Standardized testing and the value of the GREAT TEACHER

How was school?

I’m a mom so I have to ask.

Clara started the infamous STAR Testing this week for the 8th grade. STAR Testing is the State of California’s Standardized Testing and Results which measures how schools are doing. There is some value in these tests but generally it confuses the hell out of most parents, kids and maybe even the teachers. My kids’ schools rank high (very high) but I sometimes wonder about the real value here.

There are some school that spend all year studying for these tests. That is ALL they do. They even cherry pick the kids who will be in the school in order to get high scores (and surprise, the schools with what they call average kids of all different levels, like my children’s schools,  get scores that are just as high or higher (yes, higher). Go eat THAT for lunch with your snob sandwich.)

Fortunately my children go to schools where the administration is wise enough to not spend all of their time studying for tests. They don’t put that unwelcome and uncomfortable pressure on kids. All kids at these schools have the opportunity for a great education. They study for life, learning, thinking and discovery.

YES – LIFE, LEARNING, THINKING and DISCOVERY. And more amazing – at public schools!

So back to our discussion in the car…

Real HistoryClara: We did history and math today. The math was easy. The history was confusing. They asked us about a lot of Roman Empire stuff we didn’t even learn in class. I’d never even heard of half the people they asked questions about.

Me: I’m sure you did ok. You can usually figure out the answers by just thinking about the clues. That’s why I always win trivia games. I don’t know the answers but I can put together the clues and usually come up with a right answer.

Clara: I know.

Me: Multiple choice tests can’t measure what you know or how smart you are. I believe you learn more from history the way your teacher teaches it. It isn’t all about memorizing dates and names and locations of battles. History is about learning how people lived, what motivated them, what inspired them, why they did what they did. It is about learning about our past so we can understand our future. You’re so lucky to have Mr. R for a teacher.

Clara: I won’t miss most of the kids when I go on to high school, but I’ll miss the teachers. Mind if I play my music?

I know she’ll miss the kids, but we’ll all miss the teachers who have inspired the Middle School kids. Each one of these young teens will enter High School knowing they hold the keys to knowledge and discovery in their own hearts and minds. They are our future, and they know the lessons of the past. They’ll never forget their amazing Middle School teachers.

So students (young and old, for we are all lifetime learners), your assignment for today is to appreciate the great teachers in our lives. Teachers shape the future through inspiring our kids.

And get plenty of sleep because STAR testing is ALL WEEK.

Parents: Your job here is to get involved. Schools with a high rate of parent involvement have a higher rate of high scores and a higher rate of graduation. And don’t use the excuse that you are busy. Most of the parents I know (moms and dads) work full time AND are involved.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This post is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Todd, who was a great teacher and inspired so many at American River College. You truly loved your students and inspired so many and changed so many lives for the better. And nobody had a sense of humor like yours! We love you and miss you!

Teen Suicides – I wish I had a real answer

It is sad that my 13 year old daughter talked about suicides for about a half hour last night. She wouldn’t shut up about it but then again, she needed to talk about it. But what was scary was how she was so matter of fact about it. But she was also passionate and angry about it.

This isn’t the first time she talked about it. All of the kids talk about it a lot. It is common conversation with kids. But usually not with kids and adults. They don’t share this information or their concerns about suicides with their parents or teachers, especially not with their parents because they don’t talk to their parents about anything.

There were attempts or actual deaths at several local middle and high schools. Some schools have more because of their culture of bullying.

We’re on the border between high school boundaries, and thank goodness we’re in the boundary for the “nice” school. Sure there is bullying there on some scale, but it isn’t a huge part of the student culture (like the other school). With 2,500 students they all aren’t going to get along or be nice.

 My son says there is a strong anti-bullying theme in his school’s culture. I hope he is right and it isn’t just wishful thinking.

The other school is smaller and (according to kids and parents I’ve spoken to or overheard) there is a huge girl bully culture. The school is ruled by a gang of girls who pick on other girls with no mercy. I personally know of at least two girls who ended up homeschooling because it.

Anyway, that isn’t exactly the point of this post (ragging on a school I’m glad my teens won’t attend.)

I’m not worried about my kids. They’re strong. They’re alphas. They don’t bring negative attention to themselves. They aren’t bully bait. I’ll pass on the Vampire stuff here because they go to school with all sorts of kids and that is not the point of this post either.

