Interesting Vaccine Mandate History that Everyone Should Know

JUST GO BUY A BOAT 

~ Professor Lee Hester, author

Due to personal stuff I haven't posted much... but I'll post this note out of frustration concerning people who are against Federal vaccine/masking mandates.

I don't know why there is even a question, legally. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), made it clear that states could mandate reasonable regulations for public health and the case was SPECIFICALLY ABOUT VACCINES. The plaintiff arguing against vaccination provided evidence that some medical professionals thought the vaccine was potentially harmful or ineffective. The court ruled that these objections were not well-founded given the overwhelming bulk of scientific evidence. Face it, there will always be naysayers, or conspiracy theorists. No matter what, you can find someone to gainsay anything. The court made it clear that states could follow the lead of the best science, rather than fringe groups in deciding policy.

The person that penned the decision, John Marshall Harlan, was a REPUBLICAN. He was nominated to the court by Rutherford B. Hayes... another REPUBLICAN.

Four more Republicans joined Harlan in favoring public health mandates along with two Democrats. Only one Republican and one Democrat dissented.

At one time, Republicans were not only the Party of Lincoln, but also the Party of Science and Reasonable Government it seems.

Some may say that this decision was only about state mandates. But that is silly, especially in the U.S.. With no borders between states, a single state passing such a mandate would constantly face the problem of infected people of neighboring states coming in.

A 50 state mandate of the Polio vaccine literally ERADICATED IT FROM THE U.S. The only cases recorded since 1979 were brought in from outside.

When we can't get 50 state mandates. we may need a Federal one.

Morally, it has always been clear to me that one person's rights end when another's begin and my right not to be infected greatly outweighs another's right to not get a needle prick, wear a mask or quarantine.

I've had three shots of COVID vaccine. Three FULL doses, not just half-dose boosters. I haven't grown tentacles and as far as I know, the NSA can't track me or listen in on me with some microchip. If you are so worried about that GET RID OF YOUR CELLPHONE. A vaccine is the least of your worries. You might also want to check with a mental health professional.

Of course some people cannot be vaccinated for valid health reasons. That is not a problem and would be covered in any reasonable mandate.

We are all part of a society, not individual atoms. We all affect each other, whether we like it or not. We can't all have absolute freedom because of that interaction. Regulations exist, in part, to ensure a balancing of individual freedoms. As an example, traffic laws restrict your freedom to drive 70mph across town without stopping, but they help ensure your freedom to drive across town at a slower rate with a much less chance of getting killed. And face it, realistically we can't all go 70 and not stop.

I'm tired of it. The people that hate mandates should think about whether they can even live within a civil society. The kind of freedom they want can only be achieved by living alone on a deserted island. Perhaps they should buy a boat.

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Henry David Thoreau and the Passing of Nature and Time

I'm tan. It's true. This is January, but I have a golden blush on my skin, and I'm worried.

Even though I live in a warm zone, I'm not supposed to look like I've been vacationing in Mexico, so my tan feels and looks unnatural to me. I don't mean Donald Trump orange, but I mean out of season, like wearing a floral boho dress in winter instead of plaid or muted colors. It's really worse than you think because I've been wearing shorts nearly every day for two weeks. Today was the first time I pulled on a warm sweater and leggings, the first time I've seen ice in my bird feeder, the first time I grabbed socks and not flip flops, the first time I made pumpkin spiced tea and pancakes. 

My little dogs quietly snooze on their new Christmas fuzzy blankets, all peaceful and warm. 

Henry David Thoreau, the poetic naturalist from the Transcendental movement, would certainly think a winter tan odd. And even though Transcendentalism faded away into the opulent glamour of the great Gilded Age, remnants of it hibernated within other more modern social and philosophical movements; and now, thanks to the pandemic, it seems reengineered into a full-blown revival.

