I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

29 September 2010

Nothing Good Comes from Capital Letters.

As a field, education has got to be the most prone to reinvention of the wheel.  This happens on a classroom level.  Every day, precious prep minutes are wasted as a teacher tediously nudges a line around the screen in pursuit of perfect journal paper for her students - paper that a teacher down the hall perfected two years ago.  You can see it at the school level of course, and also in districts.  SFUSD, for instance, has had at least three different adoptions of Mainstream English Language Development over the last twenty or so years.

Wheel reinvention at the management level becomes sinister quickly, and is always occasioned by Capital Letters.  When new math becomes New Math and balanced literacy becomes Balanced Literacy, trouble awaits.  After all, balanced literacy is just the careful balancing of phonics and whole language approaches.   Balanced Literacy means you need Fully Trained Consultants, a rocking chair in every classroom (Ravitch's discussion of San Diego covers this key point lest you think I jest) and lots and lots of professional development binders.  Balanced Literacy means that there is not just a framework and a guiding philosophy but a checklist and a pile of naughty notes for bad teachers.  Balanced Literacy is expensive and teachers resent the cost and the back brace of a framework from which there can be no deviation; balanced literacy is cheap good teaching with lots of fun literature and interest and the freedom to take a roll around on the floor break as needed.

I suppose some of this happens in the interest of replication; if you have some kind of framework ("A Rocking Chair in Every Classroom") it's easier to roll something out across a district.  But when teacher and school initiative and adaptation to circumstances is less important than your Capital Letters, you have a problem.  Particularly when adaptations are obviously and objectively effective.

26 September 2010

As I understand it, the premise of "Waiting for Corporate Takeover" is that

  1. Public schools are very bad.
  2. This is because they have teachers.
  3. Teachers are very bad.
  4. Especially when they have a union.
  5. Our conclusion has nothing to do with the fact that we represent powerful union-busting interests.
  6. Nor should our position as oligarchs who oppose civil servant pensions be held against us.
I hear that the august hedge fund managers, ex-Enron employees, Waltons and similar financing this film now have a new PR arm.  Apparently, they are Superman.

So here's what I don't get.  If the problem is teachers...the solution is hedge fund managers?

How does that work?  Certainly they aren't intending to pay taxes like regular citizens, thereby strengthening our public institutions.  And their "gifts" always seem to have too many strings attached - like union-busting, pension-killing, almighty dollar worshipping - to be heroic.

I am forced to assume that they're all applying for jobs in their local public school district.

YES!  They're going to be more irritating and harder to train than your average uncredentialed do-gooder, what with the Objectivism (to which I object) and the synergy and the cheese-moving and whatever else they're getting up to in the halls of finance, but I see financial opportunities.

I'm charging five hundred bucks for each worksheet I hand over, one thousand for every good substitute's phone number and a cool million to borrow my parachute for an hour.

I must put together a workgang next week so that we can paint "JOHN ARNOLD, APPLY HERE" on the roof of my school.  Four months and we'll have a fully-kitted sensory room and I will have the best wardrobe ever.

25 September 2010

I Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident.

  1. The ultimate purpose of hanging standards with wall displays is to please disaffected, out of the classroom and generally useless administrators who cannot be bothered to observe actual teaching and learning and therefore want to wall-walk to decide how useful you are.
  2. Given the lack of knowledge about standards in the arts, standards-posting dumbs down schools by mandating boring, strictly academic wall displays of limited beauty and interest.
  3. Given that California is more or less "between standards" right now, having adopted Common Core but teaching from the state content standards-aligned textbook adoptions, standards-posting is particularly useless at present.
  4. When one has encapsulated asbestos that precludes anything being hung from the majority of walls in one's classroom, standards-posting is a real waste of space and time.
What with the redesign, all the schools have a new host of administrators to please, all of whom bring their favorite pieces of school reform for our immediate adoption. Given that education reform assumes negative practice needing amelioration/reform (hey, don't take my word for it: even the Rheecolytes over at the Washington Post say so in their style guide), they come looking for their pet answer to the reformer question ("Why do all you classroom teachers hate children so much?").

If I seem a little irked, well that's because I am, having never desired the affected disaffection associated with popular British acts of the 80s.

