Prompt Writings: My Lost Epiphany

I Venture into Reblogging

It’s Monday, and I found this treasure (which you can find at the bottom of this post) on #Mondayblogs. I never retweet what I haven’t read, and today I’m finding more than one poem link being tweeted that I really like. Both poems are short and evoked an emotional response from me, as a good poem does. Here’s how I evaluate poetry.

Here’s another treasure I picked up on Twitter where I found the poem and image perfectly matched.

I Venture into Reblogging
I Venture into Reblogging

This is an experiment in reblogging. For some reason, I thought something from the reblogged post would show as the first part of this post. I had to open this and preview it to see that a link to the poem I loved is tacked to the bottom, not the top. I hope you will do yourself a favor and go read it.

The Poems Speak of Loss

Grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and take a break to read these poems and let me know which you most relate to. Hint: Both speak to losses– lost opportunities, lost dreams, or lost time living in our memories instead of blazing a path to a new reality.

All change requires time to adjust to that new reality. This is especially true after the loss of a loved one. Our memories of that loved one are a place to go when grief is intense since they are the only way to bring the loved one back, even momentarily. Reliving those memories helps us bridge the gap between the old reality and the new. The problem occurs when a grieving person retreats into the old reality and never tries to move on. I’ve seen it happen, and that’s the great loss of all — never knowing the peace, acceptance, and opportunity that moving to that new reality might bring.

Courteney Levet

Poetry. That is the inspiration for prompt #5. While I have written some poetry, it is usually prose that drags me along by the wrist until I agree to play. 

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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. 

 

It’s the Law in California: Transgender Students Rights to Trump the Privacy Rights of other Students in 2014

Ventura High School
Mixed Sex Restrooms OK?

It’s the Law in California: Transgender Students Rights to Trump the Privacy Rights of other Students in 2014

Those living in California are about to experience what public school students in parts of Colorado are already facing — biological boys who think they are girls using the girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers (and vice versa.) California AB 1266 is even less well-defined than the Colorado law. If you are a parent of a K-12 student in a California public school, how do you feel about having students in restrooms whose biology does not match their current gender identity? To learn more about this law and to get a petition to stall its implementation until the citizens can vote on it, go to Privacy for All Students. All petitions must be mailed in time to be in Sacramento by November 12, 2013, and 505,000 valid California voter signatures are needed to qualify this for the ballot.

If this matters to you, please go to the site, get a petition, sign it and mail it. Or get a long petition and get some other registered voters to sign it, too. Be sure and follow the instructions to the letter. Time is short. It would be prudent to get these mailed by November 1.

How to Recognize Love

How does a child recognize if he is loved? I know how this five-year-old recognized it.

Jason, still a foster child, in our tree
Jason, still a foster child, in the tree under which we had this discussion.

When Jason, whom we later adopted, was five, and a foster child next door, he had learned he would be moved. (You can read the history of our relationship with Jason here.) As the neighborhood children often gathered under our tree in the early summer evenings after dinner, Jason and his foster siblings gathered there that evening to tell us the news and discuss where he might be moved .  I had to pretend I didn’t know he was coming to us, since the social worker said not to tell him. So I let the children discuss the issue themselves while I listened.

Jason had been coming to visit us almost every day since we met in the front yard one day, and I had grown to love him. It would have hurt a lot had my contact with him be cut off, which was why we were trying to adopt him. But it was obvious Jason knew how much we cared. He might not have known the name for love, but this is what he told me that evening:  When I leave, you are going to cry.”

Separation from someone you love hurts. Jason had recognized love when he saw it. He knew his leaving would hurt, and I’d cry. He was right. Fortunately, he lived with us for a wonderful nine years before a jet ski accident separated us forever on this earth. And I cried.

So how do you know if someone loves you? Words? Gifts? Promises? I think Jason had it right. Would that person cry if you were to leave forever? Would that person continue to carry your footprints in his or her heart for life?

You can read my tribute to Jason’s memory here.

