Finally! Circumstance is here!

Published April 10, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

After many, many moons the novel (well Novella) is here . Circumstance the novel! is now available on Amazon. If you have Kindle select you can read it free of charge.

This has been a long journey.  It began with a small notebook and large salad at Fuzzy’s. As I ate my salad I observed a couple who was clearly at having an awkward second date or possibly morning after the first date experience.

The girl kept leaving to go to the restroom. She was either in the yakking stage of a hangover or trying to call someone to rescue her. I kept watching them and a story about how she was leaving because she had an eating disorder and the guy didn’t want to break up with her because she was emotionally fragile, but he was kind of seeing someone on the side, spun out.

The side girl, who he thought was a random rocker chick from the club next door, was actually a homeless runaway. The homeless runaway turned into a character, Vanessa Riley.

The story then became hers. She had the life of an entitled teenager from a wealthy family in Baltimore. She was in love with her best friend’s brother, Charlie.  This from this came the story of Charlie’s whole family. Eventually the story turned into a crime novel, with Vanessa’s murder making her the last victim of a serial killer.

After many, many drafts with many tangential side stories, including Vanessa’s mother drowning her sorrows in too many martinis and falling into the welcoming arms of Charlie’s 19 year old best friend, it became clear to me that the real story was between Charlie and the killer, Robert Stephen Nichols.

Nichols has his own series of tangents and back stories.   He was a pure sociopath who freely admitted his guilt when the game was clearly finished.

The novella has been finished and edited for quite some time; I was just waiting to hear the results of a writing contest before I published.

Please check it out and if you love it, review it. In fact if you loathe it, review it!

Are we not entertained?

Published April 10, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

If you see what appears to be a fully function human staggering around drooling and clutching an empty coffee cup murmuring, “Four hour test. . .. So tired.” It’s because it’s STAAR time in Texas.

Yes, folks, it’s that time that is feared more than tornadoes. It’s proof that evil walks among us. It’s the Standardized Test that is supposed to measure students abilities in the areas of Math, Reading and Writing. I say “supposed to” because all it’s just an endurance test for both teachers and students.

Each student is given four hours to take each test. The teachers/proctors must actively monitor each session. (Active monitoring means no sitting, reading excessive movement and responding with scripted answers only. )  Students are allowed restroom breaks but only after signing in and out.

Oh, and if you are a high school student, your graduation depends on it.  Schools can lose funding and/or teachers over this diabolical test.

It’s so bad that  poet can’t answer questions   on her own poem.

Then, there is the grim specter that is Bill 610, but I’m on a different rant right now.

The test (and eighth grade girls) are proof of demonic forces at work.

The test doesn’t address what is actually taught in the classroom and it certainly doesn’t test the way American   students have begun to think of education.  Education has been a right for so long and society overall has devalued education to the point that students have become entitled because they don’t really care.

Education is as taken for granted as clean water, and don’t even get me started on pencils.  It has taken me four days to get back to this article because I have been trying to find time to sit down because of the whole education thing.

I listen to podcasts on my way to work in the morning and I got good and cranked up about inequities and opportunities based on location and familial wealth.  (Look at my big vocabulary! Look! Look! )  and then I came to school.

Most of the teachers in my school have Master’s Degrees. (I’m the only one who has two!) We are all enthusiastic about education and we all genuinely care about the students.  It is rapidly turning into a pearls before swine affair. (And not the hilarious comic)

I started working on this a week ago and haven’t been able to finish due to many circumstances beyond my control.

Many years ago I was the producer for a community theatre. We had one whole season where every single show had an understudy go on for a cast member. Quite often, it was the director.

We would preface these performances with a speech saying, ” Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have to shove some poor schmoe on to the stage with a script for your amusement and pleasure.”

The circumstances are rapidly moving beyond the control. Suffice it to say that too many of my students think they are here to be entertained. As a trained professional, I get paid to perform.

I think I may have shared too much

Elle-one, again.

Published March 21, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Batman is undergoing his transformation into Blackbeard halfway across the country and I am here with the cats.

Bat-cat Frances just sneezed on my hand after drinking half of the water in my glass. (She picked up this habit from my cat, Samantha. )

I am on spring break and am slowly remembering why I need specifics on my schedule and occasional supervision. I’m meandering around the world, kind of higgledy piggledy.  I have gotten a few things done, two workouts, a mammogram, feeding myself, the purchasing of nourishing food, etc . . . .

I’m a bit unfocused and that’s ok. I am setting a few small goals for myself and I do have something to do each day. These somethings are allowing me to sleep a lot, read a lot and watch movies.

