,687,611 people in the world are preparing, storing or throwing away food at the same time? I have watched the driven suburban mother on her cell phone urgently telling someone to pick up their child from soccer while scanning the grocery shelf like her family is the only family in the world doing the same thing.

We can easily find opulent images of the wealthy and healthy on the billboards, in the newspapers and on the net. Then in one the matter of a second we can see images of the depravity and cruelty that exists around the world with humans in all types of situation. Consider people enjoying their yacht lacking nothing then swing your mind to the starving child that has nothing and you can understand why I feel the urge to explore this issue.

Now, take the vertical plunge and imagine the images you’ve seen from the past – the remains of a prehistoric homo sapien sapien, the artwork portraying a Pharaoh of ancient Egypt or learn how many people died from the Bubonic Plague in the Middle Ages or the black and white photographs men lying on Normandy Beach on D-Day. As archeologists explore more and more of the layers of history in areas such as South America, the ancient Puebloans living in the valleys of southwestern Colorado, and the Middle East, science is discovering that humans have lived, loved, and learned since forever.

You are reading this blog because someone in your life, be it the government or an individual made sure you had an education. According to UNESCO about 80% of the people in the world are literate. You are one of the lucky ones who can read AND have access to the internet, 1,350,337,522 people cannot.

Well, that’s just some food for thought.

Random 'Munchings" Uncategorized

I consider myself fairly tech-savvy but I learned something that probably most tech-savvy people already knew: the Monday after Black Friday is called Cyber Monday. This is when companies make a big push to get you to order online. I decided to check my Business filter in GMail, and found 86 emails from companies like Barnes & Noble, Solutions and ShopPBS.org, etc. I just cleaned out that box yesterday!

Most of my Christmas shopping was done in the stores in the past with a few things ordered online. I had already decided to do most of my shopping online this year, taking the cue from my friends who recently moved to Nigeria. About two months ago, I decided to take my name off at least 25 catalog mailing lists thinking I would make my mail person’s job much lighter and save a few trees. Unfortunately, the work load is about the same. The retailers had warned me that it could take up to three months to see any results.

Seems like the retailers could have come up with more interesting titles for this tech phenomena like Slamming Monday.

Random 'Munchings" Uncategorized

al_jazeera
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!
bbc1
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!
CNN
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foxnews
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!
MSNBC
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Adam and I were fooling around with Wordle at the same time we were listening to the news about the Mumbia attacks in India. We’ve captured an article from each of the following news sites about the topic and ran them through Wordle to come up with the images below. You can see the relative size of words based on the number of times it is used in the article which could give you an idea of the ‘slant’ of the article.

One could use this an analysis tool in the classroom. We’ve discussed the concept and determined that it would be better to use the same design/color theme to make it more ‘scientific’ in approach. Let us know how you use the concept.

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

Adam (my 25 year old son) has soundly defeated all my attempts to teach him to put his socks in the laundry after taking them off at the end of the day. This has been an ongoing battle between him and I since he was in elementary school. Every day after school, he’d remove his socks in my living room. Now he has Pixel to help him! Apparently, Pixel loves having his socks strewn about. They are instant toys to her.

I stayed with Adam and Pixel for three nights while I attended the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented conference in Dallas. I arrived on Tuesday night to his apartment and was happily greeted by Pixel, she was a temporary distraction from the nearly 20 white athletic socks laying all over the front room floor.

Once I get over the shock, I’ll write some ruminations from the conference.

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

Today’s entries all have one thing in common. They were sparked by reading the front section of the Houston Chronicle (Nov. 9).

I noted that Obama runs in all the same social networks online as I do. The article relates his digital presence to President Kennedy and his televised conferences and Roosevelt’s radio presence. Another article uses texting terminology to connect Obama to his confidants (BFF) and creates a new one: FOB (Friends of Barak) It will be interesting to see what the history books will write about our time.

AC/DC is back! I have to check out their newest album. Yea, I know their lyrics in Back in Black could be offensive to some. To me it is the what I call “the musicality” of their work that I like. You’ll laugh because at this very moment, I’m listening to harp music. My selection of music has always been based on my mood and Sunday morning is a good time for harp music. Saturday night is a good time for AC/DC.

