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A New Focus

I’ve changed my focus on Of Cabbages and Kings. Here’s what’s new.

Welcome to My New Subscribers, and Welcome Back to Those Who’ve Been With Me a Long Time

I have to admit I’m surprised to see so many new subscribers since I haven’t posted in about two years. When I started this blog, my life was much different. I was an active bookseller with inventory selling from my own website. Heath issues forced me to close that kind of business and become a blogger and affiliate marketer. Thus I had no real reason to keep this blog active.  When I saw so many subscribing, I decided I should resurrect it again.

The previous focus of this blog was education and books for children. I have moved that focus to a new blog: Books to Remember.  If you are a teacher or homeschooling parent, you may want to follow that blog instead. It is hosted on my revamped book site, by the same name. You can access the content pages from the blog.

I have expanded my reviews to include educational items I wanted to carry before could not cost ship at reasonable rates.  The merchants I affiliate with do a higher volume and can ship for less. So I will be reviewing more educational toys, games, and puzzles as time goes on, in addition to the books.

The New Focus of This Blog

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My Writing Life

I have decided to continue this blog as what a blog used to be — a web blog of what’s happening in my life. That does include my work as a blogger, but not the issues I discuss on Barb’s Writing Life, a blog where I review various content writing sites and the issues many content writers and bloggers face. It’s also a site where I put writing that originally appeared on Squidoo but was not appropriate for HubPages, which acquired Squidoo and transformed Squidoo lenses to HubPages. I’m gradually moving that work to pages of Barb’s Writing Life.

From this day forward, I will be sharing my thoughts here that I don’t share on the other blogs. I will be keeping track of my personal life for myself and anyone who wants to listen in. I will also keep readers up-to-date on new work that I publish elsewhere in case they are interested. Not all my thoughts  fit into the subjects of my other blogs. This is where I hope I can carry on a conversation with both real-world and internet friends. So feel free to comment.

I will post these blogs as I have something I want to remember. Some posts may be quite short and filter through the day, a bit like Facebook. Or a few days may go by with no new post.

My Activities and my Blogs on What I’m Up to in California

Two other blogs discuss a lot of what’s happening in my daily life and in my area of California in San Luis Obispo County. They are heavy on photos and personal experience and would probably be general enough for my friends who want to keep up with my life to read. I cover wine country, local art, and other things I find interesting, at Paso Robles in Photos. It started out as a daily photo blog. It’s part of an international blogging network, City Daily Photos, but I don’t get around to posting every day anymore. I do try to  participate in the monthly theme day since all the networked bloggers from around the world post pictures on the same theme on the first day of each month. One of my most popular theme day blogs was on the Library Theme: A Brief Tour of the Paso Robles Library. I post what I do and observe in my garden at Barb’s Garden Observations. I post sporadically there since I’m more active in the garden during some seasons than others.

A New Focus for this Blog
Moonstone Beach is one of the places in my world I love.

A blog I plan to put a lot of effort into is A California Life. I was born and have lived my entire life in California and I love my state. In A California Life I plan to share some of the places and activities I love here. The two most popular posts on the blog this month so far have been The Natural Beauty of San Miguel and Art after Dark In Paso Robles.

My Reading Life

I do a lot of reading. I always mean to review the best of it at Bookworm Buffet, my blog where I review a small fraction of the books I read. The most popular post so far this month has been my review of  It is Well: How WW II Affected One Family. I also publish many book and product reviews at ReviewThisReviews, a site I contribute to. My two most popular books reviews there are Review of Samantha Kincaid Legal Thrillers by Alafair Burke (Fiction) and The Day Before 911: A Review (Memoir). My two most popular product reviews there are Review of Inspirational Greeting Cards to Encourage a Terminally Ill Friend and A Review of My Life in Greeting Cards. See all my reviews on ReviewThis!

Books I Read in One Week
Books I Read in One Week after a Major Surgery

I have decided to share most of what I read and a brief opinion here on this blog . This helps me keep track for my own use of what I read since I often read up to five books a  week. When I finally have time to review a book I really enjoyed, I often have to reread it because I’ve forgotten so much of it.