I’m trying to overprogram so I don’t go into a Missing Batman downward spiral. I’m trying to enjoy my days off because next week we go into STAAR week and many, many other things that will cause me to rage and complain that I don’t have the time.

There is something that I find concerning, mainly because I’ve never really noticed. It seems that I am completely and totally clueless unless I have a specific task. (I know that was a very clumsy sentence; that just proves my point.

Today as I interacted with actual people, I heard myself not making sense as I ordered my coffee, purchased my cheetos, and went through the steps of my mammogram. (These were three separate errands, not just some fabulous dream complex.) I essentially relied upon the kindness of strangers as ordered my iced latte backwards, fumbled my way through the pin pad and deeply pondered as I tried to remember if I was wearing deodorant.  (Bonus points if you can match up the fumble to the correct errand!)

I’m trying to make myself do something fun each day. Today’s fun, going to the library and checking out an actual book that has nothing to do with what or whom I teach. It’s a non-fiction book that I just wanted. (Creepy urban legends)

In the synchronicity files (World’s worst tribute band) the locker I was assigned to house my clothes during my mammogram was named Dolly Parton.  This is amusing not just because Dolly’s hooters are her meal ticket (that,too, was an awkward sentence.) but because Dolly is the executive producer of Batbeard’s show.

And we’re back.

 

 

 

I

 

 

 

 

It continues

Published March 16, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

(This is the rant, continued.)

So what else is 610 going to do?

I’m so glad you asked. Bill 610 will repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  Let’s break it down a bit further. This Act  is the main K-12 law. (For those of you who don’t know, this means kindergarten through twelfth grade. This law affects students from the ages of five to eighteen.)

The latest version of this Act is called Every Student Succeeds.   If this law is repealed, equal opportunity protections for students would go away. This would largely affect Special Education students.

How would this madness happen? Well, under the current law, any school that receives federal funding, which is every public school in the United States, must have resources available for Special Needs students.  This includes Individual Education Plans. This means that every student who has a disability as designated by their school would be affected by the removal of this law.

For the uninitiated, disabilities range from the obvious, like a wheel-chair bound student, to a high functioning student with Asperger’s Syndrome.  There are also 504 designations which covers just about everything else in the alphabet soup of diagnoses. With out this funding the programs in place could suffer by losing qualified staff to dissolving completely.

In my school  of 81 students we have two students who are directly being served as a result of Special Education funding. One of them, let’s call him Marcus, has Tourette’s Syndrome. He also has several cognitive and developmental delays. This means in addition to being a squirrelly 12 year old, because all 12 year olds are squirrelly, he also has the Tourette’s ticks  and motor control issues. He also is on the academic level of a third grader.  His under-education is a direct result of of the mishandling of his case at his previous schools, meaning he was lost in the crowd and was too difficult to handle in a classroom of thirty-five students.  So instead of educating him, his previous schools isolated him.

Now that he is in smaller school, his disabilities were easy to spot and deal with. Fortunately many of our students are kind and welcome him into their large group activities. Marcus has a teacher whose sole job is to work with him as a result he has mastered the sight words of a grade level very close to where the rest of his classmates . He can already out perform many of them in basic math.

I mentioned Carl in an earlier blog. We are awaiting  a specific diagnosis for him, but for the time being he is also working with our Special Ed teacher. Carl is on grade level, slightly above it actually, but emotionally he has regressed to a five year old.  When he gets overwhelmed he gets violent.   (I can totally understand this; there are days when I want to get violent with some of my students.)

With out Special Education funding, both of these students would be isolated, possibly institutionalized. Neither of these students’ families can afford private education. Bill 610 would effectively doom these children to a life behind grey walls where they would be managed by indifferent under trained staff.

It is a head shaker, especially when you consider how many kids will be damaged by this.

Damaged kids become damaged adults.  I don’t want to know what will happen after that.

 

 

It’s not just a bill

Published March 14, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

(Warning, this is the beginning of a multi-part diatribe in progress. I will rant. I will rave. I will invoke a fiery doom upon evildoers. )

On January 23, Iowa Representative Steve King, introduced Bill 610. This Bill touched the heart of every teacher with the icy fingers of fear. These icy fingers squeezed a death grip when Betsy De Vos was appointed Secretary of Education on February 2.  ( The ground hog said nothing about that!)

Now, I often have an inmates-running-the asylum-feeling, especially since I teach sixth grade, but this change at the national level is terrifying. Tim Curry in a clown suit terrifying.

Bill 610 is” To distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.”

The certain rule relating to nutrition standards is the No Hungry Kids Act. What is that? It’s legislation regulating the nutritional quality of school breakfasts and lunch.  (Because, that’s not important.  In fact, it’s laughable. It must be funny because NO ONE IS TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY.)