The point is…

Too many children, and I mean CHILDREN are resorting to suicide to solve temporary problems. It is tragic. It should not be happening. It needs to be addressed. And for every high profile case you hear in the news there are dozens, I expect hundreds of cases you don’t hear about.

I don’t have an answer. But first and foremost school administrators need to stop with the “shake hands” bullshit and kick bullies and bully culture out of their schools. They need to ask, “Why are so many kids dropping out to be homeschooled?” Gee do you ever consider it is because your school has an unsafe hateful environment?

Parents…raise your kids not be bully bait. Don’t let them be timid. Don’t over protect them. Let them know that if they act weird other kids will make fun of them. They can act weird at home. And TEACH YOUR KIDS NOT TO BE A BULLY.  Teach them to not be friends with bullies. Teach all kids to put the bullies on the bottom of the social scale not the top. Teach all kids to protect the weak and timid and shy and small and fat and different.

But then again my daughter said some of the girls at the “other” school are bullied “just because”. Just because they dated someone that the head cheerleader liked or went to a different Middle School or plays the tuba or usually for no reason except that they were breathing and taking up some of the bully’s sunshine.

But death isn’t an option. High School lasts 4 years then it will be all over. They can start a new life. They can do better and say “I’ll show them all”. I know it is hard.

And often times parents don’t even know what is going on with their kids. They don’t know their daughter had sex with a couple of guys because she wanted to fit in and feel loved. They don’t know that because of that she is now being slut shamed and terrorized. Open your eyes. TALK WITH YOUR KIDS ABOUT UNCOMFORTABLE THINGS.

Like I said. I have no answers. I guess it all goes back to deliberate parenting. Raise your child so they won’t be bully bait. But also raise them not to accept bullies. Raise them to be aware and raise them to protect others. Raise them to listen to their peers who might need help or need a friend.

And tell them that it is ok to tell an adult about things that are going on at school. It might save a life.

I don’t have an answer for this. A close friend of mine was bullied without mercy as a child but took the attitude “one day I’ll show them all with my success”. And she did. Unfortunately not all kids have that inner fire and toughness.

Anyway, it was sad, too sad. I wish I had a real answer. I really wish I did.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

More on this subject on this blog:

Listen to Teens – an important message from a teen

My kids don’t care if you hate their music for no reason – they care if you hate for no reason.

Bullies and Jerks

If you have any other links please feel free to share.

Glue Slugs, Teens and the Realities of Modern Vampire Parenting

Most people think Vampire teens live in a Harry Potterish world where the teens live in castle-like Hogwartish schools and earn their first red lined capes. They think every bit is schooling is something kids can sink their teeth into. They think it is all black and dripping blood and castles and dark nights with bats and cobwebs. Think again.

Our kids go to public schools (same public high school that writer Nicholas Sparks and singer Lynn Anderson went to) and live at home with their parents. They go out during the day (with lots of sun screen and protection for their eyes). They don’t wear capes. Black shirts are the same black shirts all the kids get from Hot Topics.

The push for the Modern Vampire movement came around 1800 when the ideals of mankind and the human experience began to change. People were thinking more of freedom, freewill, individualism and personal choice. Tradition was no longer the way of the future. The world was changing and a few free spirited Vampires wanted to change with it.

Vampires were tired of being “in the dark”. Granted we still had to keep secrets but the days of lurking in dark gloomy places were over. No more lurking. We took on a more kinder gentler philosophy of “helping” regular humans rather than harming them. Yes, we still be scary – really really really scary but that is another blog post another day.

The California Gold Rush symbolized a huge change in culture. My parents along with a contingency of Vampires from all over the United States, Canada and Europe came to California to make a new life and a new culture of Modern Vampires. Those in the forefront of the California movement were my parents, Nathaniel Chase, Alphonso and Diana Chase, the Elders Tellias and Eleora and Thomas Kent.

At the same time Vampires in England and Boston were making changes to become more modern and free of the old chains that kept them literally in the dark. Anyway, again, that isn’t what this post is about.

My daughter had to make a model of a habitat for science. I thought in 8th grade they’d be done with models but I was wrong. So at the 11th hour she was trying to glue rocks together to make an octopus cave.