Outside we go! Once again, elitist progressives become selfish of their leisure time, ponder and reflect on personal decisions and the meaning of life, reflect on brash behaviors, and attempt to make distance between the artificial and the natural. Elitist bigots, conservatives, and supremacists, engage in their own version of adverse Transcendentalism by "rolling coal" and "attempting a "coup d'etat." No matter what poison you ascribe to, conservative or progressive, Henry provides us all with a lesson on health and living well. He died at the age of forty-four of tuberculosis. As you know, tuberculosis continues to spread because no effective vaccine exists to eradicate it. Henry, from a young age, knew he was living with a disease that would end in suffering and death. He also knew his quality of life depended on him remaining physically active and out in the fresh air as much as possible. He appreciated the nurturing aspect of nature, and he accepted the cruel passage of time:

"In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, for there are more secrets in my trade than in most men's, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from its very nature. I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and never paint "No Admittance" on my gate" (from Walden Economy).

However you interpret Thoreau, whether you appreciate him for his anger over injustice and slavery, whether you appreciate him for his loyalty to his beliefs and his love of nature, or whether you read him for his complex syntax and artistic descriptions, he certainly becomes more relevant with each passing year. As we journey into the Anthropocene, as we ride our planet into unknown territory, Thoreau's writings return us to a time when nature seemed on the verge of becoming predictable and possibly controllable. Darwin published after Thoreau, even though Thoreau seemed to already be aware of natural selection. The idea that the laws of nature were incontrovertible, that we, egotistical little humans, could harness this power like a work horse pulling a plow, is what got us into this ridiculous mess. 

Instead of putting nature first, as the Transcendentalists attempted to do, we corrupted our own menagerie of systems. Not one natural system remains intact thanks to human activity. Until we accept our failure and begin to dramatically change our oppositional handling of nature, we will continue to get these winter tans. And, as you already know, unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, a winter tan is out of season.

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Argument Writing with the Oratorio: Some Truth, some Fiction

I must admit that I love pretending that I'm fully invested in my English degree with a PhD in rhetoric and composition, but the truth is I only had time for a masters. Maybe when I retire, I can do the PhD for fun. If that's possible; if I have any brains left by then. For now, it's enough to just play around with all of the cool things I've learned. Recently, Dr. Joliffe taught us to use the ancient oratorio for our arguments, and I had quite a bit of fun with that by just writing to a prompt that asked me to argue whether or not perfection is a "good" thing. I actually despise the perfectionist in a general type of way, but I knew I would have to write about some specific examples, so I decided to pick on my sister. It's okay if I pick on her because she isn't worried about me at all, and she has enough self confidence to fill a battle ship. 

After a rough edit, this is what I ended up with.

Perfection? Not us!

    While striving for more money and property, my sister, a millionaire with ties to Moscow and the legal financial world, managed to ruin my perception of the perfectionist. At dinners around the table with my elderly grandmother and infant nephew, my sister would chronically fling her micro and macro aggressions in my direction. My free spirit and lack of accountability irritated her sense of perfection. I wanted to spend my life traveling, not crunching numbers (she's a certified public accountant), and I rarely left anything on my plate because I was dirt poor. Starving, the dinners with Grandma helped me survive my poverty. 

    The grades seemed to matter to my sister: the F in journalism because I failed to withdraw; the C in psychology, a class she despised; the multi-national group of students that drew me in, none of us focusing on perfect attendance, perfect scores, or even a perfect character--no moral compass for us--no perfection, not even close. Because I learned how to become inwardly happy, to accept my imperfections and embrace them, happiness has not eluded me as it does for the millions of overstressed and angry type A perfectionists that suffer from loneliness and isolation.

    Perfection in itself is an unattainable goal as I noted in yesterday's faculty meeting. While other overstressed teachers contemplated how to make a perfect 100% on the ridiculous Danielson framework for providing feedback to students, I kept to my inner mantra--"I can try, but I'm not going to kill myself if I am not perfect." I know perfection eludes the people that seek out its fellowship. I've seen its lack of grace and style, its slump into solipsism, and its retreat from society. I've seen its relentless pressure paint a grimace across my sister's lips and chin, and strip the laughter from her throat.

