Friday, June 30, 2006

Scavenging For My Past, Part 4

Last night I finally felt I could sit down and write about the visit I made to my old home site. I’ve thought about it for a couple of days and have written some things down in longhand….a section here and section there….ideas that fit some of the pictures I made….a note to myself regarding a thought I want to make sure I include, but this section of my scavenger hunt was difficult and I’m still trying to sort out why.

Part one of my scavenger hunt can be read here, part two here, and part three here.

The product I ended up with last night was Historians Observe Their Surroundings. At some point I had to make a choice…continue on the path of explaining my lesson on how history changes a piece of property or launch into my hunt for my childhood home. They are both linked but contained far too much material for one post so I opted for the lesson piece and once again put off facing my past. It is funny how some ideas just seem to erupt and tumble out of me while others stay locked in my brain and just churn away like the agitator on a washing machine.

The first picture you see is my dad, my sister, and I on the front steps that led up to our Red Oak home. You can barely see the large front porch that I wrote about a few days earlier here. I won’t tell you which one I am, but I’m not the one in the middle! History has changed the landscape behind us. The picture below shows the same view except it is taken approximately 300 feet further back and across the track. The raised plot of ground our house sat on is gone, the front steps where we sat is gone, the trees that gave our porch privacy are gone, and the house is gone………gone.

Red Oak Home Site

Think about the plot of land that you live on. What was there ten years ago? One hundred years ago? One thousand years ago? Ten thousand years ago? Maybe you’ve seen the more recent version of the movie The Time Machine where the main character activates the machine and you see the scenery change around him as he advances or goes back in time. It’s a really fascinating scene to me as it advances in rapid time and you see things being torn down or built up or over other things.

Think about it seriously as you move about your day…..are you walking the same steps as a wooly mammoth? Or are you sitting in the same spot a Confederate soldier lay dying? Are your children playing in a spot a young Native American child called his or her special place? Is there an old family home at the bottom of the lake you water ski on or skim across as you try to find that perfect fishing spot?

Maybe that’s what got to me this week as I visited childhood places. Things move too fast these days. During our lifetime we see many changes in the landscapes we live in. The people who inhabited the Earth before us rarely saw major changes in their lifetime or left the areas they grew up in for that matter. Many people lived and died on the same plot of land. Most of the students in my classroom have already lived in at least three places or more. Is it any wonder we have lost our attachment to our land?

As I traveled up Roosevelt Highway from Red Oak I saw the same scene I had seen as a child. Ahead of me on up the road was the green steel span of the bridge where Interstate 285 crosses the highway. We always used the bridge as a frame of reference for folks trying to find our house…..if you get to the bridge you’ve gone too far…we'd say. I reached my street which at one time was called West Point Road, but I don’t know why. It doesn’t go anywhere. Maybe at one time it actually did. In my day it crossed the track and became the drive and parking lot for the lumber yard my dad managed. It was the only way in and out of the property which caused my mom some concern through the years as she never wanted to need a fire truck or ambulance only to have a train stop on the track.

Making the right turn off Roosevelt Highway I crossed the railroad track. Once on the other side I found myself in an environment that felt so familiar yet looked so alien. Down in the very core of my soul I could feel I was in familiar territory yet nothing, nothing was as it should be. A glass recycling plant now sits on the property. Large mountains of glass bottles dot the grounds and crushed glass carpeted the asphalt.

Red Oak Home Site

Red Oak Home Site

I felt kind of silly as I walked into the office and announced who I was. The plant personnel were very kind, but unfortunately they couldn’t tell me anything. They did not buy the property from my dad’s employer after the fire. One nice man handed me a bright orange business card and said, “Call this guy, I bet he can tell you about your old house. He owned the property before us.” I said I would and then asked permission to walk the property and take some pictures. They were very nice to allow me to do that.

I walked around to the back of the plant. It was the area where the showroom had a huge warehouse with four aisles filled with all types of doors, mouldings, sheetrock, nails, etc. Customers would come around to the back where the aisle doors opened up to a very large dock where trucks and cars could be loaded up. Dad used to have large contractor dinners where he would invite all the builders in the area and their wives for steak dinners. We’d place grills on the dock and set up long tables. All the employees would stay after work and help out along with my mom, sister, and I. Dad always expected my sister and I to make nice and behave. I absolutely loved these customers….they were family….we went to church with some of them, and my sister and I went to school with their kids. Twice a year Dad would have inventory in the showroom and warehouse and even as a young girl I was assigned something to count. During annual sales Dad would set up a hot dog stand and employ my sister and I to man it. The best fun was having the whole run of the place. I used my status as the boss’ daughter to the hilt. There wasn’t a nook or cranny on that property that I didn’t know or visit daily whether on my bike or a golf cart that Dad bought for us to “play” with. On busy summer days I wound my way in and out of large delivery trucks, customer’s cars coming and going, and even obnoxiously rode my bike in the showroom saying excuse me as I edge by customers trying to choose a new bathroom sink or replacement door. I don’t think Home Depot would put up with that, but they don’t provide steak dinners to their best customers either, as far as I know.

When you visit a piece of property that has changed so drastically you look for landmarks…anything to give you that frame of reference so you can determine where past structures were. I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t make too many determinations until I walked back out to the railroad track and looked back towards where I knew the house should be. Do you see the metal scale sticking up from the asphalt in this shot? The raised plot of ground my house sat on was somewhere right there.

Red Oak Home SIte

As I re-crossed the track I took this picture looking back towards Red Oak.

Red Oak Home Site

I thought about all the times I had stood on the track looking in the same direction. I thought about all the pennies we had laid on the track waiting for the train to flatten them to flitters. I thought about how at four years old I was so scared of the train that I could hear it coming from miles away. I would go tearing into the house before it could come. It was quite sometime before I would stay outside to watch the train go by, but I eventually became brave enough. I looked around at all the changes to this plot of ground I had called home for so long and as I looked down the track towards Red Oak I remembered all along the track that stretched before me Union soldiers had disrupted the lines during their march to Rough and Ready as part of Sherman’s March to the Sea. I wondered what the land looked like then. Finally I remembered how I used to balance on the rails, one foot in front of the other to see how fast and how far I could go. So, if you had been traveling down Roosevelt Highway a few days ago you would have seen a crazy, forty-something, overweight woman trying to recapture her childhood by recreating a balancing act on a train rail. Let’s just say I’m out of practice.

On the way home I pulled out the card the man had given me at the glass recycling place. If my home exists the man listed on the card may have the information I need. Unfortunately he is out of town until after the fourth of July. Guess we’ll have to wait a few more days for more definitive information.

The night I came home from walking the old property I was thoughtful about it…in fact I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had one of those up and down kind of nights, and unfortunately hubby paid the price. I disturbed him all night long. I think he’ll be glad when my scavenger hunt is over.

As I tried over the last couple of days to write this I uploaded my pictures and got them ready to place. As I walked around the property I was really taken with all of the shards of broken glass everywhere I looked. Even though it was a devastated looking landscape compared to what I remembered the sun made all of the glass sparkle and shine, and I knew I had to snap a picture of it. I held the camera out in front of me and snapped the ground not really caring about what I snapped as long as I had a carpet of glass in the picture. Of course being the klutz that I am I managed to get my shadow in the picture so I had to crop it to cut me out of it. As I looked at my finished picture I was amazed. Do you see what I see on the lower right side? A penny! I walked that whole lot. I could have taken a picture of any spot at any time and something had me choose the spot with a penny.

Red Oak

I take the penny as a sign… a sign that man goes on shaping and reshaping his landscape. It’s up to us as caretakers to catalog and index how we use the land so that others who come after us can appreciate the wonderful resource that land can be. In this way all of our stories, good and bad, won’t be forgotten.

