Friday, March 20, 2015

Sunday School Lesson "He's Alive"

Just want to share the joy. I have been sitting here preparing to teach the lesson on John 20: 19-23 on Sunday at the Asbury Sunday School Class at the First Methodist Church in Panama City. This is definitely NOT an easy lesson and I have been concerned that I might not understand it well enough to share. Then I woke up Tuesday morning singing "He's Alive." I decided the Lord thought that song ought to open the lesson. I dug through my song tapes and found the tape. This morning I've been singing along to the tape in preparation for one of the hardest lessons I have ever studied to share with others, praising God, and thanking Him for His Holy Word and gift of the risen Savior. We'll be in the Trinity Center, Room 10, if any of you are visiting PC and would like to come and share in the wonder you are welcome. What Jesus did for Peter is available to us all!

Library Foundation and Books Alive

I attended my second Board meeting for the Bay County Library Foundation today. Plans for an exciting expanded Books Alive 2016 are under way. I hope my author friends will consider adding Panama City to their book tours. We are so much more than Spring Break!!!! and More information about how to become a participating author, editor, agent or blogger will be on our website soon. Contact me at for more information. Great plans are on the horizon!

Mothers are all slightly insane

My husband's mother, Hilda Ramsey, had been afflicted with Alzheimers for several years when the three of us took a ride, probably down the Azalea Trail, his mother's favorite time of year. I'll never forget being stopped at the intersection of Woodland and Main when Joe commented on a conversation he'd had recently with his Aunt Cassie (Ramsey), then around 80. 
He said, "Her memory is amazing!" 
"She never had any children," Mom stated matter-of-factly from the back seat. At that moment her mind was working on all cylinders.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Capstone Educator and Concerns

I got my new Capstone Educator, publication of the University of Alabama College of Education, my alma mater, and was introduced to new faculty members and the new goals of the College of Education. The title Passion Changes Everything: the next generation of faculty, gives kudos to the eduspeak of the apparent new guru (Music Man) of education, Sir Ken Robinson ( Has the Music Man's think system become simply passion? You don't just have to think positive thoughts, you must be passionate about them! 

This new slew of professors will now be demonstrating and  training aspiring teachers how NOT to teach directly.  "The professor can no longer be the 'sage on the stage," the author writes. Today's teacher must be a "guide on the side" -- and with passion! 

It looks as if we are now embarking upon a new brand of old education gimmicks. We've been here before with Outcome Based Education, Whole Language, etc.  This gimmick will simply be more of the same with expensive high tech devices that become obsolete within a year. The author tells that "Today the classroom is necessarily more dynamic and more conversational than in the past and is inevitably linked to online resources."

I wonder just how experienced and successful these fresh faced new professors are in the classroom as measured by what parents expect schools and teachers to do -- or have they merely mastered the psychobabble necessary for acquiring a PH.D. in Education. Did they become disillusioned in the classroom and decide to move on to higher education? Or have they actually spent any time in the classroom?

It was sequential learning and direct instruction that got us to the moon. Then Ken Goodman in 1967 published "Reading: a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game," revolutionized reading instruction and brought teachers out for professional hootenannies in support of the liberation of the classroom and teachers. Sequential learning and direct instruction has now been pushed further down the trash bin in colleges of education and extremely high illiteracy rates (the basic reason businesses complain that that they cannot find competent employees) continue.

When researching those school systems that scored best in my most basic determination of a successful school system -- reading scores -- those schools closest to colleges and universities scored lowest. The reason could be because those children closest to the universities are the most likely candidates for experimental programs of those scholar faculty members that we are told must be "more widely published than those who walked in their shoes a generation ago" and that "... Their work must meet the highest standard of rigor- represented in frequent and consistent publication in nationally recognized referred journals."

Well, now, that gives me as a parent and teacher the willies. That's all we need. More experimental programs and people looking to make a reputation through such "scholarship" using our children as guinea pigs!

I actually saw this in action with Block Scheduling (Four Period Day) in my hometown of Dothan, Alabama. An administrator with her eye on a Ph. D. used our children as her subjects for a study on how Math education was impacted by the Four Period Day. She ignored the research out of Canada, refused to give it to the parents in town, used our kids as the subjects of her study, got her Ph. D. and a Superintendents position. Then she and others in the administration published in journals and were lauded by their profession for their innovations. The kids got the shaft on their education and our education dollars were wasted promoting the Four Period Day (glossy brochures and teachers taken out of the classroom) throughout the area even though our schools were new to the methodology with no objective data (standardized tests) to validate its use. It didn't take long to find out what a boondoggle that was. Parents paying for the Advanced Placement tests discovered lower scores and because of their influence, it is no longer used. But it showed me how important it is to administrators and professors to make a name for themselves rather than actually find what works best to truly EDUCATE children (in the traditional sense).

