Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Student Bloggers

Hello, Dear Reader.  I am reading my Creative Writing students' blogs.  A few of them decided to write blogs as a part of a self-designed writing project to finish up the year.

I thought I'd list the public links here for your reading pleasure.  Some are more reader-oriented than others; some are private only and are not listed here.  Other students wrote fiction, poetry, personal memoir, songs, and created superhero profiles for all their friends.. 

I'll try to summarize the content for each blog.  Enjoy!

Maya Hawk  (Fashion, Trends and Personal Obsessions)
Sincerely Doubtful Productions  (Thoughts, Reflections and Creativity)
To Living Life (poetry, reflections, and photos/quotes for inspiration, some fiction)
Opinion Blogger (opinions on issues)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Recent Marketing Subtly Anti-Environmentalist and Pro-Corporate Hegemony?

Is it my imagination or are some recent marketing campaigns actually ANTI-environment? Subtly or blatantly pro-corporation and anti-democracy?

Obviously many products are not environmentally friendly, but in the following cases, I get creepy chills when I see the marketing, because they almost seem like backlash against so many of the recent campaigns that capitalize on the popularity of green products, or at least the feeling of being green.  In contrast, the following marketing campaigns seem to appeal, in an old-school, nostalgic kind of way, to our desire to conquer & consume the earth.

My first example, the Sherman Williams logo:
Cover the Earth?  With Paint?  Is this what really sells paint to Americans?  Seems rather post-war to me.  Where do we go to live once our earth is dripping with paint?

Exhibit B, a recent AT&T ad, which my dad agrees with me is creepy.  He sees the orange flowered vines as an invasive species:

But perhaps the AT&T ad isn't really anti-environmental so much as it is pro-corporate ownership or corporate invasion into every aspect of our lives.

The viney AT&T commercial came after another one, which was the first example I saw which made me think about the possibility of an overall bizarre trend in advertisement which, to me, tends toward an ideal of corporate hegemony or monopoly:

National landmarks are covered by a monochromatic, unending, and completely uniform covering.  The people look on from inside the buildings as they are draped in orange fabric.  Seems like an apocalyptic vision or an alien invasion.  It does NOT make me anxious to help AT&T get any bigger, I can tell you that.  It makes the idea of "coverage" all too literal.

Am I the only one deeply disturbed by these ads?

[3/28/12 I found out later that the whole draping entire buildings in fabric thing was a rip-off or homage (depending on how you see it) of the artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude.  Interesting.  I'm so quick to rant and slower to figure out what I really think.  I really think it's still creepy.]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Letter to TUSD Regarding Seniors not Walking Due to AIMS Math

Sent today to John Pedicone, TUSD superintendent and our governing board.

Hello— I am a teacher at Tucson High, a parent of students in TUSD, and a voting citizen in TUSD.  I am writing to make you aware of the high school seniors who have just found out this week that they will not be graduating due to having failed the newer, more difficult AIMS math, many of them by a VERY narrow margin.  I talked to two students this morning, who are shocked and devastated, and I will tell you one of their stories to show you how unjust and harmful the current situation is for a certain population of students.

This student is in my English 11 class.  She has been carrying a load of two English classes this year because she was behind on credits.  She is perhaps not the most academically motivated student, but she has been working consistently this year in my class and is currently earning a strong B in my class.  She also has all of her other classes poised for passing.  She has been making plans for her future throughout the school year, visiting Pima college, taking her placement exams, and setting herself up with student volunteer opportunities in the field she hopes to study.  She knew this spring that she had to pass the new, more difficult AIMS test.  Although she refused to drop steel drums to take an additional math class when the opportunity was given to her only a few weeks before the AIMS test, she did take advantage of all the after-school tutoring sessions to try to prepare for the exam.  She has paid for her cap and gown and other graduation expenses.  She was told on Monday that she failed the AIMS test by five points and will not be able to walk or receive any kind of recognition that she has completed her coursework for graduation—10 days before graduation, five days before her last day of classes.

The implications?  She will not be able to return as a repeating senior next year to improve her math scores because she has earned her credits and will no longer be an enrolled student.  She will not be able to attend Pima to improve her math score because she was counting on financial aid to help her go there, and cannot receive federal aid without a diploma.  She cannot begin the volunteer job she had lined up because she will not be a student in that program.  She is left to do what?  Perhaps find a minimum wage job until she can take AIMS in October and get the scores... when?  The current unemployment rate for teens is 25%.  She is truly stuck in the cracks of this system.  There are others in this very situation.

TUSD can’t change state policy, but the district can decide to let students who have earned their credits at least walk with their classmates, and work out the rest later.  I was told there might be about 50 students affected by this at Tucson High alone.  2000 statewide is what John Huppenthal’s office estimates.  Anything you can do to support the best interests of our students will be hugely appreciated by them and their families.  This kind of situation is also very demoralizing to the juniors who might be struggling with AIMS math— if they see these seniors tossed to the winds, they are that much closer to giving up.

We need to hold standards high, but we also need to recognize the efforts that many of these students have made to create a future for themselves.

Thanks for reading.

Amethyst Hinton Sainz

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bucket List-- A cliche worth thinking about

My students were asking where the phrase "kick the bucket" came from.
I found an article about the common figure of speech "to kick the bucket."  
Wikipedia defines the phrase as an "opaque idiom," an idiom which you can't figure out by knowing the definitions of the words "kick" and "bucket."   You just have to know how the phrase is used by native speakers of English.

My students and I today are writing about our own bucket lists.  As cliche as the phrase is, making the list could prove to be a useful exercise. We had fun, anyway, with this writing exercise.

Before I die, I would like to... (subject to revision).
  • spend time on one of those islands with white sand and clear, blue water around.  Snorkel without feeling anxious and paranoid
  • learn how to take good photos of people
  • make apologies to those I have really hurt in life
  • build a wooden table or a cabinet that is beautiful, functional and lasting
  • learn to paint with oils
  • go to culinary school
  • have a house rabbit
  • act in a movie or on TV 
  • play electric bass, funk style
  • play cello
  • learn more about world religions (is that too vague?)
  • write a book
  • do a cartwheel and a chin-up
  • play with a monkey or chimpanzee
  • go on an ascetic kind of retreat-- really retreat from daily cares