Monday, October 30, 2006


I usually don't get into work issues on this blog, but this article listing myths about independent school teachers is hilarious, and partly to mostly true. I don't think these unrealistic standards are exclusive to teachers at independent schools. These days, the expectation seems to be that teachers in general must solve all student, family, and social ills.

Myths about Independent School Teachers
(from NAIS)

1 An enlightened teacher appreciates the nuances of each family's definition of political, religious, and spiritual correctness and monitors her every remark, facial expression, and hand gesture accordingly.

2 An effective teacher knows how to stop second-grade boys from making smutty jokes and fourth-grade girls from gossiping and excluding other girls from their birthday parties.

3 A sensitive teacher never allows any child to feel humiliated for being in the slow math group; in fact, she adroitly organizes reality so that no child ever even suspects that he's in the slow math group.

4 A compassionate teacher understands that busy, pressured children are entitled to everyday small kindnesses in the form of messengered lunches, faxed homework, and parental edits of writing assignments.

5 A hard-working teacher appreciates that part of the benefits of paying tuition is her telephone availability to parents 24/7.

6 A psychologically attuned teacher, through his sensitive ministrations, can maintain every child's ability to concentrate, participate in class, and socialize with friends despite a natural disaster, divorce, or death in the child's family.

7 A protective teacher makes sure that no student ever feels cold, wet, bored, hungry, or left out for more than 15 or 20 seconds.

8 A skillful teacher understands that every independent-school student, if only taught properly, has the potential to excel in all areas.

9 A fair-minded teacher understands that in today's world a grade of B+ means that a student is doing poorly and needs a new teaching strategy, a tutor, or both.

10 A cutting-edge teacher keeps up with the latest research on brain and cognitive development and can tailor these findings to the specific learning needs of each child.

11 Ditto for learning styles, learning differences, and ADHD classroom management strategies.

12 A sympathetic teacher accepts today's families' busy schedules and doesn't really mind if homework isn't turned in on time…or at all.

13 A mature teacher knows that faculty cliques and tensions don't affect students as long as there is a show of politeness and collegiality.

14 A sensible teacher realizes that parents with graduate degrees in anything know as much about elementary education, curriculum, and child development as do teachers and school administrators.

15 An inspired classroom teacher creates an environment so welcoming and magical that every child loves to come to school every day.

16 The up-to-date classroom teacher knows how important it is to develop an integrated curriculum. She seamlessly incorporates art, music, laboratory science, and creative dramatics into every and all academic subjects.

17 A reasonable teacher understands that when parents pay many, many thousands of dollars in tuition, their child's school experience should resemble travel on a cruise ship and that administrators and faculty are responsible for meeting all the child's needs and getting her to her destination — education and graduation — with no waves.

Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles and author of the best-selling parenting book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. She lectures nationally about managing parents' expectations of independent schools.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Every year before Halloween, we usually end up at a "farm" to "pick" our pumpkin. These farms grow actual pumpkins, but also have inflated pumpkin moonwalks, "pony rides" (poor things chained to a pole trudging around in a circle), and even helicopter rides. These experiences always leaves me feeling cold.

Yesterday, we went to an actual working farm, with unfettered animals, a corn maze, and a tractor-pulled hayride which took us over acres of a variety of crops including pumpkins. We waved to folks picking their own huge bunches of collard greens and putting garbage bags full in their cars.

Ironically, we did not pick our own pumpkins, but chose one after the hayride. Oh well. Can't have everything.

Monday, October 23, 2006


To celebrate one year of this blog, I baked an apple pie (of course) with the help of my kids. Notice their handy decorating work with forks . . .

You may be wondering why there is a bird in our pie. This was the first time we used a "pie bird," which is ceramic and serves as a decorative vent. It allows steam to escape during baking while supporting the top crust. The pie bird dates back to Victorian times, and keeps the filling from spilling.

Friday, October 20, 2006


American Life in Poetry: Column 082


Many poems celebrate the joys of having children. Michigan poet Jeff Vande Zande reminds us that adults make mistakes, even with children they love, and that parenting is about fear as well as joy.


Her small body shines
with water and light.
Giggling, she squeals "daddy,"
splashes until his pants darken.
Five more minutes, he thinks,
stepping out quickly,
pouring himself a drink,
not expecting to return
to find her slipped under,
her tiny face staring up
through the undulating surface.
Before he can move,
or drop his scotch,
she raises her dripping head,
her mouth a perfect O.
The sound of her gulped breath
takes the wind out of him.
Her face,
pale and awed,
understands the other side
of water and air.
His wife didn't see,
doesn't know.
Her feet pulse and fade
in the upstairs joists.
His daughter cries,
slips from him, not giggling.
She wants out.
He tries to keep her
in the tub, in the light.
He's on his knees.

Reprinted from "Rattle," Winter, 2005, by permission of the poet, whose most recent book is "Into the Desperate Country," March Street Press, 2006. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Monday, October 16, 2006


On the Path
J.B. Rowell

My parents walk ahead,
view autumn, and point
at colors that stand
out. Side by side they walk
and I wonder: do they
love each other?

As a teen, I asked
both separately on walks
around the neighborhood
lake if they were meant
to be with the other.
They both answered,
"Of course."

They never put their arms
around each other, never
hold hands, yet they walk
side by side after 46 years.
Maybe that is enough:
the walking.

As my mind settles
on this answer, my father
reaches his arm
around her, they stop,
look up, and keep walking.

Monday, October 09, 2006


MH said she wanted to look at the baby book last night before bed, and I assumed she meant the photo album of her as a baby. She actually meant a book that documents a baby's development throughout pregnancy. The photos in this book, A Child is Born, by Lennart Nilsson, are real and amazing and sometimes disturbing. Think Close Encounters.

So we looked at the photos of what our baby looks like right now, and she loved it and asked a million questions which I was only able to answer with the help of the captions. When I closed the book, even though she has just seen her future sibling with a tail; a giant, veiny head; and a furry face; she kissed my belly and said, "Good night."

Sibling In Photos

Cells divide and multiply, tail shrinks into
strung-pearl spine, your baby brother or sister
is a long way from home. Is faceless, nameless.

You love this unborn. Want to see dark
pits fill and cover with lids, ears bloom,
and bones grow visible under translucent skin.

Surely, this is where all movie alien inspiration
comes from. Undaunted, you chart progression:
hands paddle, then mittened, then perfect and floating.

They find each other, become a first taste,
first comfort, as this book comforts you,
let's you feel you know the unknown.


Saturday, October 07, 2006


Instead of buying these books for myself, I bought books for my children. These are the choices I make: warm pjs for them always trump anything I might be needing. I never understood why my mother never bought anything for herself. I get it now. There is always a higher priority when you have children. They are the priority. Plus, buying for them is always much more satisfying, more fun. *Sigh*

Right now, my son is upstairs having a "playdate" with his friend. They are trying to see how big of a mess they can make. *Bang* Maybe I should go check on them again. *Bang* Have I talked about the playdate phenom yet? How odd it is to schedule playtimes for your children. They have neighborhood friends, but we plan times for them to get together with friends from school. Our lives are so busy, we need to schedule playing in.