Monday, April 18, 2011

School lunches - don't bring them from home in Chicago!

In the Chicago Public Schools system, it is left to each individual principal's discretion as to whether or not students are allowed to bring their lunches from home. Six years ago, Principal Elsa Carmona effected a ban on home-packed lunches at Little Village Academy, a K-8 public school on Chicago's west side.

Carmona said in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, “Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school. It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke.”

A CPS spokesperson was also quoted in the Tribune's article, defending Carmona's school lunch policy, saying, “this principal is encouraging the healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.”

It's the whole “attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom” part that doesn't sit well with me, and remember, (for now) I'm a teacher.

In education today it seems we are asked more and more to “make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.” Don't get me wrong. When it comes to trying to teach our students about being responsible, conscientious citizens who want to make good choices in school and beyond, I'm all for that, and I work hard trying to do this with my students.

But more and more, we're asked – and sometimes required – to take on many roles that I firmly believe belong with the parents. This school lunch policy is a good example of the schools reaching too far beyond their boundaries. It should be up to the parents to decide what their kids will eat for lunch, to take responsibility for ensuring their children are eating well. With the computer programs being utilized in most schools , it's not hard to keep up with what our kids eat for lunch. I can check every day, if I want to, to see what my daughter bought for lunch. If parents check what their kids are buying and don't like it, then they should be parents and put a stop to it.

Another question I have, and one that is raised in the Tribune article is, what about the kids who don't like the school's food? They don't eat. They throw it away. And they have no other option. How is eating nothing “better nutrition”?

Chicago Public Schools are taking away the rights of parents to decide what to feed their children. How can this be good, and why aren't parents arguing against it, if for no other reason that the principle of the whole thing?

There will never be a time when the school knows what's better for my child than I do. Never.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Walking with Mom

For many years, my mom has been participating in a Relay for Life event. She raises money, she walks for a couple hours, and she decorates luminary bags in memory and support of family and friends who have battled or are battling that disease. When she speaks of the event, of what it feels like for her to be there, she gets kind of a faraway look in her eyes and struggles to explain the experience. Regardless of the words she uses, it’s obvious how much it means to her to be there.

For the first time since Mom began participating in the Relay for Life, I joined her for a while on the track. I was there for the luminary ceremony and the playing of “Taps” by the bagpipes and drum corps. And I felt what (I think) she’d been trying for years to describe, though I too find myself at a loss to truly put my feelings into words. I can tell you that I’m sorry I haven’t been there with her before now.

I thought that I would come home and try and write about my experience with Mom, about the importance of the fundraising, the awareness, the support that the Relay for Life is all about. And while all of that is certainly worthwhile, it’s not what keeps coming to mind.

Mom keeps coming to mind.

My mom is one of those quiet supporters. She gives to so many people. She gives her time. She gives her hand. She gives her ear. She gives her shoulder. She gives her heart. My mom is the most generous person I know, and that quality in her shone so brightly at the Relay. It means so much to her to be there and be part of that.

Mom inspires me more than she knows. I pray to be the kind of mother, wife, sister, and friend that she is. I also pray that Mom always knows and never doubts how much love I have for her, how much I respect her, how much I value her friendship, how much it means to me to be able to call her “Mom.”

I’ll walk with you anywhere, Mom. I’m so proud to be your daughter.

Friday, April 8, 2011

No tears for Pia Toscano on American Idol

I don't know how many of you share my sentiment, but I was very pleased with the American Idol results show last night. It was time for Pia Toscano to go home.

I won't argue that she can sing, but I don't believe she deserved to win the whole thing. First of all, I thought her performance on Idol's Wednesday night episode left a lot to be desired. When Pia sang “River Deep – Mountain High,” she only hit about every other note. When the judges all but bowed at her feet, it made me feel like we had a whole row of Paula’s sitting there.

Lately, I've been feeling too that she has this attitude that comes across as though she'd already won. There's never been any real humility about Pia, and as the last few weeks have come and gone on Idol, I think that has gotten even worse. You could tell just looking at her every Thursday night (during the results show) that she never expected to go home. I don't like arrogance in someone who is in the company of so many other talented people.

Which brings me to another reason that Thursday night's Idol honked me off: Did you hear all of the people booing when Pia was sent home? I understand that she had fans that were not happy that she got voted off. What really bothered me was when the judges joined in, so adamantly opposed to her leaving. What they were saying, in effect, is that the other people who were in the bottom three deserved to go home more than she did, which makes Randy, JLo and Steven hypocrites, if you ask me.

Jacob Lusk and Stefano Langone were in the sad seats with Pia before Ryan announced who was going home. All three judges have all but kissed the feet of both of those men after each of their performances. (Personally, I was ready to see all three of them go home last night.) Supposedly, Randy, JLo and Steven all LOVE Jacob and Stefano, so how do you suppose Jacob and Stefano felt when the judges were so against Pia going home? (Meaning, then, that they would have rather lost one of those men.)

I guess the reason for my blog today is basically that I'm just sick of a lot of the contestants already, and I'm sick of the judges loving everyone. All of the contestants are not that wonderful. They all have bad nights and hit bad notes. (And don't get me started on Haley Reinhart. If you ever get the chance to listen to her sing in between that ridiculous growl, be ready to cringe. She's rarely on pitch, which must be why she sounds like a cat in heat most of the time – she's trying to hide the fact that she can't sing.)

My reasons for sending Stefano and Jacob home? Stefano comes across as a cruise ship entertainer. I just can't stand watching him sing. He makes me feel greasy. Jacob is annoying to watch, too, and his voice isn't unique enough for me. I wouldn't turn to a different station if Jacob came on the radio, but there is nothing about his voice or his performance style that would make me want to buy one of his albums.

Who do I like? Every week I look forward to Casey Abrams and Scotty McCreery. Casey has one of the most original sounds American Idol has to offer. He's humble, he's personable, he can sing – well – and I think he'll go far. That upright base of his is a welcome diversion from all the electric, techno music being offered by so many artists these days. And then there's 17-year-old Scotty. I have to remind myself when he sings how young he is! That voice of his warms me from the inside out, and I'm always smiling by the time he hits the chorus of any song he's singing. Either one of these guys could win it all and I'd feel like there was justice on the American Idol stage.