Friday, May 31, 2013

LOTS of praise

I descend today into a discussion of professional pedagogy (which is not illegal, usually). So if you aren't a teacher, or at least interested in education, please feel free to read this simply to bask in my brilliance and count the number of times I include Nina in this post. Hint. The answer is 1, and you just passed it.

Teaching is supposed to be about the student. I'm not up here for my health, people. I present a fascinating mix of facts, stories and instruction so that students leave the class with a framework of understanding, a practiced skill which might allow them to apply the information (or know how to find and assimilate new information) and without a distaste for the subject, the educational process, the school, and most importantly, me. This is my approach. And I know that it doesn't fit every discipline, every group, every school or every historical era. Time was, the teacher presented the information and the students then moved into the world rich with facts, and saddled with the task of figuring out what to do with that information (1). The teacher of yesteryear (or current year) might not have been as concerned with the student's not hating him or the school. This might be because he had a better sense of self-esteem or because his salary wasn't predicated on student enrollment. But this combination works for me. I don't know if it works for my students (2).

Newer trends in teaching continue to stress the student centered approach, de-emphasizing the teacher as expert (sage on the stage -- which has nothing to do with either herbs or Broadway (3) ) and letting the student and his educational growth be central while the teacher is the "guide on the side" (4). The combination of integrating technology and working in inquiry or problem or project based learning to give students a sense of control over their educational path and help students see what they learn as part of a preparation for real life-like future is a shift "devoutly to be wished" (5).

Along with this move there has been a consistent refocusing of energies on the rigorous pursuit of Higher Order Thinking skills. In case you don't recall your Intro courses, there is this hierarchy of thinking skills called "Bloom's Taxonomy." Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with stuffing Bloom and mounting him in your trophy room. I mean, maybe it once did, but not anymore. It is a six step ladder of thinking skills going from the Lower ones (Knowledge and Comprehension) to the Higher ones (Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation). In fact, the digital age has inspired those people who have time to be inspired by anything to create a new hierarchy. Here is another version of it. The thing is, I believe that we are doing a real disservice to our students under the guise of this improvement.

I do believe in thinking. I do appreciate critical analysis and implementation of ideas in a way more advanced than rote recitation. But in our drive towards the top, we have forgotten that the brain qua (6) muscle needs a variety of exercises. We cannot ignore the foundational skills and factual basis because we have allowed the technological mode to supplement our own, independent "knowing." I believe with all my heart that, no matter what I can find on the internet, there is real value to memorization and recalling factual knowledge. I give my students spelling and vocabulary lists. I ask them to remember technical terms and events mentioned in their reading. I expect them to know things at the drop of a hat (never my hat, mind you). Sure, they could find the information online after a couple of seconds but life demands that people know things when they are needed. I have to be able to quote Hamlet without looking it up (7); I have to remember the best word to use in a situation. I have to understand what happened before I can do anything with it. [Ironically enough, this article says that technological pedagogy focuses mostly on Lower Order Thinking Skills, but that's because his example of technology is the Youtube video which is no different from a simple lecture.]

We have become so blinded by this pursuit of the HOTS that we forget that students need the LOTS. For some skills, we take for granted that simple knowledge is important. But we then think that either technology can replace the LOTS (using a calculator for simple addition) or that the LOTS are no longer independently necessary and that in the pursuit of HOTS students will pick up the basics. This is foolishness. Even through High School, students need to be able to perform tasks which demand recall and knowledge as discrete demonstrations of mastery and practice. They need to be assessed on these lower levels even while they are also moving ahead. When we ignore the LOTS, we end up building our HOTS on nothingness and they are bound to fail us eventually. We can't teach critical reading without assuming that students understand basic grammar facts. We can't teach calculus if students don't have instant recall of the times tables. And we can't assume that, as we move forward in the investigation of primary historical documents, all students know how to read. Students can analyze what they don't know how to find.

Now, very few people are explicitly saying that we should ignore LOTS. Blogs, speakers and textbooks (8) remind us constantly (9) that the LOTS are instrumental and still vital. But even while people pay lip service to the lower thinking, there is this constant push to increase the HOTS (which, by dint of finite time) means less stress on LOTS. And this is wrong. The HOTS, to my mind, are what we can de-emphasize. If a student has that solid grounding in facts and understanding, and has information presented interestingly by someone who can make the student not hate school, and maybe even value the process of education (10) he will survive and learn to apply and synthesize as he runs into situations which require the knowledge and skills he has acquired. I would rather my surgeon have memorized the body parts and then learn to create new surgical procedures than have him or her able to come up with all sorts of neat approaches to surgery but have to consult a search engine mid-procedure because he doesn't remember what the hip bone is connected to.

