Watching the documentary “The Big Picture: Re-thinking Dyslexia” could be life changing for so many…

The documentary The Big Picture: Re-thinking Dyslexia, directed by James Redford, is absolutely amazing! It’s not very often you find a film that explains everything about how you think, how the way you think impacted your life, and then propose your theories about how you feel about it now. At end of this post I’ve included two different links to to watch this movie right now for free.

This is one of the most telling, accurate, de-mystifying and just wonderful accounts of what dyslexia is, and what it feels like to have it, that I’ve come across. Unfortunate because it’s an area I should be an expert on being a veteran special education teacher with 75+ graduate units in this field, AND also experienced the confusion growing up living with dyslexia myself.

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia

DVD cover

I have several learning disabilities that constantly make me look stupid because I suck at things most find simple. I didn’t know I wasn’t stupid until I started college and the classes were way easier than high school for me. I excelled, transferred to UC Berkeley, and now feel lucky I’m “learning disabled”. I think it’s directly related to being “extra able” in the many other more interesting & much more important ways in areas that actually matter. The stuff related to being what is considered successful in all areas of life. (The ability to do mental math, read quickly, spell good, or earn high-test scores are NOT what gets you hired at job interviews, excel and/or get promoted, make you likable in work/social settings, be of use to making your personal relationships work, or lend to the incredible satisfaction of expressing yourself creatively).

This documentary gets inside the lives of several families and shows what it is to go through life feeling so different. The top experts in the field offer explanations and discuss how different doesn’t equate to lesser. It also features many iconic leaders, CEO’s, scientists, etc. discussing growing up with dyslexia and how it affects them today. Always very powerful.

What I loved most was the theories & experiences were providing evidence that leads to understanding that all along the smart kids are the ones with “learning disabilities”. It seems like the opposite because American education system develops curriculum, delivers lessons & assesses learning for how the average majority think, not for extraordinary minds. I’ve been trying to convince teachers, parents & ESPECIALLY my students of this of for years. I wrote a thesis on how I thought genius and LD went together but it wasn’t very good. I couldn’t be more happy to know that this is where the current academic thought is going.

A MUST SEE FOR ANYONE WHO STRUGGLES WITH DYSLEXIA. It was incredible seeing what I experienced through others and knowing it’s being shared with the masses through this film. My methods of thinking, how I processes information, and other weird things I do explained and/or given ration. One of my most validating moments.

EVERY TEACHER & PARENT OF A CHILD WITH DYSLEXIA SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO WATCH THIS because they would walk away with such a deeper understanding of their child that will no doubt lesson frustrations or conflicts.

Watch The Big Picture: Re-thinking Dyslexia for free in one of the links below.

The Big Picture: Re-thinking Dyslexia documentary on YouTube

The Big Picture: Re-thinking Dyslexia on Netflix

I’m Not “Pro-smoking”: but somehow manged to wrte a very “pro-smoking” arguement

Cal smoke free comment

I’ve never considered my self as “pro-smoking”, but I couldn’t resist making this smart ass comment when UC Berkeley, known for freedom, think for yourself, tolerance, diversity, and the free speech movement, declared their stupidity by proudly posting that they have succumbed to the political agenda (hidden but obvious to me) of the demonization of cigarette smoking that is mostly based on hysteria, the fears of the public, and other dishonesty. And worse, they have let it affect school policy by deciding to follow the popular trend of banning all tobacco on the premises to make it “smoke free”.

On the post where UC Berkeley is proudly announcing they are tobacco free with this picture of the banner on their alumni association page, I commented on the picture saying,

Good thing you can still purchase alcohol & consume that on campus since drunk college kids are safer & better behaved than smokers. And since it’s so irritating to witness a cigarette being smoked it’s a good idea to make someone walk off campus to have a cigarette because it forces exercise and that’s healthy.

