Monday, April 28, 2014

WESTEST and Tummy Aches

Seasons come and seasons go, right?  Just as the Christmas holidays roll into winter which eventually brings us Easter with the budding Spring, not long after for those of us subjected to the West Virginia public school system, comes...the WESTEST.  (da, da, dahm -- go the ominous kettle drums!)

The WESTEST 2 is a criterion referenced summative assessment.  It measures how well a student demonstrates competency on the West Virginia 21st Century Content Standards and Objectives.  The test measures students in Math, Science, Reading/Language Arts and Social Studies.

Here in Morgan County, West Virginia, (and elsewhere), standardized testing has become a device that measures much more than our children's competency.  A local, heated debate over funding education, the WESTEST has evolved into a representation of both teacher performance and administration's management of our school system.  Scores have been quoted, numbers manipulated, and stories told that piture our county to be "dumber than rocks." For weeks, my three Morgan County Students have rolled out the door to school bemoaning the oncoming and unavoidable exercise - the WESTEST.

This school year, our youngest hottling, Levi, will undergo his first experience to take the West Virginia Educational Standards Test.  And he is NOT happy.  Does this happen at your house too?  "WESTEST and Tummy Aches!" occur daily!  Stress, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite?  Why, why, WHY?!  As much as we reassure him that he will be just fine regardless of his WESTEST outcome, he continues to fret this week's assessments.

Even so, he cried a few days ago when they were scheduled for WESTEST Practice.  Really?!  And, don't get me started about last month's writing assessments.

This 48-year-old-grey-haired-PD bloggin-hott-mama-of-four has three students taking the test this school year.  Coming from a house of West Virginia roots, we have college graduates, a sister already with an MBA and honors, a soon-to-be-brother-in-law with a Masters in Economics from American University, and a couple of nerdy parents with University of MD BS and UMass BA degrees. I continue to push my Morgan County students out the door this morning much happier than Practice and Writing Assessment Days.

I wish everyone would quit harping on this WESTEST and just get it over with.  The build-up is unbearable.  We are NOT "dumber than rocks" W. Va. rednecks here!  In fact, I'm sending two "Distinguished Scholars" back to take this crazy test this year along with a first time third grader.  (Check out these pretty cute "rocks" from Frozen!")

Morgan County is full of some pretty smart rocks out there!  I wish this levy conflict would see how terrible it has made the school year for our children and the conflict would crawl back under the rock it came from.  The levy election and WESTEST can't be over soon enough.

Vote "yes" on May 13th!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Technology, Toddlers, and PD

"Technology, technology everywhere.  Everywhere you look!"

As April rolls around once again to another month of Parkinson's Awareness, I love to celebrate!  Plain and simple, give me the tiniest accomplishment from first freckles, lost teeth, to MBA's and grad degrees, I'm popping champaign!  Bring on the big stuff, and don't hold me back because you'll find two bottles of bubbly.  Celebrate Parkinson's?  Why not!  Sure beats being bummed out about it.  Instead, I chose to recognize the blessings in PD's little gifts like another family sunset or late weekend mornings watching tv.  This year, this 48-year-old-grey-haired-PD blogging-hott-mama-of-four is even celebrating technology and Parkinson's.  Well, yes.  You see, some how I have managed to find myself living in 2014 in this crazy house full of techno gurus!  Where did they all come from? 

Just look at our boys!  (But don't you dare tell them I showed you this picture!)  Fresh out of the tub, the Hott brothers just 2 and 3 years old, are cruising the internet on their own laptop provided by my hotthubby, Dan.  (Of course, look past those bare bootys to what is on the table...a computer.)

At an early age, Dan realized the importance of emersing our family in the latest in technology.  We have more laptops, gadgets, and game counsels in our house than technology in southern California!  Before long, I expect to see both boys and Dan wearing Google Glass around the house.  (At least they will be wearing something!)

Honestly though, this picture of Isaac and Levi online is one of my favorites.  Good thing we don't have neighbors out here in the hills.  Someone tell these kids to please put some clothes on. 

Now...about eight years later, check out Isaac (now 10) and his daddy, Dan.  Pictured here are my true techno boys building their own computer.  Yes, from laptops to a custom built gaming computer, Isaac researched and selected the parts to create a custom machine all his own.  Oooooh, just a small project for another snowy day at the Hott house.

Yeah, right.  But the funny thing is, as the mom in the house, all this technology stuff is like a foreign language to me.  So, when the National Parkinson's Foundation called me a few months ago to talk about Parkinson's Disease and technology, I kinda had to giggle.  Me?  Technology?! 

Does technology help my family deal with living with Parkinson's?  Well, once I get past the mystery of how this keypad transfers my thoughts to your screen and beyond, I had to answer, "yes," it does!  I may never get excited about giga-thingys and mega-pixels like Isaac and Dan; but, I honestly do rely on technology to connect me to others and keep me apprised of what's happening with this stinking disease.

So much so, that for Parkinson's Awareness Month, I think it was kinda cool that this interview on page four of the Parkinson Report features my thoughts on technology and Parkinson's Disease.  I may not be able to load my own PD app on my smart phone, but I do connect with others and express what it is like to be a PD partner through the use of technology.

Even "cooler" is the great people I have met all over the world along this PD journey through technology.  I will never have the millions needed for research to fix it, but "Excuse me, can I tell you something?"... with continued prayers and support from our friends, technology really does make it tolerable by keeping us connected and informed.