Tag Archives: Kim Keller

Who says college is the only way to ensure future success?

30 Jan
Image courtesy of Mike Rowe Works

Image credit: Mike Rowe Works and ProfoundlyDisconnected.com.

My family has experienced two firsts with my generation: we have the first college graduate and the first successful business owner.

They are two entirely different people.

I am the college graduate with undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism; I now work as a public relations professional and teach a few college classes.  I rely on other people for my income. My cousin Jason, a high school graduate, runs a very successful heating and air conditioning business in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He provides jobs for 20 people.

I have tremendous admiration for Jason. Not only is he a savvy business owner, he’s also a great husband, father and all-around nice guy. He is a living testimony of the success that can be attained by someone who pursues a skilled trade. He’s spent his entire life working hard and smart, and he uses these skills to help others provide for their families.

That admiration doesn’t diminish the hard work that went into building my college-based career; I paid my dues to get here through years of studying and course work, professional certifications, grueling hours at the office and a lot of personal sacrifices of self, time and energy.

I also struggled financially and incurred debt.

I was fortunate to have an academic scholarship for my undergraduate degree during the late 80s, but I still had to work to cover my living expenses. I received a great education and decided I wanted to return for my graduate degree a few years later. There were no scholarships for graduate students, and my full-time salary was barely enough to cover my rent, so I financed roughly $7,000 to cover my tuition and books. (That graduate degree would cost roughly $20,000 today.)  Did all that education pay off? Yes and no. My current earnings are modest, but I love what I do.

Jason’s career cost?  Nada. Zip. Nothing.  He got his start working for an HVAC company as an apprentice and worked his way up the ladder.  His earnings? Way more than mine, and he loves what he does, too.

College is not the only option
Today, skilled trades are in demand. The demand for workers with art, history or literature degrees has always been small, and it’s nearly microscopic today.  In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there that companies are having a hard time filling – and you don’t have to give up $70,000 in tuition money or postpone a real paycheck for four years to get them.   Apprenticeships and vocational training can open the doors.

My experience and the nation’s economic slump have taught me college may not be the best option for everyone, and consequently, it’s not on my list of “Thou Shalts” for my children.

My teenage daughter loves school and has her heart set on being a teacher, which means tuition bills will likely hit our family in just a few years. I don’t mind because this is what she WANTS to do, not what we’re forcing her to do. She also understands that college is not a four-year party financed by mom and dad; she has to contribute as well.

My 10-year-old son has different goals. He’s always been on hands-on learner with a mantra of “I can do it.” He’s not a big fan of the classroom, but he’s a frightening good strategist and has a heart for protecting others. His life goal? He hasn’t narrowed it down, but military service, law enforcement and restaurant owner have been mentioned.

Just as my grandmother is proud of the firsts Jason and I attained, I will be proud of my children and the firsts they attain for the family. My daughter could join a long line of teachers, or my son could be the first Navy SEAL or restaurateur in the family. Regardless of what future paths they choose, I look forward to cheering them on as they pick up skills that will enable them to support themselves and their future families – and I pray they do it without debt.

Learn more about college alternatives at MikeRoweWorks.com.
The former “Dirty Jobs” host launched an initiative last year to encourage more students and young adults to pursue in-demand skilled trades rather than incur debt and face uncertain job prospects. His site has great information on job profiles, trade news, financial aid and much more.

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The Keller dogs’ story about their bad human and horrifying vet visit

23 Jan
The moment of panic when Macy and Charlotte realized their pet human was up to no good.

The moment of panic when Macy and Charlotte realized their pet human was up to no good.

 

Macy and Charlotte loved being human-owners. Their humans fed them yummy meals and played with them, and as a reward, Macy and Charlotte would let their pets sleep beside them at night.

All that ended yesterday thanks to the alpha female human.

