Power to the Students!

I stopped posting on this blog a couple of years ago, but am beginning again, not with the same emphasis but a more immediately important one —

Yesterday and today the media has been flooded with the video from Spring Valley High in South Carolina of the girl being manhandled by the resource officer who was called to remove her from class. The emphasis is all on the poor student and how traumatizing the incident was. No-one speaks of what led up to it.

Why was the resource officer called? Because the girl refused to go to the office when the teacher requested it. Why was she being sent to the office? Because she was disrupting the class and making it hard for the teacher to do her job.

Evidence: she had her cell phone out and was on the computer.

Maybe the computer was for classwork but in my experience students who don’t want to learn use every opportunity to get on the internet either by phone or computer to play games or check text messages.

If the girl had been paying attention and doing her work, she wouldn’t have been asked to leave.

Yes, the resource officer used too much force. It was wrong.

Five years ago I became a substitute teacher at the local high school. It’s small, diverse, and only has 500 students. Here’s what I wrote: “I subbed for English. What fun! Nice, polite students and nice staff. “

My opinion of the students has remained high. However, at the ages of 13-16, even a normally respectful student can blow up without warning.

As a substitute, I work especially hard at patience, knowing the classes will try to take advantage of me. I allow it up to a point.

In biology class I was conducting an experiment using test tubes and pieces of smelly liver. The class of thirty freshmen gathered around, fidgeting and squirrely, trying to give the impression of not paying attention but intrigued nonetheless.

Then two girls in front began the clapping game.   Noisily giggling and laughing as they capered through the intricate patterns, they were having a fine time.

“Please stop,” I requested loudly but they didn’t hear.

I tried again, louder. The class began to murmur and snicker.

Desperate, I stuck my hand between theirs, trying to time it so they wouldn’t hit me. Slam! Ouch! Our hands connected and my fingernail scratched Abbie’s hand. She was incensed!

“You hurt me!”

When I didn’t respond as she wanted, her “hurt” escalated into “You hit me!”

I just shook my head in disbelief as she continued to squeal. Her friend was remarkably quiet, getting out her pencil to be ready for the experiment.

When the class wasn’t backing Abbie up, she yelled, “You can’t hit me! I’m going to the office!”

I watched her slam out the door and started again on the experiment, this time with everyone’s attention. It was going well for about eight minutes.

The door opened and in marched a woman who I later found out was the new vice principal, along with one of the other substitute teachers.

“Would you come with me, Mrs. Paulsen,” she said. It wasn’t a request. “Bring your things.”

That became a two-day suspension for me, two days in which my crime was investigated. No misdeed was discovered and I was reinstated. For days afterwards, whenever I was subbing one of more students would say, “Hey, Mrs. Paulsen, I hear you hit a kid!”

What if a student had taken a video and shown it to the media?   Even though I was in the right, my reputation would be ruined, my job finished, and I would be hounded by well-meaning people who considered me to be a horror in a classroom.

The media have made a killing on the South incident. What isn’t being addressed is that the girl was disrupting the class enough to make the teacher send her to the office. And the girl refused to go.

What have students learned from this? That they have power over teachers. Remember Frankie? “I don’t have to listen to you!”

In chemistry, a boy turned on the faucet at the lab station. The water began flooding over the counter.

“Move!” I ordered Bradley as I grabbed some nearby paper towels.

He didn’t budge so I put my hand on his shoulder and put pressure there to move him out of my way. As I mopped up the puddle, Brad started in:

“You’re not allowed to touch me! You shoved me! I am going to get you fired!”

“Go to the vice principal,” I suggested, and off he went, ranting away.

As the students got back to work, I packed up my things, expecting at any minute to see the new vice principal come through the door. To my surprise, he never came. When I found him after school, he just smiled and said that with questioning, Brad had finally admitted he had been in the wrong.

It was a narrow escape for me. Two incidents in four years.

A cell phone video doesn’t show what leads up to an “incident.”

All power to the student.

“I don’t have to!”

“I’ll get you fired!”

“You can’t do that!”

Yes, I have enjoyed, really enjoyed, four years of substitute teaching here. But I know how ruinous it would be if I had to go through what the teacher in South Carolina will face. I don’t think I will take the chance.

All it takes is one video.