Enjoying my Community of North San Luis Obispo County

Scene from the Walk on Oakview Lane in Templeton
A scene along Oakview Lane in Templeton, where I often walk

I haven’t added much to this blog lately because I’ve been exploring my community and writing about it at both Squidoo and HubPages, where I won a contest last month with this article: Great Short Hikes in North San Luis Obispo County: Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero.

"Where the Heck is 93446?" a photograph by Nancy Vest
"Where the Heck is 93446?" by Nancy Vest, used by permission.

With my Flip camcorder and camera in a fanny pack,  I find the most interesting walks, explore the vineyards and wineries who are my neighbors, and try to keep up with local festivals and traditions. Just this year I discovered Studios on the Park, where many of the local artists interact with the public, and I try to introduce them to others.  The picture above was from the “Speed” exhibit I have referred to below. I love Nancy’s sense of humor that I see in a lot of her imaginative photographs.

What does all this have to do with bookselling and education? It makes me a more balanced person. One can’t sit at a computer all day and still remain part of one’s community. The most important education is that we seek out after we are through with schooling.  My community has an abundance of learning experiences — so many that it’s hard to choose between them.  So far I’ve not paid a penny for any of them, unless I make purchases while attending events, which I often do.

Laure Carlisle's Self-Portrait at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles
Laure Carlisle's Self-Portrait at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles

I can choose between music, history art, and nature. On  October 7,  I stumbled into the opening of “Speed” — a juried exhibit of the Paso Robles Art Association and had some delightful and educational conversations with some of the artists. What I had come for was the opportunity to finish trying to match artists with their self-portraits in a contest related to an ongoing exhibit. The next night I was able to attend a concert and a historical walking tour as part of the Central Coast Railroad Festival. And the very next day, our community of Paso Robles celebrated its history with a morning parade followed by a free bean feed at the City Park. I was too tired to move to the Pioneer Museum after lunch for some demonstrations of threshing and baling. Instead I went home and edited all the pictures and video I had taken so I could write them up and share them with the community. It’s my way of giving back.

It’s true that while I’m out doing these things I’m not listing books and blogging, but I’m continuing to learn. The desire to keep learning is, in my opinion, the test of one’s education, which should create a thirst for more learning.

Thoughts After a Memorial Service

Why wait to pay tribute to your friends at a memorial service? Why not tell them how much they mean to you while they can still hear you? Here are some ideas.

SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park
SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park

Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for Ann Sakiyama, whom I was not privileged to know as well as most who were there. It was a beautiful service, a final tribute from all who knew and loved her.  We went because we have loved her husband like a brother for over forty years. Though the old group of which we were all a part in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s has spread out geographically, we are still dear to each other and try to be there for each other when someone is going through the deep waters. I last saw most of this group of friends at my daughter’s memorial service last June.

As we all gathered to eat together after the service, I probably wasn’t the only one wondering, “Who’s next?” or “What will they say at my service?” When we met, we were all under thirty. Now most of us are retired or approaching retirement. At least one has survived a heart attack. Another fights cancer. Each time we gather to mourn a loss, I know we are thinking that we don’t want to gather for this reason again very soon. As someone said when we were leaving the luncheon yesterday, “Let’s have the next get together be a party, not a memorial service.”

What a great idea! What would be really memorable would be a relaxed weekend in the same hotel or resort where we could meet and tell each other now, in person, what we have appreciated in each other over the years while we all still have mouths to speak and ears to hear. We used to attend retreats together, why not another now, while we can still do it, for the express purpose of celebrating what our friendships have meant all this time? So much we leave unspoken and wait to share when the words can no longer be heard. Some of us spend money to attend high school reunions to be with the people we haven’t kept up with.  Why not spend the same money for a reunion with the group of people you really do care about?

If we can’t physically find a way to do this, why not set aside some time to write some notes to your old friends now – while they can still read them. Why wait until they are gone to write your thoughts of what they meant — to their surviving families? Not good with words on paper? Pick up the phone. Not good with words at all when it comes to feelings? Maybe just a note or a hug with the words: Your friendship has meant more over the years than words can express.

