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Monday, November 7, 2011

Closings in ConnecticutSchool (and Power) Still Out for Some in Connecticut

If you live and teach in Connecticut, you may still be out of school due to lingering power outages from the snowstorm of a week ago. John Pirro tells in No power for thousands in Danbury area in the Danbury News Times that more than 100,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers remained in the dark and without power "as a result of last weekend's freak nor'easter, which initially blacked out more than 800,000 CL&P customers." Schools without power remain closed, and some with power remain closed due to the danger of remaining downed power lines.

Other areas such as Hopatcong, New Jersey, also have schools closed due to the storm. Hopatcong School District Superintendent Charles Maranzano is quoted in Hopatcong schools still closed because of power outages as saying:

I can't ensure safe bus routes, I can't ensure the walkers can get to school safely, I can't run a school district unless, number one, I have full power; number two, that I've inspected that all my mechanical systems are up and running; and number three, that I can feed my kids and they are comfortable.

New Jersey Herald writer Lyndsay Cayetana Bouchal also adds that "the district lost all of its food inventory, an initial estimate of $6,000 to $10,000 worth of food" during the power outage.

Also see: Many in chilly Northeast mark 8th day without power; Connecticut outages may stretch to Wednesday by Stephanie Reitz

Election Day Tomorrow

Many areas will be having elections tomorrow, some with school levies and other education issues on the ballot. Possibly the most interesting story I read this weekend about the elections is a report via the Los Angeles Times, Ohio voters look set to dump Republicans' anti-union law. The Times' Washington Bureau writer, Paul West, writes:

An aggressive Republican drive to weaken the labor rights of government workers appears to have crested, at least in Ohio, where voters are expected to throw out a far-reaching anti-union law this week.

The referendum over collective bargaining for public employees, potentially the most important contest in off-year elections around the nation, is being closely watched for clues about shifting voter trends in a state expected to play its usual outsized role in next year's presidential contest.

A couple of editorials from the Toledo Blade seem to capture the current mood in Ohio...and possibly in other areas across the nation:

Write Your Own Textbook

An Associated Press article by Chris Williams that appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, One for the books: Anoka-Hennepin teachers write online textbook, is a fascinating story about teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin district writing their own online math textbooks. The district spent about $10,000 paying teachers to develop the material and "another $5,000 went toward making the material accessible to students without Internet connections either at home or in the classroom with hard copies and DVD versions." Savings on the teacher created curriculum and online texts were estimated at around $175,000!

Williams wrote:

The Anoka-Hennepin students have been working with the curriculum for more than a month. It's a transition year, with many students working from hard copies printed off the web because their classrooms don't have enough computers. Other students have elected to buy bound editions for $5. Other students check out printed versions from the school library whiles still others get the information exclusively online.

Odds 'n' Ends

In our effort to publish "All The [Education] News That's Fit to Print" here on Educators' News, I cast a wider net over the weekend, mostly abandoning my trusty RSS reader in favor of visiting all the newspaper sites I used to snoop one-by-one from a page of links I've assembled over the years. Doing so allows me to assemble a good assortment of articles, columns, and editorials from which to expand upon in the sections above. It also helps break me out of a writing rut of just posting stuff from the Washington Post and New York Times.

Some problems with using my old links list are that it takes a lot more time than just consulting my limited RSS feeds, and it also tends to overwhelm me with articles to evaluate. I would have done a section on the Philly Inquirer article about a caring school police officer linked below, but I'd written about a similar story just a few weeks ago. Being a Mac user and a former teacher who made good use of Macs (and PCs) in the classroom, I also was inclined to comment on Matt Richtel's article about Apple Computer wining and dining educators, but again had recently linked to a similar article about Pearson Education doing similar stuff. So our Odds 'n' Ends links section is a little fatter, a good deal more varied, and hopefully, more interesting today.

I also published another short piece on my new Odds 'n' Ends column series this weekend, What's That in my Salad?

Lettuce and spinach Spinach Salad Floating row cover

We have lots of fall lettuce and spinach coming on in our fall garden, protected from light frost by some rather expensive floating row covers. While we're just beginning to pick a variety of types of lettuce, we've already had several good pickings of baby spinach leaves.

While rather aggressively attacking a spinach salad Saturday afternoon, I was brought up short several times by some black dots and foreign material in the spinach I'd so carefully picked, washed, and dried. It all turned out okay and led to a short, silly posting for the new column series.

Previous efforts in the series include:

  • Can Walmart Make Their Aisles Any Narrower? - Our local Walmart appears to be engaged in a systematic effort to replace lower cost items with more expensive brands. Also note a special cameo appearance by the politically incorrect "fat family." (9/26/2011)
  • A Charity Phone Solicitation - Giving to a charity should not be viewed as permission to call...up to four times a day asking for more contributions! (10/5/2011)
  • Amusing Myself - Misreading a grocery store sign stirred up visions of an 11 1/2 inch pork chop! (10/12/2011)

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ohio Voters Reject Law Limiting Public Employees' Unions

Toledo Blade Columbus Bureau Chief Jim Provance wrote last night in Kasich accepts defeat of Issue 2, "Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a Republican-passed law Tuesday that would have severely restricted the collective bargaining power of some 350,000 government workers." The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Vardon and Jim Siegal add in Issue 2 fails that White House press secretary Jay Carney had stated, "The president congratulates the people of Ohio for standing up for workers and defeating efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights, and commends the teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and other workers who took a stand to defend those rights." With nearly 89 percent of the vote in, 61 percent of voters rejected Issue 2, the referendum on Senate Bill 5, compared to 39 percent who supported the law that was "passed solely with Republican votes."