Historians Observe Their Surroundings

The school where I teach is separated into four different buildings that form a large square. In the center is a large grassy area with a tree. I like to gather up my students during the first week of school and we have class sitting in the grassy area. Once we are all settled I begin our discussion. I ask students to look around and notice where they are. I ask them to look at the tree, the grass, and the spots where there isn’t any grass. I ask them to notice if the ground is completely flat or do they notice it rising or falling in certain areas. I tell them that as historians they need to be aware of the lay of the land. They need to be able to make observations for anything that can be used as a frame of reference or a landmark of sorts when exploring a historical site. Anything can be a clue regarding how the land was once used or who lived there.

I show students a picture of a pile of rocks. “What could this be trying to tell us?”

pile of rocks

I get all sorts of crazy answers. Sometimes a student will mention that the pile of rocks could be a grave. We discuss that possibility for a moment and then I tell them that sometimes it just takes standing back a bit to get a better view of what we are looking at.

I then show them a picture taken from the air. I hear several ohs and ahs.


I quickly tell students they are looking at Rock Eagle----an Indian rock formation located in Georgia. I let them know we will be discussing this more in depth in a couple of days.

I show students a picture of a deep gully. I pass it around for them to observe. We discuss possible causes for the gully…erosion, earthquake, mother nature, God….

natchez trace

”How about man?” I ask as I show them the next picture. What if hundreds of these wagons made their way up a trail over fifty years or so? I identify the gully as part of the Natchez Trace that runs between Nashville and Natchez.


Finally I show students a picture of a trench. What happened here? Some try to be cute and guess that more wagons caused the trench. Someone thinks we’re looking at a creek bank or an early Grand Canyon.


We discuss it at length and then I show students this…..

trench warfare

I explain that trenches are sometimes man-made. The first picture tells us this as we observe rocks and wood placed on the sides of the trench. I give them a quick explanation of the trench warfare that took place during World War I.

I end our discussion by telling students that history is everywhere around them if they will take the time to examine, to wonder, to question what they see. A pile of rocks could be just that, but if I know a little history I might guess that the pile of rocks might be a burial spot if I already know that Native Americans in my area were doing that hundreds of years ago. If I knew a little history I might realize the pile of rocks could be part of a much larger design that could be seen from the air.

Knowing my location and the history of the area might help me identify what I am looking at. I tell students that later in the year we will discuss the settlement of the frontier and I’ll be telling them about the Natchez Trace. If I know this from my studies of history when I see a location with a gully like this it might help me to identify it. If I’m in Belgium and come across a maze of trenches in the ground I could arrive at the idea that they must be World War I trenches because I know from my history class that the war was fought in trenches.

By this time I have several wiggle worms so we get up and walk down to the recess field. I gather everyone in a group and I tell them that historians never know what they are standing on unless they truly observe their surroundings. We identify together that we are standing on the recess field, and then I ask, “Is that all we’re standing on?”

I tell students to follow me and we go to the edge of the playground. We are standing on the edge of a hill. Down below us we see a flat overgrown area. Sticking out of the hill in various places we see all sorts of debris. Rocks, long pieces of rebar, broken signs, glass, wires, bricks, and assorted hunks of concrete litter the hillside. We regroup and I tell the class that the area where they play did not look like it did many years ago. I ask them to come up with some ideas about what happened. Some are silly, some are average, and some are pretty good guesses. Finally, I tell them the story. Many loads of dirt were hauled in to build up their playground, but before the dirt was dumped the town brought in remnants of a section of town. You see the town where our school is located experienced an explosion and some of the trash ended up as filler for our playground. Some of the kids nod their heads in agreement and state their grandmother or grandfather had told them about the explosion while other students are amazed.

So….before we trudge back to the classroom I summarize and close with, “What did we learn today?” I get several responses.

“Things aren’t always as they appear to be.”

“You never know what you are looking at.”

“Every piece of ground has a history if you’ll just look at it and listen.”

“Our recess field is a dump.” Yep, there’s always a true blue smartie in every group.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pone Historiam In Manus Discipulorum Tuorum

This post comes by way of Darren over at Right on the Left Coast who so correctly stated:

There are two things that get kids in history’s grip----speakers with first hand knowledge and stuff.

I agree. Great history teachers use stuff. Everywhere I go I look for stuff I can use in my classroom. I can ruin any good vacation by looking for stuff. Recently I traveled to Nantahala Village in western North Carolina with members of my Sunday school class. Some of us went over to the tourist mecca of Cherokee to see what we could see.

In case you didn’t know……the ancestors of the Cherokees, who currently live in North Carolina, are parts of the tribe that split off during the round up of Native Americans during that dismal memory of history called the Trail of Tears. The American military tried to pursue the fleeing Cherokees, but the rugged terrain helped the natives escape.

While in Cherokee, I bought an honest-to-goodness Native American tomahawk-----not one of those colorful, feathered, made-in-Japan types either. This is a real tree limb and a real rock fashioned together as it would have been thousands of years ago. I’m excited about this because I always have a group of kids who ask, “Well how did they connect the rock and the stick?” Now I have some stuff to show them.

I also found some great postcards that are actual pictures of Native Americans taken back in the 1800s. I’ll laminate these and use them for display in some way. Of course, I also bought some obligatory arrowheads (probably fake), but I can still use them in the classroom.

I have a lot of stuff in my classroom. I have one of my great grandmother’s poke bonnets I pull out during our romp through the frontier. I have old bottles I found at one of the old home sites on my Dad’s property. I have copies of pictures taken of my family that show how folks dressed, and how serious they were back then when they had their pictures made. I have copies of letters written by real people throughout history that I have found and copied for kids to analyze not to mention a large collection of documents and maps.

Yes, the stuff of life is history, and as my post title suggests in Latin….put history into the hands of your students. Make sure they have stuff.

Darren also provided a link to a fantastic opportunity for stuff. Ancient Coins for Education can help you obtain Greek and Roman coins to use in the classroom. The website provides lesson ideas and tried and tested lesson plans. While these plans are for older students at the middle and high level there are some that can be adjusted.

In my curriculum I don’t teach about the Greek and Roman civilizations, however, I do teach about the formation of our government which is based on some of their ideals so I can see a reason why I might want to utilize these coins. Even at nine years old my junior historians need to see this kind of stuff. We can compare and contrast the old coins to our currency. We can tie in our coin examinations with the Articles of Confederation, our first plan of government before the current Constitution. One of the problems with the Articles was each state had the right to coin money. The current Constitution places the right to coin money directly with the Federal government. By simply tying in that one piece of content you are free then to discuss how our money is designed and how and why the different symbols were chosen. Another activity the young ones could do as an assessment after the end of the lesson is students could design their own currency based on certain parameters the teacher would formulate according to curriculum needs.

I’m excited! Another opportunity for more stuff! Thanks, Darren!

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts by email when you submit your address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or if you read several blogs you can click on the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Senator McCain Weighs In

In this post titled, “We Need to Stop This…Now”, Sen. John McCain apparently agrees with me concerning the inability of Congress to be about the business of the people. He states:

I'm afraid it's because at times we value our incumbency more than our principles.

Follow the above link at Porkbusters where Mr. McCain is a guest blogger. It is refreshing to see a politician put himself in a position where citizens can tell him what they think.

Others Weigh In...Now It's Your Turn

In a recent editorial titled Congress's Real Crimes, Gloria Borger (U.S.News and World Report) states:

So here we are, at the start of summer, with Capitol Hill in a frenzy, talking up a storm as it readies to leave for a long break. Goodness knows, your members of Congress deserve their rest, given all they’ve accomplished: Social Security reform. Immigration reform. Lobbying reform. Healthcare reform.

Oops. Wrong list.

Ms. Borger and I, it seems, are like minded as you can see by visiting my recent posts Changing the Constitution and Being About the Business of the People.

I wonder what would happen if we had an election and absolutely no one showed up to vote? Would they get the message then?