Not only have I outlasted many school reform programs, I've also lived through many different procedures for administrative walkthroughs, and have hosted visitors both local and federal (with a stop at state-level functionaries, who in my opinion are the worst.  Living in Sacramento does nothing good for one's joie de vivre, and man do they take it out on you).

There was the three-minute-and-a-sticky-note period, which wasn't so bad because at least they left a post-it that informed you what their general takeaway was.  (I also had a really great principal at the time, a natural teacher who left administration to go back into the classroom, and that principal left useful questions or comments.)  I have several copies of Good to Great and other insipid corporate screeds floating around for kindling, I mean for drinking games at parties.  (I do not condone book-burning, and I don't want these things back on the market, so they hide out at my house.  Besides, you never know when a freak blizzard might hit, taking all power and leaving subarctic conditions.)  There was the biweekly long visit period, the you will all be on the same page at the same time at least you will be when the Reading Lions people show up period...

In my old district, our school's Kindergarten team was a go-to place for other district teachers to visit.  Our kids did quite well on district assessments, our Kindergartens were always full and the state team never had anything concrete to pin on us.  That said, it was also very well known that we did not in fact follow our state-mandated program to the letter, as mandated with a mandate, mandately.

That's because we taught Open Court.  Open Court, if taught by the book in Kindergarten, will not finish introducing letter sounds until mid-May.  That's a real problem for Kindergarten writing.  The literature selections are horrible, bad enough that a trainer told a room of teachers that the purpose of readalouds in Kindergarten is not the enjoyment of literature but the teaching of reading strategies (these two being in a dichotomy, apparently).  Kids will only learn thirty-three sight words, too.

If you want academically high-performing Kindergarten students, you're going to need to massage that curriculum.  Sounds will have to be introduced earlier, you'll need more sight words and, unless you want to hate yourself, your life and what your students will become, you'll be selecting your own readalouds.  We did this.  It was so well-known that we did this that there is an ex-district, now state-employee who used to warn my trainer about me at the annual AB466 training.  (One year she even read my homework to see if I was putting any anti-Open Court sentiment in there.  Looking back, it's kind of amusing (E. Rat: SUPERVILLAIN!  Debonair criminal, subverting Open Court trainings with real linguistics and Whole Language principles!  Fetch me my cape and/or stylish trench!  I prefer black!) but then it wasn't, and she did manage to get a colleague of mine fired.  Our kids did well.

But for site visits, the District wanted us to sing the party line: flip the alphabet cards back over, hide the extra sight words, find the OCR big books.  They wanted us to lie to our fellow teachers, to say that we did use the curriculum just like they did, and our results were better because of our intrinsic yet learnable awesomeness.  If they'd just try a little harder, their students could also excel, because Open Court works.

Reading this, it sounds like Catch-22 level paranoia (only a lot less humorous and well-written).  Sadly, it's not; the district and the Reading Lions had convinced themselves that the program worked, and when it didn't it was the teaching - and despite knowing we weren't toeing the line, they held us up as an example of what they believed.

The other drag of visits is that invariably nine will be normal or even awesome days, and the tenth will be horrible.  The kids will not be fidgety (I have in the past been both reprimanded and praised for letting students fidget/not sit criss cross applesauce/getting self-regulation items), they'll be lethargic.  Or twenty will be on their game, but number twenty one is having a meltdown of epic proportion, requiring immediate attention and leaving the other twenty to notice the strangers and react appropriately (tension?  check.  strange adults?  check.  teacher stressed out?  check.  unpleasant noise?  check.  peer melting down?  check.  All systems set for pandemonium!)

And speaking of these meltdowns, high-needs schools are going to get more than their fair share.  In this class - like any other at my school - I have students who are currently homeless, whose parents have had custody terminated, whose family members are incarcerated, who have experienced family violence and sexual abuse, who are experiencing food insecurity, who have sensory integration issues that lead to overstimulation, who do not trust strange adults because no good has ever come from one, who...

If wallwalkers want to be welcomed, they need to have a sit down with school staff first and explain why they're there, what they are looking to do and how they plan to help.  They can then do the same for the students whose classrooms they'll be interrupting.  And then they're going to need to visit regularly and get down in it - look at some data, find out about the neighborhood, come every day for a week to see the flow and stay quite a while in each class.  Then their takeaways will be useful: an outsider, but an informed one, whose perspective can be welcomed.

Otherwise they're just looking to feed whatever notion of school success and failure was popular when they got demoted outside the classroom.

