See that soap box? I'm 'bout to get on it.

Teacher performance based pay.

Touchy subject right now. Recently a friend posted on her blog about this idea and how she disagreed with the idea, and for good reason. After reading an "anonymous" comment someone posted, I decided it required a response. They said, and I quote:

"If teachers aren't performing better without incentives, then they need something to push them into gear. If it's pay raises and the likes- then I'm all for it, if you can't do your job someone else will. The U.S may be #1 in confidence, but when we don't have the knowledge to back it up, we just look like ignorant backwood hicks."

Retort number one. Here's the problem with pushing teachers into gear: tenure. Most teachers develop a "tenure" status after teaching for 3 years, after their initial 'probationary' state, where they then enter a 'professional' state. What does this mean? At least in Utah, it means it is significantly more difficult to get fired (aka you can be a crappy crap crap teacher and you can't be fired only on that basis- for not performing). Aren't most jobs like that? If you don't perform then you're out? That's right anonymous, if you aren't willing to do your job, somebody else will. So let's start with the idea that after this three year period, you don't just magically become "untouchable", I think evaluations should be a LOT more common, even for teachers teaching 10-15-20 years. Why? Because some people get to stuck in their ways and are very resistant to change- which isn't always the best way. So what happens if you don't perform? You get "x" amount of time to improve, and if you don't, see-ya. Some people think that idea is too harsh. Who probably thinks that? People who probably are scared to death of an evaluation because they don't think they would do so hot. If I need to improve, I wanna know about it. Because EVERY teacher I know wants to be better just to be better.

Teachers don't teach for the money, because trust me, it isn't there. They teach because they want to help young mind develop, learn, and grow to help students reach their full potential (in a nut shell). Now, should teachers be paid more? Absolutely. My husband is currently an assistant manager at a credit union and actually makes more money than I do, and even though he has a degree, only a high school diploma is required for the position. And I have a degree in my field, and not only that but I have to keep a current license, and continue to earn professional development credits. So underpaid? Yes. Some people have a problem with "good" teachers and "bad" teachers earning the same paycheck. Well, see the above paragraph to deal with that problem.

Retort number 2. Performance based pay would increase competition between teachers instead of fostering a collaborative learning environment. When it comes to your child, you want the most minds involved and the best resources/tools/technologies available to help them- would you not? This is the way most schools currently are- at least mine is. We work together and discuss lessons, how we want to teach certain things, what's working and what isn't, and even switching classes because sometimes it just clicks with some students to hear things presented a different way. However, if teachers were paid based on performance (aka test scores), I would want to look the very best I could and I'd want to stand out to my principle and other people over me--not to mention that bonus check. So would I be more willing to share an awesome lesson plan I have, or be as concerned with making sure EVERY student I teach in 2nd grade understands something, and not just the ones in my own class? Not really. Because when it comes down to it, if they're not in my class and won't show up on my test scores- why would I be concerned with how they do? I might try to a certain extent and go out of my way a little, but I definitely wouldn't bend over backward like I would for a student in my own class......now what kind of teaching attitude is that? It creates an "I'm out for myself" attitude, which in teaching, is anything BUT good.

Retort number 3. School boundaries. If I'm a teacher getting performance based pay, I want to look for the best schools in the district and try to become part of those schools. Why? Because the parent support will be higher, income of families is higher, families are more stable, parents are more literate, and all of those things are proven to contribute to a students overall performance in school. So teachers should only shop for the good schools? Or richer school districts? Anyone else see that can of worms?

Thing number 4 but not necessarily a retort to anonymous: I was reading the other day about this and one of the "pros" of performance based pay, which said that it would recruit and retain the brightest minds of America. "It's the odd teacher who hasn't considered leaving the classroom and entering the corporate workplace for the twin benefits of less hassle and more money potential." Really? Some of the smartest and brightest teachers I know teach for that very reason, because of their intelligence. To toot my own horn for a minute, I graduated as Valedictorian from my high school and as magna cum laude (top 5% of my class) from a private university- let's not talk level of intelligence. Am I odd for not WANTING to work in the corporate world? I have no desire, whatsoever. Is everything really THAT much about money? Because although hundreds of thousands of dollars a year is very appealing, I'd give it away if I wanted to kill myself everyday at a corporate job I hated.

