Showing posts with label instructors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label instructors. Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Reflection about the past and Present

          If I can’t get interested in a movie in the first twenty minutes or a novel within the first ten pages, I usually don’t continue.  That may not seem like I am giving a fair chance – maybe so.  But it’s something I have decided not to gamble on – usually. 

`        There have been too many movies and even more books read where I have sat through its entirety and am quite upset with myself for having wasted my time.  That is why I usually don’t go beyond twenty minutes or ten pages.  But sometimes I do.

          “that’s what I am” was actually kind of a slow movie – one I watched in parts because of several interruptions.  I don’t know if I would have continued otherwise – though I was somewhat intrigued by the narration by Greg Kinnear – it reminded me of Jean Shepherd’s “The Christmas Story” or “Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of a Bliss” or Jim Carrey as the Adult Joe Wenteworth in “Simon Birch”

I don’t ever remember seeing any advertisements or even heard of “that’s what I am”.  Evidently it came out just over a year ago – must have gone straight to DVD.  I’m thinking it may not have done well at the box office.  But what do I know?

“that’s what I am” is a coming of age story set in 1965.  But there is more to it than the character of Andy Nichol (the character who narrates the story.)  Observations were made about the supporting characters of Andy’s world.

There is bullying against “the geeks” weeded out mostly on looks.  Stanley is a tall boy with red hair.  They call him “Big G” – G stands for ginger, an unkind word associated with red hair.  I don’t see it so much now as I did as a youth.  Many redheaded kids I had known were either shy or rebellious and often treated like outcasts – I think that’s stupid!

Stanley is smart – very smart.  Mr. Simon is the science teacher (or is it social studies?  I suppose it doesn’t really matter) that pairs Stanley and Andy together to complete an assignment (also hated that; grade me on my own merits, not an assigned partner) and Andy can’t seem to get together with Stanley except at lunch – but Stanley has lunch where the geeks are.  

They have been shunned to a lower class by the rest of the school – and if Andy were to cross the line – well, people might think that he’s a geek, too.  But Stanley won’t give up to doing assignments before or after school – Andy’s option is to be seen with Big G or just let Big G do all the work – easy grade, right. 

When a girl gets bullied (I’m guessing sexually – though they didn’t really show it) Mr. Simons takes action and the bully is suspended.  And so he starts an unkind rumor about Mr. Simons that threatens to put his job in jeopardy if he doesn’t deny the rumor.

It’s an unfair thing for this bully’s accusations to cause sparks to fly – to question the integrity of this man who has taught for many years and brought under investigation because of some bad mouth bully whom the principal doesn’t necessarily believe – but still – he has made an accusation nevertheless and the matter needs to be looked into.

Mr. Simon could easily deny the rumor – whether true or false – and there would be no investigation – but he chooses instead not to answer at all – which of course in grounds for dismissal –

Perhaps in 1965 the denial would have been good enough. But today there has to be an investigation, a suspension, a probation – and some of these accusations turn out to be true while others are just months and years of dragging ones good name through the mud so that the rumor is the only thing remembered and the fact that there is no truth to whatever rumor was started seems irrelevant – which is too bad.

Roland’s ex-wife has made false accusations about everyone she’s known, I imagine.  It’s a sickness on her part.  After a while she believes her own lies.  She won’t let up for anything.

Roland and I were not sealed in the temple until three years after we had married.  His membership was in jeopardy – not once – but several times at her wicked hands. She obviously doesn't know that Roland is in the bishopric or else she would do everything in her power to tarnish his good name and present position.

I know that there have been many who have lost their careers due to scandal – whether in the armed services, law enforcement, education, and what have you.  It happens.  There are those who have had to face up to their wrong doings and there are some who have basically had to start over because of the tarnished mishaps that often seem to haunt them.  Some move on with regret – others choose to move on and make the best of it (if that is even possible).

There are some people who are sour grapes and will remain that way no matter what.  I recall once being on a cruise line in which one particular couple would complain about their purser – giving him a bad rating – which of course would come up for investigation.  Each group of people who happened to have the same purser made it a point to complain about the couple and defend the purser.  I don’t know what the results were.  I hope the cruise line realized that the problem was with the couple and not the purser.

          I think the things I enjoyed most about “that’s what I am” happen at the finale, after the bully receives what’s coming to him.  And Mr. Simon went out with a blaze of glory.  But the best was at the very end – because there really is more than one correct way to mow a lawn.  It would be so nice if everybody could see that.  If it’s getting done, don’t harp on how it needs to be done.  Who decides what makes something politically correct anyway?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Really Great Theatre Teacher

         Jenna LOVES to sing, and dance, draw, learn, explore . . . I have wanted so badly to enroll her in dance lessons, or music lessons, art classes , etc.  I have even considered sports when she has shown interest – but it was always out of reach financially - even on those rare times when it looked like the class itself might be in reach, I knew that the costumes (or uniforms) would get out of hand.

