Posted in burning questions, changing the world, Creativity, Writing

Kelly Love, Mermaid MD

“I want to do a series of non-routine tasks, that require social intelligence, complex critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.”

well, well, well…how about we continue the conversation about ‘career and college ready?’ My mental pebble in my Sunday slippers is this concept of training students for ‘jobs that don’t exist yet.’ The jobs exist now. Right now. The problem is companies don’t want to pay for employees to ‘do a series of non-routine tasks.’ They don’t want to pay anyone at all. Wages have been stagnant for decades, and though the job market has grown and unemployment is low, skilled trade workers are hard to find.

My older son is sitting on a double major in Russian and German, with a minor in Math, and is thinking about becoming a teacher. My younger son is attending a community college and working weekends as a custodian for a local school district. I have no idea what the future holds for them because I have no idea what my and my husband’s future holds. It’s been…stressful. The social safety nets are ripped, and the Herculean task of moving toward healthcare uncoupling from jobs seems impossible, no matter what progressive politicians promise. Lobbies and corporate interests are monied monsters. In other words, I don’t know what my sons are going ‘to do’ with their degrees.

So how do I “sell” education’s value to a group of 13 and 14 year olds who are well aware climate change is real and dangerous conspiracy theories become factual lies? When we have a curriculum that teaches the test questions, and not a lot of ‘creative problem solving?’ I am thinking the answer is right in front of my nose: ask them. Just–ask them. Here is what we ‘have” to learn, now let’s seek out why, and how it helps us–and add what we ‘want’ to learn. John Oliver’s quote is going to be my mission statement for teaching and creativity.

I’ll share my 99 Problems document, and keep asking ‘What if?’ as if our lives and futures depend on it. (Because it does.)

Posted in Bullying, Wish I Had Written That

Survey for bullies.

Please take the survey on the Widget list in the right-hand column. Thank you.

I’ve been working since I was nine years old. Granted, it was mostly babysitting gigs and poorly run lemonade stands until age thirteen when I was a busgirl in a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant. But I’ve worked constantly. Along the way, I’ve met my share of sexism and microaggressions from all manner of coworkers and supervisors. And in those four decades of work experience, not once have I ever witness a bully paying any kind of consequence for their actions. Maybe there is some invisible karma that gets metered out, or some moment of self-reflection in a quiet, pensive moment where the bully thinks, “Gee, whiz, I was kind of a jerk. Since [X] happened to me, I now understand when [this other person was going through the same thing] how awful I was to them.”

Is empathy really empathy when it requires the same exact event? Well, that’s a question for another time perhaps, although my first instinct is to answer empathy is a proactive emotion, it gets in front of another’s pain in order to prevent further damage.

In a recent discussion thread, a parent shared her detailed concerns about her son. I know from a teachers’ perspective addressing bullying is a daunting task: children, and then they grow up to adulthood, get deep pleasure from the control and social status when they bully others. Even in one of my classes now, a new student says something that makes other boys snicker, just because they aren’t used to his colloquialisms. So: time for a conversation with those two young men. It can’t be ignored.

What bullying is:

  • Persistent and targeted harassment regarding someone’s personality, social status, race, gender, health or cultural viewpoints.
  • Putting someone down or marginalizing tastes in clothes, music, movies, books, and other media
  • Not having an established understood relationship (friendship) that has its own rules and boundaries for ‘trash talking’ and teasing and proceeding to harass or intimidate another physically or verbally
  • Systematically shunning someone from a group or social situation

What it is not:

  • Differences of opinion or approach regarding a common goal or objective

This is from a discussion thread, and he shares insightful information:

I am sorry to see that this is going on, and a repeated daily matter no less.

The thing that saddens me is that schools ingratiate this behavior and “the person in question” will continue to go with a belief that they are invincible. This will carry on throughout life and unfortunately at some time “the person in question” will do real damage in the workplace.

Schools and companies have been far too risk averse and don’t want to deal with real issues because it takes time and too many resources. But there needs to be the line drawn at any kind of physical assault. The name calling and belittling, unfortunately, will be part of life and that should not be acceptable. While I personally would not condone it as it interferes with your son’s learning process (as you have already demonstrated with the vomiting).

