Sunday, April 25, 2010


“My friend text me and asked ‘what does idk mean’ and then i said ‘I dont know’
then she said ‘wow no one knows.’ ”
Author unknown

Get it? My husband didn’t. Finish this article and it will all be clear!

I’m learning more about social media than I ever thought I wanted to know. Why? Because if I want to be heard I need to know the new language being spoken (written) across the country. Almost every kid knows it. It’s being written in places like Facebook, Twitter, and in their cell phone text messages.

These sites bring brief, sometimes funny, often inane and vulgar comments that look a little like English but, for me at least, are hard to understand.

For example:

· lol i am tho drunk bn hahhaha
· hahahahahha ! Let's all kick it ;)
· inbox me ur num
· Jus left happy hr!!! so bomb!!!!

And more examples:

· cre8 QL txt msgs, jst typ yr msg n d lft bx
· ILUMTLI - I love you more than life itself
· twcbn - That which cannot be named
· and my personal favorite – “lol” which means lots of laughs

In searching for meaning of this new vocabulary I found myself on a site called Lingo2Word. Here you simply insert your message into a box and it’s translated into texting lingo. Let’s give it a try. Here’s my message:

Hello America’s young people! Don’t you know you’re fracturing the English language?

Here’s what came out.

“Hi America’s yung ppl. dnt u no ur fracturing d en lang?
(Apparently there was no lingo for "America’s " and "fracturing."
Feeling confused or ignorant? Don’t understand a word your kid is writing? Don’t despair. Don’t waste time wondering what the world is coming to. “If you can’t fight it join it” as the saying goes. Just go to Lingo2Word, insert what you don’t understand and Voila! It will be back in your linguistic comfort zone.

Our young people may not speak three languages like our European counterparts, but they DO have a written foreign language. I think I just proved it. :) LOL

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. - Chinese Proverb

One teacher walks along the 2nd grade lunch line of mostly talkative, shuffling students, handing out an M&M here and there to a quiet kid. Another gives a piece of candy for good behavior. Many use stickers for completed homework or for groups with "on task" behavior. Rewards? Bribery?

In a Time magazine article published April 19, 2010, the cover story was called "Should Schools Bribe Children?". In this article we learn that Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer, Jr., using mostly private money, conducted studies in four cities. He used four combinations of metrics. In Dallas, second graders were paid money per book read. In Chicago, ninth-graders were paid for grades received. In Washington, D.C., sixth and seventh-graders were paid money every two weeks based on various actions, i.e. attendance. In New York City, fourth and seventh graders were paid for higher test scores. The results were mixed and surprising, with students from Dallas showing the most positive results and those from NYC showing the least.

Rewarding kids for what they should be doing is repugnant to many. Others take a different view, including some parents who want their children to do well in school, to stop playing video games, or even to keep from getting pregnant. Parents in the latter group who "pay for As" on a report card could actually be helping to widen the existing disparity. What is the answer?

There is much discussion about closing the achievement gap in our schools. Fingers are pointed at poor teaching, lack of parental involvement, overcrowding and insufficient school funding, showing the complexity of the issue. The problem seems greatest in economically disadvantaged areas, particularly inner cities with underserved minority students. Add in drugs and crime and one feels hopeless and helpless to solve the dilemma.

How about a novel approach to a different kind of study? What about giving kids a real life experience in running their own school like a business, with the students being shareholders, and earning either play or real money, thereby instituting or perpetuating programs and products that most school children use or need? If millions of private dollars can fund studies like that of Dr. Fryer, why couldn't similar amounts of money be used to target one needy inner city high school, perhaps even a middle school, and teach children all they need to know about being successful in business? If it worked, it could be a model for helping other schools to do the same thing, as they learn about the world of work. Besides money, donors could bring in their expertise in various areas in order to mentor and teach how businesses operate outside the school house walls. Using "kickstart" money from a wide variety of donors, Dr. Fryer, or a researcher like him, could launch a new study based on the above idea. Add in the practical abilities of business leaders who want to make a difference. Show the school staff how to implement "best business practices". Bring in members of the community and families to volunteer where needed. I think we could teach children how to be successful in the real world AND motivate them to do better in school.

