Sunday, August 31, 2008

Katha Pollitt on Palin

Without talking about the validity of the "experience" of Palin to be VP (b/c after all, VP is a pretty useless job), here's a quote from Katha Pollitt's blog entry on Palin:

"Sure, Palin is cool -- she's pretty and vivacious and athletic, a former beauty queen who runs marathons, hunts , fishes and eats mooseburgers, plus she's got five kids with unusual names like Willow and Track, including a newborn with Down's syndrome. I feel tired just thinking of what her daily life must be like, and if she were my neighbor I would probably like her a lot. It shows how deeply feminism has penetrated American culture that even anti-choice, right-wing-Christian women are breaking out of the old sugary-submissive pastel-suited stereotype. And if life were a Lifetime movie, Palin would do just fine running the country should McCain keel over. Girls can do anything! and look great doing it! ...

Here's the reality: Palin is a rightwing-Christian anti-choice extremist who opposes abortion for any reason whasoever, except to save the life of the girl or woman. No exception even for rape, incest, or the health of the woman. No exception for a ten-year-old, a woman carrying a fetus with no chance of life, a woman on the edge of suicide-- let alone the woman who is not ready to be a parent, who is escaping domestic violence, who is already stretched to the limit as a single mother. She wants to force over one million women and girls a year to give birth against their will and judgment. She wants to use the magnificent freedom the women's movement has won for her at tremendous cost and struggle--the movement that won her the right to run those marathons and run Alaska -- to take away the freedom of every other woman in the country."
Personally, I can't wait for someone to ask her what the punishment for abortion should be (i.e. "how much time should she do?") in a world where the procedure is newly illegal. Can we prosecute women for miscarriage too?

Dig It

I love Sarah Vowell. An essay of hers was published in the NYT yesterday. Love it.

Favorite lines? Too many to count. Perhaps:

"I am a registered Democrat. That first night’s convention speech by Senator Kennedy about his life’s work reminded me what being a Democrat means. I have spent the last eight years so disgusted with the incompetent yahoos of the executive branch that I had forgotten that I believe in one of the core principles of the Democratic Party — that government can be a useful, meaningful and worthwhile force for good in this republic instead of just an embarrassing, torturing, Book of Revelation starter kit."

Or this:

"But I would have been content with any one of the Democratic candidates in the Oval Office — Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, even John Edwards (because it is possible to make bad decisions about one’s private life and still have good ideas about health care). Each one has his or her gaping drawbacks, of course, but that’s always going to be true of people seeking a job only a damaged lunatic would want."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reflections on Summer Camp

The general temperature & humidity here in MD remind me of the middle of summer in NH, and there is the sound of crickets coming in the wide open windows. It reminds me of the summer I spent living in a yurt, the time spent playing outside. I remember playing Ultimate Frisbee with a light up frisbee in the deepening twilight, until it was too dark to actually see the other people running around the field. The number of stars is amazing. There's nothing like teaching a kid to light their first match, make their first campfire, and eat their first s'more.

Essentials for camp:
- Showers are only necessary every few days (two hours off are often better spent sleeping)
- Coffee is one of the best treats known to humankind
- Don't drink liquids after 7 pm
- Counselors are pretty much the coolest adults on the planet to children
- There's something magical about a place where you get called by something that doesn't remotely resemble a proper name

Friday, August 29, 2008


I feel like I've got the professional stuff down at the moment -- meetings scheduled and planned and run efficiently, classes planned and materials prepared ready to deliver on Tuesday and for the following 175 days.

Then there's the other stuff. Roommates are fine, friends at work are fine. I'm pleased to be going to Mount Holyoke next weekend and perhaps the trip will do me well in lots of different ways -- a little bit of time to reconnect with the motherland is probably a good idea, along with some time with the sisterhood.

Perhaps I can figure out what I want.

Timidity is not cute in adults and regrets are not pretty.
How do I live with what I've got?