So instead, I'll take the 35,000 or however much it is that I'm actually making, to teach. Because it matters. What I do matters.

And last, thing 5. How would we measure "performance" from the students to merit the pay anyway? Test scores? Right now it is up to the states to determine the score that is "passing" on the end of year tests. So this means that scores would have to be nationalized, giving more control over to the national government--and when has THAT ever turned out to be successful? (Welfare? Social security?...yeah THAT'S doing great...). Which means that if it were nationalized, budgets would have to be nationalized to make it fair as well. It would then just turn into a whole huge political mess. And right now, do we really need more of that?

Are their plenty of teachers who could use some improvement? Absolutely. Am I for improving teachers and quality of education? Absolutely- a thousand times over. Do some teachers need a kick in the pants? Definitely. But there is a BETTER way to do it than performance based pay.

Whew. The end.


Sugar free is the way to be...when you're diabetic.

So James signed us up for a 5k Saturday morning to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His old manager has diabetes and so does his daughter, so he thought it would be a good thing to support. We did get a pretty sweet t-shirt, which you can't even see the front of here (lame-o photo shoot Whitney)....that's why I do most things in life though...for the t-shirt...


Confessions of a 2nd grade life coach

Tried this recipe today, discovered by my Mom from Southern Living magazine (so you KNOW it's going to be good-and it was). It's like a personal apple pie. Need I say more? We ate it with vanilla ice cream and caramel drizzled over. PERFECTO!


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 (15-ounce) packages refrigerated piecrusts
  • 8 medium Braeburn apples, peeled and cored*
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut up
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)


Bring 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/4 cup butter. Set syrup aside.

Combine 2/3 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Cut piecrusts in half, and roll into 8-inch circles. Place 1 apple in center of each circle. Sprinkle each evenly with sugar mixture; dot evenly with 3 tablespoons butter.

Fold dough over apples, pinching to seal. Place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Drizzle with syrup.

Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

"Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired." ...If desired? ...IF DESIRED?! Like I said, we had it with vanilla ice cream.

It was inspired by the weekly poem in second grade: Thanksgiving's coming! I jokingly told them if they bring me a pie tomorrow I'll give them 25 tickets (what they use to buy prizes)...I think I seriously might get some pie tomorrow. In that case, you're welcome James :-)

Second grade was particularly exhausting today. Gross story? This little boy who is particularly outgoing coughs today, then proceeds to exclaim while rising from his seat, "Mrs. Houlin! Come LOOK at this! It just came out of my MOUTH!" ......now what would you be thinking in this very moment? Besides maybe preparing to run to the nearest trashcan to vomit. There on his desk, right next to his math paper is a whitish-yellow clump of throat booger. And the worst part? He was so proud/perplexed about the whole thing. I just asked him to quickly get a tissue to clean it up and proceeded to Lysol his whole table group. *shudder.

Another day, another dollar. It is for this reason, I don't consider myself a teacher...from now on my official today is: Mrs. Houlin, 2nd grade life coach. I teach a LOT more than addition, punctuation, and how to walk in a straight line. The list goes on, but it starts with manners: don't fart in a large crowd (my class hasn't quite learned this yet), don't pick your nose and DON'T eat what comes out of your nose, say please and thank you, etc. Then there are things life self-respect, trying to help them understand that the stupid adults in their life can act more like children than they do and that they shouldn't repeat the "bad" words they sometimes hear their parents say, that somebody DOES care about them and that they CAN do anything they want to do. Okay, okay I'll stop. But it's true. I am part teacher, part mother, part psychologist, part doctor, and because of all this-I'm also partly crazy. :-)

Another day, another dollar.


You thought you knew a good smore....

