Tag Archives: sitsgirls31dbbb

Can School Districts Really Ignore Students Who Need Help?

On Disability Scoop this morning, there was an article on school districts and their obligation to identify students with special needs under the “child find” clause of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  But this school district (in Compton, CA) was more worried about being liable for  “educational malpractice” than getting this student help. This case was about a girl who was promoted to 11th grade after testing below the 1st percentile level and who performed at less than a 4th grade level as a 10th grader. Counselors and teachers noted issues, but no one ever suggested she get evaluated.

Yes, budgets are tight; yes, there are many students who need help, but what are we educating our children for, if not to get an education and not just be shunted through school, grade after grade even though there are signs of trouble.

School District’s can’t ignore students who may need Special Ed services and then claim they had no duty to notify the parents. In this case, “[t]he School District asserts that, because it chose to ignore Addison’s disabilities and take no action, it has not affirmatively refused to act. The School District therefore contends that the notice requirement does not apply… We reject this argument.” Thankfully, the 9th Circuit rejected this argument outright. Frankly, I don’t know how that school district made that argument with a straight face – “we ignored it so we have no duty to notify the parents of an issue???” Really? If that were true, school districts would ignore every issue and claim no duty to do anything about it. THE Court went on to say, “[t]he School District’s wilful inaction in the face of numerous “red flags” is more than sufficient to demonstrate its unwillingness and refusal to evaluate Addison.”

There are many reasons the signs may be missed that a child need special ed services – but something seems off, you just can’t put your finger on it. Sometimes their performance (or lack thereof) may be attributed to behavioral issues or to something the child will grow out of. At the end of the day, we all (the parents, the child, the School Districts, and society as a whole) have a vested interest in educating every child. This case was decided on the pleadings, meaning that facts weren’t presented, that means there aren’t a lot of factual details presented.

The few facts that are mentioned in the case directly: “Addison’s mother was reluctant to have the child “looked at,” and School District officials decided not to “push.” Instead, the School District referred Addison to a third-party mental-health counselor. The third-party counselor recommended that the School District assess Addison for learning disabilities. Despite the recommendation, the School District did not refer Addison for an educational assessment, and instead promoted Addison to eleventh grade.

In September 2004, Addison’s mother wrote a letter to the School District explicitly requesting an educational assessment and Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) meeting. The assessment took place on December 8, 2004. The IEP team determined that Addison was eligible for special education services on January 26, 2005.”

There are many lessons to be learned in this case — put requests in writing, find out your rights as parents (read the handbook that the school district hands you), don’t trust that school districts or school administrators know the law,  inform yourself and don’t stop asking questions about how your child is going to be helped, specifically.

What I find most fascinating in this case is that the Supreme Court is requesting the Obama administration to weigh in on the situation. I think the Supreme Court is capable enough to balance public policy needs versus what the law plainly says and requires.

If you have thoughts on this issue, please share them in the comments.

Advertisements

Gimme 5 – Eating Healthy While Traveling

Today’s Gimme 5 is about Eating While Traveling. It is so hard to eat the right things while traveling. The grab and go is so easy – unhealthy carbs become your best friend while traveling. (I think we had pizza in each state as we drove across country this pasts summer.) And it is so easy to eat out all of the time and over indulge in great food while traveling!  I have worked really hard the last 15 months to lose weight and change my habits. One of the hardest things to change is how I eat while traveling.

 

Today’s tips are about the changes (like NOT ordering the burger and fries) I have made that have worked for me to keep me from gaining weight – I’m not sure it helped me lose weight, but at least I didn’t gain any! With Spring Break coming up, I wanted to share these tips for eating healthy while traveling!


