Sunday, April 25, 2010

Open curriculum


#27  in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.


I was complaining to Kit that I had worked too far ahead on my task list, and now I had nothing to do. 

“I am not telling anyone about my fantastic time management tricks that make it possible for me to do all the day's tasks before lunch,” I said.

She replied, “My sister went to one of those 70s elementary schools, where the kids would have a contract to complete X amount of work, and when they finished, they could sit in the bathtub in the middle of the pod. She used to sit in the bathtub from Weds-Fri.”

None of that sounded strange to me.  And when I didn’t react, she repeated:


Yeh, man.  What’s your hassle?  We’re just rapping.

Though a bathtub pod would have been an added extra.

Educational traditionalism went out the window in the hopes that we would overthrow the administration by the 6th grade, rather than get anymore people killed.ohio-kent-bayonets

That’s my theory, anyway.  Let them get all their free-thinking foolishness out of their systems and maybe they will have to just drink and gator themselves into oblivion for 4 years.

mmm.  yeh, maybe.

So… team teaching, combined classrooms, changing classes in lower grades, electives-electives-electives and… the open curriculum of the learning contracts.  I might also have called this essay “Workoholic Project Managers are Made, Not Born.”

How the Learning Contract worked (and still does, roughly) is that the student and teacher design a syllabus of what skills are to be gained through the course of the semester or year, various ways that the student may choose to obtain those skills, and how those skills will be assessed.badge_vest

Yes, very similar to that –>

When you look for examples of this today, it is usually in the context of “gifted” student or “learning needs” students, when in my day was the same thing.  But in our 6th grade Language Arts class, this was not limited to any end of any spectrum.  There were about 40 of us filling a room with pre-teen BO and mood swings.  Making us stay in our seats was just something the teacher gave up on.  For 90 minutes every day (double period!!  oooo) we worked our contracts.

Stuff you could do:

Geography Darts – shoot dart gun at giant world map.  Name the country and capital you land on.  Earn points.  Sandbag by aiming at Soviet Union/Moscow. 

Book reports – I don’t remember how this was doled out.  We need Dodie for this.  But there were menus of book titles (you could negotiate your own, of course) and some crazy matrix of fulfilling your reading requirement.

popup Other kinds of reports – This being “Language Arts,” whatever that was, you could write about nearly any topic that wasn’t math.  Type them up on the classroom typewriter.  Presenting them to the class (dioramas our specialty) was an additional fulfillment.

Journaling – The other typing activity was writing letters to Charlie, a red papier-mache monkey who sat in the typing station  and served as a General Reader for your inner most thoughts, which were of course graded and handed back to you.

Current Events – Fridays were Rap Session day: desks in a circle to discuss current events.  Points for leading the discussion; points for participating.  I liked to bring in clips from the Enquirer and open with, “Bigfoot.  Any proof?” Bigfoot deserves his own post.  Watch this space.

Projects – anything that wasn’t reading or writing (or shooting a gun) fell under “projects.”  You could drive your own and serve on other people’s, for which you also got credit and for which your PM could jack you if you spent too much time at the dart map.  Many were suggested for you, but a good pitch could go a long way.

When MJ and I completed our contracts far too early, we corralled the entire class into staging a full Emmy Awards show, including nomination forms, vote tallying, presenters and recipients, awards (TVs made out of foil-covered milk cartons, which necessitated the sub-project of saving milk cartons), speeches, and commercial breaks.  Our parody of Soft & Dry (Rough and Wet) brought the house down. 

starsky-hutch-photograph-c12142724The awards themselves were dominated by Shawl Collar and Denim.

6th grade was also the year of Bicentennial plays (I was in 2 myself) but it should be noted that these were staged by the school itself and not our Language Arts class.  We just had all the starring roles.  Because we could handle the responsibility.  brother sam

Self-Driven?  check.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What I’m listening to

I've been asked for some podcast recommendations recently, based on tales of my Big Fat New England Commute and the temporary loss of my iTunes access (now restored) about which I was all pouty in my real life.

More of you wanted to know when I was going to upgrade my blog, already.  So let's address both things with this list of podcasts I recommend for your drive and/or when I am doing something else with my life.  Because this just took me 2 hours.

Naturally,  I have categorized them in a pleasing pile of buckets. 