The dogs knew she had taken those little pink and white pills, and the drugs make her do the unconscionable. When the female is under the influence of what she calls “allergy medicine,” she likes to load Macy and Charlotte into the giant wheeled box that has crushed crackers, stray Skittles and empty juice boxes on the floor. That in and of itself is actually quite delightful because it gives the two a gourmet buffet of snacking opportunities. However, the drugged female used the box to take them to a place of horrors. A place where dogs are subjected to the most unspeakable indignities. A place where cats are allowed to roam freely. A place where you think they are politely trying to sniff your butt only to discover they have inserted a cold plastic thermometer or a highly uncomfortable scooper.

As Macy and Charlotte sat in the waiting room, their human seemed at peace. She didn’t sneeze or wheeze when a – cat walked by. Macy, the older dog, tried to wiggle away.

“Ooh, do we get to chase the cat? Is it time to play?” the younger Charlotte excitedly asked. “Is it time to play? I really wanna play. Let’s play!”

“Noooo!” Macy whined as she pulled harder. “I’m trying to get away before they take us back to The Room. Don’t you remember The Room?”

“Nope, I don’t remember this place,” said Charlotte as she glanced out the window. “Ooh, squirrel!” The alpha female always said it was good that God made Charlotte pretty.

Alas, it was too late. Another human emerged from The Room and called for Macy and Charlotte. Macy took the time to show her displeasure by peeing on her human’s lap. Charlotte, who firmly believes no one should pee alone, did the same.

They were taken to The Room, and the other human began to say sweet things to Charlotte.

“Oh, I like her! I like her very much,” Charlotte said as the other human picked her up. She enthusiastically licked the other human’s face and tasted waffles. Very nice. However, the human began heading out a back door, and Charlotte became afraid. The pee came naturally this time. Macy grunted at her ward’s ignorance.

The male human they called “The Vet” entered the room for Macy. Alpha female placed Macy up on the examining table, and Macy felt his cold hands all over her body. He looked at her eyes and her teeth, stuck a cold cone into her ears, pulled at her hips and then felt him press on her internal organs. More pee.

Macy desperately tried to use the alpha female as a shield, but she could not escape. She whimpered her distress, but her female would not make eye contact with her. The other human walked back into the room with a visibly shaken Charlotte in one hand and the pointy cylinders of doom in another.

“RUN!” Charlotte cried out. “She’s going to put something in your rear end! She’s going to steal your poo! RUN!”

Too late again. The other human scooped Macy into her arms and took her out of the room. Charlotte put on her best brave face and tried to lick The Vet so he would let her go. No such luck. He examined her just as he had done with Macy, and then he grabbed a few of the pointy things and plunged them into Charlotte’s skin. Charlotte yelped and whimpered. The alpha female picked her up and held her close.

“What is wrong with you?” she asked her human. “Why did you let them do that to me?”

Macy re-emerged a few moments later with an obvious change in her walk. The Vet plunged the remaining pointy things into her skin and then left the room. In disgust, Macy rolled her eyes at both Charlotte and the alpha female.

The alpha female reattached Macy’s leash to her collar and placed Charlotte back in the kennel. Another human brought them dog treats, which were quickly gobbled up. The dogs liked her better than the other humans.  The people made small talk, passed a plastic card back and forth, and then the alpha female took Macy and Charlotte back to the wheeled box.

No one said a word on the way home, but Macy and Charlotte were secretly thinking about their revenge. As fate would have it, their opportunity came quickly. The plastic scooper and its lubricant apparently did much more than the silly humans expected, and both dogs freely allowed their bowels to explode inside the wheeled box. The alpha female shrieked in horror.

“Bwa ha ha,” Macy sinisterly laughed. “Bad human.”

Roadkill Goldfish featured on Fox News Latino: What can Latinos do to improve our children’s education?

