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The Morning After Edition
April 22, 2011

Anniversary EditionThe tenth anniversary for Educators' News sorta snuck up on me. At times over the last year, I thought of making our April 18, 2011, edition the swan song for EdNews. It takes a lot of time to research and write and produces very little in return. But the site does give me a continuing online presence in education, technology in education, and current efforts to improve our nation's schools, charitably known as education "reform." Somewhere along the line, with some encouragement from readers, I decided to stay with the task for a while longer. And besides, where else could I publicly challenge the imprudent educational policies of a President whose candidacy I enthusiastically supported? (See: A Disingenuous President.)

But our President and his basketball buddy Secretary of Education aren't the focus of today's writing. Neither is the Governor of Indiana or his State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Pretty much only teachers read my stuff, and they already know how fruitless our federal government's misguided attempts at improving schools will be. Hoosier teachers already know about our state leaders who are practicing self-promotion and party politics at the expense of Indiana's schoolchildren.

Part of the reason I continue to publish Educators' News is that I still enjoy writing at times. Our Tenth Anniversary Edition was a bit hurried, but still a pleasant task to write. I did use up all but one of my previously written "filler" stories in making what I hoped would be a little different kind of posting for my readers. I used lots of graphics and imagery to liven up the looks of the posting, unlike my text only posting on Monday to my other web site, Senior Gardening. I spent most of a weekend writing the rest of it.

Then Tuesday morning dawned, and I once again started from scratch for the day's posting. I spent over an hour hunting for relevant material, but wrote little. I finally took time out to check the site stats for Monday and was right back where I'd been several months ago asking myself, "Why am I doing this if almost no one reads it?"

Over the weekend I'd spent some time reading a few columns from my first column series, That Other Steve..., that appeared on the now defunct MacTimes News Network. For better or worse, the columns have been preserved online by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. That's a good thing for me, as I don't own the copyright to most of those pieces. Probably my best effort there was my last column, a humor piece entitled A Mixed Marriage.

My most read column by far remains Never mind. Apple Education probably is dead. I had over ten thousand hits on that column, received hundreds of nasty emails from readers, and a hundred more kind folks posted some really creative comments about my heritage and IQ on a MacNN forum. By that point in my writing career, I'd already earned my spurs as a Mac-toting Apple critic and had a pretty thick skin. My ears did perk up a bit when my wife told me she'd taken a call from "Steve at Apple," who had called to express his "concern" with my column! He didn't leave his number.

I read over some pretty good and also some pretty awful stuff I'd written. Sometimes when you feel you've written something really important, almost no one reads it. And then you do a fluff piece about growing geraniums from seed and thousands flock to it. It's a strange business that reminds you regularly that you are not the best judge of your own work.

So I continue to slog on with daily postings to Educators' News and an occasional column or editorial. Since I obviously can't objectively evaluate the user appeal of my writing, I'm all over the place at times with what I post. And coming up with something "new" is a problem that writers everywhere face.

When I wrote most of Monday's Tenth Anniversary Edition over the weekend, I decided not to stay strictly with education news and just have some fun with it. Of course, once I had it posted, a slew of relevant articles became apparent, so I ended up burying them in our Odds 'n' Ends section at the end of the posting. I found after writing the Tuesday and Wednesday editions that I was slipping back into just linking to some really mundane educational stuff. Other than a really great piece by Diane Ravitch and Mike Doyle's almost always inspiring blog, it left me down in the dumps again about education.

EdNews - 4/22/2011So when I wrote Thursday's posting, I again let it rip with three straight space-related stories that may have only marginal usefulness in the classroom before I got into the usual stuff. But they looked fantastic, and I felt good.

On a roll after finished up the posting early Thursday morning, I pushed ahead into Friday's Earth Day posting with a bunch of earthy photos from my free Desktop Photos page. One photo made me laugh when I added it to the page. Mist over a Reservoir is actually titled Mist over a Drainpipe on my hard drive! I'd botched the shot and included a big piece of drainpipe in the foreground of what is really an otherwise pretty nice shot. I was able to edit out the drainpipe in Photoshop and use the photo, but I still laugh at myself over my original composition of the shot. It originally got posted on Desktop Photos drainpipe and all.