  1. Plan ahead – I think this one is probably the hardest one to do on a consistent and regular basis. Think through whether there will be food where you will be while you are traveling (think plane, train, and automobiles) and where you will be going (airport, train station, or hotel). Will there be food on the plane? Will you have time to get anything before your flight or afterwards? Flying to the East Coast often means that I get in really late and often don’t have time for a regular dinner. I either have to bring something or plan to stop on the way to the place I am staying. All of this is a long-winded way of saying plan ahead.
  2. Bring Your Own – Along with the first tip of planning ahead, I usually bring food along. I don’t really like the food on the plane – no snack boxes for me thank you very much! And I never know if I will be served a meal on the flight, so I usually bring almonds, yoghurt, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs or something with protein on the plane with me. I also usually have a power bar or two stashed in my bag along with the all important DARK CHOCOLATE!
  3. Appetizers are your friend – I have changed to ordering two appetizers rather than an appetizer and an entree. I usually order a salad or soup plus one of the smaller portions of an enticing entree. This results in less food being put in front of me and therefor, less of a temptation to overeat! It is very easy to keep talking and eating and drinking! Ordering smaller amounts is a great way to lessen the impact of eating out!
  4. An Apple a Day – this really means eat fruit, not sweets. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an apple, but it does mean choose fruit. It is better to stick with fruit when it is offered or available. Usually at conferences at 2 or 3 in the afternoon there is a plethora of sweets offered along with fruit. Choose the fruit, not the cookies. I know it sucks to not choose the cookie but your body will love you for it later. Or, if you really want the cookie – be prepared to run another mile or two the next morning (or swim or whatever your exercise of choice is)!
  5. Club Soda with Lime is Your Friend – OK, mea culpa — I love to drink! I love red wine. I love cosmos and martinis. But one of the worst things to do when traveling is to try to keep up with the sales team or other colleagues on a drinking basis. I find that these guys can drink forever and I, unfortunately, cannot. So, I have learned to substitute, substitute, substitute.  Working with sales, it seems like one long drinkfest with work throuwn in occasionally. I have recently switched to water, gin & tonics, or light beers. Although red wine is still my favorite, I stick to no more than 2 glasses through out the entire evening. This is quite a change for me, but the nutritionist definitely said to watch the alcohol intake and it has made a big difference!

What has worked for you! If you have a tip for eating Healthy while traveling, please leave a comment!

To a Special Lady – Celebrating Grandma Edith’s Birthday

Today is my grandmother’s birthday – she is 89. She looks the same as she always has to me, but moves a little slower these days. I went back through many years of pictures to pull out the ones that look like she does in my head when I think of her. I have this universal youthful picture of her in my mind when I think of her. The picture I remember seeing most was a picture taken of her right after she graduated from nursing school – that’s how I remember her.

 

 

I remember her working at her desk coloring well logs for my Grandfather’s geology business. She even had the patience to teach me how to color those well logs.

 

She taught me to have love and appreciation for music. She played the cello and viola. She would trot out her stringed instruments and play them for us whenever we would ask. She always had a few about the house that we could try our hand at. I never wanted to cut my fingernails to play a string instrument so I stuck to the trombone and piano. She tolerated my playing her piano (with washed hands, of course) and teaching myself to play during the time we spent at their house in the summers.

 

She and my grandfather made me the most wonderful jewelry that I wear whenever I have the chance. I have stones of all colors. My favorites are a malachite set and the amethyst pendant shown here. This was a 70’s Halloween costume, but that hardly matters…

 

She made incredible mobiles. When I started having children, she and my grandfather made us a cat mobile which included stones that they had polished and turned into pendants. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the cats are all made from sheet metal that my grandfather cut out using templates made from wrapping paper with cat pictures.

I love that my grandmother wanted to live closer to us. My grandfather didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh, even after he retired, and even though all three of their kids were in California. After he died, she moved to California and is very near us. I love having her close by and it is nice that she can know my sons (her great grandchildren). I’m not sure all of the things that I love about her will rub off on them, but I do know they like to play Qwirkle and Mah Jong with her!

Happy 89th Birthday Grandma Edith!

Tell me what you love most about your Grandmother in the comments!

Guest Blogger Monica L. on Packing Tips for Backpacking Across Europe

Today’s Guest Post is from Monica of Travel Knit Read who just spent the better part of the last year traveling the world. She had to travel very light and that meant she had to pack very little and could not pick up much along the way.  After writing about my packing efforts on a recent trip with my family, I thought, “wow, how did Monica travel for most of the year with just a roller bag?” So, I asked her to write a little about it — Enjoy!

