Thursday, July 31, 2014

Asking for a Little Help

Can you believe it's time to go back to school?

One week from today we'll kick off a brand new year.  It's hard to believe the summer is already over!   I've spent most of this summer working on research for a book (I don't want to go too much into detail on that just yet) and then Mr. SIGIS and I took a trip to Iowa to see his family.    It was a very busy and productive summer.

This week, I'm in a very intensive training workshop through NMSI -- that is, the National Math and Science Initiative.  This is a national initiative to raise scores in math and science but, thankfully, we all realize you can't do that without English which is my content area.  Our school was fortunate enough to be selected for the NMSI program and thus my training this week.  

And OH what training!  In some ways, I feel like I've been "doing it wrong" all these years.  I feel more enthusiastic than I have in years about starting a new year.  This training has shown me new techniques and strategies for my kids than I could ever imagined.  I'm so mentally exhausted when I come home, last night I went to bed before dark and my neighbor was still outside mowing his grass.  It's fab!

Let's just say that it hasn't been one of those droning, repetitive in-service workshops where you want to grind your eyes out with a paper clip.  

At any rate, I'm ready to put this training into practice.  You may recall that last year I appealed for help in getting basic supplies for my classroom.  Part of the problem last year was the new curriculum and the need for books.  Our school is low income, inner city, low parental support -- and many of our students don't have the money to go purchase paperback novels. 

Last year, you, my readers, came through in an astounding way.  I was moved to tears almost daily by the
flood of supplies and donations that I received.  Almost daily the front office would call and tell me I had "another box" downstairs.  I put four sets of novels in our library that my students will be able to use again this year!  I got a flood of basic supplies like pens, paper, and notebooks, too. 

Best of all, my kids were so grateful and thrilled when they had crisp new books to read and never had to worry about paper and pens to get their work done.  It was a blessing beyond measure.

This year, my needs are not as great, but I still have needs.  Things like pens, pencils and paper have been consumed and need to be restocked.  

My Creative Writing class needs a text - I'd like to use Rick Bragg's Somebody Told Me as a reader for them for several reasons:  first, he's a Pulitzer prize winning author; second, he is a southern writer, and we live in the south!  And finally, the book is a collection of his articles and series of articles and will enable us to branch out into fabulous discussions and bridge over to readings by other authors that I will bring in.

I need printer ink.  We are limited to 500 copies a month at my school.  Think about that -- I have English II, English IV, and Creative Writing.  Three preps -- so running "a class set" isn't much help.  By the time I've run off my syllabus and a couple of quizzes, I've used all my copies for the first month!  I need to be able to print text passages that my kids can use in close-reading exercises, that they can annotate and mark up; I need to be able to print graphic organizers and current event reading selections; printing is just a must.

My seniors need flash drives:  most of them don't have computers at home or laptops to carry around, so when they work on their Senior Project research papers, they are working from computers at school, at the public library, maybe at home -- they're working from multiple stations.  A flash drive is critical so a student doesn't lose his work.

It may not seem like much to ask a kid to go to Walmart or a dollar store and pick up a spiral notebook, but some of these kids are working two and three jobs just to help keep the electricity on at home.  To them, an eight dollar thumb drive is extravagant; you could feed the family supper on that.

Anyway, I'm again pleading for your help this year.  I've set up a project at Adopt-a-Classroom again where you can donate; I'm also posting my wish items via Amazon below, which you can order and have shipped straight to me at school.  The shipping address for that would be Bossier High School, Attn:  Pat Becker, 777 Bearkat Drive, Bossier City, LA, 71111.  

You can also use my PayPal widget on the top right sidebar.

I'm really excited about the new school year and to use the new strategies and skills I've learned!  I know my kids are going to do great!  We have great kids at our school who are ready to learn and to achieve.  Please consider helping us, if you can.  Nothing is too small -- and my kids are grateful for all the help and support they can get.

Both I and my students are grateful for your help!

 Update:  Thank you Adrienne!  I promise I'll buy thumb drives!  You rock!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Turn off the Television

We haven't had our television on for an entire week.