In the same online issue, David Gergen also pens his views regarding Congress in a thoughtful essay about leadership here. Here are a few excerpts:

The grim truth is that the political leadership of the country, especially in Washington, is almost dysfunctional in grappling with the big issues bearing down on us. From energy to education, climate change to healthcare, budget deficits to trade deficits, progress is perilously slow. And time is definitely not on our side.

Reading further:

What this means for America is that if we wish to remain great, we must improve--dramatically--the way we compete. We all know this starts with K-12 education, and we have made progress, but it has been shamefully slow and uneven.

…and towards the end:

Ultimately, these are questions that test our national will. If America is not to slip from great to good, we need civic leadership across the country to light fires and rally energies

I guess after reading the opinion of others and contemplating my own thoughts my biggest concern right now with the direction our country is going in is we aren’t heading in any direction. We have made no major gains in any of our problem areas and more and more I believe Congress is our problem. I’m tired of the fighting…the partisan politics…shooting down great ideas because your party didn’t come up with it. It has to stop.

Serving as a legislator should not be a life-long career choice. Maybe we need some fresh blood….folks who don’t understand the saying, “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

I’d be interested in knowing what you think.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Scavenging For My Past, Part 3

Eastern Elementary School
Clear your mind and then thoughtfully consider your elementary school years. What do you remember? Were you the playground bully? Were you the leader of your group? Were you picked last for kickball teams? Were you on the hallway patrol? Were you a red bird or blue bird?

What were your feelings as you walked into the building each day? Was it a safe place for you or did you fear it? Did you feel loved by the adults in the building or did you feel like no one cared? Did you have a favorite part of the building?

How would you feel if you returned to your elementary school building today and was able to explore?

I attended Eastern Elementary School from first grade through seventh grade in a small hamlet called Red Oak, Georgia. Basically Red Oak is a post office stop between College Park and Fairburn. During the Civil War, Red Oak was where Union soldiers incapacitated the railroad and then separated into two columns as they marched towards Jonesboro. There used to be several buildings in the area that hinted at Red Oak’s past. The Sewell Hat Factory was an abandoned piece of property I passed each day on my way to school. It was one of just many pieces of property including plantations that the Sewell family owned in the area.

Red Oak was nice little community when I was young but began to slowly decline in the early 1980’s. During the late 80’s and 90’s Red Oak was a fairly dangerous place. A housing project had been built at the end of Campbell Drive, the street where my school is at. There were news stories all the time about people getting robbed and shot. The housing project finally shut down and later was torn down.

Currently Red Oak is on the verge of a comeback. I did a quick tax parcel check the other day (my legal background comes in handy) and I was surprised that I recognized a fairly high number of old Red Oak names. It appears many folks have held onto to their properties and it looks like they may have been actually smarter than all those folks who moved away.

I had looked for my old home all morning and had visited the old Campbell County Courthouse (see part two of my scavenger hunt here). My last stop of the day was a visit to my old school. It is amazing how you can drive up to a location where you spent a large amount of time as a child and as you motor down the road suddenly your memories take over because it all seems so familiar. It’s like your body goes on auto-pilot. As I turned down Campbell Road and passed by familiar homes I mentally stated each family’s name as I passed the homes they had long since moved out of. I felt the same familiar lurch in my body as I turned into the drive of the school that was flanked by the same old pine trees that used to greet me each morning.

The cornerstone of Eastern Elementary states it was built in 1941. It is a lovely old building that was added onto in the 1960s. The front canopy along the walkway and the front shrubbery was added in the 1970s. The outside looks exactly the same. I parked my car at the flag pole where I sat to have my sack lunch during our fifth grade picnic.

Eastern Elementary School

For the last several years the building has been used as a public safety training facility but as I approached the front door a sign told me things had changed. The hallway confirmed for me that I wouldn’t find policemen in the building anymore because the hallway was filled with voting machines. The same lovely hardwood floors greeted me and said a creaky hello as I walked down the hallway. Realizing there might be valid reasons why they wouldn’t want someone from off the street wondering around I quickly found the man in charge and told him why I was at his office door. Gerry M. welcomed me like an old friend. He was great… fact he walked around with me and I gave him the grand tour of his workplace.

Eastern Elementary School

They’ve placed carpet over the old hardwood floors but in my day they were simply lovely in the hallway and in the classrooms. The custodians would buff them to a high sheen. We would haggle with our teachers to get permission to work on a project in the hall. In no time our shoes would be off and we would test the slide factor of the floors.

This is a picture of Mrs. Posey’s classroom where I was for fifth grade.

Eastern Elementary School

Looking at the room from the perspective of a teacher it was fairly large. Notice the chalkboard and rack. They are built into the wall. Mrs. Posey always looked like a million bucks each day of the year. She had cute Jackie O. dresses with matching coats which were very stylish in the late 60s and early 70s for women her age. She wore high heels and stockings every day----she never wore pants. Her nails and red hair were always done. I used to watch her count the lunch money each day. “Click, click, click went her nails as she picked up the coins. I was mesmerized as she placed the money in the striped draw-string bags the office provided for the lunch count. When she was finished she would look up and sometimes we made eye contact. She would smile and then motion for me to come and get the bag so I could take it to the office. It was a great responsibility.

The cafeteria had been partitioned off for some reason but since the hallway doors were still in the same place we could piece together the route students took as they came in to get their trays and where they sat. I walked to the exit door to the wall where we would line up to leave. The first spot next to the door was the most desirable. The person who claimed this spot would be the line leader. Many times the “leader” would be directed to the back of the line due to the methods they had employed to claim first-in-line-status.

This is a picture of the auditorium. Up front is the stage where I made my debut as the narrator in the annual Christmas play.

Eastern Elementary School

During 7th grade, the first year we changed classes, our teachers would use the auditorium to show movies. These weren’t videos, but honest to goodness reel-to-reel films, usually a National Geographic title. I told Gerry all about how the pictures used to bounce sometimes, the whirring sound of the projector, and the inevitable flap, flap, flap as the film finally wound all the way through the machine.

Eastern Elementary School

The L-shaped library shelves, shown above, for the older grades were still in the same spot. I pointed out the locations where I would find Across Five Aprils, Homer Price, and the Beverly Cleary and Carolyn Haywood (B Is for Betsey) books. There were about six tables set up in two columns for kids to sit and read in the middle where you see all of the voting machines.

This is the classroom where I had Mrs. Olvey (third grade) and Mrs. Frye (fourth grade). Mrs. Olvey was close to retirement age when I had her. She always wore red lipstick. We had to write the pronunciations of each spelling word every week. I would sit by those windows and daydream instead of completing my work. Mrs. Frye was younger and more mysterious. She had been a nun….I had never known a Catholic before. I always wondered why she had decided not to be a nun anymore. We did a project in her room regarding birds. We even had to create and sew birds out of fabric. She made us do it at school and on our own. It was hard. My owl is at my Dad’s house somewhere.

Eastern Elementary School

Look at the great wall of windows. The view is exactly the same as I remember it.

I snapped a shot of the other side of the room too. I managed to get a picture of Gerry, my tour participant. It was simply a great classroom. They don’t design them like this anymore.

Eastern Elementary School

I enjoyed walking through my past today. I reconnected to memories that I need in my toolbox as a teacher. I want to hold fast to some of the emotions I felt as I entered the school office and saw the same counter where the secretary sat or entered the principal’s office. I need to remember the feelings of accomplishment as I mastered some bit of hard content. I also need to hold onto the frustration I felt when I was made to write the pronunciation of my spelling words. I need to hold fast to the notion that my students have many of the same emotions that I once had.

How will my students feel about their experiences with me thirty years from now? Am I doing all that I can to provide good memories?

What say you? :)

I want to thank Gerry M. and his staff for being so nice to me as I went on my grand tour. County employees get a bad rap sometimes. I know because I’m a county employee.

Tomorrow I will visit my old home site to see if I can pick up any clues to the whereabouts of my childhood home. Join me as I continue scavenging for my past!

You can see part four of this series here.