Bea’s Goose is Cooked by the Big Fat Pig

mayas pig
A pig will eat anything. The Bank of America is a pig, devouring the heart and soul of my 99-year old friend, Bea Berglund.

Is that strong? Good!

Today, Wednesday, the Bank declared that Bea must be out by the end of the week or she will be evicted!

Why doesn’t she simply go? She can’t. Her situation is unlike any other.

She has nowhere else to go. Places she might rent have poofed as soon as she’s shown interest. Even the one recommended by the social worker turned up negative.

 Her trailer cannot be legally moved since it would not meet modern code which discriminates against old people and trailers over 10 years old. She has other sheds on the property, too, filled with her “treasures.” She abhors houses.

Six dogs complicate matters, gentle and well-behaved as they are.
Sometimes Bea says she would rather die than lose her dogs and her “things.” It may come to that. She rallies after each setback, but never quite up to the previous level.

A few days ago I told you that the Bank was holding off because of “media concerns.” Why are they now not concerned? Let’s make them sweat!

Please help by contacting the news channels. Send messages to all the TV channels and newspapers (L.A. Times, San Bernardino Sun, N.Y Times – why not?) and rail about the moral injustice of this. It’s the only chance Bea has, since legally the Bank is within its rights.

I tried ABC Eyewitness News several times, put in all the info, then hit “enter” and watched the circle whirl around until a message came that it hadn’t gotten through. It was OK then because that’s when Bea was probably safe because the Bank didn’t want bad publicity.

We’re not trying to cheat the Bank by deferring the property sale, because no-one is going to buy it! It’s a dump! There is so much foreclosed property in Newberry Springs, unsold, that to think Bea’s lot will be an exception, is stupid.IMG_2364

I thank you for your past support and plead for more, just for awhile. Christmas is coming, Bea’s goose is getting cooked by the Big Fat Pig.

Reading by the Fire

Paris Pastries
Happy Holidays to all, especially to those who have been through hard times recently. My small contribution will be a day or two of service in New Jersey as we visit our daughter over Thanksgiving, but it will be given with a heart full of love.

Amazon reminded me that the Holidays are a great time for people to buy books for themselves, family and friends. There are few nicer pleasures than relaxing with a good book. a pot of your choice (chocolate, coffee, tea, lemonade, mango surprise), and some yummy French pastries. I want to suggest you consider putting The Amulet on your list. More and more people are reading it and loving it, which pleases me no end. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on an experience they might enjoy a lot!

Click on “link” to get to my author page on Amazon with a biography and all the info about the e-version but not the paperback. From there click the “book search” link to another Amazon site and you’ll find the paperback version. I know it’s not efficient but I’m not in charge. You can also just go to Amazon and search for Victoria Paulsen.

Saving Bea

I’ve been sidelined from blogging by writing the book and by the October 5 eviction of my 99-year old friend, Bea. The Bank of America decided to clear the property after the owner died last year leaving a debt. I’m trying to help Bea by drumming up enough support that the Bank will back off. For now, for me, Bea is the priority. More info is on the blog I’ve done about her — savingbea.wordpress.com
Thanks for any help or comments you can give. I tried posting some pictures but the crunching never stopped and I’m in a hurry. See Bea on the savingbea blog.

Pass the Word!

To celebrate the 1806th anniversary of when The Amulet begins (196 AD), Amazon will offer the electronic version FREE from September 28 to October 2.

If you haven’t yet read it, now is your chance. If you have read it and liked it, PLEASE encourage your friends and acquaintances to give it a try. If it wasn’t your favorite book, it might be someone else’s. I really appreciate any help you can give me!

Abies in Portland, OR says —
This is a great book! I love the story, and it’s going straight onto my shelf of favorites. Lydia, the main character, has it all — intelligent, independent, adventurous, yet very feminine. AND I got to learn about Roman history, quite enjoyably!

www.amazon.com/dp/B007WGLQ9Y links directly to The Amulet e-version. For the “not free” paperback version, I can’t get it to be a “link” so you have to go to Amazon.com and search for Victoria Paulsen. Oh well. Thanks!

Poets, Colors, and Surprises

I love words! Words combined by skillful writers pile together in unexpected combinations that glow brilliantly and wake up the reader’s vision. They are like colors, the tools of art.

