Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Common Core Debunked

I received an email from one of my students' parents yesterday and it caused me quite a bit of alarm.  It must be said that I adore the parents of my students.  They are so supportive and are willing to work so hard for their children.
She was concerned about her son's understanding of math, but that's not what alarmed me (though I'm definitely concerned that he understand math, don't get me wrong).  She told me that the new common core program has done nothing to help her son understand his homework.
This is the third time in the last month someone has spoken about the common core in a way that shows a misunderstanding, and I thought it could be helpful for my friends and family to shed some light on this somewhat mysterious matter.
First off, let me set forth my credentials (for those who might read this who don't know me).  I'm a 5th grade teacher and I have taught for 10 years.  I consider myself a qualified educator, with the students' best interests at heart.  I don't profess to be an expert at anything in particular (other than awesomeness!), nor am I a doctor of education.  I am simply a teacher.
That having been said, the common core is a list of mathematical and language arts skills that must be introduced/mastered at a certain grade level.  Teachers are expected to teach only things that are in their grade's core curriculum, and their students are expected to master those topics.
A lot of people are angry about this idea.  "Is this communism?" they ask.
Ever since I started teaching, I've had a grade-specific core curriculum to teach.  Literally, that first week of teaching I was given a paper list of all the ideas in all the subjects I was expected to help my students master.  And that's a good thing.  Several years later, in 2007, the Utah core curriculum changed (as it has several times over the last 25 years).  I went through all my materials and found out what was still relevant in my grade level curriculum, what was now given to another grade, and what new ideas I would be teaching.
So when the Common Core came out, and Utah accepted it, it was just another day in the life of.  I got out all my lesson plans and teaching tools, decided what I would be keeping and what I would be storing away for the next time the core changed (because it is inevitable it will change at some point in the future).
In my world, the Common Core is just another adjustment to what we've already been doing.  It just means that now, other states have the same guidelines we do.  That's all.  There's still just as much pressure to get kids to perform on standardized tests as there always has been for me.  Let's face it, that's never going to change.
In Utah, the state is focusing on not just learning how to solve problems, but how to represent those problems using pictures, objects and real life situations.  The focus is now not teaching a million things that the student was technically taught in the previous grade and will be taught again in the future grades, but on each grade level having their own "slice of the pie" that they are responsible for.  There are fewer ideas taught in each grade level, giving us more time to spend on the mastery of those ideas.  This is a good thing.  In the past, I was maybe able to squeeze the idea of multiplying fractions into one week (couldn't spend too long on any one idea because I had so many others I had to get to in a limited amount of time), but now I can devote an entire unit of time (3-4 weeks) on making sure my students have mastered not only how to solve a problem presented to them, but they can solve it in several different ways and represent it with a handful of pictures.
However, this scares the poo out of a lot of parents.  Where are the days when there was ONE strategy and ONE way of doing things? ONE textbook with ONE solution shown in the back for each problem? I understand, parents want to be able to help their children, but the point in all this is to make mathematical thinker/problem solvers, not just machines who spit out the answer (if they were lucky enough to memorize the formula correctly).  If a student learns to represent what's happening in a problem, they will be able to solve it, regardless of whether they remember the formula or not.

But if it makes you feel better, I still know of a lot of teachers at a lot of schools in a lot of states who haven't changed anything about what they teach or how they teach it (possibly for the past 20 years).

Moral of the story: let's not blame a Common Core for our problems.  Out of all the flaws in the public education system, it's not even a blip on my radar.

Do I still love being a public school educator?
Do I feel the Common Core is changing education and possibly bringing about the end of the world?
Nope, not really at all.
Is it nice to know that 5th grade teachers in other states are teaching the same things as I am?
Yeah, actually.  Now I can get and share ideas with teachers all over the nation to provide an even better education for your child.
Do I still think that public education is the best bet for the majority of school aged children in America?
Without a doubt.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Things I've Learned From Being Pregnant

I realized today that I haven't posted in this blog for ages.  One of the reasons for that is that I've been very busy with teaching my 5th graders (and my school drama club, and my school chorus, and making presentations for the school district, etc).  Other of the reasons is that I'm pregnant. 

If you are my friend and this news comes as a surprise to you, I'm genuinely sorry and you should probably check Facebook more often.

For some women, being pregnant is an improvement of their condition.  Their skin and hair are all healthy and glowing.  They are so hungry all the time, and can finally stop counting all the calories.  They are filled with a deep sense of fulfillment and feel completely energized.

