What is the relationship between community and independence? This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about recently. It seems that modern culture, particularly in the US, is so obsessed with independence that community has fallen by the way-side. Ironically, a healthy community is a key ingredient to independence and personal freedom. Maybe community and independence aren't antonyms after all.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
And then there were two/too/to...
I haven't posted posted in a while because I have been TOO busy in my non-virtual world. As a result, I have a lot to share, but I will limit myself because I am TOO tired to write a coherent post of any length. So, here are two/too/to things that I have observed in the 3-dimensional world recently.
TWO seasons in just TWO days... This is a picture of the Montpelier post office this past Thursday morning when temperatures climbed into the 50's and the city prepared for a possible flood. Since I live in the flood plain and was leaving Thursday night for a conference, I had my own share of flood prep to do. The river did rise several feet as a result of the melting ice caused by the unseasonably high temperatures. The temperature plumetted in the afternoon, which prevented further melting and flooding, however Montpelier isn't out of the woods yet.
And then winter made a comeback on Friday, reminding us of that in the middle of March in Vermont, the lion that is, according to the old saying supposed to represent only early March weather is so powerful that it scares the poor little lamb all the way into April. This is a picture of Loomis St. in Montpelier this morning, showing the fresh snowfall that began Friday evening. I thought many times this week about the sayng, "If you don't like the weather in Vermont, just wait fifteen minutes." In one day, I experienced a pending flood, a hint of spring, and a blast of winter.
Some things are supposed to come in TWO's all the time, like socks. That is why I worked so hard to finish my second sock this past week. Here is a picture of the completed gobstopper socks. ooh, aah. I have to admit, I am kind of happy that winter decided to make a comeback just so I have an excuse to wear my socks. They are so comfy! Who needs drugs when your socks look like this? I already started another pair. I'm hooked.
Now, since I can't come up with another coherent sentence, I will follow the American media trend and offer you my ideas in list form.
Here are some other TWO/TOO/TOs in my life:
TWO other creatures in my house, one canine and one human. TWO ears, eyes, nose, feet, hands- I am pretty symmetrical!
TOO much work to do TOO little time
TOO many wonderful people in my life TOO little time to hang out with them
TOO much war TOO little peace
TOO many ideas to write TOO little brain power to write them
For those of you experienced sock knitters who were wondering, "Did she start the second sock?", the answer is "yes." Everytime I have shared my accomplishment about my first sock with more experienced sock knitters, they congratulated me and promptly inquired if I had started my second one. Veteran sock knitters shared many stories about their experiences with lonely socks in their own unfinished projects closet; sock(s) who had never been given a partner. First of all, let me say that I have done a lot of dancing in my life and I am very good at hopping around so I have gotten plenty of use and exercise out of sock #1 already. This picture was taken yesterday and I am a lot further along now, already workin gon the heel. I am about By the way, in case you are wondering the yarn that I am using for these socks in Mille Colore by Lang These are very thick socks because I decided to do my first pair in worsted weight on #5 dpn's so that I didn't get too frustrated. Knitting with this yarn reminds me of "eating" gobstoppers as a kid. Remember those wierd big marble shaped candies that changed colors in your mouth. The good thing about yarn is that you don't have to open your mouth to see the colors change. This may have been socially acceptable at recess in 4th grade, but I find people are generally not interested in observing drool-coated candy at lunch meetings.
Speaking of change, tomorrow is Town Meeting Day here is Vermont-the day that Vermonters get a day off from work to participate in what may be one of the last holdouts of direct democracy in this country. This form of direct democracy is Vermonters opportunity to initiate change, to move the political gobstopper from red to blue or purple. Vermont's town meeting made national news last year when several towns passed resolutions to impeach that guy who lives in the White House, aka George W. Bush. While a town under 2,000 in Vermont may not have the power to initiate impeachment preceedings, this event showed that the "little people" do have a voice and, if it's loud enough, this voice might even be heard in our corrupt corporate media. So, if you live in Vermont, and you are reading this, plan to use your voice tomorrow. If you don't, someone else will speak for you. You can even get some knitting done while you're listening to other people's ideas. Rep. Mitzi Johnsono of South Hero did. There was a great picture of her knitting in yesterday's Free Press, but I can't seem to find it online. The article about this town meeting described Mitzi,
Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-Grand Isle, settled into a seat with a skein of camel-colored yarn and a pair of knitting needles.
Yeah, a knitting legislator! A woman after my own heart.
We got another decent snow here in Vermont on Friday, although nothing compared to the Valentine's Day Storm on Friday. I got to leave work early and go to the park with Robb and Ella T. Dog. Not too many people had tromped through the park yet so there was lots of fresh fluffy snow for both humans and caninces to enjoy. Below is Ella's tail on the trail. It's pretty much impossible to lose her in the snow. Look at that tail and those ears! When we adopted her fromt the humane society last June, she was terrified and her tail was so far between her legs that it was practically touching her nose. It's nice to see what a little TLC can do for a traumatized dog. John Lennon was right (about a lot) , "All you need is love." And now for the knitters who read this blog. Below is a picture of me in my first completed sweater project. The pattern was in interweave Winter 2005. The yarn is Malabrigo. Yes, the first pattern I tried to read and interpret was from Interweave. This sweater took about a year start to finish, although I put it aside for about six months and did numerous smaller projects, such as hats and scarves. When I decided to take on a sweater project, many people suggested that I try something simple to start. I figured if I was going to invest all this time in knitting a sweater, I wanted it to be special. Needless to say, I spent many hours in on the couch and in the passenger seat saying, "Oh, now I see my mistake" and ripping out inches of hard work. I started the project for the Knitting Olympics last February. I finished it this past January. I've never been good at competetive sports. Maybe it comes from all those years at Socialist summer camp.
