This Blue Fairy’s Life

Random stuff…straight from my head to your computer.

Education Disaster Marinade March 26, 2011

Filed under: Political Commentary,Rant,Teaching,Uncategorized,Writing — merrywether @ 9:16 pm

Education Disaster Marinade:

dash of Glenn Beck ruminating about how teachers only work until 2:30 and get summers off

1 Tablespoon of political pundit No. 731 asserting that teacher evaluations be tied in directly with student test scores

five ounces of the Los Angeles Times publishing teacher names and labels of “effective” or “ineffective” based on test scores of students (which arguably led to the suicide of one such “ineffective” teacher)

3 pounds of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other billionaire businessmen who have decided that schools should be run a la business model (and that smart kids are a product)

3 pounds of salivating U.S. politicians willing to accept the millions being forked over by said billionaires in exchange for selling our children down the river and gaining popularity with voters who have no choice but to accept the assertions of the ingredients listed above, because teachers (despite all the rhetoric to the contrary) are not lining their purses with your hard earned money, and as such, do not have funds to mount a public relations campaign the size and scope of the one the talk news folks, businessmen, and politicians have been able to weave for ratings and votes.

4 cups of National Writing Project funding (dissolved). The National Writing Project has been written out of the Federal budget. Oh, another special pet project gladly zapped out of existence in these tough times? Hardly! NWP began in California in 1974 as a small but powerful contingent of educators hell-bent on promoting the teaching of literacy by collaborating with other teachers. Now, 37 years later, it boasts over 200 local sites across the country, which partner with colleges and universities (who match the grants given to each site by NWP) to offer premier professional development to K-16 educators across all curriculum areas.

My experience with NWP began with my fellowship to the 2008 Invitational Summer Institute held by my local site, the Buzzards Bay Writing Project in Fairhaven, MA. For 16 days in July, we teachers, (who remember, are lazy – we get the summer off) shared writing, favorite authors, tips and poetry, gave demonstration lessons to colleagues, researched literacy issues, created inquiry questions essential to our classroom practice, and then researched those for possible solutions in the next school year, and networked with colleagues in districts across Southeastern Massachusetts in a way that made each of us better readers, better writers, and better teachers of writing. I returned to my classroom in the fall ready to see what my research in The Writer’s Workshop model could mean for my class of socially and emotionally impaired special needs students. The Institute gave me the time to go with my gut and research something that I thought could really work…and it did. Three years later, I’ve presented at workshops – the most prestigious being the NWP’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in November 2009, where I was able to network with teachers across the country who are invested in student literacy, as I am. I’ve attended conferences and continued to learn from the teachers who frequent the Buzzards Nest (as we lovingly call our office), and am now Co-Director of the Summer Institute. NWP has given me (and my colleagues) the opportunity to learn what I need to teach my students to write stronger, better, and with conviction. It is quite simply, the best professional development I have ever experienced. Aside from the Institute, I can go to my local site for Drop In Saturdays to do some personal or professional writing, bounce lesson ideas off another teacher, or help colleagues with their own research. I can present a workshop for a district in need of specific help for their writing programs. I can create professional development topics and present them to others who need my expertise. Just last weekend, BBWP partnered with our sponsoring school (UMass Dartmouth) to bring four nationally-renowned authors to campus for a brunch and authors’ talk. BBWP brought one of the authors, Sondra Perl (author of Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate) to the Nest for lunch and a Q&A session. We had read Perl’s book as the text of our 2009 Institute and I was anxious to ask her about some of the things she wrote about. Perl is an NWP girl, too. A former director of one of the NY area writing projects, she made us smile as she told us how she felt like she was back at home being with writing project people!

So why, with all that good stuff going on in NWP, is the federal government suddenly flicking us off the budget like a piece of lint? NWP is, by today’s standards, cheap! We’re talking less than $50,000 cheap per site. Cooperating universities match the funds provided by NWP’s federal grant, and the local sites supplement that by providing quality professional development to area school districts. We’re on board with what the Federal government has imposed. We weave states’ standards into everything we do. We keep abreast of changes in education law that might affect literacy instruction. We welcome teachers from ALL curriculum areas, as writing is universal and not limited to the English Language Arts. We create sub-networks of teachers from rural sites and urban sites to address literacy issues that are specific to those areas. We take responsibility for the task of educating our children, and sharing what works to that end with the politicians who need to hear it. There is no downside to the National Writing Project.

There is a downside, however, to taking away superb professional development of teachers who are required, by the Federal government, to retain the skills essential to be “effective”. With budgets hurting in every state of the Union, local school districts are limited in their abilities to fund professional development that is effective. With NWP, you know what you’re getting, and you’re getting way more than you pay for.

This Education Marinade doesn’t taste so delightful. I think next, America, we should try a more savory stew.


Merry Christmas to You! December 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — merrywether @ 9:59 pm

Merry Christmas to You!. The good folks at Animoto have created this really neat video website to create movies from movie and photos you own. Cozy up to the fire and have a cuppa while you enjoy some moments from 2010 with my family.