Okay so the weekend actually didn't turn out too bad. It was actually pretty good. I DID get to eat some pizza (from Pizza 712- ohmygoshgood-highly recommended. James says it's actually the closest he's had to pizza from Italy so far). I also finished Mockingjay...ah!!! Sooo good. My favorite part was the last line- "There are always worse games to play." What a perfect ending! I hear some people didn't like it. Mmm. False. If you haven't heard of them, totally invest. Especially if you're into political fiction with a twist of romance. It's the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I've also heard that the books Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras are good if you liked The Hunger Games, so those are already on reserve at the library ((score!)). I used to hate reading...I used to never meet my AR reading goal in school...that bit comes in handy when I have kids who say they hate reading, because I can relate. I hate ready sucky books is more accurate now. Or textbooks. But aren't those the same thing? Sucky..textbooks...yeah I think they're actually synonyms.

We also went with the crew up to American Fork canyon and cooked out/made smores/was paranoid about a potential bear attack. ...the last part was totally just me. It was pitch FREAKING black all around us except for our little fire, up in the mountains...yeah...definitely a potential scary movie waiting to happen.

THANK YOU SARAH for introducing me to the best smore ever- ditch the Hershey bar and grab a Reese cup! HOLY CRAP amazing!

Looking at that nearly horrific picture of myself reminds me...I REALLY hate breaking out. My chin is my problem area. Then, going on birth control when I got married was the BEST thing that ever happened to my face. Like one pimple every 4 months- maybe. But now that I've been off for a year, (I'm fairly sure that's common knowledge among everyone, don't act surprised) it's like pimple city all over again. Juuuuust on the chin. So I guess it really could be worse, but darn it all, it makes me want to take birth control again solely for that reason!

Well, since it's Monday, it reminds me of two things- 1) I ate a LOT of crap over the weekend, thus I need to go get ready for Zumba and 2) tomorrow is an early out day at school---holla!!!



I survived this week. How did that happen??? I'm still trying to figure it out. You know it's going to be a rough week when you swear that Tuesday is Thursday, and half of the week you wake up with a headache and other feminine pains. All in all, thank GOODNESS it's over. I'm not sure I could handle another day.

What do I want to do this weekend? Shop at Charlotte Russe (haven't been there in WAY too long), eat pizza, get a pedicure, finish Mockingjay (I think it's good so far? So I'm not sure where all the complaints are coming from...), watch some football, get a double chocolate chip frapp from Starbucks, and pray my house will clean itself.

What will I probably end up doing this weekend? Cleaning, watching more football than I probably want to, and folding an ENORMOUS pile of clothes on my floor. How did that pile get so high? I can't figure it out...probably somewhere between Tuesday and Thursday...that three day black hole of a stretch.

If my mood this week were portrayed by a sound, it would sound like this: bblleeeggghhhhkkkkaaaffccffhhk eeeefffffff.

Okay but I DO have some things to look forward to. I think. Like that movie coming out, Life as We Know It? Looks good. Also that movie about Facebook, whatever that's called. Although I read half of it is made up. Either way it seems entertaining. BBQ in the canyon on Saturday with the crew, meh...Optimism is annoying right now...

I also bought a pair of super cute CK jeans like a month ago, then I didn't work out for like two weeks and gained 7 lbs, remember that story? So yeah, I haven't been able to wear the new super cute jeans yet. That's depressing.

AND I just ran out of my favorite cereal. I don't feel like grocery shopping this weekend either.

Wow. I might go look for some cheese with all my WHINE. TGIF people, TGIF.


23 years of life

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my best friend Shanti!!!! Is there a better way to celebrate than with a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake? Mmmmm...nope.

(Thanks to my Aunt Tammy for the recipe by the way...I almost just wrote btw...aye...she is the goddess of all cheesecake baking skills. However I was sworn to secrecy with her super awesome tips, so don't ask me how. haha.)


barf barf vomit barf.

Nothing like finding this in your cup after two refills to wash down an entire Cafe Rio salad and coconut caramel flan.

Last I checked my hair was neither that short or black.

Like I said- Barf. Barf. Vomit. Barf.


Why I married him...

FOR THE FOOD! Anytime you marry into a Latino/Italian family...there's bound to be some good cookin' goin' on! (Okay just kidding that's not really WHY I married James, it just happens to be a perk!)

We went to the Latino American festival yesterday in Provo. Needless to say I felt a little out of place. I wasn't the only pasty person there though. There were maybe...five other white people. Good times nonetheless. Although I really wanted to get my face painted, but James wouldn't let me. The highlight? THE FOOD. Okay, so that's really the reason we went. I've had some DANG GOOD Mexican, Cuban, Argentine, and Spanish food in my life, but these are my absolute favorites!

