Thursday, March 31, 2011

Plain, but not so simple

I think this should be required viewing for all school boards, administrators,and teachers:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No Original Thinking Allowed.

When we moved to Georgia, we chose our home partly based on the reputation of the schools. The elementary and middle schools are terrific. The academics are solid and the extra-curriculars (especially the music) are superb. Then high school hit.  This particular school is highly rated in the state and even nationally. Music and sports and art programs are stellar. Students score well on standardized test and college acceptance is the rule, not the exception.

However, the educational philosophy is more about elevated test scores that make the school look good than about actually EDUCATING the students. I have in front of me a rubric for a research paper in an American Literature class. As I review it, I realize there is not ONE point for critical thinking, independent analysis, or unique discussion. There are sixteen points to this rubric and every single one of them is based on layout, grammar, and mechanics. There are more points awarded for using the correct font than for using the student's own brain.

This disturbs me. No, it angers me. What are they teaching there? How will these kids excel in college/career unless they learn to think critically and communicate well? This particular teacher didn't even read the essay in question (and no, it's not one of my own children's papers.) She skimmed through the paper checking off sources (two primary, four secondary), topic sentences (and she missed one), and keywords that she thought were relevant. Had she actually read the content she would have discovered that her chosen keywords were irrelevant to the actual thesis. She would have read a well-supported, strongly written paper---with a lot of punctuation errors.

Granted, spelling, punctuation, and proper citation matter. It's important to communicate correctly, but it's MORE important to communicate actual SUBSTANCE. Sadly, this teacher (and she is one of many) apparently believes that thoughtful analysis is of no value. Students may not know anything about thinking critically, but they darn well know where to use a semi-colon!

Bill Beattie, an American coach, gets it, saying:
The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think - rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.

I believe that my job as an educator is to teach my students how to read critically, how to interpret information, how to draw conclusions, and how to communicate effectively. Part of that does include insisting on proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Citing sources is important to differentiate between the students' thoughts and the ideas of others. But to end there and to hold that as the ultimate goal does the students a grave disservice. Where is the encouragement to reach beyond expectations? Where is the motivation to try new things? I like what Jean Piaget wrote:
The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done---men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.
Unless more teachers decide to become educators, rather than test-preparers, the future is pretty bleak. Teenagers will continue to be underestimated, test scores will continue to be a poor representation of anything of value, and true innovators will be harder and harder to find because no one will be willing to think outside the standardized test box.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

PSE OnOne play

I love how a little software manipulation can make a bad picture really artistic!


It feels good to play a little. 
I made the necklace based on a project I saw in Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine, March/April 2011 edition. The flowers are made of old torn paper. I added microbeads for detail (Pennywise Arts.)  The rest is traditional beading and a chain from a craft store. I made the clasp fit toward the front for an asymentrical look. I'm really happy with the way it turned out---and the fun I had making it!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Playing

I used my birthday money from my mom to invest in "OnOne" software, a program that allows me to easily create cool effects. Here is a sample, using a picture of sweet Abigail:



Fun stuff!!!!

Excuses, Excuses...

One of the things my students learn quickly is that Mrs Loomis does not tolerate excuses. Printer didn't work? Should have finished early enough to find an alternative. Out of town? We're in class two days a week--you are responsible to get the work done. Out of paper? Out of ink? No internet? (see answer above.)

So, it's probably no surprise that I roll my eyes at exercise excuses from reasonably healthy people. There are very few people whose doctors discourage any form of exercise. (I have known one in my life, and she WANTED to get out and move. Sadly, she passed away from Type Two Chiari Malformation) Most people are able to exercise; they just aren't willing.

Want excuses? I have plenty:
1. I was diagnosed with asthma at three. I know the insides of ERs all over the country--and a couple internationally. In all likelihood, I will die of some asthma-related malady (in many, many years)

2. I have a slight case of scoliosis. It's not enough to warrant correction, but it is enough to cause pain, muscle inflammation, and stiffness.

3. I have a titanium plate in my neck to secure a bone graft after a ruptured disc. There is another disc threatening to herniate and rupture, too.

4. I have fragile feet. The bones are more flexible than they should be, and that can be painful, although not life-threatening.

5. I am busy. I have a part-time teaching job. I also tutor. I have a photography business. I am an artist (and I've actually sold a couple of things!) I have a daughter in college, a daughter about to graduate from high school, and a daughter in high school who is in marching band AND swims year-round. Mom's taxi-service is always running.

6. Then there is my passion for music. I sing with the local symphony choir--weekly rehearsals, plus concerts. Give that up? Not a chance---it's the best therapy I know.

7. Allergies? Yep---to pretty much everything that grows from animals to yucca trees.

8. Finances are tight (see #5)

9. I have a long term injury sustained when I was hit by a car 16 years ago. It can cause excruciating headaches (and the medicine I take for my high blood pressure excludes any anti-inflammary over the counter medicines to ease them. Acetaminophen barely touches them.)

So, as far as excuses go, I have plenty. I don't write this to elevate myself, but to encourage anyone who reads it: if I can exercise regularly, anyone can!
I run...because it works for me. (My doctor can hardly believe I run like I do, but she keeps an eye on my health issues and tells me to keep it up until my body tells her otherwise.) But there are so many options for people! Time an issue? Make a 10 minute committment. EVERYONE can carve out ten minutes over the course of a day.

Walk, bike, swim, dance, lift weights, stand on your toes, stretch, invest a few dollars into bands, find househod materials to simulate weight lifting (milk jugs, sugar bags, laundry detergent creative!), find fitness shows on television, check out videos from the library...just MOVE!
Start small. My running began with walking. I added a short jog (from one mailbox to the next.) I extended the jog time. Then I moved faster. I still take walk breaks. (Jeff Galloway is a hero for making the run/walk interval acceptable in the running world.) Sign up for an event--something about having paid to participate is highly motivating. (Plus, many events come with really cool shirts.)
Do one push up. Do one squat. Then add one more. Use a two pound weight. Then a five. Be persistent. Be faithful. Be stubborn and determined to persevere.
It's your LIFE---make it spectacular! Get off the sidelines and play hard. No excuses!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

God So Loved

Work in progress....I need to photograph a crown of thorns myself to make it right...but wanted to share the concept.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The World Beloved

There is an unusual Mass composed by Carol Barnett with libretto by Marisha Chamberlain that I was privileged to sing last weekend. It is a Bluegrass Mass, an oxymoron at first glance, but brilliantly crafted. The music moves gracefully from the classic Mass feel to the joyousness of Bluegrass harmonies and rhythms. The more we rehearsed it, the more I came to love it and appreciate the tremendous talent of the composer and lyricist.

Part of the power of the piece comes from the way Chamberlain compiled the texts. Her theme came from 1 John 4:7-21:    

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
     This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. 

      God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

       We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

The Mass opens with a theme that resurges four more times in movements 5, 8, and 12:
They say God loved the world so dear
He set aside His crown
And cloaked Himself in human shape;
They say that He came down,
And dwelt awhile among us here.
He came on down.
Simple words. Profound thought.

It takes me to Philippians 2:5-11
...Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

 rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

From Kyrie to Benediction, this Mass celebrates the magnificent love of God, who, out of love for us, became one of us, in order that we may have fellowship with Him.
It is more than my puny mind can comprehend, but I am grateful for His great love.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Photoshop Elements Play

One of my groups has a black/white digital challenge this week. Here is my contribution: