Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Joys of Growing Up with Tradition!

This is a great video about "the good ol' days".  It focuses on first and second generation Americans and how life used to be.  Being an American-Italian myself  (as the narrator of this video will explain), I can certainly relate to many of the traditions mentioned here. I think  no matter your heritage, if your parents or grandparents came here from "the old country" (whichever country that might be) you will enjoy this.  Hopefully, it will bring back some great memories for you from "the good ol' days".

If you are so inclined, leave a comment about your favorite childhood memory.  I'd love to read about it!

I have many "favorite" memories myself, but one that just came to mind after watching this video was my grandmother making homemade raviolis.  I used to call them "pillows of happiness"! Mmmm!  Mmmm! Good!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The City that is Broke...morally, ethically...fill in the blank______________!

It is that time of year again...

No, it's not the end of summer yet.  

No, it's not time for the World Series yet.

No, it's not time to put away the white shoes quite yet.

In Chicago, it's teacher-bashing time. 

A year ago, Rahm Emanuel started his campaign against teachers.  The teachers contractual 4% raise was not given to them because the city is broke.  Because of poor language in the last teachers' contract that was the end of that.  No discussion, no debate.

The City that is Broke then spent millions of dollars to bribe schools to pilot Rahm's pet project of having a "longer school day".  As the school year progressed, holidays that have been part of Chicago's history for years, Columbus and Pulaski Day, were taken off the calendar for the new school year.   Only those deemed worthy to celebrate by those at the top stayed on the calendar.  Then the teachers were told they will work longer hours and not get paid by the City that is Broke. 

Jumping ahead to June... After almost one year of negotiations were held and getting as far as a slug might get in the Chicago Marathon, the teachers took a strike authorization vote.  Well, after Senate Bill 7 was passed last year, with a main purpose of limiting the union's power, it was thought the teachers would never vote to strike. As you may recall, a school reform activist named Jonah Edelman arrogantly stated in 2011. "The unions cannot strike in Chicago.They will never be able to muster the 75 percent threshold necessary to strike."  Well, never say overwhelming 90+% of the teachers voted to strike if necessary. Click here for full story on Edelman

So here we are at the end of August, and Rahm's big win of the kids getting a longer school day without teachers working longer has gotten off to a less than stellar start in many Track E schools.  What are some of the Boards other proposals:

- A 2% raise for the first part of the contract and MERIT pay for the remainder of it.
A rise in healthcare costs that is equal to a 100% increase from last year's contributions.  So much for that 2% raise.

- An evaluation system for teachers that will have 40% of it based on standardized test scores (and we all know how reliable those statistics are).

- Teachers who pay out of their own pocket for a higher educational degree will no longer be compensated for having that degree.  So if I have a bachelor's and you have a master's degree we will both get the same pay.  How fair is that?  The Board claims to want what's best for the children, but having a highly educated staff obviously is part of that plan.

And the list goes on... Click for other Board proposals

In the meantime, 

The City that is Broke can give a million dollars to Ceasefire to help stop the killings. (Did anyone see the latest count for August?)

The City that is Broke is planning on spending over 90 million dollars on bike paths for a city where bikes can't be used safely for almost half of the year because of inclement weather and the other half because of congestion and construction. Click for full story on Rahm's bike-a-thon

The City that is Broke is now putting together a plan to make sure if the teachers "choose" to strike the children will be taken care of during the day...the amount for this is undisclosed at this time.  Click here for full story

If The City that is Broke spent it's money wisely, we wouldn't be in this situation.  The teacher's would be offered a fair contract and all would be well. is all for the children!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Olympic Games might be over, but not the games in the Chicago Public Schools!

Discipline is key to an effective classroom, but over the years the word discipline was demonized to sound mean and sinister?  Don't athletes need discipline to accomplish their goals? Just look at the Olympic athletes over the past two weeks.  Don't musicians need discipline to refine their craft?

People need self-discipline everyday whether at work, at home, or at play, but all of a sudden discipline is a dirty word.  Well, it isn't "all of a sudden", it's been creeping into school systems for years now and the result is  a whole bunch of people with no self-control but great self-esteem.  

That being said, with the 2012-2013 school year upon us,  the new School Code of Conduct from the Chicago Public Schools is out!  I wrote the article below, back in May, about how the City Council and CPS believed that there were too many out-of-school suspensions, so they went forth with their proposed plan of "Restorative Justice", as well as, cutting the number of days a student can be suspended by about half.  It is about the numbers, after all. 

