>Top Ten Reasons to worry about the upcoming election


  • The opponent in our Senate race thinks global warming doesn’t exist.
  • The opponent in our Congressional race plans to get rid of Social Security as we know it.
  • One candidate for governor plans to scrap our public pension plan, effectively cutting my income by 30%.
  • The opposing candidate for Senate is out of touch with the middle class, which means me.
  • The opposing candidate for Congress has moved in and out of the district several times; whom does he really represent?
  • Many candidates talk about cutting taxes by reducing education budgets – budgets that have already been cut to the bone.
  • Candidates are talking about judging teachers by their students’ test scores. If that’s the case, people, give me a chance. Bring these kids into my class reading and achieving at grade level.
  • I can’t afford to donate enough to my candidates, but I can’t afford not to; if the wrong side wins, my working conditions will worsen severely.
  • Misleading advertising might just tip voting in the wrong direction.
  • Negative advertising might encourage people to stay home, and low voter turnout is never good.

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>No Stomach for Cancer


UPDATE: the resolution has passed the Senate. There is no need to contact your senators – unless you want to thank them for their support.

Sometimes a national issue is personal. Sometimes a personal issue becomes national. This issue is really both.

You may remember Tyler, La Petite’s friend, the young man who passed away from stomach cancer. This young man, college student, an athlete in his prime, was diagnosed in a late stage of cancer — too late to treat successfully. Thanks to his friends and family, he passed peacefully, surrounded by an ocean of caring.
Tyler’s mother would like to spread the word about stomach cancer through an initiative sponsored by Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold. Senator Feingold would like to declare November, 2010 Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. A public awareness campaign will educate people about this aggressive and sometimes hereditary cancer, highlighting the need for early diagnosis and treatment.
November is an ideal month for this awareness campaign because of Thanksgiving Day, a holiday that emphasizes family and food. Family health histories are important – no, essential. The U.S. Surgeon General would like to declare Thanksgiving Day National Family History Day to emphasize the need for this knowledge. Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on harvest, food, and nourishment, can be very difficult for stomach cancer patients. Spreading awareness of this illness will help build compassion while increasing knowledge.
Russ Feingold, co-sponsor of Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, is a senator from my fair state of Wisconsin. I’m proud that he introduced this resolution and helped it pass.
Awareness is only the beginning, but it is a strong beginning. Please help spread the word – in Tyler’s memory, and to prevent others from suffering. Let’s make sure our nation has No Stomach for Cancer.

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>Health Coverage for all – are you listening, Congress?

>One of the best posts I’ve read about making health coverage available to all: Erin at Queen of Spain talks about her day in the ER.

I saw a news feature about a new treatment for head lice; it’s safer and greener, a method that suffocates the little bugs rather than kills them. Avoiding pesticides on children’s heads? Good. Bad? It’s only available by prescription. Families I’ve known who’ve been repeatedly re-infected haven’t had health insurance. If payday was recent enough, they’d head to the drugstore for an over-the-counter remedy and hoped it would work. Meanwhile, their kids miss school until all the nits can be stripped using the proverbial fine-toothed comb.

Two kids talking on their way to recess:
Student 1: “Mrs. Teacher, do you know anything about insurance? Like doctors? Doesn’t everyone have that?”
Student 2: “My mom doesn’t. She wants to get a good job so she can go to the doctor when she’s sick.”
Two ten-year-olds bringing health care coverage into their real lives: what’s wrong with this picture? One was a middle-class child, two working parents with good benefits in their jobs. The other was a child of a recent divorce and a tough time financially. Both were hardworking children of hardworking parents. Why should one family have coverage and the other not?

Erin (a.k.a. Queen of Spain) was lucky; she could drive directly to the ER without a second thought.

Remember the signs at the Vancouver Olympics? You know, after the USA surprised Canada’s hockey team by beating them 5-3 in the first round.

Heck, now they have a gold medal, too. When will the U.S. find its gold medal health care? Please don’t tell me that only time will tell; we need it now.

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>Bumper Sticker Fun

>Can you read this bumper sticker? Neither can I. Sorry. It was windy and cold, and we just wanted to get back in the car and get the heat on. Taking a quality photo with my cell phone wasn’t a high priority.

You might guess based on the Feingold sticker (almost readable) that although it’s centered on the vehicle, the sentiment leans to the left. It does. The bumper sticker in white on red reads:
Democratic Women are the Life of the Party.
I think I’d like the driver of this minivan. Her bumper sticker is almost as much fun as this one.

