shame on us

Jeff and I are enjoying some lovely time away from daily life with Elena and Ian this week in central Oregon. I’d like to say that we’ve been totally unplugged, but of course, we haven’t. So, like many others, we’ve both been overwhelmed with red and pink images online, other photos and news accounts of the “controversial” issue before the Supreme Court this week. To say that I’m frustrated – and dare I say, angry – about the time that we as a nation are spending on this issue is an understatement.

My son’s school district lost 300 teachers this year. He no longer has a librarian (who he talked about often) and class sizes continue to grow to absurd levels. He has PE, library, technology and music once every several days. Teachers are instructing classes and subjects in which they have no previous experience because they were needed there after teachers who were qualified in those areas – including areas like sciences, foreign languages and special education – were let go. (Actually, Ian’s former school librarian wasn’t completely let go – she now teaches second grade at his school, speaking of random teacher transfers.) This year, Ian tested into Oregon’s advanced student program, but a lack of funding and resources has made us realize that though his educators have the best of intentions, challenging him to reach his full potential is, understandably, the least of their worries. Without a key state government reform this year and voters approving a local levy to raise property taxes, there will be more bleeding next year.

We are not unique. Nationwide, our entire education system is severely broken from funding to the way we are preparing future generations to keep up with what’s required to succeed in the modern world. And we are spending precious time and money on debating whether or not everyone has the right to equal benefits in marriage? Really? Shame on us.

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am I smarter than a first grader?…part two

So, I had heard for quite a while that we were getting flamingos at work – which, by the way, is an okay-normal type thing when you work at a zoo. Finally, a couple of months ago, the word that they were on their way…21 lesser flamingos coming from the San Antonio Zoo, which was phasing out their exhibit.

Now, first, before I get to the flamingos, let me say that I have definitely gained a new appreciation for birds since working at the zoo. There are so many really special, gorgeous birds out there. Many of them, in Oregon – not the least of which is the always amazing and majestic bald eagle. What a treat when we were in Klamath Falls last summer to see so many of them there in the wild! Perhaps I digress…

Despite my newfound bird appreciation, I didn’t initially think all that much about the flamingos – except that sitting in the marketing department and all – there was a lot of thinking about flamingos. First came the brainstorm. Then the photos. Then the billboard designs. Then the billboards on the freeways, complete with plastic flamingos on top. Then, this week, the culmination leading up to the new exhibit opening with the surprise #flockupy popping up all over town. Plus, the local news reporting about it. And let’s not forget the cool pink flamingo necklaces my colleague Krista got us all to wear around the office all week long. I mean, this flamingo thing is kind of fun.

On Monday of this week, after I had met a big deadline the day before, I took a sadly, somewhat rare break and walked into the zoo to go visit these new members of the family. They were/are cute. And kind of funny little guys and gals. They all hang out right together. Like, I’m thinking they aren’t really American because they don’t seem all that concerned about personal space. The closer, the merrier, as far as I could tell. And they are definitely into the standing on one leg thing. And amazingly flexible. All in all, super good at yoga, I would guess.

Also, when you get past their devil-red eyes, they are just gorgeous birds. The light pink color is just amazing, and I love the accents of darker pink that highlight the ends of their wings. Really, so pretty, I think.

So, by now perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with first graders? Well, on Tuesday morning I was out with my neighbor/walking partner, talking about how cool the new flamingos are when she says that her daughter, a first grader – but not in Ian’s class – told her that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp! Hee hee, yeah right…sounds a little “fishy” to me!

Then, Wednesday morning I’m volunteering in Ian’s first grade class, getting ready to take a group of kids off for reading group and one of the girls asks about my (totally awesome) flamingo necklace. She says she loves flamingos! Then, “Did you know that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp?” Wha??! Alrighty, now I’m suspicious. Could these first graders know something I don’t know?? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

A couple of hours later I’m back at work at the end of a staff meeting when there’s a call for any last questions/comments before we wrap. I can’t help myself. I must know the truth. My hand goes up…”So, I’ve heard via two first graders that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp! True, or false??” Instead of the chuckles I half expected, I get a (half) collective…”It’s true!”

So I guess the final answer is that no, apparently I am not smarter than one or more first graders. At least when it comes to flamingo trivia.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Except, flamingos will be officially available to greet their adoring public starting tomorrow, March 23 so…

Flock This Way!

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am I smarter than a first grader?

I hate Mondays. I know everyone says that, but for me it’s really true. I don’t know why, but I really do believe it’s the crummiest day of the week.

I’m always relieved when Tuesday arrives, and I’m always extra happy and surprised when I do have the occasional awesome Monday.

Today, however, was not one of those days. I mean, it wasn’t horrible; it was my average annoying Monday, I’d say. To demonstrate – my first significant conversation of the morning went something like this…

Elena (eating her breakfast at the counter): Mommy, am I going to the bus stop with you today?

Ian (popping up from playing with something on the floor to immediately chime in): No, Elena, I’m not going to school today but you ARE! (In a “so take that!” friendly brother sort of way.)

Me, trying to get a word in: That’s right…Ian doesn’t have school today so no bus stop. (She loves seeing Ian get on the bus and it about makes her week when he blows kisses and waves goodbye as the bus drives off. It’s pretty cute, I must say.)

Elena: Why doesn’t Ian have school today??

Ian: Because it’s a “Budget Reduction Day.” (Ah yes, my favorite new term since becoming an elementary school parent.)

Me, again, trying to get a word in: Well, Elena, because the school district doesn’t have any money to keep school open. (I’d say it was not presented in a sarcastic tone, but then I’d be lying.)

Ian: It’s not that they don’t have ANY money…it’s that they don’t have ENOUGH money to get through the year. There’s a difference.

Ah, starting off my week being corrected by my first grader. Fabulous.

Of course I walked away with my cup of coffee thinking to myself that in my book, operating with 2% reserves – for starters – DOES qualify as not having ANY money, but I suppose that’s beside the point.

Yes indeed, it was a proper Monday.