Semesters, Cell Phones and Ghosts

ghost

Courtesy: http://www.indiewire.com/2017/03/a-ghost-story-trailer-david-lowery-rooney-mara-casey-affleck-1201796652/

It’s grading time, and I mean HEAVY-DUTY, all-day, into the wee-hours grading. It’s the most frustrating, anger-provoking thing I do as a teacher.  It is all these things because the more papers I read, the more I think I have been a phantom standing unseen in front of my classes, and that the volumes of resource materials I have posted must mysteriously disappear from student view somewhere in the course of the course.

Yes, I know. I am generalizing. I do have those consistently stellar students who make it all worthwhile. I also have those surprise students who manage to emerge from the back of the pack and surge forth to finish in the top percent. These students also make it all worthwhile.

But the discouraging part arises from an increasingly disengaged age group who wants to coast along the surface while expecting everything to be handed to them. Give them a book and most say, “What’s this?” Give them a cell phone and they are off and running in the opposite direction from the finish line. It’s called. “what is social media doing to our educational systems, our students, and ultimately, our culture?”

Consider: the average teen sends and receives a median of 50 texts per day, while 3 out of 10 deal with 100 every day.  Also, according to William Tatum, a research neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, the intensity and frequency of texting actually alters brain waves, partly because of the high degree of concentration texting requires.

My students admit to feeling terrible anxiety if they don’t have their cell phone next to them on their desks during class, and though I catch them looking at the phones periodically throughout class, most are never outright rude and actually start texting.

Do I have consequences for cell-phone usage? Yes. Actually, I include a category called “Professionalism” in my grading rubric which includes all those immeasurable things such as respect, teamwork, and earnestness, and that is precisely where cell phone use and abuse fits in.  For those abusers, I have a cozy little chat during the semester and tell them just how much their choice of using their phone in class will lower their grade, a message they don’t like to hear.

I don’t (necessarily) blame texting and social media for this new breed of college student, but it sure makes sense that their immersion in a cyber-cell world thwarts attention paid to class, coursework, and assignments and makes one professor consider coming to class covered in a white sheet.

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Are Children Suffering From Their Parents’ Use of Cell Phones?

General Icons-15Last week I had a chat with one of my students who is also the assistant manager of a day care center. We had just completed a unit on digital media and she described to me an ubiquitous activity that occurs every day among a majority of her parents when dropping off or picking up their kids. You guessed it – talking on their cell phones.  They talk on their phones to the exclusion of finding out about their child’s day or otherwise communicating with the child’s teacher. This really handicaps the staff at the daycare responsible for taking care of the kids. Did something happen at daycare that the parents need to know? Is the parent forgetting to tell the teacher that their child can’t have milk because of a medication she’s taking? You get the picture. Communication regarding their children takes short shrift.  Sad and scary.This affected me so that I decided to root around and see what I could find about how extensive a problem this cell phone use among parents indeed is. A multinational study last year of kids ages 8 to 13 found that “32 percent of kids felt unimportant when their moms and dads were distracted by their phones.” In addition, over half of these kids believed their parents spend far too much time on their phones. On the positive side, 52 percent of the parents agreed with the kids’ responses. The question is, were the parents who agreed the same ones attached to their phones or the ones who put communication to and about their kids first?

The day after I had this discussion with my student, I was in the Target parking lot walking toward my car when a young mother with a baby in a shopping cart was unloading her purchases. Guess what, she was on her call phone while the baby sat quietly. I then heard a kerfuffle and turned to see the cart rolling away from the car and a young man running to intercept it. A case of “distraction by device.”  and truly a potential disaster.

I would have expected this mother to be embarrassed and horrified by her irresponsible behavior but she was all smiles and acted as if the entire incident was no big deal. Had it happened before and this was simply a rerun?

I feel like I am scraping the proverbial surface of a problem that appears to be reaching epic proportions. Are we sculpting a society where children are relegated to non-importance when the cell phone rings, or is dialed?  And what then does this mean for our future?

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Quacking Rites of Spring

mallard_glam

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/lifehistory

They’re back! And when they arrive, it’s with a big splash!

Who is “They”?

One of the true and delightful rites of early spring in my life is the arrival of the male and female ducks who unfailingly land and plop down in the water-filled cover of our neighbor’s above-ground pool. It’s going on 10 years that I’ve “experienced” them. Sadly, the average lifespan of a duck is less than 10 years, so is our time together nearing an end? Or might one of the many offspring who have sprung here pick up where his or her parents left off.

Stop! These lovely creatures have just arrived and already I am focusing on their departure when there is another wonderful beginning right in front of me.

Their Story

Every year the ducks arrive soon after the last snow and thus the spring saga begins. They spend some time swimming in the pool cover, and disappear at times, usually evenings, when together they locate the best spot for Mama to lay her eggs and keep them warm. Unlike some other avian species, only the mother is allowed to sit on the eggs while Papa guards the nest and forages for food.

It’s interesting how she forms her nest. It begins as a 1-to-6-inch bowl-like depression in soft ground into which she plops, and once plopped, that’s where she stays. Instead of bringing materials to the nest, she reaches for brush and vegetation from her perch to both cushion the nest and hide it from view.  Once she lays her eggs, she plucks the soft, downy feathers from her breast to cover and insulate them. Discretion and safety is the watch word for this entire process and believe it or not, in the 10 years I’ve been observing this springtime ritual, only once have I seen Mama with her ducklings waddling behind her.

As I wrote this little piece and did some additional research on one of my favorite wildlife species, I learned some interesting facts about ducks.