          Last summer I had the opportunity of enrolling her in a peewee theatre class taught by a gal who had instructed children’s theatre in New York.  Jenna would have an opportunity – not only to act, but to sing, to dance and perform and hopefully make new friends.

          The play is never done in its entirety.  The instructor has been given only six to eight weeks to rehearse before putting on the show. 
          We met for eight weeks initially.  One hour per week.  Realizing that she would need more time, she made arrangements for the children to do their dialogues on a Saturday at her home.  I thought that was so awesome of her to be willing to do the extra work.

          So the first play was “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”.  Six parts and seven children showed up – four being girls.  And the “Charlie Brown” has two girls with speaking parts.  Four boy parts.

          Two girls were asked to split up lines for Lucy.  Jenna chose to read for Schroeder.  The youngest of the cast was asked to read for Linus – and actually sounded just like the cartoon character.  That night the parts were cast for Linus and Lucy.  Who in the world would she get to play Charlie Brown?

          None of the three boys seemed like the right candidate.  The four (going on five) year old had been cast as Linus leaving a boy who was not so fluent in English, and one who appeared to have ADD as he was all over the place or hiding behind his mother.  I understood what had possessed his mother to enroll him, but was seriously wondering if he’d be able to pull it off.

          The not so fluent was cast as Snoopy – and the instructor saw great potential with casting our ADD as Schroeder.  He was fabulous.  Knew all of his lines.  Stayed on page.  I was actually very impressed.

          Jenna had read for Schroeder and Sally – and because Sally was the only girl’s part left, Jenna memorized her part (actually she had started memorization on all of the parts except for Charlie Brown)

          After two of the girls dropped out (they had attended the first night only) the instructor thought she could split up Sally’s part among the rest of the cast and asked if Jenna would be interested in playing Charlie Brown. 

“He’s the main part!” I told Jenna.  Her enthusiasm did not match my own.  How could she possibly play a boy?  She didn’t.  We made Charlie Brown a girl.  Instead of dreaming about a little red-headed girl, we changed Jenna’s line to say that she liked a red-headed boy

But then it was realized that Sally’s part was needed.  And so the instructor asked a neighbor to take her class – she learned her lines and dance numbers and songs in just four weeks.

There was no costume expense – it was whatever is in your closet.  I liked that. The shirt that Jenna wore was one we had purchased the prior year as I had enrolled her in a dance class and the instructor provided us shirts to make jagged edges for the “George of the Jungle” number they’d be performing.

All of the class members pulled it off.  Unfortunately Jenna didn’t get to sing and dance as much as the other children (it wouldn’t make sense for her to sing “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”) and she never got to learn her solo because of the time frame.  But she did a beautiful monologue and she actually did very well.

Her professionalism was surprising as she was truly sick that night.  Not a contagious sick necessarily.  She had just eaten something that hadn’t agreed with her.  And the drive to the school only added car sickness.

She had puked twice on our way into the school – did an awesome performance – and then made a b-line to the garbage can to heave up some more.  Poor child really had nothing left to throw up.

School House Rock was announced for the next production.  Excitedly Jenna made her approval known.  But because of the location of the school and my inability to see at night, I said I didn’t think I would be able to keep her in.

I was so touched when the instructor offered to come get her and drop her off.  I could take her – that was no problem.  But my house is not on the way home to the instructor’s house (hers would actually be on the way to mine) and so I made arrangements to drop Jenna off at the school and meet her instructor near her house after class.  It worked out well except for one day when I gave the instructor the option of keeping Jenna home or asking the instructor to drive out of her way to drop her off – she chose the latter.  And I feel blessed.

The class hours had been extended to an hour and a half a week instead of just one hour. School house rock didn’t seem to have any specific roles except for Tom – the teacher (also played by a girl) – though they all had speaking parts and solos.  And the attendance had gone from five to fourteen.  My husband filmed most of it as I was laughing so hard I couldn’t seem to keep the camera still.

The last play that they did was “Alice in Wonderland”.  They had moved to a high school much nearer to my home (as well as the instructors) and I have been excited about that. But because of earlier schedule conflict and lack of funds, Jenna did not participate – although Jenna and I went and saw it the same week Randy and Carrie were married. It turned out really cute. 

All of the children wore black with quick costume change on top. The instructor had allowed three different girls to play Alice – one at a time during various scenes.  The costumes were a bit more elaborate than whatever was in the closet, but still kept simple.  The kids pulled it off rather nicely.  I was impressed.

I promised Jenna that we’d put her in the next show – Wizard of Oz.  Am looking forward to attending classes again.  It appears that they will rehearse just six weeks (nine hours) though before they put on their final production.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Most Awesome Principal Ever

When I was a youth, the only children that knew the principal were the ones who misbehaved during class.  And the only parents who knew the principal were the parents of the children who acted up.  I never knew my principal.  I knew his name.  I knew what he looked like.  But because the only children, who actually knew him personally, were the “bad” children, I had taught myself to be afraid of my principal. 