    But me, I'm a proud gypsy, a hobo, with tattered accoutrements, failed plans, and a surging deficit. I'm an imperfect laugh and smile, a bottle of gin, a hangover, a happy clout. But a perfectionist? I think not!

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Professional Development: How Bard's Institute for Writing and Thinking is Helping Me on Day One

It is impossible for me to quantify the many various ways that Bard College IWT has helped me become a more effective teacher. In the past, I participated in three week-long summer workshops on their campus that guided my pedagogy and introduced me to a bevy of other teachers from around the world that shared their own best practices and innovations. Today we did several activities that will inform my future teaching, including a loop writing activity that I must admit that I have neglected to incorporate into my own classroom. 

The theme for this workshop is "margins" and "centers," a confusing concept for someone that might not teach. But for me this poses a true reality as I think about what exists in the margins of my classroom and what exists in the center. I decided to share, verbatim, a couple of excerpts from my loop writing from today because I want you to possibly use this technique to improve your own classroom or workspace.

My teacher asked us to write about what is in the center of our classroom. 

The students are at the center of my classroom because, of course, I am a student-centered teacher. I want every student in my class to feel valued and appreciated so that they can have enough self-esteem and confidence to forge ahead and become happy, productive members of society. The goal, in my case, is to make my students be able to yield power in nonviolent ways by using the pen instead of the sword. I think humanity is tired of the sword.

One of our team members attending from Israel had an interesting response to this question. He wrote that the text is the center of our classroom, the reason we meet at all. I think we both gave pretty good answers. A class needs cohesion, so this emphasis on fragmentation, lit circles if you will, interferes with advanced interpretation and significantly reduces the possibilities of creating a valuable community in a challenging environment. A shared text brings the class together.

My teacher asked us to write about what is on the margins of our classrooms.

I am on the margin of my classroom because this is my students' high school experience. Even though I advocate for them whenever possible, I want them to solve their own problems and be active learners. That can't happen if I don't step into the margins. I don't want my students constantly looking to me for the answers. I want them to take my guidance and then create their own compositions based on what they believe to be true about the text, or I want them to be able to use style and voice to explain what they like or dislike about the text. I want argumentation and persuasion, and that takes confidence.

We did several more loops today, and then we used a metacognitive strategy to analyze what we had written. 

The loops gave me a way to visualize the interplay between myself, the students, and the materials presented. This activity also enabled me to visualize strategies used by my workshop colleagues as we shared our writings. The loops served to fine tune my planning--helped me access those murky spaces in my pedagogy.

We analyzed a visual. I am sad to admit that this has always been an area that I ignore or only briefly examine. My teacher used a photo that had meaning to me personally. Of course, my teacher doesn't know me, so he couldn't have known that this visual would lead me into some interesting ideas...in short, this activity is going to help my students on their exams. This activity is going to help my students with inference, symbolism, and interpretation. 

The pandemic created a climate of confusion and distraction for almost everyone. Thanks to Bard, I am finally breaking out of my cycle of confusion and distraction that haunts me continuously and rediscovering my ability to get in the zone and write. 

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Explaining Myself: Why I Want to Become an Anti-Racist Teacher

First of all I would like to remind my readers that in spite of a stereotypical African American first name, I am a white person of western European descent with only a smattering of Native American thrown in. I know this for a fact because I took the 23&Me DNA test, and it turns out I'm nearly as white as a person can get. I do have skin that darkens up nicely in the sun, dark green eyes (cousin to brown on the DNA strand), and an overall 'Indian' look, but only one of my ancestors can be verified as native.

Discrimination and prejudice certainly impacted my life in an ongoing and rather problematic way because my family members stepped out in nontraditional roles and some of them worked in what could be considered as odd career choices, including myself. I'm not a stranger to white elitism and snobbery. But my challenges stack up nicely in the columns of inconvenience or mild heartbreak, even though I now realize that some of my old associates either hid their distorted and ignorant opinions from me, or have, over the decades, became disgustingly narrow minded and ridiculous, even ungrateful.

