Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Mom is 95 and reads the paper every day. She is equally smart, and able to point out things I may have missed because I work full-time and don't read the paper every day, except to skim. She does the crossword puzzle and reads the bridge column as well. She is another reader passionately interested in current events, music, medicine, and now, technology.
I subscribe to a paper and scan it in the morning if I have time. Sometimes the papers pile up for a week before I go through them and pull interesting articles. I have given up saving recipes (no time to cook) and reading in-depth analyses of situations. I save the articles, but get more information from public radio and TV news coverage. Still, the paper covers topics such as psychology, medicine, business, food, health, ecology and information about local places and events that would never enter my consciousness if I did not read the paper. I am a sudoku and crossword-puzzle addict as well.
I once talked to a man at the railroad station. I had always been unsure of which track the train would be on, and you have to cross the first set of tracks in our station to get to the others. He replied that the tracks had been built by a British engineer, so they are the opposite of our highway system. Tracks going into the city are on the left, coming out are on the right. I asked him how he had learned this and he replied, "I read the paper."
My children do not subscribe to newspapers. They are gifted individuals who have access to the Internet and are avid readers and learners. However, are they being exposed to the wide variety of information contained in a single newspaper? How is this going to change society? They are instantly in touch with each other and the world. They are producers of content as well as readers. But what will their world be like without papers? Without books? Or are these media just disintegrating and reorganizing into a metamorphosis that will be better able to inform the public? What will the public look like? Stay tuned for further adventures.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tonto was a bit high-strung. After we adopted him, he never outgrew his tendency to "piddle" in a submissive reflex at the least convenient moment. Once, my daughter and I laughed so hard we wet our pants trying to shave off his heavy fur on an especially hot summer. We tried taking him to a training school for pet groomers. They said to have him there by 8 AM. We were kinda concerned when we hadn't heard anything by late afternoon. Finally, my mom got the call. She had to take Kim over to the school, where she had to hold him so they could finish the job. They advised her, "He's not really a good training school dog." We all had a good laugh at what must have happened.
The kids and I moved five times in five years while I was getting divorced from their dad. When we were finally settled in our own house with a fenced-in yard, we all began to enjoy life more. I was sitting at the computer in the living room one night when I smelled skunk.
I thought, "Hm. I'd better get Tonto in. There's a skunk in the neighborhood."
I opened the back door and in came Tonto, reeking of fresh skunk spray. If you've never experienced this smell, let me just say it is more of a taste. Pretty soon, the whole house smelled of fresh skunk spray. Two of my kids were living at home at that time, and asked if they could go to their grandma's house two blocks away because of the smell. I said, "Sure." I stayed with the dog and would have been angry if he hadn't whimpered in pain all night long. I called a friend, who told me to treat the dog with tomato juice. (It's hydrogen peroxide, water and a touch of mild detergent.) I told my daughter to run to the store on the way home and pick some up. She brought home three large cans of tomato paste. We doused the dog with it all over his body. The only effect it had was to turn the dog pink. Later that day, I found out the correct treatment from the vet. Unfortunately, we ran out before we could wash the tail, so Tonto had a pink tail for a day. The house smelled like skunk for a week!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I am getting over a nasty illness, which would have kept me in bed for a week if it were not for antibiotics. My neighbor walked with me last night, since her surgery for lung cancer has healed somewhat and she has more stamina. My cousin received surgery for pancreatic cancer in the winter, and is doing better. Even a few years ago, she would have been dead by now. I am hoping the cancer has been removed and stays away for a long time. In another medical advance, my younger granddaughter was injured on a playground last week and they "glued" her lip back together.
My mother is ninety-five and still lives at home. The three of us children all do our part to take care of her. My father died in 1995 at the age of 80, and mom's family almost all lived until their late 90s, except for a brother with cancer. Unfortunately, there is also a history of senility on her side, and she has escaped its most severe form. As I helped her search for an earring this morning after church, I discovered a box under her bed, pulled it out, and discovered my dad's ashes. It reminded me of the time my brother was drying marijuana under a bed in the 70s and a neighbor's young girl found it. "Mrs. Wallin, what's that under the bed?" "Uh,uh, I'm drying some herbs." I watered some plants, filled the bird feeder, put some shredded paper on the weeds in the garden, and headed home.