I know taking on the plight, or perceived “oppression”, of smokers may seem odd or silly, but it is SOOOO obvious how political this growing move to ban cigarette smoking from specific areas, like a college campus, is that I have to call them on it.

Full disclosure: I do not smoke regularly but I would be lying if I said I never smoke. I, like most of my friends (yes most,  just about 70% of my friends will occasionally sneek a cigarette when going out, if they believe it will be discreet. I still am always surprised by who will ask for a cigarette now and then) might be considered a social smoker. And knowing what I know, I get I might as well confessed to participating in dog fights or wearing fur coats. And for the record none of my sources link to any, and I have never visited any  “smokers rights” websites.

I did grow up around smokers, I live with smokers, and I have friends who smoke. Every smoker I have know has been a good person, and even going back generations, only one of these people have had a health concern that may be related to smoking, and she quit the day she found this out.

Political groups pursuing laws against cigarette smoking in the US using the guise of student preferences/comfort/health or the environment to get these “smoke free” policies passed have nothing to do any of that and I’ll make a case why.

First it is essential to understand the long-term goal of all anti-smoking campaign is to make the selling of, purchasing of, having possession of, and smoking of cigarettes illegal. They all are fighting for smoking cigarettes banned 100% in the US. They are open about it and any Google search will show the discussion on this topic is all about the complete control, and 100% ban of all tobacco products, so America will be truly tobacco free. Once this is understood, I think I can easily show what the obvious motive behind & goal of such policies.

*And ironically enough, compared to the useless “just don’t smoke where I have to see it” policies, I actually believe that the ONLY way to help the environment environment & public health of Americans is a law making it illegal. It is when that same reasoning is used to persuade people to support and pass policies that don’t allow cigarette smoking in just certain places (like a university campus) is absurd and what I am addressing in this blog,

So, if you believe taking away the freedom to choose to use tobacco products or not is okay, that’s one thing. Some of the only voices online from the general public who support state the main reason is because it is bad for you. So is animal fat but I doubt any of them, without the heavily funded campaigns telling them it should be banned too, would feel that way. There is a long list of things that are bad for us, and cost tax payer money in health costs, that I have never heard a debate over making them illegal.

I am one who doesn’t think this is constitutional anymore than I think banning cooking with grease is. There is evidence that the volumes of grease that restaurants use is having a huge impact on our environment, AND even more evidence to it’s impact on the general public health of Americans since cardiovascular diseases are still the leading cause of death.

The demonization of cigarettes may have started with attempts of keeping people from starting up a habit that is from what I hear, as hard to kick as heroin, when in the beginning when this campaign used appropriate methods to spread information with facts and statistics. And there are plenty of those to demonize smoking without going all hidden political agenda, using hysteria or playing to fears of the public to alter the collective opinion, and worse, to convince the public they should not have zero tolerance of the bad habits of others, like using tobacco products.

Let me clarify that I find merit, and advocate for not tolerating the habits of others when they violate the human rights, personally affect you in any way, let alone your health, or the health of the planet as a whole. Habits like viewing child pornography, burning on spare the air days, dumping trash or littering or just not recycling at all, wasting electricity, actually being wasteful with anything related to the resources we all share are the first few of these that come to mind. But other people smoking cigarettes, and I mean far away enough from non-smokers to not have to breathe their secondhand smoke, IS NOT one of these. (When someone is smoking close enough to another who is bothered by their second hand smoke, that person should absolutely be confronted and politely ask if they didn’t mind smoking farther away because of heath related concerns with second smoke that you have).

But the current anti-cigarette smoking campaign has nothing to do with the kind of habits mentioned above, and the policies these campaigns are influencing have nothing to do with the anyone’s health or the environment but are way more about the controlling the public’s tolerance with their continued demonization of tobacco, punishing those that use these products, while making it seem a tiny minority still smoke cigarettes,

And at UC Berkeley!! Cal taught me to look for motives behind actions, who is financing what, hidden agendas, how easy it is to sway public opinion, etc. so I couldn’t have been more disappointed to learn that my university has giving in to all the political bullshit and is following the current fad of making their campus “smoke free”.

