Monday, February 26, 2007

High School Reform, Part II

Following please find my proposed initiatives for high school reform:

A) Focus on excellence in a few areas rather than mediocrity in multiplicity. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Surprised by Joy, "...the greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life." Let's start with simply Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.

B) Improve teacher salaries and, by doing this, recruit youthful, competent, forward-thinking, relational instructors who will inspire and motivate students. On the flip side, fire incompetent, emotional, unprofessional, old-fashioned basket cases as quickly as possible.

C) Shorten the school day and provide for extra-curricular and out-of-the-box learning experiences. 8-2 (or similar hours) seems much too long and rigid a schedule. Partner with businesses, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions to offer students opportunities to contribute to the world and to learn from adults.

D) Shorten the number of years it takes to obtain a high school diploma OR make the four years that are required more valuable. As it stands now, four years is much too long. Students become restless and uncertain. They long to make a difference in their world in bigger ways - why not let them?

E) Globalize the learning experience. Expose students to cross-cultural experiences through study abroad, foreign language study, and school-sponsored trips (particularly those that are charity-based).

F) Modernize the methodology of instruction. Throw out outdated texts, uncomfortable desks, and chalkboards. Add laptops, top-of-the-line software, wi-fi, classrooms with a view or outdoor classrooms, utilize podcasts and blogs, etc.

G) Decrease class sizes. Studies continuously show that students do better in smaller groups where teachers can provide individualized attention and care.

H) Raise expectations for students. Make dress codes stricter or require uniforms. Expect students to achieve excellence in reading, writing, and mathematics. Kick students out who disrupt the learning environment and refuse to learn time and time again.

That's just a start - and I realize the ideas outlined here are highly controversial and difficult to implement. Still, we must focus on what is best for kids.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

High School Reform, Part I

I've been thinking a bit about the high school structure lately due to several situations in my extended family and my workplace.

As a high school counselor, I see too many students who are restless, unmotivated, and irrational. They are bored by school and complain about the "drama" of campus life, yet they immerse themselves in the totality of it. They make foolish and thoughtless decisions. They waste their boundless creativity and energy on fruitless endeavors. Because they cannot see ahead, they squander their time and resources in the present. To them, high school is too long and somewhat useless - and perhaps it is.

When I think about what would be best for students in terms of educational success, I certainly don't think of an 8-2 schoolday with textbooks, bells, chalkboards, and paper/pencil exams.

It seems like high school should be much more interactive, much more global, and much more practical than it is. I am not suggesting a "free-for-all" system where students teach themselves and Calculus books & tests are thrown out the window. But I am suggesting a radical reformation in the educational system.

Stay tuned to hear my vision (and don't forget to post your ideas on the topic!).

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Writer's Dream

Sitting in a comfortable chair with a new laptop in a WI-FI environment
Books and magazines all around
An online address/phone book of contacts for interviews
A digital voice recorder for conducting them
A beautiful, scenic place where solitude can be found
But where the hustle-bustle of life is nearby to collect inspiration

Friday, February 23, 2007

5-Mile Radius

A co-worker recently told me that her goal is to be able to go everywhere she needs to go within a 5-mile radius of her home. I concur.

I want to walk to the grocery store, the cafe, the park, the swimming pool, a friend's house, my workplace. I want to pedestrianize my life - to save time, to save money, and to savor the moments of my life with my family.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Ideal Work Environment

  • Fast-paced
  • Highly social
  • Action-oriented (not sitting at a desk—walking around, going new places, etc.)
  • Clean, fun, bright, colorful imaginative environment
  • The ability to help people and make a difference in society
  • To be in charge of my own domain
  • Meeting new people
  • Co-workers who are compassionate, intelligent, focused, and organized
  • Good Salary
  • Opportunities for professional development
  • Flexible schedule/self-paced (work is done = go home, work from home, on-assignment, etc.)
  • Free gym or fitness center on-site or nearby
  • Restaurant/cafĂ© w/ nutritional choices on-site or nearby
  • Casual dress 3+ days
  • “fame”/presence within the local community
  • workplace near my home and my husband (5 minutes or less, preferably within walking distance)
  • Family-friendly - ability to bring my children to work

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Authors I Admire

Sheldon Vanauken for his intensely personal and deeply moving portrayals of love and faith
C.S. Lewis for his intellectual and truth-filled compositions
T.S. Eliot for his obscure, beautifully arranged poetry and his mastery of the English language
Lauren Winner for her honest and well-crafted musings
Robin Jones Gunn for her fun style of writing - easy to read and enjoy

I hope someday to infuse some of their brilliance in to my own writing.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Other Blogs

I began four blogs in early January as an experiment and now I have decided to keep two of the four. Adventures of SS and Metropolitan Mama will live on, while YW City and Bookish Babe in the City will be laid to rest.

I will be transplanting some of my favorite postings from BB to this blog...I apologize in advance if you subscribed to all four and thus will have to read repeated posts. Don't worry - new ones are on their way.

Thanks to readers across the U.S.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ph.D. Update

Here's the latest. I met with four people in the Retailing & Consumer Sciences Department last week. The Chair was especially hospitable and kind, but I'm not sure the program is the right fit.

I am also slated to meet with six people from the Communication Department in the next two weeks and I will attend a half-day conference with the Marketing Department in late March.

At the moment, my first choice is Communication with a minor in Marketing or Public Health.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Etiquette for Wish Lists and Registries

The very first gift registry program was created by Marshall Fields in 1924 - and etiquette gurus responded with fury and fire. They retorted that such an idea was unmannerly and rude. In fact, some Emily Post-types still discourage including "we're registered at..." cards in wedding and baby shower invitations.

And I am here to say "pooh pooh" (as Madeline said to a tiger in the classic childrens book of the same name by Ludwig Bemelmans) on such advice.

Company registries and wish lists are a wonderful creation. How convenient it is for a guest to waltz down aisle 2A to a pre-selected, "perfect" gift for a happy couple or pregnant co-worker. The guest is relieved of hours of uncertain shopping - and, of course, the recipient is overjoyed at getting something they need.

All this to say - if you are planning to invite me to your birthday, wedding, anniversary, or baby shower, please do send along the registry and/or wish list cards and/or website links. I won't be the least bit offended.

In fact, more companies should offer birthday wishlists. I'd love to log on and buy a gift for an unsuspecting friend or family member.

P.S. Want to see my wish list? Log on to and search for my wish list by typing in my first and last name...