For example, basic business skills could be taught. Besides mandatory keyboarding, all children could learn how to write resumes in order to apply for jobs within the schools. There would be an understanding that good attendance is part of the job market, and that jobs can be lost with poor attendance. Jobs might include working in the school store, helping out in the office, becoming classroom assistants, being a custodial assistant, becoming groundskeepers, learning about food service, what goes on in security, and many other real life experiences that are involved in running a school. Students who have an artistic bent could learn about graphic arts, and make money by designing t-shirts for the student body, logos for folders, letterheads, etc. By making contracts to do their work, they could learn how to write simplified legal contracts. For problems that arise, learning how to arbitrate them in a school court system could be taught and overseen by legal experts volunteering their time. One could even bring in drug awareness. DUI or other infractions that might impact a student's employment would give a "heads up" to a young person's ignorance about the law. A peer counseling program, already available in some schools, could be incorporated. I could go on but I am sure you are getting the point.

In my view, many of today's children lack purpose. Instead of seeing what needs to be done, then doing it, they ask, "What's in it for me?". I think the work ethic is missing because parents have a hard time coming up with meaningful tasks and showing their kids how important working as a team is. Children need to understand that parents go to work to bring in an income, and that children go to school to prepare for the future. They all work together as a team to make life more comfortable in the family.

For me growing up on a farm provided its own work ethic. There were no worries about child labor laws then. I milked cows every night from an early age. I picked strawberries, raspberries and beans from the age of five or six. This enabled me to buy some clothes and even to save a little for college. In fact, my whole first year at the University of Washington was paid for with many years of berry picking money. I may not have liked it, but it certainly gave me an understanding of what a dollar was. There was no room or need for bribery.

It is a different time now, and we must adapt. Besides teaching the 3 Rs, the humanities and learning about cultural differences, I think the idea of turning schools into learning centers that help kids get ready for the world of work is exciting. Like the old Chinese proverb above says, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." And isn't that what education is all about? We want to teach our students the skills they need for a successful lifetime.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Philanthropy is not a matter of the rich helping the non-rich; it's the community extending itself out to the community. – J. Herman Blake


My husband and I came into some money over a decade ago, and made a decision to share most of it with our family and our community. One such gift that keeps on giving is the Martin Luther King School Dream Foundation in Seattle. The Foundation gives scholarships to deserving inner city graduating high school students who once attended MLK Elementary School. This year thirteen young people will be getting $1,000 scholarships for schools ranging from major four-year universities to beauty school. It also marks the year that, since 1999, we will have given out over one-hundred awards.

In applying, students need to have attended MLK for at least two years. Many of them were my students in first, second or third grades and I remember them all well. Most were filled with enthuasiasm for school - “the world was their apple.” That belief was reinforced daily by reciting our classroom creed about realizing one’s potential.

The next main criteria is not grades, not honors, not SAT scores, but having a dream that can be articulated in an essay of 300-500 words. All of us have some kind of dream for the future, but most of us never realize them. The dust of many student dreams lies on schoolroom and hallway floors, trampled by the low expectations of teachers, families and peers who may have forgotten the importance of their own dreams.

Since 1999 I have been tracking down little kids, now turned big kids, to see what they planned to do after high school. There were some real surprises. I found one girl in a half-way house, after spending many months in a juvenile facility. Remembering her potential as a nine-year old, I was shocked at where she was but determined to make a difference. Long story short, she applied for a scholarship, and went to technical school for a certificate in dental assisting.

Another success story involves an award winner from 2000 who will be returning as our inspirational speaker for this year’s banquet honoring 2010 award winners. He is now a best selling author of books for young people and a sought-after speaker.

But, you say, that is all very well and good. I have no money to start a foundation. All I can give is a few dollars to a local charity Wonderful! You are doing what you can. But, besides treasure, don’t forget you can give time and talent.


I just learned about an organization called 826 SEATTLE. Their website says this: “826 SEATTLE is a nonprofit writing center that helps students ages 6 to 18, develop their creative and expository writing skills. We are dedicated to providing students with access to writing workshops, publishing projects, and one-on-one help with homework and English language learning, all free of charge.” There are numerous ways to volunteer there for people with limited to high skill levels. Check out the website.