I Blog a Lot on Niume

Niume is a new social blogging site. I really enjoy not only writing there but also seeing what my friends and writers I haven’t yet met share. If you’ve always wanted to start a blog or earn a bit of money sharing your thoughts or photos to a wider audience than your Facebook friends, you might consider Niume. It currently requires writers to share only five lines of text and one photo or video. Find more here: Niume: Should You Dabble or Plunge In?

My three most popular Niume posts are An Autumn RoseUnique Pistachio People Dioramas, and Garden Herbs.

Come Walk  with Me

Check in now and then to see what I’m up to and what I’m thinking. Then I hope you’ll chime in, too. Please use the comments to respond. Feel free to ask me questions reading my posts raise and I’ll try to answer them. It helps to know what others want to know more about.

Featured

Begin at the Beginning

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, To talk of many things: Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax –Of cabbages — and kings. So I thank Lewis Carroll for my title, and you can expect to find me talking of many things in this blog.

Since I’ve chosen a blog name from Lewis Carroll, I might as well quote him in the title of this first blog. “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is one of my favorite poems. And I’m also rather fond of the Cheshire Cat. Sometimes when the moon appears as just a big smile in the sky, I’m reminded of the Cheshire Cat’s grin when that’s all that’s still visible of him. Another of my favorite scenes is when Alice encounters the caterpillar. I didn’t intend to talk about this, and I’ve no idea where my copy of Through the Looking Glass is right now, but I think these references are to scenes in that book.

'The Time Has Come the Walrus Said To talk of many things: Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax -- Of cabbages -- and kings -- And why the sea is boiling hot -- And whether pigs have wings.'

As the blog name indicates, the topics may change from day to day. I am a affiliate seller of new and used books, and most of them are for teachers or children. Others, especially the used ones, are about topics I’m interested in — gardening, cooking, biography, history, humor, etc. Because I read a lot of books, I’m likely to talk about them often. I may also share experiences I have had as a bookseller or a blogger. And if it’s been a beautiful day, I just might mention my garden or what I’ve seen on a walk. Likewise, if something has inspired me, or if I’m thinking over something, I might share that here.

 

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’ (from “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll)

And that’s what I will do in this blog — talk of many things.

I hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting and asking questions. Maybe you have a new twist on something I’ve said here.Feel  free to disagree with me, too. We can all learn from each other.

This Week Has Been a Blur

Here’s what I’ve written, read, and done this week. Just another peek into my everyday life.

This Week in Writing

I haven’t written much since I last posted here. Whenever I am working on a major blog post it’s hard to get really serious about another one at the same time. I’m hoping to publish the big one tomorrow. It’s partly author interview and partly book reviews. I’ve been corresponding with local children’s author Beryl Reichenberg for a few weeks now, and  I’m now in the final stages of compiling all the material and getting it written. Here are the posts I have completed since I last posted here:

  • Special Education Teachers Are Special: A tribute to special education teachers I’ve known. I’ve included gift suggestions for great teachers.
  • A Discouraging Day Online : This one is a vent I wrote after trying to open an account to pay a credit card bill online and hitting lots of obstacles.
  • Abandoned Barn? This is a short photographic essay inspired by a barn I saw on our trip to Madera last week.

Reading this Week

As the title states, the week has been a blur. If I didn’t write it down, I don’t remember it. I did some laundry, worked out at Kennedy Club three nights, and read one book. I started reading Flowers  in the Snow by Danielle Stewart Friday night, but haven’t been in the right mood to finish it yet. It appears to be a worthy read, but it’s dark. It’s based on history, but it’s a period of American history I’d rather forget since it shows how inhumane people can be.

“Betty” tells her story of growing up in a KKK family, completely unaware of what it meant during her early years. Her rude awakening came when she saw a beaten black man in town and tried to help him, believing she was practicing what she’d learned in Sunday school in the story of the Good Samaritan.  She learned fast enough her family did not consider the man human, got the spanking of her life, and was ostracized by not only her schoolmates but her family. I won’t say any more now except that I can’t face reading about the violence I know is coming until I can prepare myself emotionally for it.

