“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself” —Anne Rice

OK now we are talking!  Please look at the last post that I made and the comment my good friend left. The words I share, when I write, I’m sharing my emotions. That sounds obvious and simplistic. Still, I was recently reminded of how vulnerable we are when we share words as my son began a serious pursuit of writing for college/future career. He took a great writing class over the summer and the professor asked everyone what they wanted most out of the course and what they were most afraid of. Some of them gave lame answers like I want an A and I’m afraid I won’t get an A. My son’s response was that he feared he just “wasn’t any good at it”. Now that is scary ! What if you decide to put it all out there and then you aren’t that good at putting words together or worse your words are ignored? I think that’s where the emotions come and attempting to share all those emotions, that and persistence.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

—Octavia E. Butler

“Writing is really a way of thinking — not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.”

—Toni Morrison

 

 

Words, Comments, Feed Me Seymore!

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So it’s almost the New Year and I have been working, I have been reflecting, I have been planning, I have been doing.  I have not been blogging, it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post and I do want this blog to take off and succeed as it were.  The goal for me has not been to get followers of the blog because I am promoting a particular item, person, idea or agenda.  I don’t have anything to sell or grand insight to share.  I crave dialogue, back and forth, words and ideas.  So more posts, more comments, reposts of comments with added feedback.  That will be my metric perhaps, and that the dialogue is meaningful for others. That’s what it’s about. Proud of my family and proud of myself as we did unplug for 5 days to do Christmas and Chanukah at the Cabin.  Loads of dialogue there, games, food, walks, reading. A lot more dialogue going when without cell phones, computers, tv’s and such.  Great way to reset and recharge for the upcoming year. But enough about me, what do you think of me ? 🙂 Comments and Feedback SERIOUSLY WELCOME !

Missing Your College Age Kid and Making That Work !

Do you miss your child who has gone away to College or grown up and moved out?  I still miss mine terribly, even after more than a year.  The message I get from people implies I shouldn’t though, they say “Aren’t you happy for him?” and “You must be so proud that he’s making it on his own.” I am happy for him, I am incredibly proud of him. He has navigated the beginning of his adult life beautifully with the best parts of his innate nature and ability fully intact. The need to completely acknowledge and experience the loss of his physical presence in our daily lives is a process, and one that is critical for forming the basis of a lasting relationship with him for the future.  His sister felt his absence most profoundly at times, and has learned through the use of phone, text and email that she can continue to rely on him for his love and support.  It took time though, and they are still figuring out how to make that work.  So we continue in this process together, without the sharp pain I felt when he first went away, but always a tender spot for the young boy I miss and love. I think that’s ok though, and so does he according to our conversations which continue weekly and have a very different tone than before, but are still filled with love.

Same Blog New Look !

I have not posted in quite some time. Busy on Borough Council, busy supervising a Social Work Intern at a local non-profit community service organization.  Helping out with the local production of the Nutcracker.  My mother had AMAZING sewing skills, my mine totally pale in comparison, however I seem to fit some of the requirements to manage costume alteration.  So excited Sophie did an amazing job this Fall placing 13th in the District and getting a new PR overall this season of 20:54 in the 5K.  Sam did well also on the Hampshire Cross Country Team and ran his first ever 10 mile race in 1:25 minutes.  Sophia made the Honor Roll and Sam has successfully formed an amazing Div II committee with Ira Fey (the professor Sam went to Hampshire to study with) and Will Ryan (an amazing writing professor that Andy worked with).  Sophia will start her second University course in the Spring, she will be taking a US History course with Lou Rodriguez, it should be great.  And I have applied for a job,  it’s been a while and I have my interview on Monday.  I have applied to be a library aide at Kutztown High School and I think this could be my second career.  I’ll see how it goes and get a sense of whether it’s something I could do and love.  Andrew has been doing his thing at the University, he will teach a class in London this winter, and most importantly over the summer he and Sam cleared out the cabin and we had a wood stove installed up there so we are loving the winter cabin life.  Christmas at the Cabin will be epic !!!!!!

I don’t have a lot of pics of my family this summer . . .