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The State of the Union in my State of Mind

“Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation, freedom is a state – – of mind.” — song lyric
“Yes, I’m wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain.” –another song lyric

It was a tough first year for President Obama, one I might call baptism by fire. He inherited a nation in turmoil, an economic collapse, a massive deficit and national debt, and a hurting minority party that wanted nothing less than to see him fail.

President Obama articulately expressed these challenges Wednesday night. He addressed the need for jobs, for employment for all. He talked about health care, despite the controversy attached to the pending bills. He discussed Afghanistan and Iraq and more.

You can read the entire speech here. I don’t need to repeat it verbatim. It was long, but listening to an articulate and personable president made the length more than bearable – it kept my attention. I missed my local OFA State of the Union party in favor of a live chat with the Momocrats as the speech was on.

I found that the Barack Obama we elected, the feisty, energetic, hopeful president, came through best at the end.

“if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town — a supermajority — then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.”

Together. He put the challenge straight to the opposite side of the Congressional aisle. He challenged his naysayers not to beat him, but to join him. By stating clearly that real progress must be bipartisan, President Obama made his agenda clear: No more finger-pointing! Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate.
In parent-teacher talk, it might be “We both want the same thing; we want your child to be successful. Let’s work together.”

And together, we don’t quit. We won’t quit. If the leader of the free world can work with his opposition, the rest of us can learn to work together, too.

Now where did I stash the emails of my senators and congressional rep? Here goes the letter-writing campaign!

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>More than voting; staying active

>I was disappointed; I’d offered to take other teachers to a political event, but none were willing. I’ve gone to this meet-up with legislators several times. It’s easy, painless, absolutely non-intimidating. The answers kept coming back No, no, no, no, no.
Deep sigh. Believe it or not, teaching is highly dependent on political decisions. Decision made in Madison affect our curriculum; decisions made in Washington, D.C. affect our assessments. That’s only the beginning.
But no one would go.

Soon after this non-event, a former colleague called to invite me to a meeting of Organizing for America, I thought it over and said, “Count me in.” Not just because of my disappointment in my professional colleagues, not just because the meeting was taking place at a local coffeehouse, but because it felt right.

The evening’s discussions were basic, describing the group’s purpose and structure and opportunities. We adjourned before my parking meter ran out, so the trip only cost me a few quarters and the price of a white chocolate raspberry mocha.

My future with this group? Unknown at this time. Phoning isn’t my strength. Instead, I predict I’ll be a letter writer, pamphlet creator, and (perhaps) blogger.

If I can’t recruit teaching colleagues to meet with legislators, I can work with other volunteers to inspire voters. Yes, I can.

You can, too. Establish an account on Organizing for America’s website and look for events in your area. You can do as little or as much as you wish. Each and every action, large or small, will make a difference to keep our country on track for the kind of change in which we still believe.

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>An Open Letter to Congress about Title I

>When my principal asked us to email our congressional representative and state senators, she gave us a link to a form letter and suggested we send it ASAP.

Oops. District email isn’t supposed to be used for political purposes.

So I forwarded the email to my home and wrote from the comfort of my laptop in my cozy, warm den, after making cupcakes for my class’ Welcome Home Flat Stanley party. All the while I thought of the students who benefit from Title I funded programs: those kiddos who would consider a cozy, warm den in a single family home to be a luxury, and cupcakes in the oven a rare and special treat. Tomorrow, when they’re sharing Flat Stanley’s journals and travel stories, I’ll be thinking of how much they’ve learned – and also how much money is needed to keep them learning.

Dear Senators Feingold and Kohl;

I am shocked and dismayed to learn that Title I may be slashed a total of $700 million from its current fiscal year level. I understand the House has already voted to give no increase at all to Title I. If the Senate should succeed in cutting this program, many, many students will be harmed.

Please do your part to stop this cut immediately. Our district’s students have suffered too much already from lost local and state revenue. My students, tomorrow’s constituents, depend on you.

I look forward to your reply.


Frugal and Practical Teacher of 4th Grade
Advocate for students of low income
Advocate for students with disabilities
Lover of Reading, Science, and more

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>I’ll pass the test, Mr. President, but give me a chance.

>Dear President Obama;

I’m worried. My state, like many others, is in a budget crisis, and it’s affecting education. Wisconsin is one of many who covet a piece of the economic stimulus pie. To stand a chance, however, we’d have to change laws. Important laws. Laws that govern how I do my job – and how to evaluate if I’m doing it right.

Mr. President, in order to be eligible for stimulus money, test scores must be used as part of teacher evaluations. That’s where I get nervous.

