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Schools Ignoring Needs!

Due to lack of funding, Jefferson County (CO) schools cannot provide the tools that students need.

My children go to Jefferson High, a school where all assignments and homework are required to be done online. Therefore, all students are assigned Ipads to use throughout the year. However, due to funding issues, the school is unable to provide chargers for my children to use.

After speaking with the administration, who assured me that they had taken sufficient measures to ensure that the students would not be required to buy chargers for their Ipads, I forced my children to use their resources to learn whether or not this was true. It took only one day to learn that it is not. They provide charging stations, but only in a small number of classrooms, and the students can’t use the Ipads while they are being charged in those classes, not to mention the fact that if my students didn’t have one of those classes that day, they were SOL. There are chargers in the library, but the only time that my kids could use them is during lunch, and a half hour charge will not be sufficient to take an Ipad through their school day and through their homework that night. The students have the option of leaving their Ipad at the school overnight, but as my kids are taking honors classes and have lots of homework every night, that’s really not an option for them.

What’s worse, when I asked my kids to talk to the Vice Principal about it, he only responded that he couldn’t go to the school board with this since we are the only family complaining about problems. Seriously? Just because every family has been forced to buy a charger for an Ipad that is REQUIRED by the school, then they think that there isn’t actually a problem? How is it that the school is allowed to do this? Why aren’t they providing the students with what they need in order to have an effective learning environment? They didn’t even warn me before issuing the Ipads that they would not be providing chargers, so my kids had dead Ipads from day 1.

I also don’t understand the financial problem. It seems to me that any student who loses their charger should be forced to pay for a replacement, correct? If the school had already bought chargers back when they first bought the Ipads, why is there a financial problem at all? Why didn’t they simply charge the parents for the missing chargers? After all, if they really are “only $5 chargers”, like they keep telling me, then why is this such a problem? Hell, they could even charge a $5 late fee as punishment for the loss, and actually make money from people’s irresponsibility. They bought them once, and it should cost them nothing at all to replace them, so why is it that there is suddenly a financial problem with supplying chargers?  Especially is people who already have chargers of their own, or opt not to bring their Ipads home, have the choice of not using chargers, and therefore not have the risk of paying for a lost or broken $5 charger.

The worst part for me right now is the administration.  I have talked to them until I am blue in the face, and they are nothing but “I empathize with you.”  Know what?  Keep your empathy and help me fix the problem instead!  I mean, seriously, telling me that they can’t even TALK to the board about this just because I am the only to have stepped forward with this complaint?  I guarantee that if asked, every single parent who went and bought a charger for their child felt that it was stupid that the school didn’t provide one, but didn’t believe that there was a way to fix it.  Well, time for the suppression of the parent opinion to end.

My kids love school, and they work hard to learn, and the school’s inability to ensure that my students are properly equipped with what they are calling required materials has only hindered their learning this year. I hope that you will share this post and help me shed some light on this school’s hypocrisy.

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Divorce Lawyer Helps Save Marriage

Good News Network

 

This divorce lawyer may have lost a potential customer by saving a marriage – but he still has no regrets.

Rafael Gonçalves, a lawyer from the small Brazilian town of Sao Sebastiao do Paraiso, became famous on social media for salvaging a marriage by asking four simple questions. He first met the couple when they went to his office and started explaining their reasons to file for a divorce. Gonçalves noticed, however, that they seemed to still like each other.

Gonçalves’ then wrote down a list of the documents they would need for divorce – but at the bottom, he also wrote down four additional questions that he asked for them to answer before coming back.

1. Did I do everything I could to save this marriage?
2. Is a divorce really the best option today?
3. Who is influencing my decisions?
4. How many problems did you overcome together and how you met?

A few days later, the couple returned to the office saying that they decided not to move forward with the divorce.

“I don’t think I did anything special and, in my opinion, all my colleagues should act the same,” Gonçalves told the Good News Network. “Nobody starts dating planning to break up, and nobody marries planning a divorce. We live in a society that trade or throw something away instead of fixing it, and this is sadly applying to relationships, too.”

The couple decided to take a picture of the piece of paper and share it on social media with the hopes that it would help other marriages. At the same time, Gonçalves doesn’t consider himself special for his actions.