  • Although they are “monogamous,” males are known to have “dalliances” with other female ducks.
  • When their wings flap like crazy, be aware they can actually propel their owners up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Quacking? Only females quack; makes merely make a grunting, guttural sound.
  • When breeding season is over, ducks shed their feathers and are unable to fly for 3—4 weeks, a highly helpless time for them.
  • Ducks have a varied diet. They don’t dive in water, but will eat bugs and plants along the surface. They otherwise forage for seeds, worms, snails, etc.

Like all nature’s creatures, ducks have their own special stories to tell, and when they do, they put a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Happy Spring!

Credits:

All About Birds: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Hobby Farms: What is the Average Life Span of a Duck?

 

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Do I Have Something to Say?

100_0263Why is it when I sit down to write anything for myself I suddenly acquire ADHD and find at least 25 things I must do instead of writing. Just now, for example, I was about to write an email and I had to make myself to write instead. If I hadn’t begun, lord only knows what I would have found to do next.

I’m making it sound like I don’t like to write. Quite the contrary. I love to write and have been doing it since I wrote my first “novel” at age 10. Short stories, poems, essays – as a child it all came so effortlessly. Not so as an adult. It seems I let myself get in the way.

Seriously, though, I suspect I am not alone with this strategy of avoidance and I wonder what it means. It’s not the blank page syndrome, because the page never opens to be blank. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Or perhaps just a basic fear that I have nothing to say?

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Thoughts About Gender Neutral Language

Language evolves. What’s appropriate today may be rude tomorrow. However, when language becomes unnecessarily complicated, I believe there should be a buck stopped here claiming “Enough.”

I’m talking about gender neutral language. Our society is on the track to rightfully embrace all people, all nationalities, all colors, and all sexual orientations. We have come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

Enter implications for language. The gender-neutral language movement is not limited to one community of people, though the majority of its supporters are of the LGBT community. More complicated variations are out there, but the most prevalent example of general-neutral language is the replacement of the singular, gender-identifying pronouns of he and she with they, them, etc. So what’s the big deal?

Consider:

Jeff packed up his lunch. They made sandwiches including peanut butter and ham.

Suddenly we lose clarity in what would otherwise be a perfectly ordinary series of sentences. Did Jeff pack his (their) own sandwich? Did someone else join Jeff? Do the two sentences relate or has there been some error in semantics? And so on – you get the point.

Ironically, I do “get” the angst of groups seeking to establish an identity and self-recognition. On the other hand, there are many other groups in society that do not request a grammar change that can fundamentally wreak havoc in our already over-complicated world. I for one not only balk at these potential meaning muddles, but also resent being told how I can and cannot use my language.

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The Rosie Chronicles Continue

hot-sauceRosie has developed a new and most disgusting habit and as a proper pet owner, I am embarrassed to admit what it is – but simply put – she eats poop. Not only does she eat poop, but with two other dogs in our family, every day is a veritable feast for our Rosie. Interesting, though, I have whispered about her awful habit to a few select friends who are dog owners and would you believe that every single one of them whispered right back, “My dog too!” At least mine isn’t the only disgusting dog in town.

Nevertheless, Dominic and I have been scouring the Internet looking for solutions to thwart Rosie’s feasts and this is one we found.

Solution 1: Put hot sauce on the respective targets.

Sounded like a slam dunk to me. When it was poop-time for all three pups, and sure-thing feast time for Rosie, I grabbed the bottle of hot sauce from the frig and entered into a race for the finish with Rosie for a to-die-for pile of poop in the corner of the yard. I won. I can’t even imagine what this must have looked like: Me racing like a madwoman with this bottle of hot sauce in hand trying to out-run this little dog.

Clear that I won, I squirted a small amount of the hot sauce on the still-steamy mound and when Rosie arrived, she decided hot sauce or no, she was going to dine. Dine she did, seemingly oblivious to the hot sauce. I poured on more. She kept eating. Despite a hefty amount of hot sauce, she ate the whole dang pile of poop.  Discouraged, demoralized and dejected, I trudged back into the house, with my very merry-Rosie in hot pursuit.

I began to worry. From what it said on the Internet, most dogs will sniff hot sauce and back away while others might need a taste to be repelled and discouraged from ever eating poop again. Not my Rosie. She didn’t even want any water when she came in. Great, a new delicacy: poop covered in hot sauce. With great guilt I tried to calculate how much hot sauce she consumed and conjured thoughts of her having a hole burn through her stomach or worse. She seemed fine.

An hour later the three dogs and I sat all snuggled on the couch on this a cold winter afternoon. Rosie was, per usual, snuggled as close to me as possible. Then I felt it, a slow, ominous rumbling followed by trembling followed by a body position that meant nothing good was about to happen. As it was clear the eruption was nigh, I moved Rosie and positioned her head to hang off the edge of the couch. It worked – sort of.  As for the rest of the scene – let’s just have you use your imagination. The good side was that with so much stuff coming out of this little dog, there could be no poisonous residue left inside her.

To be continued.

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Raw Pet Food 101

Our fur-babies deserve the very best care we can possibly give them. Thanks to Pet Saver for this interesting and informative article.

PetSaver Healthy Pet SuperStore

Ask 10 different pet experts, and you may get 10 different answers to that question. But one thing is certain: Dogs and cats are meat eaters, and their digestive systems are designed for raw meat consumption.

The average pet owner doesn’t feed their dog or cat this way, but more and more are. Russ Herman, owner and CEO of PetSaver Healthy Pet Superstore in Rochester, has seen a major trend of pet lovers purchasing and feeding a raw diet to their pets.

“It’s no longer just a fad for many dog and cat owners,” said Herman. “Pet owners are much more intelligent these days as to what is best for their pets.”

Major companies like Nature’s Variety, Answers, Primal, Stella, Chewy’s and others have seen big increases in sales of their frozen and dehydrated raw diets.

Pat Gordon of Brighton has been using raw feed for four…

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