Monday, February 18, 2008

Another Monday has come and almost gone. I was awake at 6:30 a.m. due to a very loud dishwasher. Steve almost never starts the dishwasher so why he did this morning is beyond me, but it is not one of those quiet ones you see in the commercial on TV where the baby is asleep in the playpen in the kitchen. It sounds more like a water monster is attacking the kitchen.

So as I was wandering my way into my office, much too early in the morning, with a can of Diet Coke, I caught the sight of "yack" out of the corner of my eye and just kept from squishing my wonderful sneaker slipper into a pile of food lovely Sophie had "yacked" up. While I was muttering under my breath and heading for the paper towels I barely missed another offering from the cat - NOT-goddess. So that meant I had to wash throw carpets today. Sophie has been keeping clear of me – for good reason, Mommy is not a morning person! I honestly don't think the gifts were for me as Steve put her noisy butt out this morning instead of listening to her meow, so I suspect her offerings were more for him than me. Besides, I'm never up at that time of the morning so they couldn't be for me!

Spent a good portion of the day reading through discussion postings from my students on what they learned about magazine availability for children and teens in school and public libraries vs. the bookstores. Most of them were very surprised at the poor selection in the libraries and the large number of magazines for teenage girls, with basically none for guys, in the bookstores. I shake my head over this every semester as I hear the same thing - students don't read magazines in the library and there is no money for them. Well, if you bought the ones they want to read, they would read them, and they wouldn't be a waste of money. A majority of the magazines in many high school libraries are for adults. How many teenagers read Redbook or Woman's Day? I was delighted to read that some of the public libraries and a few schools had great titles for guys on surfing, skateboarding, gaming, etc. Survey after survey done with teens indicate that their number one choice of leisure reading materials is magazines and yet we can't seem to find the rationale for having other than curriculum related periodicals in the library? How about reading, no matter what the format, results in better readers, and, heaven forbid, they might even perform better on those nasty standardized tests!

Speaking of standardized tests, William Sleator's newest novel, Test, addresses these tests and their impact on a society where passing the test means you get out of the traffic. If you don't pass the test you can't go to college and you are stuck in menial jobs the rest of your life and spend hours sitting in the congested traffic. If you walk to school to get there faster, as Ann does, you have to wear a face mask because of the pollution. Ann is good at math but she can't seem to get a high enough score on the sample tests in English to move her forward in the classroom - smart kids sit at the front. All teens in this public high school fear not passing the test, but that is nothing compared to the teachers’ fear as their jobs depend on their students passing the test. In Ann's English class Lep, a Thai student, suddenly starts making his way closer to the front, at a rate much faster than he should be able to. Ann discovers how he is able to do so and it isn't a pretty story, but he will do just about anything to pass the test. Ann and Lep become friends and they work against the system to expose the corrupt publisher who furnishes the tests to the government. There is no subtlety in how Sleator goes about making his point as to how poorly teaching to the test prepares students for real life. He hammers it home. This book isn't going to change the way things are done in relation to standardized testing in our schools, but clearly it was cathartic for Sleator, and perhaps for his teacher friend who shared her concerns with him. It can also be cathartic for those teachers and students caught up in the testing mess. At least they can vicariously fight back through Ann and Lep.

I hear the garage door opening and need to remind Steve to take the trash out. All for today.