This Week Has Been a Blur
Jacob had to dress like an Amish boy.

I  did enjoy A Lancaster Amish Home for Jacob by Rachel Stolzfus. Jacob is a homeless boy who lives in a group home and gets into trouble all the time. One night he and a friend led the police on an especially wild chase after they had spraypainted some cars. He got caught. His social worker decided drastic measures were called for, and he had the choice of living in an Amish foster home or going into juvenile detention. He chose the Amish home. I won’t tell you any more, but I would like to get the sequel.

My Packages Have Almost All Arrived

I had to make some returns at Costco and Sears yesterday. I hadn’t realized you could return items purchased at Land’s End to Sears. My purchases for myself there were too big, so I had to return two pair of pants. I also had to return a shirt my husband had purchased at Costco  that was too small, and a pair of PJ’s I’d bought that were too big. This trip half an hour out of town, with shopping on the way home, kept me on the road for four hours. I spent most of the time at Costco.

I just received my new WaterPik and steam mop so I will have to start learning to use them during the next few days. Now I must go finish my blog post for tomorrow.

Cooking, Writing, Shopping, Exercising, and Reading

Back to the Kitchen

It seems I spent most of Saturday in the kitchen. I had picked some of my chard and kale from the front yard, and I needed to use them.  The kale had sprung up by itself next to the garage. Here’s what I did with a previous batch of home-grown kale.

Cooking, Writing, Shopping, Exercising, and Reading
Volunteer Kale Plant, © B. Radisavljevic

 

I tried a new recipe this time, one with chicken, kale, and onions. We both loved it. I will be posting it soon on Niume, another site where I  often make short posts on my daily adventures. I also made a batch of black bean soup so now there is something hot to eat at night. It’s been so long since I cooked anything from scratch I’d almost forgotten how.

Writing Kept Me Very Busy

It seems I spent a lot of the weekend listing and updating deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I deleted the post today since the sales are over. I don’t think I will handle those deals the same way next year. Here are some of the posts I wrote over the weekend that are still up.

I was also editing the deals that were coming and going on a couple of older posts on another blog. Now you know why I didn’t post here over the weekend.

Shopping the Cyber Weekend Deals

After listing all those good deals, I decided I might as well take advantage of them to get some things we needed while the prices were low. We’ve already gotten some of our orders, and I expect more tomorrow. I also have some things to return to Land’s End that didn’t fit. They were too BIG. Kosta loved his new wool sweater from them, though. Shopping is a lot of work, even when you do it online. Still beats fighting the crowds in the stores.

Exercising and Reading – Finally

I love reading, but I haven’t had much time for it this weekend. After our trip to Madera before Thanksgiving, I had a lot of work to catch up on. That also kept me from exercising. I finally got back to the gym on Monday night and spent an hour on the stationary bike, reading.

Exercise is good for me, but I always get interested in the book I started reading on the bike and don’t want to stop reading it when I get home. And the book I read? Lake House Secret, by Debra Burroughs, a mystery / romance novel. I may review it one of these days. I enjoyed it.

I think it’s bedtime now. I will leave you with a photo of my chard, most of which is still growing in my front flowerbed.

Cooking, Writing, Shopping, Exercising, and Reading
Chard in Front Flowerbed, © B. Radisavljevic

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Thoughts on Black Friday

Just a few thoughts on the day after Thanksgiving.

Our Thanksgiving Celebration

We enjoyed a long anticipated family dinner in Madera at my nephew’s home Wednesday afternoon. He usually has to work on holidays, so the family often celebrates when he’s available. Family members live long distances from each other, so getting together at all is something to celebrate. Even so, my other nephew had school and couldn’t come. I enjoyed the family time with those able to be there. I never know when or if the next time with them will come.