You see, Mr. Obama, I teach in a unique neighborhood. The gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots is huge. You name it, I teach kids who’ve lived it. Poverty. Homelessness. Abuse, physical and otherwise. English Language Learners who read at a kindergarten level – in fourth grade. Transient families who move at least twice each year. Families who care about their children and want them to learn, but struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table, with no energy left for homework assistance, no money for books.

This is a great school with a great staff. We’re not shy about accountability. Sit in on a staff meeting and you’ll hear us discuss ways to do more with less- less money, less time, less respect.

However, we can’t control our raw product. If I were producing paper and received an inferior load of pulpwood, I’d refuse to accept it. If I ran a restaurant and my supplier brought me poor quality meat, I’d send it back. I can’t control my class list; I have to teach them all, reach them all. That challenge is a part of the joy of my work.

I speak for many teachers when I say we want all children to succeed. We continue to work with each child, finding time when there is none, motivating those who are incredibly behind to make as much progress as possible. I’d love to see the child who reads like a second grader improve to a fifth grade level on my watch. I’ll work toward that goal every minute that this young person is in my class. But if this child fails a state test one day, a test mandated by the folks in some faraway city, should it hurt my career? My paycheck? My job security? My reputation?

If the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder runs out of medicine the day of the test, please don’t blame me for the way her scores drop when she can’t focus. I want her to succeed even more than she does. When the bipolar student hits a major depression, let me help him get counseling and medical care; don’t force me to force him to fill in the bubbles on a high-stakes exam.

President Obama, please rethink this part of your program. Instead of No Teacher Left Untested, let’s apply stimulus money toward leaving no child behind.



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>Random thoughts on browsing the newspaper

>A small feature in the state section notes that homeowners are using less water. The Public Service Commission found that we residential Wisconsinites are using 7% less water than we used to use. Maybe the rain barrel craze is helping with that number.

In the National section: For those without a job, Labor Day is just another day in the struggle. For laid off teachers and school paraprofessionals, it’s a reminder that the school year is starting without them. It’s not that they’re not necessary; the fact is that budgets are too tight to hire enough staff to fully meet student needs.

The editorial cartoon by Joe Heller reminded me of what I heard on NPR the other day: the H1N1 cases we know are just the tip of the iceberg.

Preparedness is a balancing act. I’m stocking the freezer and the medicine cabinet, washing my hands frequently, and in general taking all the precautions I can to prevent H1N1 from devastating my family. I’ll be prepared, but I’m not going to worry outright until it happens close to home.

One commentary writer put the Obama speech in perspective with a satirical column asking “How dare Obama urge kids to succeed?” Really, folks. How did this planned short speech take on such conspiratorial tones? It’s not a campaign, it’s not a dramatic town meeting on health care reform. Whether your family supports President Obama or not, it’s time to respect the office if not the man. Let’s teach our children to listen and think and interpret what they hear rather than to plug their ears and shut out the elected leader of the free world.

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>Now I know what to brew on January 20th.

>It’s a given: I will get coffee for my birthday and for Christmas. Sometimes my students even get me coffee as a Teacher Gift. The variety of blends and flavors will keep me entertained and caffeinated until summer or even next fall. The only question is this: what will the flavors be? Today I have Harry and David’s spiced Roasted Chestnut holiday blend in the coffeemaker. Mmmm, I hear your taste buds reacting!
I’m also working on a package of Alterra Harvest blend, a strong but smooth flavor that I like to bring to school in my thermos or travel mugs.
But this one is unequaled.
I didn’t have my glasses on when I opened the package (darn these aging eyes!), so I couldn’t read the description or the name. Husband, big tease that he is, read little bits and pieces and made me guess. I’m not one to keep that kind of experience to myself, so let’s see how you do with the same information!

On the front of the package: “a Vienna Roast consisting of prime Kenya AA, Hawaiian Kona, and Indonesian Sulawesi coffees.” Got it yet?
A little more information from the back label: “When brought to a Vienna Roast, the highly-prized Hawaiian Kona gives the blend a full body and a mild and mellow character, the Kenya AA adds a wine-like flavor, and the Indonesian Sulawesi provides unexpected interest with its earthy taste, slightly smoky tone, and hints of spice.”

Did you make the connections yet? Okay, I’ll give you one last clue. Also from the back label: “(the blend’s namesake)’s lineage and early life are associated with three of the world’s prime coffee-growing regions. Born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and American mother, he spent eight of his first 10 years living in Indonesia.”

Yes, you guessed it. From Longfellow’s coffee, my brother and sister-in-law ordered me a package of Obama Blend.

Can I make it last until the inauguration?

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