In other news, for the first time ever I wore apparel that was worthy of compliment in the eyes of one of the extreme Jeremy's fashionistas (not the nice young college kids who work there rocking 70s revival wear, the other ones).  Perhaps I can continue to win praise so that when choice items from 2010 F/W start appearing I will know about it first. (Funnel neck bird print dresses, you made your first appearance 1.5 years ago and at this point we're approaching full ADHD hyperfocus.  Come to Jeremy's. Sport attractive price tags.  Be the envy of my Kindergarten students.)

23 September 2010

Looking forward to a pleasant weekend at home.

This is the response I sent to NBC.  There are instances of poor word choice and redundancy, but I will excuse myself since I wrote it at 5:30 in the morning in less than four minutes.

After significant consideration, I have decided not to attend this event.  It is a great deal of time outside my classroom; moreover, it is abundantly clear that the guiding principles of the Town Hall are antithetical to my own.  As a veteran public school teacher with a long record of success in the classroom despite the institutional challenges placed upon me, my students and our community, I have outlived a great deal of "education reform", any number of organizations explaining that it's not about the money, and the daily denigration of my profession by people with less experience and far less education than I have.

It is clear to me that the Town Hall will prioritize these voices.  Since I do not believe that there is any interest in opposing viewpoints, I do not feel it is in anyone's best interest that I attend.

I think that NBC has the power and ability to make sure that audience malcontents like myself keep their malcontented mouths far, far away from microphones.  I strongly doubt that I could get through "Waiting for the End of Public Education" without some snarky comments.  I mean, I couldn't get through "Contact" without some snarky comments, and I had to leave "Titanic" forty minutes in.  So I would be a known problem entity prior to the teacher panel.

The sad thing is that with ten years in public K-12, I HAVE outlived several reforms/programs, all of which were supposed to...well, do something:
  • Reading First
  • II/USP (aka "March of the Consultants")
  • Small Schools (Gates Foundation iteration)
  • Edison Schools
  • Jr. 6th grade/moving 6th out of middle school/moving 6th back
  • 20:1 class size reduction (SFUSD not included YAY)
  • Full day Kindergarten (SFUSD not included)
  • I could go on forever and ever but just making this list makes me jaded.

20 September 2010

Top Ten Reasons I'm Not Going to the Education Town Hall, Even Though It's a Free Vacation.

  1. Several of my students this year have trauma issues.  Four days out, having just missed two, would be cruel.
  2. The organizations funding this NBC programming extravaganza all share the same viewpoint, which does not make me confident that other views will be expressed/allowed to be aired.
  3. After being in southern California, it is clear that my continued solvency is strongly dependent on not being within one hundred miles of an Alexander McQueen store.
  4. Especially when I am likely to be disgruntled and wishing to justify my vacation through avarice and dresses.
  5. They are mandating viewing of "Waiting for For Profiteers", and I have ADHD. Sitting through movies is not my thing.
  6. They are mandating chit chat with Davis "My Kids Go to Private School" Guggenheim, and I have ADHD.  Pique and impulsiveness might lead me to conclude that there is ample reason to fashion my program into a dunce cap and place it on his self-satisfied white liberal head.
  7. They are mandating viewing/chit chat (see 5 and 6) that are a renunciation of everything I do in my working life.
  8. They are mandating viewing/chit chat (see 5 and 6) that are a renunciation of everything I do in my working life.
  9. They are mandating viewing/chit chat (see 5 and 6) that are a renunciation of everything I do in my working life.
  10. They are mandating viewing/chit chat (see 5 and 6) that are a renunciation of everything I do in my working life.
Reason #7 deserves at least four slots on this list, I think.

P.S. I am not allowing myself to buy any clothes until January excepting bird print funnel neck dresses and even those only in my size, not random giant sizes, no thanks Gilt Groupe with your ridiculous e.

16 September 2010


I was invited to go to New York on NBC's dime to be an "Education Champion".

Driving down south will give me lots of time to think about whether to go or not.

Long, but Worthwhile.

The Problem with Education Rheeform.

15 September 2010

Take a break and then look what happens.

1. Although I think it's depressingly likely that Michelle Rhee ends up in California, compressing all issues in education to bad teachers and getting favorable press despite her proclivity to demean her allies by mimicking them in funny voices, I hold out the hope she ends up far, far from the Bay Area.