You can find my more current articles here.

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts by email when you submit your address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or if you read several blogs you can click on the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments!

Being About the Business of the People

I appreciate your comments to my recent post here about the U.S. Constitution and my objections to amending it to correct issues of morality. However, one comment that was made deserves some elaboration on my part especially in light of recent events here in Georgia.

One person who commented agreed with me that altering the Constitution is a big deal but that times have changed and we need to change with the times. True, very true. However, let’s remember what the main purpose of the U.S. Constitution is. It is our plan of government. We have three branches that work independently and dependently at the same time hence the term checks and balances. The Constitution lays out the responsibilities for each branch and provides the game plan for what can be done and what can’t. The U.S. Constitution also details the relationship between the states and the Federal government. It tells us that matters that are not covered in the Constitution falls under the authorization of the states.

Currently a few amendments to the U.S. Constitution involve changes regarding the procedures of the Federal government, however, most of the amendments secure our individual liberties. The only time we have had an amendment that restricted liberty it was repealed later. The 18th amendment dealt with Prohibition. The purpose of the amendment was flawed, it failed miserably, and was repealed by the 21st amendment.

This brings me to the news from today. This morning I was awoken with a news story concerning yet another U.S. Congressman who is pushing for an amendment to ban flag burning. I was also reminded by my newsman that the State of Georgia would be arguing their case before the Georgia Supreme Court regarding a reversal of a gay marriage amendment. Sometime ago Georgia citizens voted overwhelmingly (76%) to approve a state amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. The key word to the dispute is “and”. Some months later a judge overturned the vote because the ballot question presented to voters dealt with more than one issue. It is true that for over a century Georgia has had a statute where ballot questions can only deal with one issue. State attorneys argue that the two issues, gay marriage and civil unions are really one and the same.

So here’s the crux of my point….the major issue I keep hearing about amendments based on issues of morality is people are angry at judges who legislate from the bench. If our U.S. Congress and our state legislatures would sincerely be about the business of the people these situations would not occur. Many of the members of legislatures across our great country are attorneys. Why then can’t they legislate appropriately so that we don’t have crazy loopholes and mistakes that cause these types of debacles? Think about the thousands of dollars that are being wasted because the Georgia General Assembly did not follow procedure or overlooked it. There are too many people involved in the legislation process for there to be haphazard and sloppy legislation.

Perhaps our lawmakers should make the problems of “we the people” their main concern instead of taking great ideas that will solve problems and whittle away at them and water them down so much they don’t even resemble the original legislation by the time they are done. Why do they do this? Could it be that legislators are so involved in pleasing every special interest group they are hindered from being about the business of the people. Could it be continued efforts to be re-elected also hinders them from doing what “we the people” elect them to do?

What do you think?

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts by email when you submit your address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or if you read several blogs you can click on the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Scavenging For My Past, Part 2

Well, I spent a good part of my morning riding up and down Rivertown Road from Fairburn, Georgia back towards the Chattahoochee River. This is a beautiful, still largely untouched area that in its past was filled with large, working plantations. Prior to white settlement it belonged to the Creek Nation.

Today was my great quest to find the location of my childhood home (see part 1 here). I decided to go slow and carefully look at each house to see if I could identify any characteristics of my former home. If a car came up behind me I pulled off so they could go around. I was on a quest and didn’t want to include unwary motorists.

The scenery along Rivertown Road runs the gamut of small bungalow type homes with small lawns to much larger homes anchored in park-like settings within the city limits of Fairburn. Outside the city limits there are clusters of homes from various time periods separated by rolling pasture land. At different points the trees break and I can see I’m driving along land that is slightly elevated. Below me a beautiful landscape stretches out that entails part of the Chattahoochee Hill County. Great things are going on in this part of Georgia including the efforts of the Chattahoochee Hill Country Conservancy and the Serenbe Community. There are some additional articles about Serenbe and one of its developers and owners owners here and here.




I traveled Rivertown Road its entire length, turned around and headed back towards Fairburn so I could analyze the other side of the road. I was a little let down by the time I reached town and since it was going on 1:00 p.m. I decided to grab a bite to eat and contemplate my next move.

The main town part of Fairburn is what you would expect for a small town along a railroad. There are several antique stores and the only hardware store in these parts that also houses the best boutique for unique gifts anywhere this side of Atlanta. The Southside Theatre Guild took over the old Fairburn movie theatre a few years back and cars fill the streets on nights they perform. Currently they are performing Godspell.

Fairburn, Georgia

I ate lunch at Oz Pizza---two pepperoni slices and a Coke. Scavenging for your past makes you hungry, you know. As I ate I looked out onto the same Main Street I used to view as a young girl. Across the street from me were the two train depot buildings and on the other side of the buildings ran the track that belongs to CSX. The track originally belonged to the Atlanta and West Point Railroad and runs from downtown Atlanta westward.

I thought about my house and realized if it had been moved through Fairburn they would have had great difficulty making the turn to maneuver onto Rivertown Road. Maybe it didn’t happen at all. Perhaps the information I have is incorrect. The shot of Main Street above shows the right turn where my house would have had to turn in order to make it to Rivertown Road. I don’t think it could.

Main Street through Fairburn is also known as U.S. 29. During the Civil War and for a long time afterwards it was called Jefferson Davis Highway by some. The railroad tracks and U.S. 29 run parallel to each other. These are the same tracks I played on as a child and the same tracks Franklin Delano Roosevelt traveled on as he went back and forth between Washington D.C. and Warm Springs, Georgia. In fact, U.S. 29 leaves downtown Atlanta and travels through East Point, College Park, Red Oak, Fairburn and even further south. It’s common name through my old stomping grounds is Roosevelt Highway named after---well, you know….

Many of the trees are missing now but at one time through East Point and much of College Park there were Dogwood trees planted along the highway next to the train tracks. It was said that Roosevelt loved gazing out at the blooms in the Spring. They were absolutely beautiful as I remember.

As I finished my pizza I decided to not let the day end in defeat. I decided to go over and visit the old Campbell County Courthouse. At one time this section of Fulton County was actually Campbell County. It merged with Fulton County in 1932. Luckily the citizens of Fairburn have preserved their old courthouse.

This is the front of the courthouse:

Campbell County Courthouse

This is a shot from the back:

Campbell County Courthouse

This picture is taken from the front steps of the courthouse looking towards the railroad tracks. That distance is about the same as my front porch was from the tracks.

Campbell County Courthouse

As I walked the front lawn of the courthouse and snapped these pictures the train you see was moving back and forth as it was changing cars out somewhere up the track. You can’t have lived next to the tracks for all those years and not know what those sounds are….the clinks and clanks as the cars pulled forward, the growl of the engines revving up, and then the engines powering down for the change in direction followed by the engines revving up again and more clinks and clanks.

Campbell County Courthouse

As I walked down to the end of the lawn I thought to myself, “How many times have you heard that sound during the day or even more eerily in the middle of the night?” Thousands, I guessed. With the sound effects in the background I snapped this picture of the Georgia Historical Marker. There is a better online picture of it here.

Campbell County Courthouse

As I got back into my vehicle I decided to head up Roosevelt Highway towards Red Oak, the little hamlet that I actually lived in. My next step will be the school I attended from first through seventh grade. Stay turned…..

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Scavenging For My Past, Part 1

One of the things I find myself doing as I teach is I tell my students tidbits about my past including family history. As we discuss colonization, the Indian Removal Act, or the Civil War I tell students extra bits of information I know about the topic or I share a real family connection I have to the event.

I believe it is extremely important for any social studies teacher who discusses history with students to help them connect to what they are studying either through personal connections they can discover on their own or through vicarious connections I can provide for them. I find that these connections maintain interest and motivation which in turn increases retention of the content.