15 Jan

Fox LatinoMy great grandmother attended school for only three years, and my grandmother dropped out during eighth grade. Life circumstances limited their education. Bisabuela grew up in rural Puerto Rico during the early 1900s when public schools were virtually non-existent. Abuela came to New York as a toddler, but poverty forced her to drop out at 13-years-old so she could work to help support her family.

Thankfully, educational opportunities for Latinos have improved dramatically since then. My mother was the first high school graduate in the family, and I became the first college graduate.

The U.S. Department of Education released a study in 2012 that examined high school completion rates from 1972 to 2009. Overall, graduation rates have increased for all races and ethnicities, but Latinos have had the largest jump over the 27-year study. Get the full story at Fox News Latino.*

* I am very proud of my Puerto Rican roots, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my heritage and experience as a guest contributor for Fox News Latino.  Check out other pieces I’ve written for them.

Dear teachers, I owe you an apology

8 Jan
Sorry cat

Posting a cute little kitten meme doesn’t make it all better, but I do hope teachers can forgive me for my prior prejudice.

Dear Teachers,

I owe you an apology.  From the deepest level of my heart, I am so sorry for misjudging you.

This is what happens when a person bases her opinion about a school solely on test scores. This is what happens when a person judges an entire profession based on news stories about a few bad apples. This is what happens when a person believes the so-called education experts’ solutions rather than trusting the men and women who invest their lives in the education and well-being of my children.

I have been guilty of all of the above, and I ask for your forgiveness.

My epiphany came last week when I made a Facebook post about my fifth-grade son’s problems with math. He’s had difficulty since third grade, which coincides with when Texas, as well as virtually every other state in the country, adopted the education experts’ “conceptual math,” a teaching method that shuns memorization of math facts and promotes multi-step “strategies” to solve math problems. Several of my teacher friends blasted the new method.  My friend April, a third grade teacher in Tennessee, confessed she desperately wants to teach her class using the tried and true methods that have worked during her 20-year teaching career, but she is prohibited from doing so by the state.  She candidly told me teachers are not allowed to speak out against the new material, especially with students’ parents.

April and other veteran teachers I’ve talked to say student comprehension has not improved under any of the new methods, and Common Core is making things worse. They vigorously dispute U.S.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s assertion that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” The kids and teachers are not the problem; the constant revamping of education by inexperienced experts is the problem.

Principals are also held hostage by the revamping problem. Earlier this year I attended a parent meeting about our elementary school’s curriculum and was told how the experts have determined these new techniques would be better for public school students. The teaching techniques, especially with math, were radically different from what my daughter experienced just three years earlier.  In exasperation, I blurted, “Why are we changing things every few years? Has there ever been a time when these experts thought public education worked?” The principal gave me a sympathetic smile. She wanted to respond, but couldn’t. I felt her pain.

Why do we keep trying to fix public education with new teaching models and testing? Why can’t we return to the teaching methods that worked for us, our parents and grandparents?  Long before reform became a buzzword, America’s public schools have been educating our nation’s scientists, engineers, teachers, economists, physicians and other degreed professionals. They’ve also educated our entrepreneurs, technology pioneers, farmers, mechanics, nurses and countless other Americans who contribute to making our society great. I believe they still do a good job, and they could do better if more parents gave a flip about their kids and the so-called experts got out of the teachers’ way.

April, like thousands of other teachers, has spent more time with 9-year-olds than a Teach for America volunteer or education reformers like Bill Gates. She knows what works. She teaches them reading, math, social studies and science. She provides books and supplies for kids who can’t afford them, spends her free time trying to engage busy or apathetic parents, comforts children when they are sad, and serves as their primary source of encouragement, and sometimes, discipline.  What would help improve education for April’s students? It’s not multi-billion dollar testing or new teaching models; it’s parental involvement.  A teacher cannot encourage a love for learning if the child’s parents treat education with disdain or indifference. Parents, not bureaucrats, need to be actively involved in their child’s life by reading with them, helping with homework, supporting teachers’ discipline efforts, and stressing the importance of learning.