Feel really uncomfortable about doing this? Practice on your family. No one needs to hear our tributes more than our family members, whom we often take for granted.  Some of you have already lost parents, spouses, or children. I hope you had time to let them know how much you loved and appreciated them before you had to say a final goodbye. If you still have them, start letting them know now how much they mean to you. If you have to leave them suddenly, don’t let them be wondering what you thought of them.  Don’t assume that your unspoken feelings have been picked up. I always try to make sure that when my husband goes out the door to go to the gym every day, he knows I love him and want him to come home safely. I try to make sure that if we have quarreled, all is well between us before he goes out that door or goes to sleep. I let him know he is irreplaceable in my heart and life and a special treasure and gift from God. I was also fortunate enough to have realized before Jason’s accident that children do die suddenly, and I made a special point after another family lost a child a few days before we lost Jason to tell Jason how much I loved and appreciated him. I’m glad those were his last memories of me.


These are the kinds of thoughts I have as I look into the faces of those I care most about when we mourn together. I hope that at the next memorial service, the one we are mourning will have heard our personal tributes in person ahead of time, before it’s too late.

Is This What Might Replace Paper Picture Books?

What might be lost in the move from paper to digital picture books? Or will digital books improve the the experience of reading?

Cover, Paul Revere's Ride
Cover, Paul Revere's Ride

As you all know, I love picture books. So when I got this link for a digital picture book, I had to check it out. (The link is at the end, since I want you to finish this before you click. ) It heralds the possibilities of moving books from paper to digital form — possibilities for word play, matching, watching, and story telling. Young readers will be able to read not only left to right, but also see words moving right to left and up and down. Words can appear and disappear, or letters can glide into a word. Both pictures and words can move in any direction (often off the screen, so there’s a lot of scrolling to keep up with.) The producer of this book (Can I call him/her  an author?) points out that paper picture books are limited to only one dimension, and are unidirectional and static. The producer tells us that two things can remain in the move to digital books:  The reader reads and the reader controls the story. By controlling the story, I assume we’re talking about turning pages or clicking buttons.

So is the digital book better? I’m asking my self what the difference is between such a digital book and an animated story with subtitles. Picture book artists such as Thomas Locker, Ruth Heller, Patricia Polacco and too many more to mention offer not only a story, but a rich visual experience that would not seem to lend itself as easily to animation as maybe the work of someone who is simply bold and colorful. I would think it difficult for the subtle tones  of work done in oils to come through as intensely in digital form as on paper.  So I believe these digital picture books might rob young readers of a more desirable artistic experience.

As to the multi-directional feature,  it seems to me that this sort of reading is not good preparation for learning reading fluency and developing the necessary skill of reading from left to right. I think reading from left to right is a good thing — especially for the young picture book crowd. Some of the multi-dimensional effects gave me a headache as pictures zoomed in and out. I guess, though, that today’s children are used to that.

kingwhorainedOne virtue of these books is supposed to be that they offer opportunities for word play, matching, and watching. I think paper picture books can match that. Check out Marvin Terban’s books on word play. Or try The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne (This link enlarges the image at left.) It’s full of illustrated homophones that will promote a chuckle. (It can be found with other concept books here.) As to matching, you don’t really need a story. There are already many games in boxed or digital form that offer that. As to watching, that’s also been done very well on paper. Go back to one of my older blogs and read the review of Over the Steamy Swamp. In that book, every one is watching and being watched.  Another book that involves watching is Rosy’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. It’s humor and irony will have young readers chuckling as they watch the fox watch the hen.