I hate those women (and again, if you are my friend and this sounds like a description of you, I'm genuinely sorry, but I do hate you right at this moment . . . with all the love in my heart.)

Ever since week 4, pregnancy has been pretty miserable for me.  Now, I do not want to waste your time simply complaining about being pregnant.  I do realize what a huge blessing it is to be able to even have a child, after seeing many friends struggle with the inability to do so.  But I figure I can express my condition using my favorite medium, a top ten list.

Things I've Learned From Being Pregnant

10. If I'm out of bed, and I am dressed, consider yourself lucky.

9. Guys don't get it.  I love Jon, but I'm pretty sure he looks at this pregnancy as a really expensive disease.  The symptoms are multiple and just not so relate-able.  Like when I feel like my lady parts want to fall out of my body.

8. Pregnancy is a guaranteed "Get out of Jail Free" Card.  It's amazing.  If I do a crappy job at something, it's excused because I'm pregnant.  If I get angry at somebody and say something mean, it's ok because I'm pregnant. The only place I can find that it doesn't work is ward choir.  They still expect me to go.

7. Pregnancy also entitles me to as many foot rubs, back rubs, shoulder rubs, etc that I feel I require.  And Jon is so great, he doesn't even gripe. Sometimes I don't even have to beg.

6. Spending money on myself has always been fun.  But I've discovered it's even more fun shopping for someone riding around in my tummy.  I have to stop myself from buying toddler toys and supplies. Literally.  I was walking around Target yesterday and thought, "He'll need a toy box in his room. Wait, he'll need toys to put in his toy box. Wait, it will probably be a while before he can even grasp things with his hands."

5. Mascara can last for three days if I don't wash it off. Sick, right?

4. I now possess a "Super Sniffer."  I can tell all sorts of things using my sense of smell.  I can tell what you ate for the past couple of meals, whether you bathed today, and where the nearest chocolate is.

3. Pregnancy is the doorway to an emotional floodgate.  I have always considered myself an emotional person, but have found myself exponentially emoting. My favorite quote from Jon when he came home and just found me sobbing on the couch, "You are so pregnant right now."

2. If it is food and it has been cooked on my stove, it is not good.  It has nothing to do with  my ability to cook.  It simply has to do with my ability to eat what I cook.  Taco Bell and I have become fast friends these past few months.

1. I have the power to send people to a "special place."  For example, when Jon stole a few of my chicken Mcnuggets, I told him about the "special place" where husbands go who steal from their poor, sick, pregnant wives.  There's also a "special place" for people who cut me off in traffic, try to tickle me, make me go to work, tell me what to do, invite me to nice events . . . pretty much, if you've spoken to me, you're going there.

I would post a picture of me being pregnant on here, but none such photo exists.  I'm the photographer in the family and can't find a way to take photos of myself in a way that don't look like ridiculous facebook profile pictures (oh look, I'm taking a picture of myself in a mirror!)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Top Ten Reasons I Can't Wait For Nov. 7

That's right, you heard me.  I can't wait for November 7 to be here.  I'm so sick of this presidential election and all the issues/crap that have come because of it. I'm a bit disturbed by all the animosity in this presidential election.  I feel I've never heard such mean things being said by everyone about people they don't even know.  Let's keep in mind that when the smoke clears and a winner is decided, we're all going to have to be friends, no matter what.  Expressing political opinions is fine, but don't do it at the expense of someone else. I'm planning on voting for Romney because I agree with more of his policies than I do of Obama's. It's not because he's Mormon, it's not because he's white, or because I hate gay people (which I don't, obviously) or because I hate Obama.  I don't hate anyone. (I believe I've mentioned that on here before.) I would like to think that Obama is a kind man who seems devoted to his family just as much as any other ambitious, full-time politician (which includes Romney).

So here they are, the Top Ten Reasons I Can't Wait for November 7

10. I love all odd numbered days.
9. I look forward to being friends again with all my pals on facebook.

8. I'm tired of conservative republicans being compared to terrorist leaders (if you haven't seen this yet, it's quite ridiculous).
7. My 5th graders can't even get through a day without an "Obama sucks" or "Romney is the best." Of course, those impressionable kids are just coughing up the positive things their parents are saying at home.
6. I think November 7th sounds like a good day for a peanut butter smoothie. Just sounds like a great idea.
5. It's a day before I perform for a Hale Theater event at the event center of UVU.
4. Even though it's always a hot topic online, I'll be glad when this wave of "Mormons are the Worst People in the World" has ebbed.
3. People in the faculty room can finally talk about something else. Like Korean dramas.
2. I'm exceedingly tired of celebrities (aka actors and actresses) pretending like they are somehow more qualified than any other person on the planet to tell me how to vote and who's unfair.
1.Elections make me break out.