2. Man, take a one meeting break from reading SFUSD BoE agendas and the National Urban Alliance contract shows up again.  I don't really understand what these overpaid independent contractors have other professionals in presenting the same graphic organizers that totally blew teachers' minds fifteen years ago.  Nor do I really understand why the various NUA contracts are the biggest bugbear for budget watchers; SFUSD drops unrestricted money all over the place.  (Again: I do read those agendas, and contrary to the belief of those with financial control in SFUSD, education funding isn't that complicated.)

That said, piddly teacher stimulus or not, I still hold that the A #1 way to improve the learning experience of poor children of color is to dramatically lower class sizes, and if we have fat piles of money for contracts, I strongly support teacher contracts over consultant contracts.

Based on my reading of the gutted Harkin bill, I think the federal teacher bailout money could be used to hire consultants for PD, and that is just too depressing for words.

One of my Donors Choose projects got posted on the Stephen Colbert challenge.  Funded in an hour.  TV is powerful, I see.

11 September 2010


On both sides.

  • I am so bad about keeping a neat, organized desk that I don't have a teacher's desk; I either take care of memos, forms and whatnot or I lose them entirely.  (This mostly works.)  This has been a problem my whole life, and in fifth grade I had a teacher who periodically walked down the aisles and tipped over any very messy desks.  The year I was in fifth grade she could manage an impressive double-dump because the kid who sat across from me was another big offender to order.  Needless to say all we learned was to stuff the papers in their tighter, so that nothing came out of those desks, EVER, and they took on the sullen density of black holes.
  • In Kindergarten my picture was taken for a Tana Hoban-style book.  It was a counting book and all the kids had instruments; I had a bell ringing stick with three bells.  I also have the world's most hostile look on my face, because although I am wearing one of my favorite dresses it is not my dress WITH TINY MICE DRIVING TRUCKS, COOKING, FLYING KITES AND OTHER ASSORTED ACTIVITIES on the puffy long sleeves and pussy bow.*  I think they tried again later with all of us in Oshkosh and it went fine except the daily Star Wars game had left us a little muddy.
  • In seventh grade my cousin and I sat next to each other in English and we spent the better part of a week holding up a sign that said "DROP DEAD" before the teacher noticed.  To her eternal credit she was quite amused.
  • In high school I was part of an all-female Wild Dada Ducks-type group that added color, class and post-modern critique through installation pieces.  Some of these were very clever.  All of them were disruptive.
  • Also in high school, I arranged for the Biology classroom to be haunted by the spirit of the pregnant cat specimen some long-gone teacher had ordered that was found lurking in the chemistry cabinet that year.
  • My first grade teacher was awesome but once a month or so we'd go to the other first grade to do a project.  I was scared of that teacher to the extent that one time we went over there and I had a runny nose.  I sat covering my nose for quite a while (it seems like hours now, but was probably two minutes) because I did not know where she kept Kleenex and if she allowed kids to just go get one.  By the time she noticed it was hugely gross and embarrassing and boy was she mad at me.

*If you were not wearing this dress you would be mad, too.  In fact, I am mad I am not wearing this dress right now and that it mysteriously disappeared after it no longer covered tap pants or wrists.

13th Paycheck!

We start so early now that the District and UESF worked out something so that the check I expected in July 2011 came nearly a year in advance.  This is clever on both parts, since the beginning of the school year has got to be prime teacher spending time and flush pockets makes for fun at the teachers' supply store.

In fact, someone should recommend a federal stimulus plan of this nature: hand public school teachers a few hundred bucks and tell them to go to town on classroom materials.

I personally got some science stuff - the materials to do a little unit on magnetism and refills for a unit I did last year on light and color.  I got a prism, which I didn't have last year (just various prismatically finished things), and a pound of Insta-Snow.  Accept no fake snow substitutes: Insta-Snow is where it's at.  Were I more ambitious, I might try to do a whole unit on polymers rather than just explaining how the snow works.  Its purpose is to reinforce color blending.  I let the kids go to town with Insta-Snow and colored water or diluted liquid watercolor in primary colors and have them record their color formulas.  (This is after we've blended primary colors to make secondary colors and talked about complimentary colors and all that - otherwise, I'm guessing you'd get a lot of mix-everything-to-brown.)  It's very engaging and the whole thing made the kids very impressive at MoAD last year because they could explain shading using complimentary colors.