“Sometimes all it takes for a marriage to work is to find someone to pause a moment of conflict and allow them the opportunity to adjust,” he added. “Truth be told, I still get requests of people needing help in their relationships and people letting me know that their lawyers started using the same questions.”

Since the photo of the note went viral, Gonçalves has started a social media group for women to discuss their problems.

“I also have two secret groups on Facebook with almost half a million woman (I am the only guy in the group), and everything they post is classified,” he told GNN. “This way, I’ve created an opportunity for dialogue – they talk about problems in relationships, sometimes abuse, ask for suggestions, law and medical advice, etc. It’s a real virtual city only for women.”

Gonçalves also plans on publishing a book in the coming year.

Where should education be going?

It’s a known fact; education in our country is a mess.  People keep complaining about it, but no one really does much to try to fix it.  Sure, we could continue trying to throw a little money here at there at various schools, but money can only fix so much.  No, seriously; even a school given $100,000 can only do so much with the money, and will likely put far more of it towards the sports programs than towards books, food, building repairs or better classrooms and technology.  So, how can we fix the education in our country?  In my opinion, we simply need to change it all, and see what happens.

First, I do think that we should get rid of teacher tenure.  I know, this is not a popular idea, and no, I am not attacking teachers.  However, as much as we need teachers, I think we need GOOD teachers more.  We should pay them much more than we pay them now, but take away teacher tenure.  After all, wouldn’t teachers be more inventive in their methods and work harder for students if the only security in their jobs lay in their successes, and not in their contracts?

In Freedom Writers, there is a comment that the main character went to law school, but later decided to become a teacher.  Why?  Because by the time that a kid is in a court room, the battle is already lost.  The real fight is in the classroom.  Then, shouldn’t the money be going not to lawyers, but to teachers?  You may have kids, you may not, but I do, and trust me when I say that teaching children to one day be great adults is a constant struggle, especially in a world that is now so very filled with electronics.  I mean, everywhere I turn, there is one more online something-or-other to distract my children from reality.  I try, I do, but it’s a huge job to do by yourself.  Support from teachers in classrooms is the most helpful thing that I can find.  Only teachers can really get children interested in learning, and can stoke their curiosity about the world around them.  The more that the teachers do in the classroom, the more that I can do at home to help.

On a side not, teachers can’t do it all alone, either.  Even with perfect teachers who are able to suss out all of a child’s skills and interests, who can really make them want to learn, without caring and invested parents, the battle’s lost, anyway.

Second, we should take away this three month summer break.  I know, another unpopular idea, but why?  For parents, they have to worry about constant childcare for three months.  For kids, it’s most likely three months of boredom or unlimited video games while their parents are working forty hours a week.  Then, by the time they’re back to school in the fall, schools need to waste at least a week of their curriculum on review because the kids haven’t opened a book or studied for three months.  Why wouldn’t everyone want to get rid of this three month summer?  The original purpose of it was so that kids could help out during harvest season.  Well, news flash, not such a thing anymore.  So, why not dispose of this archaic system?  As Americans, we have an unfortunate tendency to stick with what we call “tradition”, but it’s really just our way of avoiding change, even if it is a change that needs to happen.

In addition to taking away this massive summer break, we need to lengthen the school year.  Why?  Well, partially to fill in the summer, of course, but that’s not the real reason why.  Mostly, it’s to give the students more time to learn.  Right now, teachers have to come up with strict schedules for their classes, and in the end usually have maybe a week per chapter of their text books.  At the end of the semester, they usually haven’t learned everything in that class that they were meant to because they didn’t have time to cover it all, in large part due to constant changes in the schedule.  Whether it’s snow days or extra time needed for students to grasp a certain topic, when there is such little time for a student to learn everything that they are supposed to learn, the smallest hiccup in the schedule and throw it all behind.

If we add more days to the school schedule, then that provides the teachers more time to teach, and gives the students more time to learn.  Teachers can come up with more creative methods of teaching, more hands-on projects, more trips, etc.  With more flexibility in the schedule, there is more flexibility for the teachers.  And, with them able to cover one topic for an extra day or two, it gives students more time to absorb it.  Right now, everything is set into specific times, and if you don’t get it in that short period of time that it’s being taught, then that’s it, you’re suddenly behind everyone else for the rest of the class.  You can catch up, by spending your spare time with a tutor, but how is that fair?  Some students learn much faster than others, and some much slower, and those who learn slower should not be punished by this fast-paced education system that we have.

