Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's Tuesday already!

Last week seemed to drag on forever, but thanks to a three-day weekend it is already Tuesday and I'm feeling good! I spent Saturday through Monday with a friend (I'll call her J) in a very small town in West Virginia. All of her family lives there, within a half square mile of each other. The family runs a heating and air conditioning business. The town seems to be following the fate of so many others: It's pleasant, made up of such neat people, but trying to keep its character while slowly fading away. The recent consolidation of the schools into a bigger county system didn't help. It was neat to see where J grew up, though, and we spent lots of time reading and knitting.

What I read...
I'm reading America's Women: 400 years of dolls, drudges, helpmates, and heroines by Gail Collins. The book is just fascinating and has made me realize how I've tended to lump all pre-1900 women into one general stereotype when that is not at all the case. Glancing at the back cover made me feel a little like a failure, though, when I noticed that Gail Collins is also the editor of the opinion page of the New York Times. How in the world did she find time to write such a great book? Maybe they get sabbatical.

Anyway, I'm hoping that the book will help me in my most recent endeavor to propose a women's history course to our county. There is not one currently offered and I think there is great potential for one. If any of you out there know of women's history courses offered at the high school level, please point me towards any good resources.

The book also provided fodder for an ongoing discussion with J about women's roles in the world today. Mostly, our discussion centered, or at least started, with women's roles in the church. We both attend the same church that seems to really struggle with gender issues and we ourselves are trying to figure out where we stand. It's not easy and the two of us have spent a lot of time with the issue. I don't feel like we are any closer to answers when we began, but sometimes it's just great to know someone else struggles with the same issues.

What I knitted...
I'm working on two things right now. Since early fall, I have been working on the faux cardigan from last winter's Interweave. I got hung up on the second sleeve and had to wait for J (who is basically my knitting mentor) to get back from Christmas break so she could help me out. But now I'm going full steam ahead and think I should still meet my goal of finishing in time to wear it this season.

I'm also working on the garter ridge scarf from Knitting For Dummies. I'm knitting it with a thick ivory yarn that will look great on my co-worker/friend when I give it to her for her birthday next week. I'm only about half of the way through but it goes fast.
I haven't yet started the niece/nephew's baby blanket. I'm so nervous about it I can't even bring myself to cast on. Maybe this weekend...

What I taught...
I didn't teach anything today! It's the end of the semester and I gave midterms. It was so nice to return from an extended weekend to a day of light teaching. Tomorrow in my U.S. classes we begin the unit on the 1920's and 30's. My favorite! We'll start out with a gallery walk looking at advertisements for consumer goods of the time.

What I thought about...
A School Yard Blog has an excellent post about schools reporting violence. I have a friend who teaches at a magnet school in a struggling inner-city district. Due to Bush's new standards, each assistant principal (they are the ones that handle discipline) has been assigned a limit to the number of suspensions they can have in a month (with no regard for who is assigned to that AP or what month it is, so that you have the same number in September as May). So, basically, all of the zero tolerance policies we saw in the late 90's are being taken out. Schools don't want to suspend or expel students because they will show up in the statistics and threaten a school's rating as violent or non-violent. How sad.

Another example of how measuring success can hinder it: Our district set a goal of increasing parent/teacher communication. Certainly a commendable goal. Of course, they have no idea what current communication levels are so they need to measure them. So now, all teachers have to report the number of emails, phone calls, and face to face meetings with all parents. This is just so we can set a base rate. I'm sure it will continue so that we can measure if we increase on that base rate. There is so much paperwork required now when we communicate with parents that the red tape is more of a hassle than dealing with the actual parents. The time I spend filling out a report could be spent moving on to the next phone call.