I checked Facebook and my email, heated up leftover pizza for lunch and ate on my deck. I have a very large milkweed plant, which attracts monarch butterflies all summer, and it reminds me of the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors," which I saw when my daughter was in college and sang one of the parts. Last night, a group of church members that sang at an Advent Concert last year recorded a group of songs in a recording studio. The equipment that is available now is astounding. We had four microphones for the singers and two more for the group in general. Different cords were attached, depending on the quality of the voices and the quality of the sound the producer wanted. His main board was composed of hundreds of ports, most of which were not in use. If we did a section badly, he could have us just repeat that section and later splice it in. The room we sang in was soundproof, which gave an eerie isolation to each of our sounds. The pianist had a grand piano and is an incredibly talented woman who has adopted four children.
I attend a mainline church, the First United Methodist Church, because it allows a great deal of diversity while staying true to its traditions. We have adult Sunday School, and our class is reading Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. There is a little awe and inspiration in what this man has done. I have a dream to take technology to Monterrico, Guatemala, but I am not sure if I have the dedication to do what Greg did. Monterico has public schools made of concrete with no books and very little paper and pencils. The teachers are incredibly dedicated people who teach by lecture and any other way they can. There is no special education, that I know of, although my Spanish is what I have learned from teaching Hispanic kids in a special education smaller classroom.
In the town of Monterrico, there is also a dedicated staff who is trying to protect sea turtle eggs. When they are laid in the sand, the workers move the eggs to a protected area. When they hatch out, they are returned to the sea. I would love to see these people online, letting the whole world know what they are doing. Wouldn't it be great to have the local children updating web pages on the school and the nature center? Not far from town is a nature preserve where I got to see the winter nesting habitat of the white herons. It inspired a poem called "Quietude." You can see a picture of Monterrico here.
The state of special education in Illinois is mixed. Because of the budget crisis in the state, brought on by a collapse of financial markets in 2007, we are not even getting paper or pencils ourselves this year. The state of Illinois is paying bills so late that many businesses are not accepting credit any more. Some businesses are looking at failure because the government is six months or more behind in its bill paying. Teachers in general are doing massive amounts of paperwork that were never required before, but special education is particularly hard hit. Class sizes are mushrooming, more services are being provided, and everything must be documented. Staff members skip breaks and take short lunches because we have children going in an out at all times for special classes such as art, PE, music, and library. For every piece of assistive technology that we use, we have to track its use for the administrators. Since I am a huge advocate of AT, I write a few hours a week just for that purpose.
The economic crises has created a great deal of conflict in the country at all levels. Everyone is blaming everyone else, while millions of people are out of work or underemployed. President Obama has taken steps to shore up the nations laborers, after Bush bailed out the huge banks at the end of his term. The gap between rich and poor is growing. I am grateful my children were able to get college educations, even though it meant we all took on large loans. I hope to pay off my school loans before I retire in two years. At this age, my parents had paid off their house.
Colleges are becoming prohibitively expensive. I would like to pay for my granddaughters' educations, but fear there won't be any way for them to go, since even loans have dried up now. Our family is composed of many moderately or highly gifted people, so I feel it is really important to get the children educated and serving society. The state of gifted education is not good, with no money being appropriated in the national budget.
The arts are alive and well in Chicago. Apparently, we place theater, art, music and dance in a relatively high position. Poetry is definitely experiencing a renaissance here. Although we lost many theater groups, opera companies and dancers, I think we kept the majority of these types of groups performing. It is not a good time to look to the arts for employment, however, so my daughter has given up on singing for now.