My personal connections are very important to me. As a young girl I spent many hours sitting and talking with my maternal grandfather as well as my father’s father and his second wife. She was a lovely, gentle person had known both sides of my family for many years. She was a treasure trove of lore. My mother is a natural born story-teller and used to keep my sister and I enthralled as she told stories about her childhood. My father, after he retired began researching his family roots and quite frankly I need to spend several days with him to allow him to pass all of his family knowledge to me before we both forget who all those serious looking frontier folk are in the old brown photographs. I also benefited from stories told by my great-grandmother (I wrote about my sticky situation during her funeral here) and, I am deluged with assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins who love their family stories as much as I do. Quite simply…we share, sometimes a little too much.

Daughter Dear will be gone all week on a church trip. Since Mom’s Taxi Service will be on hiatus all week I have decided to whittle away at my “Gee, if I ever have the time I’d like to…” list. I’m going exploring. I’m going to visit my past. Come along this week as I do some visiting, looking, exploring, and re-live some good memories and some bad. I’m off to remember connections I already have and to make some new ones to share with my students.

I grew up in the middle of a lumberyard that my dad managed. The house I lived in was a Craftsman type house that was not original to the property. Folks had told my mom that the house had been built in 1929 and had sat in a different spot on the property. When the showroom for the lumberyard was built the house had been moved to a spot next to the store. A parking lot separated my house from my dad’s business. Early on after moving into the house we located a baby’s handprint and footprint on a cement ledge along with the date 1929.

My house was a wonderful box-type house with the rooms all connecting to one another----there were no hallways at all. There were lovely, solid wood French doors that opened up from the living room into my parent’s bedroom and another set that opened up into what was the dining room-----we used it as a family room. The floors were solid pine and we had some lovely fireplaces in three rooms, but they had long since been plugged up for some reason. We managed, I don’t know how, with one bathroom between four people. My dad suffered for many years with a house full of girls. There was one large vent for our floor furnace so that meant we were cold in the winter and hot in the summer until we put in window air conditioning units.

We moved into my house when I was five. The summer after my freshman year of college my dad announced his retirement and he and mom moved to his ancestral property in Canton, Georgia. I left the only home I had every really known.

It was shortly after our move that we heard on the news late one night that the lumberyard was on fire. Mother’s worst fear the entire time we had lived there had finally come true. Think about a Home Depot catching on fire with all of the chemicals and propellants, the lumber and the lumber, and the lumber. Get the idea? It was a ferocious fire and a big news story with helicopters, live updates, and rumors that it had been set. Friends in the area later told us all about it. Interstate 285 borders the property on the far side and the fire was so intense they had to stop traffic on the expressway.

Amazingly we heard my house had survived. The showroom and warehouse was a complete loss and was bulldozed, loaded onto dump trucks, and carried away. The company dad had worked for sold the property. A few years ago when I was wishing I could see my house again a family friend told me the house had not been destroyed, but had been moved. I was overjoyed. She told me the house had been moved down the road and had been placed on a lot down Rivertown Road in Fairburn, Georgia.

I still travel through that area quite often and occasionally I creep down Rivertown Road to see if I can locate my house. I’ve even enlisted my children at various times to help. They’ve only seen the house in photos so I don’t know what good they could really do me, but they try.

I’m determined to find out what happened to my house. Is it still tangible----something I can touch, see, and smell, or is it gone forever only to live in my memories?

I’m going to spend the coming week exploring my past, facing it headlong by walking over it and through it, and I invite you, dear reader, to journey with me.

See part two here.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Changing the Constitution

Earlier this month we sidestepped another effort to amend our Constitution. That’s not surprising since there have been approximately 10,000 proposed amendments since 1789. Most of them never got out committee while some amendments, the Equal Rights Amendment, for example, gained great notoriety but expired while waiting on ratification.

If it’s possible to love a document then Elementaryhistoryteacher absolutely adores the United States Constitution. My American identity rests in the stability and continuity of the United States Constitution. I really get into teaching my government unit even though some of the more intricate workings of our government I’m required to cover in fourth grade are a bit too lofty for the students to grasp. However, I try. I lay seeds that I hope will sprout later.

I teach students that our Constitution was the first of its kind for a recognized nation. It is so important that it has been copied many times by other fledgling democracies. We spiral back in our content to recall events we studied earlier in the year that began a chain ending with the Constitutional Convention. We remember the Iroquois League, the Mayflower Compact, and the Fundamental Orders. I remind students the colonist were Europeans---men who had governmental roots based in monarchies---men whose ancestors were the majority yet lived at the pleasure of a few leaders or in most cases one decision maker. We remember the Declaration of Independence whose author had the audacity to give a divine monarch his comeuppance. The beauty of it, I tell students, is that our plan of government works. It worked during times of crisis like the Civil War, Watergate, and during the presidential election of 1876 when the voting results were disputed in three states.

We discuss the events during the actual Constitutional Convention including the various compromises, and we learn about the three branches of government. We discuss ratification. At this point I usually depart from my colleagues because I feel it is important to teach students how our Constitution provides for amendments, but they should understand that any effort to change one of our most previous documents should be approached soberly and gingerly.

We discuss the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights because they concern our individual rights and were necessary in order to obtain ratification of the document. Future amendments are not usually discussed at my grade level unless the time period is taught when the amendments were added. There is nothing wrong with this in my eyes but teachers are loosing a fantastic opportunity to give the amendment process the proper examination it requires. Teachers are usually required to teach citizenship responsibilities to contrast with the Bill of Rights. Lessons are presented that indicate certain rights citizens have contrasting activities citizens should engage in to keep the Republic healthy such as voting and educating ourselves regarding important issues. While we are teaching citizen responsibilities we should also focus on the appropriateness of amending the Constitution.

The originality of our government is that it gives something very precious to ‘we the people’---not entitlement programs, porkbelly special projects, or low interest student/home loans---but freedom. Citizens are given freedom of choice, freedom of action, and freedom to live as we wish as long as our freedom does not interfere with the freedom of someone else.

It should be remembered that the Constitution doesn’t hand rights over to us; our plan of government only guarantees them. The philosophy that many of our Forefathers operated under taught that citizens are born with certain rights and liberties. The Constitution simply secures these rights for the populace.

The framers of the Constitution were highly suspicious of government. They had just gotten rid of what they considered to be tyrannical control. They were all about protecting individual rights not restricting liberty. Amendments to the Constitution involving personal liberty should always grant liberty not take it away.

Whether I agree with the premise or not, a proposed Constitutional amendment should never be used to serve as a smokescreen for Congress in anticipation of midterm elections. Our nation faces major problems with illegal immigration and the war in Iraq, yet proposed amendments regarding flag burning and same-sex marriage have been discussed repeatedly. This has been a poor use of the amendment process and is a poor use of emotional issues to detour voters from the real issues at hand.

Some Americans are going to engage in behaviors that others will have a problem with . Does this mean we are going to propose amendments for what some perceive to be bad choices and bad behavior? If this is allowed I'm afraid we will be opening doors that will be very hard to close in the future.

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts by email when you submit your address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or if you read several blogs you can click on the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What's the Point?

Graycie over at Today's Homework is posting about the point….”What’s the point, the mission, the purpose of education?”

Recently I had to come up with a mission statement for a college course I’m taking. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Whose mission do I follow? The students, the parents, the school system, the politicians, the state department of education, the ed schools, the NEA’s, the AFT’s, the federal department of education’s?

Everyone has their own mission. Everyone has their own pet project. Everyone has their own red wagon. Whose wagon do I jump into?

After reading Graycie’s inspiring post I went online to get a sampling of some ed department mission statements. It wasn’t quite as easy as you would think. Even in today’s world of Zig Ziegler and Steven Covey it would seem that some mission statements are not found on the home webpage but are buried in the deep recesses of cyberdom.

The Department of Education in Washington D.C. has this for their mission statement:

The Department of ED was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. Its original directive remains its mission today — to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation. ED's 4,500 employees and $71.5 billion budget are dedicated to:• Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.• Collecting data on America's schools and disseminating research.• Focusing national attention on key educational issues.• Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

So basically the Department of ED is a funding arm, a watchdog, policy maker, and a promoter of excellence.