As a teacher I loved it when parents, members of the community, high school students and other volunteers signed up to help in my room. I am talking about meaningful help – not copying or correcting student work. Not only would you enrich your own life by spending an hour or two a week in your local elementary school, you could be making a huge difference in helping to realize the dreams of your young charges.

Some schools have lunch buddy programs where you can have lunch with a student on a regular basis, adding to his or her day, and making a difference.

Mentoring a student over time takes a bigger commitment, but also offers a bigger pay back in personal satisfaction. There is one program that is very popular in Seattle called Friends of the Children. In this case paid mentors commit to work with children from kindergarten through high school. They usually work with them on school assignments, going shopping, making home visits, attending events, etc. and spend several hours a week with their young friends. Taking a page from their book you could commit to changing one child’s life by spending time listening, helping, or just being there for that child over an extended period of time.


Talent takes many forms. Recently at Sacajawea Elementary School two older retired men bearing guitars came into the room where I was subbing during the last hour of the day. Their appearance was not on the lesson plan, but judging by the childrens’ cheering, they were welcome guests. They set themselves up in a corner of the room, called the children to a rug area, and began entertaining them with silly songs and old favorites. The good will and joy their visit generated will long be remembered.

A trombonist I know from the Seattle Symphony, often participates in local career days. Many children have never seen a trombone up close, or heard its incredible range. The outcome of this talented man’s wonderful gift to young children must surely have a ripple effect in their lives. A famous future trombonist could be one result.

Dee Dee Rainbow, a Seattle artist and teacher, donated many hours to hundreds of children by giving them art experiences, particularly in clay. It helped that she lived her name. She dressed in wildly exciting rainbow colors. Glittering from head to toe in brilliant Technicolor, she even had rainbow colored eyelashes.


Why should so much space be given to the concept of volunteering, particularly with school children? Answer: There is a point at which young people cross the line from hope to hopelessness and become statistics – drop outs, pregnancy, incarceration, drug abuse. It saddens my heart to know that between the time we see them full of hope in the early grades to the growing despair that leads to becoming a statistic, some adult along the line, giving time, talent or treasure might have made a real difference.

Although many of us think we are too busy, too tired, or too unskilled to be a “life saver” EVERYONE OF HAS THAT ABILITY. I will go one step further. I believe everyone of us has that RESPONSIBILITY. If you are reading this and feel something is missing in your life, perhaps you can find an answer for "What is in it for you?" in order to fill the empty spot. A child somewhere is waiting. Use your time, talent or treasure to find that child, and to make a difference in his or her life. You will not regret it.



Parents can teach the concept of giving in many ways. One of the easiest might be the giving away of toys in good shape, but no longer used, to those less fortunate. A really cleverly written book by David Shannon called Too Many Toys brings home the point of the almost obscene amount of “things” many of today's children have. Spencer, the hero of the story, simply has too many toys. Mother finally has had enough and convinces Spencer that many of the toys have to go. After haggling, wrestling and arguing over every toy in the house, they finally came to an agreement on what should be given away and they are placed in a large box. The ending is a surprise. Mother returns to get the box, only to find the toys dumped out, with Spencer using the box as an airplane. This is the “best toy ever” he exclaims. And isn’t that the truth?! My only criticism of the story is that the author could have made the point that the toys were going to charity or those less fortunate, but otherwise, it’s an absolutely great story!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


“When I look back on all my worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened” - Winston Churchill