In recent years, some of my African American friends and coworkers quietly and patiently pointed out some of my own dumb blind spots and unearned privileges. Even if I earned the right to some of my privileges through hard work or suffering, I still enjoy a ton of White-Bread-American advantages that people of color righteously feel angry about. The best place to view this list of unearned advantages built into the racist American system are listed in Peggy McIntosh's essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, lists 50 ways that white people experience privilege over people of color. All 50 of them are relevant and important, eye-opening and true, but for now I want to talk about number 39: I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race. 

The best school leader I have ever known was a younger and wiser African American woman. She is honestly gifted, an amazing writer and communicator, a wonderful teacher and friend to every person that knows her. She goes out of her way to think open-mindedly about people that I typically write off as plain stupid and fake (this is hyperbole because I seldom write anyone off). Obviously, her heart is ten times bigger than mine because she strives to see the good in everyone, no matter their background or identity, while I'm a skeptic when it comes to adults. But she sometimes, like a million other qualified and gifted people, would be late to a faculty meeting or other function. On one notable time, she was stuck in a meeting with a parent, and I watched and listened as she entered the room; I witnessed the negative body language and eye-rolling, and I heard the comments that were made:

"There she is, late as usual. I wonder if she knew we had a meeting. She's late all the time." 

It's true that occasional lateness happened, but if the occasional lateness happened to me, or some other white person, nobody ever cares or makes any audible comments. When it's a white person, people tend to mind their own business when it comes to lateness. When it's a person of color, it's because the person is not organized, or they are lazy. This is just plain wrong.

Number 13 has to do with money: Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability. Let us be honest white people--most of us don't deserve the bank credit that we get. Some of us start businesses and fail to properly pay or compensate our employees. Some of us are not worth the paper we are printed on, and that includes me. I am just not worth much, and I may never be worth much. But I have something that most people of color don't; I have some generational wealth. It's not much, but it's still amazing. It's better than nothing. When I walk into a bank, I get a ton of respect, respect I definitely do not deserve. If my qualified and gifted person of color walks into a bank, she receives less attention and gratuity, even though she is trying much harder than I am to establish herself as a reliable and current bank customer. 

We all know these stereotypes and racist beliefs are built into everything American. The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, wants to make it illegal for teachers to point these facts out to students. He wants to forbid teachers to speak freely about critical race theory; but I'm positive that Abbott doesn't know what CRT is, or he would want to have it taught in our schools, because, after all, isn't Greg Abbott an open-minded and well-educated man? Critical race theory basically teaches us to notice the built in racist structures that exist, and then it teaches us how to reject and resist these ignorant ideas personally. For example, CRT points out that many deed restrictions disqualify residents based on their race. This is a fact of life, not a fairy tale or fake news. If it is our goal as a society to make opportunities and the American dream available to everyone, then how do these deed restrictions concerning race further equity? And, of course, this example of deed restrictions is just a tiny, petty example. If you really want to examine CRT, then look at incarceration rates, the war on drugs, immigration, and healthcare disparities, to name just a few glaring, national problems.

The real threat to American life is right wing extremism--neoliberalism. Donald Trump, Greg Abbot, and a slew of other ignorant politicians and demagogues clearly aim to normalize white supremacy, and they personally enjoy indulging in hateful and divisive acts and speech. They want wealth for a few and subservience for everyone else. Wealth for a few and subservience for everyone else is the political and economic theory known as neoliberalism. If you are following this ideology, if you are falling for this scam, then you are part of the problem. You are voting against yourself. If you are indulging in hateful thoughts and ideas, then you are doing something that is causing you to feel a temporary relief from what is buried under your psyche: the knowledge that you are wrong. You are actually causing Americans, including yourself, to lose freedoms. Neoliberalism and white supremacy are dangerous ideologies, but Critical Race Theory is an idea that will help you understand our national history; CRT will help you know yourself better, especially if you are white.