Cocktail Party Fodder

This American Life: (60 m)The best radio on radio.  If you are still not listening to NPR because you can't figure out the attraction, stop listening to Prairie Home Companion and Car Talk and listen to this instead.  Often an inspiration for what you read here.  (recent referenceearlier reference.)

RadioLab: (30-60 m) A couple of guys try to explain scientific concepts in layman’s terms.  But not concepts like gravity or atoms, more like “why does a song get stuck in my head,” or what purpose sleep serves.  A little over-produced for my tastes, but always something to pay attention to.

 The Huntington Theatre Company: (varies)  pre and post production interviews with cast and company of the current schedule at Boston’s largest theatre company.  General spoiler alert statement.  

 Fresh Air:  (60 m) yes, Terry-Terry-Terry Gross.  I do often disparage Terry.  because she…because…she…tends to…to repeat herself.  (I’ve ruined her for you now, haven’t it?)  But she gets the good get.   And she is very good to fall asleep to. Everyone knows it.LindaHunt_article

Oh, sorry.  That’s Linda Hunt.  I guess it doesn’t matter.


terrygross   anyway…


Get Yer God On

Speaking of Faith : (60 m)  Krista Tippet has a little of the Terry Gross school plus Delilah, minus Karen Armstrong.   But fortunately, Armstrong shows up as a frequent guest.  Everyone gets equal time here.  In fact, SOF’s “Revealing Ramadan” series is certainly the only daily dose of Ramadan American radio had to offer.  Spin on that, Glenn Beck.

Marsh Chapel: (60 m)  Also from BU, the Sunday service of worship (interdenominational Christian from a Methodist theology).  This is the entire service, not just the sermon, so if music ministry is your thing, you will get more from this podcast than some others.

American Studies: I dabble with these, not really a regular listener

 The Splendid Table : (60 m) I am not much of a foodie, and some parts of this format bore me.  No fault of Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s that I am missing that section of the brain that makes a sensual connection between lists of ingredients and what that might taste like.  She might as well be saying “eye of newt, bucket of balls, and a sprig of mimzy brillig.”  But she’s adorable, and I enjoy listening to New Yorkers pontificate on where to get a decent meatloaf in Westchester county.

history guysBack Story : (60 m) This is a fun idea.  UVa puts 3 American history professors together (18th, 190th, and 20th C) and has them discuss hot topics like taxation and Thanksgiving in the context of their own time periods.  It’s like if Sturbridge Village and Williamsburg came over for dinner and weren’t annoying.

Stuff You Missed in History Class: (varies)  The “How Stuff Works” people take a stab at history.  “How Vaudeville Worked.”  “How the Magna Carta Worked.”  You get it.  Hosts Katie and Sarah come across a little soft, but they are, like,  a different generation of radio…?



Newsy McNews Chat

Beat the Press: (30 m) If you like your newswomen a little more Old School, subscribe to Emily Rooney’s “Beat the Press” weekly recap of the week’s big stories.  Boston’s local news pundits give news coverage the sports radio treatment.

Planet Money:  (30 m) Thank you, Planet Money, for explaining the economic meltdown.  My issues of The Economist keep piling up, but you, I have time for.  I’ll admit I sometimes have to listen more than once to get the full message.  This may be more than you want of your drivetime shows.

 The Tavis Smiley Show : (60 m)  Slow down the headlines and really talk about them, NPR-style.  Smiley also produces special themed shows and series that give us the personal impact of housing, Katrina, Iraq, the collapse of GM, etc by giving us one person’s story.  It might be yours.

Too Much About Books  To me, book review shows are a kind of pleasurable torture.  Lists and lists of things I will never get to, but enjoy hearing about.  Warning: sometimes they are all talking about the same book in the same week.  That’s a drag.

New York Times Book Review (30 m)

Black Authors Network (1-2 hours.  better for your long trips)

 New York Review of Books (varies)

NPR Books (30 m)

A Crushing Amount of Movie Talk

Everything on this list is considered “explicit” by iTunes.  People who love to talk about movies love to swear as well.  A Lot.

love movies

I Love Movies – (40 m) The panel show that includes the Leonard Maltin Game and a whole lotta F-bombs.