So good luck, come November 6th. Let the man with the most votes win.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back from the Dead With Something to Say!

General Conference was such a great experience. Every time I hear the prophet and apostles speak, my heart testifies to me again and again of the truthfulness of their words and the Lord's work here upon the earth.
I was interested in the announcement made about the new age of serving missionaries (18 for boys, if they choose, and 19 for girls). I say interested as opposed to excited because it doesn't really affect me that much. (Though I am excited for Avery, as he is now preparing to put in his papers immediately.)
I figured everyone would be excited about the news.  Imagine my puzzlement when I read an article written by a Mormon mother who felt cheated, and even somewhat resentful. You can read the article for yourself at .  Apparently, and I never knew this, women have felt that marriage was pushed so much over serving a mission, that they got married, didn't serve missions, and now feel like their husband is the spiritual know-it-all of the marriage because they DID serve a mission. They talk about how their lives would have been so much better if they had served a mission at 19 (instead of getting married, I would presume).
Maybe I'm a little confused.  I didn't realize one had to serve a mission in order to witness miracles,  study the scriptures, and become strong gospel learners.  I'm sad that so many women feel cheated because they chose to get married instead of go on a mission.  (If this is you, I suggest you look at the man you love, who you married, and your kids because they might not have been yours if you served). 
This article talked about how marriage has been the only choice for young women in the church.


I've grown up in this church, spoke at the pulpit, marked up my scriptures, and I didn't just wait around to get married once I turned 18.  I worked on my education. I studied hard in school. I dated, increased my talents, and made myself the best person I could be.  Yeah, I wanted to get married, but that wasn't the only goal I focused on. I had many friends who were set on going on missions, but fell in love before they turned 21. I had never planned on serving a mission, but I served in Pennsylvania.  Not because I couldn't get married, but because the Lord revealed that's what He wanted me to do.  My mission did not turn me into some spiritual zealot or religious giant. It solidified even more the rock-solid testimony I had already cultivated.
Sisters who didn't serve missions because they chose marriage instead shouldn't feel inferior to their mission serving husbands. I met plenty of Elders on my mission who knew less about the gospel at the end of their mission than I did as a Beehive in Young Women's. Serving a mission is not a sure-fire way to spiritual giant-ism. It can be a life changing event, if you let it. But then again, so can building a piece of Zion with a family in a righteous home environment. So can looking into your child's eyes, knowing the Lord has entrusted you with one (or more) of His precious children.

Sisters, don't ask the why's or the what if's. You will only find yourself confusing what might have been with what should have been.  They are not the same. Trust in the Lord, become the best and strongest woman you can be, love your life and be happy with who you have become. And if you're not happy. . .  well my friend, that is your choice. Please don't assume that taking a different road would have been made your life any better. Different, for sure. But not better.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Get Me to the Church On Time!

My mother called me up to let me know that it was time to blog again. I believe her exact words were, "I'm sick of looking at that Korean couple when I look at your blog!" I won't lie, I've been busy. Since I talked to you about "Playful Kiss" I have since watched "Boys Over Flowers," "You're Beautiful," "My Princess," "Winter Sonata" (I don't recommend this one), "My Name is Kim Sam Soon,""City Hunter," and several others that didn't actually make an impression. However, I stand by my opinion
that Korean television is cleaner and more worthwhile than most of American tv. I highly recommend "City Hunter" for those of you into action flicks.
Now, to get to the reason of why I've actually been busy. You see, several months ago I met a man who is a bit younger than me. After an awful first impression, we became buddies, and eventually I thought I would enjoy him asking me out. Jon McManus (this guy)

eventually did ask me out after he accidentally threw a pen at my face.
Long story short, it was almost like a Korean drama. I thought he liked my roommate, he thought I wasn't interested, then he thought my roommate and I were fighting over him. I figured he wouldn't want to date an old woman. He was always doing homework. Eventually we got all of our ducks in a row (it turns out he liked me, and I liked him), and started dating.
Then, on Christmas Day, he proposed to me.
Yep. I always said that if it ever happened, I would drive around various cities
in a van with a bullhorn, shouting the news out to the world. Luckily, the internet has nixed out my need for the van.
I took him home to California at Christmas time and he met many of my best friends out there. Several of them knew he was going to propose before I did. (He proposed by wrapping the ring in a bigger box and giving it to me as my last Christmas present). I was completely surprised. We've set the date for the wedding on June 8th and we'll be married in the Provo Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I'm so excited! I never thought I would feel this way about anyone else on the planet. He's the best man I know, and I don't think I deserve him, but I sure do love him.
So far, he's taught me how to shoot a gun (a talent I never knew I had), clean ties, cook fajitas, and serve everyone around me. He even let me come up with ideas for how to cut his hair (see the top photo) after he was done shooting the New Testament films (he had grown out his hair and his beard to quite a respectable length).

