Beauty.

http://embed.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model.html Confession: I became mildly interested in a ridiculous dating show called “Ready for Love.” The premise is that three matchmakers aid three super-eligible bachelors to find The One. I watched the show ironically–it sets women’s rights back about a thousand years–but last night something hit me, and hard.

I’ve never really felt traditionally beautiful. I know I’m decent looking, but I’m not a model. As Cameron Russell notes in her TED talk, she hit a genetic lottery. And yet she pulls back the curtain on the industry and tells us that models are some of the most physically insecure women she’s ever met. This concept was reinforced the other night during “Ready for Love,” as I watched these gorgeous, thin, and in a few cases, smart women sob after not being chosen. Sob about not feeling good enough. Sob about feeling like they would die alone.

And suddenly, Cameron Russell’s TED talk made a whole lot of sense. Looks aren’t everything, and it’s way more important to be substantive, compassionate, and well, good. Because as trite as it sounds, those characteristics create true and lasting beauty.

When Testing Really Harms.

I’m a bit behind on the blogging class, so I’m making a mad push tonight to get all caught up. First step: read an educational blog from Teach 100 and write about it. I was ecstatic to see Diane Ravitch’s blog was an option.

I first encountered Diane Ravitch many years ago when I was on a non-fiction kick and I read her book The Language Police–a book about how textbooks across the country were being bastardized and diluted in the name of political correctness. While I didn’t agree with all of her premises (and at the time of the book, she was a champion of NCLB), I still enjoyed her writing style.

Almost a decade later, Ravitch is now a passionate advocate against NCLB (all standardized testing, really), and the corporate influences on public education. This post links to a story that describes the devastating effect of NCLB when applied without a modicum of mercy. My brother-in-law teaches at the Iowa School for the Deaf, he IS deaf, my sister is an interpreter for the deaf, so I have a cursory knowledge of deaf culture.

As I read that story, my heart did break–not only for the students and staff of the Rhode Island School of the Deaf, but also for the hundreds of other schools across the country under scrutiny for not meeting capricious benchmarks mandated by people whose own children attend private schools. I thought of my brother-in-law, and how hard he works with his students, and the unique challenges deaf students encounter as they seek education. I thought of my own students, the past three weeks missing classes to engage in Nebraska state testing. And I thought of the long wait to see their scores, and the sadness I’ll no doubt feel when our school is measured against all other Omaha area schools–a number that means absolutely nothing to the public, a number intended to say School A is so much better than School B; the subtext that School A’s teachers care so much more than School B’s.

I’m not teaching English next year, and barring deep, devastating cuts in the future, I probably won’t teach English for a long time. But I’m still responsible for making sure my students can read and write, and yes (sadly), do well on those mandated tests.

I hope I’m still teaching when the pendulum swings a little more back to center, so I can spend some time in a profession I love, out from under the scrutiny of politicians, pundits, and philanthropists who all seem to think they can do my job so much better than I can.

My 10 Picture Tour

I’m late with this week’s blogging assignment, but here it is nonetheless.

This is a photo from last summer, but I love the way it turned out. This is my niece Emma. I have nine nieces and nephews, and four of them live nearby. They all love to take selfies with Aunt Julie. And as long as the lighting and angle is good, I love to keep them.

 Meet Mr. Stueve and Katie. We dressed up for “Twin Day” (though, all of us being naturally rebellious, we were triplets). Mr. Stueve advises the Yearbook and I advise the Newspaper, and we share many students on our staffs.

Last year maybe you heard about five students who stole everything from our Journalism Room. We made these T-shirts to commemorate the occasion.
And then on the one-year anniversary of the theft, on a Sunday, I dropped by the school to make sure the computers were still there.

                 

 Sometimes our Journalism students leave notes for us on the dry-erase board.

Which is only fair after all the notes I leave for my other students on the dry erase board–these are some notes on Film History from my Pop Culture Class. I take these photos to post on the class website for students who are absent.

See these dedicated students? They came in on a Saturday at 8 AM to take a practice AP test. They rock.

I play the piano, and to help out my friend Mr. Reimer, I often play in the pit for the school musical. This year’s show was “Guys and Dolls.” Such a fun show, and it’s great to see my students do something amazing.

And finally, I make excellent cheesecakes. This is my new favorite: Lemon-Raspberry. It’s amazing.

A Blogging Class

The district where I teach is so great about providing professional development opportunities, especially those that incorporate technology. And I feel a little guilty about taking a class called “Blogging 101” since I’ve been blogging for 8 years, but I’ve not been as consistent blogging professionally as I have been personally, so I’m hoping this class will create a more solid dedication to my professional blogging life. So here’s my first assignment…

My name is Julie Rowse, and I teach English 11, AP Language and Composition, Pop Culture Studies, and advise the Newspaper at Bellevue West. I went to Brigham Young University for three years–initially as a vocal/piano performance major–and eventually landed at UNO, where I earned a B.S. in Secondary Ed with a Language Arts endorsement. I student taught at Bellevue West and then moved to Utah. I taught in a suburb of Salt Lake City for two years and then came back to Nebraska and taught at Bellevue West for four years. In 2006, I moved to Bowling Green, Ohio to earn an M.A. in Popular Culture At Bowling Green State University. When I left West, I told Mr. Rohlfs there was about a 1% chance I’d return to teaching. He took those odds, and I’ve been back at West since 2008.

Some people in my building would consider me pretty tech savvy. There are some things I feel pretty confident about in terms of troubleshooting, but I also feel like there’s so much I don’t know how to do (I’m horrible at fixing printers, for example). I’m a Mac person–I have completely drank that Kool-Aid. My students often tease me and my “Apple Family” (iPod classic, iPod mini, iPod touch, iPad, MacBook pro…and that doesn’t include any district-issued technology. Yes, I have a problem. :D)

The tech I use in my classroom? Well, this semester it’s the iPads. Apple TV is fantastic–so fantastic that I gave away my Document Camera, because everything I did with that, I can do with an iPad/Apple TV/MacBook combination of some sort.

I do love to read blogs, and my Feedly proves that, so I’m excited to read the blogs that the other members of my online class write!

Fresh Starts

Four years ago, I wanted to start sharing my experiences as a public high school teacher via a blog. I’d had a personal blog since 2005, a space to review movies and TV shows, a space to rant about issues in education, a space to share stories of my faith. Occasionally I would blog about what was happening in my classroom, but I needed a space dedicated to only that, untouched by all the other ramblings of my personal life.

So I started a Posterous blog. It has served me well, but the scuttlebutt on the internets regarding Posterous’s future isn’t optimistic. And I tend to be a proponent of simplifying one’s digital footprint, so I’m doing just that. One Google Account to rule them all…

Lucky for me, when Twitter bought Posterous and the rumors started flying, a brilliant man figured out how to import a Posterous blog to a Blogger platform. My hope is that by the end of the week, the past four years of posts will migrate here and by mid-February I’ll have all the labels worked out.

(If you notice, the domain is fourpreps.blogspot.com. Ever since student teaching, I’m happiest with four preps. The years that I had just two preps were painfully boring.)

In the meantime, I’ll be upping my blogging game here (one less login somehow, I’m sure, will make it easier) about iPads, AP Lang and Comp, American Lit, Pop Culture, and Newspaper.

Welcome!