Wednesday, September 30, 2009

365 Project: September

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” -Dorothea Lange

Summer is officially over, and my palette will increasingly feature the Autumn colors: rust, gold, deep reds and browns.

Retirement seems more real now, and I'm still working to find balance in my life. Short hikes and visits to local attractions are helping ease the transition. I'll deal with winter when I must.

The most viewed photo this month was Dots. It is actually a close-up of a newspaper photo of one of my husband's paintings: a picture of a picture of a picture.

The most comments were generated by this portrait of Gretel, my daughter's kitten.

My favorite macro/nature shot is Jewel. It's always fun to explore the "hidden world" of plants and insects.

My favorite "story" photo for September is this capture of actors portraying General Ulysses S. Grant, and his wife, Julia. The spot where they are standing was a favorite overlook on Mount McGregor in Wilton, NY. The former president, dying of throat cancer, spent his last days at Grant Cottage feverishly composing his memoirs, so that Julia and their family would be financially secure after his death. Grant's devotion and courage in the face of tragedy are worthy of remembrance.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” -Elliott Erwitt

You can see a slideshow of the 30 September photos here or view all of my 2009 photos to date here.

The two groups to which I contribute are 365/2009 and 2009/365.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Loftiest of Cowardice

"Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest of cowardice." -Holbrook Jackson

A recurring motif in literature is the desire to gain forbidden knowledge, which always results in a punishment of some sort: acquisition of understanding intertwined with loss of innocence .

Re. Pandora:
"But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered, all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door..." Hesiod, Works and Days

Re. Eve:
"... but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it,lest ye die.' And the serpent said unto the woman, 'Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and ate, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he ate. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves things to gird about." Genesis 3:3-7, 21st Century King James Version

Banning & censoring books, filtering the Internet may appear to protect our children, but at what cost?

Filtering & censorship:
A Question of Censorship (October 3, 2007)
Only Those Places (January 18, 2008)
Unsuited to Age Group (February 17, 2008)

Al Upton & Jabiz Raisdana:
A Heavy Armor (March 14, 2008)
Listen (March 20, 2008)
A Confederacy of Dunces (March 27, 2008)
Spindles (April 5, 2008)

"You can cage the singer but not the song." -Harry Belafonte

"Pandora" by John William Waterhouse, Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Long After the Tide Goes Out

"088/2009 Year 2 Foorprint" by Tyla'75

The video, Think Before You Post, offers a powerful reminder that students should be cautious when posting pictures on the internet.

However, this is only part of the story.

In Digital Footprints, Pew Internet defines a Passive Digital Footprint as "personal data made accessible online with no deliberate intervention from an individual." Combine this with an Active Digital Footprint, "the traces of data we contribute voluntarily, often in specific contexts with specific audiences in mind," and it's obvious that there is a vast amount of data being collected on every individual, starting, in some cases, even before they are born.

Read Digital Footprints, share and discuss the video Digital Dossier with your students. Help them understand that
"Unlike footprints left in the sand at the beach, our online data trails often stick around long after the tide has gone out." -Digital Footprints, Pew Internet

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grant's Final Victory

"Whenever he wanted company she [Julia] was part of it, and many hours in his last days were spent with her alone. Often they could be seen together when not a word was spoken, mere companionship satisfying them." -from “The Career of a Soldier,” a tribute to U.S. Grant published in the New York Times, 1885

Abraham Lincoln once said of his General-in-Chief, Ulysses S. Grant, "I can't spare this man--he fights."

President Theodore Roosevelt ranked Grant as one of the " three greatest men" in our country's history (along with Washington and Lincoln), describing him as "a plain, quiet man, not seeking for glory; but a man who, when aroused, was always in deadly earnest, and who never shrank from duty."

Grant won a war, won the presidency. But his last battle was against time.

The failure of his brokerage firm in May of 1884 left the General's family fortune in ruins. Then, in September of the same year, Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Desperate to secure financial security for his beloved wife, the General began work on his memoirs. Weak and in constant pain, he somehow managed to continue writing.

On July 19, 1885, Grant laid down his pencil, the manuscript completed. Four days later, on July 23, he died in the cottage at Mount McGregor.

As promised, close friend, Mark Twain published "The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant." The book became a best-seller, and earned a fortune in royalties for Julia Grant.

The struggle was over. Grant was victorious in his final, most difficult, fight.