(1) I have no citation for this. i just made it up. But the inclusion of a footnote is really classy, don't you think?
(2) Maybe I should find that out. Dang! Footnotes are fun. Now I see why my dad uses them.
(3) Should that have been a footnote? I guess not. Carry on.
(4) In my class, that's the snide on the side.
(5) That's from Hamlet III, i. And it is important that I quoted it.
(6) Latin for "kwa."
(7) In speech. When I'm writing and can pause, no one notices a google search or a trip to the library.
(8) cf note 1.
(9) Yes, even right now. And now.
(10) Hey! That sounds like what I try to do.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Arrest this man/ he talks in maths"

Those of you who know me should realize by now that I don't like math. And that I'm a pretty good judge of character, so if I don't like math, there is probably something unsavory and inherently unlikeable about math and you shouldn't like it either. Sure, I know that there is some use for some types of arithmetic and up til now, I have assumed that the fault was within me -- some defect or deficiency (crazy, I know) in my understanding which kept me from being able to appreciate math. But now I realize that I am as wonderful and brilliant as ever and the villain here is math.

I was walking past a classroom today and I heard students preparing for a math test. The teacher commented that there would be "a word problem." Now let's just hold on here one moment, cowboy. If math wants to confuse the world then, fine, but to say that the problem is with words, well, that's plumb plain crazy talk. The problem with math isn't words, it is the LACK of words! So here math is, trying to obfuscate and hide its own evil by deviously laying the blame on words! How wrong is that? Math problems are NUMBER problems. If you want to fix a number problem, you add words and things get better! Imagine these scenarios:

14 * 21 - 432 / 12.53 =

The answer must clearly be a number. Have fun with that.

as opposed to

Johnny has 4 apples and Francois asks for 2 apples. How many does Johnny have?

The answer is obviously "some." Or, it could be "lots" or "none" depending on the actual attitude of that Francois ABOUT WHOM WE KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. What is his interest in the apples? Does he have a past history of apple based abuse? How does the development of his character foreshadow the struggles Jane has in later chapters? See how the use of a word clears everything up?

Historically, math has pursued a policy of verbiage cleansing, trying to remove words and replace them with numbers. Sure, they sneak in the occasional letter, but they mark is as the "unknown" - an outsider, or worse, a "variable", not just unknown, but unpredictable and changeable. And when they spell out their numbers in letters to make us think that numbers are words, they do so with malicious intent. How else do you explain that four times ten is not "fourty" but "forty."

If you don't want words then that's fine but let's talk about what kind of world that would lead to. I would posit that more wars have been fought because of a lack of words than because of an abundance of words, and by the way, war uses math. Just saying.

And I know what you are thinking -- math is necessary to build bridges, sell apples to unsuspecting Frenchmen and assess whether one is currently in possession of the proper little piggies on one's feet. But couldn't we do all that with words? Or else, maybe we could all just stay home, grow our own apples and stop judging our toes and calling them demeaning names? Math is MAKING US act as its evil minions and I for one have had enough -- note, I haven't had 12, but "enough" because that's a word and words are awesome.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Occasionally, I am moved to write up a quasi-review of a new piece of technology, not so much for others who might want to learn, and not even for myself, to get my thoughts organized, but for automated search engines, so that they have something to crawl through.

I bought a Surface Pro a few months ago and have been putting it through a few paces and I wanted to write up my feelings about it. I was going to call this "On the Surface" but figured that that wasn't oblique enough. So I went with "Superficial." You may smile politely when ready.

So I have the Surface Pro running Windows 8. Here is what I have discovered. This is 2 different computers in the same hardware. One is a tablet, used for apps and stuff like that and one is a laptop, acting like a regular old laptop. A user has to stop expecting this to be one or the other for the sake of comparison. All of the negatives I will list pale in comparison to the fact that this is 2 solid machines in one.

It is thicker and heavier than iPads I have used. It also isn't as streamlined (in terms of the exterior design and Metro interface). The tiles are annoying (and I can only imagine their being more annoying for someone without a touch screen). In fact, I don't see much use to the Metro interface, but that's because I use this 95% of the time as a laptop. I wonder if the tiles are really good for people who live in Metro mode. Please let me know.