Now, if we could just get the ball moving in the same direction in Wisconsin, Indiana, Idaho...

On the Blogs

I'm a Dreamer blogOne of the blogs I started following last year and really liked went on hiatus last November (with a plausible explanation posted). I'm a Dreamer briefly became active again last week with the posting, The best thing I've ever done. It began:

Up until a few months ago, I would have said that the best thing I've ever done was teaching. And the hardest. And the most rewarding. And the most important.

Teaching is now second in all of those.

This is first.

Kiri McFarland's Top Ten on Why being a preschool teacher is great on Elbows, Knees, and Dreams is a great read, even if wearing silly hats (purposely) appears twice in the list.

I really liked Mrs. Bluebird's It must be one of those weeks, if only because she repeatedly stated, "The kids are still wacked out on sugar." (See Rerun Alert - A Time to Say "Screw the Research")

Matthew Di Carlo has a very intelligent discussion of teacher pay scales in Schedule Conflicts on the Shanker Blog.

Mr. Teachbad seems to be hitting his stride once again with his biting video, Struggling Students.

Moon Journals on Reflections of a Science Teacher sounds like a great assignment.

A new blog I'm following this year is History is Elementary. I haven't linked to it until today, as I just didn't think any of the previous postings "fit" here. But Monday's Claudius Smith and His Band of Cowboys is an incredible piece of history from Smith's Clove, New York, that is a delightful read.

Miss Eyre's Absence Makes the Heart Grow Prouder on NYC Educator is a great read about all one has to do before leaving school if one becomes ill. It's also a great way to sneak in Justin Thompson's Calling in sick: 15 weird excuses that appeared on and CNN.

Jim Horn had a short posting last night on Schools Matter about Wake County (NC). He related that the last of the Koch brothers supported school board members who dismembered one of the nation's premiere diversity programs has been defeated. Reasons to Celebrate in Wake County--Five of Them Now shows the results. For a bit of background on the story, see Allen G. Breed's Fear of 'resegregation' fuels unrest in NC (July 19, 2011) and Jim Horn's Sanity Returns to Wake County School Board: Koch Candidates Crushed (October 11, 2011).

Using Student Images Online

I've had a thing for a long time about using recognizable images of students online. I think it's a bad idea for a number of reasons, but found a great discussion of the issue on a 2008 Sue Waters' posting on The Edublogger, Share Your Advice on Using Student Photos on Blogs. If you're wrestling with the issue, the comments shared by Sue's readers may give you some good food for thought, both pro and con.

Odds 'n' Ends

NPR has finally gotten around to doing a story on the Franklin Township schools in central Indiana privatizing their school bus "service" to cut expenses by charging parents up to $50/month/child riding the busses. Sadly, NPR reporter Kyle Stokes gives Indiana governor Mitch Daniels and the state Republicans who pushed through the tax cut bill and later constitutional amendment capping property taxes an easy out. They deceived the public when ramming the bill through the General Assembly, saying the state would assume responsibility for more school and municipal funding, later changing their story to say schools and municipalities needed to be more efficient. Stokes also omits that a current lawsuit against the school corporation alleges the privatizing of bus service is a dodge around Indiana's constitutional prohibition of charging for services such as bus service. Stokes does at least include a quote from John Ellis, who heads the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, "I talked to a lot of very fiscal conservative legislators over the last several years who said this is a mistake, but I'm gonna have to vote for it." Public sentiment whipped up by Daniels and other Republicans pushed the bill and later constitutional tax cap through.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Celebrating Armistice Day (1918)Friday, November 11, 2011 - Veterans Day

Library of Congress Materials

The Welcome Home (1918) image at right and the Roosevelt cartoon below, A Thanksgiving Truce (1905) are both from collections in the Library of Congress. Stacie Moats fills in some of the background about the cartoon in Theodore Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Truce: A Political Cartoon on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. She writes that the picture caption explains that the toast is being given by "The Bear (with deep feeling) 'Here’s hoping that when next we meet, we see you first.,'" noting that Roosevelt's hunting gear is right behind him in the image. She adds, "This colorful illustration first appeared in the November 22, 1905 issue of Puck, a humor magazine popular before and during Roosevelt’s presidency."

Valerie Strauss adds some interesting facts today about Veterans Day on her The Answer Sheet blog in Veterans Day: No apostrophe in 'veterans' and other facts.

A Thanksgiving Truce

Not Terribly Impressed

I took a look at Mangahigh offers free online games to help students learn math on eSchool News yesterday, and followed that up with a quick test drive of a few of the math games offered on Mangahigh. It's worth a look if you need math games, but also be aware that you'll be bugged to upgrade to the paid version of the game package.

Along the same line, Barnes & Noble has put out the November issue of Tikatok, Incorporate Writing into Science Lessons. It's free...and you get about what you pay for with it.

Odds 'n' Ends

There's not much here today. I guess I sorta did the student bit (of writing big), using images to fill up the page. And I wasn't very nice in my quick appraisal of two potential classroom items today. The math games, what I could test, weren't bad, but I only got a quick look before the come-on to register and upgrade appeared. And Barnes & Noble should be embarrassed.

My excuse for being so nasty is that it's turned really wet and cold here. I miss my daily gardening fix already. And it's cold in my office where I write this rag.

So instead of gardening, I've been having fun going to the dentist, taking out the trash, cleaning the kitchen...and watching the Republican presidential candidates self-destruct. Of course, Andy Borowitz's Three Things from Rick Perry did bring a smile to my face. (Note, he also unloads on Herman Cain.) And there really are a few education items I should share:

I guess I used up all of my "casting a wider net" stuff last weekend.

Anyway, have a great weekend!

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