Thoughts on Black Friday
Thanksgiving Pies

Since my family likes privacy I won’t post their photos here, but I did post a photo of the delicious pies (above). I sampled all three.

I hope all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving with your families enjoyed a stress-free day of connecting to those you love. If you were alone because you no longer have a family, are estranged from family, or you have lost someone dear to you, I wish you peace and healing.

The Trip to Madera and Back

The traffic was heavy going south on Wednesday. It was lighter for us going north except here and as we approached Fresno and Madera.  It was especially bad trying to get back on Highway 41 going north after making a pit stop near the intersection of 41 and I-5. (Where the photo below was taken.)That line of cars is headed south to the only signal light that can get people access to I-5.

The only way to make a left turn, which we needed to do, was to hope someone would create a space so you could squeeze through while traffic was backed up to a red light. You can see a truck stopped to let a driver through who needed to make a left into the street we were on . The traffic was lined up for about two blocks behind what you see here. A kind driver did let us through to make our left turn, too.

Traffic near I-5 and Hwy 41 in California
Traffic near I-5 and Hwy 41 in California

As we had hoped, traffic was much lighter as we drove home on Thanksgiving Day. We finally got home yesterday in the late afternoon. After unloading the car, I had to get back to work on the computer.

Black Friday Deals

I’m not much of a shopper, but I am an affiliate marketer. I had posted early access specials to my blog before Thanksgiving, but I still had to add all the bargains that actually did start on Black Friday to a blog post. I needed to get them all posted before they started at midnight.

Enjoy the rest of this holiday weekend, fellow Americans. I hope those of you from other parts of the world also have a pleasant weekend and can do whatever your heart is set on.

Thoughts on Social Media Drama

How do you handle trolls on social media? Here are some of my ideas on how to control drama on your wall.

Why All the Social Media Drama?

Some  People Need to Feel Superior by Always Being Right

Many people have been hurt leading up to and after the election by social media drama. Friends and family have rejected each other because of opposing views. It seems some people have forgotten how to be kind to others. Although many talk about tolerance, they aren’t tolerant of  others who disagree with their views. People are actually unfriending each other virtually and in the real world over this. They seem to have forgotten their common humanity, as well as their manners.

Thoughts on Social Media Drama
The Tongue is a Fire. Created on getstencil.com, Public Domain

 

Why do people do this? Some appear to get their significance by being right. So if someone implies they aren’t right, they get defensive or go on the offense. I get my own sense of worth from knowing I’m a loved child of God, so what others think of my opinions really doesn’t matter. I am free to be kind to  those who disagree with me and try to have a rational discussion to try to find some common ground.

If someone starts attacking the character of others on my own timeline, however, I don’t tolerate it. If he or she is not a real-world friend or someone I’ve worked closely with online, I just might unfriend him or her to protect my other friends from being attacked. If the person has usually been a real friend, I might just hide offensive posts.

I have seen two kinds of social drama. The first, mentioned above, involves people who strongly disagree with each other about politics, religion, or any number of other things and can’t help attacking those who disagree with them. Instead of saying things like “have you considered (any reason you have for your own beliefs)?” or “Here are some reasons why I have to disagree with you,” or “What makes you feel that way?” they attack with statements such as “You are an idiot to believe that.” They might even cuss at you.

Such statements make it clear that they don’t respect their friends with opposing views and cannot make a case based on facts or even reasons why they disagree. They certainly won’t win anyone to their way of thinking by making such personal attacks on people’s intelligence or character. They have made it clear they look down on and feel superior to those who oppose them.

Some People Seemingly Just Like to Start Trouble or Hurt People

We often call them trolls.

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See that cloud over the troll’s head? Generally, that’s why trolls behave the way they do. If they see someone who’s happy they want to rain on their parade and say something nasty. I guess they enjoy making people feel as miserable as they feel. Those who create social media drama tend to have few real friends. They seem to get any sense of worth they may have in seeing how much trouble and pain they can cause. They don’t just pick on one person. They pick on almost everyone. They are the bullies of the internet and social media sites like Facebook.

