Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You Be The Teacher

Consider a not-so-uncommon scenario from a traditional American school setting.

It is the last hour of the day, and every student in the school has a study hall period.  You, the teacher, are supposed to ensure that your students are completing homework, studying, working on projects, or at the very least reading.  One young man in the class has picked up a classroom laptop and says he is working on a project for science.  You suspect otherwise.  This boy is reknowned in the teacher's lounge: he hates school, doesn't do well in any subject, disrupts classes, sasses at teachers, and is probably going to drop out in the next year or so.  You're quite sure if you wandered by and took a look at his laptop, you'd find he's playing solitaire -- or something else less tame and intellectually taxing.  But he's sitting quietly with his laptop in the back of the classroom, and the room is calm.

What do you do?  Well, what you choose to do depends on your goals as a teacher.

If your goal is to have an easy life, to get through your day with as little trouble as possible, you will ignore the boy as long as he is not disrupting anything.  If he doesn't get his homework done, he'll bear the consequences of that himself.

If your goal is to be loved by your students, you may join him in his game.  Actually, you probably never require your class to study at all anyway.  You probably let all your students talk and play games during their study hall time (which is unfortunate for the students who really need that quiet time to get their work done).

If your goal is to maintain control and be obeyed, you will most definitely go check out that boy's computer screen and tell him to get to work.  You will hover around him off and on for the rest of the period, initiating a game between the two of you where he tries to find a way to do what he wants to do without you noticing and you try to catch him in the act -- all of which amuses the other students tremendously and distracts them from their studies (more "disobedience" and "disrespect" to deal with).  [Confession:  this was me twenty years ago.  My greatest fear was losing the respect and control of my students.  I still have nightmares of teaching a class where nobody is listening to me . . . ]

If your goal is to make a difference in your student's life, you may sit by the boy and engage him in gentle, loving conversation: what homework does he have?  Why not do that?  Why do you dislike science so much? What do you want to do with your future?  What do you like and do well?  What are things like at home?  You may eventually get him to get out his science book and get started on his assignment, talking him through it to help him, because school is a challenge for him.  You may commit yourself to do this for the boy everyday, because you want so much for him to succeed in school.  Meanwhile, the other 29 kids in your study hall will be doing who-knows-what while you focus one-on-one with this young man . . . and the next year, when he doesn't have someone spoon-feeding him, your project child will end up dropping out anyway.

Teachers are given an almost impossible task -- take these 25 kids (over a hundred in the upper grades) with a wide range of abilities, learning styles, backgrounds, experiences, degrees of parental support, and interest in your subject area . . . and ensure at the end of the year that they ALL have mastered the material expected to be mastered at that grade level.  And at the same time, build their characters and self-esteem.  And make sure they love learning.  And do it all without the appropriate resources necessary to succeed at that task. 

It's no wonder there are so few excellent teachers in our schools.

Monday, March 25, 2013

When the Church Gets Taken Advantage Of

The youngest and I are reading through the book of Acts for our Bible lessons these days.  For those not familiar with scripture, Acts is the book that describes the birth of the church.  It begins with Jesus' ascension and ends with Paul in Rome, under arrest for preaching the gospel.  It's a great study to understand what the church was meant to be and to evaluate how far we've wandered from that.

One of the things that stood out to me: from the very beginning, it is emphasized, many times, that the people who followed Christ "had everything in common".  When someone in the community had a material need, others in the community sold property and brought the money in to the apostles to be distributed to those who needed it. 

I've heard it accused that the early church was a communist institution.  But not so.  Everyone still owned their own property.  Everyone still had a choice about whether or not they gave it up for someone else.  But the people were so full of love for each other, and so committed to and trusting in God and his provision, that they freely gave the material things up. 