CriticalRaceTheory


When White Privilege Meets the Dog Walk: Can the Neighborhood Karen be Dangerous?

The old saying that you can “lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” stands true in my life. From students to relatives, to coworkers and friends, chronically dealing with people that prefer to overlook the obvious can be an exhausting and fruitless task, one I don’t enjoy. It seems like I’m constantly having to explain myself or point things out. Misapplied preconceptions attached to outlandish gossip and silly conniving produces a ton of inconveniences and little messes that I’m always running around trying to fix.

For instance, last night I was out walking the dogs in my community when someone stepped outside of their house to confront me. My earbuds blasted Pantera, and I didn’t feel like talking; therefore, I ignored the screaming, flagellating woman on her door stoop. She kept waving her hands at me, like she wanted me to come over to her—“Come here! I want to ask you something! I need to talk to you!” Believe me, that’s not something I’m stupid enough to do. The fact that this craziness was audible over my music made it weird in the extreme. Why, you might ask, wouldn’t I go over and try to find out what provoked this bedraggled looking woman into such a tizzy. 

Well, I already know the deal with my neighbor. She suffers from “I’m-a-mediocre-over-privileged-white-woman-suffering-from-pettiness-syndrome.” I’m white too, and I’m still trying to understand this illness. But from what I understand, pettiness syndrome is a form of nit-picking that infects the Karen-type woman (or man) who typically never experiences any substantial material hardship (unless it's self inflicted). In over-privileged white men the syndrome usually exhibits itself as straight up hypocrisy and narrow mindedness, combined with hate and an unwillingness to ever forgive anyone. You see, I live in a tiny gated neighborhood, and in order to get enough steps in to make our exercise worth it, we have to walk around again and again and again. We literally walk around in circles in order to get our exercise and stay inside the gate. The only other option on a hot summer night is to go out into the hike and bike trail, and, ironically, for safety reasons, it is closed after dark. 

The woman in question has a Ring camera installed and when me and the dogs make our circle, we activate her camera. She complains. She hates seeing me on her camera almost as much as she hates seeing me at the HOA board meetings. She, in all her modes of social and physical fatigue, can’t figure out why I’m walking around and around, nearly every night, in my own neighborhood. All that petty hand-wringing and complaining actually enhances my workout and causes me to enjoy the ritual even more. I think it’s fun. But even though it’s fun, my Karen neighbors are not without threat, nor are they harmless. One of them actually walked out nattering at me, and when I continued to walk away after telling her to leave us alone, she called the police and tried to make a false report. This woman sports a huge Trump 2020 flag in her garage, telling me everything I need to know about her level of intelligence and willingness to indulge in immorality and disregard obvious facts.

My dogs, like almost any other dog in the universe, can sense when the energy is off. This imbalance, this negativity so near to their own home, heightens their awareness and feelings of paranoia. No more than twenty pounds each, they still pack a ferocious bark when approached, especially if they think a threat towards me is in the making. Lunging on the leash and growling, snarling and acting silly, the whole display is comical in its absurdity. But even their ridiculous behavior is no match for the community Karens in the coveted arenas of comedy and absurdity. 

In the end, never give up on your relatives or friends, neighbors or coworkers, that are suffering from pettiness syndrome due to privilege or hateful politics. They may cut you off and act like they hate you for some silly thing that you could easily fix one day, and they may do awful things to you that make you want to cry and lash out, but just practice patience and tolerance. One of these days, after he or she has had sufficient time to reflect, your own Karen will have an eye opening epiphany. Until then, keep walking.

