Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Feathery Friends at SAGE!

The two new SAGE residents
This season we were lucky enough to be blessed with a couple of black Australorp hens to occupy the the gorgeous SAGE coop.  These ladies are learning to be more bold when children throw in food for them and are enjoying romping around eating the tall growing weeds, examining piles of picked weeds and of course, scratching the amazing soil in search of critters!  They've provided some delicious brown eggs for volunteers and they provided some delightful experiences for visiting children.  If you're interested in meeting the ladies, come on out to a Tuesday evening work party (all welcome every Tuesday from 4 - 6:30) or attend the upcoming "Chicken Health" Workshop this Sunday at SAGE with Dr. Vickstrom of West Hills Animal Hospital.

Community members checking out the hens and the coop
during the 5th Annual "Cooped Up in Corvallis Tour" that
took place May 19th.

Thanks Karessa (our amazing beekeeper) for the hens and thank you again to WillyDWonka Coops  out of Sweet Home for the amazing coop!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dispatches From the Food Allergy Jungle

Hello. I know it's been a while since I've written. But it can be tough to get messages out from the Back of Food Allergy Beyond. The message traffic seems to only go one direction with food allergies. We feel very alone and isolated out here. But, I've been writing down our thoughts and experiences in a diary over the last few months, and will share some of those now with you.

From Day 14

Read today (after the fact) about another March food allergy death and saw a response from a noted allergist, someone I really respect. Her message was "why is it so hard to understand that FOOD ALLERGY KILLS?"

It almost broke me. I wondered again what we're doing out here, on the fringes, feeding our child these foods. We're off on this new tributary and there's just no support or shared experience on this particular river.

Does every allergy in every child really need to be treated the same? Where's the advice and support for outgrowing an allergy? For experimental treatments? Where is my village now? My tribe?

Day 26

We've learned the name of the river we're on by now: the Main Stream. It's been a little bumpy in places, but really we've been surprised at how smooth the sailing has been for the most part. We've been eating all sorts of strange, exotic foods. Plus, I'm cooking a lot now with ingredients that are really alien. There's this thin, white liquid that baby cows out here apparently eat. The indigenous people also whip it until it forms a solid. They put it in everything! However, we have only had it baked in the oven so far, and there seem to be new dangers in preparing this food in other ways.

There's another food that tastes a little strange at first, but is so ubiquitous that we've been happy to embrace it: soy. Our son has now eaten this soy (which can be found in the strangest places!) in various foods, including as a soy sauce glaze on things and even frozen Chinese treats from a trading post out here called "Trader Joe's." We have not tried the solid form of the food yet, not because we're afraid but because we all just agree it's too gross.

Day 33

As I mentioned, we don't get much mail out here on the Main Stream. But a newspaper article did reach us out here, simply because it must have caused a ton of ripples back where you all are: Parents Should Relax a Bit About Kids' Food Allergies.

I have to admit that I probably read this a little differently than most of you did, having learned about Toughing It Out here in the jungle. This idea of giving a child a little bit of a food to build tolerance would have been unthinkable to me before this trip. But now that I'm out here, dealing with treatments that feel like witch doctory, I'm no longer sure of where the right path is.

Day 50

We saw our allergist today! Our allergist has not been willing to tramp all the way out here and she's especially skeptical about the "natural treatments" we've been trying the last year, but she is willing to meet us half-way.

When I explained about the new foods we had been experiencing and my doubts about whether my son really needed to continue to avoid milk, she shook her head and pointed again to The Numbers. "But he's successfully eating so much and The Numbers have been all but meaningless in the past!" I exclaimed. She simply shook her head and pointed again at The Numbers. "Perhaps we'll reconsider in a year if The Numbers have fallen," she said.

She was excited to hear about our experiences with the soy substance, but she was unwilling to attribute it in any way to the natural treatment. We are not sure about anything at this point. Was she right and our son just reached some magical age/turning point, despite having had a hospital-trip reaction to soy just three years ago? Or did all those funny-smelling pills change something fundamental? All we can do is continue down the river and see where it leads.

Day 62

My son told me today he's no longer willing to wander off this path.

The topic came up because I've heard there are restaurants out here! Hundreds of them! We literally just need to go over the emotional hill to get to them. But my son is really nervous about the trip.

I can't say that I blame him. After all, he's the one who will be sick and suffer the consequences if it doesn't work out. But it just breaks my heart to be this close and yet know that he's not willing to go a few more steps. At the same time...I see the snakes.

Oh well. We all knew this journey would be difficult, and need to be taken in stages. We'll continue to explore the area we're already in. Perhaps when he's a little more accustomed to things, he'll be willing to take that next step. There will always be snakes...but we continue to remind him that he does carry powerful medication. But, of course, the story that lingers is the one about the snake-bitten child where the medicine didn't help.