Teachers, I don’t expect you to do this alone. You can’t. You need my help, and I need yours. You also deserve some gratitude for a job that often gets you more criticism than praise. Thank you for caring about my kids. I know you would do anything to protect them from harm, and I know their tears hurt you as much as they hurt me. Thank you for the emails and calls to update me on how they’re doing.  I know you want to keep me involved in the process. Thank you for inspiring them to be better people. I know you see their potential.

I want you to know that I have your back. You may not be able to speak out about things like Common Core or other curriculum issues, but I can. I will be loud and persistent because you are valuable, and I don’t want to see you run off because of ridiculous regulations and self-righteous reformers who have never been in a classroom. I recognize I am the worst PTA fundraising and party-planning mom, but I promise to be a great butt-kicking mom who will fight for things that will make our educational system better for you and my children.

I know you want what’s best for the kids, and I’m sorry for not standing up for you sooner.

Sincerely,

Kim

P.S. –   I am a product of our nation’s public schools.

_________________________________________________________________________

Parent tutorial: What is conceptual math?
This is not the math you learned during elementary school. The old time-tested methods for long division, borrowing and carrying are no longer used. In their place are tactics such as partial products for multiplication and magic seven for division. Students can no longer provide an answer; they must also show their work and explain the strategy they used to get it.  The techniques work for some students, but the multiple steps can cause great frustration for others and can make it nearly impossible for parents to help with homework.

Mamapedia names Roadkill Goldfish’s “Dear Daughter” the best post of 2013

3 Jan

Mamapedia selected “Dear Daughter, Let Miley Cyrus be a Lesson to You” as THE top post of 2013 based on the most views, comments and social media sharing.

THANK YOU, Mamapedia readers! I am humbled and honored to be included in the list, and I commend the other awesome writers and fellow moms who are part of the Mamapedia sisterhood.

See the Top 10 now.

No resolutions for 2014, just new experiences

30 Dec
What's your resolution for 2014? Mashable.com is hosting a resolution photo contest. (Click the photo for info.) I won't be entering.

Mashable.com is hosting a new year’s resolution photo contest. (Click the photo for info.)
I don’t qualify because I’ve sworn off resolutions in favor of new experiences.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions.  Yes, there are things about my life I’d like to change, but resolutions don’t work for me. My goals were always too high, and the guilt of non-attainment crushed me.

My thinking changed about 20 years ago. I discovered that new experiences, rather than New Year’s resolutions, were a better option. I’m a bit of an introvert and risk-avoider, and consequently, I’ve missed out on some great life experiences because of fear. Therefore, every year I set out to try something I’ve never tried before; nothing immoral or illegal, just stuff that personally terrifies me.

A few of my new experiences have addressed genuine life-and-death fears like water and falling; I conquered those with swimming lessons and a bungee jumping. However, most of my new experiences deal with my fear of failure. In addition to being an introvert and risk-avoider, I am also a recovering perfectionist.  I’m afraid to try new things simply because I’m terrified of failing in the attempt.

During the past few years, I put on my big girl panties and met a few of these fears head on. They include:

Dancing:
My mother’s family is Puerto Rican, and rhythm seems to be an intrinsic part of their DNA. My father’s family is Polish, and the white-guy shuffle is part of every chromosome. Genetics screwed me over; I can’t dance. Heck, I can’t even clap in time with the music.

So what did I do? I tried out for a musical, and I actually got a part. (The director had no choice. The show had an ice-skating scene, and I was the only actor who could skate.)  My acting and skating skills were pretty good, but my dancing was abysmal. During a hat and cane number, I whacked a fellow performer in the back of the head. I stepped on toes, I tripped over my own feet, and I forgot the choreography, but here’s the awesome part – I didn’t run offstage in tears. I toughed it out. In the end, I danced in front of roughly 6,000 people during the show’s run, and none of the critics blasted me for my choreography carnage.