Now, here's my question as I read this.  Scripture says that the early believers "enjoyed the favor of all the people" (it was only later when the religious authorities got on their case that everyone turned against them).  So, apparently, the general public was impressed with the character of these early believers.  They probably saw the way they cared for their own and realized that this is exactly what love and charity is supposed to look like, how it is to be practiced.  Presumably, this is partly why the church's numbers increased so dramatically in those early days -- the lives of the "preachers" validated the truth of their "sermons".

But, surely the early church attracted the posers as well.  Surely there were lazy, unscrupulous folks back then, too -- people who would have no qualms about faking a faith in a risen Messiah if that meant rich people would sell their beach house to buy them food.  People who were really good (we all know people like this) at spinning a sob story to make themselves always seem the innocent victim so that they don't have to take responsibility for themselves and their foolish actions or lazy ways.

Surely, someone tried to take advantage of the early church's generosity.  How did they handle that?

There's no record of such an event, but human nature hasn't changed that much over the centuries.  What did they do when someone made a "public profession of faith" and they questioned its veracity?  Did they confront them?  Reject them? Were they always confident in their suspicions, or did they worry about turning someone away that was for real?  Did they welcome them into the group getting distributions of bread and just hope they would eventually come around and legitimately believe? 

It's an important question, because the church today DOES get taken advantage of (as do the state and all non-religious charities as well).  How do we protect against that, and how strenuously do we make that effort?  I think even many political discussions these days are really centered on this issue.

The state's charity efforts are one thing . . . but as far as the church goes, or at least as far as individual believers go, I think we have to decide that if we err, we will err on the side of love and generosity.  We give.  We try to give wisely, but we continue to give.  That is our part.  We are not responsible for how it is received.

Easier said than done, I know.  But that's the state of the heart that we are aiming for, at least.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ultimate Things

A couple days ago, an FB friend had a public purging of all his anger toward a cousin who had just passed away – a cousin who had molested him as a child.  In the string of comments that followed, many other friends remarked that they’d had similar experiences, which saddened me even if it didn’t surprise me terribly.  What did surprise me is how many of those victims said this was the first time they had “said this out loud.”

There is such evil in this world.  As I grow older, I become more and more aware of how much evil there is in this world.  Such pain.  Such brokenness.  I used to look at certain people and believe they were “normal”, that they had good lives with no serious problems (I have no doubt people looked at me and thought that).  I don’t believe that anymore.  Nobody is “normal”.  We’re ALL messed up.  We’re ALL victims of tremendous wrongs done to us and wrongs we’ve done to others and ourselves.  (If you don’t think you are, I hate to say this, but just wait . . . )
When you believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, as I do, this begs the question of how God allows such pain.  It's the ultimate question – the one every person has to deal with at some point.  I can’t answer it for you, but I can tell you how I’ve answered it for myself.  The very fact that every person on earth goes through significant pain and betrayal, I think, means that the pain and betrayal have an important purpose in our lives.  The fact that God allows our happiness here on earth to be placed in such serious jeopardy – and allows that for every person – says to me that our happiness on earth is not his highest priority.  Some people use that very fact as a reason to reject God, because they can conceive of nothing more important than happiness; I have become convinced that God has something much better in mind for us than the weak image of “happiness” that we idealize and idolize.  Happiness is a good thing; but he has in mind an Ultimate Thing -- something we can't even conceive of until we've experienced it.
My heart just ached for these people.  I mean, I’ve been wronged and mistreated  (very badly so, in fact), but I still can’t imagine dealing with being molested as a child.  But then, I bet some of them would shudder at what I’ve been through.  What’s the old story? . . . that if everyone’s problems were piled up in the center of town and we were required to pick from the pile, we would always choose our own to have back.   I think that’s very true.
And I think that shows, as I heard a preacher say once, that God has us each on our own personal obstacle course for life.  He knows what we each need . . . he knows where we each need to be pushed, challenged, prodded . . . he knows what will break us and what will build us . . . he gives us each exactly what we need to reach that Ultimate Thing.
Our part is to let that pain drive us toward the only One who can give us the Ultimate Thing, and not away from Him.  How to do that?  All I can say is this:  a primary ingredient is to come out of hiding.  Honesty.  Openness.  Truth.  Especially with God.  Scream – rant – rage -- shake your fists at him.  Over and over if you need to.  He’s a big boy; he can take it.  And then open your heart to listen.
A defining characteristic of a child of God:  he walks in the light.  There’s a reason Satan is called the Prince of Darkness.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Birth Pangs

I’ve told this story before (most recently, the day after the election), but it's been weighing on my heart and it bears repeating.