And “Smoke free”? Pul-eeze (to be read in the most scoffing tone possible). They should at least be honest and say “cigarette smoke free” because almost any university or college campus is anything but “smoke free”, especially say, around 4:20 in the afternoon.

My second point is how has smoking cigarettes has become so frowned upon at the same time when smoking marijuana is becoming more socially acceptable. Policies are being made to ban tobacco while laws are being passed to make it easier to get high. Really?

I’m not even going to go into how you can still purchase and consume alcohol on campus and the real dangers this causes other students since I covered that in my comment to this picture on Facebook. But I will point out that both alcohol and marijuana are behavior altering substances, and while tobacco is not, it has been banned, while the use of, no, the OVER USE of the other two is celebrated.

Let’s talk about Cal & their policy on smoking marijuana. There is technically one on the books, although marijuana isn’t mentioned because it is grouped with other controlled substances. But we all know the amount of (and type of) people that would lump marijuana with crack or heroin as the same and believe they should be address together, are extremely few, and they extremely rare in the educated world. And college campus’ are all about being educated, so this policy is openly violated (and it is widely accepted to do so) daily by multitudes of students all over campus. I am not making assumptions, I graduated from Cal in 1993 and visit it frequently today (and I can only guess it was more prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s). Cal is so relaxed on marijuana use that the national organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, graded UC Berkeley’s Drug and Alcohol Policy as a “C”.
And I’m assuming it was given an average grade because it is no different than any other university (that most likely already has, or will soon, a tobacco ban). Weed is so widely accepted that a Ph.D. lecturer for UC Berkeley words are used throughout a 2012 article in the East Bay Express called, “How to Smoke Weed: a UC Berkeley Student Guide”. And further evidence of Cal’s embrace of marijuana is the several UC Berkeley professors, lecturers, and admin that are openly in favor of it’s use, and have been published saying so.

I have no doubt this tobacco policy will be taken more seriously & enforced far better than Cal’s policy regarding marijuana. Especially since so many students are now showing up with their medical cards and some schools have said that campus police will not cite anyone who has one.

Thus, my second point: You can smoke a bowl on campus, but to smoke a cigarette, you must walk up to several blocks to the nearest public sidewalk/street, surrounded by thick crowds of people, many of which are still students, instead of a private corner on campus that is close to your class/meeting.  This is beyond frustrating to most of the smokers I know because it is already a task to find spots away from people out of respect, and out of public eye now that this act is deemed as evil by so many.  (More than once I’ve heard lighting up in public is starting to feel like shooting up in public, regardless how far you are from others).  Maybe the people I know are more conscience and considerate than most others who smoke cigarettes, and the rude behavior of other smokers have led to the need of such banishment. Maybe, I do come from  professional and cause supporting activist corners. Maybe their needs to be more useful and effective policies for the ass holes who let their cigarette smoke be inhaled by non-smokers.

Also, policies like these don’t benefit the environment at all. Making people walk to a different location to have a cigarette doesn’t change anything except those that back these policies don’t have to witness it. Ignorance is bliss? I am all for intellectual debate but when the fact that cigarettes are harmful to the environment is used as rationale to pass these policies, it is truly ridiculous.

And how does walking to a different area, especially one that is more crowded with students, alleviate any health concerns of fellow students? It doesn’t, if anything, it makes it worse. I have read that at least one jilted smoker at Cal will no longer seek places away from people and will now light up while surrounded by crowds on the public sidewalks that surround Cal for two reasons. First, out of protest for such a stupid policy and the desire to make it clear people who wish to smoke a cigarette are not the only ones being inconvenienced by it. And second, with the time she will be spending having to walk off campus, she will no longer have the time to seek spots away people like she did when she could smoke on campus, not to mention and the fact these spots on busy sidewalks don’t even exist. I doubt she is alone on this.