Birds:
My children wanted to walk through the zoo’s aviary, but I refused to budge. Behind the screen door were dozens of birds flying freely through a rain forest exhibit. They chirped, squawked and defecated with reckless abandon. I told my kids I’d meet them at the exit, and I left the building. Not a good decision when your kids are seven and three.

I’ve been afraid of birds ever since I caught five seconds of crows attacking kids in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  It didn’t help when barn swallows built a nest in the eaves of my childhood home and dive-bombed me on my way to and from school. Things got much worse when a freaky mockingbird attacked my dog ten years later. I let her outside to do her business, and the bird decided to go kamikaze on her furry butt. I ended up swinging a broom at the bird and screaming to keep her away from my dog. This went on for weeks. My neighbors never talked to me again. It’s no wonder the poor dog was constipated for years.

So what did I do? I found lorikeets, the cutest birds on the planet. Years after my aviary abandonment, we saw the birds at a South Carolina zoo. People walked into the enclosure and fed them little cups of fruit nectar. The little birds gently flitted from person to person. We were about to walk past the exhibit, but I declared it was time to face my fear. I purchased my over-priced paper cup of nectar and walked into the enclosure with my family. A lorikeet was on my hand within seconds. I trembled a bit, but then I focused on the bird’s beauty. Soon more lorikeets perched on my hand. One landed on my head. I stopped shaking. The birds didn’t kill my children or gouge my eyes out. They were cute little freeloaders who just wanted some juice and a place to poop. I left the enclosure with a new sense of accomplishment and a streak of recycled nectar on my back.

The Ocean:
I firmly believe what Mufasa said about the Circle of Life, and I refuse to become a part of it. Sharks live in the ocean; therefore, the ocean is not a good place for me to hang out. I’d wade into ankle-deep water and then trudge back to shore to watch for dorsal fins while my husband and kids played in the waves.

My husband took me to Puerto Rico two years ago and booked a snorkeling trip for us. My plan was just to stay on the boat and read a book, but $75 a person seemed a bit much for reading time. I reluctantly agreed to get in the water. The captain gave me my snorkel, mask, fins and floatation belt. (Yes, I was the only adult with floaties. I can swim, but I don’t swim well.) I swam out with my husband, and the water was blessed with a new warm spot. Below me I saw beautiful coral and small fish darting in and out of the ocean plants. I had a death grip on my husband’s arm, but I splashed around for a few more minutes.  That’s when I saw it gliding through the water. I made another warm spot and contributed some chum for nearby fish. It wasn’t a shark, but rather one of those Steve Irwin-killing sting rays. I was out of the water within 15 seconds. My husband later told me the sting ray was roughly two feet long from tip to tail and hid itself in the sand after I darted. Failure? No way. Even though my time was limited, I actually joined the ocean ecosystem for a few awe-inspiring minutes.

2014:
I had to face a lot of unexpected fears in 2013 – my son’s cancer scare, my brain lesion, threats and hate from my blog and the Piers Morgan show. (Piers was by far the scariest.) I haven’t decided what fears I’ll tackle in 2014. I may try a sport that involves hand-eye coordination, or I may get over my “getting my butt kicked” fears with some Krav Maga self-defense lessons or tae kwon do classes. The only thing I know for certain is that I’ll end 2014 the same way I ended 2013 – with fewer fears, a little more self-confidence and a much richer life.

Foul parents ruin girls’ basketball game

15 Dec

The Lady Eagles played hard on the basketball court; however, the eighth-grade team had a few embarrassing moments.

The blonde kept running her mouth every time the opposing team made it to the free throw line. The one with the gold necklace got frustrated with the officiating, stomped her feet and shrilly exclaimed, “We need new refs!” The guy who wore his Oakleys on his baseball cap yelled every time he disagreed with a decision on the court and didn’t stop his tantrum until the officials changed the call in his favor.

