Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Monday, January 30, 2006

Endorsing Lying?

My soon-to-be 11 year old son brought home a new book today. He purchased it from the Scholastic Book 'catalog' that is distributed on a regular basis in thousands of classrooms across America every month or so. His new book is "A Boys Guide to Life, The Complete Instructions," (Written by kids for kids, from the "editors of Planet Dexter". This book bears the Scholastic Inc. Publishers information.

Doesn't this sound like a great book for a soon-to-be 11 year old ? It contains much data that a young gentleman in training might find useful. The chapters include topics such as "Money," "Social Skills and Graces," "Fixing and Making Things," "Safety, Hygiene and Grooming" and a few others. HOWEVER, in the chapter about "Social Skills and Graces" there is this:

"HOMEWORK - Making Excuses for Not Having Your Homework Done"

I do not find this appropriate and I am appalled that such a long-time publisher of quality books for our young people would include such a thing in one of their books. No, this does not seem to be an attempt at humor, it gives readers seven things to say as an excuse for not having their homework. Among these tips are:

"My baby brother drooled all over it. (This actually works, a teacher said so).

"Guest came for dinner last night and my mom had to clean the house really fast. She put it somewhere, but she can't remember where."

"We got last-minute tickets to see (check the newspaper for a game or show that night). I fell asleep in the car going home."

Am I off base here? Over-reacting? No, I don't plan to take this book away from my son, or tear out that page. Its his book. And, (his mother and I hope), he knows better than to try to pull any of the crap suggested in this book. But in a book that appears to contains so much good, useful information for soon-to-be young gentlemen, why do they suggest telling lies about homework ?

Thanks for reading my blog! As always, your comments are welcome!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rez Life Part IV, Not in Balance or in harmony.....That's why it blew up.

Twenty years ago today, the US Space Shuttle CHALLENGER blew up shortly after taking off. (May our brave astronauts RIP) I recall sitting quietly as I heard about this tragedy on the news. At the time, I was teaching social studies and science up in the four corners area of Arizona, at Red Mesa High School. A week or so after the accident, I created a small classroom bulletin board display about the CHALLENGER, its crew and the accident.

The next day, I was seated at my desk grading some papers on my prep period when our building custodian, I'll call him Ben, came in. Ben was not just a custodian for our building. That was his "second" job. His primary job was as a Navajo "medicine man". (The section of the Navajo Nation where I taught still included many "traditional" Dine'. Medicine men were very respected members of this community.)

There are many types of 'medicine men', each is a specialist in providing one or maybe two of the many ceremonies for those Dine' who still follow the traditional path. Those seeking the services of a medicine man seek one who is a specialist at curing what ails them or providing the traditional guidance for a new stage of their life. (such as the young girl's puberty ceremony, or, the Enemy Way ceremony for someone has been away from the traditional lands of the Dine' (Navajo), as defined by their four sacred peaks for an extended period of time) The medicine man will guide the participants through the necessary steps or conduct the ceremony seeking to restore harmony and balance to the 'affected' person by having a ceremony. Think of these ceremonies as treatment.

Anyhow, Ben spent at least five minutes looking at my bulletin board display about the space shuttle disaster. Then he turned to me and said, "You know why that happened?"
I said, "Why".
Ben looked at the display, pointed to a picture of the CHALLENGER crew, and said, " Nakai Jin'nie, not supposed to do things like that." (Nakai Jin'nie is the Navajo term for black people. I was told it literally translates as "Black Mexicans" The Navajo referred to the Spanish and Mexicans as "Nakai") Ben went on to explain that it was ok for Biligaana (white people), even the women, to do things like fly up into outer space, but not the Nakai Jin'nie. "It made everything out of balance" he explained. Ben told me that the Dine' believe when someone does something they are not supposed to do, it throws things off balance and can make things dangerous. That's why it happened. It was all a matter of balance.

I wonder if there is a ceremony for restoring balance and harmony to teaching and teachers ?

Thanks for reading my blog! As always, your comments are welcome!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Seven Things Meme.....