I heard a speaker once who had been a missionary in an Eastern bloc country during the cold war.  He returned to the country after the communists were out of power.  Christians were now able to worship freely, and churches were growing.  But an old friend came to him in private and asked him earnestly, “Why did God take away the blessing of persecution?”  Although their numbers were growing, each believer’s relationship with God was more shallow.  Persecution had made them strong, and tolerance was now serving to weaken them.
I know there are hundreds of Christians in America who have been praying for revival in our nation for years – for decades.  What they’re praying for is something like the Great Awakening, a wave of conviction and redemption that sweeps across a wide area, bringing people to God and changing lives and communities as a result.  And Lord knows, it would be awesome to witness a revival like that. 
But I’m reminded lately of the Jews of the first century who were praying – as many generations had before them – for God to send his Messiah.  They were expecting a warrior, a political leader who would throw off the shackles of the Roman Empire and usher in a new mighty Jewish kingdom.  They couldn’t conceive of a suffering Messiah, of the completely different kind of kingdom he was coming to bring, even though their prophets had said plenty that could have pointed them to that fact. 
They were expecting a political conquest, and instead they got a spiritual infection (a "good infection", as C.S. Lewis calls it).  They expected to be kings of the world; instead, they became refined in the fire.
So many friends of mine are so discouraged at the direction our country is taking.  Traditional Christianity is taking a beating.  It's no longer comfortable or easy to hold or express the beliefs we hold.  It puts us out of the mainstream, swimming against the current.  It is costly -- in money (consider Hobby Lobby), in friendships, in reputation.  And I don't see it getting any easier . . . in fact, I foresee it getting much, much more difficult . . . and I'm pondering this concept of the blessing of persecution . . .
And I'm wondering, friends, if these might be the birth pangs of the revival we’ve been praying for all these years.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'd Like To Thank . . .

 . . . a few people for little things they did that make a big difference in my life.

Cindy: for homeschooling in front of me and showing me how very normal it can be – even better than “normal”.
Mike, my former boss: for standing behind me when the superintendent’s son plagiarized a paper in my class and I gave him an F.  My first step in training to do the right hard things.
Eileen: for voicing out loud in front of me her pep talks to herself on crappy days – “We must not grow weary of doing good . . . “  I will forever hear that precious verse in a Puerto Rican accent.
Randy: for saying, “I know you keep telling me you’re not a writer – and, okay, I believe you – but I would love to see you take a shot at writing one of these skits.”  There’s about fifty homeschool kids in Sioux City who’ve performed in the eight plays I’ve written for them . . . they’d like to thank you, too.
Tracy:  for being a faithful prayer warrior.  “Was there anything going on at 2:30am last night?  I got the overwhelming urge to pray for your family, so I got up and prayed.  After about an hour, I felt more peace and went to bed.  But if you ever find out what was going on at 2:30 last night, I’d love to know!”  I never found out . . . but I suspect whatever it was didn’t happen because you were a faithful guard at the watchtower.
Scott:  for telling me at a Godspell dance rehearsal in early July 2006, “You really look good tonight, Gwen!”  I know you were just being polite, but you didn't know the pit of all-consuming despair I was in that night and how healing it was for a handsome young man to tell me I looked good, just for a moment.

Thank you, friends.  I pray that I learn to be as faithful in the small things as you were.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yes, More on Sex

I hate to keep harping on this topic, but it keeps coming up . . .