In my home-state of Georgia the mission statement for their Department of Education says:

It is the mission of the Department of Education to function as a service-oriented and policy-driven agency that meets the needs of local school systems as they go about the business of preparing all students for college or a career in a safe and drug-free environment where we ensure no child is left behind.

I am to prepare them for college or career, keep drugs away from them and make sure no one falls between the cracks. I would expect my fourth graders to come up with a better mission statement than that.

New York’s mission statement was a little harder to find but finally I came up with, “leadership for a system that yields the best-education people in the world.”

I feel your pain New York teachers. Really, I do. If someone can find me a better mission statement for New York’s Department of Ed please do so.

The State Department of Education for Idaho is a bit better but murky:

Through leadership and collaboration, the Department supports and promotes a 21st Century system of public education that delivers relevant life and academic skills to all Idaho children.

What exactly does a 21st Century system mean? A computer in every room? Blackberries for everyone? I like the “relevant life” wording but isn’t “academic skills” a bit too broad?

I couldn’t locate one for Mississippi after many different clicks on their homepage. Their mission certainly didn’t jump off the page for me. Help!

Maine’s was the most extensive that I saw:

The mission of the State Board of Education is to provide statewide leadership by advocating, promoting, and improving education policy and life-long learning for all Maine people, particularly its children. The Board offers direction to the Executive and Legislative branches of state government; thus, fulfilling its legislative requirement.

Their vision goes on to state they expect students to rise to their maximum potential as productive and self-fulfilled individuals by being clear and effective communicators, life-long learners, creative and practical problem solvers, integrative and informed thinkers, responsible and involved citizens and collaborative and quality workers.

I liked Maine’s the best but mind you I didn’t view all 50 mission statements.

Check out various schools in your area. They all have mission statements and some say very different things while others say the same things but in hundreds of different ways. Many are too vague or only use catch phrases like some that I’ve detailed here.

It would seem that many of these mission statements are simply something that some group of persons was required to do at a retreat, a workshop, or conference. Some appear to be rather thoughtful while others appear to be rather hurried.

Plain and simple….we need a plan, a mission. We need to follow it. Whatever we do, if it doesn’t fit the plan then it’s not done. I fear that too often these mission statements like many “things” in education are simply fabricated as a panacea to get neigh-sayers to shut up for awhile. We do something because it’s the new “thing” and we continue to do it until the next “thing” comes along.

All the while we are going around in circles because there is no one clear mission.

Blog It Forward

It’s time to Blog It Forward. This is where I tell you about some of the great blogs on my links list and you go investigate.

Poor Miland over at World History Blog is on an Alaskan cruise but has still found time to enlighten us with vacation tidbits, history, and lore as he sails along. He began posting from ship on June 16, 2006. Click on over and scroll back to follow his trip. It’s very interesting.

Blog It Forward and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Review Your ABCs at the Education Carnival

The 72nd Carnival of Education is up for your review over at Why Homeschool masterfully organized by Henry Cate into the ABCs of Education.

Variety is the best word to describe this carnival so click on over and read away.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Are You Culturally Competent?

In a post titled Paying an Ideological Ransom for the Right to Teach John Leo advises ed schools are producing yet another hoop for prospective teachers to jump through.

Mr. Leo reports:

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) says ed schools and programs must require teachers in training to demonstrate the "dispositions necessary to help all students learn," such as a commitment to social justice. Everyone is for social justice, but it's odd that would-be teachers would have to convince their professors of such commitment before getting to teach. Since ed schools are essentially a liberal monoculture, conservative and moderate students concluded that their political opinions were being probed and that they were being asked to endorse the belief systems of their programs as the price of being allowed to teach. The Fordham Foundation posted an article by William Damon opposing the dispositions requirement, saying that his article gave credence to charges of ideological arm-twisting and Orwellian mind control.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or FIRE complained to the Department of Education that there is no way an ed school can evaluate a student's commitment to social justice without evaluating that student's politics. NCATE countered by backing down.

Mr. Leo goes on to explore the meaning of words such as dispositions, cultural competence, and commitment to social justice and equity. He also quotes Phyllis Edmundson, dean of the graduate school of education at Portland State University and links to an article of hers in the New York Times.

Ms. Edmundson’s article categorizes educators into specific divisions regarding their “disposition”. You may think of your position as a win in life’s lottery and feel you are the beneficiary of a privilege; you may be all about perpetuating institutional racisim, an unconscious oppressor, or an imperfect exemplar of cultural responsiveness.

Mr. Leo contends the whole dispositions argument is just another attempt at ideology being imposed on teachers.

What do you think?

Mr. Leo’s entire article can be found here.

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Meet Me at the Forum...Toga Optional

In Roman times citizens would meet at the forum as it was the political and economical center of Rome. Teachers from across the world also can meet at the forum to discuss education, politics, and anything else if they desire. There are many opportunities to meet colleagues at the forum if you know where to look.

Of course, we have the traditional hallway forums, in the classroom with the door closed forum, the teacher’s lounge forum (does anyone really go in there anymore?), and the “oh gosh, we’re having another meeting so we can say we’re having a meeting forum”.

Technology has graced us with a new frontier for forums. The blogging world is definitely a forum and, I find it very informational, challenging, and exhilarating all at the same time.

Instant messaging is also a forum for teachers to meet and discuss, however, I will have to admit that I have not explored that frontier quite yet. Instant messaging is definitely Daughter Dear’s and Sonny Boy's realm and they would probably get very upset if I invaded their space. Anyway…I enjoy the ‘do it at your own pace’ style that blogging gives me. Instant messaging would tie me to the screen too much. I read blogs as I have time….I post as I become inspired. It works for me.

Another forum for ‘doing it at your own pace’ is discussion forums. I find they are great for picking up strategies, ideas, information about new products, and just like blogs, there are communities that will make provide suggestions and give you support when you need it. Sometimes some blogs are awfully entertaining as some threads can get off topic or a little excited as everyone shares their thoughts and opinions.

Here are some links to a few forums. All you have to do is register using a screen name, enter a profile, and your ready to post a topic or respond to one.

A to Z Teacher Stuff has a wonderful teacher’s forum that many teachers use. Click the “discuss” tab to get to the forum pages.

Teacher Focus is another good one as well as Teachers Corner. If ESL is your “thing” then try out Dave's ESL Cafe.

Are you interested in brain-based learning? Learning Sources and Brain Research has a forum at Teach the Brain.

Teach-nology has a discussion forum and so does though it is not in a board type format.

Let me know if you have found a forum that you like to post on or simply read.

See you at the forum!

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts in your email box by submitting your email address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or use the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments or email

Andrew Jackson: Same Man, Different Units

I’ve completed several hours of research regarding Andrew Jackson over the last few days.

Andrew Jackson and I are old friends. You see I’m from Georgia and, you can’t be from Georgia and not know how Jackson impacted our young state.

Georgia had many of her true natives ripped from their family farms and homes so they could be forced to march along the Trail of Tears. This occurred during Jackson’s presidency. Many of the Cherokees were rounded up and held in open pens close to my father’s property at Fort Buffington. There is no evidence of the fort now, but there is an elementary school near the site. My mom’s family used to hold family reunions at the school and, I would sometimes walk out to the road to read the historical marker concerning the fort.

Jackson is one of those presidents that history teachers simply can’t ignore. His life story is just too good to leave out of our American story. I like to begin introducing Jackson during my colonization unit as we begin talking about the frontier. I always tell students, “Now remember that name…Andrew Jackson… you’re going to hear about him again.” Later he can be brought up during the American Revolution when we discuss how children and women helped in the war effort. Jackson was also very influential in the settlement of Tennessee and served as a military leader during the Seminole Wars. By the time we reach the War of 1812 Jackson has become an old friend to my students. They can look at his entire life and begin to predict his actions or understand some of his choices. Students begin to analyze…a real skill they need in the real world.