Westiesonleash


Alone Like Usual: My Post-Quarantine Social Struggle

 

Maybe I shouldn’t try to equate my experience with that of the willfully isolated philosopher and writer, Henry David Thoreau, but lately I’ve been subjected to a person of similar qualities. As most Americans know, Thoreau spent most of his life roaming around the countryside writing and thinking. During his lifetime, his writing and thinking rituals interfered with his ability to support himself, so he depended on Ralph Waldo Emerson for not only friendship, but also for room and board. Emerson, a true intellectual in every regard, never held any moral influence over Thoreau. Emerson undoubtedly truly loved his friend, and that’s why we can all read Walden and learn something about Transcendentalism. Of course, my imaginary friend—I’m told all friends are ultimately imaginary—will always be an unnamed volunteer social outcast that could potentially become a meaningful member of society but prefers to sit atop a throne on a weedy hill and reflect angrily on all of humanity, except, for some remarkable and illogical reason, one insular and regressive geographical location consistently receives his high praise and adulation. 

As I engaged with my friend, I took an opportunity to reflect upon my own bend toward Thoreauness, and I realized that my propensity for exclusivity paralleled in some strange and mysterious ways. I, too, matching breath for breath, handily critiqued society in all its foibles and abuses, and I denounced particular power structures that all Americans must share: the networks of healthcare; the lack of public services during a crisis; and the predictability of bland and unintelligent politicians. To say that we have much in common is a severe understatement of the highest order. Together, we enjoyed lively conversations about our shared experiences, our phrases and clauses mingling together in old and familiar ways like experienced lovers tangled in the sheets during a fearless night of physical and habitual lust. But that is where the commonalities and the habits abruptly came to a pronounced and ultimately bitter end.

The quarantine is over, and apparently, so am I. The truth blitzed its way into my consciousness on a warm sunny afternoon several weeks ago when my friend cut me off due to an in depth conversation with some “people” residing in this pristine, and perfect, geographical location. Curious about how such an isolationist can become transformed by a disembodied voice over 1400 miles away, a basically useless—dead-pan—voice that does nothing except squint into the stars and argue ridiculous ideas contorting them into ridiculous positions, I decided the whole significant adventure would entail a sad, dismal, and rain-infused, conclusion. The renewed relationship, in all its strength and glory, with flags waving and amber grain growing, in the end became prolonged and unhealthy, whimpering its way into a premature death. Now we can all mourn the loss of its beauty and amazing potential, the manuscript incomplete, the novel left unpublished. 

This heartbreaking disaster, cruel and unjust, reminds me of something from Walden. In a discussion about “coats and breeches” Thoreau writes, “I have heard of a dog that barked at every stranger who approached his master’s premises with clothes on, but was easily quieted by a naked thief” (Economy 21). My friend, as you probably surmised, is a definite dog, leery of everything clothed in honesty but easily subjugated by the “naked thief.” All of this is extremely alarming because I know what fueled my outreach, and as much as I would like to have looked away from the disaster en route, I couldn’t. In the end, a quality life with truth and justice is dependent on our willingness to nurture each other with compassion and understanding. Naked thieves are not transcendental, nor do they share Emerson’s values and tolerance. Eventually, just as the nakedness suggests, the motives become obvious to everyone except the dog.

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The Campus Level Writing Program Administrator: A Way to Ensure College Success 🏛

After taking practicum in composition at the masters level, I am more convinced than ever that my campus should have a writing program administrator to help streamline assignments across disciplines and develop a common standard that reduces confusion and technical inconsistencies across departments. As a rule, professors write and publish their own materials using an individual set of norms and practices that work for them. But when students enter college classes, they are often not prepared for this next stage of vigorous academic writing. In one glaring example of malpractice, teachers in a previous social studies department taught high school students that topic sentences were little "baby thesis statements" and then insisted students write in generalities rather than prepare strong and assertive arguments because "it is more academic sounding." 

My experience in one prominent charter school chain convinced me that even a writing program administrator situated at the top level of the organization in the central office, someone with a PHD in English with a focus and background in rhetoric and composition theory, would alleviate some of the inconsistencies in vertical alignment and help teachers prepare all students equally for college writing. But realistically a writing program administrator at the campus level would certainly be preferable, and this person could also teach a few English classes. Basically this would eliminate the low quality instruction that is happening now with teachers packing students down with poor and erroneous pedagogies and clobbering them with low-quality, computer-generated, drill-and-kill, grammar exercises. 