Glue does not attach to rocks – at least not the rocks in our yard. She used white glue and then the glue gun. This was after I said 100 times “don’t get glue on the carpet”.  We ended up with about two dozen glue slugs. Those were the odd creatures that fell off of the rocks we’d tried to glue together. Eventually between the glue gun, the white glue and adding dirt and paper the child figured out how to make it work. It worked quite well.  But that said, I know I’ll be finding glue slugs all over the house for the next year. Stuff like that just seems to migrate.

So needless to say modern Vampire life isn’t like a movie. The only thing that drips much is glue or vases with cracks in them (another story I won’t go into today) or nail polish. Live with a teen girl and there WILL be nail polish spilled.

Spilled milk? Forget that – spilled nail polish always makes me want to cry. At least you can wipe up milk. You can wipe up blood and keep it from staining if you get it early enough. Try wiping up nail polish. Especially black nail polish.  (Simple Green works great on blood and red wine.)

There are bigger things to like visiting colleges in the state and starting to put together dozens of applications. Good grades, leadership and volunteer work are no longer guarantees to getting into anywhere. Living in the state where the public university resides is no longer a guarantee either (then what the HELL have I been paying taxes for all these years?)

In the fall one is starting high school too so there are all those bits and pieces to deal with. Summer is already starting to book up solid with events for school and sports and must-go-to-concerts, and of course books I need to finish (writing not reading.)

To add to this flurry of activity are the Vampire parenting things that other folks don’t have to deal with. We need to teach the teens how to be responsible with their donors and how to hunt. Earlier this year we had seminars in avoiding Vampire Hunters. I’ve covered the whole “Men in Black” issues with them. And there are always Time Travelers, Ghosts, Goblins and a variety of other nasty creatures we have to deal with. No relaxing for the Vampire parents.

They are watching out for their sometimes socially awkward Werewolf friends. Werewolf kids are in the same situation but sometimes their problems are more difficult (the full moon and body hair thing).

So last night after I pulled a glue slug off of my bare foot I was just thinking of stuff. You know, just mom stuff. That’s all.

Have a good weekend everyone. And don’t forget to HUG those teens of yours and TALK with your kids and laugh too. Always laugh.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

What we talked about on the way to school with my teens…sad events, road trips and helping others.

What we talked about on the way to school with my teens…sad events, road trips and helping others.

On the way to school/work we always have the news on the radio in the mornings (my choice but if the story is boring or pisses me of I tell them to change to music).

Hawthorne Nevada. The explosion that killed so many Marines was tragic. I didn’t go into it, the young lives, the what if factors. It was too sad to start off the morning with. It is still too sad. My heart goes out to all of the families of those who died and to those injured.

We did discuss where Hawthorne is. We’ve driven though Hawthorne. We’ve stopped for gas. We’ve discussed the high school. What WOULD it be like to go to a high school in such an isolated place? Is it that isolated or does it just seem that way from the highway or Googlemaps?  And yes, that is relatively close to where mom got the ticket for not stopping at the stop sign after driving for 150 miles and only seeing one other car. Mom DID stop but since she had a California plate on her car she was fresh meat to the two law enforcement thugs who ticked me about a mile after the stop. Yes, the kids remember her stopping and talking about where the next highway would lead and we all laughed about the most isolated road in America and how next time we’ll think twice about blindly following directions from Googlemaps. We were all shocked to see those blue lights. Yes, I was in the right but I paid the $76 in blood money.

Had it been a B horror movie I could have gone into full Vampire mode but I had kids with me and I was tired and just wanted to get to Las Vegas before the sun came up.

I avoid going into full Vampire mode – ever. You know, just like out of a B movie. It isn’t pretty or classy. But if you are going to go into full mode the desert is a good place to do it. Don’t tell my kids I said that.

Today the Middle School students (7-8th graders) are going to volunteer at one of the larger food/clothing closets in town. Clara took 2 bags stuffed with old clothes.  Old to her but barely worn and cute and fashionable. She said that the clothes she’d help sort out the year before were ugly. She wanted the girls who came there for help to look good and feel good about themselves.