Well, I take that back -- I turned it on briefly to listen to the news this morning while getting dressed, but other than that - nada.

The impetus for this little experiment came about accidentally as Mr. SIGIS and I were sitting outside with friends one evening recently; we were talking about how listening to baseball on the radio is not the same as watching it on television.  I much prefer the radio because then you have to engage your brain to visualize what is happening.  We talked about how people don't remember things anymore because everything you need to know is in your smartphone -- why make the effort to remember?

Our digital age has changed the way our brains work, I think.  And not necessarily in a good way.  We have access to more knowledge, but we are not necessarily smarter.

As a veteran teacher, I have seen a change in the way we must teach kids, too.  Kids that have never not known life without a cell phone, computer, or XBOX now must be entertained in order to learn.  Learning has to be "engaging."

At any rate, we turned the TV off a week ago and as a result, Mr. SIGIS has read two and a half books so far, and I have read the nearly eight-hundred page Pultizer Prize winning The Goldfinch which I fished out of our Little Free Library on the corner.

It's been a worthwhile experiment and we will likely just leave the blasted thing off for a while.  We really haven't missed it.  And there is so much to be read!  To that end, make note that The New Yorker has opened its archives through the end of summer and there is a whole boatload of stuff to read there - both fiction and non-fiction.  Business Insider has a pretty good list to get you started.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Border Crisis is By Design

On October 8, 2005, Barack Obama  vowed to "fundamentally transform America" and he has certainly lived up to his promise.  With one crisis and scandal after another (IRS, NSA, VA, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, an out of control EPA, Obamacare, and negotiating with terrorists, to name a few) we are a much weaker and less esteemed country than ever before.  We are more racially divided, we are angrier, and we have little trust in our government or optimism for the future.

It's all by design.

He told you he was going to do it, and he did.

Obama's plan to transform America is no more evident than in the border crisis.  Andrew McCarthy has an excellent post on this topic at National Review Online:
The president has spent nearly six years giving effective legal immunity to millions of illegal aliens already here. His administration, meanwhile, hooks them on the government gravy train and fights state efforts to detain them, deny social services to them, and prevent them from fraudulently voting. Under those circumstances, the rolling out of a federal red carpet for teeming masses of illegal aliens must be understood as intentional.
It is absolutely intentional.

And, of course, Obama blames Bush for this.  No, really.  Andrew McCarthy explains that this is a clever ploy by Obama because much of this controversy involves a Clinton-era anti-human trafficking law which during the Bush years, in re-authorization, picked up an amendment added by Feinstein and Biden; in short, the anti-human trafficking law concerns those children who are "coercively trafficked into the country for purposes of sex-slavery or other indentured servitude."   

That is not the case here; so the blame-Bush's-law defense of the left does not play.  The Bush-era law attempts to protect those kids brought here unwillingly; the current crisis involved illegals coming quite willingly.

McCarthy again:
The January 2014 solicitation published by DHS’s bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement foretells (a) the arrival of 65,000 “unaccompanied alien children,” and, tellingly, (b) the administration’s intention to transfer them to “Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States.” 
Refugee Resettlement.  That does not sound like deportation.

It is team Obama's plan to relocate these illegals throughout the United States and into your neighborhoods.

The end result is thousands of new, unskilled workers on the public dole, a further erosion of our American values, an increased drain on our already troubled education system, and utter havoc in an already ruined health care system.  Of these illegals that are, in fact, children (and not all of them are - get that image of sweet, doe-eyed, hungry toddlers out of your head), how many are vaccinated and know English?  How many will want to assimilate into our American culture and become productive members of society?

Lest I be perceived as a heartless bigot, let me assure you, I'm all for legal immigration.  I know people who have done it the right way and as Americans, we welcome them with open arms.  That is our way.  This, however, is not the Ellis Island of your ancestors.

These new immigrants are not refugees from war torn countries; they are political pawns.

One of the more troubling aspect of all this is the secrecy; the administration touts "privacy rights."  Some of these illegals are being housed at Fort Sill, OK, yet an Oklahoma congressional representative was barred from visiting the immigration center.