And the best part? He watches Korean dramas with me. Even though they're not his favorite.
He's a keeper!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Rock I've Been Hiding Under

I have a confession to make. I haven't been dead for the past couple of months, like you might suspect. I actually had some really good ideas for top ten lists that I thought about posting. But then something wonderful happened. I discovered Korean television.
And, in true Michelle Rotar fashion, I didn't just discover it, I became unapologetically obsessed with it. Yes, it's true. Korean dramas have gone the same way as New Kids on the Block, unicorns, Lord of the Rings, Val Kilmer and Viggo Mortensen.
I imagine that most of the people who read this blog (my friends and family) have never seen a Korean tv show before. Let me tell you how much you are missing.
It all started with Netflix. Having rated thousands of movies on the website, they're pretty awesome about recommending stuff to me. Last month, they recommended a Korean show called "Playful Kiss," which had been given 4.5 out of 5 stars. I added it to my instant queue and didn't think a ton about it until my friend DK (who happens to be Korean) came to visit with several other of our friends. We turned it on an were shocked to see the weirdest show ever. There were green meadows, a white horse, and this crazy music. Disgusted, we turned it off.
However, several days later, I was home alone and decided to give it another try. I mean, it had come highly recommended by Netflix.
After the weird meadow scene, the main character wakes from her dream and I got to see the real show.
It is amazing! Anyway, I became obsessed with a show that (and I'm slightly embarrassed to say this) caused me to feel more keenly than any other show I've ever seen in my life. It's not just because the main girl is so completely likeable, and the guy she has a crush on is so completely unattainable and gorgeous. I can't really put my finger on it. I just know I like it. A lot.
I showed it to several friends. Now they like it. A lot. I found out the main guy, Kim Hyun Joong, is a member of a Korean boy band. Now I listen to all their music. When I found out he was in another Korean drama, I put that one in my instant queue two days before I ordered the dvds. My Korean language books came in the mail three days ago and I've been working through the first couple of lessons. After I master the language to a tolerable extent, I'm planning on taking a trip to Seoul.
About Kim Hyun Joong. Several friends of mine have commented that he looks like a woman. And I will admit he is very pretty, but I can't help it. I have come to think of him as one of the most attractive men I've ever seen. Judge me if you want. So I've decided that my next post will be a top ten list about Korean shows, so, you have a little bit of time to check out "Playful Kiss" on Netflix or Hulu. 행운을 빕니다!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to Catch a Husband

I just returned from Oroville. Which would normally mean that there would be a top ten list about Orovillian society or some type of social commentary. However, I made a promise several weeks ago that I would post the companion to my previous entry. So here you have it ladies: the sure fire way to get a man's attention and keep it!

How to Catch a Husband (a 12 step program)

1. Leap before you look. Having most of your dates in the dark will help you feel much better about the guys who ask you out.

2. Love is a battlefield. Take his hand by force if you have to.

3. Hum a hymn if your date says something inappropriate. This will allow him to see how spiritual you are, especially if you hum it in the language of your mission. (It will also illuminate any musical talent, which is also impressive.)

4. Call him as many times a day as possible. Leave messages. Text him every hour on the hour. This will tell him that you love/stalk him.

5. Sometimes it's difficult for guys to see the positive qualities of your personality. Therefore it is helpful to act them out through the art of interpretive dance or puppetry.

6. Low cut shirts. 'Nuff said.

7. Offer to pay for everything . . . including, but not limited to, the ring. He needs to know that you are willing to support him for the rest of your lives.

8. Become the jaguar. Feel the jaguar. You are the jaguar. Guys dig the full frontal assault.

9. When in the company of other men, latch onto your man with a vice like tenacity (like an octopus grabbing its prey). Don't give him any suspicion that you might stray.

10. Ask for his help with everything. Become incapable. Boys like to feel that they are smart.

11. Touch them as much as possible in public. Using baby talk at the same time will let the world know who "my little pumpkin face" belongs to.

12. If all else fails, they still do arranged marriages in Tibet.

Happy hunting!