Christmas Movie Characters and the 2016 Election

When I used to walk/run I loved how during my second mile my head would clear and I would enjoy the time alone with my thoughts.  Those miles are on hold so now I enjoy those early morning thoughts that come as I get ready for my day.  Today was one of those mornings.

This past weekend my small town kicked off the holiday season with their “It’s a Wonderful Life” parade.  This year, the parade grand marshals dressed up as characters from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I have fond memories going to see the movie when it first came out as it was one of the rare times my parents took the family to see a movie at the theater.  I appreciate the movie on a different level now as my husband and I are about the same age as Ellen Griswold in the movie and experience some of the adult struggles and frustrations Clark and Ellen had in the movie (balancing time with family, making sure our children are not forgotten during this busy time…). One of the most enduring, and memorable, characters in the movie is Cousin Eddie (played by Randy Quaid).


image from Google

So this morning, out of the blue, I was thinking about Cousin Eddie.  Next came this idea: if 1989 Cousin Eddie came to 2016 to participate in the 2016 Presidential Election who would he had voted for? Trump.  I think he would have voted for Trump.  How do I know?  To support this assumption I’m going to use evidence from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,  National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Vegas Vacation (and I’m going to use broad generalizations of both major political parties.  Please enjoy this as a thought exercise as it is meant to be entertaining).  First, Cousin Eddie is paranoid of the government but wants the government to help him (his VA benefits).  He is former military and though I’m sure there are many vets who vote Democrat I know far more who vote Republican. He kidnaps Clark’s boss and presents him as a present for Clark (after Clark’s boss did not give the usual Christmas bonus).  What an irrational reaction (and illegal)! My favorite evidence that supports my thought that Cousin Eddie would vote for Trump comes from this clip from Christmas Vacation (the same scene the above photo is taken).

In this clip it is clear that Eddie has little care for the environment as he emptied his waste into a storm drain.  For those of you who do not know, here’s how a storm drain works.  Rain that does not soak into the ground and goes flowing down the street into a storm drain drains directly into the nearest body of water. So that waste Eddie is putting into the drain will not be treated but will end up in the nearby pond or creek.  In a way it is a similar attitude #45 has toward the environment–little regard for the long-term effects of his daily decisions or Executive Orders (such as hunting certain animals).

Once I finished thinking about what oval Cousin Eddie would have filled in to choose who would fill the Oval Office, I got thinking about other popular Christmas movie and Christmas literature characters and how they might have voted in last year’s election.  Here are some I thought of (please add your thoughts in the comments section).

It's a Wonderful Life from imdb (Image from imdb) George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life)–Hilary.  He wants to help his neighbors.

Polar Express Conductor (image from imdb) The Conductor (Polar Express)–Hilary.  He looks out for the downtrodden.

Home Alone (image from imdb) Kevin’s Uncle (Home Alone)–Trump.  Very concerned with the cost of things and making sure he only pays what he owes.

Die Hard(image from imdb) John McClane (Die Hard)–Trump.  Don’t think about taking away his guns.

The Grinch (image from imdb) The Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge are interesting characters as they both change greatly from the beginning to the end of their story.  If we’re looking at them at the beginning of their story I would have to say they would be voting for Trump.  They have very little concern for those less fortunate and want what is due to them.  Through the experiences of their stories both have a change of heart (for The Grinch it is quite literally a change in heart as his heart grows) and have a great appreciation for their fellow man and Who–making them Hilary voters at the end.

Santa (image from imdb) It is hard to forget one of the biggest characters of Christmas, Santa.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I saw Santa’s sleigh sporting an Obama 2012 sticker back in 2010.  He gives to all.  I know it is said that he has the naughty and nice list but I’m pretty sure, at 11:59 on December 24, most people have worked their way to the nice list and will find something under the tree (or in their stocking).  Even his tag line, “Merry Christmas to all!” is a wish for all of humanity, not just the good, the worthy, the wealthy, or the ones who feel they’re entitled, but everyone gets a gift (at least in most of the Santa picture books I read to my students).  I’m sure Santa felt “The Burn” the spring and summer of 2016, and when November rolled around voted for Hilary.

I have enjoyed this little thought exercise and I hope you have too.  I also hope this got your gears turning to think about other characters and how they might have voted in the 2016 election.  Actually, if I was teaching Jr. High or Sr. High English I think this would be a great week before Christmas assignment.  Maybe I’ll play this game at the Thanksgiving dinner table later this week…wonder how that will go…


Just Finished Reading an Amazing Book



Like many students, I experienced difficulties when it came to reading and especially spelling.   My parents were great in trying to get me all the help I needed (even requesting that I be tested for learning disabilities).  The assessments did not show I had a problem, but later on was discovered I had a vision issue.  I don’t remember much about how I was learning to read in 1st and 2nd, but I do remember how stressful spelling was for me from 1st grade to 5th grade.  A special, public, thank you to my family for helping me complete the evil Spelling Workbook pages each week and especially to my younger sister who would do the word finds for me.  The spelling patterns never made sense and I don’t think the teachers spent a lot of extra time teaching the patterns, or giving extra practice time in school to overlearn the patterns.  I just remember doing the workbook, usually as homework, writing my words 5xs, and using the spelling word in sentences.  But for many of my friends, spelling was easy for them and they couldn’t understand why I kept missing so many on my tests.