In Japan, with their longer school years, they are able to have cultural festivals at all of their schools.  It’s very cool, actually.  For a week, instead of classes, the students come up with activities, booths, plays, food, whatever is needed for a festival.  Then, that weekend, all families and friends are invited to a huge festival at the school that is hosted and run by the students of the school.  To me, this is a genius idea!  After all, what better method is there to teach students organization, planning, preparation, teamwork, and leadership all in one swift and exciting venue?  Plus, it brings more fun for the rest of the family by giving them an avenue to come to their child’s school and participate in something with them.  We should have this at all of our schools, totally student run, and set up so that each school can do it completely their own way, and not according to some set of rules handed down by the government.  After all, each school has their own students, with their own interests and ideas, and each school should have full creative freedom.

On a side note, Japan also requires that every student join a club (all sports are also considered clubs).   With this, each student is required to do something social.  They have to participate in something, and have to actually talk to other students.  They can join any club they want, so they can target any interest that they have and find others in their school that share those interests.  I also believe that this should be a requirement in American schools, but I suppose that we would first need to ensure that every school in America has a variety of clubs to join, or at least make it easier for a group of students to create a club.  (I promise, here is where I stop pulling ideas from Japan, and NO, I am absolutely not in favor of cram schools or anything else that puts a huge amount of pressure on students and take away from family time.)

Another thing that we could do with a longer school year and no three month summers?  Have longer breaks somewhere else.  After all, my suggestion to take away the three month summer was not one to take it away altogether, but I think two weeks is a good break.  We could easily do four two-week breaks throughout the year, so that every quarter the student would get a two week break to wind down.  The bigger benefit, though, is a school schedule, chosen and created by the school itself, could then include a day off here or there for important or fun local events and holidays.  Say there’s a huge festival this weekend?  Well, the school knew about it and scheduled the students off on Friday so that they can go and enjoy it.  Maybe there’s a holiday to celebrate a local hero?  Give the kids off to enjoy the day, then.  Maybe there are festivities all around town to help celebrate it.  With no huge summer break, the schools can get more freedom with their schedules, thus giving more freedom to their students.

Now, into the hard stuff.  I do not think that every school should be required to teach all of the same stuff.  When looking at colleges, the first thing that you look at is a school that teaches what you want to learn.  Our grade schools should be the same.  If a student has absolutely no interest in the history that’s been shoved down their throat since they were five, and really only want to learn about mechanics and engineering, then shouldn’t there be a school that can help them focus on that?  Say a student wants to go to college for engineering, but the only A they got in high school was math.  Considering how English and History have absolutely no impact on the career of engineering, should their low grades really stop them from getting into the college of their choice?

Basically, what I’m saying is that our grade schools should be set up similar to our colleges, with things like trade schools that teach a minimum of other subjects, and focus their education on more hands-on classes.  After all, not everyone learns the same, and some people will just never be able to understand how to calculate cos, or understand the beauty of Shakespeare.   Then, for some people, the hands-on stuff just sucks, and they would much rather have nothing but classes that expand their minds, so there could be a school that is really just the core classes of a curriculum, then expand on those classes to more interesting and specified areas of them, like how an English major in school would take classes specific to American Literature, World Literature, Creative Writing, and any other specific topic of English that they would prefer.  Then, there are students like me, who are generally interested in everything.  For students like me, the current system of having a core curriculum with several elective classes works well.  So, to sum up, three types of schools, each targeting a different set of students, would overall help far more students than a single brand of education.

Anyway, that is my rant for today, and how/why I think our education could and should be repaired in this country.  Thank you for reading!

Book Review: Bloodwitch

On my expedition through the library, I found this book, Bloodwitch, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.  Miss Amelia, apparently, was first published at the raw age of thirteen, a highly impressive age.  I’ve been dreaming for all of my life, but at that age I feel like I was still more copy than original.  Another young author, Christopher Paolini, had Eragon published in his young teenage years as well, but was highly criticized for how much the Inheritance Cycle resembled some mix between Lord of the Rings and the Dragonriders of Pern.  As much as I loved the story, the fact is that it was incredibly simple to tell exactly what stories provided him his inspiration.

