Monthly Archives: February 2011

Take the fuss out of same-sex marriage

The issue of same-sex marriages is back in the news, as the “Defense of Marriage Act” is under attack once again.

More than a year ago, I wrote about a solution. Check it out here.

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And a week later…

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, I wrote about how disappointed and discouraged I was with the chronically bad behavior of the 5th graders in my CCD class. Well, the word got out and it had a positive effect.

I maintain a second blog that is directly primarily at the parents of the students in my class. I update it weekly with an account of that week’s lesson, announcements, etc. Last week, I posted my “discouragement rant” on that blog also in the hope that some parents might actually read it and follow up with their child. The director of our CCD program took it a step further. She printed it out; made copies; and sent it home to all the parents in my class, along with a note from her.

I heard from a few of the parents, but, apparently, even those who did not contact me had conversations with their children.

Last night, the students were well mannered and engaged. I also had the services of my assistant teacher, aka “the enforcer,” to help keep the little darlin’s in line.

We have just a few weeks left in the year. Hopefully, we can maintain the momentum.

Poor, impoverished students

College students in Georgia are starting to whine. I have a little sympathy for them, but not too much. The governor released a plan this morning to save the Hope Scholarship. That is a lottery-funded program that has provided full college scholarships at state schools for students who graduate from high school with a 3.0 GPA and maintain it in college. Unfortunately, lottery sales are not keeping up with Hope demand and something has got to give. The governor’s plan caps most Hope Scholarships at 90% of current tuition levels with no automatic increases as tuition goes up at state schools.

I am sympathetic to the students and their parents, but not totally. I think that having someone pay for 90% of your college tuition is a really good deal. At one typical medium-range Georgia public university, that unpaid 10% comes to just under $44/month (two semesters’ tuition and fees, spread over 12 months). I strongly suspect that many of those students spend more than that on beer.

There is something to be said for requiring the student to pay at least a portion of the cost of their education. They may place more value on it. I had a boss once that held to that exact theory. He would reimburse employees for outside courses and training to improve themselves, but never the entire bill. He believed that if someone wasn’t willing to foot even a small part of the bill for a course, it would not be something they would take seriously. I think he was right.

Another issue is how the level of affluence of many of today’s college students has increased since I was a poor, impoverished (I really was!) student back in the dark ages of the 1970s. Before my current job, I worked at a state university, and got to see the way many of today’s college students “survive.” It always amazed me when I volunteered to help out on “move-in day,” and saw how many students arrived equipped with their own car, laptop computer, stereo, smart phone, flat screen TV, video game system, etc.

In Georgia, the joke has been the biggest beneficiaries of the Hope Scholarship are the car dealers. Enough parents used the money they saved on tuition to buy their young student a new car, they invented a new term for it – the Hopemobile.

Most of today’s students look with distain at the idea of living in a 13×13’ dormitory room.

My old dorm room looked pretty much like this.

Share it with a roommate? Never!

Use a communal restroom and shower room down the hall? Who are you kidding?

Most now live in relative luxury in off-campus apartments or in more-expensive apartment- or suite-style residence halls.

I’m sure there a few students for whom the Hope cutback this will be a hit, but for many, perhaps a great majority, this will be a minor inconvenience.

So if you are faced with an additional $34 a month in education expenses, what can you live without? Your smart phone? Your car? Your cable TV service? Your regular Thursday night bash at the student-bar? Your “luxury” apartment?  I’m sure it would be a tough decision.

Eating, praying and loving our way through the weekend

It was a beautiful weekend in Coastal Georgia. On Saturday, Mrs. Poolman and I set out to run some errands. The plan was to hit the suburban mall area for a couple of quick hits, and then head downtown. Mrs. P has wanted to visit a particular antique/junk store. She also wanted to have lunch at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s in the City Market. It looked like a perfect day to sit out in the sun and have a giant slice of pizza.

The mall part of the day went fine, but when we got downtown, we ran into trouble. The area was just overloaded with people. I guess a beautiful day combined with the Savannah Irish Festival and the Savannah Book Festival brought in the crowds. We couldn’t find a parking space. Two garages we tried were both full. After spending over a half-hour in gridlock in one garage without finding a space, we ran up the white flag. We headed back out to the ‘burbs.

That evening, at Mrs. P’s request, we rented Julia Roberts’ “Eat, Pray, Love.” I knew it wasn’t my cup of tea, but you do have to compromise. I wasn’t into the movie that much, but I had a book to keep me busy. On the other hand Mrs. P was so entranced, she fell asleep a half hour into the flick. I’m glad she enjoyed it.

Feeling beat up today

I’m disappointed and discouraged this morning. I hate to admit that I am being bested by a group of ten and eleven year-olds, but it is happening.

I teach a 5th grade religion class (CCD) on Wednesday nights at our church. Classroom “crowd control” has been an issue with this particular group of students since we began last September. Early on, I had to miss one class, and they brought the substitute teacher to tears.

Last night was a rowdy and difficult class. My helper was hung up in traffic due to a traffic accident on one of the nearby bridges. She did not arrive until class was nearly over, so I had the class to myself. Initially, I was not concerned. We had only nine or ten students and the lesson was one that, in the past, has been interesting and engaging for the students (and me.) I was overly optimistic.