So the negative list is

1. when it isn't on a perfectly flat and solid surface, the keyboard loses keystrokes
2. having the stylus plug into the same spot as the charger means I'm going to lose the stylus
3. sometimes the trackpad stops responding. I have to scroll up or down with the arrow keys a little and the track pad comes back to life
4. I have had a few IExplorer crashes (and the system is really bad about reopening up tabs)
5. I have had some "display adapter not responding" issues but each time, the system is able to fix the issue
6. a couple of times the entire screen when kablooie (for lack of a better word). Pages looked wierd, words got mashed. Typing didn't appear. Closing the software and reopening fixed it
7. requiring that one holds an FN key in order to make the function keys operate in the traditional way is annoying. It also means no right side Ctrl key (which I use when opening urls)
8. battery life stinks
9. it has occiasionally lost wireless signal, especially while in the app store
10. to my eyes, the rendering on other browsers seems less crisp than on IExplore. I wonder if that is intentional

But here are some things not to complain about

a. no start button. I installed a 3rd party one. Big deal
b. not booting to desktop. Come on. Desktop is literally 1 click/touch away. And when the machine boots up in (literally) 5 seconds, I end up in desktop mode much faster than on any other computer

My wish list for it is

i. to be able to plug it into the keyboard in the portrait mode also so tall documents can be worked with as tall documents
ii. more flexibility in terms of positions. The stand has the screen a bit inconveniently angled for my eyes

and some positives

1. the way it handles pictures and music is great
2. you can search for anything just by typing (this doesn't replace my favorite wildcard searches but it is nice)
3. the touch screen mixes well with traditional keyboard/mouse interface
4. lots of memory and fast
5. moving between applications or interfaces is easy
6. the charging cable has a little light on it to tell you hat it is plugged properly

There are different areas for discussion -- the hardware and the Windows 8 both have plusses and minusses. The interfaces within the system (Metro vs. desktop) have different uses and moments of convenience. But this is 2 separate machines in one and on the whole, I give it a solid B+. It has replaced my tower and is, in some ways, an improvement over it. Granted, I'm writing this all on an acer netbook running XP SP3, but that is just because I am not at home. I give the Surface Pro and Windows 8 a solid thumbs up. Room for improvement? Sure. But solid, long term investment? Yup.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The sine qua mom post

Today, in case you didn't know, is Mothers' Day (feel free to move the apostrophe, but be quick and quiet about it). This is a day on which we recognize the importance of mothers et cetera, et cetera. We give flowers (dead, dead flowers), we send cards (dead trees and prepackaged sentimentality), make breakfast in bed (when she would rather be asleep) and we celebrate her in meaningless and often intrusive ways.

Yay, I guess.

But what is Mothers' Day all about? I have been doing some thinking about this (always a dangerous practice) and I have come to a realization -- that MD is actually a highly spiritually and philosophically important day. We gloss over this aspect of it because it gives people headaches. Fortunately, I have already taken something to stave off the headache so I will tackle the issue "head on" for all you sensitive folk out there.

Here is a true fact: I exist.

I won't tread out Descartes' logical exercise proving his own existence, or paraphrase it in some cutesy "I blog therefore I am." Instead I will take a different approach -- I exist because a whole bunch of years ago, my mom allowed me to exist. She carried me in her womb, birthed me and then chose not to leave me on a hilltop with a spike through my feet (this was NOT Sparta). I owe certain stuff to my 1st grade teacher. I owe some stuff to my dentist. But to my mom? I owe my own very presence here on the planet. To compound this, had I not been born, odds are, I would not have gotten married, nor had children of my own. Their existence -- their simple presence on the planet, is due directly to the actions of my mother. So to acknowledge her simply as my own source of being is not enough; I have to point out how she enabled my children (whom I, at least today, really do like) to come into being.