So, I just read through 41 pages of directions, explanations, consequences (or lack thereof) that is in the new School Code of Conduct.  My mind is spinning...not because I can't read, but because I can!  

The levels of misconduct are labeled 1-6 and are described as follows:

 Group 1 lists behaviors that are inappropriate.
 Group 2 lists behaviors that disrupt.
 Group 3 lists behaviors that seriously disrupt.
 Group 4 lists behaviors that very seriously disrupt.
 Group 5 lists behaviors that most seriously disrupt.
 Group 6 lists behaviors that are illegal and most seriously disrupt.

For the last two Groups, 5 and 6, limited suspensions, expulsion hearings, and calling the police are the interventions and consequences, but for Groups 1-4 things like a Self-Reflection Sheet, Peace/Healing Circles, and Peer Juries are some of the first measures administration is supposed to take with students. I say administration because, as quoted from the SCC,  "The school principal or designee  is responsible for assigning the appropriate interventions and consequences to address the inappropriate behavior and must also respect the rights of  any student accused of inappropriate behavior."  

The students, I am sure, will love these new "effective responses" because all of this will most likely take place during their class time.

It's a good thing the school day was lengthened,  so now there is enough time to waste on this nonsense and still get in a full day's work.  I can see the increase in the test scores already, can't you?

You can read the entire School Code of Conduct by clicking this link:

Restorative Pandering

The newest push at the Chicago Public Schools and the city council is to have something called "Restorative Justice" in the schools.  Talk of peer juries and peace circles are in the air.  Wow!  What a switch from "zero tolerance".  Why the change?  It's said, too many students are getting into trouble, getting detentions, being suspended and expelled.  So now the city council, who needs to have oversight themselves, are sticking their collective noses into the school's business telling them they want a 40% decrease in suspensions and expulsions.  Of course, if there is any money attached to this, the numbers will definitely decline.  The behavior within the schools will most likely get worse because students know there is little to no consequence, but the numbers will look great on paper!

I looked up the words "restorative" and "justice" in the dictionary just because the title of this latest fad doesn't sit well with me.  As we all know, to restore means to 'bring back to an original state' and justice is 'fairness, the moral principal determining right conduct, and the administering of deserved punishment or reward'.  So, if we actually put this together "bringing back to an original state of administering a deserved punishment or reward determined by moral principles of right conduct" the schools might actually be able to have an impact.  But other words come to mind with this too like responsibility, respect, obedience, and self-control...and, of course, if this isn't being taught in the homes, the schools have no hope of ever having an impact anyway!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Exercise is good for kids...No Kiddin'!

I saw this headline last week "Physically Fit Children Get Better Grades".   I quickly broke down that headline to mean... children who are more active and get more physical movement and exercise perform better at school.  Nothing new here, but I clicked on the link to read more hoping I was going to be enlightened by some amazing new find.  Unfortunately I was not.  This report just repeated what we already know.  Kids need exercise!  Kids need to move around and get that circulation going!  Getting oxygen to the brain helps. Your brain is a muscle...exercise your body, exercise your mind. Seems easy enough to understand. 

Since we live in a world where we like information at a glance, I though this sums it up nicely for the kids!
This is a picture of your brain on vacation.  Looks nice, but not much is going on!

Exercise can help get your body and your brain in gear!

The end result will be that you feel a lot better and you will  be able to focus more on your studies and do better in school.  

We met a man a few weeks ago who was 91 years old.  He walked with a walker and had on a shirt that said "Exercise Fitness-exercise every day".  He said he still goes to the gym every day and even though his body might not have been in the best of shape... he does have 91 years of wear on his parts afterall, his brain was still sharp.  His parting words were, "They don't want me upstairs and they don't want me downstairs, so here I'll stay!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

There's More Than Corn in Indiana...

A few weeks ago my husband and I took a staycation, by staying close to home and traveling in Indiana just for the day.  We drove a couple of hours south down Route 41 until we decided we saw enough corn and crops for one day.  The ride was definitely quiet and the lack of traffic on the road was peaceful.

The highlight of the trip was stopping by The Farm that my grandparents owned when I was growing up.  Today would have been my grandfather's birthday, so I thought it was a perfect day to share this story.

I would have loved to walk to the door and ask to look around, but the land was now closed off by a privacy gate.  We pulled up along the road and my husband suggested I take a couple of pictures anyway.  At first I looked stupidly at phone doesn't have a camera on it and I didn't bring the actual camera with me.  My husband looked at my iPad and said, "Doesn't that thing take pictures?"  Well, duh...I forgot about that.  Maybe one day I'll catch up with technology.