Monica in Barcelona

“Well, a dear friend of mine just posted to her blog about her packing tips for her travels within the US with her 3 kids. I thought I would post some packing tips after my 7 months of travel through Europe as well. After all these travel sites, including Rick Steve’s travel list, I do have some lessons learned and tips as well. As I traveled in the summer, most of these are obviously tips for packing light:

  • 3 technical dri-fit t-shirts (they dry quickly when you are sweating in 100 F or 40 C weather. They are also easy to wash and dry quickly and they never stink like cotton t-shirts. They are also way lighter.) Under Armour, Reebok, Nike, Adidas make them.
  • 2 pairs of convertible pants (with long shorts zipping off so the zippers don’t cut into your thighs while you walk) I lived in my Mountain Hardwear Yuma pants for 7 months. They also dry very quickly.
  • 1 technical long sleeve shirt (light colored)
  • 3-4 pairs of sport socks (they take the longest to dry of all clothes)
  • 1 pair of “>Havianas flip flops (make sure to choose a rubber pair, the thong parts must have a lot of room above the foot if they are too close they will cut into sides of feet. The thongs you can wear when showering in not so nice places and they will dry quickly.)
  • 1 pair of leather ” target=”_blank”>Teva sandals with suede footbed (they have the mostsupport when walking around and most comfortable)
  • 1 pair of very comfortable running shoes for hiking/walking in the rain/walking alot.
  • 1 pair of ” target=”_blank”>Birkenstocks (Everyone in Europe wears them in the summers, suede footbed and very comfy. They are made differently in Europe than in the US. The ones in the US are very hard and uncomfortable.)
  • 6 pairs of panties
  • 3 bras
  • 1 swim suit (1 piece is usually more convenient than bikini)
  • 1 head lamp (many streets are not lit at night, sometimes needed for hiking, caves)
  • 1 dress
  • 1 skirt (over the knee)
  • 1 fancy top to match skirt
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 Saree for the beach
    1 EnviroSac (nylon bag for the beach and shopping)  I like the Timbuk2 line of packable totes/backpacks.
  • 1 light fleece hoodie
  • 1 thermal long sleeve t-shirt (the best ones are ” target=”_blank”>Icebreakers made of Merino Wool made in New Zealand)
  • 1 sarong for beach coverup or travel towel
  • 1 windwall jacket (lightweight but warm on those cold nights – mine was from North Face)
  • Sunglasses (Maui Jims that are dressy yet light titanium wire frames so they are sporty as well)
  • Hat

All of the above should be very light for your very light backpack or roller bag. I used a convertible Eagle Creek Switchback 22″ bag, it converted from a roller bag to a backpack when the elevator did not work or when there was no elevator to speak of.

I have a few other hard-earned travel tips!

  • Do not pack jeans or wear them! They are heavy, do not dry quickly and hard to wash in the sink!
  • Sunscreen is a must. You should have 2 100 ml small bottles so that you can put it in carryon.
 Max out your tubes to the 100 ml or 2.5 oz size.
  • Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Moisturizer
 – Washing your stuff in hotel sinks is what I did mostly, so have 100 ml of detergent with you.
  • Don’t forget your meds! Antacids, Aspirin, Imodium, etc. in a small pill box.
 Sometimes if you travel with people, you will need eye mask and ear plugs.
 Buy the eye mask that has a nice fabric that is silk as they don’t leave marks on your face and are cool and feels nice on your face.
 Get the ear plugs that look like wax, they are malleable that conform to your ears. Only those block all sounds. The others will pop out and do not block noise.
  • If you are going to be gone for a long time, please get a light Netbook, iPad, or new 13-inch MAC but be sure to have combination locks for your luggage.
  • Try not to bring too much cash as you will worry about it more. Most places have ATM machines. The exchange rates for cash is always worse than ATM machines.
  • The best camera that people used was the ” target=”_blank”>Canon S95 (pocketsize) or Canon G11 (slightly bigger). I would have chosen the S95 if I had to do it again. I couldn’t take most night shots with my older camera.
  • Reading materials: Get yourself a Kindle or Kobo reader as carrying one lightweight item to read is way lighter than lugging around 3-4 books in your luggage. I read quickly and I left 4 books in different hotels around Europe which seemed like such a waste. I saw so many copies of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in hotel lobbies.

My favorite travel tip:
 After washing clothes in the sink, place clothes flat on a towel, roll up the towel, twist towel and wring towel tightly to wring excess water out of clothes. Then hang clothes to dry. Your clothes will dry overnight this way. Sometimes, you might want to have some fun t-shirts as you don’t want all your photos to be of the same clothes all the time so I did have a few Hello Kitty t-shirts that made for cute travel photos but they don’t last long and can be trashed and new ones can be purchased. That is all I can think of for now…”

Thank you for contributing Monica!