Mothers' Day is, then, a day of existential awareness. A day of recognizing the local creator and putting our own existence into a larger context. Even if I am in control of so much in my life, there is some stuff I just can't take credit for. I did not create me. I wasn't even there when it happened. The day forces me to consider what would have happened if the miracle of the womb had not happened all those years ago. I have to think about a world without me and there is nothing more profound, or inducing of humility and praise than that. Veteran's Day? Sure, I appreciate their sacrifice so that I could live AS AN AMERICAN, or Valentines Day where I might celebrate being loved. But these are not celebrations which call forth the basis of my being. In a sense, this taps into the rabbinic understanding of the precise wording of the commandment to honors one's parents. The talmud (Kiddushin 30b) places the parents on the level of god as partners in creation. Mothers' Day needs to be a day of elevating mom and remembering her position as a creator -- responsible for something larger than Band-Aids, carpools and PB+J sandwiches.

So what about Fathers' Day? Isn't that on the same level in terms of the absolute awareness of the tenuousness of my own existence? In that talmudic sense, surely, but on the more immediate level, I think not, and I speak as a father. Yes, we all must appreciate our fathers and acknowledge that they had some role in our existence but I think I speak for many men when I admit that, had my wife not chosen me, she could have snagged a whole bunch of different guys. Had I not hooked her, I'd still be fishing with an empty basket. My kids might not have been my kids and might be asking some other guy for $20 right now. It was her decision which let them exist and be related to me. So we can all say thanks to dad, but he knows in his heart that mom is the reason that the kids turned out the way they did -- as human beings and not as not-human-beings. At least in my case, I'd like to think.

So today, I look towards my mom and say not just "Happy Mothers' Day" but "thank you mom for allowing me to be alive. If I weren't alive right now, I certainly would not be enjoying being alive nearly as much. You are my favorite mom because you had me as your kid and you are my mom and if things were different, well, that'd just be not what it is now and I wouldn't be writing this." And to my wife, I really need to be saying "Thanks for giving ME children, and not some other guy because I like that my kids are my kids with you. You are the best mom in this family because you are the one who had babies and stuff and that's pretty righteous of you."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

They made something I love

Almost 20 years ago, as the wife an I prepared to solemnize our nuptials, my sister in law waddled down the aisle. I say waddled because she was, at the time, great, with child.

Notice the comma. She was, and is "great." It just so happens that at the time, she was also pregnant. I made the mistake, a few months earlier, of saying that she was "as big as a house." I thought it was funny, charming, accurate and funny. She was, much like the queen of England, ready to cut off my head. I apologized in grand fashion and we have over the years, moved past this faux pas and reached an understanding. I'm a fool and she tolerates me, mostly because she is great. It's nice.

That child-in-the-womb-in-law eventually saw daylight and became cute. She was the first baby I really watched grow up. The wife and I heard her say all sorts of cute things and watched her do the kinds of things that little kids do (75% based in gross bodily functions, 15% in falling down and the remaining 10% in learning calculus). And she grew up. We watched her go through all her phases, from cute baby to precocious toddler to lovable preteen to precocious teenager to serious student to precocious collegiate. She took on responsibilities, and became, much like her parents, "great."

Last week, I heard through the virtual grapevine that she had found the man who completes her. She had decided that she, too, wanted to solemnize her nuptials -- to bind herself to a young gentleman who is the one whom her heart has chosen. Good for her, I thought. She really is growing up, and the odds are that her mother won't be pregnant at the wedding.

But then I thought about her life trajectory. There is, I realized, a slight chance that, with a wedding in 3 months, in a year or so, she might be ready to pop with one of her own. She will make a fabulous mother, no doubt -- she is smart and wise, patient and loving. She has helped raise her siblings and she has so much to give. So that's not a problem. Except that it would turn my parents (whom I still see through the eyes of a teenager) into great-grandparents. Well, OK. I guess that happens. It would turn her parents into grandparents. That started to register as problematic. My brother can still beat me up. He isn't anyone's grampa. And it would turn me into a great uncle.

No quotes, no comma. A great uncle. What?

Since when did I get to the point in my life when I could be a great uncle? This is unacceptable. I wear sneakers and jeans. I eat cereal while sitting cross legged on the floor in front of the television. I like bathroom humor. I can't be a great anything. And why would my brother get to be a "grand" parent and I'm just "great"? Does he wear a white robe and hood? Is he great at chess? Is he a street in Englewood? His encouraging his daughter to have a baby would be his self-aggrandizing. That's as much joke as I can muster about this very, very serious topic. I'm too young to be old and too old to start being great now.

So Tasha, my blessing to you is that you should grow older but never old and you should have as much nachas from people as you have allowed others to have from you. And that you should enjoy making fun of you father for being old but always be nice to me because I'm already great.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I refuse to enjoy the future

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference for educators. That isn't so amazing. I mean, that I went anywhere is amazing. I'm not much of a joiner. Or a leader. I'm more of an er. But I went.