I wish this book was around when I was in school.  Not because Ally and I had the same struggles, we had similar struggles, and because Ally is a character I think the 12 year old Sarah would have liked. The book I’m talking about is Fish in a Tree.  Take a few minutes and go read some of the reviews on Amazon.  I think this should become required reading for anyone in a literacy program, administration program, or special education program.

Ally is a student who thinks she’s dumb because she has a hard time reading and writing and therefore has some struggles in school.  Ally is very artistic and carries a sketchbook around with her.  She calls it the Sketchbook of Impossible Things because to Ally, many of the things she has sketched seem impossible to her because of her hard time with reading.  I’m not going to give much more away because it is such a wonderful story but I will add this.  If you have a hard time reading Patricia Polacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker, (because you start tearing up) you’re going to LOVE this story.

Please share the title of this book with anyone you know who has struggled with learning, has had thoughts of being dumb or stupid, and with all the teachers you know.  This books needs to be in the hands of many so let’s get the word out and get people reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

As a side note, October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and this would be a great read aloud for this month.

My words for Wednesday

Here it is Wednesday already and day three of the Sarah will write everyday campaign.  If it takes 21 days to create and change a routine/habit, I’m just 18 more days away!  So here are my thoughts today.

First let’s discuss the dissertation.  For those who don’t know (but since I know it’s only my family members who read this you probably already know) right now I am working on the first three chapters.  In my program, first you write the first three chapters and usually also complete your IRB application.  Once the first three chapters are finished you meet with your committee for your comprehensive exam over those chapters.   It is usually at this point that the IRB application is also approved to submit to the IRB committee.  So you might be asking how are those first three chapters coming along?  Well I have chapter three finished, minus some editing/revising, chapter 1 has some components that are finished, and chapter 2 feels like a huge mess!  While chapter 1 and 3 have a pretty standard format to follow, chapter 2 is the review of literature and it is really open.  It is up to the researcher to determine what shoulders her research will stand on and then find, read, and synthesis that information.  This researcher has some ideas on what shoulders I will be standing on BUT I think I’m missing a few. That has been today’s struggle.

Here’s how I’ve been attacking chapter 2–treating it like 4-5 little smaller papers.  I am pretending that each subsection is paper.  Once I have the papers written then I will go back and write the transitions between the sections.  Up to this point I’ve written drafted  sections on: working memory, Gestalt and visual perception, and kindergarten/school readiness.  The last section I think I need is one on reading achievement.  To say this last section is a broad topic would be an understatement.  What does “reading achievement mean” is the question I’m trying to answer.  Today while participating in some task avoidance I had a thought: my dissertation is mostly concerned with emergent and early literacy so I should be sure that I discuss the different components of early literacy and how success in those components leads to success in later reading success.  Why I did not think of that before I don’t know.  But now I am excited to write about topics I know really well–phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, letter naming…Now I get to start thinking about those subtopics and remembering all the super-sized shoulders I can stand on.  So reader, beware–in the coming weeks there might be a good many posts about early literacy.

And because above I have “first let’s talk” that means I should have a second or lastly.  So, lastly, I am a teacher with a 2-hr delay tomorrow.  There are so much questions to ask oneself when you have a delay.  Should I sleep in? Should I be a good mother and make good breakfast for my crew (pancakes)?  Should I take my crew for donuts before taking them to daycare (a little later than normal)?  OR do I…wait and see what tomorrow morning feels like?  I’ll let you know.

This is why education must change

When I saw this hyperlink at the bottom of another webpage I thought it was a joke but had to check it out to make sure.

Here is a young child (about 1 year old) interacting with an iPad and then with a magazine.  Even at a young age, this child already knows how to interact with a tablet.  She can make the dashboard move from one page to another.  When given a magazine she tries to manipulate the objects on the page just like she does with the iPad.

Now, let’s fast-forward 4 years to when she enters kindergarten (keep in mind the rest of the world is now playing with the iPad 5 or something even cooler we haven’t even dreamed about).  She is at the bus stop and while waiting is playing an alphabet game on her iPad.  When she gets to the letter “h” and picture of a horse jumping, she wants to know how a horse can jump so high.  WIth her parent’s help, they do a quick YouTube search for horses jumping.  They watch a video of how a horse’s muscle work to make it jump.  The little girl gets so excited and has to share what she learned with someone else in the family.  She checks Skype and see that grandma is available.  She and grandma video chatting until she hears the bus.  The bus arrives and she has to quickly gives the iPad back to her mother.  She enters school and does not have another opportunity to use this kind of technology (or the self directed learning she was doing at the bus stop) until she returns home.

What can teachers and schools do to prepare for this kind of learn?  Here’s the other bit–we already have learns like the one above.  How can teachers and schools continue to develop this sense of self-learning?