EPI contributed a very political YouTube video that I quickly embedded in the posting, along with a few tart comments for some folks in Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis, Indiana, who care more about their political ambitions than the folks they are supposed to represent. The state representative for our district won't even answer my emails, even though I met him repeatedly while I was still teaching. I guess he's too busy out being Elvis.

And then I remembered an anecdote I'd run across over the weekend that I'd shared on EdNews in 2003. It seemed to me to be the perfect ending for another week in education where the forces of education "deform" seem to be taking the day. To be sure, I ran it past Annie, Diane Ravitch, and Walt Gardner, who all are busy people who do answer their mail. It seemed okay, so I posted:

Clipped - Snowplows and Education

I ran across this item a couple of days ago when trying to find a link I'd posted long ago. It comes from the February 17, 2003, posting of Educators' News. While our snowplows are gone for now, I think the message still rings true. I just wish our President, Secretary of Education, Governor in Indiana, and other "reformers" would get the message:

Anne, Julia, and I were on our way home from Terre Haute to rural Sullivan county yesterday in a storm that had ranged in two days from rain to sleet to snow. I thought to myself, "Where is the highway department?" Visibility was terrible. The roads had a layer of ice covered by drifting snow. As we drove on, I saw the flashing yellow lights of a snowplow ahead. We were actually following the snowplow! The highway department was there and had been there, according to news reports, for some time. They simply were overwhelmed with the severity of the storm and were doing the best they could with the tools at hand under conditions over which they had no control.

I think the general public is in much the same position on education as I was about the highway department. They really don't see much of what we do. Our task is so overwhelming at times, it appears we have accomplished little when we're putting forth a tremendous effort...doing the best we can with the tools at hand under conditions over which we have little control.

I shared the clip yesterday with our President and Indiana's Governor.

Diane wrote back noting that "the news goes from bad to worse. At some point, this snowstorm has to end!"

Walt wrote back that "When people are anxious, they look for scapegoats. Teachers (and other public sector employees) serve that purpose so well." He'll have a piece up today that previews what he thinks "the educational landscape of the future" will look like.

Annie was on the road "between Lawrenceville and Vincennes," but still stopped "to peek at it." She gave me a quick email okey-dokey.

Quite honestly, the posting may not prove to be that profound. But I'll have kept practicing my writing skills for another week as Educators' News sails into its eleventh year. Ten thousand people don't read any one of my columns anymore.

Well, there is that geranium piece! Go figure!

Odd Thoughts While Shaving Between Paragraphs

Eats, Shoots & LeavesI used to use the title above to hold unrelated items at the end of columns in my now defunct View from the Classroom series. It's a weak play on words, hopefully a bit like Lynn Truss's delightful Eats, Shoots & Leaves. (I won't spoil the title story for you, although you can find it on Amazon's Look Inside feature of the older edition.) Now, I just use the tamer Odds 'n' Ends title for things I pile in at the end of a daily posting on Educators' News.

This column really started out as a nasty rant that I set aside as another forever unfinished column. I do that sometimes.

Over time, I've learned to avoid ripping off 1500 virulent words that I may (or may not!) later regret. I also regularly remind myself to tone down my rhetoric. I'm a Christian and my words and actions should reflect that deep belief. I can't count the times I've deleted words like "idiot" and "slimeball" when writing about some of our elected officials. Clueless, basketball buddy and Elvis still seem to slip through at times, though, as they are so perfectly descriptive of the elected officials to whom they were applied. And there was that one time I dropped (and almost immediately pulled) an F-bomb and the word "dumb," which I only allow myself to use in self-descriptions, on Educators' News. Profanity and name calling aren't good writing and certainly aren't Christian. (I hope God will forgive the vocabulary sometimes used in the incredibly funny graveyard humor of Mr. Teachbad.) I still fail miserably at times at cleaning up some unnecessarily strong comments.

So we've come to the end of something that is a bit over 1600 words of rambling fluff. That may well account for our anemic stats. If you enjoyed reading it, you may also like my Lazy Summer Daze on Senior Gardening. I wrote it a few years ago while cooling off on the back porch and possibly enjoying a little too much liquid refreshment.

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©2011 Steven L. Wood