Day 72

We came to the final fork in the road today and my son was forced to choose a direction. (The natives out here call the fork College Decision Day.) He had three options: two that would take him farther away from us and one that we could all see paralleled the current path. He went with the closer option. (The natives out here call it the Community College Path.)

The tribesmen were all very supportive and told him that they knew that path led to many other intersections down the way, and that he could stay on it for a year and then transfer to a different path with no difficulties at all. But his dad and I were a little sad. We wondered if he picked that road because of the difficulties we've encountered up until now.

The natives tell us we need to trust in the process and that all paths are good paths. I wish I could pour this awful fear out of my heart. I wish I could stop having expectations about this jungle and just live the life we've been given. I know it would be easier if there were others...but there do not seem to be. Our old friends think that what we're doing is crazy and dangerous; our new native friends do not understand our fears and hesitations.

I'll continue to write as much as I can. I know there are no guarantees the messages will reach you. But you're all I have on this journey: the few who understood why we left: the hope of finding a different, better place for our son to live.

I don't know if our path will turn out to be the right one, but we're too far down it to come back now.

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Tommy Whitelaw's Acute Services and Dementia Training Interview

Watch the Tommy Whitelaw interview here

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Val Howatson Co-Presents at 2nd Scottish Mental Health Nursing Research Conference - Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Val was co-presenting with with Gwenne McIntosh (Napier University);  M. McCraig (UWS) & L. McNay (UWS) their paper titled: The HEI-R: a potential tool for developing Recovery Focussed Practice in HEI’s?

The aim of this presentation was to highlight the work of the HEI Scottish User and Carer Involvement group. The group have been working in partnership with SRN to develop a tool which could enable Higher Education Institute’s (HEIs) to audit and develop their practices in terms of promoting a recovery based approach to mental health education.

This abstract was linked to the topic of “Workplace” at the conference as it is proposed that through the development of this tool there would be opportunities to model best practice and be seen as part of the ‘recovery jigsaw’ that includes universities, service providers, service users, carers, students, and the wider public. 
Their paper proposed that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need to audit and further develop their practices in relation to promoting recovery. 
This recognises that HEIs are part of the ‘recovery jigsaw’ of promoting recovery focused practice/services, given that the preparation of student mental health nurses is a shared responsibility between HEIs and service partners. In practice within Scotland the Scottish Recovery Indicator 2 (sri2) (Scottish Recovery Network (SRN), 2012) is being rolled out across NHS services to promote service development in recovery focused practice as outlined in the Mental Health Strategy for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2012). The presenters proposed that a similar tool be developed for HEIs. 

Student Poster Presented at 2nd Scottish Mental Health Nursing Research Conference

We are delighted that GCU Mental Health students Lizzie Burns and Hazel Thomson represented students at the recent Mental Health Nursing Research Conference at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Members of the Mental Health Nursing teaching team supported the students and attended the conference. The students presented their poster / paper  titled: Recovery Rollercoaster.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting Slammed

Getting Slammed: 
The Six Easiest, Breeziest Steps

The Egg Symbolizing You, Public Education, and the Teaching Profession


Think you're so separated from getting slammed in this reform movement?


Forget about 6 degrees of separation. 

Instead, follow these 6 ILLUSTRATED steps that Privatizers, Race to the Top, APPR, and even the AFT have carefully prepared for you.  

These 6 steps are an easy, breezy approach from President Obama, Arne Duncan, and so many other reformers who, thank God, have made it effortless for education to seek a one-size-fits-all standardization as a panacea for student poverty. 

To read this entire narrative procedure, simply keep on reading and scrolling down until the end of Step 6.   

(Brought to you by Robert Rendo, a Nationally Board Certified Teacher who can't stop drawing and won't shut up.)

Step 1: HAVE YOUR STUDENTS TAKE A TEST ON THE COMPUTER. Watch your students take a local reading assessment that is completely computerized.You don't actually give them the test.  The computer does that for you. You, the teacher, have been removed from the assessment process. Just sit back, relax, and let the software do all the work for you. Remember: this assessment came from a Race to the Top state mandated list of computerized assessment that your school had to choose from. You and your district can no longer pick just any assessment or create your own as a school or district. 

Those days are gone. 

State and federal governments, which are supposedly representing the needs of the average citizens and not just corporations, have taken care of test choice for you.   

As for the test: you'll never be able to find out how this digital assessment works, because the corporation that wrote the program legally withholds such proprietary information, and a supervisor from customer service snaps at you over the phone with a glib "That's just the way it is. . . . "

Your district won't help you either because it's far too indifferent, busy, or powerless. 

Oh, and by the way, so is the union.

Meanwhile, your students will be rewarded with a spiffy, shiny, fancy video game that they play when they complete the first half of the test. The contents of the game have nothing to do with literacy. So most of your very young students will just click away aimlessly on the lack luster test just to get to the fun, sparkly game. 

