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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Philadelphia Magazine Feature Thoughts

The May issue of "Philadelphia Magazine" has a feature article about me.

I liked it and found it to be a pretty accurate depiction of what's been happening--certainly a more complete picture than other media sources have reported in the past, which I appreciate.

I was particularly interested to read the parts of the article dealing with what was coming out of my school, both from the principal and from some unnamed colleague. (As it were, I've been pretty completely cut off from school goings-on since February 9th. Not even my school "friends" feel comfortable talking to me in large part. The one or two who will chat try to keep things as non-work-oriented as humanly possible. I can't help but wonder if they were told not to talk to me. What is the school going to do if people talk to me? Fire the person for communicating with me? Think that by talking to me in any capacity means that the other person agrees with my every thought and action? Sorry, but that's absurd. But again, it makes me wonder what was said behind closed doors about this whole affair... but I digress.)

In reading the article, I found it particularly ridiculous to hear the principal describe the school as "almost utopian." Haha! Sorry, but NO place is perfect or ideal. What followed that statement was information that last year the school had a 99% graduation rate and that 94% of those kids were college bound. While I am in no way trying to discount these statistics or take away from the accomplishment of anyone involved, these facts alone do not perfection make.

Graduating and going to college--while good and admirable--cannot be counted as the mark of high esteem and success they once were. Most students (particularly those who can afford to pay for it), go to some form of college these days; they almost have to go in order to be marketable for a job. And check the stats--colleges are having to do more and more remedial work with incoming freshman students than ever before. Just because students are graduating and going off to college doesn't mean they are college-ready. Nor does it mean they will be a success; further, there are plenty of life paths that do not include college that will result in successful individuals. Thus, citing those stats does not mean perfection is present.

Nor does a degree--from high school or college--mean that someone is a good person. Their degree, in fact, may be the only positive thing he or she has going. (Consider, for instance, some of the nasty, disgusting comments (also quoted in the article) that were made by some of the students at this "almost utopian" place, or any of the stories of frustration I or any of my silent colleagues have encountered.) Yeah, it's so nearly perfect I could cry.

But in pointing out this bit of absurd diction on the part of the principal, I will note that as much as the school is FAR from a utopia, it is also hardly dystopic. It's a normal school with some normal problems, which, in itself, is a problem (see previous posts regarding the state of education today). But to try to act like the situation is otherwise is just sad and lame.

Also sad and lame was the claim that he "couldn't imagine an educator would feel this way--and then post it with such vitriol." What utter bollocks! Maybe he can't believe I posted it, but he can certainly imagine an educator feeling this way. First off, he was a teacher before he was an administrator; he knows what goes on. Second, he has also made comments behind closed doors as an administrator that have been critical about both students and their parents, as well as other staff. So the faux-surprise and holier-than-thou ruse that someone having a bad day could feel negatively about something pertaining to her job and then make negative comments about it to her friends was just, well, laughable to read.

I was also interested to see some comments from an unnamed colleague who remarked that it's a shame that, "when we want to scapegoat why schools aren't what they should be, we pick on people who have the least responsibility."

I think this mentality is part of the problem with education. Students DO have some responsibility in why schools aren't what they should be today. While they aren't solely responsible, they should shoulder a good deal of the blame. Yes, there are definitely some idiots making the rules and setting up the system to fail. But if ALL students made it their business to care a bit more and take their job as students more seriously, the system would also function better because there would be a demand that it do so; the people at the top would need to make a better go of it. But since so many people who should care don't (i.e. parents, students), it makes it easier for the people in charge to muck it up.

It seems that students are more concerned about the perception of themselves than about their actual behaviors and actions. Those students who were personally offended by my few frustrated postings about students (MANY of whom, I found it interesting and sadly amusing to note, had mis-identified themselves as the specific "target" of comments I'd made in a general sense, which is rather telling in and of itself) wonder if this is how teachers view them. Part of the animosity I've encountered has been because students allegedly now have a complex about the fact that others are thinking things about them, and how they are viewed. (What a concept!)

But to that I ask: why is that a problem? Shouldn't we ALL be concerned about how others view us and keep that in mind as we make decisions about our actions? I think it's a good thing that they wonder. They should wonder. Maybe it will help some of them not to spend class time twisting paperclips into the shape of people having sex or feel that it's appropriate to come up to a teacher after she's called home and brag about how they weren't punished at home for their behavior. Maybe then school could actually focus on what matters: learning.

Maybe this situation will be a learning experience for everyone involved.

Friday, April 8, 2011

5 Products Every Pregnant Woman/New Parent Should Buy

IT has been a long time since my last post, and that's because I am a new mother again (for the last time. I'm not a good pregnant person.) Yippee. With the exception of having gone full term plus a few extra days and being completely uncomfortable waiting endlessly to go into labor (and, of course, having to actually give birth--owee!!) the labor and delivery process went smoothly and I delivered a healthy baby girl at the end of March. Whew.

WHILE the issues with education are absolutely still on my mind (particularly as, no, I still haven't learned my fate with regard to my blogging situation, and I've been watching in horror as bill after bill is being proposed or passed limiting teacher and other union rights--some of which will definitely cause further destruction to our already-troubled education system), I've been thrust full-force back into the world of new parent, and I have other things on my mind as well. In addition to which, my blog was always about my life overall, so I'm going to branch back out and cover all sorts of topics, including, but not limited to, education issues.

WITHOUT further ado then, I'd like to share a list of products that pregnant women and new parents should be sure to purchase. If you aren't expecting, I'm sure you know someone who is, and thus this list is for you, too, as you'll be a hero to a new parent when you give one of these gifts to them.


