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. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thoughts on Marriage from the Perspective of 45 years.

"The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay because love isn’t love until you give it away."

God has taught me a few things that I thought I would share with you from the perspective of 45 years of marriage.
November 8, 1969. Jan Moseley, Robert Grimes, Martha McCarty, Bill Ramsey, Rondi Bates, Rick Williams, Gail Tyson, Randy Pierce, Doug Moseley, Yancey Nowlin, Dick Moseley, Debbie Spann, John Thomas, Pam Thuss, Ed Ramsey Patt McLauchlin (out of the picture) Georgianna Grand, Sylvia Burson, Sharman Burson Ramsey, Joel Ramsey, Elkanah Burson, Philip Ramsey
1.     Never give up.

You may remember singing the song:
Here am I, Send me Lord
Here am I, Send me Lord
Make my live useful to thee. 

He sent you. The man/woman you chose, the home you made, the children/ grandchildren born or adopted are your very first and most personal mission. Not farthest Africa. Or the Rescue Mission down the street. Or the church you attend. If things are not right in your home, you are not right. By realizing that you have put God first.

Sharman and Joe Ramsey

 2.     The children in that home were not sent to you alone. No one will love those children like their own father or mother. There are exceptions to this, but they are anomalies.

3.     When you don’t feel love, let God love through you.  There are three types of love: eros (sexual that brings you together), filios (companionable love, friendship) and agape (when you CANNOT love you must let God love through you).
Pray for the love. And then follow His command and “Walk believing you have received it and you shall have it.” That means act as if you love and the love will come back. Greet your loved one with a kiss. Fix their favorite meal.

4.     If you become bored with your home and can’t afford something new, don’t take it out on your spouse. Be proactive and not reactive. Money is not the answer to everything. Rearrange your furniture. It makes everything look and feel new. Check out a new cookbook from the library and become a better cook. Learn something new. Take up gardening. Be creative around your home and build your nest.

Gail Tyson, Rondi Bates, Jan Moseley, Martha McCarty, Pam Thuss, Debbie Spann, Patt McLaughlin, Sylvia Burson, Georgianna Grand

Robert Grimes, Rick Williams, Ed Ramsey, Dick Moseley, Bill Ramsey, John Thomas, Doug Moseley, Randy Pierce, Philip Ramsey must have been seating someone
 5.    Develop friendships so you are not dependent upon your spouse for your total emotional support. It’s also fun to have “news” to bring back home and share. The caveat here is in your choice of friends. Choose friends that help you be the best you can be. Unfortunately, there are those who might want you to jump into their own situation just so they will have company there.

 6.     Don’t hold grudges. What example are you setting for your children? Does a parent's example not matter any more? Has "if it feels good do it!" become the new Commandment that replaces the former Ten? If you’re not happy, it must be your spouse's fault? Is the answer really to throw the other person away? You’re still stuck with yourself and you will probably be living with more problems than before:  financial, social, dating men/women who may not have the paternal/maternal attitude toward your children that will provide a secure home for those precious children God entrusted to your care. Will the problem of today really matter next week or two years from now?

Keep your eyes on the prize-- holding grandchildren and looking beyond them to the same man/woman who held their mother or father, the one who sacrificed so they would have the best chances life could offer.  Those babies are the reason you were born – not your contribution the GDP.  “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” will be the reward.

Joel Ramsey and son, Andrew Ramsey (9 pounds 9 oz)


7.     Keep a thankful spirit. Remember the good. Forget the bad. See your life as half full and not half empty. Give friends and family leeway. God isn’t finished with any of us yet. Most of us are doing the best we can with the situations of life and ability that we must deal with. Realize that some are more capable of demonstrating their love than are others. They may be less articulate in verbalizing feelings and expect you to see their love in their actions- their fidelity and support.