See the rest of this post over at the American Presidents Blog.

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts in your email box by submitting your email address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or use the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments or email!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Double the Carnivals, Double the Fun

The 33rd History Carnival is up at American Presidents Blog nicely hosted by Jennie W., and the 71st Carnival of Education is masterfully disguised as the end of the year faculty party hosted by Science Goddess.

Go forth and read!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mentos and Coke

And now for something completely different. These two “scientists” know how to spend a summer.

This craze was featured on Good Morning America this morning. The explains why this occurs and goes on to state that folks should refrain from eating Mentos and then drinking Diet Coke. Seems the combo upsets your stomach and you throw up.

Now if this doesn't prompt you to comment I don't know what will.:)

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts in your email box by submitting your email address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or use the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments!

A Tale of Two Summers

Go back in time with me to the olden days when summer was June, July, and August, kids caught fire flies while the adults talked ‘big talk’ on the porch, and my sister and I would find ourselves in our pajamas at the Dairy Queen on the whim of our parents as dusk overtook the day.

Each summer morning I would awaken to an already fiery sun around nine a.m. I would lie there awake and listen to the sounds around me. Sometimes I would identify the sounds of the washing machine, the slam of our wooden screen door, or my mother speaking on the telephone. I never dressed immediately. Instead I would get up and wander about the house looking out the front door and then moving towards the back of the house to check out what was going on. I’d say good morning to mom and then fix my breakfast. Sometimes it would be cinnamon toast or my personal favorite back then….Saltines spread with just a hint of butter and placed under the broiler. “Not too long or they’ll burn,” my mother would remind me.

Breakfast would be served in front of television that would blare The Price is Right, The $25,000 Dollar Pyramid, and Match Game (cartoons only played on Saturday morning back then). By the end of Match Game I knew it was 10:30. What? You didn’t tell time by what was on television? It was easier back then, you know. We only had three channels---four or five if the coat hanger with oddly formed clumps of aluminum foil attached to it was turned just right.

By 11:00 I was finally dressed and mounting my bike to survey my outside world to see if anything was amiss. My Dad ran a lumberyard and our house was in the middle of it. I had a large wonderful world to play in, imagine in and with all that extra lumber lying around I could concoct some hellacious ramps to take jumps on. I popped a pretty mean wheelie, too, with my monkey handlebars, banana shaped bike seat (white with psychedelic flowers) and optional sissy bar.

By late afternoon it would be H---O---T, hot, and my Sheltie dog, Lady, and I would opt for porch play. The house I grew up in was built in 1929 and had a very wide front porch that spanned the length of the front of the house. It was a wonderful outside room we used when it rained. Sometimes we used it late into the evening on summer nights. I’d play ‘house’ or ‘school’ for hours with Lady dutifully playing the role of ‘the baby’ or ‘the student’. Sometimes Lady would want her belly rubbed so I’d read aloud to her from books like Henry and Ribsey, Ramona Quimby, Stuart Little, or Homer Price. Lady would lay there all sprawled out listening to me occasionally wagging her tail in amusement.

Then the week would finally arrive for Vacation Bible School. I’d spend each morning for one week with my Sunday people. You know, all the folks I usually only saw on Sundays---the preacher, the choir director, my Sunday school teachers, and all the other people who benefited from my hugs. I was a huge hugger as a child and I made my rounds every Sunday. Vacation Bible School meant more time for hugs.

Vacation Bible School also meant learning more about Jesus, singing songs like Deep and Wide and crafts. There would be lots of glue, popsicle sticks, Bible verses and of course, pictures of Jesus that would be glued to construction paper, taken home, and placed on the fridge.

Well, things have changed though I’m not so sure for the better. It seems Vacation Bible School has become a frantic string of activities packed into four hours where kids are told, “Hurry up we need to get to devotional.” “You don’t have time to finish the craft----we’ll be late for music.”

Not only has education become scripted in many areas so has Vacation Bible School. There was a time when you could go to your home church and experience their bible school during June and in July attend the bible school for the church down the road. It would be entirely different. Most churches today (at least the Baptist ones I am most familiar with) purchase their Vacation Bible School materials from one vendor such as Lifeway. The program is theme-based with terrific materials for volunteers but wasn’t it working well the way it was? Does Vacation Bible School need a theme? Isn’t the Bible the only script we need? I'm not dissing the concept or the wonderful volunteers...just the progress.

Every year at the beginning of the school year I know who has attended Bible school. They wear their t-shirts proudly as well they should. This year the Lifeway theme is ‘Artic Edge’. The shirts are cute but in my day (and I’m borrowing from the movie “The Three Amigos” here) we didn’t need no stinkin’ t-shirts.”

I fear most of my students won’t have the same summer experiences I did. Most kids these days get up early, get dressed, and get carted off to daycare where they have no bikes to ride and play in an overused play yard surrounded by a fence. Imagination is almost non-existent and very few students return to school in August with a tan. Most can’t stand the heat. They beg to go in from recess after a full five minutes because, “It’s hot!” Most students are simply overwhelmed by too much technology and can’t quite figure out how to entertain each other when given the opportunity with the simple outdoors.

My daughter has been helping out along with other members of her youth group at Vacation Bible School this week. She reports her group of second graders is awfully clingy. They want to hug her all the time or constantly take up their time wanting to share little vignettes of their life. They move together as a group from activity to activity and are having problems staying together as a group. Each group has a banner that identifies their grade level that they carry around from station to station. It’s a cute idea but Daughter Dear says the kids fight over who gets to carry it. When someone is chosen the rest complain. I spoke to Daughter Dear about group management, but she told me that was left up to the group’s adult leader.

Yesterday the second grade group received two newbies. Yes, it seems even Vacation Bible School receives “transfers”. Anyway, these two newbies are apparently the Devil’s spawn. Daughter Dear reports one little Damien sd GD out loud for all to hear. Second grade, mind you.

I reminded Daughter Dear that the type of behavior she described is the premier reason why I don’t volunteer to help with Vacation Bible School. I’d end up disciplining some fellow church member’s sweet cherub and cause some type of major incident. I know my limitations.

Daughter Dear ended our conversation by properly surmising, “Well, if I was their mom I’d try to get away from them for four hours, too.... if I could. All I can do is try to love them while I have them.”

Well…apparently she does listen to me sometimes.

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts in your email box by submitting your email address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or use the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments or email!

Monday, June 12, 2006

History Carnival Submissions Are Due

The next History Carnival is being hosted by Jennie W. at American Presidents Blog. Your submissions are due by June 15th. Use the handy submission form here or email Jennie at

It's Important to Know Your Frontier

I’ve been busy this past week working on power points to go with my history units. So far I have completed power points for the War of 1812 and the Louisiana Purchase combined with the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The third power point I’m just now finishing up will have images to go along with my lesson regarding Daniel Boone, the Wilderness Road, and the settlement of Kentucky and Tennessee.


I have found this can be a tricky area for teachers who are history novices because the word frontier can mean different things depending on the time period that is being covered. Several years ago a colleague of mine once remarked, “You know, EHT, I don’t know as much as you do about history so I feel fairly safe with the content as long as I stay in the text page by page.”

I saw her point. I would have to do the same thing if I suddenly found myself teaching math. Staying with the text can get you into trouble, though, and here’s why.

Generally a unit of study regarding the formation of our government is taught after the American Revolution followed by the settlement of the frontier.

My colleague came to me one day and said, “Who picked out this text? It’s useless.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, I started looking at the lesson about the frontier and it doesn’t have any information about sod houses, the prairie, or the early railroads. What are we going to do?” my colleague wailed.

Gently I told her she was thinking about the wrong frontier.

Even as I did my research this week I came up with many different time periods when I googled frontier. I can see how people could easily get confused.

