Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's a new year

New year, new opportunities, new challenges, new vistas.....I love the beginning of a new year.  The window opens and a fresh breeze blows in. The sky's the limit. I'll never stop believing in the magic of the new year. My resolution is to spend more time going after the finer things in life: such as--spending quality time with my husband and family, shaking off the bad vibes and hanging on to the good ones, forgetting the past and paying more attention to the present, playing more music, writing more songs, reading more great books, having more great conversations, making more great friends...............YES! These are the finer things in life, make no mistake.  These things don't cost a nickel but the benefits are priceless. Here's to a new year full of possibilities and promise--and here's to my commitment to realizing those possibilities and fulfilling that promise in the best way I know how.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Behind the 8 ball

This blog entry serves as my apology to my students for getting so far behind on my own blog.  I had wanted to keep up with them as they wrote their own blog entries, but did not follow through.  I have learned what my limits are in this experience.  And I have learned that yes, it's true, I am a dedicated procrastinator.  To my students: I apologize.  Better future ahead! ; )

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Advertising and Memory

Years ago while shopping in Target, I heard a little boy singing the Flintstones vitamin commercial to his mom as they walked down the vitamin aisle.  She said "We don't need vitamins," and he began to cite all the reasons why they did, directly from the commercial.  I thought it was cute, and it was--but the more sobering fact is that the advertisers had hit their target--they nailed it.  The web of connections had been made complete for this little boy.  If only it were that easy to get us to remember the important things in life....The good news is that educators can tap into this brain power: "...memory is integral to thought and ...nothing we learn can stand in isolation; we sustain new learning only to the degree we can relate it to what we already know" ("Making Connections" 24). Teaching students to hold onto what they've already learned and, incremently, add to that knowledge is crucial.  But I digress. Advertisers have taken this basic idea to a whole new level--they use tricks that sneak into our brains without our ever knowing it.  Under the level of conscious awareness are hundreds of little triggers that are set to go off when we encounter products--at Target, for instance. We are like Pavlov's dog--geared to salivate when a bell rings.  As Matthew Blakeslee says, "...the whiz kids on Madison Avenue have learned farily well how to attach psychic puppet strongs to our minds..." even though they may not have known the biological underpinnings that make them work (632). As a teacher, I sometimes wonder if I am taking full advantage of this "web of connections" in the classroom.  I feel like teachers walk a fine line between guidance and, dare I say, mind control.  Maybe it's a little bit of both.  But at any rate, we are pushed, prodded, and forcefully encouraged to participate in this capitalist society. The things that get in under the wire are the most potent, and possibly have the most potential for good (or bad) simply because we are not consciously aware of them. We think that it is entirely our own idea to buy those Flintstone vitamins, right?

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My dog died on October 13.  I've had a lot of time to think this week about what she meant to me--and why she made us so happy.  I think I've figured it out, to a point.  Lucy lived in the moment, and took us there with her. She helped to teach me about mindfulness.  Odd that an animal who is supposedly "dumb" can be so smart.  According to Uwe Herwig, "Meditation techniques that enhance mindfulness--purposeful, attentive and nonjudgmental awareness of the moment...[can help to] buffer emotional responses [and keep us calm]." The key word for me is "nonjudgmental." To live in the moment is to accept it for what it is, just as it is.  I tend to overthink EVERYTHING.  I think many of us want to be happy, as if happiness is something we can possess like a material object.  It doesn't happen that way, at least for me.  One day this summer, I was out hanging out the laundry and it just hit me--I'm happy! Why would I be happy hanging out laundry, for goodness sakes.  What made me happy was the very thing that Herwig speaks of--I was just in the moment, or as I've also heard it described--in the flow.  The same thing has happened when I am writing music, or playing my guitar, or watching my dog play in the snow.  Mindfulness is not encouraged in our culture because we are constantly bombarded with media--we hardly ever have a minute to ourselves, just to BE.  If, as Herwig and her experts say, that "self-image is a product of our brain," being mindful and calm in each moment can give us a more "realistic" view of ourselves and contribute to our overall sense of happiness.   

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Postmodernism: According to William Truett Anderson, it is marked by an overall confusion about who we are, who we can be, where we are going, and what we will be.  Our reality is socially constructed.  Our identities are up for grabs--we can "buy" any image we desire in this postmodern world.  Drawbacks? Well--it is rather difficult to step outside of the air I breathe, but I hope that I don't fall victim to the popular notion that everything is relative--that there is no Truth, only truth.  On the other hand, I like the idea that we can create the kind of world we live in by our words and actions.  That institutions are not eternal but are man made and so can be unmade if they are not serving the needs of those who created them.  As Anderson points out, "As more people suspect that reality can be created, the world becomes a kind of theater in which competing groups offer competing plots" (12), although there is a dark side to this kind of story creating.  In this postmodern world, we have access to technology that extends the boundaries of our identities in ways folks fifty years ago would never have dreamed of. As Jones says in "Identity's Edge," " be alive--to be human--you must let certain things in" (541).   I like the way Facebook lets us do that.  I like the fact that I can go on Facebook and see pictures that my friend, Fatih, posts from Turkey.  I like that I can see my friends in England at their parties after a soccer game.  I like that I can share parts of my life with family that I may never see in person again on this earth.  We can still be connected. Identity is shaped by interactions with the culture at large--whether it be through religion, education, family, business, media, etc. And as individuals connect with each other, ideas spread in and around and constantly create and recreate culture.  Perhaps what is postmodern is that the rules have changed.... 

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's August..................

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is always a mixed bag, but this summer has been especially schizo--cooler temps than normal, cloudier than usual.....just wanted a real summer--heat, sun, you know, SUMMER? Oh well, at least the time off is the same, rain or shine.  I have oodles of time on my hands because I'm a teacher, and well, one of our perks is to have summers off.  That's not to say we teachers don't work during the summer--we just don't work the 8 - 5 job--we have to be more disciplined than that and set our own work hours.  Which means that most mornings I wake up about 8:00, luxuriating in the fact that I don't have to get up at all.  But I do--my coffee is waiting for me, thanks to my lovely husband who hears me padding down the stairs, barely awake.  Ah, the morning if off to a great start.  Then, it's choice time--do I watch the Today show for awhile, do laundry (or other housework) and then turn my attention to planning my courses for the coming year, or do I work first and relax later.  Decisions, decisions....Life is tough when you're a teacher.  Having the time off to think and plan is vital to good teaching, so thank goodness for this time--but wait, is that the sun I see peeking through the high clouds? Where did I put that sunscreen?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The readings in my composition class for today have me thinking and rethinking the overall goals of education in our country. HUGE topic. Lots of tracks to follow on this line. When I was growing up and going to school, there were no learning styles surveys.  We all took the IQ tests--I never knew the outcome of mine, although I must assume I "passed"! When I got into my senior year in high school, they started tracking students--the smart kids were placed in classes together and the not-so-smart had their own classes. I wonder what the long term affect of this kind of tracking has been. I'm reading a book right now called The Social Animal by David Brooks, and in it, he discusses the mistakes made by assuming that IQ can tell all educators need to know about a person's ability to learn. The quantification of abilities seems so neat, doesn't it? If only a number could tell it all.  But I think we all suspect that there is much more to the picture. It would be nice if everyone could just be assigned a number and given a spot to fill, and then we could all go about our business, right? Life is not neat, however, and potential cannot be measured. Perceptions form over long periods of time and they shift like waves in the wind. Better to allow people to explore as they learn, rather then pigeon-holing them before they even have a chance to know themselves....