On a news show the other day, a woman I’d never heard of, who was labeled as a “women’s rights activist”, was asked by the host, isn’t it in society’s best interest to discourage teenagers from sexual activity?  Never mind for now how we do that – that’s a topic for further discussion.  But can’t we all agree that discouraging teenagers from having sex is a good thing?  The women’s rights activist replied, “It doesn’t matter if we encourage or discourage teen sexual activity; they’re going to have sex anyway.”

Did you hear what she said? “They are going to have sex.  Period.  No point in explaining to them the value of waiting or the dangers of indulging.  They cannot or will not hear what we say.  They cannot or will not understand even if they do hear.  They cannot or will not control their sexual urges even if they do understand.  They are going to have sex anyway.” 
I don’t think that’s what she meant to say.  I think she meant to say that there are some kids that are going to have sex anyway, no matter what we do.  And because of that, we need to make sure those kids know how to protect themselves from the dangers of their behavior.  We must make explicit sexual education and condoms available for those kids.
Okay, perhaps I’ll concede that.  But I will add this:  There are also some kids who are willing and capable of hearing, understanding, and applying teaching on abstinence.  In fact, there are some kids who desperately want to hear that they can get have a great relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend without sleeping with them, that they are not doomed to follow the foolishness of the crowd, that there are ways to maneuver the land mines of a sexually charged society and end up with the kind of relationship they instinctively want to have.  They want to be taught how to do what they're convinced is the right thing, because they don't know how to do it now.  We must offer abstinence education for those kids.
And I get frustrated at the people who insist that abstinence education is only the domain of the church.  Why do we assume that only "religious" kids would be interested?  That the only teenagers who could ever have an interest in dating without going all the way are those who have been taught by their parents or church that they should do this?
Why do we assume that saving sex for marriage is a value we cannot present in a public school without stepping on people’s liberty?  We present values about exercising, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, eating healthy, staying in school, going to college, volunteering in your community, recycling, voting . . . we teach all sorts of values in the public schools. We're not afraid of offending the obese by teaching their kids how to eat healthy.  We're not afraid of offending the high school dropouts by teaching their kids the importance of staying in school.
But sexual abstinence we can't touch.  I really don't get it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What If . . .

Listening to this boy I mentioned yesterday sassing at his teacher brought to mind all my crazy, far-fetched schemes for improving education.  What if . . .

What if, instead of “passing” a certain list of classes to get his diploma, this boy had a specific list of skills and information he needed to acquire to get his diploma.  For example, he needs to be able to recognize, explain, and use the scientific method.  He needs to be able to make a persuasive argument.  He needs to be able to balance a checkbook.  (Maybe even have different types of diplomas with different requirements?)
What if he were allowed to demonstrate skills and knowledge he already possesses right off the bat and never have to sit in a classroom to be re-taught what he already knew.  Say he’s got basic grammar down – let him take a test, check it off the list, and move on.  And offer a variety of ways to demonstrate the skill.  Some people really stink at taking tests, you know, but if you sit down with them one-on-one, they can show you they’ve mastered the material.
What if he were offered choices of a variety of ways to acquire the remaining skills.  He can work independently in a study hall room or computer lab, completing assignments or projects that demonstrate the skill.  Or he can work with a group of students together where they teach each other.  Or he can go to a presentation where a teacher explains the skill.  Or he can work one-on-one with an adult.  When you, now, as an independent adult, need to learn something new, how do you go about doing it?  There are so many ways – part of becoming educated, I think, should be learning about how you learn best so you can teach yourself later when you need to.
Here’s a more controversial one: what if he were allowed to come and go from these learning activities as he so chooses.  Maybe he wants to spend eight hours a day intensely focused on his studies . . . and because he works so hard, he can graduate early and move on with the rest of his life.  Or maybe he spends his morning at school and his afternoon at work -- also an educational experience in many ways.  Or maybe he wants to spend 75% of his time goofing off in the gym . . . he may not finish his requirements in four years and he'd have to stay in school longer, but he knows that.  Freedom of choice is a powerful motivator. 
I know the objection here.  Teenagers are not mature enough to make such important decisions for themselves.  They would choose not to put the effort into learning skills they don’t want to learn and would be lazy.  Yes, that's true; some of them are like that.  If nobody pushes them, they succumb to inertia and sit.  But they will suffer ultimately for that -- and many people have to suffer a while before they learn to do what is in their own best interest.  At least the rest of the school community won't be suffering from their disruptive behavior and bad attitude in the meantime.
But let’s give kids a little more credit.  I personally believe we create much of this apathy through the lack of choice and responsibility we give them.  If a kid understands that he needs a diploma to move forward to whatever future steps he has for his life – and he understands that he must learn to recognize, explain, and use the scientific method to get that diploma – and if he is offered a variety of ways to learn to recognize, explain and use the scientific method – ultimately, I think that kid will end up doing what is in his best interest (at least most kids will).  And the fact that he has to kick his own butt into gear to make it happen will strengthen his personal butt-kicking muscles . . . and free up the rest of the community to focus on actual education and not on butt-kicking.
Consider driver's licenses.  When a kid decides he wants to drive a car, nobody has to push him to do the things he needs to do to get his license.  He suddenly becomes self-motivated to get the information, study, get help when needed, schedule the test, etc.  Real life motivates so much better than threats of detention.
Risky, I know.  But good grief . . . if we don't find the courage to take some risks, we'll never fix our educational system.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Education vs. Control