The administration won't say where all these kids are going.  Two hundred of these illegals were sent to Nebraska yet the governor was not notified and the administration won't identify them or their locations.
"Governors and mayors have the right to know when the federal government is transporting a large group of individuals, in this case illegal immigrants, into your state," Mr. Heineman told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Saturday. "We need to know who they are, and so far, they are saying they're not going to give us that information."
Here in Louisiana, Senator David Vitter sent a letter on July 10 to find out how many and where these illegals might be coming to this state.  He got no response.  According to the Louisiana Hayride:
And now, four members of the state’s congressional delegation – Bill Cassidy, John Fleming, Charles Boustany and Vance McAllister – have sent a similar letter.
Camp Minden is a possibility and local news station KSLA reported that Hirsch Coliseum has been contacted about holding some of them.  (Shades of Katrina refugees ... ).

Senator Vitter and Rep. Cassidy have introduced bills in both the House and Senate that would:

• Requires mandatory detention of all unaccompanied minors upon apprehension by border agents.
• Gives unaccompanied minors the option to voluntarily return to their country of origin.
• Places unaccompanied aliens children affiliated with gangs in an “expedited” removal proceeding.
• Raises the standards for “credible fear of persecution” to “substantiated fear of persecution” for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum under the law.
• Places unaccompanied minors without claims for asylum on the next available flight to their home countries within 72 hours of an initial screening, barring cost, feasibility, repatriation agreements with the minors’ countries and the health and safety of the minor.
• Extends the bar to reentry for all illegal aliens to 10 years.
• Requires Secretary of Homeland Security to submit an annual report to Congress detailing voluntary departures, deportations, and grants of refugee or asylum status.

In the end, it comes down to how much the states are willing to take of this nonsense.  As McCarthy pointed out:
And if a renegade United States government is not going to secure the borders of the United States, the states must secure their borders or surrender. As the Supreme Court recognized in 1837, each state has a sovereign right and duty of self-defense ...
Obama voters got what they wished for:  a fundamentally transformed America.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bergdahl Returnes to Duty: NOT The Onion

Is this a joke?  

When I saw this story this morning, I thought I was reading The Onion.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, will reportedly return to duty as early as Monday. 
Bergdahl, 28, who was freed in May in exchange for five hardened Taliban prisoners, will resume his military career at the Army North headquarters at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, The New York Times reported. 
Since returning to the U.S. on June 13, Bergdahl has received therapy at the base.
Bergdahl is expected to live in a barracks and have two soldiers help him readjust to military life, Defense officials told The Times.

There must be a whole lot about military procedure that I don't understand.  

In an older, more normal time, I would just assume that this guy is in protective custody and ongoing therapy on the heels of an intense debriefing; it never occurred to me that he would ever "return to duty."  

I would have thought the brig and a court-martial would have been in order unless, perhaps, the testimony of his fellow soldiers, his own emails of promised desertion, and his odd behavior while in Afghanistan raise no red flags whatsoever.

But, these are certainly not normal times.

Nothing in the headlines is normal anymore.

What is normal?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Talking to Liberals About the Hobby Lobby Decision

This is why you can’t talk to liberals:

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision this week, The Daily Kos posted this article which showed up in my Facebook feed the next day with the comment, “Okay Bible-thumpers, answer me this:”; the title of the Kos article is “What if a Muslim Company Used the ‘Hobby Lobby’ Decision to Impose Its Values on White Christians?”

Always up for a challenge, I clicked on the article thinking I would read it and then respond to the Facebook query. 

The first line of the article says:

The slide towards American theocracy was nudged one more step forward by today's Supreme Court decision in support of the "freedom" of corporations with "religious" beliefs to restrict the rights of their employees. In essence, religious "beliefs" trump the obligations, rights, and responsibilities that come with being members of the polity and a broader political community.

That sentence alone was as far as I had to read. 

Absolutely no one’s rights were restricted by the Hobby Lobby decision.  Period.  Anyone that wants them can still go out and purchase abortifacients if they want to.  The Hobby Lobby decision did not ban the drugs. 