If you have travel tips of your own or tips for packing light, please leave a comment!

Gimme 5 – Great Places to Stay in Sedona

I travel to Sedona fairly regularly for work (I know there are places that are a lot worse that I could be sent to…say, Arkansas), so I have had the opportunity to stay in many different places there. While most of the hotels in Sedona are fairly small, a couple of the ones that I highlight today are big, and all of them are great for a family reunion or vacation. If you have a work retreat or event to plan, consider Sedona, you won’t be disappointed!

  1. The Enchantment Resort – this resort is a little out of the way, but it is very quiet and exclusive (rumor has it that we passed Madonna’s place on the way out to this resort). It was a great place to stay when my husband could travel with me. (We stayed there on election night which didn’t make the Bush – Gore election any more palatable). It is an amazing place. The spa was fantastic; the food was fantastic; the exercise classes were fantastic, but our favorite part was the location. You can literally walk out your door and go hiking on many different trails. It felt like we were on the edge of the earth. While they do have a conference facility on site, mine was not being held there, so we had to drive every morning for 20 minutes or so to get back into town and get to my conference. For work or vacation, this resort can’t be beat!
  2. The Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa – this place is great! I have spent the most time here and at the Amara, but this one is a mix of regular hotel, resort, and fun place to be. The hot rock massages at the hotel spa were wonderful and relaxing. I felt 5 inches taller walking out of there. The pool closes early and the hotel security didn’t appreciate a bunch of people climbing the fence to try out the hot tub after a late dinner! My favorite part was the golf course and being able to wake up and walk the course at sunrise. Rabbits and all kinds of wildlife were out there to say good morning!
  3. The Sedona Rouge – the Sedona a Rouge is a nice, peaceful hotel despite being on the main road, 89A,  in Sedona. The rooms were generously sized and appointed. The spa is quite relaxing and the tea served in there was a surprise. Sedona is a sleepy town with little night life. We had to pay the bartender to stay open later for our little raucous  group after coming back from dinner. The hotel is a little separate and disjointed but that’s what makes it quiet.
  4. L’Auberge de Sedona – the name should say something to you – like – “With my French name, I am going to be very expensive!” It is, but it is built into a hillside and backs up to Oak Creek and is very, very worth it. It is located at the North end of town on 89A and hidden down its own driveway – it looks like you are going to drive down an embankment into Oak Creek. The views from this side are stunning. The balconies of each hotel room back up onto the creek and make for a very peaceful evening.
  5. The Amara Creekside Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa in Sedona – this one is my personal favorite. The Amara is right next door to L’Auberge but is much, much less expensive. In fact, when I drove across country last summer and decided to stay a couple of nights in Sedona, I threw my idea of camping out the window and we stayed here. My kids loved the pool and being on the creek. I loved being able to sit out by the fire pit and have a glass of wine while the kids raced each other up and down the pool. The rooms are simple and elegant. The balconies are small, but the common area around the pool and creek  were much better for hanging out anyway. I had the best hot rock massage ever at this resort (the masseuse was named John) and they have since expanded their spa into a separate area, which is very tranquil.



All of these hotels are in the nice to very nice range – the prices and service range wildly from reasonable to very expensive. But, no matter where you choose to stay the views will be stunning, the spas will relax you, and you will have good food!

If you have a favorite place to stay in Sedona – leave more information in the comments.

The Tale of Two Grandmas

My grandmothers are awesome – let’s just state that right up front to start this tale! I’m working on this project where I am writing some guides on how to share photos online and the end-user I have to keep in mind is someone who isn’t that comfortable with the internet but wants to share and print photos with their friends and family. At the same, I had just come home from a visit with one of my grandmothers and we had spent a ton of time looking through old photos and slides. Both of these things got me thinking about my two grandmothers and how polar opposite the are when it comes to computers and the internet.

My Grandma Edith is  going to be 89 in April. She was a nurse and worked for my grandfather’s geology company for years, color coding well core samples. She now does tai chi every day. She plays viola and cello beautifully. She makes incredible jewelry, does intricate silver work, and uses the rocks that my grandfather finds and polishes to turn them in to jewelry. Over the years I have learned many things from her. Using the computer isn’t one of them!

