Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grade Grubbing

Grades.  I've come to loathe the word.

It took ten years of teaching for me to reach this level of hatred for the entire grading concept.  I think my feelings towards grades began to sour a few years ago, but my dislike has now reached epic proportions.

Students are obsessed with grades.  For example, it wasn't until I started teaching that I realized the monumental difference between a 92% and a 93%.  The difference is a tiny little dash (-) at the end of the letter "A" which can rip a student apart and send them spiraling towards failure.  Students will do anything for extra credit - and I mean anything.  They've offered to leave campus and buy me lunch.  They've offered clean my house.  They've called me a dream crusher who has prevented them from getting into college.  They've cried, begged, pleaded and threatened.  All for the tiniest half of a percentage.

They behave - and, as I've come to believe, truly feel - as if that .4% defines them as a person.

So, perhaps you can see why I've started to cringe when I hear the word "grades."  These students are bright and inquisitive.  They are funny, and kind, and intelligent.  They share knowledge with me. They grow as writers over the year.  The surprise me with their resilience and their dedication to their dreams.

They learn so much over the course of 10 months.

Now, there's a word I can get behind.  Students are sent to school to learn, aren't they?  We want them to have enough knowledge to make them productive citizens, to help them lead our country in the future, to give them the fortitude to survive a world which isn't always kind.  School is about learning.  Lately, though, students and parents have largely lost sight of that.

I don't have any solutions to this problem.  I understand the fundamental need for a feedback system and for a way to measure a student's progress.  Maybe the larger issue is the incredible rise in competition over the years.  Students think they have to have a 4.0 or higher with 20 AP classes under their belt in order to get into college.  Either way, based on the trend, I don't see it stopping any time soon.

Until then, I'll continue to resist their offers of food.  And a tall, skim, toffee-nut latte from Starbucks is my favorite.

Beth - 0
Students - 0
Grading System - 1

Friday, May 5, 2017

Writing Hacks: Using a Bulletin Board

My latest blog post is up on The Muffin.  I talk about using a bulletin board to save time when you write.  :)

Check it out HERE.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Green-Eyed Author Monster

Newest post on Women on Writing!

Check it out here.

(or here: )

Friday, March 31, 2017

To Plow or to Edit?

Here is my latest blog on Women on Writing, where I explore the difference between writing without editing, or stopping to edit along the way.

Check it out here!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I'm Blogging for WOW!

I'm proud to announce that I'm one of Women On Writing's newest bloggers for The Muffin.  This is a blog I've followed religiously since they hosted my online book tour a few years ago.

I fully encourage you to follow them.  However, I'll include my posts on this site for you to check out as well.

My first was on NaNoWriMo.  (click to access)

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Beth - 1
The Muffin - 1
My pathetic attempts at NaNoWriMo - 0

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wise Words from Stephen King, Lois Lowry, and Geraldine Brooks

This post is WAY overdue, but I wanted to share the wise words and advice from three authors I had the privilege to see at the National Book Festival in September.

First, I got to see Stephen King.  I.  Got.  To.  See.  Stephen.  King!!!

My love affair with his books began when I was sixteen years old.  Bored with government, I sat at the back of the class and read Needful Things, Carrie, and The Stand.  His complex characters, the horrific villains that both shocked and intrigued me, and the psychological weirdness which permeates his books, sucked me in and made me a life-long fan.

Therefore, my emotions as I waited for him to come on stage can only be compared to the excitement and delight of a child waiting in line to see the real Santa Claus, or maybe a Walking Dead fan at Comic Con hoping to catch a glimpse of Norman Reedus .

King was a fantastic speaker, using the same wit present in his books, but he also made a compelling plea for his listeners to encourage our youth to read.  He had some great quotations and advice for aspiring authors and readers alike, which I'd like to share today.

Best Lines and Advice from Stephen King

1.  "Real men read."
2.  "I read to my kids to keep them from ripping the God damn house apart."
3.  "As reading declines, analytical thought declines.  We end up with people who have no nose for
4.  "People who read on the toilet, as far as I'm concerned, are good people."
5.  "Authors are like secret agents - we are supposed to observe you, and you aren't supposed to
      observe us."
6.  "Writers are liars."

And my personal favorite:  "Non-readers live only one, single life."

King spoke for almost an hour, and I hung on his every word.  I highly recommend seeing him speak if you ever get the chance.


Geraldine Brooks talked about the importance of researching before writing, and said that she tries to find true stories that have been largely unexplored for her books.  She also said:

"Find the singular - find the truth of the world." 

And: "We are all holy and broken to a certain extent."


The Giver, and the books which follow it, have always been some of my favorites, so I was happy to hear Lois Lowry speak for a second time.  