Watercolors glide and puddle, merging in ways that surprise the artist and change the plot. Acrylics clump one glob upon another – lavender, orange, green – bringing life to a rock that seemed only gray before the artist delved its truth. Great writers do the same.

I’m reading George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw was enamored of Ellen Terry, a beautiful, intelligent actress in the late 1800s. He writes that when, one day, her personal correspondence is collected and published, “It will then, I believe, be discovered that every famous man of the last quarter of the nineteenth century – provided he were a playgoer – has been in love with Ellen Terry, and that many of them have found in her friendship the utmost consolation one can hope for from a wise, witty, and beautiful woman whose love is already engaged elsewhere, and whose heart has withstood a thousand attempts to capture it. To me – for I am one of the unsuccessful lovers – Ellen Terry’s skill as an actress is the least interesting thing about her.”

That might lead you to want to read more or to at least see what she looked like. Here’s a good link with my favorite picture, taken when she was 16 and already married:

Or here, where John Singer Sargent painted her as Lady Macbeth. What a stunning performance that must have been!

Words are being abandoned in cyberspace. Evolution of language is as natural as in everything else, but so is devolution is. Conversation is giving way to quick tweets and hasty email messages. I know this is not my original idea. You’ve thought it, too. In fact, it’s a cliché by now. But nevertheless, it’s true.

When my children were young in the 70s, I wrote a letter each week to their grandparents who lived far away. I stamped and mailed these letters. My mother-in-law kept every one so now I have evidence of what my family life was like and can share it with my children, proving to them that their memories may not be entirely accurate – nor mine. Cyber notes will never be historical because they are lost as soon as we hit “archive” or “delete.” How many archived messages are ever retrieved? One of my future chores will be to glean the best of the thousands of emails written over the last 15 years.

Meanwhile, I have re-edited chapters 1-38 or so of the new book. It’s really good, I’m happy to say! I never know when I go back to the early drafts how I will feel about it. It’s terrifying in a way, knowing that what I spent months on may turn out to be claptrap. But it didn’t! Reading it again, straightening it up, smoothing it out, trimming and curling here and there, I was excited by the story and worried about my two main characters as they head into some hard times. Now I must get back to it. Cheers!

Playing God

Two orphans, Amara (11), a servant, and Tadpole (8), a reluctant and hunted royal, escape and find their way through the Gallic countryside to Britannia.

It’s a classic story, fun to write. So I wrote the whole thing, some 40 plus chapters, rewrote the first 12, sent it to Elaine the Reader, got it back, rewrote those chapters, then the next 12, and then stopped. That’s where I am now after several weeks (could it be six or more?) of realizing the kids got off too easily.

Real children don’t have it easy. Last week, three of my grandchildren came to live with me while their parents took a work vacation. Children argue, fight, like each other, joke around, tease, and get hurt. They try out independence. Jon (barely 9) reveled in riding his bike all around the far reaches of our desert acreage, forbidden territory until now for him. They cheat, too. Indoor hide-and-seek became a lesson in peeking, faking the count, changing hiding places, and helping the seeker when you weren’t supposed to.

They also made characters out of plastic clay and we took pictures. The children were not doubtful about the one that lost a leg and then an arm. “He fell down the cliff!” “He got run over!” These little guys (aliens of some sort) had a rough time in the desert but finally found a place to rest.

An author is the god of his/her world, decreeing choices and plot. If the characters are to have a chance of becoming real to the readers (and hopefully there are some), their lives have to follow a pattern that fits them. Often the author is surprised by their choices, but allows them their independence. If the plot and characters have been reasonably set up, then the surprises will strengthen the story and make it more believable.

During the six weeks of not writing, I came to realize I’d let my two orphans off too easily. I’m a protective mother and grandmother. I love Amara and Tadpole. Why would I put them in real danger? What would they do out there in the woods if one of them was badly injured or sick? How could I do that to them?
If they didn’t encounter real danger, there would be no reason to write about them, would there? Why read a fictional travelogue? To be meaningful and perhaps even memorable, they had to have conflict, work to resolve it, and emerge changed for the better.

I’m ready for it. Just a couple of projects to finish up at home and then I’m back to four or more daily hours at the keyboard, drowning, eating wild poisonous berries, losing the boat, and being attacked by this and that.