Empanadas (especially the ones made by my mother-in-law)

Tamales (especially the ones made by my school custodian)
Almost anything with Dulce de Leche

If you've never had any of those....get yourself to some sort of hispanic/latino restaurant STAT!

One of James' favorites is a sandwich de milanesa, which he is tackling here with such...finesse... :-p

James' family also thinks it's hilarious when I learn new words in Spanish, because then James tells them, and then I have to recite it in front of them. And then they laugh and say, "she's so cute!" When what they really mean is, "I can't believe how bad she just butchered that word!" Then they get someone else and say, "listen to Whitney say this word! Say it again!" And this has been going on for two years....They keep me humble (and thoroughly embarrassed!). Love 'em though!


My basket is bountiful.

Sooo this is pretty much one of the most amazing things about Utah...well, I guess in Utah, AZ, ID, CO, NV, OR, TX, WA, and WY. Anyway, it's called bountiful baskets. You go to this website: bountifulbaskets.org on a Monday, and you place your order of what you want (baskets of fruits/veggies- local or organic, tortillas, bread, granola, beans, corn, etc. and you pick it up on a Saturday morning at the location that you choose on the site. AND IT'S 15 BUCKS!!!! (For the basket anyway, the other stuff is additional).

This was what I got this week. Yumsicles.

I've also heard that what's in the basket changes every week, so you never know what you're going to get, it just depends on what is in season at the time. It's like CHRISTMAS!

Other things I'm happy about this weekend:
- 3 day weekend! Score! I'm not even sure what Labor day really celebrates....but I'm glad it's celebrated. Seems very American.
- Gator football starts again today. Bring it on. Love the new uniforms.
- One other thing I cannot yet mention! Woo!


Fat pants

Something is psychologically built into me that triggers a sweet tooth after dinner...always...not sweet tooth for candy, but sweet tooth for honest to goodness I-can't-believe-it-has-this-much-butter desserts. AH! Now usually this isn't a big deal for the waistline, because my 5-7 hours a week at the gym and Zumba takes care of it and I usually even back out at 0, but seeing as how my gym has been closed for "summer maintenance" for two weeks and my Zumba instructor has been on vacation....I'm SCREWED.

It really sucks when your fat pants feel too snug....where do you go from there? What pants do I resort to? I'm not buying bigger pants. So it's settled then, time to kick it back into gear. I think I have to wean myself off of chocolate/ice cream/cookies/brownies and the like. So I'm thinking maybe I'll only eat something sweet 3 days a week (baby steps here people), then I'll go to two, then one. I think cutting sweets out of your diet completely is just stupid. And unfair, so I'll just get down to one a week and call it good :-) I think my second biggest down fall is CARBS. I did the whole low-carb thing in high school, and it totally works! It just sucks. So with carbs I'm just going to avoid anything white (white bread, pasta, rice, etc.).

Watch, with my luck and trying to losing a few lb's I'll get prego asap and then what the hey- bring on the big pants. At least maternity clothes are cute these days.

On another note...I'm SO ready for my regular fall TV shows to start again...I've resorted to all kinds of stupid shows about quintuplets and cupcakes. Aye aye aye, no wonder I feel like I've gained weight! haha!

And last...10 things I've learned from second graders:

1. Picking your nose is socially acceptable when everyone else around you does it.
2. If you don't know how to tie your shoes, ask anyone taller than you. They probably know.
3. Hold your bladder until the very last minute until you have to go so bad your eyes are yellow and no matter WHAT is going on during class, your teacher will always let you go to the bathroom to avoid an accident.
4. Never assume they already know how to do something.
5. Never correct spelling mistakes...it inevitably leads to something unintentionally hilarious. (See "I like hores" post).
6. Honesty is the best policy.
7. If they start asking what time lunch is at 10:00, it's going to be a rough day.
8. Tattle. Especially on people who are doing something you'd never do.
9. Things are rarely fair.
10. The attention span of a second grader and a gnat are extremely similar.

:-) Love my job.