1. Snoogle Total Body Pillow ($59.99) While, yes, $60 is exorbitant for a pillow, this is an item I passed on during my first pregnancy. I opted for a standard $12.99 body pillow because I couldn't reconcile myself to spending $70 on a pillow (the cost has dropped a bit in the 3 years since I was last pregnant). However, this is one of those instances where you get what you pay for. The body pillow did jack squat in helping me sleep. See, I'm a stomach sleeper. However, when you're pregnant, that isn't really an option for obvious reasons. My second choice is my back, then my right side, then my left. Medical people and pregnancy books recommend that women sleep on their left sides during pregnancy, and not on their backs or right sides (something to do with pressure on main arteries and major organs). The Snoogle is a long, thin pillow that's shaped a bit like a C. It runs down the length of one's body and fits well between one's legs and/or under one's growing belly. It helped me get some sleep at a time when sleep is not easy to come by. For that reason, I love it and felt that it was worth the expense in the long run.

One thing that should be noted, though, is that the pillow doesn't come with a pillow case. That's an extra $19.99-$26.99. THAT was more than I was willing to pay for such a thing, so I didn't get one and just used the pillow itself. It worked out fine for me, though the pillow did get little beady fuzzies on it from being used so much. If that bothers you, by all means get the (ridiculously overpriced) pillowcase. I just couldn't do it.

2. Maternity Belly Band ($24.99-$29.99, depending on brand) When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I joked that I wished that I could hire someone to stand under my stomach and hoist it up so it wasn't weighing me down so much. Then I discovered this belly harness at Babies R Us. It's a thick band that velcros around one's back and serves as a harness under one's stomach, much in the style of someone standing under there holding it up! It offers both back and stomach support. It was my absolute favorite purchase during my first pregnancy. I did try to use it the second time around, but it didn't work as well for me. I have 2 theories as to why: 1. The harness was old and stretched out. Perhaps if I'd bought a new one it would have been more sturdy. 2. I carried a little lower and was HUGE much earlier, so maybe there was just too much of me to hoist upward. Regardless, though, I do swear by this product. Boppy makes one called Boppy Support in Style Maternity Band that looks pretty close to the one I had (which I can't find online but it was MOM brand).


1. Triple Paste Diaper Rash Ointment ($8.99 for 2oz tube; $28.99 for 1lb tub) One of the best diaper rash creams out there. While it's more expensive than Desitin (more than double the cost, in fact), it works a lot better. I've used it for both of my babies and any redness clears up overnight with its use. Worth every penny!

2. Diaper Genie II Elite Diaper Disposal System ($34.99-$39.99; refills $19.99/3 pack) We had the regular, non-elite Diaper Genie system for our first daughter. I actually blogged about that system in my old blogs. Basically, you would put the diaper in the pail, shut the lid, twist a few times, and voila!--diaper gone. When you empty the container, the diapers resembled a sausage roll what with the twisted, individually-wrapped diapers. The problem with this system was that it smelled like someone crapped on a powder puff--emptying the thing was pure torture and the nursery always smelled bad. When we found out we were having another baby, my husband and I both agreed that, while there were many things we were going to re-use that our first daughter outgrew, we were definitely going to 'splurge' on the updated diaper disposal system. So far--for the first 2 weeks anyway--we've found the upgraded system to be so much better. The sausage roll is gone, the sickening powder smell is gone, the smelly nursery is gone. And it's easier to empty. While I know that this is something that could change with time (perhaps, after all, it's still too new right now), I'm quite pleased with the new pail.

3. Dr. Brown's Natural Flow bottles ($12.99/2 pk glass; $54.99 BPA Free Deluxe 10-bottle Gift Set) With our first daughter, we used Playtex Ventaire bottles. They sucked. They leaked out the bottom and the neck, and had the worst nipples in town. My poor baby would suck and suck and not get any formula because the hole wasn't big enough; we ended up having to use a pin to open the hole more so she could even eat. HORRIBLE. So, again, we knew that the bottles would be another product we would replace and upgrade for the second baby. The Dr.Brown's bottles appealed to me because I wanted to try glass bottles this go-around. However, in shopping, we found that glass bottles are hard to come by and that there were no good multi-pack purchase options on them. A big part of the reason I wanted to go glass this time was because of the dangers of BPA in the plastic. However, I found that most bottles are now BPA free anyway (as are Dr.Brown's) so I was willing to compromise and try the deluxe gift set listed above.

The idea behind Dr. Brown's bottles is that there's a valve that vents any air to the bottom of the bottle in an effort to help reduce spit-up, colic, burping, and gas, and that creates a vacuum-free system that more closely resembles breastfeeding. My first daughter routinely spit up after eating. My new daughter who is using these bottles almost NEVER spits up. She burps a lot less, too. These are great bottles for what they're designed to do. The nipple is the right flow, the food doesn't come out too quickly or too slowly, etc.

My ONLY gripe with them is cleaning them. There are 6 pieces to each bottle: the bottle itself, the valve, the vent, the nipple, the cover that holds the nipple in place, and the cap. The valve and vent require a special little brush tool (included) to clean them. Therefore, it can take me up to 30 minutes a day to clean bottles and prepare formula (the bottles are actually dishwasher safe, but because I have to clean the valve and vent by hand, I just do the bottles at the same time so all of my pieces are ready at once). But the trade-off is worth it to me; these are a solid product.

Hopefully my baby product endorsements will help steer you in the right direction if you're shopping for pregnancy/baby supplies. There are tons of products on the market, so recommendations are definitely a good way to weed out the good from the bad.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's feeding time once more!