this american life


I recently listened to episodes 487 & 488 Harper High School on the This American Life radio program. As with many This American Life episodes, I felt a range of emotions from curiosity, anger, grief and guilt…as these episodes focus on the inequity of funding to our public schools and the gun violence that is far too common to many children.

I say “many”, because even though some of my students may be exposed to hidden violence at the hands of partners or family members—the students I teach rarely (ever?) witness shootings and do not have to worry they will be shot while hanging out with friends, on the front porch of their home or on their way to school. We have no metal detectors at school because they are not needed. (If detectors were needed, they would be immediately paid for and installed because there always seems to be money for what is needed.) During nine years of teaching at this high school I have witnessed one fight. One. Our biggest discipline problem is cheating.

I teach very privileged children.

I am curious to hear about community violence from the young people who rarely have a voice. I am angry that so many children are gunned down every day—every single day—and people rarely notice. It angers me that race still seems to be a factor when news agencies decide if a shooting should be covered; adults try to decide if the murder of a child is considered “news-worthy”. I feel grief for the children lost, the childhoods lost and the education that is lost by young people who live with constant worry and fear. I feel guilt for having so many resources and not sharing.

Harper High School is a “Turn Around School” where large amounts of money were pumped into the struggling school to address issues and over 5 years all ‘extra’ money is eventually removed from the school. According to TAL the school is about to lose the last of the money this year which means the school will take a cut of $1.6 million next school year. Money that pays for 4 assistant principals! exclaimed Principal Sanders as I thought, “We have six assistant principals and there is no threat of losing them.” Because of the funding-cut the school, which has two amazing social workers, will lose one and the second will go down to a .5 position next year. (We have 2 social workers, again, with no threat of losing them. We also have 9 counselors, a school psychologist, a public nurse and a clinic assistant. We even have an Assessment/Testing Coach whose sole responsibility is to schedule, organize and run standardized testing.) 

One should listen just to hear how social worker, Ms. Crystal Smith, seems to effortlessly get the toughest students to open up to her while having a simple conversation. Mr. Marcel Smith (who works directly with the failing kids) is shown to work common sense magic to help solve problems with students—which is the “stuff that doesn’t show up in the school budget” reminds Principal Sanders.

The shows are long, about an hour each, but worth the time spent to listen. If you get a chance, listen to the end. The last few moments of episode 2 are especially powerful as   high school principals from all over the US recall their former students, the ones who have been lost to gun violence.

Harper High School Part 1
Harper High School Part 2
How Many People Have Been Killed By Guns Since Newtown?
US gun violence


weekly photo challenge: forward

Many countries are pushing forward to provide education for all despite economic circumstances, caste, gender or age of the students who desire to attend school.gathering water at the well waiting next to the school school girls in class

Education For All Goals

5 works

I have applied for a grant from the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. Woodworking is a weak area of mine where I have very little experience but I would love to know more about the processes. IF chosen, the grant will cover my tuition for one of their classes which I would be able to take during the summer. I won’t hear about selection until after mid-April so until then I will try to be patient.

Applicants could share up to 5 works with the selection committee. These are mine.

weekly photo challenge: home

I grew up here by playing in the woods, walking along creek edges, cooking over camp fires, pitching tents, swimming in lakes and hiking mountain trails. I camped here with family, then friends, then first loves. I went to university here and escaped to the parkway in times of celebration and as a way to clear my mind and find peace when life became too much. I returned here after moving far away to attend a beloved craft school. I have always felt comfortable here, I can always be my true self here. I miss this place and wish to be here more often than I will ever be able to return. I was not born here, nor do I live here, but the mountains of North Carolina will always be my home.

nc mountains3 nc mountains2nc mountains

weekly photo challenge: unique

BALTIMORE: fun, diverse, a little wacky, a great sense of history and a place where everyone can be themselves…

historic psaosaycanyousee hammertime platypus dino drama Fifi! unique5Alohaa! from Baltimore

(The last 6 images are from Baltimore’s Kinetic Sculpture Race, sponsored by the American Visionary Art Museum. This year’s race will be held on May 4, 2013.)

gradual clearing & praise of turmeric

blue sky The last 10 days have been under-the-weather days. Body-achy, sinus-pressure-y, exhausted days. Not bad enough to stay home but bad enough to exude sympathy from teenagers. The worst part of it all has been the sleepless nights and consumption of more cough drops than food from the endless coughing. Remedies started out natural enough but I quickly moved on to over the counter medications and even an anti-cough prescription  The nights remained sleepless and the prescription actually made the cough worse. In a fit of late-night desperation I did what I should have done many days ago:
I googled it.
Among the ginger-honey and dark chocolate solutions was one I had not tried:
turmeric in warm milk.
Within moments I pulled my warm milk from the microwave, dumped the heaping spoonful of turmeric powder in the glass and stirred. Metaphorical fingers crossed (too tired to actually cross them) I slowly sipped until the glass was empty and hoped for the best. Thinking positive thoughts I quietly returned to bed, crawled under the warm sheets and for the first time in weeks, slept for eight hours.