Friday, March 23, 2012

Cheesy Jokes and Serious Thoughts for Easter

Now that's the size candy I'm talking about.
Confession is good for the soul, it is said. And I confess I do love the 'chocolate' holiday season from Halloween to Christmas to Valentine's Day to Easter. Cadbury has the queen of treats, the Creme Egg, appearing only at Easter. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I'm not alone. It is just too much fun decorating baskets with that eternal Easter grass (it never goes away, it's like glitter), and coloring the eggs the old fashioned way with vinegar, etc. The images of bunnies and chicks and ducklings are cute, even better than Santa who has a list and checks it twice. No unconditional love from him! And this is an outside sport, temps in the 70s, with light breezes, egg hunting, spring clothes and bonnets, blooming Easter Lilies. Well, at least here in SoCal.

Here's an article about how to dress your kid for Easter. The tradition began as  symbolic of a new spiritual start. Now what is it?

I did see a puddy tat!
Not one of Woodstock's, I'm guessing.

The secularization of this holiday makes it acceptable to everyone. Afterall, anthropologists say that all peoples celebrated the return of spring after the difficulties of winter.

Coaxing a smile from Eeyore.
Familiar pop-culture figures dominate all holidays now, and this is a word that used to mean 'holy-day.' Have we lost anything by this transformation?  Is the concept of the sacred now forbidden? Teachers carefully appreciate the separation of church and state in a public school. But everywhere?

Easter is the most secularized of the holidays in the USA, and ironically, the most important for Christians acknowledging the death and resurrection of Jesus. Question: how can we honor the rights of all and permit our students to express their beliefs in public and private?

This is not a student of mine. He is a model.
Here in SoCal this year it has become a fashion statement for middle school boys to wear rosaries as necklaces.

 And not only the latino kids. I've asked some of them what it means to them; sometimes they say it means they are Mexican, sometimes they tell me it is about their faith. Some say they just think it looks cool. So far, this practice has not been considered a dress code violation. In other places, it is dress code.

 Neb. School's Ban on Rosary-Style Necklace Touches on Free Speech Issues, Christian News

So why so serious, MzTeachuh, and where are the silly Garfield jokes? OK, here we go.

What do you need if your Cadbury Creme Eggs suddenly disappear?

You need an eggsplanation.

How is the Easter Bunny like Kobe Bryant?

They're both famous for stuffing baskets.

Did you hear the one about the fifty-pound jelly bean?

It was pretty hard to swallow

The President and the Easter Egg

Why do we paint Easter eggs?

Because it is too hard to wallpaper them.

What does the White House do when there are too many undiscovered Easter eggs on the South Lawn?

Call an eggsterminator.

I am a huge fan of the Cadbury Creme Egg Bunny, and was charmed when I found one I could buy as an Easter Bunny. A stuffed one that cackles like a chicken, not a real one.

So, enjoy these animal actors. Why is there no Emmy or Oscar for animal actors?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Song of the Swallows

"Song of the Swallows," las golondrinas, is a picture book which won the Caldecott Award in 1949.  Written and illustrated by Leo Politi, the story highlights Hispanic customs in San Juan Capistrano, California, that blend nature, Catholicism, and the history of California from a child's perspective.

Juan is the main character, a boy of about seven or eight years old. He attends the school by the Mission, and is a friend of the bell ringer/gardener, grandfatherly Julian. Julian is the only adult mentioned in the book, the Mission is the only setting. The story occurs in the timelessness of childhood, so we don't really know if the illustrations depict the 1940's or not. There is no clue by the clothing, activities, or countryside. The Mission and garden are not dated. There are no automobiles, but even today in coastal California, you might go miles without seeing a motorized vehicle. And there is no clue from the birds; swallows don't follow fashion dictates. One of the main attractions of "The Song of the Swallows" is this untainted marvel-of-childhood quality.

Julian tells Juan about the settling of California by Father Serra and the Franciscan friars. Every fourth grader in this state (myself included) studied this period of California history, and created model missions, maybe even visiting a Mission. There are over twenty missions up and down the California coast, with many cities named after the nearby Mission, i.e., San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and, of course, San Francisco.  I've seen a few and the facilities are well maintained and beautiful.

There is no controversy in this book about the treatment of the Indians by the Franciscans.
A 1985 stamp immortalizing Father Junipero Serra

The following link is a balanced biography of Father Serra. 

Father Junipero Serra also has a statue in the United States Statuary Hall, in Washington, D.C.

Politi's portrayal of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

You can purchase this model of San Juan Capistrano for a Grade Four project.

Julian, the St. Francis look-a-like.
Julian, in little Juan's eyes,  is portrayed almost St. Francis-like with the beautiful garden and hummingbirds, pigeons, sparrows and other birds being comfortable around the gentle soul.