The frontier in early America changed every few years as settlers became crowded and moved to the outer regions. Folks were moving across the Appalachian Mountains before and during the French and Indian War. That was the first frontier, and it existed several years before the settlement of the Great Plains that brought us tales of buffalo, sod-busters, and cowboys.

What can also add to the confusion not only at the elementary level but can confuse upper level students as well, is we tend to touch on settlement across the Appalachian Mountains as we begin the French and Indian War and we touch on it some more at the conclusion of the war with the Proclamation of 1763 issued by King George III which stated colonists could not settle the lands west of
the Appalachian Mountains. The British intended to hold this area for the Native Americans but also meant to move the boundary line westward as white settlement forced it to move.

We then jump headlong into the American Revolution forgetting about the settlers we’ve left dangling out there across the mountains. After the conclusion of the Revolution and a discussion about the formation of our government we then expect the students to turn their attention back to these settlers who crossed the Appalachians.

This situation is definitely one where I feel a teacher needs to depart from the text program and discuss the back county (deep inland settlements towards the mountains) as well as the crossing of the Appalachian Mountains during and at the end of the American Revolution. In this way it remains in context with events such as the Wilderness Road which Daniel Boone was establishing as early as 1775 , the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768), and Sycamore Shoals (1775) which began settlement in what would become Kentucky.

In February, after we completed our examination of U.S. government, I asked my students to tell me what they thought of when I said the word frontier. I wrote the word on the board to give them a visual. Some of the responses were buffalo, cowboys, trains, prairie, and covered wagons.

Clearly there is some confusion regarding the word frontier. People tend to think about the Wild West in connection to the frontier because it was the last frontier Americans settled here in the contiguous United States.

I usually make my point by drawing an outline map of the United States on the board. I add in the Appalachian Mountains and, I sketch in where the Mississippi River would be. I ask students, “Where did the Europeans begin to settle first?”

“Along the coast,” they decide.

“And then what?” I prod.

Students proceed to tell me that the settlers eventually crowded up in the first settlements and, they began to move inland. We had already learned a vocabulary term for the inland area and I remind students that their text called this area the backcountry. I share with them further that the word frontier can also describe this land. The land at the edge and beyond a settlement is known as frontier.

As we ended our discussion about the term frontier one of my young men raised his hand. When I called on him he stated, “I know what the final frontier is.”

I fell for this hook, line, and sinker, “Really, what is it?”

My young man reeled me in, “Space…that’s the final frontier.”

Clearly this sweetie watches a lot of Star Trek.

Remember that you can subscribe to this blog and receive my updated posts in your email box by submitting your email address in the Feed Blitz box at the top of this page or use the Bloglines button to the right. Thanks in advance for your comments!

New Tools and Blog It Forward

I’m sure some of you are happy to learn my Warren G. Harding interlude is over. I’m on to other things.


I’ve added a subscription box for Feed Blitz. Regular bloggers are familiar with this, but if you are here by accident or one of my regular visitors you can now enter your email address in the box at the very top of this page and Feed Blitz will email you all of my updates once per day. I’ve tested it out and I receive my updates each morning compiled in one email. Your email address is secured and will not be sold to anyone. I think this is a wonderful service because many times over the years I have found something I really like but loose the address or my “favorites” gets wiped out, etc. Try it out and see how you like it.


Another thing I’ve done is to place a Bloglines button on the right underneath the section ABOUT ME. This is a great place to organize many different regular “reads” that you might want to review each day. It’s perfect for folks who blog and who read blogs.


Another thing that I want to do is to steal/borrow (teachers are notorious for that) something from Mamacita via Ms. Cornelius that I think is an excellent promotion tool. It’s called Blog It Forward. I tell you about interesting places I visit and you click through to visit yourself.

The first blog I want to Blog it Forward is Bibliodyssey. The images posted on this blog are sometimes interesting, sometimes disturbing, but always intriguing. This blog won the Best New Blog Cliopatria Award for 2005. Stop by and see why.

The second blog is Civil War Memory authored by Kevin Levin. He is a high school teacher and a master of prolific posting. I enjoy his entries every day.

Another blog I think you need to know about, especially if you teach in a regular education classroom, is Special Education: The Rise and Fall. The author of this blog, Special Edd, is a wonderful writer who really sucks me into the world of a special education teacher and some of the very special young men and women who attend his/her classes everyday. Take a field trip over there and I assure you if you have had a hard day with a special education students you will come away with a better understanding of this facet of education.

Finally, I want you to visit Dennis Fermoyle’s site Public Education Defender. Dennis is a 30 plus year veteran of teaching and is an honest to God published author. He also has some great posts defending something that everyone else tends to tear down along with some terrific comment exchanges with readers.

So that’s it for now. Click away….

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Third and FINAL Installment Regarding Warren G. Harding

Sometimes it takes more than one post to work through a thought, I guess. This has been the case with President Harding and me. Visit the American Presidents Blog here for part one and here for part two before reading my final thoughts over there.

Here’s a teaser:

During my research I came across some interesting quotes concerning Warren G. Harding. They made me think not so much about Harding’s character but how presidents are elected and how ‘we the people’ buy into myths. Different biographies I reviewed made me think about the state of the nation after the horrors of World War I and a country that was about to undergo huge shifts in society.

In his book The Available Man (1965) by Andrew Sinclair he contends that “Warren G. Harding became the most notorious president in American history because the myths that had formed him were not adequate to meet with the power and responsibility of the president during the First World War.”

Sinclair clarifies his point further:

“These myths, which formed Harding and in which he mostly believed made him the available man [for] the Republican party…. There were myths of the Country Boy, of the Self Made Man, of the Presidential State, of the Political Innocent of the Guardian Senate, of America First, of the Reluctant Candidate, of the Dark Horse, of the Smoke-Filled Room, of the Solemn Referendum, and of the Best Minds."

Go've come this far with on over to American Presidents Blog. :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Warren G. Harding-Unanswered Questions

Thanks for clicking over to the first installment about Harding at the American Presidents Blog or here to read the entire post.

Since I posted about Harding yesterday I’ve continued to think about the question I posed. Can you use Harding to teach character in relation to the new standard Georgia will soon be implementing?

Here’s what I’ve decided…

Sometimes when we teach history it is not necessary to teach the ins and outs of every presidential life or administration. Sure, the time period is important, but the man himself may not fit the student’s needs. Elementary students don’t need to hear about every grimy detail or even every stellar detail for that matter. We would never complete our curriculum if that was the case.

However, I would expect high school and college students to hear about every aspect of the Harding presidency since it occurred at the beginning of the decade we remember as the Roaring 20’s. Many of the administration policies begun during the Harding administration lead us down the road to ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime’ as well as placing us in a vulnerable position at the beginning of World War II. The more risqué side of Harding’s presidency could even motivate some older students to delve deeper into the culture of the time period to figure out how Americans were making the transition from a Victorian society towards a more modern ‘let’s have fun’ mentality.

As far as my elementary classes go or even middle school students Harding’s presidency can be a great lesson on voter responsibility. Students should learn that voters should investigate candidates on their own. They shouldn’t get caught up in campaign rhetoric and, voters should listen to the candidate and not the pundits. Students should understand the danger of the “smoke-filled room” and presidential appointments such as Harding’s Ohio Gang. Younger students can understand the debacle of such scandals as Teapot Dome and the thefts from the Veterans Administration. Younger students can and should learn about Harding’s foreign policy regarding his refusal to allow the U.S. to join the League of Nations, yet he allowed the U.S. to join the World Court. Students should understand the long reaching effects of the Five Powers Treaty and how it weakened our military.

As far as meeting the Georgia standard regarding teaching character education with historical figures luckily it’s not required with each and every person. I’d probably skip Harding though I will admit I am intrigued by all of the unanswered questions that surround his administration. Our fourth and fifth graders have bigger fish to fry, however.