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This summer I have been living with my children: walking, cooking with food from our garden, eating, laughing, swimming, and just laying around reading together or watching movies.  We have been doing a lot of things like painting the porch at the cabin, redecorating and reorganizing the rooms in our house, going on day trips to fun places like Museums or Broadway Shows, and some more mundane places like Home Improvement Stores and food shopping.  The one thing I haven’t really been doing much of is “capturing” it in pictures.  At first I was sad, then I realized that’s a good thing.  I’m busy living my life with my family, not documenting it. It’s liberating and I believe we are all richer for it. I won’t get any of those days back, they were glorious and I wouldn’t change anything.  In my mind the images are crystal clear, not so much in the way they look but in the way they feel, the feeling gives me pictures the way a smell reminds you of a place or person that you love. That feeling of simply being together, in that private space that love creates, counteracts the chaos and everything else that exists outside that space.  It’s an incredible gift and I recommend everyone get some of that feeling and share it.

JUST SAY NO TO AP Tests !

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As a parent I want what is best for my children, I want them to have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and reach their greatest potential.  For over 60 years parents and schools have been sold on the notion that AP classes and tests will give children the advantage of college level learning, give them greater access to well ranked schools,  and set them on the path for success in college and beyond.  Research indicates this is simply not true, and meanwhile millions of dollars are siphoned in the educational system to buy AP test materials, develop AP classes and pay to take AP tests.  This is money taken away from the greatest number of students to benefit a small, select group.  Resources in terms of teachers, time and money that are supposed to give students an advantage, but that do not guarantee those advantages.  That instead, among other things, widen the gap between the haves and have nots, put the decision of what will and won’t be taught into the hands of those selling the test, and have the potential to do long term damage by creating a generation of students who falsely believe they have engaged in college level academics, and who base their value and measure their ability  on the extrinsic markers of a test rather than the intrinsic measure gained from advanced levels of intellectual engagement and growth. Some things to be aware of regarding AP Tests and the College Board that administers them. (as well as PSATs and SATs)

  • The College Board claims to be a non-profit organization. However, they make money and a considerable amount of it. With nearly half of their profits from administering AP tests and AP test materials. Over 15 executives at the College Board make more than $300,000 a year, and the CEO David Coleman makes over $1 million a year.  The College board has a monopoly in the test taking market, with a 317% profit margin.  This discredits the college board as a non-profit organization focused on connecting students with colleges and college success.  It’s a self interested corporation first, separate from any benefits students gain from taking AP classes and tests. Many organizations including the AETR (American’s for Educational Testing Reform) have lobbied to have the College Board’s non-profit status revoked.
  • Money and teaching resources that go to AP classes and tests is money taken from already underfunded schools that are often forced to lay off teachers and cut important programs such as Fine Arts and Music. With a focus on AP tests and improving AP test scores  there is a narrowing of resources to a select group, leaving the greatest number of students underserved and even further distanced from the goal of higher education.  Monetary incentives come from many states’ Department of Education to schools whose students’ AP test scores are a 3 or higher, this reinforces the importance of just these tests, and these students, over the well being of students and academic caliber of the school as a whole.
  • AP tests have inherent biases in terms of race and class. Correlations that were drawn initially between high tests scores and high performance in college and beyond have been proven by research to be false.  Since tests and test preparation are most often available in predominantly white, upper/upper middle class schools and communities the greatest markers of success are correlated to these factors.   With a widening gap and access to higher education as schools and students who can’t afford access to these materials and tests get left behind.
  • AP Tests scores may or may not be accepted at many schools, even if a high tests score is reported. For those students who take the test to lessen the number of college courses they would be required to take there is quite possibly a gap in their learning as the complete experience of engaging intellectually with peers in the college environment is lost. So it will not save time or money in their college experience, and it may cost them in terms of the quality of their education.
  • Quite often since test score is the priority, the actual course content of AP classes does not reflect the content of college level courses.  An inordinate amount of factual material is crammed into AP classes and curriculum, only to be regurgitated on an AP test rather than engaged in with college level academic rigor.  AP test curriculum dominates the curriculum of school courses, thus effectively hijacking what will and won’t be taught in High Schools.  Educators from around the country protested vehemently in 2018 when the College Board decided to eliminate all events prior to 1450 from their World History AP Test, thus making the AP World History test completely Eurocentric.  The College Board has since changed it’s decision and put back 250 years into the time frame to accommodate world historical events outside pre-european expansion and development.  Many of those within groups like the Organization of American Historians consider it wrong to call a course a World History course when it leaves out thousands of years of history, particularly non-white, non european history.
  • Finally, the level of pressure and stress increases for students with each AP class and expectations for performance on AP exams. The drive from schools to “load” AP courses is damaging to the overall performance and growth of students both academically, socially and emotionally. With the high cost of testing in terms of pressure to perform and otherwise, outweighing any of the benefits gained from AP courses even if they are taught in an intellectually and academically meaningful way.