Last week, I subbed in the special ed resource room at a high school, helping a sweet boy in a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy – an easy and pleasant ten dollars an hour.  But while in the resource room, I heard an exchange between the main instructor and another boy that was not so pleasant.  The boy was sassy, rude, combative; he challenged her authority and refused to submit.  She stood her ground adequately – I was kind of impressed because I think if I’d been her, I would have immediately sent him to the principal’s office and refused to deal with him.

I didn’t know this boy, of course.  I don’t know his story or his issues.  But I’ve known many boys like him and could make some intelligent guesses at what was happening here.  He doesn’t do well in school, for whatever reason – and there could be many (he was in the special ed resource room, after all).  Therefore, school is a miserable place to be because it throws his weaknesses in his face all day long.  Because he’s miserable, he tries to escape the misery by adding pleasure to his day through behaviors (like talking to his friends) which, in a lot of other settings, would be entirely acceptable and understandable, but in the classroom, they are deemed to be “acting out”.  So, the teacher, whose second greatest concern behind actual instruction is classroom control (and sometimes this is the primary concern), comes down on him and forces him, under threat of penalty, to return his attention to the activity that he doesn’t do well and that is making him miserable.  And this happens all day long. 
If you spent seven hours a day in a work situation where you sucked at what you were asked to do all day, you’d probably end up being just as much a brat – if you didn’t quit or go on a shooting rampage first.
Even for those of us that enjoyed and did well in school, it was hard sometimes to willingly submit to the school game when it appeared its most ridiculous.  And yes, school is a game.  A game with ultimate goals that are other than learning.  I remember talking with one of my at-risk class students years ago about her getting in trouble in science class earlier that day.  “I already knew what she was talking about – why did I need to listen?” she said.  And frankly, that’s a good question.  If she knew the material, why did she have to sit and listen to it taught again?  Why couldn’t she do an assignment or take a test or whatever to give evidence that she knew the material and then go do something more useful with her time? 
In our at-risk classroom, we wanted to be able to offer time out of school as an incentive.  If you finish all the work for sophomore English in March, you don’t have to show up for that class.  You can shift your schedule around and leave school an hour early or come an hour later.  I mean, why not?  If the goal is learning, and they’ve proven they’ve learned the material, why not let them go?  But we were not allowed to do this; state law required that to get credit for the class, they have to be sitting in the classroom for a minimum number of hours.  Interestingly, state law did not require evidence that the student had acquired any particular skills or knowledge to get credit in the class; many students passed sophomore English by racking up points and never really learning what the teacher was trying to teach – but by golly, their butts were in their seats for the required number of hours.
Yes, it’s a game.  A poorly constructed game.  Really, it’s long past time we changed the rules.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Kinda Disappointed . . .