And seriously, if smoking killed people as much as these campaigns would like us to believe, we would have lost an entire generation in the 60’s when everyone smoked, and was smoked around, let alone multiple generations of people when you include the 50’s to the 80’s.

I also think it is telling that these silly policies ban ALL tobacco products, including chewing tobacco & electric cigarettes. So touting the purpose is to have a “smoke free” campus while including products that don’t produce smoke, give away the purpose these policies serve for anti-smoking campaigns

So there is my rant why I think these policies are stupid and why I couldn’t resist making my smart ass comment. Please feel free to let me know that I am wrong on this.

—> AND PLEASE FEEL FREE to provide any feedback to this example piece of persuasive writing. I know it is long but don’t know what to delete without weakening my position. I would love to know how readers feel about the strength of my arguments, if any of my points make sense to others, if I have been “persuasive” or not. I couldn’t think of too many other current topics more difficult to defend than smoking in public. I do agree with most of what I have written, but this piece was more about debate and style than making a point.

Ten Things Legislators Should Know and Do When Making Education Policy

can teach

Excellent post from a blog at titled Teacher in a Strange Land by Nancy Flanagan. Her entire blog is wonderful and extremely informative. All posts include many links to the primary sources within the writing for further reading if interested.

Ten Things Legislators Should Know and Do When Making Education Policy.

Not only a “Must Read” if you care just a little bit about public education in America, take action and send to all of your elected representatives (and friends, family, colleagues, etc). Even if just a few points made resonate with one of them it will be time well spent. I am actually a bit jaded and more cynical after more than 15 years of being a teacher than my request may sound. I’m trying to be more hopeful for possible changes to be made with what is happening as well trying to do what I can about it instead of just complaining.

I would like to think it is not naive but as much as I love this post, and couldn’t agree with it more, it’s almost depressing to reflect on because it seems to me that legislators and self-proclaimed experts on education are doing the complete opposite of all 10. It seems the drive to privatize public education by those who stand to make billions from this, are winning over the opinions of those in power with their mantra that the current system is completely broken and needs to be rebuilt, not just reformed. (Link with one of the many examples of this I found in another blog post by the same author).

Enjoy the post and please do send it along to any and all legislators.


My playlist of the week – Week 2- April 1, 2013 – “A Place to Bury Strangers”

My current list of songs I have been obsessively listening to this week come from a band I have only recently discovered, A Place to Bury Strangers.

I found them by accident on iTunes and bought a few songs. I never do that, NEVER. I’m conservative spending money on bands I know I like, so again, I never do that, but I was so taken away by the 30 second samples, I just had to own some of their music.

Their music sounds like the bands I’ve loved since high school. You can hear the influences of Joy Division and Jesus and Mary Chain the most.

I bought Exploding Head and loved it so much I went back and bought several more versions of the song from an EP. Since then I have bought a few more, but Exploding Head is still my favorite.
A Place to Bury Strangers – “Exploding Head”

Crazy Celebrity tweets about the 2012 election results. CRAZY!

Crazy Celebrity tweets about the 2012 election results. Like some are bat shit crazy!

My favorite so far is former SNL star, Victoria Jackson tweets and the article on Huffington Post.

I might be using the term “celebrity” pretty loosely here, but many who grew up on Saturday Night Live know who she is.

She wins out over the celebrities tweeting from crazy train by following Donald Trump and tweeting her breakdown when her candidate of choice lost the election to Barrack Obama. My favorites were: “America Died”, and “I can’t stop crying”,  and “Thanks Christians for showing up. You disgust me”.

Really? She thinks “America died” because the person the majority of it’s citizens want to be president is someone different than she wants? I have to laugh because that’s what most of us love about America. You know, the democracy thing ……..the most votes win.

I can see how a little part of America dies when gullible “Christian” Republicans started to think and act like her. For example when:

1.) They think they speak for ALL Christians, as well as Jesus Christ himself.