Control Freak August 7, 2010

Filed under: Life,Poetry,Uncategorized — merrywether @ 11:26 pm

One of the readings in the summer institute was a poem by Mary Oliver entitled West Wind #2. A great strategy for obtaining writing material is to share readings with one another. The reading might evoke some sort of memory, thought, opinion, idea, etc… that can be used to craft our own pieces. Mary Oliver’s piece had nothing to do with being a Control Freak, but that’s where the poem inspired me to go. I’ve printed it below. Read West Wind #2 here if you wish:

Response to Mary Oliver’s West Wind #2

Control Freak

Life is messy. That’s just the way it is. Glass breaks, car engines stall, and dinner overlooked burns in the oven. The mess, however, is important – necessary even, in creating an existence worth the constant beating of the heart in your chest. Control is an illusion one uses to create order – order which will never reach your high standards. The cat won’t stop clawing at your sofa, your daughter won’t choose the college you want her to attend, and your husband won’t stop leaving his clothes in a heap on the floor of your bedroom. Despite these glitches in your master plan, you will live. You will shrug your shoulders at your skinned knee, your son’s ripped sweatshirt, your lover’s affinity for atrociously foul-smelling pork rinds, and you will surrender yourself to this life that spins beyond your control.

Kim Sutherland 7/20/10


small, but important repairs August 13, 2009

Filed under: Family,Motherhood,Poetry,Uncategorized,Writing — merrywether @ 11:57 pm

small, but important repairs

Spider Man Band-Aids
for cuts and scrapes

kisses and hugs
for bumps and tears

words of praise
for little, easily-bruised egos

a lollipop
to relieve boredom
during grocery store and bank trips

a sticker
after being brave
for the nurse’s needle

a gentle caress
of a cheek or chin,
to smooth a furrowed brow

a security blanket or night light
to ward away the monsters of the dark

a parent’s backrub
that tells a little one
that he’s








                                                Kim Sutherland


Taber’s Knoll

Filed under: Poetry,Uncategorized,Writing — merrywether @ 7:42 pm

A poem inspired by a recent visit to Fort Taber in New Bedford, MA.


Taber’s Knoll

Disheveled thyme green knoll

pedestal to local history

standing stalwart against

cerulean skies,

lemon-kissed sunshine,

and ocean breeze whispers

Holds the ramparts
in honor of toiling hands and broken backs

Bricks now graffiti-adorned
where freedom fighters

Weeds work their way across the rotting threshold

where civilians are no longer welcome-

but content to travel the perimeter

in ignorance

to the crimson blood and salty sweat of sacrifice,

with which the sneakers on their feet were bought.


Bad Mommy March 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — merrywether @ 5:25 pm

So I wrote my last post as my 4 1/2 year old son was playing on the desk beside me. I noticed that he was writing on a paper that I needed, so I got him a different piece and asked him not to write on the needed sheet anymore. Fine. So he wrote happily and I typed angrily (see previous post for explanation!). Suddenly he says to me, “Mom, I wrote on the paper you said not to write on”. Half amused at his honesty and half aggravated that he disobeyed, I calmly asked him to proceed to time out – aka the chair in the living room down the hall.

Tick, tick, tick…I continued typing my post and I have no idea where the time has gone, where I am, or what my name is…when I hear “huhhhhhh……sigh………” from the living room and I say, “Sweetie, what are you up to?” and my little man says “STILL waiting for you in time out, mom”.

OHHHHHH GEEEEZZ! I forgot my son in time out!!!

So I go to him, laughing, and he looks at me with utter confusion – or maybe it was the “I think the woman has gone mad” face.  He said it was rude to laugh at him for sending him to time out. I had to apologize for laughing, and then explain that I had forgotten him in time out and was laughing at myself – after telling him I was proud of him for being honest and disappointed that he disobeyed me, I took his hand and led him to the kitchen where I handed him a cookie and said “sorry ’bout that, pal”. He took the cookie and scrunched his face as he said “you’re giving me a cookie for going to time out?”.

Bad Mommy.

side note: My son punished me for leaving him in time out by making me tell this story in my blog!


Back in the Day March 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — merrywether @ 1:01 am

“Mom, this thing is broken I think”, said my son, with a little irritation in his voice as he pushed the video into and out of the VCR. The whirring sounds indicated the machine’s own bad attitude toward the constant intrusion it was experiencing. It occurred to me that my four year old was unaware that video tapes actually had tape inside that had to be rewound in order to return to the beginning, unlike his beloved Cars DVD which could be magically returned to the beginning within seconds of being ejected and returned to the DVD  player. I explained this to Frankie, whose face registered first a disbelief, then a suspicion that his mother was pulling a fast one. “Honest” I said to him. “Before DVDs were invented, movies were put on video tapes like this and the tape winds through the machine to play the movie. If you want to watch it again, you have to tell the machine to rewind all the tape back to the beginning”. “Mom, that just does not make sense – it takes too long”. It was then that it hit me, as it has several times in the past few years…that I am becoming my parents. I say this with no malice or disappointment, but with a quiet surprise as I think back to the things that were innovative when I was young: rotary telephones, answering machines, remote controls (corded, of course), and cable tv, and remember the things my parents would remark upon such as party lines, electric appliances, and  portable radios. Now, my son lives in a world of automation and instant gratification. It’s no wonder that I tell him on a daily basis that he must be more patient. Someday soon he’ll ask me about other things that were new when I was younger, and I’ll tell him and watch with amusement at the confusion and wonder at how my husband and I ever survived. That attitude will serve him well as he grows older and forges his own place in this world. God-willing I’ll be around to witness it first-hand with my own confusion and wonder.