This quotation from the article may give us insight into the direction of one professor: "... He is interested in developing translational learning and design theories grounded in empirical studies forming computational tools for learning based on these theories and conducting investigations on STEM learning and cognition both through experimental designs and design based research in authentic contexts." (Say what...?)

According to author, historian of education, educational policy analyst, and research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Diane Ravitch, OBE reforms (something I fought in the nineties) usually had other disputed methods, such as constructivist mathematics and whole language, added onto them. So, when I read that the teaching methods for the new professor of Social Science (used to be History) Education "are strongly based on constructivist pedagogy" and the new professor of Elementary Literacy Education wants to examine "culturally relevant literacy instruction in elementary classrooms" my heart starts to pound a warning. With no more community watchdogs who determines cultural relevance?

Once, in my naivety, I thought the education profession to be pure, truly based on replicable research, meant to prepare children to read, write and compute -- untainted by politics. And then I discovered the huge number of illiterate students in my secondary classroom and set out to find out why. I now believe the source of America's academic decline can be traced directly to America's colleges of education.

I thank God my youngest grandchildren are in private Christian schools using tried and true methods to teach sequentially, intensively, directly and early those basic skills we KNOW are foundational to success. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Retarding America: the Imprisonment of Potential

I am honored to be mentioned by Robert W. Sweet of the National Right to Read Foundation on his Blog. I wrote years ago about the book, Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential by Michael Brunner. I did not know that Bob Sweet then worked for the Administration and was the one who hired Michael Brunner to do the study on the root cause of incarceration of our youth. He found that more than single parent home, poverty, or any other element, illiteracy was the most common denominator. AND they found that systematic, direct and early phonics remediation worked best to teach those prisoners to read. 
Bob found my website recently and read the posts on my opinion page on education. He tells me that there are glimmers of hope in Reading Instruction. Chicago (the home of devastating OBE and Whole Language instruction) will now begin using Sing, Spell, Read and Write, a wonderful SIDE (systematic, intensive, direct and early) phonics program to teach reading. Pearson (the major distributor of instructional programs) is considering adding Sing Spell Read and Write to their curriculum. When I first got involved in trying to find the cause of so many of my students being unable to read Middle School textbooks, I called around the state to the systems with the highest scores in reading. Mountain Brook used Open Court and Vestavia used Sing Spell Read and Write. First Presbyterian uses Sing Spell Read and Write in Dothan (granddaughter Megan goes there). Holy Nativity in Panama City uses Sing Spell Read and Write. (Granddaughter Lily went there.) Grandsons George and Sam attend First Methodist in Panama city that uses ABEKA (a Christian system that all three of our children benefitted from). Another extremely effective phonics program is SPALDING WRITING ROAD TO READING developed by Romalda Spalding who learned under the founder of the dyslexia society Dr. Samuel Orton. Orton noticed how many children were coming to him with dyslexia as the result of the look/say method of reading instruction (later labeled whole word/ whole language). 
I hope all of you know the reading system your school (or grandchildren's school) uses. If a child cannot read proficiently by the third grade he/she is in for a tough row to hoe the rest of his life. If a teacher tells me they use an eclectic approach geared to the abilities of the individual child, I run, not walk, from that school. That type of educratese is way too sophisticated (and hit and miss) for my simple understanding of the basics my children need to succeed. Parents and citizens pay for the education of our children. They need to demand curriculum that works. Amazingly, schools with the least bells and whistles are most effective in teaching what parents actually expect of schools!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mint Julep Mysteries Book Launch December 6, 2014

 Mint Julep Mysteries and Wakefield Plantation: Cookbook and History

The Wakefield Plantation: History and Cookbook of one Southern family and Mint Julep Mysteries book launch took place at Wakefield, the inspiration for the Mint Julep Mysteries series. In spite of the rain and gloom of earlier in the day, the sun broke out at the start of the event. Martha Nix was my traveling buddy as my husband was glued to the TV and football games. Sylvia and Thomas Rushing were great hosts. Taylor Johnson helped us with the hosting duties guiding folks back and forth from the Big House (Wakefield) to the Little House (where our father actually grew up across the street).