Problems began before we really got started. I had to remove one student from the class, when, after two direct warnings about his behavior, he walked across the room to hassle another student during our opening prayer! His removal made an impression on the class that lasted for about ten minutes. The rest of the class session was a struggle against a tide of side-talk, cutting up and a lack of focus or attention span.

I have to accept partial blame for this problem. If I had better classroom management skills, I would probably do a better job controlling the mayhem. However, I’m not a professional teacher, and I can only use the skills I possess. In my defense, I have been teaching 5th grade CCD for six years, and this is the first class with whom I’ve had a problem anywhere close to this.

The sad part is that this makes the class sessions considerably less interesting and compelling for the students. I’m sure that, when asked, many would say that their CCD classes are boring and they get nothing out of them. I understand. The kind of questioning, open-discussion format that works well with religion classes does not work when the class cannot or will not focus on and participate in the group discussion.

It’s really too bad, because the last night’s lesson, as well as the last couple of weeks, contained lots of interesting questions for thought and discussion. Here are some of the points we tried to discuss last week and last night.

–The first commandment warns us to not worship false gods. Here in the 21st century, what are some of the false gods that some people worship? (ie: money, celebrities, fame, drugs, alcohol, etc.)

–What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain?

–Why do Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday?

–What are Catholics’ obligations to honor the Sabbath?

–Why do most Protestant religions count the commandments differently than Catholics?

–Why would God make it a commandment to honor your parents?

–Regarding the commandment “Thou shall not kill”, what about war, self defense, accidents, negligence, mental illness, etc?

–What is adultery? Does it also apply to boyfriends and girlfriends?

–What does it mean to “bear false witness? Does it mean any lie?

–Who are the “neighbors” it refers to?

–What does “covet” mean? What is the difference between admiring something that your friend owns, and coveting it?

–What is our conscience?

— How do we know what is right?

–What is the difference between a mortal sin and a venial sin?

We got through all those, but it was a struggle. And I suspect very little of it “stuck” with the kids.

I really hate to lecture or just read from the text book. I much prefer to ask questions; get the students to think and brainstorm; and try to guide them to their own answers. Unfortunately, this really isn’t working well with this particular group. Starting next week, I am going to have to reconsider my approach. We have just a few weeks left in the season. If it means reverting to a more boring lecture-read-written exercises format, in order to get through the year, then that’s what we’ll have to do.

Ugh.

Didn’t we just watch this show?

We probably watch entirely too much TV around our house, and the Monday night CBS sitcom lineup has been one of our favorites.

It has been diminished somewhat by the move of both The Big Bang Theory and Rules of Engagement to Thursday night.

Last night CBS premiered a new sitcom in the 8:30 (Eastern) slot previously occupied by Rules of Engagement.

Mad Love immediately followed How I Met Your Mother, and if I hadn’t been paying close attention, I would have thought it was one continuous program. CBS is rather blatantly making a near carbon copy of How I Met Your Mother. I can’t say that I blame them — Mother has been a ratings success — but you’d think there were some writers and producers out there with a little more originality.

Mad Love deals with a group of young, attractive, professionals, living in Manhattan and falling in and out of love. Sounds exactly like the show that’s on immediately before it. 

One of the two female leads in Mad Love, Sarah Chalke, was actually a multi-episode guest star in How I Met Your Mother.

Roseanne's little girl, all grown up -- Sarah Chalke

She was the long-term love interest of Mother’s Ted, played by Josh Radnor.

By the way, her love interest in Mad Love is Jason Biggs, who could be Radnor’s brother.

Mad Love's Jason Biggs

How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor

Coincidence? Yeah, right.

Slow weekend and bean soup

After a very busy last couple of weeks and two very busy weekends, I was ready for a a “nothing weekend.” It felt great!

I slept late and then ran a few errands on Saturday. I “read” at 5:30 Mass and then Mrs. Poolman and I enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day dinner at a local seafood restaurant that is part of the Paula Deen empire. Got home early and watched the Gators squeak one out against the UT Volunteers in a basketball game I recorded while we were out.

On Sunday, we just hung out around the house and took care of some of the usual weekend chores. I fixed Mrs. P a bacon ‘n egg scramble for brunch. Then I went to work on a ham & navy bean soup for eating sometime later in the week. (The recipe is under the tab at the top of the page.)

Ham and navy bean soup

We had a house full of company two weeks ago, and we had picked up a spiral-cut ham from Sam’s Club for sandwiches, etc. One of the best parts of any ham comes when most of the meat is gone and you just have scraps of meat left on the bone. I have a navy bean and black bean soup recipes that work pretty well – or at least Mrs. P thinks so, and that counts big.

Actually, I started the process on Saturday. I usually boil the meaty ham bone the day before I really want to prepare the soup, and leave it in the refrigerator over night. That way the fat congeals on the surface and can remove it before adding the remaining ingredients.

I finished it off on Sunday afternoon. Mrs. P was so excited she put aside her plans to make chicken marsala for dinner (Or she just didn’t want to mess with it.) and we had the soup for dinner.

We watched some of the Grammies after dinner, and I was reminded how totally out of touch I am with the current music scene. Aside from the old timers, like Bob Dylan, I had barely even heard of most of the nominated artists, let along actually been able to name one of their songs. If I ever make it onto Jeopardy, “Current Pop Music” will not be my strong category.