How Do You Deal With Internet Bullies?

  • You can unfriend them or just hide their hurtful remarks from your timeline.
  • If you know them well enough to know why they are hurting, you might try to draw them out in a caring private message that expresses sympathy for the situation that’s hurting them and let them vent a bit to you.
  • You can message a troll with a warning. After hiding the first attack post, tell trolls kindly you don’t tolerate personal attacks on anyone on your timeline and if they persist you will regretfully have to unfriend them. This will probably get you either an apology from a real friend or an even worse attack from someone who isn’t.
Thoughts on Social Media Drama
Please pin me.

I was inspired to  write this post by reading “Let’s Talk About Preventing Social Media Drama” by Eileen Calandro who was guest posting on “She Saved.”  In her post, Eileen shares her interaction with a mother whose daughter had innocently posted something she never expected would hurt a friend, but seemingly it did. The mother was contacted by the friend’s mother who said her daughter had been hurt by the post. Eileen offers her response to the mother of the poster. It is a helpful post if you have children active on social media and you want to protect them from social media drama. Although this was a mild case, we do know that some teens have killed themselves after being attacked by internet bullies.

How do you handle social media drama in your social media interactions?

 

In the Dark, Monday. 11-21-16

We spent too much time in the dark today, and I had to switch to Plan B for today’s work.

A Plan B Morning

The rain stopped sometime last night and the sun was bright when I opened my eyes a little before ten. (My normal bedtime is around 2 AM.) I headed for the computer only to see that the power was out. When we called PG&E we learned we’d get our power back around 2 PM. No hot tea for me in the morning!

Since I couldn’t use the computer or the phones, I decided to go to the gym earlier than usual  and get my workout done so I could blog on the computer when I’m normally at the gym in the late afternoon.

My Reading Notes

At the gym, I almost finished reading Secrets in the Grave by Karen Ann Hopkins. It’s a detective mystery set in Amish country. I continued reading it while I ate my cold cereal after arriving home. The power came back on just in time for me to have that cup of hot tea I’d missed. I also wanted to finish my book, since I was 88% into it. I like to get the mystery resolved when I’m that close to the end. All though there were a couple of surprises at the end, I was pretty sure who the culprit was by about a third of the way through the book. I was also on to another culprit. The author was good at giving the reader just enough clues to figure out who the bad   people were while saving some unexpected twists for the end. The only thing I found annoying as I read was not immediately catching the changing voice. If you read it, remember that after the prologue the chapters are named for the character who is speaking.

Although there were a couple of surprises at the end, I was pretty sure who the culprit was by about a third of the way through the book. I suspected another culprit of foul deeds. The author was good at giving the reader just enough clues to figure out who the villains  were while saving some unexpected twists for the end. The only thing I found annoying as I read was not immediately catching the changing voice. If you read it, remember that after the prologue the chapters are named for the character who is speaking.

One Last (I Hope) Power Outage for the Day

As I was finishing my dessert tonight while watching the news there was a crackling “Poof,” and it went dark and  quiet again, except for the beeping of my battery backup. It was then I remembered that most of our emergency lighting is at the other house in Templeton. I did find a few candles and one light was hooked up to the battery backup in my office, so we managed. Time to bring those emergency supplies where they will be most needed. As I post this I’m hoping the power will stay on through the night. I will make sure I have a flashlight with me at all times.

The power was only off for about half an hour this time. I’d only had time to find and light the candles, recline in my chair, and open my Kindle before the lights and sound came on again.  As I post this I’m hoping the power will stay on through the night. I will make sure I have a flashlight with me at all times.

Counting My Blessings Today

I’m getting ready for Thanksgiving by counting a few recent blessings. Want to join me?

I Finally Made it to Church This Morning

It’s been a long time. We’ve made several exhausting trips to Newbury Park in Ventura County during September and October to show our previous home to prospective tenants. We finally found the right ones near the end of October, and they moved in on November 4. It’s a blessing to have our full income back again. It’s an added blessing not to have to travel so much.