Even though we couldn't get very close, these pictures brought back lots of memories.  The area in the picture above used to be a thriving orchard.  My sister and I once used it as a speedway when driving a golf cart until we slipped off our made-up road and hit a tree!

This area would be stocked with year my grandparents had horses, but because of a terrible accident, they never had horses again.  After that, cows and sheep were usually the animals of  choice. 

My grandparents' house...
as I look at it I can remember the various holidays we celebrated there.  The delicious meals Grandma cooked that we ate in their dining room.  The bedrooms upstairs for all of us when we spent the night.  How I would have loved to see the backyard so I could find out if the in-ground pool was still there.  What happy memories!

It's funny though, while the property is still kept up now,  it seems to be lacking "life".  We've traveled to The Farm a few times over the past 20 years and there has never been any signs of life.  No animals, no cars, no people. 

The part that stood out the most to me was that next to the garage used to be a big dog pen that housed the best dog in the world when I was growing up.  His name was Lum.  He was one month older than I was...or in dogs years maybe that would be 7 months?  Anyway, he was a great dog and now it just seemed like another sign that there is no life there. 


I guess it goes to show you, it's not the house that makes the home, but the love that comes from within.


Here is an excerpt of my description of The Farm from my book.  

Life on the Farm

From the time I was old enough to have memories, my grandparents lived on a farm in Indiana. They had a wonderful, spacious house on sixty acres of land. The first floor had a den right off their roomy kitchen, a living room with a fireplace and piano, a dining room that wasn’t saved for holidays only, but was used for dinner anytime we were together and ate indoors. There was also a bathroom on the first floor and a small room that could have been a bedroom, but instead mainly served as a place for Grandpa to store his hunting rifles and other outdoor things. The basement had a pool table that Grandpa used to teach me the game. While he was quite good at it, I was more of a sloppy player, even hitting the cue ball off the table on occasion. Regardless of my lack of style, we did have lots of fun playing. 

The second floor housed the full bathroom and all of the bedrooms. My grandparents, of course, had the largest room. It was their house, after all. There was a room with twin beds where my sister and I stayed when we were there. The third bedroom was for my great-grandfather when he lived there, and afterwards that was the room my parents used. The fourth room was more of a TV room with a sofa-bed, but was also used by my parents when the need arose.

If you looked out the front of my grandparents’ house to the west, they had a thriving orchard, to the east a barn with livestock and a pasture. This pasture also served as my first driver’s education training course. Grandpa took me out in his jeep and had me complete varied driving tasks from turns to stops to driving in reverse. This was quite helpful when I had to take my first real driving test on the road.

Looking into their yard towards the west was a vineyard. The grapes produced here were not wine grapes but jelly grapes. When homemade wine became a staple on The Farm Grandpa bought a nice glucose meter that he would take with him to the markets in Chicago to check that he was getting the perfect grapes to make his perfect wine. The grapes in his vineyard were already quite tasty and for years my mom and grandma would make homemade grape jelly. Store bought jellies had nothing on them.

Directly in line with the house was the in-ground pool that Grandpa had put in. To the east was a vegetable garden that was worked by both of my grandparents. The majority of the sixty acres north of their house was used for crops. For years Grandpa tilled those fields himself, but as the years wore on, he hired other local farmers to help out. About forty acres away from the house was a natural spring that ran through the property. In this area it was extremely hard to sustain any crops. So, leave it to the ingenuity of a Ding to come up with a plan. What does one do with a constant, fresh flowing supply of water in a barren area of land that can’t be used to farm? Well, you build a lake, of course.

For many years we spent most weekends at my grandparent’s house. We’d go there on Saturday afternoon after The Store closed and returned home on Sunday evening either early enough so as to get home before The Lawrence Welk Show came on TV, or late enough that we watched Lawrence Welk all together. Going to The Farm was like going on mini-vacations. I appreciate it much more today than I did growing up, especially during my teenage years. Who wanted to spend all this quality time with the family when I could be out there with my friends somewhere doing something? Looking back now, I’m glad I was blessed with spending all that time with my grandparents.

Lisa A. Tortorello Copyright 2009

Thursday, August 2, 2012

In honor of free speech...Chick-fil-A in Song by Tim Hawkins

God Bless You Chick-fil-A
by Tim Hawkins

Parody of Yesterday 
about Chick-fil-A

I realize Tim Hawkins wrote these songs before this Chick-fil-A nonsense, but they are still worth passing around!

If you were entertained by these videos check out some of his others on YouTube.  This one is one of my favorites.

Old Rock Star Songs