State of New York, Executive Chamber, Governor Hill:
"Ulysses S. Grant, twice President of the United States, the defender of the Union, the victorious leader of our soldiers and General on the retired list of the army, is dead. To the last he was the true soldier, strong in spirit, patient in suffering, brave in death. His warfare is ended." -reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 23, 1885

See photos of Grant Cottage and actors portraying Ulysses Grant and Julia Dent Grant in this Flickr set.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Nation of Well Informed Men

One day before the city of Philadelphia was due to mail out thousands of layoff notices - and close all branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia - the state legislature passed HB 1828, effectively averting the budget crisis.

Pennsylvania luminary Benjamin Franklin, who established the first public lending library in America, would have been astounded and appalled that the libraries were ever in jeopardy.

s Dr. Franklin once observed,
"A nation of well informed men
who have been taught to know and prize the rights
which God has given them cannot be enslaved.
It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."

"Mighty [Pennsylvania] State Capitol" from eqqman

"Philadelphia - Old City: Second Bank Portrait Gallery - Benjamin Franklin" by

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wanted: Laughter

Last April, I blogged about a young man, Chase O'Bannon, who was just beginning his battle against Leukemia.

The latest round of treatment has been a bit rough, and Chase could use a boost to his spirit. Chemo-related conjunctivitis makes it difficult for Chase to open his eyes, so his mother came up with the idea of creating a VoiceThread, where people could leave funny stories to entertain her son.

Friends on Plurk, Twitter, and Facebook are spreading the word: adults and students are invited to leave a joke, the cornier the better, to brighten Chase's hospital stay.

Although the media is quick to label social networking participants as shallow or self-centered, there have been many instances when the power of the net has been used in a positive way.


Knock, knock.

Who's there.


Alla who?

Alla you who'd like to show some digital compassion.

Please visit Joker's Wild on VoiceThread to leave your contribution.

"Lira the music-clown" by Sara Björk

Saturday, September 12, 2009


“There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.” -T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

All Free Library of Philadelphia Customers,
We deeply regret to inform you that without the necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg, the City of Philadelphia will not have the funds to operate our neighborhood branch libraries, regional libraries, or the Parkway Central Library after October 2, 2009.

“And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them.” - Thomas Jefferson

"Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library." -Barbara Tuchman

"Wasteland" by country_boy_shane
"Cyanotype Lion In New York City" by Jared Byer

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11

I was a junior in high school when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Whispered rumors about shots being fired at a presidential motorcade gave way to stunned disbelief as events unfolded. Our nation mourned its fallen leader; the world became a darker place.

I was teaching a 7th grade class in our old MS/HS library, when a social studies teacher asked if he could use one of the computers. He had heard something about a plane crash in New York City and wanted further information. Within minutes, we learned the terrible reality: our country was experiencing terrorist attacks of a previously unimagined magnitude.

Staff members in the elementary (K-6) wing were aware of what was happening, but younger students were shielded from the breaking news. The high school principal set up a TV in the hall outside his office, and another in the auditorium. Students and teachers could watch as much or as little as they chose. Many of us sat in shocked silence for the rest of the day, trying to comprehend exactly what was occurring and its implications for our families and our country.

Last year on September 11, I asked my Current Events class to reflect on the events of The Day Our World Changed Forever. After some discussion, a consensus was reached that "9/11 will make our world different for a long time."

Today, I spent a few moments at a local firehouse. Later in the morning, there would be a remembrance ceremony, honoring both rescuers and victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Occupying a place of honor were three rusted lengths of steel, portions of beams salvaged from the World Trade Center towers, destined to be incorporated in a memorial adjacent to the station.

These pieces of metal exert a powerful emotional influence, as reminders of what we have lost.

We can move forward, but we can't erase what has already happened.

Our world has changed forever.

Ridge Street Firehouse, Glens Falls, NY

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Something Fundamentally Wrong

For the past few weeks, my husband has been fighting a bacterial infection. He was seen by a doctor four times, had three intravenous treatments, and continues to take prescription medicine. The insurance company sent us a copy of the medical bill, which was over $1,000.00. Our co-pay, for office visits and medication, was a total of $20.00.

Tim and I are now both retired. We were fortunate that I was able to continue the medical coverage provided by my school district. The terms of our teachers' contract ensure that fees will never rise above a certain amount; the cost would have been prohibitive if we had been forced to get insurance through his former employer or, even worse, had to find an insurer in the private sector.

Our country has to address the health care situation, and quickly. Too many of our citizens are just a single step away from the type of financial crisis even a relatively simple illness or accident can precipitate.

