College Prep

There’s outrage all over the Internet right now over the cancellation of a kindergarten student performance because it would take away instructional time needed for the kids to become “college- and career-ready.”

I’d like to join my voice to the disagreement with the school administration; I’m all about encouraging students to participate in the arts. But I take issue with what a lot of people are saying:


Well, yes. Yes, they are. That’s why the arts, and recess, and physical education are so important. College is not all about performance on the SAT or ACT. It’s about using your knowledge, skills, abilities and interests to learn even more.

I had a school principal tell me once that kindergarten students are not preparing for college. That was in response to my concern that my daughter and her classmates were not being taught at all for an entire month while the kindergarten teacher was caring for a terminally-ill parent and the school failed to provide substitute teachers. Instead, whatever grownup (or, in some cases, eighth-grade girl) was available for the next half-hour would babysit the kids. They watched movies and played all day for a month.

Because the principal would not take calls from kindergarten parents and the situation was never addressed, we removed our daughter from that school. Suddenly the principal had time for a meeting with me, in the form of an exit interview. She defended her decision not to provide the class with a substitute teacher by telling me, “It’s kindergarten. It’s not like we’re getting them ready for Harvard.”

wpid-0112141301b.jpgNot surprisingly, that school only lasted two more years before closing due to lack of enrollment. Here’s what the school looked like the last time I saw it.

Schools do need to find a good balance between instructional time, play time, physical activity and the arts–on every level of education. Emphasizing one of these at the expense of the others is disastrous for the students and does no service to society.

Yes; kindergarten students are preparing for college–maybe even Harvard. They do this by learning reading-readiness skills, counting and doing simple math, looking at the clouds in the sky, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk on the playground, practicing music for a show, and perfecting their kickball skills. It’s all important, and good teachers and principals are needed to keep it all going and support that learning. Like the building blocks the kindergartners use to make towers and castles, the skills the children practice as five-year-olds lay the foundation of the work they’ll do later.


Wrong-Number Rant

This week I’ve gotten 6 calls on my cell phone. Normally I use it as a texting and Internet machine, so when it actually rings,Image I’m always startled. And I always worry, because the only person who calls my cell phone is the school nurse, and that’s never good news.

6 calls, 6 wrong numbers.

Now, wrong numbers happen. But with so many, I was starting to wonder if someone deliberately gave out the wrong phone number to throw someone else off their trail…

My real issue with the whole thing is that no one is polite anymore when they dial a wrong number. What happened to, “I’m sorry for disturbing you”? What happened to, “I was trying to reach <insert number here>” which gives the person answering the opportunity to confirm that you misdialed?

Instead, you get Deny, Deny, Deny.

You get “OK.”

You get hung up on.

So parents, please teach the Cell-Phone Generation what polite people do when they dial a wrong number.

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

(And this time, it’s not me doing this.)

I got a message from the director of Little Brother’s current show (Little Mermaid, Junior–the children’s production at the local theater this year). The show is double-cast because so many kids tried out AND to allow the kids to rest. This way each child only has to appear in 8 performances instead of all 16. (This mama approves.) Anyway, Little Brother is a member of the Turf cast, but the director wanted to know if he could switch to the Surf cast (cool names!) because the other kid playing Grimsby has a schedule conflict.

LMJBecause the other kid is in another show. A show that opens the same week as this show. So there are conflicts with performances and rehearsals. The other kid had already been cast in this other show when he auditioned for LMJ.

According to Little Brother, there are several kids in the cast who are in the same situation. I got the same impression when I sat around the Green Room on audition night, and it’s only been reinforced by what other parents say as we sit around waiting for rehearsals to end.

These kids are in two shows, each of which rehearses at least twice a week. In addition, they are taking lessons in dance and/or gymnastics and/or voice and/or instruments; they are involved in at least one team sport; some of them are Scouts. WHEN THE HECK DO THEY EAT, SLEEP, STUDY AND PLAY?!

ANYway. These kids are in two shows at the same time. There were kids who didn’t get a part–because other kids (and their parents) thought it was a good idea for their kids to be in two shows at the same time, and there are only so many roles to go around, even with a double cast.

Maybe there are reasons here that I do not see, but I don’t get how this is a good idea.

And I’m willing to bet that these are the same kids who, when they’re seniors in high school, will apply to 25 universities and then wait until May 1 to decide, thus keeping other kids on the waiting list.

When you’re a member of a group, team, cast or ensemble and you double-book yourself, you’re not doing the rest of your group any favors. I wish the parents of these overextended kids would put their collective feet down instead of indulging their kids’ whims (or their own.)

End rant.

Much Ado About (Paying) Nothing

Because I write for several shopping blogs, I come across a lot of offers for free or inexpensive items. It’s my job to choose several of these each week to highlight at one of these blogs.

Many of these offers come from the Facebook pages of shops, restaurants or other companies.

Usually I just write up the deal, link to the source and get on with things, but in the past couple of days I’ve read a few of the comments attached to the posts announcing some of these specials.

Yesterday, as I printed out my weekly coupon from the Dunkin’ Philly Fan Zone, some of the comments on the page were blasting Dunkin’ Donuts for offering a breakfast-sandwich coupon instead of one for iced coffee. On other posts for past coupons, people complained that other stores were offering better deals. Or they complain that these coupons are only good Monday through Thursday.

Today, I was posting a deal for teachers from Chipotle Mexican Grill and saw that many commenters complained because the restaurant hadn’t offered a freebie for nurses, daycare providers, student teachers and homeschoolers.