Fortune 500 companies do nothing about a workplace bully on 99% of the cases. Ultimately the target is diminished, emotionally beaten and crushed, their work performance suffers and eventually leads to layoff or termination. The bully will usually get a promotion or move on to other larger projects to help feather their nest.

The rare occasions when a bully is held accountable is when they have done something so egregious that there are too many witnesses or it is so flagrantly damaging that it can not be concealed.

Just moving around and transferring schools is not going to be sufficient. There are always going to be cliques and factions with their small minded people who think they are responsible for choosing who is important in life.

–Allan Rei Tan

Have I ever bullied someone? Yes, once. And it’s a painful story for me to tell, and I pray for forgiveness. I didn’t derive any pleasure or status from the event, but regret and shame.

My plan as an educator is to continue helping students recognize when they’re bullying, or being bullied: to empower those who are being harassed and flip the script on the bully. But it can’t come from a single voice, but that is where it starts.



Posted in Big Questions, New News, Science ROCKS!



Mrs. Love’s Note:I asked one of my favorite science teachers/doctors/bloggers I follow for a little clarification, because I knew that this information wasn’t completely on target. I knew we aren’t “fish” people. We are life forms. We share traits, like bones, guts, and eyeballs. I am using this as a metaphor, which I’m sure you all know. The metaphor is we share a sociological and biological imperative, a need to tell a story. At some point, humans stood up, looked around, and said, “I want to talk about this! Better invent language! I need to write this down! Better invent pigments for the cave walls! I need to read a letter from Aunt Mudpie, better learn to read! (She has a recipe for grilled mastodon that is to die for!)

Here’s what he had to say:

Dear Kelly,

A couple of thoughts on your evolution post.

Humans and fish and reptiles all have common ancestors–just about everything alive does depending how far back you go–but no species around today evolved from any other species around today. Humans did not go through a “reptile” stage–we go back to a common ancestor.

The ontogeny illustration is lovely, and you’ll occasionally find it in textbooks, but it does injustice to the real appearance of embryos/fetuses at their respective stages. Ontogeny sort of recapitulates phylogeny, but not nearly as closely as would be fun to believe.

“Phylogeny” is a great word–it comes from “phylon” which means tribe, race,  or clan; “geny”, of course, goes back to the same roots as genesis, and means birth or origin. So phylogeny is looking at the origins of our tribe!



Also:  It is a lovely illustration, isn’t it? We animals/birds are all thrown together in an antiquated chart like some sort of indigo rainbow spectrum of life-light, albeit scientifically erroneous.

This is a stretch, I know, but perhaps early mankind felt more connected to the critters, creepers, and caterwaulers of the earth and sea, and that’s why animal spirits played an important role in spirituality, mythology, and fables.

 Now, on to our originally scheduled post, already in progress:

If carbon-based organisms keep some genetic memory, some imprint, of our collective consciousness, is that why we keep telling the same stories?

Ontogeny is the development of an individual organism; in other words, from its embryonic “egg” form to its mature, developed state. Phylogeny is the scientific discipline that studies the evolutionary history of a group of organisms. In other words, ontogeny would study how you went from an embryo to who you are now; phylogeny would study the entire human race’s path. (I think that’s what it means. Perhaps one of my science friends can help me out with this one!)



 The Connection between Ontogeny and Phylogeny 

The evolution of the human brain over millions of years and its development over the course of one lifetime are inextricably linked. In fact, the best way to get an overview of the stages through which our brain passed in the course of evolution is to look at those through which it passes as an individual develops.

The phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 and for many decades was accepted as natural law. Haeckel meant it in the strict sense: that an organism, in the course of its development, goes through all the stages of those forms of life from which it has evolved.Modern biology now rejects this dogmatic perspective. Though recognizing that human beings evolved from fish and reptiles, biologists cannot discern in our development any stages that correspond precisely to those of a fish or a reptile.That said, species that share the same branch of the evolutionary tree clearly also go through the same early stages of individual development, though they diverge subsequently. One good example here is the basic skeletal structure of all vertebrates, which is one of the anatomical structures that is laid down earliest in the process of embryogenesis. In fact, the most precise way to describe this whole phenomenon might be to say that related organisms start with a common general embryonic form and then eventually diverge into distinct adult morphologies as they complete their development.