Now, I have not read Miss Amelia’s earliest books, but Bloodwitch seems, to me, to be wholly original.  She was once referred to as (apparently) a teenage Anne Rice, so I don’t know if her earlier vampire books actually resembled Anne Rice’s writings or not.  However, the vampires in Bloodwitch were very interesting to me; almost super-human-zombie kind of characters, really.

My favorite part about this book was the world that she created.  The book starts in a quetzal’s cage, very small and very beautiful, slowly learning about the vampires.  However, things quickly expand when our main character is thrust out of his beautiful prison and into the harsh realities that exist all around him.  There are many cultures throughout this world, most of them powerful shapeshifter kingdoms that may or may not rival the strength of the Vampire kingdom, Midnight.  There are several different kinds of shapeshifters, each with a different kind of magic or ability.  And, as strong and immortal as the vampires are, they cannot use magic, thus evening our worldly playing field.

And, what about us human?  Well, we are nothing more than weak and expendable slaves, it would seem.  Definitely an interesting look at our own race, don’t you think?

This book was creative and imaginative, and the author did a fantastic job of putting me right in the middle of everything.  I mean, so in the middle, I’m not even sure who I want to be the good guy, and who I want to be the bad guy!  She makes sure that you can see all sides of the war very clearly, so there is no clear good and evil here (and honestly, I really kind of hate good vs. evil stories, they can be so judgmental and predictable!).  She gave me the opportunity to try to decide for myself who I want to be sympathetic for, instead of dictating to me who she thought I should can most about.  It was refreshing.

All in all, I highly recommend the book.  Over the coming months I will most definitely be working to read more of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’s books.

Superhero Kitty Analogy

What is a hero?  What is a villain?  What about the characters that are neither?

While attempting to explain these differences to my children, my husband and I came up with a scenario that will make it simple to understand.

 

Here is the scenario:  a cat is in the middle of the road, about to be run over by a car.

 

Hero:  runs into the street to save the kitty, possibly taking damage himself but being careful that no one else, the driver included, gets hurt.

Villain:  runs into the street, kills the kitty, convinces the driver that he did it and is an evil person because of it, laughs at his tears, then kills the driver.

Vigilante:  see the kitty killed by the car; kills the driver to exact justice for the ruthlessly murdered feline.

Anti-hero:  barely notices the cat or the car, continues travelling to his own destination without wasting a moment’s thought on someone else’s problems, but might be inclined to help up the person who tripped while running if helping that person might benefit them.

 

There we go, my rundown on how to tell the difference between the four “hero” characters.  Do you agree?

Duolingo = Awesome!!

At the recommendation of a friend, I tried out Duolingo.  If you don’t know what Duolingo is, it’s a free website/app that teaches you another language, for free!  There aren’t a ton of languages there yet, but it does have a handful of popular languages.

I had two reasons for checking out the site.

First, I had taken Spanish is high school, and Japanese in college, and was pretty good at each language at the time.  However, not practicing them has made me nearly a beginner again.  Therefore, I was liking the idea of a free language lesson that could refresh my memory in the two languages.

Secondly, my friend told me that the site actually teaches High Valyrian (which is why she mentioned the site to me in the first place, so that she would have someone to practice the language with).  That’s right, High Valyrian!  And for those of you who aren’t into Game of Thrones, they also teach Klingon on the site.  Personally, I’m really hoping they’ll do Tolkien’s Elvish, then there would really be something to bring all of us nerds together!

Well, turns out that the site is still working on the Japanese lessons, so I can’t start that one yet, which kind of sucks.  But, on the plus side, it will make it easier for me to learn High Valyrian if the only other language that I am attempting to refresh myself on is Spanish, so it’s cool.  Especially since High Valyrian is turning out to be a bit more difficult than expected…..

Anyway, the site is awesome.  Each lesson is tailored with pictures and little translations to help you out.  After you finish a lesson, you can move on or stick around and do some extra lessons to help you memorize your new language better.  There’s also a section that includes flash cards, and not just for languages.  There are also flash cards for a number of other topics, like history and such.  I am currently working my way through a set of flash cards that will help me learn the amendments of the Constitution.

I reiterate, the app/website is COMPLETELY FREE to use, so take a minute and check it out!  Personally, I have added the site to my homepages, so every evening when I come home and start up my computer it reminds me to do a lesson.  Each lesson only takes about five minutes (for High Valyrian, the Spanish lessons are going much, much faster since I already studied the language once), and they’re interesting.  Studying a little bit each day gets me slowly closer to being able to communicate with the language (or at least be able to watch the Astapor scenes without subtitles), and there’s nothing more exciting than learning something new.