The trips took quite a bit out of us — ten hours of mostly travel sometimes twice a week. We aren’t as young as we used to be, and it’s hard to handle it at our age. I was often just too tired to get up for our 9:30 church service and be awake enough to fully participate. I determined to go today. Some people are Christmas and Easter Christians.

I’m a Thanksgiving Christian. I try to practice gratitude every day, but I love being in church to celebrate Thanksgiving. I love the Thanksgiving hymns like this one. We sang it this morning, but not quite as well.

I wish we’d also sung this one, another of my favorites. I guess my Calvinist roots are showing. Love this version.

An added blessing was the rain that has been falling all day. See my photos of it here. The thirsty ground in our city rejoiced.  You also may want to get in a rainy day mood with my HubPages article full of photos and rain-related music: The Blessings of Rain.

Thoughts I Took Away From Church

This quote from Charles Spurgeon was in the bulletin for meditation before the service started. It’s quite a bit to chew on. It reminds me a bit of peeling an onion.

Counting My Blessings Today
From Charles Spurgeon

Another quote also jumped out at me from the bulletin. This was written by a favorite author, Eugene H. Peterson and comes from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Counting My Blessings Today

Through all of life, God walks beside me and dwells within me. He is my rock and my fortress when the powers of evil assail me. He is with me when little things go wrong, too, such as my car door banging into my face today. I hope He is your rock, too.

What are some of the blessings in your life today?

 

 

(28) Reading: Why do people who love reading love it so much? – Quora

Reasons to read are unique for each person. Ojas Patil has given a very eloquent one on Quora.

Why People Read?

(28) Reading: Why do people who love reading love it so much? – Quora.

How would you answer this question? Those who responded on Quora have eloquently described what drives people to their books for a world view and an imaginative view of the world. Please go read the answers. I could never be this eloquent trying to summarize them. Don’t miss the answer by Ojas Patil. What’s in the image is only a fraction of what he wrote. His is just one of the many imaginative answers you will find when you click the link above..

Feel free to leave your own reason for reading in the comments.

Should Teachers Embrace Every Educational Change?

ImageChange is a constant in our world, and that includes the world of educators. Justin Tarte recently published this post on changes teachers are challenged to make. He makes the case that teachers shouldn’t resist change just because it makes them uncomfortable. He states that doing what’s best for the students often stretches teachers into uncomfortable zones. His epiphany was

“the level of comfort educators experience is directly linked to the learning experiences and learning opportunities that become available for students.”

I think teachers need to carefully analyze why they are uncomfortable with the changes they feel themselves resisting. Not everything new is better than what has been done before. Teachers were uncomfortable with the New Math that was forced on them in the 1960’s. It eventually was discarded. It wasn’t good for the students or teachers. Sometimes the motivation isn’t the good of the students, but whether a school or district gets grant money for making the change. This makes guinea pigs of the children. 

Sometimes curriculum changes are designed to follow a political agenda that is twisting history or data in a way that may upset a teacher who can discern what’s happening and doesn’t want to be part of it. On the other hand, changes in methods and tools are often content neutral and the results depend on how they are utilized.

Computers, for example, are just tools. Their value depends upon how they are used. Some older teachers may resist using them because of the uncomfortable learning curve for themselves. If that is the point Tarte is making, then I agree. Good teachers must first be students who continue to keep learning and stretching themselves as new discoveries are made. But teachers should still think critically about proposed changes. Not every new theory deserves to be tried in the classroom.

One thing thing that is often not considered when change is proposed is how it will affect the relationship between students and teachers and whether or not  a certain teacher has always been an effective teacher. I well remember a master teacher I had when I was student teaching 48 years ago. His gift was humor, and he really knew how and when to use it. It was an effective tool and an important component in the dynamics of his classroom because it made the students listen to everything else he said. The relationship it helped him maintain with his students enhanced their ability to learn.