Lowry surprised me by saying that she does not read science fiction or fantasy, and does not consider her dystopian novels to fall under those categories.  She also told a lovely story of receiving a letter from a little girl, who thanked Lowry for the beautiful imagery in her books.  The girl said that she could see the setting so clearly and wanted to know how Lowery accomplished this feat.  The girl also said she had entered a writing contest and hoped to win. 

Months later, the little girl wrote Lowry again, and included a clipping from her local newspaper to show she had won the contest.  The title was something like: Local Blind Girl Wins Writing Contest.  Lowry thought back to the first letter she received from the girl, and was touched beyond words.

These stories and quotations resonated with me, and inspired me to keep writing.  Hopefully you've found them useful as well.  And if you've never been to the National Book Festival, go next year!  It's a great place for readers and writers alike!

Beth - 1
National Book Festival - 1

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer School

On behalf of all the summer school teachers out there, I'm happy accept the supreme honor of being a summer school  survivor.

Being a  survivor didn't come easily.  I started the three weeks off in a complete state of shock, stunned by the long, six-hour days, which I spent with the same students, hour after grueling hour.  Each morning, my stomach sank the moment I pulled into the parking lot of the school, knowing I was in for a rough day.

And boy, were the days rough.  Being that summer school was free this year, my class was packed to the brim with 28 freshman who had failed ninth grade English for one reason or another.  Those reasons were soon apparent.  There was the skipper.  The lazy smart kid.  The kid who has no motivation whatsoever.  The kid who would rather play soccer on his phone, who sat next to the kid who would rather read than do anything else.  The kid with a massive chip on his shoulder, the kid who thinks teachers are stupid, the kid who lives with his grandparents because his parents are God-knows-where, and the kid who comes in high every day after smoking up with his gang. Let's not forget the kid who is low and needs a lot of extra attention, the kid with the most severe case of ADHD on the planet, the kid who who scares me, and the kid so quiet that he probably slipped in and out of class each day unnoticed.  I had every one of these kids in my class.  Every one.  All by myself for the first two weeks.

Of the 30 students on my roster, two never showed up.  Eight dropped out before the two weeks were over.  One came every day except the last day, when the final project was due, and failed.  To say I will never understand most of them is a gross understatement.

I couldn't have survived summer school, however, without the incredible support of my co-worker Danielle, who shared her lesson plans with me to make the work-load more bearable, and of my friend Margot, who co-taught with me after she was done with her assignment and helped me laugh when I wanted to explode or cry.  I'd also like to thank my husband, kids, and parents, who put up with my whining and crying the whole time, because I know it was annoying.

And lastly, I'd like to thank my summer school students for making me appreciate all the grading and planning that goes into teaching my junior AP Language and Composition students.  I'll never take them for granted again.

Beth - 1
Summer School - KO

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Adulting is Hard

Being an adult is hard.  Really hard.  Like so hard that I don't have the heart to tell my senior students that it's hard.  They'll figure it out eventually, and then the joke is on them.

You know how it goes, right?  You have to make an adult decision, you do a bunch of research to make sure you're making the right decision, and then you follow through with the decision.  And then you realize you made the wrong decision.  Pretty textbook.

I did this recently.  I was feeling pretty adult about my major decision, until I found a piece of information that slipped my attention during the "research" phase.  Then I did the adult thing by breaking down, sobbing to my husband that I'd made the wrong choice, and begging him to help me back out of it.  You know.  Adult.

The worst part is that sometimes backing out of adult decisions is expensive.  This one sure was.

Anyhoo, this brings me back to my main point, which is that being an adult is really hard.  And not fun.  And stressful.  But it does make you realize that making it through adulthood is okay as long as you have awesome people to support you.  My family has been incredibly supportive of my major adult blunder, assuring me that everyone makes mistakes.  Maybe they do, and maybe they don't, but I know I feel less crappy because of the people who love me.

So I may not be moving out of my parent's house as soon as I thought, but I know I've learned from this mistake, and I suppose that's an important part of adulting, too.

Also, wine helps.  And beer.

Just saying.

Beth - 0
Adulting - 0
Learning Experience - 1  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Moving is Exciting and Expensive

We did it.  We moved.

Sure, my husband, two kids and I are temporarily shacking up with my parents, and the bedroom where I once spent my high-school years is now the room I share with my hubby, but we finally ditched the townhouse and are on our way to saving money for bigger and better things.

Moving is funny, really.  For instance, we lived in the townhouse for almost ten years, and simply put up with (ignored) light fixtures which needed replacing, crappy carpet that looked like it had gone twenty rounds with forty-two filthy cows, and a toilet paper holder that refused to stay on the wall.  Stains on the ceiling?  We didn't care.  Weeds taking over the backyard?  Psh.  We could live with it.  In fact, we could live with everything, until we had to sell it.

Turns out our house cleans up very nicely.  It's actually classy now that we've moved out.