We have tried to set up a computer for her and my grandfather to use (he would actually send emails). But I never saw her use it. We even volunteered to go down to the library and set up a free gmail account, so that she could email us when she went to the library. The whole idea of email is foreign to her. She actually writes letters and makes phone calls. I think she is one of three people that I know who still hand-write letters. I don’t think we will ever get her to use a computer – for email or for any other reason.

My other grandmother, Grandma Frances, is 92 and is the polar opposite. She taught math, shorthand, and other subjects in high school until she retired in 1976. She uses the computer for all kinds of things – she uses Quicken to balance the farm books; she uses it to email all of us family members; she tracks all of our birthdays and addresses – from her children to all of the great grandkids! She hasn’t shared any photos with me online, but I am sure she can figure it out with the instruction sets I am writing! She is the one I credit with getting me interested in photography. She took the time to explain the camera, how it worked, and more importantly, she trusted me to use her Canon camera when I was 10. This trip, we had a blast looking through her old photos and slides. We even got the slide projector up and running to share silly pictures with my kids – like the ones of my dad from the 70’s with an afro, and the ones of our cows, and my teddy bear. She sent me home with a stack of slides and pictures to scan in!

Today’s blog is a tribute to these two lovely ladies who each have their own strengths. These are ladies 3 and 4 in my effort to highlight 30 women this year. Read more about the others: BFF, Michealene Cristini Risley

Red Cross, Johnstown Flood, Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

How Can You Help with the Relief Effort for the Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster in Japan?

In 1889, the South Fork Dam broke, unleashing over 20 tons of water and massive amounts of debris onto Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a small coal and steel town of ~10,000 people. Officially, over 2,200 people died in the flood and ensuing fire, and many more went missing and were never found. To a small town like Johnstown, the scale of the disaster is not unlike the earthquake and ensuing tsunami disaster in Japan today.

As unlikely as it seems, one great thing came out of that disaster – The Red Cross began offering disaster relief services. Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, led with disaster relief efforts after the Johnstown Flood. The Red Cross has been assisting with disaster relief efforts ever since. In 2007, I was lucky enough to visit the Johnstown Flood National Memorial and learn more about the Johnstown Flood disaster. The sheer scale of it was awesome. The videos posted of the tsunami disaster are even more awesome. The destruction is unbelievable and sad. My heart and prayers  go out to those who have died in this disaster and to those who are working like crazy in the recovery efforts.

I know many people are looking for a way to help with this recovery effort. The Red Cross is a neutral organization that assists in disasters like this worldwide. I saw a message today that United Airlines will even match miles as donations under their Charity Miles program when you donate to the Red Cross.  These miles will be used to help transport people to/from the disaster area in Japan. I am sure we will start seeing more and more programs like this to help Japan recover.

Please consider donating miles through your own airline affinity program or donating cash to the Red Cross.

You Gotta See the Race to Nowhere Movie

After 4 previous attempts, I finally saw the movie Race to Nowhere last night and I later posted a comment on a Race to Nowhere share on Facebook:

Sonya L. Sigler I have been an advocate for no homework for so long – I wanted our school to volunteer to be a test bed for a “no homework policy.” I would prefer that my kids play sports or take music or do nothing or explore the park down the hill from us… and I was lucky enough to see the movie tonight in San Carlos, CA.

By this morning, I had been attacked for my opinion that supported a “no homework policy” that our elementary school district had merely discussed 4-5 years ago.

Susi Crowe OK Sonya, no homework for high school students, really!?? Explore the park down the hill with the girlfriend, a case of beer and country music playing…or let’s make sure kids have time to play, which nowadays means playing on the computer, the Iphone, the Xbox. Great productive plan that you have, let’s you off the hook from being involved w/ your kids homework and spending the time as a parent taking them to activities they are interested in, so YOU have more free time……

It was interesting to me to see that 1) all kinds of judgments had been made (I don’t do homework with my kids; I don’t take them to activities they are interested in; I hold this opinion about homework so I can have more free time; my kids listen to country music..I could go on) and 2) leaps to certain conclusions had been made without even asking for more information or an explanation of why I want my kids to do things other than homework or why I would think that volunteering our school to test the policy was a good idea. I had one comment of support:

Sarasota Homes ‎@Sonya – I LOVE your attitude and thoughts toward education. I was a high school teacher/coach for 16 years. I don’t want my kids “racing to nowhere” and that’s exactly where politicians (on both sides) demand they go…. Kids NEED to be kids. Great support here!

