Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I finished reading Kafka’s The Trial, which I liked, but I need to reread it or do some research so I understand it fully.

I completed my training to be an election judge for our primary election on March 17th. We’ve got new sleeker equipment, which should be easier to work with and quicker to set up and take down. Fingers crossed.

I am rather disappointed so many candidates dropped out just before Super Tuesday. It doesn’t give states that come later much voice in the matter. How can a state change when it holds its primary, I wonder.

Saturday I attended a Lenten Retreat organized for alumnae of my high school. My all girls’ school closed in the 1990s, but we still have alumni events. It was a small group of just 35 or so and no one else from my year was there. Still the program was a good start to Lent (though Lent started 10 days before. My former freshman homeroom teacher was one of the co-leaders and I did sit with two sisters of one of my classmates.

I’ve continued to work a lot and I am enjoying recruiting. This week I attended a nearby Toastmasters and not only did I get some people to apply, but I got to see a very active group, again of all ages and a mix of first languages.



rich parent

I live in the New Trier school district which is one of the best high schools in Illinois. The district is affluent and parents, most of whom are professionals, can easily afford tutors and summer enrichment programs. I was stunned to learn that a whopping 24% of these high school students get extra time on the ACT test. In discussing this matter, one mother I spoke with told me that there’s a high school college counselor at New Trier whose main task is to manage all these requests for extra time or accommodations.

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New Trier District’s Average Income

Reported in the Chicago Tribune in 2012, New Trier is one of many well-funded schools with a higher than expected number of students with special needs. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, New Trier spent $29,272 per student, which is

New Trier students tend to come from homes that offer advantages other than wealth. Their parents tend to be married (82%) and to have completed college if not graduate school (90.9%).

The Varsity Blues college entrance scandal has made this matter return to the spotlight. I’ve figured that this investigation in Los Angeles is just one of many and that gaming the system is rampant among parents without morals who’ll do anything to get their child into a school with status.

What really goads me is that parents are teaching their children to seek additional advantages to gain status.

School Swap Korea

In this documentary three Welsh teens fly to Seoul where they will experience three grueling days in a Korean high school.

I knew Korean students were pushed to excel and studied long hours but this documentary horrified me. I wish I knew more about the exact content on the tests that we were seen how the teachers actually teach. Both of those elements would have made for a stronger film, but we do see how stunned and exhausted the Welsh students were and they tell us what they think about this education system so we do learn a lot about South Korea’s high schools, which are among the top in the world.

The episode here raises the question of whether this intensity is worth it. It mentions the international test scores and gives the ranks, but it doesn’t give us the spread. Are the top 50 schools pretty close to each other or is their a wide spread between them?

Like Wales, Americans can improve and intensity their curriculum, but neither country is going to start having students study till midnight in cram schools so if Westerners study five hours a day in school and a few hours at home, they would never surpass students who are in a formal classroom from 8 am till midnight.

I think it’s better to have a balanced life and be able to work on projects, which emulate post-graduation work, than just to memorize.

Words & Pictures


Starring Clive Owens and Juliet Binoche, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2380331/?ref_=nv_sr_1 focuses on two talented and cranky high school teachers. Owens teaches English while Binoche teaches art at an élite private school. Both demand a lot from their students and are disappointed with their own ability to produce the excellence they once did. Owens’ alcoholism is the main cause of his writers’ block, while Binoche’s rheumatoid arthritis hinders her painting.

They’re neither warm nor fuzzy ever rather they’ve embraced the “genius must be prickly loners” philosophy.  They are rather interesting and the film moves along quickly. Owens likes to compete and when his students tell him that the new art teacher believes “words are lies,” he dreams up a Words vs. Pictures competition, which all characters do acknowledge is a false dichotomy.

The leads and Amy Brenneman, who plays the head of the school board, are compelling. I thought the students’ acting didn’t ring true. I’ve seen better chemistry and half way through most romantic films, I’m rooting for the opposites to work things out. Here I thought well, I wish these people well, but if they part company perhaps that is better.

All in all, it’s an okay movie, but it could have been better. It did make me think I wish Amy Brenneman had another TV series. I miss her down-to-earth appeal.

Let the Teacher Beware

This opinion piece is from my teaching blog:

The hellish school I worked for in Guangzhou is hiring. Let the teacher beware. I’ve added in bold what I think people should know.

CCC seeks an ESL/EFL Instructor to teach English for their Education Bound U.S. (EBUS) program at Xiang Jiang High School (XJHS) in Jade-Green Island, 45 minutes from Guangzhou, China, in Xintang, a factory town with horrid air quality. Though California law requires that employers provide a safe workplace,  we’ll ignore that and hope you will too. This program offers American college-level courses to Chinese high school students (regardless of their English level, even 15 year old kids with D’s in English can take college classes) to prepare them for transfer to U.S. colleges and universities though the best students will transfer from EBUS into XJ’s AP program each year so maybe this plan won’t quite work out. If the first two classes are a good measure, half the students will transfer out of this school before their third year.

Under the direct supervision of the CCC EBUS Program Coordinator, who will be in California so you’ll wake to 20-30 emails A DAY from him and if he’s like most staff will only deign to speak with you at his convenience, i.e. California time.  Night owls preferred as some calls will start an hour late and conclude at 2 am Guangzhou time.


I Couldn’t Agree More

Here’s a brief, convincing pitch on prioritizing statistics in education.

Personally, I love statistics and if I had known in high school how much I’d like it, I would have done more math in college.

If instead of Advanced Math, I could have taken a high school statistics class as a senior, I would have taken more statistics or math classes in college. My only choice for math as a senior was something called Advanced Math and I have no recollection of what we actually learned. I can tell you at I learned in geometry, algebra and trig, but advanced math, well, I had Mrs. Meyers and I believe she was nice. That’s all I remember. She was one of the better math teachers at Marillac and it was a shame she didn’t teach freshmen algebra.

None of my math teachers ever told us what Calculus was about so I picked up some vague ideas on the streets. (Sex ed was far more detailed at my Catholic school.) I just figured it was more painful than algebra with the inept, unpredictable Sr. Angela and thus best to be avoided.