Juan learns of the mystery of the swallows. How do they know to arrive on St. Joseph's Day? (March 19.)  It has nothing to do with Joseph, the stepfather of the Savior  (of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fame.) It just coincides with the season the swallows migrate to their familiar habitat.

Happy birdie family, happy boy.
Juan wonders about the nests
Why is there a St. Joseph's Day? In the worship schedule for Catholics, each day has one or more saints honored throughout the year at daily Mass with a feast day, or worship service. For example, many communities have the blessing of the animals on October 4, the feast of Francis of Assisi, to honor his saintly lifestyle that was so peaceful that it is said that even wild animals were gentle with him and birds would perch on him. Francis also propagated peace, forgiveness, and taking care of the poor.  Francis lived in twelfth century Italy, and wrote some lovely prayers.

Happy kids enjoying the beautiful Mission and the birds.
 As the birds get comfortable, the child personifies the male and female birds as the nest is built, the female incubates the eggs, and the male serenades her with sweet, twittering song. Then both the parents diligently feed the hatchlings, like a happy family.

 The children thoroughly enjoy the presence of the birds, the  spring season, and the safety and contentment of the belief system supplied by the Mission. It is interesting, though, in  the story that parents, priests, nuns, teachers or any other adult besides Julian, the grandfatherly gardener, do not make an appearance. Not even an older brother or sister.

In due time, the swallows migrate to a mysterious island for the winter. The human inhabitants of Capistrano will wait for their return. Juan and the other happy kids are very excited when the birds return. The birds actually fly to Goya, Argentina.

The swallows leave Capistrano on their mission to a mysterious island.

Leo Politi
 Leo Politi, although an Italian-America, wrote warmly of the Hispanic culture in Southern California. He authored several children's books. I met him when I was in college in Los Angeles. He was very encouraging to a young English student.

This year in San Juan Capistrano, the swallows are sort of hiding from the big to-do that the residents of Capistrano throw on March 19, St. Joseph's Day.  Now the occasion is kind of a mixed metaphor, with a large variety of traditions celebrated, but still a beautiful day out in a remarkably lovely part of the world.
This is a wonderful, cheesy song about the swallows returning to Capistrano by Pat Boone recorded in the 1950's, with great pictures of the little birds.
Singing with Pat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Edutopia Likes Me, They Really Like Me

I am pleasantly surprised to be a featured Edutopia member this week.

MzTeachuh trying to look dignified.
I joined the Middle School Group, the intrepid souls who spend the longest hours preparing, most hours talking with parents, take the most grief from test watchers, collaborate with each other the most,  keep getting trained and trained and retrained in methods old and new, and have the best senses of humor of all teachers. (That last is a prerequisite. It's usually in the job interview.)

I  don't know how I was chosen, but I do comment and tweet and facebook lots of their excellent material.

Edutopia is sponsored by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

 I feel so validated!

Funny! It's me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tweets of the Week

Transitional time best opportunities for bullies.
 There is a new documentary about bullying that is so intense, it got an "R" rating. What about the kids who have to live an "R" rated life because of bullying?

This next article troubled me because of the argument about defining violence, legal style. We must address the impact on the students, not the impact on the courts.

Dealing with the emotional aftermath of the tsunami.
Teachers use educational therapy to help students overcome PTSD after the Japanese tsunami. The fine arts have always been an outlet for students for emotional expression.

This following story is about art therapy in a children's hospital.

Being active in the three dimensional world helps everyone deal with sadness, depression, and just a bummer of a day.

These articles suggests that a walk outside in a green area helps kids with ADHD--it obviously would help all of us!

 This article suggest that international teachers need more incentive to teach well.

Hurrah! More American students graduated! Let's keep up the good work.

The Autistic and those on the Asperger's Spectrum are frequently well able to advance to higher education.

More strategies for little kids with autism are explained all the time.

There were so many more articles at this site. Special Education teachers should take a look to keep current.

When Charter Schools offer an alternative, is that good or bad for the neighborhood?

This is an excellent checklist for teaching students who are learning English.

This next article seems rather harsh. It criticizes young adults on being the 'go nowhere' generation. I do not have personal experience because my own children are the go-getter types. But here is the opinion of what appears to be a husband and wife about kids going nowhere. If I grew up hearing this, I would leave their basement apartment to head to another state just to get away from the toxic atmosphere.

Quote of the week, and a "Well, duh," one at that: "Teachers, more than any other feature of a school, determine how well students learn."

This is another article on teacher evaluation and how to 'let a thousand teachers bloom.' That's a lovely metaphor, I wonder what they mean by that.
Teachers blooming, or is it the last day of school?