For as long as I can remember worry has come easily to me. Growing up on the farm I worried about the oil stove blowing up and the house burning down. Although my parents moved from that house over fifty years ago, it is still standing proudly in the middle of the yard. In grade school I worried that I would miss the bus and, because we lived so far away, and my mother didn’t drive, I would be stuck at school all night. To my memory I rode that bus for 45 minutes nearly every day for twelve years. I never slept at the school! In high school I worried that my father wouldn’t let me go to the senior prom with a senior boy I liked (I was a freshman). That worry was realized, but only later did I understand how lucky I was. Thank you, Dad! All during those years if I heard my parents arguing I worried that they might separate, which seemed like the end of the world. They stayed married for nearly seventy years. In college I worried about passing tests, having boyfriends, getting back to the dorm by 2:00 a.m. and too many other worries to mention. I graduated cum laude and on time. As a wife I worried about all the things my parents worried about. Sadly some of those worries bore fruit and I became a single mom. That brought up a host of new worries -- financial, teenage angst, decisions, and indecisions to name a few. Now I worry about my grown children, step children and their children and a whole new level of worry has arrived. I remember, as a parent, hearing the saying “little children, little problems, big children, big problems”. Actually, that has proved to be true for me. With all of my new worries, I find myself remembering, with some nostalgia, those simpler times as a young single mother. How could all of this worry been avoided? Could my parents have helped guide me? I don’t think so. They were just too busy living life, shouldering their own real concerns to give any of mine a second thought. It wouldn’t even have occurred to them.

So how does all this relate to those of us who are teachers and parents? My sister recently sent me the piece below by Erma Bombeck which touched my heart. In today’s world where we are bombarded by daily predictions of doom and gloom our worries seem real. Children are not immune. Some of them even act on their worries by engaging in self destructive and anti-social behavior at unprecedented levels.

Perhaps we need to take some time to put ourselves in their places and think about how they feel. It may be “little children, little problems” but it’s “big problems” to them. As you read Erma’s piece, although you might find yourself smiling, please believe that your children actually can feel overwhelmed by their worries. Maybe we should all resolve to become better questioners and listeners. Let’s not brush aside their feelings, but tell them we understand….that it must seem scary sometimes….that we love them and that we will be there for them. It is especially important that we validate the worries children have when their parents are going through the trauma of separation and divorce. I can remember feeling hopeless, helpless and sick to my stomach when I worried about my mother and dad staying together. It felt like the end of the world. Luckily, as I said, my world righted itself and I never had to face what a divorce might have meant. Unfortunately that will not be true for over 50% of today’s children. All we can do is to make the world “right” for a six hour school day. In addition to rigorous, creative and exciting lessons, we can include class meetings, journal writing, and stories about worries we all share.

Check out Wemberly Worried in the Book Nook at the end of this article. It’s a great and positive way to kick off a discussion about this destructive tendency many of us have.

Nothing to Worry About - Confessions of a Child Entering School for the First Time - who according to adults "has nothing to worry about. By Erma Bombeck

"My name is Donald and I don't know anything. I have new underwear, a new sweater, a loose tooth and I didn't sleep last night. I am worried. What if the school bus jerks after I get on and I lose my balance and my pants rip and everyone laughs? What if I have to go to the bathroom before we get to school? What if a bell rings and everyone goes into a door and a man yells, "Where do you belong?" and I don't know? What if my shoestring comes untied and someone says, "Your shoestring is untied. We'll all watch while you tie it"? What if the trays in the cafeteria are too tall for me to reach? What if the thermos lid on my soup is on too tight and when I try to open it, it breaks? What if my loose tooth wants to come out when we're supposed to have our heads down and be quiet? What if the teacher tells the class to go to the bathroom and I can't go? What if I get hot and want to take my sweater off and someone steals it? What if I splash water on my name tag and my name disappears and no one will know who I am? What if they send us out to play and all the swings are taken? What do I do? What if the wind blows all the important papers out of my hands that I'm supposed to take home? What if they mispronounce my last name and everyone laughs? What if my teacher doesn't make her D's like Mom taught me? What if I spend the whole day without a friend?What if the teacher gives a seat to everyone and I'm left over? What if the windows in the bus steam over and I won't be able to tell when I get to my stop? I'm just a little kid but maybe I'm smarter than I think I am. At least I know better than to tell a five-year-old with a loose tooth who has never been out of the yard by himself before that he has "nothing to worry about."



Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes is a story about an adorable little mouse who worries about everything. Morning, noon and night she worries. She worries about the tree in the front yard, the crack in the wall, and the noise the radiators make. She particularly worries about going to school and what would happen there. To Wemberly the worries are real. How she resolves this problem makes for an engaging story, and can be a great way to kick off a classroom discussion on this very important topic.