During practicum as I struggled to write a college-level syllabus for my imaginary 1301 composition and rhetoric class, and as I struggled to internalize the basics of each composition pedagogy, I couldn't stop thinking about how badly writing program administrators were needed at the high school level. Now that almost anyone with any kind of academic background can certify to become an English teacher, even without any advanced coursework or quality professional development, writing program administrators are desperately needed. Helping incorporate writing into other subjects in a streamlined and cohesive way is essential in a STEM school.

The moments when I observe students floundering academically, and I see teachers struggling with a lack of content knowledge and writing experience, I think of the inequities that I witnessed in 2004 when I briefly worked as an adjunct teaching basic composition. Some of my students had been removed from their college level writing class because they had never been effectively taught how to take notes, write a thesis statement, organize a text, annotate, or read aloud. They literally tested their way into college without basic writing or moderate literacy skills. Angry and disillusioned, many of them felt used because they had been passed along because of some substantial talent at one sport or another. Now when I work with my students, I feel a sense of urgency. I know that if they fail to write adequately, they will never complete a four-year degree. Allowing students to move into the world of academia without providing them with solid writing experience is unconscionable. It is my hope that future high schools will begin to align goals and standards across disciplines and hire professional writing program administrators.

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On this Last Day of Love Month, A Cat Story

I can't do my own writing anymore, especially after the angst and misery of Valentine's Day, and the month of love: the month of crazy, wild weather; the month of a near total Texas electricity blackout; the month of a broken service pipe; the month of extreme Covid swings; and another month of grief over the death of not one, but two, little, precious pets. 

On this weird night, on the eve of Women's History Month, I am thinking about writing an article that features an important female in the world of rhetoric, like Ida B. Wells, an African American writer, or maybe Christine de Pisan from the Medieval era. Women in the rhetorical tradition typically receive some pretty outdated criticisms, so I'd like to offset that with some strong opinions of my own.

How do women balance all of these silly expectations about communication? What's wrong with writing aggressively? Should I write like a girl so that men won't be offended? Should I defer to the male voice? Is civil discourse really that important, or is that just another term for oversensitivity? I was told recently that I talked too loud, but my response was that I thought I couldn't be heard. 

Is that what men think we are doing when we write an aggressive text? Do they think we are trying to yell? Is that what the good conservative woman thinks? 

Anyway, the cat story submitted by my writer friend contains a message about gratitude. I am grateful that my voice continues to matter to my readers and friends, even though I am an outdoor cat. I am grateful for all of you. I'm thankful that you don't find me too loud for trying to get your attention. I am hoping you will continue to support me through these weird times. 🌹

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To train the cat or be trained by the cat that is the question.... Whether it is better to take a shoe to the Siamese or squirt him with the water bottle, after his sixth attempt to get one up at 5:00 in the morning, when he has been howling at one's bedside since three, or just to give up and open a can of cat food and stagger off and wait for the alarm to go off in just a few minutes, or throw his hairy little bohuncas into the garage, where it is freezing cold but there are mice....? These run on sentences frame the eternal questions of cat owners, who've been struggling with their cat masters, since the Egyptians made the mistake of first letting the cat gods into their hearts and granaries, in order to kill the rodents eating the grain.....

If I am sleep deprived, do I not get cranky? If I am tortured, do I not break? Even now, that Siamese is stalking me, complaining that the canned cat food doesn't meet up with his expectations for good service.... If I am harassed, will I not fight back; or will I just give up, give in, and buy the cat some tastier brand.....?

The outside cat thinks the canned cat food is damned tasty! He just ate it up in one gulp.

I give up.....

Just who is running this household?