I also picked up some craft stuff - little foam fruits and veggies, wings for the kids to decorate and wear - and a few gender-neutral additions for the dress-up cabinet.  Oh, and three pairs of dress-up shoes.  A few of the kids are quite tall this year and can only wear the largest pair of shoes, so I got some bigger ones.

I also have a birthday coming up, so I figured I deserved a new pair of shoes.  Over the summer I had a conversation with a Neiman Marcus clerk in which we agreed that the utter lack of McQ in San Francisco is a tragedy.  It ends up that if you are willing to wear last season, you too can shop fine diffusion lines at Loehmann's.  I do not buy by season, both because I live in strange weather San Francisco and because I shop by awesomeness of the item.  Anyway, I ended up purchasing another excellent dress at a very good price.  Perhaps the stimulus plan could be slightly more broad; the kids looooove my new shoes (they have big big bows) and I know I teach better when I look fab.

Yawn.  I went to a birthday party for one of the kids at my school today and spent a solid forty minutes in the jumpy.  It calls for an early bedtime, I think.  I need to go to school tomorrow to ready things for next week and possibly give a second coat to the backscratchers the kids sanded and primed on Friday, too, so it  will be an early day!

05 September 2010

And while I'm ranting...

In 2005, California had a whooping cough epidemic.  I caught it; despite the romantic image of 'whooping' I developed as a child reading Ballet Shoes, it is really not a good time.  The problem is that the whooping starts up after you're feeling pretty good, so you end up back at work having an uncontrollable, endless and breathless coughing fit in front of twenty-odd frightened children.

Anyway, here we are having another pertussis outbreak.  Lucky California!  No dark sarcasm in the classroom means lots of it elsewhere, you see.  Needless to say, this has become fodder for anti-immigration fear mongering (apparently whooping cough takes on human form and comes to the United States without papers, hellbent on infecting upstanding white nationalists citizens) and bad mother blamers (the New York Times had an article titled something like "Wealthy Stay at Home Mill Valley Mothers Fail to Vaccinate, Thereby Causing Nuclear War").*

DTaP vaccines become less effective over time.  Whooping cough sucks, but not literally seeing as how you will be unable to suck down any air.  Get yours updated today!

*For the record, I find anti-vaccine philosophy the kind of individualist, Ayn Randesque tripe that makes me gag, even when I don't have whooping cough.  I do not, however, think that the ponderings of a few overly-educated, overly-monied mothers makes a trend, and I wonder why it is always the mothers who are to blame for anti-vaccine sentiments.

Also, I personally cannot get a DTaP booster; I have an actual, doctor-verified, terrible horrible no good very bad extreme adverse reaction to tetanus and no pertussis vaccine is made without it.  So while this is a case where I am personally counting on herd immunity, it is also one where I cannot lord it over others while waving my pricked arm self-righteously.

Guilty guilt.

Unavoidably and non-negotiably, I will be missing two days of school in a couple of weeks.  My attendance is required at a wedding in L.A.*

In your general professional job, my understanding is that if you're out, you're out: calls go to voicemail, you set up an away email, and it all gets done when you get back.  I've spent long hours and traded excellent shifts to get someone willing to cover me in my days as a server/bartender/retail grunt.

Teaching of course is different: there will be a substitute teacher in my classroom.  Like most teachers I know, I have dragged my feverish, pale self to work - uphill in driving snow - to drop off lesson plans (even if emergency sub plans are already available).  Through advance planning, I have managed to arrange not only a sub but a good one, who will be kind to my students and make every possible effort to get through some portion of the plans I leave.  This year I also have a Resident, who knows how things work and is fully capable of getting through a day, and who is well-known to the kids in my class.

Before I rant, I should say that I have thankfully never done a substitute gig.  I cannot imagine anything more difficult: different school, different kids, different grade every day for low pay and rotten benefits.  You may or may not be left plans that make sense.  You may or may not be left name tags, and you will be blamed for anything that goes wrong.  YUCK.  Even the very best teacher is going to be challenged by these requirements.

That said, SFUSD seems to have more than its share of sub problems.  First there's the issue of availability. No matter how big the sub pool is, some schools can't get substitutes.  During my one year out of the classroom I witnessed this firsthand at a school to remain nameless.  I'd estimate that three-quarters of the absences meant splitting a class.  That only happens occasionally at my current school.