That made me think about getting girls together (boys too) and giving their old almost new or just slightly used clothing to teens who are in need. All kids need to look good. To teens fitting in means looking good and feeling good. Something to think about.  There are so many foster kids, homeless kids, and in this economy kids who live in homes where things are tight. My kids have 54,000 shirts between them (or so it seems that way) – so do their friends.  Maybe every time they buy a shirt they have to get one for someone who REALLY needs a shirt. Think about it.

I told them that I loved them, they blew me kisses. Everyone got off to school ok.

Don’t forget to talk with your kids. Make the effort and it will be the best investment you’ll ever make.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Click here for previous “what we talked about” post.

night drive

My kids don’t care if you hate their music for no reason. They DO care if you hate people for no reason.

This post is in honor and memory of everyone who has every celebrated the wonders of creativity, being different, being yourself and finding joy in those who are different. And sticking to what you believe is right  and standing up for those who need someone to stand up for them.

What is it about young people that they are so quick to judge and call names?  And no offense, but I’ve seen this is especially strong among Middle School boys (girls too but they tend to do it behind backs in a nasty back stabbing sort of way). Why are they so threatened about someone who doesn’t share their taste in clothing or music? Why are they so quick to call another kid (their words not mine) a fag or lesbo? They do it right out in the open with no shame. Kids are hurt. Other kids tell them to stop it but they keep it up.

My daughter (age 13, 8th grade) recently told me about a very sad event – Mitch Luker the lead singer of the band Suicide Silence  was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was a young father as well, leaving behind a daughter he adored. Immediately the hate posts started to go up calling him and Emo Queer and all sorts of ugly names and saying he deserved what he got. It was so hateful and there was absolutely no reason for it. Of course there were many more kind memorials but the haters shocked even me. But the haters “normal” teens, not a bunch of back woods inbred Jeds. It was horrible.

My kids don’t listen to a lot of Suicide Silence but some of their friends do. They all follow the bands and closely follow the music industry. They talked about it. They were sad abut what happened to Mitch Luker, but they were horrified about mean spirited reaction on social media from teen haters making a sad event into an opportunity to hate.

Today my daughter told me kids were calling Panic at the Disco members a bunch of “Emo Freaks” or “Emo Fags”. Really? I’m an adult and I think they ‘re creative and different and I’m glad my kids listen to them instead of all the mindless soul-less crap on the radio. I would LOVE to go to one of their concerts.

But why do people HATE anyone who is creative and different in an artistic way? I just don’t get it and I’ve been around a long long time.

Emo is the last thing I’d think of with this band but tell me…what is wrong with Emo kids? My kids are not Emo, but they know kids who are and the Emo kids are fine. They don’t threaten anyone. They aren’t the ruin of the modern world. Ths same goes for gay kids. Why the attacks there? Why does it bother them? Just like fat kids, slow kids, kids with a different religion or sexual preference, odd-looking kids, shy kids, or any other different kid of kids aren’t going to hurt anyone. In fact those kids have A LOT to contribute – far more than the haters do.

HATERS contribute NOTHING to the world. Absolutely NOTHING.

Sure there are bands I don’t like but (as an adult) I’m not going to spray paint my friends BMW’s with the words “Neil Young SUCKS” or some other stupid thing. I just let them listen to their own music and  I listen to mine. It doesn’t make them a hippy freak. It doesn’t make me an idiot. It just makes us people who like  different kinds of music.

AND THAT is what we need to teach our children. IT IS OK TO LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS. But it is NOT OK to HATE people just because they have different likes, tastes, lifestyles or hairstyles.

It is OK to despise bullies, meanies, haters, gossips and immature turds. It is OK to stand up for friends who are different. It is ok to be friends with someone who is different.

After so many centuries you’d think that humans would finally “get it”. But they don’t and they don’t teach their children to “get it” either.

Darwin was wrong – it isn’t the survival of the fittest but the survival of the meanest. And that needs to stop NOW.

Luckily my son Garrett (age 16) and his best friends Randy and Zoe are Vampires. They don’t take crap from anyone. As extremely popular and successful high school students they’ll walk up to bullies and haters and say “Cut it out NOW” and the bullies and haters WILL cut it out. But not everyone is a Vampire, and not all schools have Vampire teens there to stand up for them.