This “no homework policy” that I mentioned was merely a discussion that the school board had 4-5 years ago (three superintendents ago) and it hadn’t even been implemented.  As far as I know, not one of our district schools has tested a “no homework policy.” What I do know is that schools in our elementary school district (San Carlos) and high school district (Sequoia Union) have made strides to coordinate homework assignments and work loads. I posted a further explanation:

Sonya L. Sigler I have a little bit longer explanation about what no homework means in our family and with the school my kids go to AND what the “no homework policy” was that was discussed in our school district about 4-5 years ago. We, as a family, focus on music, sports, scouting, and visiting National Parks. So, it is different homework than busy work sheets and homework given because the teacher couldn’t get to the info in class. Then there are chores on top of that. My kids also go to a project based school so there isn’t a lot of busywork homework; most of the homework assigned is related to a project unit. The “no homework policy” that was discussed in our school district 4-5 years ago that I wanted to volunteer our school for would have looked at a few things: 1) coordinated homework among the teachers so that not every subject had an hours worth of homework every evening; 2) the homework time (targeted time to complete it) would vary by grade level; and 3) the homework was related to reinforcing concepts in the curriculum as opposed to busy work. Thankfully we do most of these at our school already. But I am sure there are improvements that we can make related to homework. My kids are in a K-8 school so we haven’t gotten to the heavy work loads in high school – however my philosophy remains the same for that and the high schools in our area are trying to coordinate the homework assigned among the classes.

I think there is enough work for our children to do in school and in class without giving them more than an hour or two of homework each night. One of the main points of the movie was that after a certain amount of time the point of doing the homework becomes ineffective — I think it was an hour for middle school and two hours for high school students. The high schools in our area ARE trying to coordinate the type and amount of homework given across the subjects. At SCCLC, we have targeted homework by grade level and I think that the time expected to be spent on homework is not excessive as it relates to each grade level at our school.

From a family perspective, it all comes down to managing priorities and choices. Everything is a choice. Spending 4 hours on homework instead of playing baseball is a choice. Spending time playing an instrument instead of doing busy worksheets is a choice. Spending time exploring National Parks is a choice. Spending time with Boy Scouts is a choice. It’s all a choice. We choose to have our kids play sports, play an instrument, participate in scouting, and explore national parks. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for homework, or as suggested in the snarky facebook comment, playing video games. BTW – We do limit screen time of all types – we don’t ban it, we just limit it to 2 hours on the weekends. And, even with a full time job, I do squire my kids around to activities that they are interested in…currently, for my three boys that list includes baseball, basketball, flag football, bowling, rifles, archery, 4H, Scouts, soccer, dance, and music lessons – I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of not being involved with my kids – some would say they are over scheduled and that I’m too involved. But, truth be told they are doing the activities that they choose to do.

Our family has chosen to concentrate our time on the activities that are important to us – sometimes that doesn’t include homework. The consequence of these choices will vary – sometimes my son has to wake up earlier to do homework or stay up later than usual to finish it. Sometimes he may have to spend lunch or recess time finishing up something. Sometimes he may not turn it in at all – this has led to an interesting discussion about doing extra credit work to cover times when he can’t finish his work or turn it in. But, at least we know what the choice is that we are making as opposed to blindly trying to do it all.

Re high school, my thoughts on homework are the same. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it all just because someone has assigned homework. Talk to the teachers, advocate for your child – or better yet, have your child advocate for themselves (or in a group of students)  when it comes to managing homework loads.

Part of what the movie was shedding light on is – take a step back and evaluate the situation. What is right for your child (and why)? The sky isn’t going to fall if your child doesn’t get into “a good” college. Taking AP classes just to get into “a good” college is a prime example of doing something for the wrong reason. Doing well in an AP course is a choice; does it mean that you have to read the entire textbook? No, it means you need to be able to understand concepts and understand the bigger picture – that is what is tested on AP tests. The point of an AP class is that it IS accelerated learning. It requires you to digest an enormous amount of information. If all of your child’s courses are AP courses – you are really saying that they should be in college – becuase those AP test scores translate into college credit. The point made in the movie is – look at what your child is doing and why they are doing it. If your child  is only taking an AP course because they think it will get them into the right college – rethink the situation and make a change, if necessary.