I got memeed (is that a new blogging word???) for the meme about the Seven Things......Sheesh, these take some thinking! I will start here, with just one of the seven.....So, here are the Seven Books or Series that I Love, in no particular order:

* The Adventures of Richard Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell

* Most of the series by W.E.B. Griffin (about the USMC in WWII, Cops and Good Guys
v. Bad Guys)

* Just about all the great novels written by Wilbur Smith. This got me thinking
about the parallels between the historical settlement and development of the
Western US with what occurred in Southern Africa. We (US) had Battle of the
Little BigHorn, Brits had Isandhwana, we had Mexican-American War, they had Boer
War, they have gold and diamonds, we had California Gold Rush and Comstock Lode...

* Mysteries. I like the mysteries set in Feudal Japan written by Laura Joh
Rowland, featuring Sano Ichiro as the Shogun's investigator, the Roman Mysteries
written by John Maddox Roberts (SPQR Series) and the Gordianus the Finder by
Steven Saylor, Medieval mysteries such as the Brother Cadfael series written by
Ellis Peters, the stories by Michael Jenks (Medieval West Country Mysteries)

* I like the Naval action stories of Douglas Reeman (the Blackwood Family, Royal
Marines), the Dewey Lambdin series featuring Alan Lewrie, the great series by
Patrick O'Brian featuring Jack Aubrey, RN and his trusty sidekick, Dr. Maturin.
And reading about naval actions of WWII (an uncle of mine was in the USN in

* Westerns, such as Louis L'Amour. Many of them are like watching an old John Wayne
movie. One of the more interestingly written western novels I've read was
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. It was about the Glanton Gang, scalp hunters
of northern Mexico who muscled in on the ferry business at the Yuma Crossing in
the early 1850's and were "massacred" by the local Quachan peoples who they
abused. (Historical note: paying for the new state of California militia to go
to the Yuma Crossing to "put down this Indian revolt" was one of the first big
debts for the state of California, about $30,000.00 dollars)

* There are SO many more, it is hard to name them all. BUT, no Harliquins or Romance
novels. Those just are not my cup of tea.

I will get to the other six "Seven Things" meme later.

Thanks for reading my blog! Your comments are welcome!

Home ?

A teaching colleague of mine, whom we'll call "J", stopped by my classroom afterschool the other day. This teacher is in his second year of teaching and I was a bit of a mentor to help him out some in his first year. He just stopped by to say hi. In the course of our conversation, I asked him how things were with his possibly someday significant other, who is living, in his words, "back home." This got me to thinking about something that I faced as a young teacher many years ago and is still being faced by many young, new to the profession teachers. Where IS home ?

My first full-time teaching position was in a public highschool in the Navajo Nation (reservation), Red Mesa High School. When I got this job, my father reminded me that I had stuff in his house, and that I needed to take it with you. "Your Mother and I have plans for your old room," he said. (It became their library). So, I loaded up my stuff and the stuff I had at my parents house and headed off to the beautiful Colorado Plateau country. My living accommodations there was a one bedroom half of an old trailer/mobile home, which was standard teacher housing for many reservation schools. Rent was dirt cheap compared to "back home" in California. It provided me with a place for my stuff.

Have you ever listened to George Carlin's great routine about having a place for your "stuff?" Its worth listening to and like much of Carlin's sctick, many of us can relate to it. Anyhow, I had a place for my stuff and a place to sleep. But it really wasn't "home". Thinking back on it, I didn't really have a "home." By definition, I wasn't homeless, but yet, I didn't have a "home." I was kinda in transition, so to speak. What exactly defines a "home?" I don't know for sure, but I know when I see it. Like right now, my boys, who are supposed to be getting ready for bed, are in our HOME. My lovely wife is getting ready to go out for the meeting/practice of her weekly local singing 'club' We have a home. A place with caring, loving people. Is it people that make a home? Can you have a 'home' by yourself?

How many young teachers leave "home" for their first teaching job and find that there is a chunk of life missing? They have no "home" and this sense of loss is tough. They have to make new friends and find new things to do in the new place they are teaching. How many schools make an effort to assist their new, from someplace different teachers get comfortable in their new locale? (from what I have seen and heard, none - let me know if you know of any). How many colleagues in the school go out of their way to make a new teacher feel welcome? Probably many. But is it "home" for the newbys ?

Thanks for reading my blog! Your comments are welcome and appreciated !