The “New” School

Lately I’ve become fascinated by changes in teaching methodology and how it has impacted learning (or the lack thereof) in our students. I always get worried when “new teaching methodologies” are pushed in education. Not everything new is better.

Actually I’m quite convinced that our new teaching methods are contributing to the “dumbing down” of America.

NPR has of late been airing stories on dyslexia and documentaries on child literacy rates and how kinds are being taught to read. But before that, I first stumbled onto an explanation of “new math” in my social media feed.

I’d been hearing rumblings for awhile about how parents are having trouble helping their kids do math homework because of the methodology involved. They can’t “show the work” like the teacher expects. After seeing it demonstrated, I can see why!

In my Facebook feed was a shared video of a teacher walking through “multiplication” common core method: Please see the below video:

The common core part happens midway through. There are literally 40 steps to multiplying two numbers.

This is absolutely fucking ridiculous.

For one thing, kids should be taught how to break this down so they can do it in their head. Or at least get close in their head so they know if their final answer makes sense.

How are they ever going to take tests when it takes them 4 minutes to do simple multiplication??

And don’t get me started on Christian home schooling:

Bunch is fucking Jeeb-Tards.

Which brings me to reading. Reading is fundamental. It is so important to establish the ability to read very early on as it influences every other facet of learning.

What’s interesting is that children are not wired to be able to read. I learned this from NPR.

Written language is a relatively new invention for humans, and it was basically developed by making squiggly shapes represent sounds we use to communicate. And then the sound shapes are put together to make “words”.

Our brains aren’t exactly wired for this, so we have to learn the sound shapes and how they work together.

Aka: phonics.

I remember this as a kid. Reading aloud to parents or teachers– sounding out new words to then decode them. Watching phonics on Sesame Street and Electric Company.

(Remember the silhouettes?? Shhhh… it. SHIT!)

That was all phonics based learning. And science has PROVEN that this is the way to teach kids to read. And strong phonics backgrounds lead to better reading, which lead to better achievement in school, etc.

Conversely, kids who don’t get strong reading basics, often start to give up in school and underperform. Which then leads to dropping out. And kids who can’t read very well are statistically MUCH more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

Reading IS fundamental.

The problem? Our school systems basically rejected phonics teaching and switched to some “whole reading” bullshit.

Instead of teaching kids to sound out words and learn them, they are teaching kids to use context clues from the sentence and guessing at the word they don’t know. For young students, there’s usually an accompanying picture.

So, say the sentence is “I want to ride my horse” and the kid doesn’t know “horse”. So the teacher tells them to guess and the kid guesses “pony” and the teacher says yes! Very good!

Horse and pony are NOT the same. They don’t contain the same letters. They don’t sound the same. And they technically don’t mean the same creature. But this is how kids are being taught. And literacy rates are dropping precipitously! And no wonder!! I mean, what. The actual. Fuck?

What the fuck is an older kid gonna do when they’re reading something that doesn’t have pictures???

I was absolutely engrossed in this NPR story. And gobsmacked. It explains SO MUCH, right?

I think this all started with “no child left behind”. And now ALL our children are being left behind. it’s pretty sad and sobering.

We need to get back to basics. And stop changing teaching methodologies unless science supports the change.

If you believe in science, that is. Don’t get me started on that subject.

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Bubble Boy

As I move through each day, it’s becoming more and more apparent that my entire existence is spent inside a bubble of sorts. Not a physical bubble, of course, but a societal bubble. A personal static warp field, if you will. (Yes I’m a nerd).

Whatever you call it, the end effect is isolation.

I really started noticing it last year. I mean really noticing. Not just noting times that I feel alone or lonesome, but being aware of a consistent daily pattern. And lately it just keeps presenting itself, even as I make concerted efforts to be social and active.

It’s almost like I’m invisible.

I have interactions with work colleagues, but it’s all necessity driven for the business. Otherwise, I’m left alone in my office. Not that I so much mind this, as I don’t like where I work or most of my coworkers. But still, sometimes it might be nice to have some more social moments at work to break up the monotony.

But there isn’t that interaction, so I spend a good nine hours of every day in a solitary manner.

Most nights I go to the gym– where nobody makes eye contact with me and I have very solitary workouts. Yes, I realize that guys at the gym are in a zone and exercising, as am I. But even fellow gays don’t return my smile or nod– they just pass by as if I’m a ghost.

And then they stop to chat with other gays.

I notice the invisibility continues as I walk through the skyways, malls, grocery stores, etc. Nobody makes eye contact or interacts. Some of this I attribute to people being glued to their phones.

But heck, I also find myself in an exclusionary bubble at choir, band, and volleyball. Sure there’s a natural isolation created by the fact that we’re busy rehearsing or playing a game– but at breaks or afterward? Unless I make a strong effort to walk up and insinuate myself into conversations, I will pass through these times sitting off to the side.

The harshest spotlight on my isolation happens at gay bars. Bars have never been my preferred milieu, but I kid you not when I say I can be at a bar that’s packed and still find myself with a good three feet of room around me. A sort of “no fly zone”. I watch other people flirt and touch and laugh easily. What’s their secret?

Now I’m fairly self aware and I’m continually analyzing myself until I’m in an echo chamber of ego-crippling self deprecation. And noticing my isolation brings up SO many questions.

Am I isolated because I secretly want to be? Ive examines this and no. I want friends. I like hanging with people and playing card games and generally being social. Maybe not all the time, but I do.