A neighbor in New Jersey caught me at the bus stop one day to tell me she’d been watching a movie the night before about the life of Joseph from the Old Testament, and the last half hour of the show was cut off by the local news.  We laughed a bit about that, but then she kept looking at me:  “So, tell me – how does the story end?  I’m dying to know!”

Sometimes I forget how little the average American knows about the Bible -- even about the most well-known and coolest stories.
I don’t know how many of you saw the first episode last Sunday of the History Channel's new series, “The Bible”.  Hubby and I were excited to see it.  We’d been reading that the creators of the series saw this as a way to introduce the Biblically illiterate to the basic stories of the Bible, stories that (as I’ve said before) it behooves every American to at least be familiar with.
We were disappointed, I’m afraid.  I’ve read other opinions on the series, from people who were upset about the racial inaccuracies . . . a bunch of lily white folk dirtied up to look kind of Palestinian.  We weren't as disturbed by that, although we were a bit taken aback by all the British and Scottish accents.
But I’m mainly disappointed because if this is an effort to introduce people to Biblical stories, I don’t think it will succeed.  I think they just bit off more than they can chew.  They have to truncate things so much to fit the entire Bible into ten hours of TV time that they leave out important details which are necessary to make the stories comprehensible.  I think their target audience will come away from this thoroughly confused and thinking these fundamentalists have some pretty freakish beliefs.
I was also disappointed in some of their artistic choices.  For example, their depiction of the Exodus story.  For those of you whose familiarity with Moses and the Red Sea is limited to the Charlton Hesston movie, understand that the storyline about Moses and the Pharaoh having old grudges from childhood is not in the Bible anywhere.  Now, I don’t have any particular beef with the storyline as such – it’s not a ridiculous leap to make, and there is room for artistic license in productions like this.  But the fact that THIS production used the same storyline as the Charlton Hesston movie just solidifies in the viewer's mind that the storyline IS Biblical.  Not to mention that it’s just so unoriginal.  The brother rivalry take has been done.  Find another angle.
Anyway, we'll keep watching.  I hope you will watch, too.  I'm sure I'll have more to say about it later, and I'd love to hear what you all think . . . especially those of you who haven't grown up inundated with Biblical lore like I have.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taking Requests, Sort Of

For some reason, I had a really lousy night of sleep last night.  Woke up almost every hour.  Can't tell you why.  But during a few of those wakeful moments, I lay there and wondered what I was going to blog about today.

Not that I don't have ideas.  I keep a list of interesting quotes, fleeting thoughts, and what-all that I suspect could be fodder for future posts.  There's something in there I could have expounded on for a few paragraphs.

But the thing is, since the New Year, my readership has declined dramatically, as least as measured by the number of pageviews on each post.  (I realize some of you get these by email, and those don't register as pageviews.  Also, if someone reads the blog by going to the main site and not clicking on an individual post, it doesn't register as a pageview either.  But still -- numbers are down.) 

Not that this is a huge deal to me.  Because, as I've said before, my primary purpose for this blog is purely selfish, I'm afraid.  It trains me in the discipline of a writer.  It also give me a place to articulate thoughts and feelings and ideas for myself.  I'm one of those people who doesn't feel like I understand something if I can't put it into words well.  My blog organizes my brain.

On the other hand, if that were the only purpose for the blog, I could keep it in a ratty notebook somewhere instead of on a fancy little page online for the world to see.  Fact is, knowing that others are reading my brain farts makes me take them more seriously.  And getting reaction and feedback from intelligent friends (and even the flaky ones) sharpens my thinking process. 

So, the decline in readership upsets me a bit -- and, I'll admit, hits my pride to some extent.  I mean, where the heck did everybody go?

