Spalding Gray “Returns”

from the New York Times:

When Spalding Gray committed suicide, most likely by throwing himself off a Staten Island ferry on a cold January day nearly two and half years ago, he left behind an array of grievers: fans, colleagues, friends and family. People were stunned by the loss of this unusual performer, a man who had been artfully befriending audiences through his confessional monologues since 1977. But Mr. Gray’s family — his wife, Kathie Russo; his stepdaughter, Marissa, now 19; and his 9- and 12-year-old sons, Theo and Forrest — had to face a different tragedy: the disappearance of a husband and father. Ms. Russo was suddenly left to keep their family together as well as to shape her own unexpected legacy as Spalding Gray’s widow.

“I wanted to do something around Spalding’s 65th birthday, which is on June 5,” Ms. Russo, 45, recently explained at a Greek restaurant in the West Village. “So I thought, ‘Let’s do a reading of his work for one night at P.S. 122’ — that’s where he started all his monologues — ‘and I’ll put it together.’ “

Continue to NY Times Web site

Too much standardized testing

Peter does not begin End of Grade (EOG) testing until 3rd Grade (next year), but the point is still well taken.

from Today’s Chapel Hill News:

Test obsession denies students real education

I can go to Raleigh-Durham airport, get on a plane and be in Portland, Oregon in six hours. I can get in my car and drive to Portland in six days. Or I can get on my bicycle and ride to Portland in six weeks.

I ask you by which method do you think I will gain the most lasting knowledge about my country and its history? I know the answer, because I have done the trip all three ways.

The North Carolina curriculum for U.S. history is a mile wide and an inch deep. What students learn about U.S. history amounts to a fly-over or a high-speed cruise down an interstate highway.

This is no way to teach or learn U.S. history. And we wonder why students do so poorly on U.S. history tests.

Our national, state and local political and education leaders judge students’ knowledge of U.S. history based on their scores on a 100-item multiple choice test. And teachers had better make sure their students are proficient, for that is how teachers and schools will be judged. Teachers will teach to the test and students will be forced into endless drilling for these tests. Anybody who tells you that this is not the case obviously does not spend much, if any, time in the classroom.

This year I have a wonderful group of students in my U.S. History class. They ask probing, inquisitive questions and make comments that reflect intellectual engagement.

Questions asked this year include, “Did Hitler get mad at the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor and bringing the U.S. into the war?” and “Why did FDR drop his vice-president in the 1944 election and select Truman as his running mate?”

When we discussed how Lincoln and FDR, two of our greatest presidents, were vilified while they were in office, one student asked, “How will history judge President Bush?” A rather lively discussion followed.

I doubt these questions will be on the end-of-course test.

I am writing this before these students take their state-mandated end-of-course test. Regardless of their scores on this test, they rank as some of the best history students I have had in my 21 years of teaching. And because they ask so many questions we will not get all the way through the curriculum. I even had to stop doing the hands-on activities that I have done for years because of the pressure to get those scores up.

If we truly want our students to be lifelong learners of U.S. history we should reduce the scope of the curriculum. This would allow time for students to research and write, have debates and discussions, complete art projects, create PowerPoint presentations, take field trips, and participate in activities that will enhance their love and appreciation of the subject. I’m all for accountability, but let’s use curriculum and assessments that are relevant and realistic.

This inane obsession with testing is driven by people who are far removed from daily contact and interaction with students. They only judge students, teachers and schools by test scores.

Students in any class should develop a lifelong love and appreciation of that subject. Teaching to a test does much to undermine that. Those that continue to advocate for judging students, teachers, and schools based on test scores are engaged in educational malpractice.

And next year, because of a new schedule in my district, I’ll have even less time to teach this same curriculum

Bob Brogden teaches history at East Chapel Hill High School.

Old Friend has Art Opening

Here’s a story about a friend from high school from the Ft Myers News-Press:

Artist Gerard Damiano almost set fire to a lifetime of work.

“I was going to make a big bonfire in my back yard,” he says, completely serious. “It’s just that I felt I wasn’t growing and moving ahead as an artist. I was too attached to the art I’d done in the past — I was blocked by it. I was so frustrated; I just wanted to burn everything.”

Fortunately, before he struck the match, Damiano got a better idea. He joined forces with downtown Fort Myers’ Arts for ACT gallery for an exhibition, opening with a gala reception May 5 and continuing through May 30, appropriately titled, “Gerard Damiano’s Bonfire of Vanity.” A portion of the proceeds will go to ACT (Abuse, Counseling and Treatment, Inc.), the non-profit agency which provides services to victims of domestic violence.

Continue to New-Press

Water Cooler Technology

The new office I work in has a classic Water Cooler with the big water bottles that you flip over. There is a tremendous improvement in this technology. In the old days, you opened bottle and you flipped the bottle over quickly, hoping, praying that you could turn the bottle over fast enough and aim properly so the bottle landed in the cooler opening and you didn’t spill the water all over the floor.

These days, the opening is sealed with a cap, and the cooler punctures the seal. You can turn the bottle over as slowly and carefully as you want. There is no fear of dropping the bottle on the floor and spilling gallons of water on the floor.

Domain Name Auction

I helped a friend win an auction for an expired web site domain name. Apparently, when a domain name expires, the domain registry does not immediately release the name to the general pool. First, they hold it for 30 to 45 days, giving the original owner about a month or so to get their act together and renew it. After that grace period, the name is released to selected partners. If the name had been registered through Network Solutions, the largest .com registry because they were first, it is released to Snap Names.

Before the name is released to Snap Names, you can place a free backorder for the name. You give them a credit card and agree to bid a minimum of $60 for the name if it becomes available.

Over the weekend the name was released and the auction started. 32 people were in it. The rules are little different than an ebay auction. Only those people will backorders can participate in the auction. That means that once it starts, the pool of participants is fixed. Also, if a new bid is made near the end of the auction, the time of the auction is extened. This give everyone a fair chance, and increases the amount of money Snap Names can earn from the auction.

For most of the auction, I was the high bidder at $81. I had put my maximum bid at $200. On the last day, first I upped it to $500, then $1000, and finally $2000. Every time some one upped their bid, I was already there with a higher number.

It got pretty nerve-wracking at the end, because in the last minute, someone placed a new bid. This extended the auction another 4 minutes. When it was finally over, I had purchased the domain name for $1601. This auction also included 1 year registration on Network Solutions.

I am the legal owner of the domain name, but I spent my friend’s money. It may seem like a lot of money to me, but does not compare to the current record: for $750,000.