What an entitlement mentality!

I’m a former teacher, so I don’t expect Chipotle to give me free food tonight. And I’m happy for the low-priced breakfast sandwich coupon, but if I weren’t a breakfast-sandwich fan, I just wouldn’t print a Dunkin’ Donuts coupon this week. Next week, after all, there will be another.

These stores issue coupons to get customers in the door and generate some goodwill in the community. I didn’t see a whole lot of goodwill on the Facebook pages for either establishment regarding these offers, and that’s a shame. It’s people like those commenters on Facebook that will ruin things for everyone else, because the stores will eventually give up and stop giving out coupons and freebies.

Can’t use the coupon this time? Don’t qualify for the free offer this time? Oh well! Maybe next time you will. In the meantime, be grateful that the store still offers special deals and stop blasting them because each and every deal is not for you.

I Do Not Like This, Uncle-Sam-I-Am

There was a blood-donation drive at our parish today, and Middle Sister wanted to donate. She’s 16, and that’s old enough if she brings along a parent to sign a permission slip. So I took her over there, filled out the form, and sat with her while she read the packet of information and disclaimers that she was handed.

Finally her name was called and we went over to the desk where the nurse was taking medical histories. First Middle Sister had to produce an ID with her date of birth. A school ID wasn’t going to do it, and I reminded her that she had her driver’s permit in her handbag. Then the nurse told me that I wasn’t allowed to be there. Citing “privacy issues,” she said that while my daughter gave her medical history, I couldn’t be present. I could, however, stand next to the table where they would take the blood out of her arm. That is, if I weren’t so squeamish about things like that. (I’ll drive you to the ER if you don’t make me look at the wound.)

So I had to go sit on the other side of the room while my underage daughter gave her medical history. She is not old enough to get an Advil from the school nurse if she has a migraine without parental permission, let alone donate blood or get her ears pierced (or any other body part). I accompany her to medical appointments. But I AM NOT ALLOWED to listen to my minor child give her medical history.

Can you tell I’m not a fan of this policy? My daughter wasn’t asking me to please go away. She didn’t seem to care one way or the other, which is comforting to me. If the patient doesn’t care that a parent is there during the medical history, why is it a problem for the nurse?

I was only able to find a small amount of information regarding confidentiality on the Red Cross website:

The Red Cross maintains the confidentiality of information we obtain about a donor and will release a donor’s confidential information to his or her parents only with the donor’s consent.

Is this all part of HIPAA, or is this something new? Regardless, I don’t like it. Not one bit. If she is young enough to require my signature before she can give blood, she is young enough that I can still listen to her medical history.

And after all that, her iron was JUST shy of the benchmark required for blood donation. So this was all for nothing.

When Genius…Isn’t

I usually love iTunes’ “Genius” feature, which lets you select a song, and builds a playlist around it from other songs in your library.

This morning I felt like listening to some Christmas music, so I cued up Taylor Swift’s “Silent Night” and hit the Genius button.

Along with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Rascal Flatts and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” I also got Toby Keith’s “Who’s Your Daddy” and Big & Rich’s “Comin’ to Your City.” Scrolling down, I noticed that coming up will be “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “A Boy Named Sue” and “Duelin’ Banjos.”

What a strange mix. Genius has failed the IQ test this time.

The Ironic Environmentalists

Little Brother and I spent most of yesterday at the Philadelphia Zoo with a bunch of friends. In total, 6 kids (4 of them 6 and under), 4 moms, 2 vehicles, 1 wagon, and lots of head-counting. Ask me how many animals I saw. I could probably count them on one hand.

It seemed, for a while, that the zoo has toned down its “animals good, humans bad” take on things. I remember taking the Big Kids there when they were younger, long before Little Brother came along, and seeing a sign that stated “This animal is endangered due to human overpopulation.”

Yesterday, though, we went to the move on display in the bird exhibit. It was a cute combo of animation and real photography that taught about migratory birds. And there was a lot of very good information in there. The main “character” was an oriole who came from the Philadelphia area, so you had the local link; other featured birds were certain shore birds that frequent Cape May in the middle of their 10,000-mile migration pattern.

However, this lesson in geography, navigation, endurance and instinct didn’t come without its own environmentally-correct message. A crane teaching the little oriole about what he’d need to do and where he’d need to go was telling him about these shore birds and how their commute was so much worse than his would be. She mentioned that the birds stopped in Cape May, NJ to “fuel up” on the eggs laid by horseshoe crabs. Unfortunately, she told him, there are fewer horseshoe crabs to lay eggs to feed these migrating shore birds. So she was going to head to Washington, D.C. to protest. Exactly what she’d protest was unclear, but the point was made. If humans can fix it, it must have been humans’ fault to begin with.

(Does it not occur to the maker of this movie that maybe all these birds are eating so many horseshoe-crab eggs that there are not enough eggs to hatch into new horseshoe crabs?)

When the short movie was finally over, these directions appeared on the movie screen: “Please migrate to the left as you leave the theater.”

“Nice double entendre,” I commented to my neighbor.

Here’s the thing: animals and plants have been going extinct for as long as there are animals and plants. If they can’t adapt to changes in their environment, they don’t survive. It’s as simple as that. (Yes, I’ve read Darwin.) Why do environmentalists who decry human intervention in other environmental matters (such as they do in the whole “global warming” thing) insist that humans intervene to “save” a species that is clearly not adapting to the world around it?

“Please migrate to the left as you leave the theater.”