Comedy Film Nerds: (60 m)  Many of the same guests, much of the same feel.  Production values are much weaker, and they haven’t yet found their rhythm, but they will.

 Movies You Should See (60 m) I stumbled onto this through iTunes.  British people chatting (hard Ts, that) about Cine.  And a lot of references you won’t always get.

Just Funnywait

 Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (60 m) : Maybe the 2nd best radio on radio.  It takes a lot of insecurity to wear a hat on radio.  But I still love you, Peeeeeeter Sagal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Here comes Patriots' Day

The federal government tried to appropriate the term "Patriot Day" for September11.  Massachusetts, Maine, and a thousand re-enactors shrugged it off.  here in the Bay state, Patriots' Day (with the S - apostrophe) is still big news.  Besides the Marathon, which is its own kind of skirmish, the Yanks and Redcoats take to the woods in the early hours to declare each other "dead men."  (but politely, 18th C style.  You, sir, are a dead man.  I invite you to eat lead.  One moment while I pack this musket.  Then you, sir, will meet your divine maker,  Cuppa tea?)

Yesterday as the temperature hit 90 degrees (uninvited, we might add) I pulled off the road on my drive home down the Battle Road and decided to have a walk.  It was much cooler in the trees, and being near-dusk the wildlife was active, and the birds in high song.

Due to the recent rains (perhaps I've mentioned it), some of the paths were carved up, and the meadows very slushy.  But on days like yesterday New England calls in sick in order to hike, bike, ride in the outdoor air for as long as it lasts.  Which is never very long. 

Minuteman National Park turned 50 last year, and is all cleaned up for its big weekend.  Patriots' Weekend is actually next weekend, but the NPS maximizes school holidays by spreading this out over the next two weekends.  This also gives you time to plan a trip.  Unfortunately, I do not have the day off, so I can not entertain you.

This Saturday, the town of Concord will rally, and Paul Revere will be captured in Lincoln.  This is done in the afternoon, when the cafes and souvenir shops are open, rather than at midnight, when it happened.  But for the most part, the NPS does these things in real time.

Saturday the 17th the park is overrun with re-enactors, and this is the best time to visit if you never have, especially if you have kids and they think history is lame-o.  An may I say that Revolutionary re-enactors are more dreamy than Civil War re-enactors.  (If you need your own incentive).  If you have little-little kids, and you are up too early on a Saturday anyway, prithee come thither to the North Bridge for the shot heard round the world at about 8:00am.  A few skirmishes in the day.

Patriots' Day is for the early risers and the lovers of cold New England dew.  Whether you are a Marathoner or a re-enactor, Monday comes in the dark.  I'll confess I have never done this event -- firstly because I didn't have a car for 13 years, and was trapped inside the Marathon route, and since then because one rarely gets this day off anymore (unless you work for the state, the bank, or the Beth Israel Breast Imaging Unit of Lexington).  But here's how you do it, if you think you have the breeches.

Battle re-enactment in Lexington begins at about 5:30. Back at the bridge at 6am for a 21 gun salute.  Oh it is on.  Sun will be up in about 30 minutes.  BYO DD.  Parade at 9.  Lots of video on You Tube, though much of it is unsteady, given the crowds, chill, and level of equipment.  This one gives a good flavor, I think. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Office Dress Code BINGO

In time for tomorrow's unseasonably warm day in the office, The DrawingIn Room presents...

Dress Code BINGO fields - make your own card!

B column:

I column:
cargo shorts
madras shorts
cut-off shorts
beach volleyball uniform

N column:
Grateful Dead skirt
FREE: Capris
denim mini
long shirt/no pants

G column:
tank top - male
tank top - female
tube top

O column:
terry cloth
no shave - this has nothing to do with the weather, but tends to go along with Too Casual


Monday, April 5, 2010

Almost entirely fat

Know your BI-RADS.  Your mammogram just became more appalling.


Here’s what the gang in the lab have to say about you. Using the Breast Image Reporting and Data System (I promise you, it is not Rating, but Reporting) the Rad Techs have this to say:

4 = Extremely dense

3 = Heterogeneously Dense

(said the letch to the buxom gal wearing a name tag… “And what’s the other one’s name?”)