Unfortunately, the amount of money we've spent to purge ourselves of this unwanted townhouse is obscene.  Everything needed to fix up the house, to get it cleaned by maids, and to hire movers, far exceeded my expectations.  I cry every time I look at my empty savings account.

But deep down, I think it's worth it.  We'll get a fresh start in a new, single-family home, away from the congestion of Centreville.  Hopefully it will be somewhere that, when I look up at the sky, I can see a dark night full of stars, and the sounds I hear won't be the rush of cars on Rte 66, but instead the rustling of trees or hooting of owls.  Okay, that's cheesy and cliche, but you get the idea.

See-ya Centreville.  It's been real.

Beth - 1
Dumpy townhouse we couldn't be happier to get rid of - 0
Maids, Movers and Repair-men - $1,000,000,000

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Loving the Body We Have With Fabulous Guest . . . . . Destiny Allison!

I'm so excited to welcome Destiny Allison!  Her latest book, The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage on Ourselves, releases next month and, as someone who is always looking for a way to be healthy and happy while still enjoying their wine at night, I'm really looking forward to reading it!  

But enough talk.  Let's hear what she has to say about loving the body we have (which as we all know is not always easy to do). 

Loving the Body We Have Means Having Empathy for Ourselves and Those We Love

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Beth. I enjoy your posts and appreciate your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to share the trials and tribulations of your personal life with an audience who might not always be kind.

I also like your Tell It Like It Is posts. Hmm. 4 items. Right.

When we spoke, you said you were interested in my thoughts on the psychology behind weight gain (and loss), loving your body, and how to lose weight with your hubby and love doing it. I think they’re all tied together. Our bodies mirror the way we feel about ourselves and the stress in our lives. When we’re happy, engaged, and taking care of ourselves, we don’t tend to gain (or worry about) weight. When we’re stressed and unhappy, we tend to blame ourselves for what ails us. That, in turn, contributes to weight gain. 

Weight can be armor against the onslaught of the world and, as we all know, food comforts. Unfortunately, relying on the comfort and protection over-eating affords reinforces the doubt we have about ourselves. When we try to do something about it and our husbands (who are sometimes also overweight) tell us we’re beautiful or complain about changes in the menu, it becomes really difficult to make the changes we seek.

In my new book, The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage on Ourselves, I chronicle the year it took for my husband and I to lose a significant amount of weight. Together, we dropped 120 pounds. We didn’t diet and continued to enjoy our wine at night. Losing weight was the easy part and we had a blast doing it. What we didn’t know, and what we discovered on our journey, were all the ways we’d been unhappy in our lives and marriage. Working through those issues proved the real challenge.

As we delved deeper into them, we learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We thought communication had never been a problem between us. It was. We thought we were both pretty enlightened and equality was important to both of us. Again, we were wrong. Little things, things we both blew off because they were so small, reared giant, ugly heads as the pounds rolled off.

What we came to understand was that our cultural expectations have changed dramatically in the last few decades, but our cultural behaviors haven’t. We’re all trying to figure out who we are and how we’re supposed to be, but many of us don’t have the skills necessary. Men are men. Women are women. We can be equal under the law, equal in our professional pursuits, equal in all the ways except how we relate to each other.

If I’m going to “tell it like it is,” I have to say that men and women are struggling with identity issues that make weight gain easy. Men are in a box. Women are supposed to be everything all at once. When we learn empathy for ourselves and the one’s we love, we move a step closer to having the bodies we want. We might not ever be “perfect” but we won’t need to be. Instead, we’ll have loving, engaged relationships that empower us and the ones we love.

Thank you Destiny!

The husband and I are sure to read this when it releases in January, and I hope you, lovely readers, will also pre-order a copy!

Destiny Allison is an award winning sculptor and author. The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage On Ourselves, is her fourth book and due for release in January 2016. Other books include Shaping Destiny: A quest for meaning in art and life, and two novelsPipe Dreams and Bitterroot. She currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her loving husband and rambunctious dogs. Find out more about Destiny Allison on her blog

About the Book:
The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage On Ourselves by Destiny Allison
Sunstone Press (January 18, 2016)

Brave, raw, and unflinchingly honest, this book is a weight loss journey, a love story, a heart beating loudly on the page. Every day we battle against something–injustice, our spouses, our weight. Seldom do we acknowledge the real wars we wage. Repressing feelings and silencing our voices, we suffer under the surface, attributing emotional distress and unwanted pounds to the inescapable effects of hormones or age.

But weight gain, anxiety, and marital difficulties aren’t always so easy to explain.
In her poignant and touching memoir, Allison doesn’t offer recipes, exercise tips, or advice. Instead, she shows us how to stand up, express what we want, and develop empathy for ourselves and the people we love. In doing so, she provides invaluable insight for those seeking to lose weight, save a marriage, or make a significant life change.

Twitter: @SFSculptor