To understand the link between phylogeny and ontogeny (in other words, between the evolution of a species and the development of an individual), one must understand that a species can evolve from a series of small mutations in the development program encoded in its individuals’ genes. The earlier that these mutations occur in an embryo’s development, the more likely they are to be lethal, because of the fundamental changes that they will involve. That is why we tend to see more mutations in the later stages of development, and why various species show similarities in their early embryonic stages. But sometimes a mutation in the program at an early stage of development will still leave the embryo viable, resulting in a differentiation of these early stages that erases any strict correspondence with the phylogeny of this species. That is why a strict interpretation of Haeckel’s law of recapitulation does not withstand close empirical scrutiny.  

Ride this Ride

Great conversation Friday afternoon, tying in with our World History studies. Consider early mankind. If you want to put a face on it, think about Lucy. With more time on her hands, perhaps she communicates a story to her young. They in turn, tell a story, too. They ask questions. They think of answers. They think outside of themselves. They begin to reflect on the meaning of their own existence. They use the spark, the light, the inner awareness (call it what you will) to look to the skies and ask, “Why am I here?”

How are we answering that question today? We’re still asking it. We’re still fighting over it. We’re still debating it. And sometimes it even involves blood, sweat, and tears. We want to know. We ate the fruit. We got fire. We created big rock clocks. And though we increase our data/technology construct, processing more information in the last five minutes than we did in the last five hundred years (I’m guessing), we still tell stories.

Is that what keeps us moving forward, or stuck in a rut? Or, is just a way to stay human?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Posted in Big Questions, Burning Questions Book Lists, Connections

Charting your journey.


This article link content is NOT about your personal  beliefs, or mine.

It is about what we talked about (briefly) the other day — in addition to books, poetry and songs can also help us find answers to our questions–they speak to us. Another path is reading what other great thinkers/philosphers reflect upon, and consider. This article has three minds considering an historical figure, and the possible significance, all from their own cultural perspectives.

If you read this article, consider the questions the writers were attempting to explore. I don’t say “answer” because rarely do we find definitive answers to anything- life is all about exploration. That’s what makes it interesting.

Consider that when you are seeking answers – be open-minded, flexible, and critical – what is the person saying? What is their purpose for saying it? And, what is your deeper purpose for reading it?

Posted in Being a better teacher, Big Questions, changing the world, Reading, Writing

Wow. That was weird.

 Well, last night I had a surreal experience. I went to my first large group teachers’ union meeting. I’m still trying to untangle how democratic the process was, what benefit it created, or detriment the outcome threatens. But before I go any further with my thoughts, I will say this: I am darn glad I know how to read. Why? Because these are some life-changing issues, and I really needed to be informed on what both sides were saying and doing about MY JOB, MY LIFE, MY PROFESSION, AND MY FUTURE.  I am not that different from many of the 1,500 or so teachers packed in that gymnasium last night. Many have my same credentials: a Master’s Degree in Education, many additional college credits, many hours of professional development classes, hours spent developing top-notch lessons, creative ways to motivate students, the latest teacher’s professional publications such as In the Middle by Nancie Atwood or anything by Robert Marzano.  I have spent a large percentage of my salary on setting up my classroom library, only to find that if a student lost or stole a book, there would be no recourse on my part, no chance of reimbursement. (But at least they have a book, right?) I am in the process of seeking National Boards’ certification to sharpen my reflective skills as a teacher, always asking myself, “How can I do better? How can I help one more student reach his or her potential? How can I motivate my students to be the generous and courageous young men and women I know they can be?”