Sylvia Burson, Jean Gillis Burson, Sharman Burson 
Dr. E. G. Burson, Jr. and Sharman Burson with Jan Moseley, Martha McCarty and Patt McLaughlin
 8.     It is a spouse’s, friend’s, parent’s, child’s responsibility to bring out the good in the ones God has entrusted to them. Encourage and support the best in the ones you love. As we become older, we realize that God doesn’t just give children to the parents, but the parent to the child. It is just as important for the child to love, pray for and support the parent entrusted to them as it is for the parent to love, pray for and support the child. Remain prayerful and wait for God to do the work He has begun in those He has placed in your charge. 

Joel and Sharman Ramsey with Reverend Paul Duffey, First United Methodist Church, Dothan, Alabama

 9.     “You will teach these things to your sons and your sons’ sons.” If you have chosen to follow God, don’t be a hypocrite about the vows you took... or think you can retire. There is no more important job than making sure each of your little ones know the pathway to Heaven. Life has a death sentence. The end comes to us all. Some earlier than others. Like a military mission. So rather than cling to length, embrace the challenge of making the moment count. 

I think of the teachers at Sandyhook who heroically put themselves in front of their students. Though brief, those lives held meaning and purpose. They were true heroes. They faced bullets. Can mothers and fathers do less for their own children with simple situations in their everyday life?  

A wedding is a Sacrament, a Holy moment, during which vows are exchanged and a family begins. Somehow along the way we've lost sight of that fact and we have gotten lost in the party. Is the honor of a man/woman so much less important now than in the past? We in the South believe that a man's word is his bond. Is business more important than marriage?

"I could not love thee dear so much, loved I not honor more." wrote Richard Lovelace in "To Lucasta Going to the Wars."

Honor mattered then. Honor matters now.

10. The grass always looks greener on the other side. If only… can make you totally miserable. You have life and breath. Embrace the family that God entrusted to you, the friends with whom you are blessed … and speak your love.

Because love isn’t love till you give it away.

45 years later Steven Butterworth, Cecily Butterworth, Mike Evans, Brooke Evans and Molly, Drew Ramsey, Brittany Ramsey and Sam, Megan Evans, Sharman Ramsey, Joe Ramsey, George Ramsey, and Lily Butterworth
Thank you, God. I am so blessed.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in His hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” Robert Browning

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Puppy Love ASPCA Fundraiser

Col. Thomas Rushing and Tudor
The ASPCA (Dothan Humane Society) held its annual fundraiser on November 1, 2014 at the home of Col. Thomas and Dr. Sylvia Burson Rushing in Spann Farm in Dothan, Alabama. Inspired by their love for their own two Yorkies, Tudor and Moses, Tom and Sylvia were a natural fit to host such an event. You see Tom cuddling Tudor in the picture to the left. MooMoo, below, is ten years old and follows Sylvia everywhere. 
Moses (a.k.a.MOOMOO) Rushing

Tudor Rushing 
Ellen Webber sets up the appetizers

In spite of the sudden cold spell that kept the large number of people who attended inside, the flickering flames in the fireplaces added warmth to the casual, well-attended evening.

Brian Hart entertained on the guitar
Segrid Gale served as organizer and members of the board all participated. Humane Society members contributed appetizers (served in the kitchen) and desserts (dining room) while delicious barbecue, grilled chicken and all the fixins were served buffet style in the garage.

Cecily Ramsey Butterworth with Aunt Sylvia Burson Rushing, a guest and Rebecca Suggs, Mrs. Alabama
 My daughter Cecily and I sat in the kitchen enjoying new friends who were dedicated their pets. I must admit to being impressed with how husbands AND wives pulled out their cell phones to show us the pictures of their pets -- so obviously loved. These are dedicated people supporting and loving the animals among us who make such devoted friends. I have long been impressed with the way Humane Society member Marcella West dedicates her time to transporting animals around the country to places where abused or abandoned animals might find a home.

The event raised a lot of money for a very good cause.

Auburn and Mississippi State played on big screen TVs throughout the house

Mary Jo Woodham and Kay Nailen chat with a friend on the patio.

Even more serious football watchers
I must admit that the warm casual atmosphere of this fundraiser made it one of my all time favorite events.