So, I responded to the person who posted the article in my feed, I'll call her Miss Liberal, and simply said:

“The first line of the article says the decision ‘restricts the rights’ of the employees, which is erroneous.  No employee rights are restricted.  They can all go buy whatever abortifacients they want.  The decision just means that the employer is not forced to buy them.  Because the first line is a lie, the rest of the article means nothing.”

Am I wrong?

The response I got from Miss Liberal was:

“It does restrict the rights of employees that you do not comprehend does not make it erroneous” [sic]

(We’ll leave the issue of her grammar aside; I'll quit putting [sic] out there; you get the idea)

I don’t usually take the liberal bait, but I was a passenger in a car zooming down the interstate and had nothing else to do besides look at cows, so I thought, “Why not?”

I wrote:

“What rights are restricted?”


“Insurance was created as a way for employers to pay you less this allows employers to pay you less and give you less access to healthcare because they don’t BELIEVE in certain medications and what things they might be used for What and Why my doctor prescribes me medication Is no one’s fucking business except mine and my doctor’s.” 

Uhhhmmmm, okay.  I’m shaking my head on that one. 

Unwilling to get drawn into the weeds on the origins and purpose of insurance, I’m sticking to my original question; I wrote:

“But can women still buy abortifacients?”

Simple enough, right?

Miss Liberal’s response:

“It’s none of your business what my doctor prescribes me”

(Apparently Miss Liberal doesn’t believe in end punctuation.)

Again, trying to keep her on the path, I wrote:

“Not talking about you – I mean women in general.  My point is that benefits and rights are not the same thing.  Nobody’s rights have been taken away.”

Clear enough?  I’m trying to be non-hostile here, and to keep her on the original question. 

Miss Liberal’s response?

“you cannot see the forest for the trees.”

It’s killing me not to critique the grammar, but I persevere.

It’s at this point that she begins to copy/paste her comment about “Insurance was created…”.  Twice.
So I said,

“Is a person forced to work for Hobby Lobby?  Does one still have the choice to choose a job with the benefit package they want?”

Miss Liberal:

“you’re an idiot”

She copy/pastes the insurance comment again.  It’s getting funny now, really. 

So I try one last time: 

“So you can’t tell me what rights were taken away from me yesterday?

Miss Liberal:

“no.  I just did.  Twice.  but you don’t have high enough order thinking skills to understand it.  I’m sorry, honey.  I’ll keep thinking on how to break it down for you.”

I can’t stand it anymore so I’m ready to get out of this dialogue.  I said:

“LMAO, okay.  But you don’t have the higher order thinking skills to explain what single right the Supreme Court stripped from women yesterday.  You’re assuming insurance is a ‘right’ rather than a benefit.  A woman still has the ability to purchase the same drugs as before the decision.”

Miss Liberal:

“again I am sorry you cannot see what I’m trying to say it’s not thinking skills, kiddo it’s communication skills  talking to idiots takes a lot of work”

My final comment:

“Amen to that.”

I left the conversation on that one. 

The next comment that showed up in the feed was from one of Miss Liberal’s liberal friends who posted a vulgar picture of a woman’s spread legs and a one-fingered salute at her vagina with the caption:  "A message to Republicans from women voters.”

And the next comment (because I continued to lurk a bit after I quit commenting) was from another of Miss Liberal’s friends:

“This guy screaming about ‘abortifacients is cracking me up!  What a loon!   Lol!”

And yet another shows up and begins to complain about “the All-Male Supreme Court” who “has implanted their demon seed into the minds of conservatives everywhere…”

Oh, my.

I can’t even begin to go there.  By the end of the dialogue they had everything but UFO's in there.

I know better than to try and talk to a liberal; I really do.  But, like I said, I was killing time on the interstate and this one just looked so easy.  Low hanging fruit.  Obviously I never did get Miss Liberal to answer the question as to what constitutional right was taken away, or even restricted, by the Hobby Lobby decision.  The usual liberal M.O. is to resort to profanity and insults, in my experience, but I guess I still keep hoping I can get through to one or two of them every now and then. 

Not this time, I’m afraid.