I am always amazed, however at the extremes of wealth and poverty when I go into the city. The central area has huge skyscrapers with thousands of rooms, while the streets have at least one homeless person per block, begging for money. When I was a young girl, we could see homeless people on West Madison, which was our "Skid Row." That area has been taken over by upper middle class urban professionals and rebuilt into expensive, vertical condos. I first became aware of the poverty in Chicago when my brother, Paul, worked for Catholic Charities, building low-income housing for seniors in nineteen neighborhoods. That's nineteen neighborhoods that are at or below poverty level! (For a further treatment of this topic check out this Blog.) It is so inconceivable to me that people freeze in the winter while architectural masterpieces lay vacant. Many churches have stepped in with a program called PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), which provides a meal and a bed to a homeless person.
So many things to talk about, and not the least of which is one of my favorite topics: technology. I sewed all day yesterday on a machine that performs exact stitches based on which buttons I push. I carry my iPod for the calendar, Internet access, podcasts, pictures it holds. My phone can dial family members at the push of two buttons, and I received a text from a friend this morning that her business phone has changed. I have Skype on all of my computers, although I find Apple was much easier to use - I still haven't gotten my PC camera to work! I can't imagine what computers will look like even 50 years from now, or how companies will ask permission to access the chip in our heads for advertising. My mom saw the development of electricity, cars, planes, plumbing, tractors and combines, telephone, and Internet. Family gatherings have gone from large dinners, cooked by women (and cleaned up by them) every week, to holiday gatherings with as many people as can make it, cooked by whoever is around. (Funny, the women still do most of the cleanup.)
To finish on a positive note, it is hard to slog through everyday living sometimes. We forget that no matter what mankind goes through, we still manage to survive as a species. Whether that will be true for my children and grandchildren is still a mystery, and adventures in space, in nanospace, in the oceans and at the poles will provide a limitless supply of change and anxiety for the next generation. As a teacher, I would like to think that we can teach each generation what it needs to survive, but I think that must come from the spirit of the country. We can teach skills and facts. We can discuss ethics and social relationships, but ultimately it is up to our families to overcome the greedy, the cruel, and the uncaring attitudes that are plastered in the media every day. Are we going to adhere to the ideals that all people are created equal, all people have a right to achieve, and all people have a right to good health, a place to live, food to eat?
What are you doing on 10-10-10?
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
The students are doing very well, and I look forward to having 5 fifth-graders this year. Some of them were in my class in kindergarten! It is a stretch to teach third graders who want to know when we are having snack (we don't) and fifth graders who can write paragraphs! I hope I can challenge all of them without making them frustrated. I have a big class this year, which allows me to create a bit of community. The older kids have to adjust to helping the younger ones, and the younger ones have to adjust to higher expectations. Here's to a great year!!!!!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder
Summer 2010 Gurnee
I just love working with your children and teaching them how to control Lego robots. They get so excited and come in with a happy attitude. Our format does not allow them to do long term projects, because each day we have to share materials among three classes.
The students are wonderful, though. They listened courteously when I spent a short time explaining some simple programs up front. They take videos and pictures of their robots, some of which I hope to have posted on the Center for Gifted web site. If you can’t find them there, please go to my Lego page and I will post them there.
Don’t forget to go to nxtprograms.com to download free programs off the Web. The link is on my web page, as well.
If you would like to purchase Lego Logo Equipment, you may contact Steffanie Forbes, LEGO Education representative for the Midwest. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are teams in First Lego League (http://usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/fll/default.aspx?id=970) for students to join. There is an annual competition and last year it was in Arlington Heights!
There is also a Brickworld competition in June for any team that wants to join – even a family. Here’s the link: http://www.brickworld.us/bw2010/.
My library of Lego Mindstorms books keeps growing. This summer I added
The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book, by Laurens Valk.
Previously, I have suggested
The Unofficial Lego Mindstorms NXT Inventor’s Guide, by David J. Perdue
The Lego Mindstorms NXT Idea Book, by Martin Boogaarts, et. al.
Thanks for sharing your child with me this summer. It has been a wonderful experience.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Now I must go analyze the information I have on the kids and group them into teams. Please let me know if there are any problems. I love to hear from parents.