SFUSD used to have "site support subs" at the STAR schools, but that funding evaporated.  Now they have "core subs" (which has been around for a long time, I think): guest teachers who agree to take jobs at hard-to-substitute-staff schools.  Unfortunately, being willing to take such a job and being able to do it are two different things.

Many of the subs inflicted upon my students have been decent, but it's the bad ones that stick out.  Like the one who left me a note that my students were "awful".  I don't care what they did - that's not okay.  Or the one who left half an hour early, or the one who fell asleep (luckily, neither of these were in my room).  After an illness I came back to a trashed classroom.  A lot of things stored up high - out of students' reach - were particularly messed up.  A little questioning informed me that some of these things had fallen during attempts to get them as the kids led themselves through various routines.  What was the guest teacher doing as they climbed on chairs to retrieve calendar tags, readers and whatnot?  Reading the newspaper.  The paper and the sub's coffee cup were thoughtfully left for me to clean up.  I was especially irritated to find that the coffee had been spilled all over my lesson plans (helpfully labeled "SUB PLANS" with a red trifolded paper), since this same guest teacher claimed I didn't leave any.

For guest teachers who can't return, there is a process for "blacklisting".  Yet too often it seems not to go through; there have been cases whereupon a substitute comes to our school site and is immediately sent packing.

This is not really a solveable problem, unless teachers are somehow able to convince all friends to have summer weddings, have families who are immortal, are made immune to all illnesses and are cloned for maternity leave and whatnot.  I'm crossing my fingers I don't have any major illnesses this year; having a Resident will also make a big difference.

*I have an outstanding dress to wear, too, and an iron-clad agreement that we can visit at least one designer concession that I cannot visit in San Francisco.

04 September 2010

Checking in on Last Week's Plans

Folder Use and Care: Folders introduced, decorated and explained.  Adult assistance in the placement of papers inside folders provided.  Fewer incidents of papers floating idly about whilst Kindergartners clutch jackets, hats, lunchboxes and toys while toting empty backpacks.  Return rate of folders rather low, but most expected to be returned Tuesday.

Roll Out Small Group Rotation: Rolled out; we had rotation three days of five.  Only one incident of a child attempting to regroup.  Students successfully used in/out folders for materials and most completed independent work activities.  Due to class size, the groups are very large and it's still a toss up as to whether we'll go with groups or centers for the year.

Social-Emotional Goal Setting: Only got through about half.

Sensory Fan: Mysteriously turned its own lights back on.  Perhaps it just needed a break.  I am not enthusiastic about moody equipment.

We got a lot of boxes this week courtesy Donors Choose.  On Friday we got two Gel-E-Seats, which were unbelievably popular; we may need to request more.

Schoolwide enrollment is up, even up above District budget projections.  If you're below, they cut your money, so they better be handing out more money if you are high.  If so, I won't have to order my own Starfall stuff this year.

I successfully contracted my first virus of the year.  Luckily it appears to be receding to the disgusting coughing phase now.  It had a lot of potential to disturb the three day weekend...fingers crossed, etc.

On the behavior trend, of the three high-difficulty students I think we have two mostly sorted.  The other...well, we have a better idea about why wherever he goes, pandemonium ensues.  However, I am looking extremely forward to recess duty so that I can enforce safe play with equipment; our CSC meeting around playground rules and safety was enlightening.

02 September 2010

I figure if we set the alarm off because no one thought to disarm it since no one was thinking that we'd still be there when it went off, we must have had a pretty successful Back to School Night.  I think we had better than 50% attendance, which is pretty good when you take in second shift jobs, transportation difficulties, general disenchantment with the establishment, etc.

The classroom was finally down from its tropical rainforest heat this evening, undoubtedly helped along by Crafternoon: all academic work before lunch, followed by an afternoon of crafts, motor development and games that require turn-taking over in the unused dark portable with its industrial-strength fan.  Removing twenty three bodies from the classroom helps a lot in cooling.

I had a kid disappear off my roster this week but continue coming to school; her mom came to Back to School Night and they declined their waitpool school because her child is so happy.  That's always nice to hear.  I also wore a kicking dress (ombre silk McQueen S/S 2008, salvage as usual), so really I think I have to call that a success.