Is this just part of aging and gay life? Or some bizarre ripple effect from the loss of lives during the AIDS crisis? Again, probably not. I see guys my age in relationships and with a cadre friends.

Is it Minnesota? Maybe. It does tend to be hard here to make connections. But other people do it.

Then I start examining my potential flaws.

Am I scowling? Giving off an unapproachable vibe? Do I have “bitch face”? I don’t think so because I consciously put forth effort to smile and make eye contact and to relax my body language. But maybe I’m not schooling every micro expression?

Inevitably I spiral into “am I too fat? Too old? Too grey? Do I smell?” I mean, it must be something, right? And yes, I’m not “body ideal”. But I work out 5 days a week to improve it.

Or maybe… just maybe… it’s the fact that no matter how hard I try to put myself out there and how many activities I get involved in, I can’t hide the fact that I’m lonely. It still shines through somehow, and that is what pushes people away like some inverse patronus charm.

I don’t think I can fix that.

And that concerns me most of all.

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Hell Week

The first full week of the new year is always a bit crazy for me. It seems like everything starts at once, which is exhausting.

Our annual quality systems audit takes place over the next three Days. Which is always super fun let me tell you boy howdy!

Concert band starts tonight.

Chorus starts Tuesday night.

Chorus auditions are on Thursday night, which I participate in.

And Saturday I have TWO chorus rehearsals.

All this while fighting the New Years “rezzies” at the gym.

Oh! And added to the fun this year are the management and union negotiations which start this week. This is for the new union contract, and the current state of pissed offedness is heading us towards a strike.

Oh oh! And no vacations for me until Memorial Day.


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Woofy Wednesday

Time to start the new year off right.

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I hope everyone is off to a good start in this new year.

My New Year’s Eve was spent in my traditional fashion– doing chores and setting myself up for a clean start.

Yesterday I:

– scrubbed my kitchen sink

– cleaned my bathtub & toilet

– cleaned my stove and counters

– emptied the fridge of old food

– did dishes

– did laundry

– changed the cat’s litter

– practiced the euphonium

– cut my hair

– worked out

– made my favorite pasta dinner

– cleaned out my closets and prepped stuff for Goodwill

– watched NU win their bowl game

– crafted my 2019 Resolutions

And rang in the new year on my couch.

This year, if I had one hope, it would be to spend less time alone. So I’m gonna work on that.

And here’s wishing you all the best in 2019.

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A good Christmas

I’m home for the holidays– however briefly– and it’s been a good visit so far.

I got mom to church, her first visit to church in probably a year (what with her Parkinson’s and surgeries and such. She enjoyed seeing people and just getting out and about.

She’s actually getting around pretty well, which is a bit of a relief.

Mom and I just did stockings, although that translated to stockings plus a few small gifts on the side. Gift cards and toiletries and scratchers and some other random things. And I’ll be taking care of her latest plumbing bill.

Xmas dinner was good, too. And mom made me my favorite frosted, cutout cookies. I have plenty to take home.

I’ve also been spending time at dad’s. Netflix. Relaxing. Cards. Talking about “end of life” stuff (medical power of attorney, living wills, etc). All the good Christmas feels.

Tonight is card playing with my ex step brother and his wife. That should probably be fairly lighthearted (let’s hope).

I drive home tomorrow, weather permitting, and then try to relax before the new year hits. And January is gonna be a doozy.

So, here’s hoping you all had a merry Christmas and wishing you all the best in 2019.

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Happy Yule!

The days get longer from here! And so do some other things….

Ho. Ho. Hos.

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Moose is Back!

And better than ever!

I didn’t really realize just how far the control arms and bushings had degraded– until driving freshly repaired Moose home. He drives SO much better. No vibration. Quieter.

If only I’d known the failure mode for these components so thAt I could have diagnosed it sooner!

And let me just say- I love driving him! It’s so nice to sit up high and have a bigger vehicle. Plus– Moose just looks so damn butch!

I’m glad I got this taken care of before my drive home for Xmas.

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Moose needs surgery

I took my FJ Cruiser in for routine maintenance, and during the inspection I was informed that my front A arms and bushings need replacement. Along with a few other components.

Basically they said they didn’t want me driving the vehicle until the work could be done. (Yeah, that serious).

So it’s a darn good thing I got the extended warranty on the vehicle when I purchased it, right?

You would think so– but no.

You see, the A arms and bushings are “aftermarket” and were installed by the previous owner. As such they aren’t covered under the warranty.

This displeased me and I had a discussion with the dealership as they sold the vehicle to me as a certified used truck, and if they did their inspections as they claimed to, they would know about these aftermarket parts and so they could have explained the warranty limitations at the time of purchase.

Also, I’m a bit pissed because I’ve only put 9000 miles on the vehicle in a year and in that time these components have somehow gone from acceptable to failing through normal driving conditions.

Regardless, the work has to be done to make the vehicle safe. And it will restore it to OEM parts, which will help with future warranty concerns. But the cost is something I didn’t need before Christmas.

And working tangentially with the automotive industry, I get the whole aftermarket thing. The parts aren’t original, they don’t know who installed them, etc. But they still sold me the vehicle in this condition. It’s not like I had the work done.

The whole thing has kind of soured me a little.

I still love my FJ though. And I miss it! The loaner Corolla is sooooo small. And low!

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Who doesn’t need a little hotness to start their weekend?

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