Growing up, the principals were always male.  A female principal was unheard of.  As I have checked out schools in ours and surrounding  districts,  I am finding that it is rare to have a male principal – at least over the elementary schools.

Two of the female principals I’ve encountered seem to have sticks up their butts, artificial smiles, and dagger themed tones to their voices.  Not pleasant.  But the principal at Jenna’s present school is so so different from any principal I have ever encountered in my life.

Actually the principal of my elementary school may have been a loving man and didn’t fit the horrifying profile at all – but my thoughts were so much different from being a child than it is today.  It’s too bad that I never understood him or saw him as a person and could only see the terminator that the “bad” children saw.

One thing that I really do like at Jenna’s school is the atmosphere.  I don’t notice tension among the teachers or constant ruthlessness among the children or fear.  I’m not saying it doesn’t exist.  As with other schools, Vantana has had its share of bullying and discipline.  But it’s not just the “bad” children who get to know the principal. 

Mrs. Randolf makes it a point to get to know each and every student in her school.  But not just the students, but every parent as well.  What a challenge!  And yet she really does seem to be able to place over thousands of names to the faces.  And she is such a pleasant woman!

Every Monday at lunch hour “good” and honored students are given the privilege to have lunch with her in the library.  They call this event “bug lunch” though I don’t know why.  How great it is for students to look forward for getting to eat lunch with the principal!  They see her as a human being – someone they can joke with, but can also turn to for serious matters.  I admire that!

So thank you, Mrs. Randolf.  Thank you for all that you do for our children and for the teachers and for the PTO.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Education in the Pod

          The elementary school that I attended opened the year before I started kindergarten.  At the time the school was designed with rooms that catered to entire grades – not just class sizes. 

          Three modular walls separated each group of students as there were four instructors assigned to each grade.  Each student was assigned a homeroom teacher.  But the homeroom teacher was not necessarily the same teacher assigned for math or reading or science, etc.  All of the students were taught by all of the teachers for that grade. It was actually a very good system.

          I did not appreciate it then.  Nor did I realize that it wasn’t the normal procedure for an elementary school to function in that manner.  Most every person that I know has had only one teacher per grade during his or her years at elementary school.  As I look back on it now, I appreciate having had the opportunities that I did for having been exposed to a variety of teachers and not just one.

          I have never thought it fair to either teacher or student to have to teach all subjects at every level.  Although Dick, Jane, Sally and Michael may be in the same grade does not mean that they are on the same level.  Dick may be exceptionally smart in math while Michael excels in reading.  Sally may struggle with science and Jane may struggle with spelling.

          The four teachers would teach the same subjects, but at different levels.  Mrs. Cleaver may have taught the gifted students math and taught the no so gifted Science and the average students reading. And Mr. Jones may have also taught an average reading class but taught a math class for students who were struggling.  Therefore Dick would have been in Mrs. Cleaver’s math class but may have had Mr. Jones for another subject.

          I was always in the “less gifted” class- sometimes average.  I was never put in with the gifted students.  For the most part I struggled.

          Backpacks were for camping back then.  The idea of taking one to school was unheard of. Each student had a tote tray with his or her name on it.  At the indicated time we would move our tote trays from one desk to another – walking passed the modular walls from one classroom to another.  We didn’t have to walk through the halls to get from one room to another.  The group of classes was called a pod and all our transitions were made inside of the pod.

          I know that some of the charter schools use the method of sending students to different teachers according to that level.  I would like to see it done in the public schools.  It makes more sense to me.

          I am grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from a variety of teachers. I’m grateful that Jenna has the opportunity for having at least two instructors per grade level while she is elementary school.  I am also grateful that she has a better grasp on education than I did.  I pray that she will continue to endure.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First school: p & k

          When Jenna was three, we would walk hand in hand over to the public school twice a week for a preschool class that was offered.  At age four she went for four days.  At age five we enrolled her in kindergarten.  All day kindergarten to be exact. We were also in year round school.

          I would volunteer in the class room once a week. We were both happy. She loved learning.  I loved her teachers. I never had any reason to look into another school.

          Her preschool teacher was great.  She loved those she taught.  And Jenna was forever learning – and socializing.  Jenna was quite popular in her class. Holding hands with Paul the first day of school.  Soaking things in like a sponge.

          Her kindergarten teacher was amazing.  She could teach every child at his or her own level without taking away from another.  Jenna was assigned to a group with two other girls; they were the top three students in the class. 

          She would bring home a packet each day and we would work on the assignments and she would get credit each day for each assignment.  Jenna LOVED school.  To her, there wasn’t much that was more important than school. 
          Having Jenna love school was so awesome.  It was never a struggle having to get her up.  She was always up and ready and eager to go.  The few times I kept her home due to illness, she cried.  I would still continue to educate her and we would have a session at home.

I love that Jenna loves to learn.