The last proposed advantage of the digital book is story telling. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Any decent paper picture book tells a story, though some are definitely better than others. If the idea is that it encourages a child to tell a story, there are books that do that, as well. A good example is Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. This wordless picture book follows a woman from the moment she gets out of bed, hungry for pancakes, until she finally eats them at a neighbor’s house. We watch her put on her apron, begin mixing ingredients, gather eggs, milk the cow, churn the butter, go out and buy syrup, walk home with dreams of mixing and cooking and  eating the pancakes, and arrive back to find her cat and dog have spilled the milk and broken the eggs. As she thinks of the pancakes she dreamed of, flying away from the platter, she smells her neighbor cooking some and decides to go and visit. Have your child “read” you this story if he’s not a reader yet, or write the story to go with the pictures if he’s learning to put his thoughts on paper. It requires imagination to “read” this book.

I suppose though, that the main reason I prefer paper is that paper encourages a child to linger over the pictures to appreciate the details, anticipate what comes next, and maybe even discuss the book with the person who might be reading it to him. Digital books, at least in this example, encourage speed and constant moving to keep up with the action. Although the producer says the child controls the story by clicking the “next” button, I imagine the child is in the habit of clicking next as soon as he finishes a screen, rather than lingering. So which is the most interactive experience? Clicking the button  or actually turning physical pages. Watching a screen and clicking, or talking to a real person who may be reading the book to you and discussing it as you go along. I’ll take the book, preferably on the mom’s lap with the child or children cuddling up to her as she leads them on an imaginative journey.

And now that link you’ve been waiting for to see the book.

Are Books Important — or Just Stories?

I personally will always want books — not just stories.

Just read a blog by my fellow bookseller, Bookavore , based on another blog by Clay Shirky. Bookavore wonders if  “Society doesn’t need books.  What we need are stories.”

It’s not my profession as a bookseller that makes me think we will always need books. In the rush to put everything in digital form, we make a lot of assumptions. One of them is that we will always have electricity. One look at the newspaper I still subscribe to lets me know that there is dissension all over the globe. Our diplomats fly from one trouble spot to another trying to make peace in places that may be about to acquire nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Our computers and phones keep us connected to people throughout the world and we stay aware of the impending threats. However, when we are willing to get rid of books, we make the assumption that no one ever will push the button and that terrorists will never be able to knock out our communication systems.

Where would we get our stories should we be subject to cyber terrorism? I suppose we’d all have some to tell. And maybe we’d all be trying so hard to survive we wouldn’t need just stories.  We might actually need information in hard copies to read for our survival. If we did  have some time on our hands, it might be handy to have access to  books to entertain, inspire, and give us hope.

Even if we continue to have relative peace, our digital communication is often interrupted. Phone lines go down — especially in more rural areas. Where I live, a good wind following a good rain, or even a  bird on the wires above, can knock out our power for hours or even days. During those times, books are treasured companions.

When reading a beautifully illustrated book to a child, nothing beats sitting on the sofa with a physical book on one’s lap and children cuddled up on both sides to share the view. I can’t see a Kindle really replacing that. They will probably  improve them in time, but I doubt if they will feel like books in the hand. Touching an icon is not the same at all as turning a genuine page and getting a glimpse of the next one.

Books also connect me to those who preceded me in history. Many biographies and journals will never be published in digital form — especially those now out of print. The authors of these live on in physical books, which will continue to be read by those who are interested in them. Though it’s easy for anyone to publish digitally today, this only started a few short years ago. Some  writers from the past will only be found in books.

I personally will always want books — not just stories.

Follow me on Twitter

Guess I’m a Social Networking Junkie

I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in a week on Twitter from those in digital education about the new face of education and how teachers are being encouraged to use computers in their classrooms.

“Twitter is limited to messaging, keeping people on the site an average of just eight minutes per month. Facebook offers far more diversions, with users spending an average of nearly three hours per month on the site, according to Nielsen.” by Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer from Facebook moving into Twitter territory posted 3/14/09

I’ve always wanted to be above average at something, but it’s hard to believe that so many Twitter users average only eight minutes a day, let alone a month. Maybe this is because I’m still in my Twitter honeymoon period, learning the ropes, and finding the right followers and people to follow. I want to connect with home school families and school educators in order to see what’s happening in schools of all types. I’m hoping I can cut down to eight hours a week on Twitter.

