Thursday, September 20, 2007

Connotation or Denotation?

At some early age, the words connotation and denotation were defined for me (by a teacher) in the following manner:
Denotation is the definition of the word according to the dictionary. D for dictionary. Connotation is the definition of the word according to common experience or understanding, how it is used, what is implied, etc.

So, I wonder if Ralph's supermarkets chose to rely on the connotation or the denotation of the word local when they decided to advertise their locally grown produce. A few days ago, I received a voicemail message from the new store manager of my neighborhood Ralph's. He politely told me that Ralph's considers anything within a 700 mile radius local. Huh. What does that include, I wonder? It includes Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, perhaps Colorado, Nevada, all of California, almost Oregon, and most importantly....Mexico. Yup. All those Mexican grown garlic cloves, apples, and other delicious items are considered local by Ralph's supermarkets.

So, I guess Ralph's used the denotation of the word local, which according to Merriam Webster is "of, relating to, or characteristic of a particular place." Hmm. Yes, Mexico and Utah are places. So is Nevada. I guess their produce (does Nevada have any, I wonder?) must be local then.

Maybe I need to write to Merriam Webster....

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Cat is So Wise, It's No Wonder

The priorities of middle school readers are quite clear. It's comics and horror that they want. Give them slime! Give them boogers! Give them fangs and drool and mutant growths and funny cats and they are happy forever. Here is a list of the most-borrowed-books from this middle school library since July of this year, in order of popularity. How many have you read?

Goosebumps: Don't Go to Sleep
The 4th Garfield Treasury
Double Trouble (a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen book, if you can believe that)
Garfiled Eats His Heart Out
Garfielf Weighs In
Garfield at Large
The Simpsons Holiday Humdinger
Face to Face with the Lizard
Duel with Daredevil
Spiderman and Captain America
Garfield Makes it Big
Scream School
Scooby Doo: Surf's Up!
Krusty Krab Adventures (a Spongebob Squarepants book)
The Amazing Spiderman
Among the Imposters (the only real novel on this list, this book is the 2nd in a fantastic dystopian fiction series)
Cuckoo Clock of Doom
Stay Out of the Basement
Welcome to Camp Nightmare
Say Cheese and Die - Again!
Sonrie y muerte - otra vez!
Attack of the Jack-o-Lanterns
Killers of the Dawn (ok, this is a real novel too, part of the Cirque du Freak vampire series)
Night of the Living Dummy III
Junie B Jones is Almost a Flower Girl
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (why this one?)
Draw 50 Aliens, UFOs, and Galazy Ghouls

There you have it. Middle school in a nutshell. What more can I say?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Out of the Blue (Which Happens to Be One of Our School Colors)

In a faculty meeting today, my bristly principal announced that our school was the only one in the local district (meaning in a very large area that is already larger than any respectable school district should be, but is only a small portion of LAUSD) to meet its annual goals for raising test scores for the '06-'07 school year. Huh.

She then told us that all of the subgroups (yes, that's what we call them) met their goals as well. This means African-American students, English Language Learners, and Students with Disabilities all improved. Huh.

She then thanked "all of the people who come into contact with the students each day" for making this happen. She never said teachers. The clerical staff looked nervous.

So what does this means? 15% of our students are performing at a proficient level, according to state tests. This is up from 12% last year, and it was even lower in years before. For this accomplishment, we were given cake (2 kinds!). And lemonade. Pink lemonade.

It is true that there is momentum building at our school, and that library circulation is up 1,000 books a month from just one year ago, and that we had elective classes for the first time in 8 years last year, and that our teachers are forming effective teams for the first time, and that we had math contests, reading contests, and other incentives for the first time....maybe ever! These things should most certainly help raise test scores, and I believe they should be credited. We may be experiencing a revolution at this school. This may be the beginning of an unprecedented upswing. They may make a movie about us called "It Took a Village", "Criminally Intelligent", or "Up from the Streets".

As I watched the PowerPoint slides that stylishly listed our achievements, a horrible part of me couldn't help thinking that this was somehow staged. Could someone have tampered with our scores? Why now? Why had we never improved before? Doesn't it seem convenient that this happened right before the state takes drastic measures, like firing the administration and taking over the school itself?

But then I looked around at all the happy and befuddled teachers eating cake and I thought, nah. Things might actually be looking up. This is a real crack team and we're on the case. Huh.

PS - no word from Ralph's.