There is one scene in the movie that was particular poignant for me – it was the scene where a boy says that he wanted to quit school altogether because he didn’t get the grade he wanted and now probably won’t get into the college he wanted. In retrospect, I did a lot of things in high school because it would look good when I applied to college. I didn’t get into Harvard or Stanfurd, which were my top 2 choices, and those rejection letters were very hard to take. My mom didn’t even believe me when I called her at work to tell her I didn’t get in to Stanfurd. Ironically, I got into my back up school, UC Berkeley, on early admission, which was based upon my grades and test scores alone.  Granted this was in the 80’s and now admission to the schools in the UC system works slightly differently, but my point is that I survived and I went to a great college anyway even though it wasn’t my first choice. (As a side note – I really loved that there was a clip of the Cal Band in the movie – I spent a lot of time in the Cal Band when I was in college). Did I go to a school that matched what I needed (as the movie suggests)? No, I probably would have done much better at a school like Colorado College that does block learning on one subject per month, not 6 or 7 classes per 15 week semester. I think one of the most important points in the movie was to focus on finding what works for your child!

Many thanks to our San Carlos PTA Coordinating Council who sponsored the evening last night and worked hard to bring the Race to Nowhere movie to our District. I urge you to bring it to your school district! Have a panel discussion. Have schools explain what their homework policy is. Have kids explain how it is affecting them or how they are coping with the work loads. Proactively work at finding a solution for you and your child(ren). I urge you to see the movie if you have a chance.

If you have thoughts on this post or what can make the situation described in the Race to Nowhere better, please leave a comment.

Gimme 5 – Eating (for Success) in Airports

Gimme 5 – Eating (for Success) in Airports
I travel a lot for work and when I travel, my good eating habits tend to go right out the window. Over the last 18 months or so, I have tried to focus on eating more healthy  all the time, not just when I travel. When I went to Florida for a family vacation a couple of weeks ago, I had a rather rude wake up call about my efforts in this area. Most everywhere we went, the food was fried or greasy or in the carb category. Basically, the menus consisted of everything that I wanted to avoid AND have been trying hard to avoid for the last 18 months. Over this week of family/vacation travel, I thought about how eating and traveling can work with a healthy eating focus and I came up with a few tips for eating (for success) in airports.
1. Scope it out – don’t just stop at McDonald’s, Gordon Biersch or TGIFridays because it its the first thing you see or is close to your gate – check out a map to find a healthier alternative. One of my healthy favorites is the Jamba Juice store in the Charlotte airport. On this trip we found a new restaurant in the Phoenix airport in the US airways terminal (which is the award-winning Terminal 4). The BarFly had opened the day before we sat down for a meal before taking the red-eye. The BarFly menu contained interesting salads and grilled steaks – which we a better choice than fried shrimp! Although it was probably 1,00o calories, their Mac ‘N Cheese was fantastic – it was a grown up version of Mac ‘N Cheese with bacon or pancetta. To find this restaurant – we traveled the length of the terminal to check out  all of the food choices and then we decided on a place that had more menu choices than hot dog, hamburger, or fried “anything.” What ever your method of scoping out the restaurants, it will be better than just stopping at the first restaurant you find.
2. Be Picky – If you can find one of your favorite food places or a restaurant with healthy choices on the menu (for example, salads that go beyond the house salad of iceberg lettuce and an unripe tomato wedge)  you will have a higher likelihood of finding a healthy food choice! I tend to prefer Starbuck’s Coffee or Peet’s Coffee, because I can usually get yoghurt or fruit in addition to my favorite beverage. If I’m not picky about the place I eat, I usually find that the chili-dog at the airport bar looks great and goes with the beer I just ordered…
3. Drink water – Drink water when you are in the airport. Drink plenty of it! Go ahead…go ahead and drink tons of water while there is a big, convenient, and (usually) clean bathroom close by. It sure beats having to go in the tiny, cramped, and usually smelly airplane bathrooms! Besides you want to stay hydrated when you travel – it cuts down the chance of getting sick!
4. Small portions/take it with you – Eating successfully with a focus on healthy food usually involves eating less food altogether. I try to order something small if possible. If there isn’t any thing small to order small, consider ordering something that is easy to eat half of and then take the other half with you for a mid-flight snack. Half of a Muffuletta sandwich from the New Orleans airport is likely to be much tastier than anything the airline snack boxes have to offer! If I know I am going to arrive past 9 pm at my destination, I usually order a chicken caesar salad from Peet’s Coffee & Tea (in the San Francisco airport) and eat that for dinner. Unless I have gotten upgraded to a first class seat, I usually try to take something on the plane with me and avoid the snack boxes.
5. Choose one healthy item – If you are in a hurry, it can be rally hard to find a healthy choice. Most places have a few healthy choices. You can usually find yoghurt, fruit, popcorn, hummus and veggies, or hard-boiled eggs. Some places offer healthy sandwich choices – one of my favorites on the go is a Caprese salad sandwich.  The best Caprese sandwich I ever had was running to catch a plane to San Diego and there was a cart vendor outside the SFO gate with several sandwich choices and I just grabbed one because it looked good. Well, it turned out to be one of the healthier sandwich choices and it was fabulous! You can always find one healthy item among all of the unhealthy choices!
When trying to eat healthy in an airport – take a moment to think about it – just don’t get the first thing you see. If you do I guarantee you, you will pick something that sounds tasty but is NOT healthy. At least that’s how I am – because I will always end up with a carmel apple rolled in pecans from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or something equally tasty, but not so good for you. Yeah, I know there was an apple somewhere in there under all that carmel… but I’m not sure that counts as healthy.
What is your favorite tip for eating healthy in airports? If you have tips for eating healthy while traveling, please share it in the comments below.