Test scores are not a guarantee of success, they are a snapshot, and colleges all over the country have begun to reflect this in their admissions process by going “test optional”. Schools like Columbia, Barnard, Boston University, Bucknell , George Washington, Bryn Mawr, Smith and NYU are focused on the complete picture of applicants, and not a single test score or grade.  Some well established High Schools in places like New York and Washington State have dropped AP classes completely stating ” …because AP tests loom so large, faculty teaching these courses often feel pressed to sacrifice in-depth inquiry in order to cover all the material likely to be included on the test. This runs counter to the fact that college courses demand critical thinking and rigorous analysis. AP courses, by contrast, often stress speed of assimilation and memorization. …we are convinced that focusing on a timed standardized test does not promote inquiry or higher-level discussion among students. Moving away from AP courses will allow us to offer a wider variety of courses that are more rigorous and enriching, provide opportunities for authentic engagement with the world, and demonstrate respect for students’ intellectual curiosity and interests.”  Perhaps my greatest fear as a mother, and a child and family counselor, is the long term effects of the culture of testing and teaching to the test on young people.

With over 20 years of experience as a child and family counselor I can say with certainty that young people are baraged as never before with external forces and motivations, that influence their behavior and their view of themselves.  Those who develop and internalize their self worth or ability based too heavily on external markers like their ability to take a test or make a grade are at risk.  In order to have sustainable academic, social or emotional growth and success students must develop internal motivations and measurements, otherwise they are at the whim of constantly mounting forces outside their control to find their value, self worth, achievement and ability.

 

And this guy ?! ;-)

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This dude showed up on my doorstep yesterday!  (Thanks so much to Diego and JP for hauling him and all his junk back to home) One year of college under his belt, nicely done.  Registered to take some classes and pursue a possible internship at KU.  And finished the grueling and prestigious Seven Sisters Trail race, 12 miles out and back, along the Holyoke Mountain Range last week with some of his Track and Field peeps. 2 hours and 58 minutes (note medals around neck and goofy grin). That must be why he’s still sleeping today. Sam is home for the summer !

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National Honors Music Society Performance

IMG_7985Super Proud of Sophie last night, her dance solo for her induction to the National Honors Music Society was fantastic ! Super special with Sam home from college to watch her be inducted into the program that he is also a member of.  Love this group and their performances the most, it’s totally student run and kids who are musicians or singers might also play an instrument or dance, or visa versa.  Where else can you see a traditional Bag Pipe performance alongside Modern Dance.  Because they choose all the music and methods of expression it is not just their skill, it’s their joy and passion that comes out.

Plus I got to do Sophie’s hair, so cool !

Fitting in and Belonging

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Somewhere along the line people have confused the idea of fitting in with belonging.  What bulls..t!  Everyone belongs, they need to.  If someone feels like they don’t belong, it’s our job to make them feel that way.  That is how I have always tried to live my life and I have tried to instill that in my children. If someone is being hurt or shut out in any way; emotionally, physically, verbally, then we are all vulnerable to that kind of treatment.  I’m not Ghandi or Mother Teresa, it’s logic and self preservation, we are here together and we need each other to exist it’s just fact.  Feeling like you fit in and belong in a supremely messed up world, where people in power are trying to segregate and hate anyone who is an “other, is not a sign of good mental or emotional health.  Take it from a mental health specialist, seriously that’s free, no charge this time.