2 = Scattered fibroglandular densities (lumpy)

And your #1 BI-RAD code is… Almost entirely fat


It seems sort of mean, doesn’t it?  Like they went from marilyn_richardavedonfibroglandular (which this spell check doesn’t even understand), to this… judgment call

I went looking for its male equivalent (understanding, of course, that men do occasionally get breast imaging, but rarely have a lifetime of their fat being assessed).  And while I learned far more about scrotal ultrasonography (Ultra! Low tar!  King Size!) than I will ever use in  life,  I was unable to find the related RAD.  SU-RAD, you would think.

Sooooo Rad.


I invite you to make up your own ratings.  this is a family show.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Write it down, blog writer

songwriter Blame Microsoft.  I was moments away from shutting down for the night, when I decided to explore the “tool dock”  Microsoft 7 presents on the new desktop.  And I found “Live Writer, the “blog writing tool.”  And now here I am. Linking back to them in a desperate play for traffic.

Live Writer links to your blog service, pulls back your template, etc, and provides you with some very handy Microsofty tools that from this first paragraph are outperforming You Know Whoogle.

The workspace is not very big, but it doesn’t really need to be.  Tools live off to the right in a nav-bar, or up-top like in Word.  The graphics tools have a little more pizzazz,to the point where you could over-use them, but when you rob as many photos as I do in a post, you might want to mix it up, border and shadow-wise.  That above is the “reflection effect.”  It is not serving much purpose for that photo but maybe something like this.  That’s a little more dramatic.

minuteman The font formatting works much better here. You have all the MS fonts and formats to choose from, and I have not yet run into the Known issue on Blogger where fonts revert to Times Roman at the drop of a paragraph.  Plus, Blogger dropped its spellcheck in the last upgrade, and Live Writer brings that back.

Peep this – insert table.


Why would I want to?  I don’t know; I never could before.

Many of the same plug-ins/widgets are available, and many of them are just as silly.  MS sticks it to the Man by putting it an Insert Map feature and using Bing.  I suppose in a world where Google and Microsoft are fighting over which one is The Man, I am the patsy playing right into their hands with this post. 

But net-net it’s a win-win, because I have been considering leaving Blogger for a more flexible service, with better editing tools and a more accurate “Preview” of what I was really going to get.  You look back over the posts on this site and notice that formatting can sometimes go haywire.  Sizes and paragraph breaks are off, and photos don’t line up as expected.  maybe this will work better.

This song has no title, just words and a tune.  I have to be in bed now for my 14 hour commute.  But I am pleased to report that my iTunes have been restored.  long live Apple.  Now everyone is happy.  gtbr

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Getting there is half the fun

Have you had enough of hearing about the flooding yet?  Times like these remind you of how much we take for granted our ability to shrink our vast country into hour increments through the miracle of transportation, when not so long ago you actually needed a 2 week vacation just to get anywhere.  The New Boss is on business travel to Nacodoches and she was delighted that a friend who "lives close" was going to meet up with her.  "Texas-close?" I said.  Because in New England, we will take 2 hours to get to work, but that's not because of distance.  We hate to do anything that's wickit far.

I was recently berated by some high school friends when I didn't meet up with them at a local (for them -- 600 miles away from me).  They said "So-and-so came, and she lives in New Jersey."  I said, "Let the record reflect that I live 7 hours north of New Jersey."

(New Job - PTO) + Death of a friend + 12 hours travel distance X 1 set of railroad tracks North to South.   I had gotten a dream itinerary -- couldn't believe my luck: Depart MA from the 128 station at 8am and arrive in Richmond at 7pm.  Return departure at 7pm, arrive in MA at 8am, where I am parked 30 minutes from work.  I would read a book.  I would watch a film.  I would wear a cloche and sip champagne.  in my head....

Oh, but then there's this.  It's a little hard to make out, but it was shot from an Amtrak window on Wednesday.  Shortly afterward, service was suspended.  The sad recording on USA-RAIL says the call volume is so high, could you please call back when you are 48 hours from your travel?  Refunds are cheerfully offered, and reroutes as well, if you can take one of the 3 trains a day leaving from New Haven.  You should arrive back at your destination about 3am.
Go ahead.  come upstairs.  The sun should be up in about 4 hours.  New Haven is perfectly safe for middle-aged ladies travelling alone.
I actually miss a lot of funerals this way.