Who can blame them?

This "game rush", in turn, will skewer results and render an inaccurate snapshot of your students' literacy acumen. 

But so what!

What's the worst thing that can happen? 

Your student learning objectives (SLO's) and APPR (annual professional performance review) will be lowered, dragging down your overall composite score and plunging you into the red flag categories known as "developing" or "ineffective":

You don't need to get upset about this . . . 

You can't control everything, right?

Who cares if this digital assessment falsely characterizes your abilities as a teacher? No matter what becomes of you in the system, you know the truth about yourself as a teacher. 

Isn't the truth enough?

Step 2: HAVE YOUR STUDENTS TAKE NUMEROUS STANDARDIZED TESTS. Have your students take a load of mandated standardized tests that have no comprehensive way of assessing a child's true learning and are 1 to 2 full grade levels higher than the grade of the child. Your state education deptartment warned you in advance that the tests would be much harder this year because of common core alignment and that scores would be expected to drop. Observe your students squirming under those impossible, way-beyond-challenging common core standard based questions that tend to be cryptic, inaccurate, illogical or culturally and socio-economically biased. 

Or maybe you won't observe anything about your students taking the test because you might not be permitted to proctor your own students under your state's interpretation and compliance with Race to the Top. 

And why should you have too much to do with your students' testing? After all, you were the one who taught your students all year and know him/her best. Right? Why would you want to have anything to do with test other than get the results and be judged for employability?

Step 3: GET OBSERVED 2 TO 6 TIMES A YEAR. Get observed with great scrutiny, knowing full well you'll rarely or never achieve a "4" under Charlotte Danielson's Rubrics. Ms. Danielson herself, bearing an irresistibly eerie resemblance to Herman Munster, has professionally warned you that you'll live in the "3's" and once in a blue moon visit the "4's". Have complete faith in the fact that all observations have a large degree of subjectivity, and just hope or pray that your observing administrator is fair, objective, competent at pedagogy, and not pressured to reduce the school's operating budget by getting rid of more expensive, more experienced teachers. 


Step 4: READ YOUR ANNUAL REVIEW AND SHRIEK IN HORROR. Shriek in Horror as you receive your annual review, get rated as "developing" or "ineffective", and get put onto a teacher improvement plan that offers no real robust support. Forget any notions that you've been mislabeled by junk science rating methods or that your own teacher-created formative assessments throughout the school year show true measurable data-laden growth. Your own assessments don't count because the system has already demonized and criminalized you in the media, and you are portrayed as being untrustworthy. 

And you are a horrible, nefarious do know that, don't you? YOU with your dental plan, your differentiation and conference log notes, your damn red shiny apples, your no. 2 pencils, dry erase boards, and mounds of construction paper, you evil villain. 

Step 5: IN YOUR SECOND YEAR OF EVALUATION, REPEAT STEPS 1 THROUGH 4. To get to step 6, make sure you complete this step by repeating steps 1 to 4.  

Step 6: GO DIRECTLY HOME AND DROWN IN YOUR INJUSTICE, SORROW, AND RAGE. After teaching for 20 years with myriad positive letters from parents, children and adminstrators and even a few teaching awards, get terminated in a 3020A proceeding within 35 days. Face and accept your ineffective union representation in the process of getting booted from your job. Dispense with the idea of "lawyer" and "law suit" because on a teacher's salary, they're both too expensive. Justice and fairness are only for rich people. 

Go home right away (but don't stop by the unemployment office because as a civil servant, you don't qualify for benefits). When you get home, crawl into bed and whimper into a fetal position, drowning yourself in a real American style cocktail of rage and depression. Cry or scream, which ever feels more comfortable. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Workshop Season!

Workshop participants learning about
mushroom cultivation
Our community is full of people willing to share their knowledge and expertise about all sorts of different topics and we're lucky to have these people lead workshops out at SAGE!  Click HERE to see (and register for) our full list of workshops.  Keep checking back with us as more workshops will be added throughout the season!

Creating an oyster
mushroom bed!
Just this weekend we had Ryan, from the local company Soul 2 Grow, lead a "Mushroom Cultivation" workshop. Participants got first hand experience putting in an Elm Oyster Mushroom bed at SAGE.  After putting in the bed, learning mushroom facts and how to care for mushrooms, participants received their own elm oyster mushroom spawn to take home and get started.  Apparently elm oyster mushrooms can get to be the size of dinner plates...excited to see how they grow!

Learn about beekeeping with Karessa and the SAGE hives!

Next up on our work shop list is a Beginning Beekeeping Workshop on Saturday, May 18th. Karessa, our amazing beekeeper and one of the owners of Nectar Bee Supply, will be leading the course and is an amazing educator who will get participants hands-on experience with the bees at SAGE.  To register for this workshop, click HERE.