I’m quite sure this man would have been eager to implement changes in methods if he thought they would make learning easier for his students. He was not one to resist change. But neither would he have adopted any method in which he could not see real value just because it was new or part of the latest trend. It was important for him maintain his teaching style and only use those tools that would  enhance it rather than diminish it.

I’m afraid that many of the changes teachers are being forced to implement today make them less effective because these changes suddenly take them out of an element they have mastered and throw them suddenly into one they have not. It takes time for a teaching style to evolve. Once it does, that teacher shouldn’t be forced to make sudden changes in teaching methods that impact his teaching style and possibly even his relationship to his students. That’s like throwing a fish on land and telling it to keep swimming.

Teachers should see demonstrations of new methods (social media, software) and equipment the school has available (computers, interactive whiteboards,  etc) and have a chance to play with them over a period of time before being asked to add them to their toolbox. Maybe that would encourage more teachers to embrace proposed changes. 

I admit it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a classroom as student or teacher. I’m wondering if the professors in schools of education still use the lecture method almost exclusively, or if they demonstrate the new methods they want teachers to use as they teach them about those methods. Do college professors use interactive whiteboards to teach teachers about how to use them? Do they give the kind of assessments they teach their students are most effective? I remember my Tests and Measurements professor told us that true/false tests were the least effective tests. Yet all the tests he gave us were true-false test.

My own experience has been that those who teach teachers are resistant to changes in their own teaching methods. If they do not stretch themselves out of their comfort zones, why should they expect the teachers to do so? If the methods they want teachers to use are more effective, maybe they should demonstrate them. That would help teachers (and future teachers) see first hand how effective they really are while helping them understand how to use them. 

 

No Wonder Some People Oppose Common Core!

Assignments related to holocaust denial have been justified by the need to teach critical thinking skills to satisfy new Common Core standards. It seems to me school districts should think critically about the consequences of giving such assignments before they are given instead of waiting until there is an outcry from parents.

Memorial Plaque Persecution of Jews
Memorial Plaque Persecution of Jews

After my husband directed my attention today to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Reuven H. Taff entitled “Turning Holocaust Denial into Homework,” I decided to see what else I could find out about this online. I wanted to find a more accessible site that did not require a paid subscription. I found it in another form on the Yahoo site:” California School District Under Fire for Holocaust-Denial Assignment” by Beth Greenfield.

The assignment in question was justified as an attempt to satisfy the Common Core standards on critical thinking by helping students to understand and communicate persuasive arguments. This particular assignment to eighth graders in a Rialto middle school required students to complete an essay on whether or not the Holocaust was an actual historical event or just a political scheme. Among the websites listed as legitimate resources for the assignment was one which denied the holocaust happened.

It seems to me that the people responsible for giving this assignment should have demonstrated more critical thinking skills themselves. The Wall Street Journal suggested a number of other topics that legitimately had two sides about which students could write. Among these were climate change, capital punishment, health care, immigration reform, tax policy, energy sources, and many more. You could probably think of many yourself. So why suggest to students with little background in world history that the holocaust might not have been real?

Rialto district officials, including interim Superintendent Mohammed Islam who issued a press release on the subject, said they were aware of the controversy caused by the assignment. Islam stated, ‘The intent of the writing prompt was to exercise the use of critical thinking skills. There was no offensive intent in the crafting of this assignment. We regret that the prompt was misinterpreted.’

It should be noted that Common Core standards were used as an excuse for giving this assignment. I would like to think teachers and curriculum writers would think critically about possible consequences of assignments, and which topics are most likely to be most important to the daily lives of American citizens as they become part of the voting public. Or maybe school officials would rather students didn’t think critically about such issues, since they might come to different conclusions than their teachers.

Barb’s People Builders sells many materials that help teach critical thinking skills to elementary and middle school students.  Television ads, news opinion pieces, and political speeches also offer older students material to analyze critically. Teachers should equip students with critical thinking skills so they can methodically examine what they hear and read to differentiate  facts from spin and propaganda. They should also help students acquire the research skills to find the truth mixed with all the falsehoods they hear and see every day.

Your take on this?