Teacher and Student Burnout: The Battle is Real

I sit here helplessly in my little living room /slash/ office area of my tiny little apartment in this huge metropolis and I listen to people that have never worked in a public school, in any capacity, talk about how safe it is to go back to the classroom. I sit here and I listen to them compare me to the grocery store clerk, or the trash collection service. I hear them making a moral judgement about my courage and fearlessness in the midst of this crisis, as compared to my counterparts in other public service arenas. Well, I just want everyone to know that I'm not a coward, and I am tired of my opinion being overshadowed by people that have no experience in the classroom. At the same time, I'm not stupid either. I know for a fact that schools are disease factories; I know that schools can never be clean enough to "stop the spread"; I know how many colds, coronaviruses, streps, stomach illnesses, and other infections I have caught and/or transmitted over the past ten years of my career in public school, so how can this disease be any different? Uninformed people think if you throw some hand sanitizer, a mask or two, and some big cash at the problem, along with some attempted social distancing, that all of the kids can just march right back into the school. The reason that schools are not significantly contributing to community spread is because they are currently rather underpopulated, so how can anyone sit there and confidently pressure teachers and support staff to just go and willingly sacrifice their own health, or their family's health, for a job that they are not even adequately paid to do?

Kids and teachers are definitely unhappy right now. One thing that is getting my goat is this business about my online class. We are to slavishly follow the five-part lesson plan as it is laid out by Doug Lemov in his book, Teach Like a Champion. I have no problem with Lemov, and I like some of his ideas, but making a student do 7 Do Nows a day, along with 7 Exit tickets a day, all online, is just the dumbest thing ever. My kids are complaining voraciously about spending 7 hours a day doing a repetitious five-part lesson for each online class. That is 7 Zoom meetings a day. Making the teacher create 5 separate folders for each day and script out each step of the class, and then make that same teacher slavishly follow this five-part, five folder, five day a week, boring repetition is a burn out machine major-deluxe. I have heard in songs and stuff that it is better to burn out than fade away, but now I'm beginning to wonder. Maybe fading away is not a bad idea, a sentiment now shared by many educators.

This week I had the unique experience of getting an administrator in my online class asking questions. All of my kids can follow my class, open my materials, and work with my digital content. I am running 4 digital platforms: Schoology, the community college I work for, Skyward, and the College Board. All of these have some different requirements and portals to put grades in and different things for students to do. I am trying my hardest to keep it simple for my students by engaging them in creative and colorful discussion boards and assignments. My attendance is amazing, and the vast majority of my students are growing as writers, thinkers, and readers. Even though we are separated by distance and this disease, we enjoy our classes. In spite of everything, I have been able to build some robust relationships with my kids, so their suffering is my suffering. But I got a weird dressing down of sorts from my administrator because I don't have little folders for each day, with little lesson plans in each day, with my content spread out into these separate days. It's the craziest, most clerical intensive, mindless, and uncreative mandate that I have ever been asked to engage in. My students go back and revisit materials constantly, so I don't see how making them hunt and peck in daily folders is of any use to them; nor is this hunting and pecking of any use to me, as it completely stifles my ability to create a meaningful lesson plan or unit designed on the unique and specific needs of this crucial moment. My lesson plans, when I do them the way they are mandated, are fragmented and not unified. When I do them the way I have been taught in college, then my students are happier. I create a new folder every week, but these lesson plans and folders as mandated are harming my students' classroom experience.

I want to know when it started becoming important for me to write lesson plans that prioritize my administration over my students so that I can be judged, not for my teaching, but for my ability to make little daily folders, and all of this during a world health crisis.

This kind of negativity, looking for fault and calling teachers cowards, should be forbidden during this crisis. It is an all-hands-on-deck kind of a mess. Administrators and the public should be looking at ways to get teachers and kids safely back into the classroom where we do our best. If that means moving teachers up the line to get a shot, then why not? When you ask a politician or some high-level administrator this question about the vaccine, you get a bunch of weird lip service, but no answers. We are talking about the safety of our kids and the people in the schools that are charged with spending long hours everyday with them in close proximity. Only a fool or a charlatan would go around making the claim that schools are safe. Clearly, they are not, and they won't ever be if people in power can't focus on what is important, rather than what is petty. 

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