These feelings are not productive. Not rational. (I should have given up on rationality a long time ago, but it persists.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Waiting... another poem


My friend the pessimist thinks I'm optimistic
because I seem to believe in the next good thing.
But I see rueful shadows almost everywhere.
When the sun rises, I think of collisions and AK-47s.
It's my mother's fault, who praised and loved me,
sent me into the dreadful world as if
it would tell me a story I'd understand. The fact is
optimism is the enemy of happiness.
I've learned to live for the next good thing
because lifelong friends write goodbye letters,
because regret follows every timidity.
I'm glad I know that all great romances are fleshed
with failure. I'll take a day of bitterness and rain
to placate the gods, to get it over with.
My mother told me I could be a great pianist
because I had long fingers. My fingers are small.
It's my mother's fault, every undeserved sweetness.
by Stephen Dunn, from Different Hours. New York: Norton, 2002.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Literary Moment: Quotes & More Poetry

"Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too."
--Voltaire, Essay on Tolerance
"If, in the past few years, you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead."
--Gelette Burgess
"From the Manifesto of the Selfish" by Stephen Dunn

Because altruists are the least sexy
people on earth, unable
to say "I want" without embarrassment,

we need to take from them everything
they give,
then ask for more,

this is how to excite them, and because
it's exciting
to see them the least bit excited

once again we'll be doing something
for ourselves,
who have no problem taking pleasure,

always desirous and so pleased to be
pleased, we who above all
can be trusted to keep the balance.
In the poem, I see myself as one of the altruists, not one of the selfish. *sigh* I'm feeling very Stephen Dunn these days.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


The Lost Thing

The truth is
it never belonged to anybody.
It's not a music box or locket;
it doesn't bear our initials.
It has none of the tragic glamour
of a lost child, won't be found
on any front page. It's like
the river that confuses
search dogs, like the promise
on the far side of the ellipsis.
Look for it in the margins,
is the conventional wisdom.
Look for it as late afternoon light
dips below the horizon.
But it's not to be seen.
Nor does it have a heart
or give off any signal.
It's as if. . . is how some of us
keep trying to reach it.
Once, long ago, I felt sure
I was in its vicinity.
by Stephen Dunn, from Everything Else in the World. New York: Norton, 2006.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It Begins Again

It's here, the beginning of the school year. Classes at my school don't begin until September 2, but the meetings have commenced. Yesterday, one scheduled and two informal, today and tomorrow spent with the freshmen, and meetings on Friday too. On some level, it's hard to have it begin this early and on another, at least spending this time together with the kids is some preparation for the school year that awaits. I know I'll be pretty tired that first week.

I have faith that it's going to be a good year this year. I'm focusing on my circle of influence (the things I am concerned about AND have the power to change) and trying to let go of things in my circle of concern (the things I don't have the power to change). I think the more I can get those two to line up this year, the better I'll feel about it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Equity in Education

So, here's an article from the NYT (it's been a while, right?) about the struggle to rebuild schools in New Orleans, post-Katrina. Even more than rebuilding, the educators are in the middle of attempting to re-imagine what schools can be and build that. They don't want to replicate the previous, broken system, they want to try new things and see what happens. They're using a combination of the charter school models to ramp up achievement and achieve some measure of equity for the students in the city. Fascinating use of the "big names" in school reform organizations: Teach for America, KIPP, New Leaders for New Schools. They've all managed to get young idealistic types to leave what they were doing wherever else in the country to go there to essentially experiment on the kids. The level of experimentation is scary, but admirable: no one's arguing that what they had before was a good thing, and no one really knows what the right answer is in terms of doing right by those kids. Something new is what's wanted, needed. Returning to the status quo is not an option.

Friday, August 15, 2008

For Me

On the last day of my class today, we did a touchy-feely activity which was really interesting and cool. It was called "Gratitudes" and each person in our group was asked to thank people in the group, individuals, for something specific. I thanked someone for saying to me that adults were allowed to change and grow, to give my colleagues the benefit of the doubt. I thanked another person for being deliberate and thoughtful. I thanked a third person for stretching their comfort level and trying new things.

It's fascinating to be thanked for something that you think of as just integral to your person. I'm writing this down so that I remember the good things that other people told me, not to brag. I was thanked for volunteering to go first, being enthusiastic and supportive, engaging in "teacher heroics," and one person thanked me for being someone that she wanted to be like.