2.) They think that Jesus would be all about politics AND making laws that dictate everyone will follow the Bible – not as in have to be a Christian of course, you know, freedom of religion. More like American laws that follow The Bible, thus creating a moral society fitting to them (at least what they think The Bible says, as if there isn’t any room for interpretation on what this would even look like).

3.) They claim to be patriots who believe in the constitution, yet seem to have the least amount of tolerance for anything related to equality or freedom like speech, religion, rights, different opinions, democratic process, etc. (like item B). And the same goes for both sides with the extremists being the loudest & most visible & always spewing  what seems like obvious propaganda & scare tactics.

4.)  They have been manipulated into buying the lie that right-wing politics are somehow in line with The Bible when that political party brilliantly adopted a few hot “morality” issues gaining their support. AND THEN get churches to preach that it is not only your obligation to Christ to vote for these, but everything else they say too, regardless how much it may contradict the Bible and/or Jesus (see this video

She goes on a homophobic rant against glee here.

And here she is with such extremist propaganda that she even worries the dumbfounded FOX News commentators by her comments

*Disclosure, well sort of: I am a liberal Christian myself so PLEASE hear me when I say that I am only talking about “Christians” and/or conservatives like her, and not claiming all are like this. I also have respect for different opinions and only hate when people act like I have described in the name of Jesus.

The Edu Talk blog is a Must Read!

​The Edu Talk The Edu Talk blog is one of the best blogs about what teaching I have come across. That is saying a lot coming from one who spends way to much reading about education policy and how it relates to (or interferes with) my teaching. As a teacher who occasionally blogs about such policies, I am truly in awe of this one.

The posts include everything I once aspired mine to embody. Truth to power is articulated comprehensively, eloquently, and viewpoints are powerfully supported with evidence from personal or collective experiences, or with linked references when appropriate.

My favorite topic addressed is the same one I write about – the demise of American schools with corporate privatization of public education through the demonization of teachers by placing entire blame on any perceived failing, when in fact, they have no control over decisions made on how schools are structured, the curriculum they use, the method of delivery, content standards, what gets funded, classroom size (the amount of English Language Learners, special education, etc.), student truancy, parent support at home, “college prep for all” courses being the only ones offered outside of a few SDC for severe disabilities, demanding UC entry requirements for high school diplomas, appropriate assessment criteria (determining if a student was successful for the year using one test score), use of high stakes testing, relevancy of questions such tests… OR ANY LOCAL, STATE, OR FEDERAL POLICY.

Where I spend hours trying to word short blog entries that end up rambling on, sometimes with sarcasm or bitterness like the above, The author matter of a factly states facts, or extremely thought provoking questions, that seem to flow fluently with such mastery of the English language.

My favorite so far is called, “Motives Matter” dated May 2011. Well worth reading if you are interested in education, like reading good blogs, have school age children, or think teachers alone should be “accountable” for the problems (real or perceived) and/or the measurement of every student’s learning should be assessed using one multiple choice test score by memorizing rote facts.

POWERFUL! Christian Pastor Speaks Equal Rights for Homosexuals

– Christians in favor limiting rights for the LGBTQ community will be schooled on how antiquated these beliefs are.
– Christians who already get this will be inspired that they are not alone in left thinking (and a talking point).
– Everyone else will see another example of a church leader publicly fighting for what is right.

Missouri Pastor’s Fiery Speech Against Equal Rights for Homosexuals Has Stunning Twist Ending

Like this pastor, I also believe Jesus was who he said he was. It astounds me that others claiming the same have bought into such a lie, like it is okay to discriminate against and have laws limiting the rights any group of people, black or LGBTQ.

I’ve taken the survey at thinking my number might change or vary a little as I live my life but I still have a huge number slaves working for me. I have what seems like more than average with 75. This is disheartening when I take into account that this is an issue I’ve been passionate about fighting for more than a decade.