Gene Stabler and Donald Stone
Donald Stone, the son of one of my heroes in history, the founder of Snow Hill Institute,  W. J. Edwards, wrote Fallen Prince and had his grandfather's own autobiography, Twenty-five Years in the Black Belt republished. These are must reads for inspiration as well as history. My cousin, Gene Stabler, had been trying to contact Dr. Stone for years. Gene's father was a mail carrier and a good friend of W. J. Edwards. It was such a pleasure seeing these two sons find so much in common and strike up a friendship there at the meeting. Spike Lee is the great grandson of W. J. Edwards. According to Don, Lee and Brandon Tartikoff had spoken of a movie based on the great man before Tartikoff passed away. I truly wish Lee would produce a movie based on his great grandfather's life!

Donald Stone arrived early and we traded books.

Mary Lois Woodson, manager of Black Belt Treasures handled the sales of the books. Ernie and Dianne Thomas Marshburn got a bit lost on the way up, but called my husband in Dothan and got straightened out. Paula Bostic and her husband Mike brought their granddaughter, McKenna. I had looked forward to seeing his new Corvette, but it only seats 2 plus it was raining. Can't take a chance on getting clay on a new corvette!

Paula Bostic and Sharman Ramsey
Jean Hancher and Sharman Ramsey

Lots of folks came and we had a great time talking history! I look forward to meeting Mary Lois's mother and reading the books she has written on the history of the area inspired as she was as the editor of the local paper. The weather started out dismal and rainy, but the sun broke out. My dear friend, Jean W. Hancher and her husband Tom, braved the weather and the distance from Atlanta. It was GREAT getting together once more after 30 years!

Thanks to all who attended. The day was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Especially when Mary Lois waxed eloquent telling me how much she enjoyed the Mint Julep Mysteries! Music to an author's ears!

I just wish I'd had time to take more pictures!

Monday, November 17, 2014

University of Alabama Delta Delta Delta dedicates a new home

Delta Delta Delta University of Alabama

November 16th, 2014, brought a large group of University of Alabama Delta Delta Delta alumnae back to the campus to celebrate a brand new house. (I shared memories of the former Round House in another post, Delta Delta Delta Memories 1968.)

The amazing house has a dining room large enough for the over 300 members to actually eat at the same time. The actives welcomed the alumnae who donated to toward the construction of the lovely new home. It was such a delight getting to visit with my dear old friend and pledge sister, Yancey Nowlin Trucks, who left college and became the highest ranking woman in Alabama Power.

Donna Dearman Smith was our pledge class president and later also worked with Alabama Power. Jennie Kimborough King was one of the pledges our class was so proud to bring into the Chapter. She now works as a Career Consultant at the University of Alabama. She and the Tuscaloosa alumnae worked hard on planning, financing and bringing the new Tri Delt house into reality. She will replace Amanda Humber as House Corporation president

Dothan alumnae, Beth Shealy and Sue Marie Shealy Coe

Dothan Tri Delts, Beth Shealy and Sue Marie Shealy Coe, attended the event as well. Beth Shealy has served the chapter well, writing recs over the years to help Dothan girls along in the process.

The design of the dining room includes a celestory in the center of the ceiling. The round shape is an homage to the original 21,000 square foot round Tri Delt House. The new house is over 40,000 square feet. 

House Corporation President, Amanda Humber addresses the group. 

I was particularly delighted to reconnect with Beth Finch Curtis known affectionately to all during that time as Pieface. I heard her wonder to herself if any of those girls lining the walls (our pledges and actives) would allow anyone to call THEM Pieface! I remember always being impressed with her calm, cool leadership. Years may pass but you never stop loving those who shared those wonderful years and happy times with you. Beth married the twin brother of one of Delta Mu's most beautiful members, Julie Curtis. 

Beth Finch Curtis, Yancey Nowlin Trucks, Sharman Burson Ramsey, Patty Wilson Baker, Betty Bates , Peggy Wilson Pate

The weather forecast was for freezing weather. I wore the big coat that South Alabama ladies only get to wear on special occasions. 

We could not help but reminisce about the difference in sleeping arrangements. The new bedrooms at the Tri Delt house are absolutely gorgeous! These two are just examples. 

I truly enjoyed visiting with these dear old friends and making new ones in other classes. Each of us has our own story of our college life. Delta Delta Delta was a meaningful part of mine.

Alabama beat Mississippi State the day before. It was a very good weekend.