Unfortunately all kids don’t feel comfortable standing up for what they believe is right, but they should. This is one case where no matter what – doing the right thing is ALWAYS the right thing.

This isn’t about music or lifestyle or personal preferences – it is about acceptance of things that are different and people who are different. It is about what makes life worth living – and that is creativity and the freedom of personal expression, and accepting the personal freedoms of others.

On a good note, I see a lot of kids standing up for what is right. I see them showing sensitivity, not blindly, but as smart and informed young adults. I see them standing up for “doing the right thing.” There is hope in this young generation. It is our job as adults to support them.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

____________________________________

A Note from Wikipedia:

By 2011, Suicide Silence began preparing their third full-length album in Big Bear, California with Steve Evetts as the selected producer.[28][29] During March, the group performed at California’s Metalfest, and a week later, Nevada’s Extreme Thing festivals,[30] at both of these performances, the band confirmed that the new album would be titled The Black Crown.[31] Working titles for the album were “Cancerous Skies”, “Human Violence” and “Fuck Everything”.[32] When asked by Kerrang!, Lucker revealed that the album’s lyrical themes would feature more of the personal topics that No Time to Bleed had in-concept rather than the anti-religious theme that The Cleansing held. Lucker explained “I still have the same beliefs and same views, but I’m more open to everything. At this point in my life, I don’t see the good in making people hate you for something you say. This record [The Black Crown] is for everybody.”[31] The song “Human Violence” premiered on radio station Liquid Metal on May 13, 2011.[33] The Black Crown was released on July 12, 2011 and sold over 14,400 copies in the United States alone during its first week of release, which had it debuting at position number 28 on the Billboard 200 chart.[8][34]

On November 1, 2012, it was announced by Orange County Coroners Office that Mitch Lucker had died from injuries incurred from a motorcycle accident. The coroner’s office said Lucker was “pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m. Thursday at UCI Medical Center in Orange County”. One report stated that Lucker crashed his motorcycle shortly after 21:00 on October 31.[36][37][38]

An official status was also posted on the band’s Facebook page. It said:

“There’s no easy way to say this. Mitch passed away earlier this morning from injuries sustained during a motorcycle accident. This is completely devastating to all of us and we offer our deepest condolences to his family. He will be forever in our hearts. R.I.P. Mitchell Adam Lucker – We Love You Brother.”

On December 21st, 2012, a memorial show to benefit Kenadee Lucker’s future education costs was held at the Fox Theatre in Pomona, CA. The show was titled “Ending is the Beginning: Mitch Lucker Memorial Show”[39] as a reference to both an early song from the band[40] as well as acknowledging the transitional period for the band following Mitch’s death. The show itself featured the members of Suicide Silence performing songs from each of the bands releases with a different guest vocalist performing with the band for each song.[41] In addition to the memorial show, the band started the Kenadee Lucker Education Fund and continues to promote donations towards Mitch’s daughter.

Go to Suicidesilence.net for more information on the college fund for Kenadee Lucker.

Mitch Luker and daughter

Mitch Luker and daughter

Boy talk

It’s Friday night and the girl child said she doesn’t want to skate, as usual, tonight because “all of the drama”. Everyone including most of her best friends will be there but you know, part of growing up is beings tire enough to take a break from it all (all the drama)

The conversation ended up as a study on Middle School boys.

According to my 13 year old expert boys are clueless.

I told her to give the boys a break because they’re so confused by their feelings and the scary mysterious creatures called GIRLS that they don’t know how to react.

Yesterday they knew they liked video games and trucks and Slurpees. They knew why they liked those things. Life was easy. Then they started to like girls and they didn’t know why.

Girls were a complete mystery. Girls they’d know since kindergarten suddenly were tall with breasts and long blonde hair (the kind a guy wants to touch). Girls are smart and they travel in packs. A boy thinks “I know why I love Slurpees but I don’t know why I like girls”.

Then the girl child speaks of skinny arms, cracking voices and general clueless behavior.

According to the expert boys like the wrong girls, they are clueless and a few are actually cute. There is hope. High School will be better.

She rolls her eyes at her girl crazy older brother the romantic. Yes, there will be a string of broken hearts – even for the Vampire boys.

Happy Friday,
Juliette aka Vampire Maman