If you haven’t visited this website go see what is being talked about all over the media. Even President Obama just encouraged people to go visit it.

Obama promoting

“13+ Things your child’s teacher won’t tell you” Oh Really?

Reader’s Digest has a slideshow of 34 (not 13) “Things your child’s teacher won’t tell you”.

Looks like an interesting read, but no. As a veteran teacher, I had issues with several.

I found the wording on most to come across really bitchy (some outright offensive). Some are only the opinions of a few and do NOT represent collective thinking like the title makes it sound. Some are silly and clearly come from teachers who only have white affluent students. And some were just stupid. Really? Teachers secretly want to tell parents enough with the mugs and frames because we prefer gift cards. Wtf?

I think this article makes teachers sound as bad as the media makes us out to be. Less than half are really what teachers think and I’m going by 13 years of working with them, not just what I think.

So, parents, please know that some of these are crap, or would be more accurate if re-worded positive, or even lighthearted and funny.

“13+ Things Your Child’s Teacher Wont Tell You” article in Reader’s Digest

Read them yourself and tell me what you think. Especially if you teach or work with kids and agree with them. I’d love to know if it’s just me who took them the wrong way.

My playlist of the week – Week 1- March 25, 2012 (…plus informal review of Rancid show in SF)

I can get stuck, almost obsessed with, with about 5 to 10 songs at a time for a week or so. I am introduced to, or I re-connect with, music I absolutely love so on many levels, and post them everywhere so I can talk about them. I don’t know why I never thought of posting stuff like that here where I can talk about them all I want.

… Of course just posting music videos from YouTube only represents the music artists top singles instead of what I’m actually listening to. I don’t know what else to use. Any suggestions?


Rancid – Time Bomb,     Rancid – Ruby Soho,    Rancid – If I Fall Back Down Again,   Rancid “Last One to Die”
I was definitely into Rancid this week! My husband, David, and I went to their 20th anniversary concert in San Francisco at The Warfield! This year is actually our 20th anniversary also and we have been fans from the beginning back when we lived in Berkeley….. but somehow they managed to make it to my, “How in the hell have I never seen them live?” list. No more! The night was nostalgic (David is dealing with vertigo so no moshing), fun (easter eggs for me), and incredible to watch.
Transplants (side project for Rancid singer, Tim Armstrong, long-time friend/crew Skinhead Rob, and Blink 182’s Travis Barker) are one of my favorite bands but since I’ve never seen them live, I was hoping for an appearance by Skinhead Rob tonight. 🙂 It was short (just his part in Red Hot Moon & no Transplants song) but he killed it, making it a highlight of the night for me. Really looking forward to the new album and HOPEFULLY a tour. Much more on Transplants (and Travis Barker’s music and album) later.
So, 20 years later and after that show, I’m still crushing on Tim Armstrong. …And with that shallow and not related to music statement, I’m sure I’ve just dropped my legitimacy down a peg or two, and blowing my position on why I can feel dismissed as a music fan being female. All in the very first post of my new topic too. Oh well.

It was also really cool seeing Branden Steineckert playing drums live again. He has been drumming with Rancid since 2006 but before that he was in another one of my all-time favorite bands, The Used before they… oddly… kicked him out. I have only seen him play live with The Used and that was a while ago.
Speaking of The Used, I listen to their first two albums A LOT regardless what week it is, The Used “Taste of Ink”, The Used “Bury Myself Alive” , The Used “I Caught Fire”. When we lived in Ukiah, California “The Taste of Ink” was my anthem! (Sorry AFI, but you had just left and we hated it there). In fact, I was pretty sure the song had to be written about living in  Ukiah too, hahaha, of course, you know, until I found out they were from Utah and not Ukiah (lol). Anyway, this favorite makes me happy because I relate to the lyrics and feel I escaped too.

Playlist of Rancid performing at my show on 3/24/2012

Until next week…