Wednesday, April 20, 2005

STAR Testing

It's strange. I always loved test days when I was in school. To me they were a day where I could zoom through a bunch of easy questions to an easy high score and then get a chance to take a nap at my desk or read a book. My students, however, find them much more trying. Some get fed up quickly and hurry through the test just to look eagerly around the room for someone to try to talk to. No one brings a book they're reading on their own, because most of them don't read outside of their assigned school reading (and some don't even do that).

I wonder if this is an effect of not having been read to as a child. I've always loved reading ever since I can remember. Some of my first memories are of my mother reading the baby-bee-bee bird to my brother and I. Soon after that we were reading to her out of our word bird books and berenstein bears books. To this day, I think that is part of the reason that I feel very at ease and comforted when I'm reading a book. I could even read War and Peace on the 2 hour bus ride to my first summer job and feel completely calm in a bumping crowd of bitter morning commuters.

This is part of the reason I feel that more attention needs to be paid to early childhood education. Once they enter High School with a 4th grade reading level, the best you can do is get them to an 8th grade reading level in 4 years. There is a vicious cycle in place in homes with parents that do not read to their children:

1.Parent's who don't read don't have higher degrees or high paying jobs.
2.Without high paying jobs they have to work longer hours
3.Their children are on their own more. Parents can't read to them, help them with their homework, or encourage positive academic activities as they didn't participate in them when they were in school.
4.Their children fall behind, dropout, or only graduate high school.
5.Their children have childrens (go to 1)

More money for preschool and after school elementary programs help to provide surrogate parent figures who can instill a love of reading and learning. Many parents of my most frustrating students, ones who have a quick wit which betrays their academic potential but have little interest in school, can only pay lip service to the idea of academic achievement. "I tell them all the time. Study, study, study but he never listen." "I tell him to do his homework but he say its all done." They lack the academic skills it takes to understand what is being asked of their children so they can't follow up on them very well. After school programs are the best solution for this. Even after school jobs are a good start. It's the unstructured free time after school that is giving these students an alternative to academic achievement. They hang out with other recent grads or dropouts who have little or no interest in improving their own condition and they start to set their standards by that measure. I hate seeing a whole generation of minority youth being lost to nothing more than TV, Video Games and Weed.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Everything's Downhill From Here

This past weekend, I broke another skiing barrier. I tackled a black diamond much steeper than the ones I've already skied. It was mostly a psychological barrier, I still have trouble dealing with heights and looking down a steep, icy hill brings a lot of those same issues to bear.

We also picked up season passes for next year at Kirkwood. It is definitely my favorite mountain and I still haven't skied all of it yet. They always seem to have better snow than anywhere else and they're close to our favorite poker room.

Back at school, I'm no longer feeling like I'm falling behind all the time. With the other academy taken care of, I've started taking care of other things. I've gotten all the tests created for the Electrastar event next week. I'm moving on volunteer recruitment for the career fair again and I've already gotten a number of new volunteers.

We've been setting things up for our trip to Zurich. Lexi's already ordered her passport and I've just gotten my birth certificate so I can get mine soon. We're looking forward to going, but I'm worried about how my Mom will be able to join us for a while. She has always wanted to see Europe and I really hope she gets the chance this time.

Just how my mom will be able to join us in Europe is only the latest in a series of issues that have been brought on by our new found wealth. Since we hit it big, we've been trying a lot of new expensive things that are really fun. The only trouble is that we want to share these new experiences with our friends and family, but they aren't in our same situation. It either ends up with us going it alone or a weirdness that happens when we try to help spot them so they can join us. We don't want to show off. We just want to be able to do the new kinds of things we're starting to enjoy with the friends and family we love.