However, pondering this all in bed this morning at 2:30 . . . and 3:30 . . . and 4:30 (stupid, elusive sleep) . . . I wondered what people would be interested in reading about on my blog.  I have a pretty broad topic base -- I write about education, the Bible, politics, current events, family issues, my faithwalk.  And I haven't noticed much of a pattern necessarily, in the past, as to what people read and what they pass by.

So, here's a chance for you to chime in.  What do you enjoy reading the most here?  What would you like to see me write more about?  Not that I'm promising to go there, but if I know people are interested in engaging in this conversation versus that one, the preferred topic may be on my mind more.  Leave me a comment or something and let me know.

Because frankly, the only posts that have gotten significant readership since the New Year have been about sex.  And . . . you know . . . I hate to think my friends are all about that . . .

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mastering Words

When I was teaching high school English, there were a few things that we all, in our department, knew we weren’t doing a great job of teaching.  Spelling was one.  Vocabulary was another.  Giving a list of random words to study for a week and test over at the end of the week just isn’t very effective.  While homeschooling last year, however, the IEW writing program we used included a pretty effective method of teaching vocabulary. 

And me being arrogant me, I’m convinced I can improve on it.
Here’s how I think vocabulary needs to be taught.  First of all, introduce kids to basic Latin and Greek roots.  There’s an awesome game many homeschoolers use called “Rummy Roots”.  Love it. 
But then, I think you need to teach kids one word a week – one really good, very useful vocabulary word a week.  That’s what I liked about that writing program: the vocabulary words they used were excellent words to know.  Words like “stymied”, “notorious”, “intrepid”.  Words that can be applied in many contexts.  Words that actually improve your thinking as well, because having clear, specific words to communicate specific ideas and differentiate them from similar ideas also sharpens your thinking about those ideas.  Just one word a week.
Use that word in a multitude of contexts during the week.  At home, in school, at basketball practice.  Also, require students to use the word somewhere in their writing during the week – many times, if possible.  This is another thing I like about that writing program.  Every piece of writing had to include four vocabulary words, which was not difficult because, again, these were good, quality words that can be applied in many different contexts.
So, consider:  one word a week is 36 words a year.  In three years of middle school, that would be 108 new, excellent, useful words.  Words they have already practiced incorporating into their writing and their lives and their thinking.  Words that are reinforced every year.  I would gladly take that over the time spent frantically memorizing list after list of words that are quickly forgotten because they are never used.
I like this so much, I may just employ the method for myself.  Gotta start my list of words now . . .

Friday, March 1, 2013

That Bill They Passed Without Reading

Our one year of “emergency health insurance” we paid for when hubby’s severance package ran out is ending, so he’s been talking to the insurance guy about renewing.  (BTW, I know I have readers who don’t see me face-to-face to ask about the job search, so to satisfy your curiosity and concern .  . . yes, he’s still got possible jobs in the works.  They come – they go.  He interviews – they love him – they decide they can’t fill the position right now – Choice #2 has more retail experience or sales experience or lives locally -- yada yada.  The saga continues.  Prayers are appreciated.)

But back to our health insurance needs.  Here are the new rates quoted to us.
For 6 months of coverage, paid by the month: $270 a month.
For 6 months of coverage, paid in a lump sum: $213 a month.
For 11 months of coverage, paid by the month: $405 a month (no, that’s not a typo).
For 11 months of coverage, paid in a lump sum:  $370 a month.
Although he suspected the reason (and was right), hubby asked the insurance agent why the drastic increase (because there should be a decent discount when you pay for longer coverage, right?  They want to encourage you to buy more insurance, yes?). 
The answer?  Eleven months of coverage will go a month into 2014.  Obamacare is going to kick in in 2014.  Insurance rates will be going up dramatically.  That $405 a month is the average per month cost over eleven months with the increased rate figured in for just the last month.
Sigh.  I have no words.  (Wait, that's a lie.  I have many words -- I'm just declining to share them.)