On the same page is the cutest picture titled, “Pesky Patriot.” The photographer, Dave Weaver was lucky enough to capture a squirrel grasping onto a small American flag, the kind that are placed at grave sites. Of course, the animal was more interested in eating the material, than respecting it. I wish I could find the picture on the Chronicle’s website.

Attention all teachers! Macys has a very interesting promotional ad going for Christmas. They have reprinted a letter from Virginia O’Hanlon from The New York Sun originally published on Thursday, Sept. 21, 1897. Macys is using the letter to jump start a campaign to encourage you to write a letter explaining why “you’re one in a million.” They’ll donate a $1 to Make-A-Wish Foundation for every letter they receive. Teachers can teach a lesson on the historical and social aspects, finalizing the lesson with writing a letter with a purpose.

Camp Pendleton in California had to stop their training because a herd of 147 bison wandered onto their training field. The bison are a protected species. Remember 20 to 60 million roamed the plains for hundreds of years. The top biologist was quoted as saying “they are a symbol of the American West.

I love when history becomes evident today!

Random 'Munchings"

Halloween was pretty much a disappointment in our neighborhood after living in Greenleaves in Mandeville. There I learned to buy 10-12 packages of candy to have enough. Our neighborhood was well-known throughout the area as the best place to go trick or treating. Families would park their car outside the neighborhood, load up their little red wagons with kids and drinks. It was so crowded several years in a row that the police had to come in to direct traffic! No kidding!

Now, we are in a neighborhood with families and little kids, mostly running around on their 3-wheelers, golf carts and skate boards, even horses. On Halloween night, though, we had exactly one group of trick or treaters. There were eight kids total and they rode in a trailer hooked to a tractor driven by our next door neighbor. There is still evidence in my circular driveway: hay and black tire tracks.

Since my kids and their friends are grown and most are still in college, I prepared several packages full of treats and small gifts and mailed them about two weeks before Halloween. I’m glad I did! I still have candy left over so stop by sometime. You don’t have to dress up.

Random 'Munchings"

Twelve days ago I started wearing a pedometer because I wanted to see just how many steps I take in a day. Turns out that I average about 4,200 steps during a week. I plugged in a screen shot of my chart below so you could see my inconsistent performance. This is my honest numbers without changing any patterns or habits. You can easily tell which days I was writing a web log entry, updating my Facebook page or some other task that was ‘necessary’ at the time and which days I took a walk.

The site that I used to input the data has a goal for each participant of an average of 10,000 steps during a week. Using my superior mathematical skills, I determined that doing a simple chore like doing the laundry be made into a couple hour ordeal if I just picked up one piece of clothing at a time and walked it from the bedroom to the laundry room. Of course, my dog, Nemo, would be entirely confused by this. He carries ‘socks’ to the laundry room for me while my other dog, Tillie, cheers for us waiting by the washer. They get a treat for their valuable contribution. I just get to enter my steps on to a web page.

Daily Report

On a totally different front, I came across a website a few days ago that encourages people to write 20,000 words a day. Their basic premise is if we can get you to write everyday starting Nov 1, you could turn out a novel just after Christmas. During the interview, the creator of the program said they have “flying monkeys” to monitor that its participants are actually writing their quota of words a day. I think he is jesting but the image of flying monkeys straight out of “The Wizard of Oz” is enough to keep me honest! In fact, I was scared enough to pull out a story I had started several years ago and see just how many words I had already written so I could get a sense of what 20,000 words looked like on the screen. I was hoping for something like 50,000 words in the statistics on the document as I had spent a number of days writing on it, instead it was closer to 20,000 words. It took me a few minutes to wrap my mind around how much time it would take to write 20,000 words that made any logical sense.

So to wrap this entry up, I’ll need to drink my quota of water, eat my quota of calories, get my quota of sleep so I can step my quota of steps and write my quota of words. If not, I can only wish that flying monkeys will swoop down and take this pedometer that started the whole thing!

Fun Stuff Random 'Munchings"