An Inspiring Woman for International Women’s Day: Michealene Cristini Risley

Celebrating Michealene – Today is the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. It is a day for celebrating the strides women have made around the world. As you can see from the news lately, we have a long way to go in many countries, but the celebration is about the progress. I want to tell you about an amazing woman that I have the pleasure of knowing and she should be celebrated today for the work that she has done (and is doing)!

Follow Your Dreams

I first met Michealene Cristini Risley when we worked together at Sega (yes, that Sega – I was very popular with my “video-game crazy” cousins at the time). She was the head of licensing and I worked with her on setting up Sega Studios in Los Angeles. She was working on a division to film games and make digital video games. I know it sounds quaint now that everything is digitized, but back then (1994) it was a novel idea! At the time, she told me wanted to be a film maker and I was having a hard time seeing it. Not seeing that she could be a film maker but seeing how it was going to happen with the job she had at the time. Well, it is a matter of baby steps, taking one step at a time to reach your dream. When she left Sega she took that one step and then another and then another. She produced one film and then another. The important thing I learned from her is to take the first step.

Tapestries of Hope Film

Following her dreams, Michealene made a film about girls being raped in Africa because of a bogus and completely untrue myth that if you sleep with a virgin it will cure HIV/Aids. Tapestries of Hope premiered last fall and is playing in other places as it is scheduled. In making this film, she went out to breakfast one morning with her crew and came back to find armed agents shouting and carrying on. She (and her assistant) were arrested and thrown into 5′ x 5′ jail cell with squalid, sub-human conditions for three very long days. A man read about the plight on Facebook and called the CIA. Her husband hired human rights lawyers and she eventually bribed her way out of prison after being interrogated by no less than 15 men. She immediately left the country – thankfully, with her film in tact. With this film, Michealene was able to showcase the work of Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe. Following her dream has shed light on terrible conditions in Zimbabwe and the work of another amazing woman. I urge you to take a look at the film.

What Can You Do?

You can take one step today – take one step towards reaching your dream. If you are working towards your dream you probably already know what that step is that you need to take. If you don’t have a dream that you are working towards – write it down and figure out one step that you can take today. Michealene isn’t stopping with this one film, she is working on another project – writing a book  about here experience in Zimbabwe. She is also encouraging support of legislation like the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which did not make it out of the 111th Congress. If you are interested, you can support the efforts of groups like Women Thrive Worldwide, which worked on this legislation. Happy International Women’s Day!

Thank you Michealene for all of the work you are doing and the inspiration of truly following your dream!