Life can be tough when you’re a middle school girl; it can be even tougher when a bunch of parents choose your basketball game to act like a pack of rabid dogs.

Welcome to the intersection of youth sports and parental failure, the spot where moms and dads feel like they can berate or threaten anyone who dares to stand in the way of their athletic prodigy’s chance of getting a college scholarship or going pro – at 13.

I spent most of my weekend stuck in this intersection, enduring a group of parents that revved up for multiple hit-and-runs aimed at other families, game officials and teenage girls dribbling a basketball. We were brought together by our city’s annual invitational basketball tournament, an event that unites more than 30 local middle school teams for two days of competition.

My daughter represented her school on one of those teams. Our school district takes that representation very seriously and has an athletic code of conduct that addresses issues such as academic standards, behavior, appearance, commitment and character. All student athletes are required to adhere to it. The school district also has a parental code of conduct that all athletes’ parents are required to sign.  The document includes statements such as:

  • I will always model good sportsmanship at competitions by the way I treat all athletes, coaches, officials and other fans.
  • I will always remember that while I am not an athlete, I am representing my child’s team at competitions.
  • I will insist that my child always demonstrate good sportsmanship and treat other athletes, coaches and officials with respect.
  • I will always teach my child how to win and lose with grace by the way I act in each of those situations.

Apparently a few of the Eagles parents didn’t have the same document. Roughly a dozen of their moms, dads and other family members violated annihilated the code during their girls’ semi-final game against the Gators.  The crew yelled “Miss!” when the Gators took free throws.  The blonde loudly criticized the female referee and when shushed by another parent, she defiantly refused to be silenced and bellowed, “I want her to hear me!”  A man near her decided the female referee needed to hear more so he added, “Stupid b-tch!” to the shouts. The same decency-impaired group smiled and smugly clapped when a player shoved another girl from behind and snuck in a covert punch.

My family, along with other families from our school, sat wedged in the bleachers between the Eagles and Gators sections. Our girls’ game was next, and they were in the stands with us watching the game. The adults’ conduct made them very uncomfortable. The situation grew progressively worse as the minutes went by, and things threatened to get really ugly when the Eagles started losing their lead in the fourth quarter. A mom from our group decided it may be a good time to find the police officer who was assigned to the event. He came in a few minutes later and stood in front of the offending section. The crew was uncharacteristically quiet for a beautiful four minutes. Four minutes of real basketball. Four minutes of reasonable behavior. Four minutes of bliss for everyone in the stands and on the court.

When the final buzzer went off, the dozen grumbled. Despite all the yelling and negativity they directed toward the officials and opposing team, their girls lost the game. Imagine that.

I overheard a muffled conversation behind me. Apparently their girls could have won, but the evil referees kept making bad calls against them, and it was totally unfair that roughly 20 percent of the team fouled out during the game.

A grandmother of a Gators player, who sat on the opposite side of the gym, grinned. “It’s a game,” she added. “Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. It’s competition; it’s nothing personal.”

She shook her head when she heard about the feedback from the other end of the bleachers. “Children look to adults to see what to do,” she said. “We lead by example. What kind of example was that?”

Indeed. What kind of example was that? Based on today’s parental behavior, the girls learned:

  • It’s okay to call a woman a b_tch when you disagree with her.
  • It’s okay to punch someone when you get frustrated. Mom and Dad will smile – just don’t get caught doing it.
  • Mom and Dad will never let anyone tell you that you did something wrong. They’ll blame it on another kid or take it out on the adult (referee) who dares to say you’re not perfect.
  • Yelling at or criticizing another person makes you look smarter and more powerful.  (Reality check: You look like a bully, and you’re reinforcing the behavior with your child.)
  • Adulthood and maturity are two entirely different things.

Stay classy, Mom and Dad. You’re making the most of life’s teachable moments and providing your daughter with some outstanding lessons about sportsmanship, character and honor. Thanks for inspiring me.

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