A to Z Challenge: Deep Fried Deviled Eggs

Deep Fried Deviled Eggs.

I know, I know, it sounds so weird, but I promise you it is delicious!

 

First, you start off like normal, boiling your eggs.  You cut them in half, dig out the yoke, and mix the yoke with mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and (if desired) bacon bits and diced green peppers.

Here’s where the new part starts.  You take the egg white, dip it in (ironically) beaten eggs, then cover with bread crumbs.  Personally, when frying, I find that the best mixture for breading is to use both bread crumbs and flour together.  Then, of course, gently deposit the breaded whites into the deep fryer for a couple of minutes.

After taking them out, proceed as normal, spooning the yoke mixture into the now breaded whites.  A simple addition to a classic dish that has outstanding results!

I first made this food with my family for the Super Bowl, and it was a hit!  It can be tricky to make, since the whites are so fragile, but totally worth the effort.

Can you info-dump and be interesting?

What’s the hardest part of writing?  That’s actually a very easy question to answer: avoiding info-dumping.

Info-dumping, which I would define as attempting to tell the reader a lot of background info, is a huge no-no for a writer.  It’s the complete opposite of the “Show-don’t-tell” rule.

So, how do you work in all of that background info that your reader just needs to know, without spending five pages dumping it on them all at once?  It seems easy, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s really not.

 

What brings this up is one of my story.  I am attempting to outline it, and I have realized that the first book is kind of…well, boring.  The first book is an introduction to a secret branch of the military, completely filled with people with the ability to control the elements.  I had originally planned for the first book to take my protagonist from her recruitment into the program, through the training school and into her becoming an official member.  However, while outlining, I am realizing just how boring the book is likely to be.  After all, the only real conflict is the protagonist’s attempt at learning these new skills.  Even in giving her a rival, I feel like there simply isn’t enough conflict, and so not enough excitement.

Realizing this, I am afraid that I don’t really know how to fix it.  I thought about skipping until after her training, starting with her first official mission, but then what happens when I have to fill in all of the information about this group?  By going through the training with her, the reader would be able to learn about the group and how it functions with her, follow her as she learns what her new power is capable of doing.

In the end, I find myself a little lost about how I want to tell this story.  My other thought is to simply invent more conflict in the first book (though I have absolutely no idea what) just to avoid any situation that might force me into an info-dumping situation.

 

How do you avoid info-dumping?  How do you decide where you need to start your story?  I have never had this problem with any other story, but I am beginning to think that I should be more active in choosing how/where a story starts, and am worried now about the planned beginning for a number of my stories.  How do you solve these problems?

Book Review: Magyk

On the heels of finally finishing the Sword of Truth series, I had planned on rereading either the Percy Jackson books (I still need to read the latest Magnus Chase and Trials of Apollo books, and wanted a refresher) or the Game of Thrones series (still waiting on the sixth book, dammit!!).

While at the library with my daughter, where she was participating in a teen writing group, I had an hour to kill and perused the reading options, hoping to find some reference books that might help me with my writing.  I did find some awesome books about mythology and monsters and stuff, but I also found some other books that I decided to read; something fresh and completely new to me, since it’s been so very long since I have read anything brand new.

Magyk is the first book in Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series.  If you enjoyed Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or the Chronicles of Narnia, then this series is right up your alley!

I finished reading Magyk in less than a week, it was just so damn good!  It kept me absorbed from page one, and introduced some really unique and creative ideas that were absolutely refreshing.  It is a kid’s book, so it’s super easy to read and really awakens the imagination.  The words and phrases that she uses are so fun and interactive it was almost impossible to put down.

It is, however, written in an omniscient PoV.  I’ve stated before that I hate such a point of view, but I now want to amend that statement.  Turns out that I don’t mind it, so long as it is truly omniscient.  The ones that really bug me are the ones that are a kind of half-assed omniscient.  Basically, if it spends any time focusing on a single character, I don’t like it.  If the book is going to go for a god-like perspective, I want it to remain in a god-like perspective, not simply focusing on whatever character the author feels like for lengthy periods of time, then jumping to another character whenever they feel like it.  Either go for Third-person limited, or Omniscient, but PLEASE don’t try to do both!