So, last night, here’s what happened: For months, the union and the district had been in negotiations over workload, time, and compensation. The numbers are there, but they’re a little fuzzy. There’s no clear answer on what money is there. (And mind you, this is the most precious money of all: taxpayers’ money.) There were some clear cut recommendations on class size. I do think reasonable caps need to be put on class sizes, and when I say “caps” I don’t mean they all need new hats. That means a stopping point, a lid, a maximum number. (I know the adults reading this blog understand the idiom, but some students may not.) Also, they couldn’t agree on the reasonable amount of meetings. We do have too many, maybe,  but most teachers complain bitterly about them. What upset me is I’ve been in charge of many of the meetings, and I strive to make them meaningful, informative, and time well spent. I’m not going to take it personally, however; planning those meetings for the department or the school is hard work, and mostly I’ve found them fun and a good time for everyone to get together as a school. Perhaps other schools don’t do such a great job with the meetings. One of my colleagues has a difficult time getting to the meetings because of childcare issues, and when “they” take roll call during a last-minute meeting to check who’s there and who’s not, well, that might get a little demoralizing. The class size issues are valid. It is very difficult to meet and confer with each and every student if a class size is over 25, much less so if over 30. The heart of this issue is, many of our students do not have the home structure they need in order to succeed in school. In my own household, we have two working parents, and it’s extremely difficult to juggle home and our jobs. I get it. So, my job is to, before, during, and after school (when I”m not going to a meeting, running Anime Club, or trying to figure out what to make for dinner) is to be there for every student, every day, because every one of my students counts.

Now, as far as compensation goes, well, every teacher will tell you they didn’t go into this job for the money. And, I really hope that if the first two issues are resolved, then maybe they can come to an agreement about reasonable pay. Some have said we’re top heavy as far as administration goes. I also know that I know many of the skilled and dedicated professionals who have ambitiously and purposefully risen to the ranks of administration, and they are some of the most dedicated, intelligent, and creative people I know and have the honor to work with. So, the vilification on both sides is very tough to hear, too.

I wish there was a third option for public schools, where there wasn’t this “us” and “them” dynamic, but truly a “we,” a genuine professional learning community. I do think the seniority scale needs to be reviewed, meaning one doesn’t keep their job simply because they’ve managed to do it for 30 years. I also think one should reach the “top” sooner than 25 years–having entered this career later in life, there’s no way I’m going to make it for 25 years! Well, maybe I will…who would want me for a teacher when I’m 70 years old? (Shivers and horror, I know!)

All of this is my opinion. I’m still trying to sort it out. And, I feel a little powerless in the process, too. The only thing that helps me feel better is reading about it, and writing about it. Those are the only things I have true control over–keeping informed and working it out with words.

Posted in Big Questions, Burning Questions Book Lists, Reading

Stoking the fires of burning questions…

In a search for books that deal with the tough, sad topics of child abuse, and other big questions you may have, the website is a great resource. Keep reading, keep searching, keep asking and thinking!

Posted in New News

Hunting Great Books: Desperately Seeking Substance

I’ve been on a treasure hunt, a quest, a  mission, an operation, and a charge to seek out books that will help us all answer our burning questions in life. To boldly use my insomnia (inability to sleep peacefully) to explore the websites’ nooks, crannies, bogs, blogs, under logs, and kissing a few frogs to seek beautiful, bold books for myself, and my students, to read.

To say that there are a plethora of young adult book blogsis an understatement. And, one trend I’ve noticed is many of them promote what I would consider a tendancy toward chick-books: Gothic, romantic, swooning, with plenty of lip gloss and angst. Not that there’s a darn thing wrong with any of those things. However, I’m still on a quest for more choices, better organizations of genre, and targeted searches. I may just have to take control of my own destiny and make this blog work a little harder.

 There are so many ways to choose a good book to read. The question isn’t whether or not you should be reading, of course you should. You must. You read to expand your brain so the world doesn’t take advantage of you, but you can control your world. You read to develop better life skills, a personality, you read to get a life, for goodness sake! Let me know how you find good books to read.

Posted in Big Questions, Burning Questions Book Lists

Burning Question #2,679: Who Owns Your Truth?

While researching some links and more information for a book that a student loaned me (thanks, A.N.!), So Far from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kiwashima Watkins, I came across a site that made comments which indicated that what the author wrote wasn’t true. The author wrote the book many years after the events (about forty years later) and it’s her memoir of when she was a young Japanese girl living in Korea during WWII.

What do you think? Who owns your truth? If you remember it slightly wrong, does it matter?