I have one student who I know for a fact that the only time she knows she will eat is at school. Fortunately for her, our school lunch is a buffet of salad, raw veggies and baked potatoes. There is also soup, usually vegetable based.  I have seen this child eat four bowls of soup and three giant plates of salad. Sometimes she takes crackers home for later.

I know this is not a unique case. This is not the only child in the country who does not have enough to eat. (There are documentaries and studies available on many media platforms.  There are even programs in place that feed these children over the summer and when school is out.)

For a country that believes the children are our future (I think Whitney Houston had something to say about that. Oh and I think Jesus was also a big fan of children as well.)  we suddenly consider acceptable to stop caring about what they eat. I  bet Mr. King and Ms. DeVos feed their pets and themselves the highest quality of chow.

When I was in Graduate School, a fellow student talked about spending almost half of her paycheck every week feeding her pre-k students so they would be alert enough to learn.  Pre-K students are between 4-5 years old. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist or any thing that requires math and chemistry as part of the degree plan, but even I know that tiny children need special nutrition so they can, I don’t know, think, grow and eventually be a part of society.

Why is this even a consideration?

Whoever you voted for, how can we, as a country take food out of the mouths of our children?

We’re about to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is this the on ramp?

Published March 13, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

So I am still in the pull back on the Tonka truck that is my reality right now.  I still have a lot to say about the state of education, but am hesitant to commit the final words to the page before I am truly ready. (I don’t want the actual diatribe to be a “yeah, she can write, but so what?)

My head is so congested that it feels like  gnome is putting up weatherstripping in my head so it is more energy efficient.  (How eco conscious is my head gnome!)  It is making it hard to hear my students and hard to process any real thought.  I could have called in, but I don’t think I’m sick enough to have stayed home. (Curse that work ethic/Catholic guilt of mine. )

It’s not that I don’t think they cant’ go on without me, clearly they can. I just don’t want to come back to the fall-out.  In general, my students are high-strung. One is practically a chihuahua with an espresso addiction. Any change in the routine throws everyone off kilter. Its mostly a trickle down-The Chihuahua has a meltdown, it causes strife, then people start arguing.  (Sixth grade girls will be a fight with anyone over anything.) I just asked that, all my girls said yes and then the Chihuahua dropped his two cents in and now everyone is arguing about not arguing.

That is an excellent illustration of why I’m reluctant to miss a day with my cherubs. But I’m watching two students sneeze like it’s their job and wipe their noses on their sleeves. One of my students is coughing like he’s at the final casting call for Camille.  I had no question of the origin of this particular cold; I’m curious to know who is patient zero.

I’m seriously bummed out that I was sick( fever, head stuffy, no appetite all weekend).   Batman turns into Blackbeard this weekend. He will be gone until the end of September/first of October. I know this is an excellent opportunity, what with it being a well paid acting gig, but I don’t like the prospect of being trapped with two surly cats and a bossy bunny for six months.

My spring break is next week. I’m hoping that my cold is gone by then. (of course this means that my last week with Batman will taken up by my cold-med-head and tired teacher gal attitude. But I shall sally forth.

I’m listening to a book, “Leave Me ” by Gayle Forman. The inciting incident is a busy working mother who has  heart attack but doesn’t have the time to notice because she has too many things to do.  I totally feel her pain.

This is not a postscript; the thought is at the forefront of my mind today.  Nineteen years ago today, Thomas Dewey Hembree, passed away. He was my Pop and laughed at all my wise cracks. He was a kind, thoughtful man. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that he was gone. He taught me that it was possible to love someone and not even know it.

No cats on the cloud!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the mouths of something

Published March 10, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

It’s Friday and we are a week out from Spring Break. (That is capitalized because it is the actual title of something. We’ve been working on Proper and Common Nouns.)  It’s still hot and steamy in my classroom and half of my kids are already out because their parents planned the break activities with the mistaken notion that all spring breaks world wide happen simultaneously.)

This means that half of the kids will be missing two weeks of school. Unfortunately, the teachers have to be here to teach surly students, which is like juggling handfuls of spaghetti, except the spaghetti won’t stop complaining.

In an effort to keep forward momentum, I showed my students a documentary about becoming the President of the United States. (Trust me, it wasn’t in the horror category.)

We then had an active discussion. I call it active because I forced the students to participate.  Here’s what I got

“Presidents don’t make the rules. Presidents are powerless. He’s only there to give people hope.”

“I would want to be President to because it is a great opportunity to help people stop hurting and harming each other.”

“It’s a stressful job with paperwork and the whole world is watching.”

So many things to comment on, but to quote Hamlet,

“But, break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.”

I have to go, I need to break up a screaming argument about which country is the largest, geographically.