The most touching moment came at the end of the day. For those of you who are not in the gifted community, you may not realize that there are some topics we can't talk about. One of these topics is our abilities. Talking about our achievements is usually seen as bragging, even when it is not. So I was pleased when one of the students told me he had skipped a grade. I replied, "Me, too." His face lit up and it turned out we had skipped the same grade. As we walked out of the classroom, the quiet young man next to me said, "I skipped two." It's so good to be able to talk about this!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
in slow motion
herald the beginning of summer.
suburban pools and urban slums,
they have no opinion.
Swimming lessons, baseball games,
court convictions and funerals
as the miracles float by,
a caress from above.
(c)Linda Wallin 1997
I wrote that poem the year my cousin's son died at the age of ten. He was the same age as my second son and died around the time of Colin's birthday. He was born with his heart in backwards, and it gave him wisdom beyond his years. I was taking my daughter to swimming lessons and watching her sing the National Anthem at a White Sox game, which was in a very poor neighborhood at that time. My children's uncle was struggling with legal issues. I was struck by the gentle softness of cottonwood seeds constantly falling all around me, unnoticed by most people.
My students have discovered that it is not so hard to write a poem. My fifth grader wrote a beautiful poem about a walk we took outside the school. My third graders are searching their hearts for feelings and senses to put into their poems. My fourth graders are giving me their best effort. Every year I am amazed at what my students have to say that is unique to them. The best part - no grammar!
Today I was blessed with a trip to the Loop. My daughter Kim and I visited the Chicago Cultural Center, had lunch with poets, and then I went to a workshop at the Chicago Public Library by Poets and Patrons, followed by a Poetry Wheel led by Tom Ruby. My cup is full. I hope you all learn the joy of poetry if you don't know it already. It can heal your hurts, give you hope, and force you to explore parts of yourself you didn't know you had.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
I was so nervous about standing up in front of other people and talking! What if something didn't work? That has happened often enough at NLU. What if I said something stupid or went completely blank. I don't use notes for my presentation, so if I panic, I forget everything. Luckily, I had support from others, so I was able to feel good about what I did. I was pleasantly surprised by my Superintendent Bill Delp in the room, although it raised the stress for me: will he approve? How many other teachers can brag that their superintendent goes to technology conferences?!
Once again, Illinois Computing Educators have amazed me with all that's going on in the technological world. Back to Lucy Gray. Be sure to check out her blog: High Techspectations.
I must also mention an excellent wiki made by Tracy Murdoch.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
How do you keep up with technology? If you're lucky, you have a job that requires you to explore new tools every day. More likely than not, you have to go out of your way to learn new skills. I have been stymied this week by a coworker that implied I shouldn't teach writing with technology MY way because it might conflict with the writing curriculum that we will be using next year. She has been a steady and helpful support for a couple of years now, and a great coworker. I'm sure she sees flaws in my writing instruction that would be corrected with the new curriculum. Yet the pace of technology is relentless. The pace of progress is relentless! New developments in every field are proposed and refuted by research every day. What is one to believe? The reading curriculum that goes with the writing curriculum has been excellent, so I will go with what works. I still wonder if increasing the number of reading interventions at the cost of thematic, multi-disiplinary projects is going to help the overall thinking of the child. "Teach to their strengths" seems to have become 'Test to overcome their weaknesses" and the whole child is forgotten in a pile of test scores and graphs. On the other hand, my instruction begins with assessment. How can you know what to teach unless you know where the student functions. Do you really want to waste valuable school time teaching something they already know or presenting material that is years above the students' abilities?
So where's the balance? I can truthfully say that many of the problems presented by using technology in education are not being solved: how to get teachers to use new methods, how to give students access to technology (especially if they live in poverty), how much to filter, how much time to spend on computers using what software, how to insure equity for all users, how to shift district priorities to insure technology use is encouraged. For me, the balance is in using what you can. Instead of writing your report on Siam, type it in to Kidspiration or a word processor, recite it into Voicethread (filter issues notwithstanding), make a presentation of it. Let the kids play with it and discover what they can make. (That one would not pass the "linked to curriculum" rule in my district.) We don't have time to wait for what is coming next year. Learn what you can, when you can, and pass it on!
In the time it took for me to write this, an email came with information about another type of reading instruction: Renee Seward's Multimedia Program Linking Sounds and Letters: Reading By Design