My group also developed this strange (to me) affinity for these noises I was making while in discussion with others. Sometimes a funny little noise made more sense than words. It's an impulse that I usually don't give in to, especially in professional situations, as it's not entirely typical professional behavior. But it's fun to do and everyone understands the unspoken expressed in those sounds. It's something that I think I gave in to this week because I was so far geographically from my professional home base.

I have a plan for implementing the professional learning community and I'm hoping that I can keep an element of the fun I re-found in myself this week too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Week

I've spent a week in western NH, attending a week-long session on coaching professional development groups for teachers. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a lot. It's a type of interactions that my internship school used and that I wanted to bring to my current school. Being back in the environment of these groups and the procedures reminds me so strongly of my internship year -- and that feels good on some level. The thing which initially sparked memories was the language surrounding the ideas -- it's unique and culty, in a good way. I'm excited about asking my colleagues to join my group.

Interesting stuff for the week:
- seeing a black bear cross the road on the way to my class on Tuesday morning
- our group leader quoted the following on Wed:
"Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof." (Rumi)

Other stuff too. I'm so mentally through that I can't conceive of spending another day doing the work. I need to sleep again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I drove to Brattleboro, VT this afternoon to be closer to the class that I'm taking this week in Keene, NH. The drive wasn't bad and I saw the following sign outside a dog grooming business:


Observation: when one is staying in a hotel, the Olympics are a better TV option than reruns.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

2008 Olympics

Well, the summer 2008 Olympics have begun. I'm spending a little break from some reading watching an event or two on TV. Currently in my time zone, NBC is showing the men's cycling road race, which is 150 miles. Apparently, the cyclists are starting in Beijing and rode past Tiananmen Square and then the Olympic stadium venues.

It's a bit odd to think that I was in Beijing a year ago and saw that stuff all in person.

Also, I can't imagine doing those events in that air pollution. Gross.

Friday, August 8, 2008

NH Part 3

Nearing the end of the NH vacation... I've gotten to spend lots of time with family and getting to do the things I love here. So many of my favorite things are food -- but I think I got to hit all of my favorite food places on this trip: the Ice House in Rye, the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, and the Golden Egg in Portsmouth. I didn't make it to the beach (yet!), but I'm not sure the weather's going to cooperate on that one, especially since I'll be in a class in Keene all week next week. I also got to go to the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's annual fair in Sunapee, NH. I really enjoy seeing all of the beautiful things that people make: art, rugs, photos, decorations, jewelry, etc. I usually buy a few pieces, whether that's art or something else. This year, I bought two pairs of earrings: one from Milkweed Cottage and another from Caitlin Burch. So beautiful!

I'm rested and ready to return shortly to points south.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Politics and Stuff

First, the politics. So sick of the election it's not even funny. When's November again? But, to alleviate some suffering, I present this from Garrison Keillor:

"And it's an amazing country where an Arizona multimillionaire can attack a Chicago South Sider as an elitist and hope to make it stick. The Chicagoan was brought up by a single mom who had big ambitions for him, and he got scholarshipped into Harvard Law and was made president of the law review, all of it on his own hook, whereas the Arizonan is the son of an admiral and was ushered into Annapolis though an indifferent student, much like the Current Occupant, both of them men who are very lucky that their fathers were born before they were. The Chicagoan, who grew up without a father, wrote a book on his own, using a computer. The Arizonan hired people to write his for him. But because the Chicagoan can say what he thinks and make sense and the Arizonan cannot do that for more than 30 seconds at a time, the old guy is hoping to portray the skinny guy as arrogant.

Good luck with that, sir."

In other news, I have spent two very beautiful days gallavanting around New England, hanging out with friends from different periods of my life: camp/MHC, grad school, high school. I actually asked the high school friend (who I haven't seen really in 12+ years, but we reconnected on Facebook!) what I was like in high school. She told me I was really quiet, which didn't really surprise me. She also seemed interested in how self-confident and outgoing I was now. It's interesting to reconnect with people from the past. I'd like to keep doing it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Kindergarten Factoid

11 school districts in the country did not offer public kindergarten during the 2007-2008 school year. All of them are in New Hampshire. However, as of the 2008-2009 school year, the town I grew up in will not be on that list. In fact, the list of school districts will be down to 8.

Enlightened state I grew up in, yes?