"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
Last night, I went to "see" Vermont Public Radio's (VPR) live forum on the Future of Education in Vermont. If you want to get me on my soapbox, just get someone to start bitching about how expensive our schools are and how teacher's have the best deal with all those great health benefits and summers off. Vermont, as with many other states, has struggled to figure how to fund its’ schools. Money doesn't fall off trees and, in case you haven't noticed, the federal government is busy blowing all our tax dollars on a war that the country doesn't support. If the money for public schools isn't coming from taxes that you send to Washington, how is public education being funded?The individual states and towns are funding education.Take a look at your most recent paycheck and see how much is taken out for state income taxes. Not much. So now we have our friend property taxes and sales taxes to pay for all those little kiddies to become knowledgeable and civic-minded adults and turn our country in a better direction.We can’t afford a generation of uninformed and disinterested young people with what is going on in our country and the world.
So, if you’re still reading, maybe you really believe that education is worth it and you just want to know why it costs so damn much. Vermont has a reputation for high quality schools that offer a caring learning community. Doesn't that sound nice? I think so too. Guess what? Quality education costs money.With such a small population in largely rural areas that are facing declining populations, the per pupil cost of education is high. Here are a few other clues as to what else lies behind the high cost of public education, specifically in Vermont. Teachers are good people and, despite what you may think, they are not martyrs. They like to eat good food, live in a warm house, and even go on vacation! I hope I didn't ruin your image of your favorite grade school teacher. If Vermont can't offer a competitive salary and benefits to talented teachers, then they will not be able to attract or retain the skilled educators that we have become accustomed to expecting. The average teacher salary in Vermont is just shy of $40,000.For someone with a master’s degree and 5 -10 years of teaching experience, this is hardly a windfall.Taxpayers are usually getting a bargain.Perhaps the single biggest cost driver in school budgets nowadays is health care.Here’s a statistics to knock your socks off.The average percentage of a teacher’s total package (salary & benefits) that goes towards health care is 22%.That means that the cost of health care for a teacher making $40,000 is $8,800.How many Vermonters have property taxes over $8,800 a year? Not too many. So, the next time you’re angry about your property tax bill, you should call up the health insurance companies and give them a piece of your mind.
OK, I’m almost at the end of my education soapbox. Sit tight. This is the good part.I am going to tell you what you are paying teachers to do all day. I taught in a classroom for four years and let me tell you, that you earn every single penny and every vacation day. It is rewarding work, but it is also intellectually, emotionally, physically, and psychologically demanding and exhausting. For those of you who think that teachers come to school at 8:15, have a brilliant lesson plan idea, prepare to implement that lesson plan by 8:30, stand in front of the class while their while behaved students listen attentively, and then leave at 3:00, I have a little reality check for you.When I taught 5th and 6th grade, I typically put in 55-60 hour weeks if you count all the lesson planning, paper grading, communication with parents, and unexpected management issues that come along with putting 20 11 and 12 year-olds together and keeping them inside all day except for a 15 or 20 minute recess. You don't need a PhD in Child Development or Educational Theory to understand the intensity of the situation I have just described.Here is a schedule of my typical day when I was teaching.
- Alarm goes off- Shower, grab some breakfast, and head out the door by
- Arrive at school- make any necessary copies, write the schedule for the day on the board, check e-mail and respond to concerned parents, write any directions or notes on board.
showtime- 20 excited pre-adolescent students come into the room- 5 of these students have urgent issues they need to discuss with me-get class settled (hopefully) and begin teaching (hopefully).Throughout the day, give an average of 4-5 mini-lessons to entire class, work with groups and individuals on writing, reading, social studies, and math assignments. Sometime during the day, you are supposed to get a 45 minute prep period, which is usually used for planning with other teachers or parent meetings, and at least ½ hour for lunch.During prep period, you get to go to the bathroom, which you have likely had to do for over an hour (I never understood how pregnant teachers dealt with this), grade some papers, and maybe have a short conversation with someone over the age of 12.
3:00-5:30 (on a good day)- Take a short break, do that bathroom thing again, grade papers, help students after school, call and/or e-mail parents, tidy up room, and plan lessons for the next day.
-Go home to eat and relax- spend at least 45 minutes grading papers and/or entering grades into grade book.
Tired? So are teachers. I loved teaching, but I don’t think it is a job where you could not make the argument that people are being overpaid. As one of my favorite bumper stickers says, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
If you want to learn more about the wonderful work that is going on in Vermont schools, here are a few good sites.
Vermont Community Works - An organization dedicated to working with schools to integrate the community into their curriculum. There are some really wonderful detailed examples of what teachers and students are doing to learn about and contribute to the communities that they live in.
Starksboro School in Teaching K-8 Magazine- Teaching K-8, one of the premier magazines for elementary and middle school teaching professionals, profiles one school in every issue. This month, they profiled the Robinson School in Starksboro, VT because of the remarkable work they have done integrating the arts across the curriculum.