I went for many reasons, not the least of it was the cost. It was free. For the money, I got nice coffee, a deli based lunch and 4 conference sessions. The sessions were the least tasty but that isn't a fair comparison because that was some mighty fine coffee. This conference was an "unconference." Not only does this mean that it had no caffeine (I drink keeps my head clear so I can come up with my 7-Up based jokes) but it means that there was no established agenda or slate of session topics. There was no expert, or set of famous panelists who would push their particular take on things. This kept costs low. Instead, as we entered, there was a blank board with 4 time slots and 4 rooms. We were all encouraged to write down session topics that we would want to lead and put them up on the board. Now THAT was pretty neat. We, as the actual practitioners who bring in the experiences and driving needs are best equipped to steer the event.

The world of professional development has, for a while, been at the mercy of buzzwords and expensive consultants. This model leaves teachers with no sense of input or buy in, and they often walk out thinking "what does this guy know about actual teaching in this school?" This does not enhance professional growth. Allowing a teacher to control what is being spoken of can empower a staff member. He can bring up real and shared events and concerns and explore them in a fresh way. Great, right?

Well, I'm not one to enjoy stuff so I started catastrophizing. It seems to me that the money is always in the crime so I like to anticipate the crime so I can watch others cash in and think to myself "that was my idea; I just didn't feel the need to do it." It's a living. My first concern, and the one most facetious is the fear that this will put experts out of business. I imagine the poor guys writing articles and having no one to read them...holding signs on the street "will consult on educational reform for food"...showing up uninvited to schools and performing walk-throughs simply because hey have no place else to go. Sad, really. Then, out of that desperation, they will start to stalk the unconferences. They will show up, unregistered, possibly in disguise as a local 3rd grade Social Studies teacher, and write in their speaking topics as conference sessions. They will push their agendas under the guise of teacher driven reform and undermine the innovative power base, all in the name of hearing their own ideas. And because their ideas will be as stale and unprofitable as ever, teachers will abandon their sessions and flock to the one session in each time slot no one wants to go to because it duplicates three other sessions that were just offered. Or worse, teachers will simply stop attending. Now this might be fine initially because it will mean more of the deli based lunch is leftover for me, but eventually the unconference will die out.

A next concern is that this depends on the local teachers having something intelligent to say. I know teachers. While a few have thought through the process and challenges endemic to not only their own classrooms, but to the entire educational system, not all have. And because the system is totally open, any one can get up there and lead a session. Heck I led a session. Who am I to say anything? Who is any of us (and I include the "experts" in that)?

The other problem I fear is the unconference's moving into a group gripe. When teachers are given the chance to discuss progress, even if they start with the best of intentions, there is usually someone who will drive the conversation into a complaining session. If the leader doesn't do it (imagine 16 sessions all called "why this all sucks and what we can't do to fix it") one of the participants will. And with no built in hierarchy, who has the authority to moderate the sessions to keep them on task? Opening up the topics and the participation hopes for the best but doesn't accommodate for the worst (and possibly, most real).

But I don't think anyone will have the sense to start co-opting time slots or abusing the system just yet so in the meanwhile, I look forward to the next event. But when it happens, and it will happen, tell your friends that you heard it here first.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

And now, more complaints

I have been really flattered recently that some of what I have written has registered over 50 page views. Now, true, a couple of those are from me, at different computers, admiring my handiwork, and, I am sure, ten to fifteen of those are from my mom (hi mom, I just mentioned you on my blog; please go to a different computer and open my page again. Thanks) and at least five are from some people in Romania who mistyped and are looking for the results of last night's vampire elections. But I'll take them.

I am sure that some of this recent popularity comes from my having dealt with Important Topics, so I am going to make sure that I don't do that anymore. I will get back to indulging my free floating cantakerousness and reclaim the privacy that a random blog is assured. So if you are here to read more Important musings about current events or cutting edge philosophy then, sorry. But if you leave now, my mom will be mad at you. Hi mom. Reload.

I wanted to turn this post into a sort of fireside chat, sans the fire or chatting. So maybe just a side. While I don't want this to turn into an "I remember when" column, I really do want to take a moment to snarl at the young people. And I was inspired by my daughter's horrible taste in television shows.