When he was campaigning for president, Barack Obama was questioned about this issue:

Q: Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?

OBAMA: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills--for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against John McCain Oct 7, 2008

We agree with you, Mr. President. Now what are you and our Congress going to do about it?

"Petri Dish" by PNNL - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Make It a Meaningful Journey

Author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds shares stories and other educational resources on both The North Star and FableVision sites.

His set of "21st century kids" posters offers a starting point for many authentic experiences.

A discussion of the concept of "voice" might inspire young writers to consider the nature of learning, the purpose of schooling, and their role in each.

Brainstorming activities focused on "guiding stars" could lead to a the creation of a very personalized "21st Century Learners' Constellation," with any number of final products (Voice Thread, poster, mural).

"Please don't squish my ish!" cries out for creative language use.

Each of the 10 posters (available for free downloading to educators) could easily become the centerpiece of a lively classroom activity.

But on further consideration, I found myself thinking that these same posters would also lend themselves perfectly to professional development exercises. The 21st century kid needs a 21st century teacher/guide/co-learner.

Setting goals, tapping into creativity, finding a Voice and using it - these activities are particularly valuable for teachers and other school personnel.

Learning doesn't end with the awarding of a degree. It is a life-long journey, not a destination.

So heed the 5 Be's:

All posters are copyrighted and reproduced here with the permission of Peter H. Reynolds and FableVision, Inc.

But Not For Me

Alarm clocks will be ringing this morning...but not for me.

There will be meetings to attend, paperwork to complete, countless little tasks to be finished...but not for me.

Students will be returning tomorrow; there will be smiles and hugs, lots of hugs...but not for me.

I'll be learning and exploring and having wonderful adventures. Life will be good, but it will be different. It was time for this change and I'm glad that I chose retirement.

Yet I will miss my library, my colleagues, and my students. The Journey continues...for me, and for them.

Farewell, Fort Ann! I'm lucky to have known you.

"The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning." -Ivy Baker Priest

Monday, September 7, 2009

Make Us All Proud


Or this:

"So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it."
-President Barack Obama, Back to School Event

Which message will better serve our children?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Outsourcing Education?

The School Library Journal reports that a California school district, which had previously furloughed its certified media specialists, has now closed all 28 of its K-12 school libraries. Students will only be allowed to visit their building's library with classroom teachers, and may no longer check out books.

In a brilliant solution to recreational and informational resource requirements, "Superintendent Godwin has suggested that students use the Internet, the public library, or resources at home to complete their classroom and research assignments."

No mention is made of just who will be responsible for instructing children and teens in efficient, effective, appropriate, safe usage of such "resources."

In its Vision Statement, Fulsom Cordova Unified School notes that "Business and community partnerships greatly enhance students’ learning experiences and educational opportunities. Partnerships offer students opportunities to apply their learning to real-world situations."

Perhaps students should visit the local YMCA for sports and fitness? Or hang out in the newsroom to learn the basics of English and composition? And there's always cash registers in the mall to demonstrate math skills, right?

Maybe outsourcing skills instruction is part of some grand plan. Maybe.

"What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education." --Harold Howe, former U.S. Commissioner of Education

"girl with book" by Tom (mmm a rosa tint)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Flow

To "go with the flow" is generally understood to mean moving in concert with prevailing trends.

A person who follows this philosophy might be seen as mellow, agreeable, a good team player. Or, alternately, could be viewed as unimaginative, lazy, lacking in leadership qualities.

Singer Enya yearns to sail on the Orinoco Flow, which she hopes will "Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never seen." In this case, the flow, or current, offers the opportunity for movement and, ultimately, change.

The National Weather Service has advice for those who are trapped in a strong current and wish to break free:
  • Try to remain calm to conserve energy.
  • Don't fight the current.
  • Think of it like a treadmill you can't turn off. You want to step to the side of it.
  • Swim across the current in a direction following the shoreline.
  • When out of the current, swim and angle away from the current and towards shore.
  • If you can't escape this way, try to float or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore. When it does, swim towards shore.
  • If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
Valuable counsel, no matter what type of "flow" you are fighting against.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy described a powerful yet positive current in a speech at the Day of Affirmation, University of Capetown, South Africa:
"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation...
It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

The flow can be a positive or a negative. How we deal with life's currents is, fundamentally, a very personal decision.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you to Marie Coleman, whose photograph and comments suggested the topic of this posting.

"Streaming" by makelessnoise