Facebook is a different animal altogether. I use it to connect with people I actually know or have gotten to know on Facebook groups. It’s an easy way to keep up with long-distance friends and the everyday lives of those I see once a week. It’s a great way to share photos with people who might want to see them. And it’s  way to let friends know which causes are important to you. I used to spend about two hours a week there, but since Twitter, I’ve cut down to maybe 30 minutes a week.  So maybe I’m approaching average there.

I have to admit I’ve changed my mind about Twitter. I used to think it was where teens kept each other posted on what they were doing all day. There is some of that, but I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in a week on Twitter from those in digital education about the new face of education and how teachers are being encouraged to use computers in their classrooms. I get updates on CPSIA developments, and get links to terrific blogs and videos I would never have found any other way. Come to think of it, it’s not Twitter itself that I’m spending all this time on — it’s all those links it leads to. If you haven’t begun to tweet yet, try it.  You can follow me as barbsbooks and be among the first to find out about sales and new products for educators who are still using books. I’d love to network with you.

What to Eat After Oral Surgery

Here are some diet suggestions that might help you after oral surgery when you need to eat near liquid foods that don’t need chewing.

I had a dental implant put in last week and ever since have not been allowed to eat anything that needs chewing. Vanilla yogurt and applesauce were  just right for the first two days when I was still pretty knocked out. But by day 3 they were getting old. If you are ever in the same boat, here are some suggestions that are pretty easy:

  • 1. Take something you like and run it through the blender to liquefy it. I like bean soup. Campbell’s Bean with Bacon was good for two days at the rate of a can a day. You might prefer another variety. The next day I made a simple black bean soup that blended into a very thick and satisfying soup.  Then I sprinkled some feta cheese in and stirred until it was almost melted. Very tasty! I’ll put the recipe for the bean soup below. Make it before you have the surgery.
  • Baby food is a convenience food for the first day or two.
  • Make custard or pudding before surgery or buy a good brand of tapioca pudding in the deli section. It’s better for you than ice cream.
  • Bake a yam or yellow squash and mash it with a fork. Add whatever you like to add flavor.
  • Bake a potato, mash the insides with a fork, and stuff with whatever gooey topping you like. I used butter and plain yogurt. Don’t eat the skins. I gave them to my husband, who adores them.
  • Get some frozen creamed spinach or make your own if you feel up to it.
  • Make a smoothie. I really enjoyed blending about a cup of vanilla yogurt with about 6 canned apricot halves, but any fruit will do.
  • Mash a ripe banana and eat with spoon.
  • If you go to a buffet type restaurant, there are some things you can eat. At Hometown Buffet, I was able to eat mashed potatoes and gravy, Jello, baked yam ( mashed with fork), banana pudding (mashed with fork), and even the refried beans, which come pretty mashed already, mixed with some of the finely grated cheese stirred inside until it melts.

If you combine enough of these items in various ways, you will be able to keep up your strength and get some fruit, veggies, and  fiber in your diet, as well as an assortment of flavors that include savory, as well as sweet. I can’t do anything about crunchy. That’s still forbidden.

Here’s the simple black bean soup recipe I mentioned. It’s more economical than buying two 10-oz cans of condensed soup, and it’s also tastier.

Ingredients:

  • A chopped onion
  • Two or more cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon each or more (according to taste) of oregano and thyme
  • 1 can each (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Any compatible left-overs. (I had some small pieces of minute steak with some of the tomatoes it had been topped with. Add when you add the canned ingredients. If there is cooked meat or poutry, cut it into small pieces before adding.

Heat the olive oil for a minute in a three-quart saucepan. Don’t let it get hot enough to smoke. Add the onions and garlic and stir them around at medium heat to keep  from burning, until tender. Add spices herbs and stir another minute. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and drained beans and leftovers if available.  Bring to boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Put in blender, part at a time, until it is liquefied (or completely blended so you won’t need to chew it.)  Serve hot and stir in some feta if you like, to add flavor.