I remember that, as a lad, there were TV shows that I watched that my parents didn't particularly enjoy. I used to run to the TV when I got home and watch Monty Python, The Uncle Floyd Show and Georgia Championship wrestling. The classics. And I know that other channels had M*A*S*H reruns, or Brady Bunch episodes or some other sitcom. Public television had shows for little kids (3-2-1 Contact, Villa Alegre, Zoom or the like). And god forbid I stayed home from school -- the late morning talk shows turned into midday game shows and then afternoap soap operas. The lack of viewing choices is why I was generally healed so quickly.

It seems that there is a new genre of television show and that my younger daughter has been hooked by it -- shows designed for idiots. In TV land, there is the conception that people under the age of 16 are absolute morons and don't appreciate humor beyond the stupid. So while I can turn up my nose at the melodramatic teen soaps, at least they demand two brain cells to rub together. The pap that my child likes works best if you are comatose. Now (apologies to Thomas Magnum), I know what you're thinking. You are assuming that I, as the angry old man, am forgetting such horrors as Full House? Well, I'm trying, but the child enjoys watching that as well. Back in the day (ugh. I just got older) there was a subgenre -- the family sitcom. The kind of show that you could, supposedly, watch with the entire family. Since there was a limited range of TV stations, having something people could agree on was useful. If you go back far enough, many more shows were like this because there were stricter content standards and fewer TV's in each house. So your 60's sitcoms were often that bland and simplistic formulaic type. But this family friendly group stayed alive while Norman Lear was making some adults think. But by the time Saved by the Bell came out, I knew that we were all doomed -- that shows were being aimed at the dumbest fraction of the lowest common denominator. And don't speak to me of such things as cartoons; they were often not meant just for children and those that were (like the G Forces of the world) didn't pander like an episode of Barney. They had continuing stories and character development. In that vein, I don't criticize Spongebob or Timmy Turner.

But now, my child watches the constantly developing slate of Disney Drek (tm, no doubt) with laugh tracks that make other laugh tracks embarrassed to admit that they are laugh tracks. With acting which is just this side of a local used car commercial. With writing that wasn't as much written as picked up at a garage sale and repackaged. If a show can make me look wistfully back at an episode of Drake and Josh and long for those days, it must be bad. Young teenagers singing or dancing to promote themselves and their other media projects. Hapless adults who make the parents on The Fresh Prince look like Dr. Spock. Motley groups of children who are helpful in giving teachers fodder for the class on "why stereotypes are bad." And the shows just aren't funny. I'm not saying that I'd rather that the child fall back to watching another episode of Dance Moms (separate note -- reality shows are evil) but I just wish that she would either discover the joy of an episode of WKRP, or realize that she doesn't HAVE to watch television. She could be staring at a computer.

Now, on to my second (or third, I lost track) concern of the day. I was chatting with my students yesterday and I tried to tell them an anecdote. I have loads of stories and anecdotes about my youthful misadventures -- cautionary tales and entertaining experiences. My story was a serious one, involving a former student who went to college and ran in to a problem with a professor. My goal was to have students recognize that when they go beyond the walls of their high school bubble, they will run into crises which they aren't really prepared for. It was a happy, fun class.

So a current student asked, "What was the name of the student to whom this happened?" [I cleaned up how the question was asked -- my students wouldn't know the objective case of 'who' if their grade depended on it. And it does.] I made the mistake of telling the name. I have done this in the past. What are the odds that one of them will know a graduate from another school who finished college 10 years ago? But I forgot one thing -- the internet. Blast you internet! Students immediately opened their computers, phones and other electronic devices and googled the name. They checked Facebook and started asking "is this the one?" They had her picture, her life story, and the fact that she was pergnant...again. I actually aged in front of the class, and my object lesson was torpedoed. I tried another story, about surviving in a non-Jewish environment and having to deal with limited food options. Yes, I mentioned Joe (I went to college with Joe. He lives near me. I like Joe. He's a good guy.) And I found that, with a little checking, students figured out not only who Joe is, but that he lives near me and that some of my students actually know him. They are going to find him and ask him for crazy stories about me. Now I have to rethink all my stories, or at least the part where I make them seem real by using real names. And I hereby apologize to Erica and Joe. If anyone asks you, just say I was the best teacher and friend ever and any story I told was faithfully remembered and accurately and sympathetically retold. But please, don't encourage them by telling any truths about me.