Category Archives: Ripped from the Headlines

Tampon Shortage

ICYMI: there’s a tampon shortage. If you’re a man and that made you feel uncomfortable, I’m sorry. Trust me: somewhere a woman you know is feeling even more uncomfortable after perusing near-empty shelves, or worse yet, finding she can’t even afford this basic necessity.

Because prices for feminine hygiene products have increased by almost 11% in the last year. That’s more than double the amount that oral hygiene prices have increased in the same time period.

Meanwhile, as the article points out, “P&G posted its biggest sales gain in decades in the most recent quarter, and the amount of money it made from sales in its feminine-care division was up 10%.” Tampons are big money for these companies. And raising prices is a no-brainer from a business standpoint. After all, “…people who get their periods every month have to keep buying tampons just as regularly.”

According to one female CEO interviewed for this particular article, “…there’s been no push to solve this supply problem, she argues, because many of the people determining prices and availability for feminine-care products do not use them.” I mean, that makes sense. The people who lead the companies who manufacture tampons (P&G, Edgewell, Unilever) are men. So they may not have considered that raw materials shortages and staffing shortages would impact feminine hygiene products. They might not also be considering the impact of this 10.8% increase on basic necessities that only women use. That’s why this article wraps up with this line from Thyme Sullivan: “It’s why we need to bring men into the conversation, because in many places, they’re still the decision-makers, and this wasn’t on their radar.”

So…men…welcome to the conversation (assuming you’re still reading this post about tampons). There’s a tampon shortage. And also we need reasonably priced feminine hygiene products. They’re a necessity.

Fellow women (or men): consider whether or not you can donate and share with those less fortunate (Check out the The Homeless Period Project for example). Or I know I, as well as many of my colleagues, keep a stash on hand for students in need (whether they have one of those potentially humiliating surprises or just come up short with their own supply). I’ve been giving out tampons to girls at work since I started in 2004. My own local stores were pretty bare today.

Thanks for coming to my JennTalk ™️.

*This article is on pg. 19 of the June 20/June 27, 2022 edition of Time Magazine.

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It’s Ok to Not Be OK…and change your shoes

Things I shouldn’t think about while getting ready for work but did today (and have most days since last week): “Wait. Can I run in these shoes?”

I changed them each time. And sometimes my whole outfit.

Lockdowns for us last week. And for a couple K-12 schools nearby the next day. Discussions about all glass front rooms in one of our busiest buildings. And then yesterday in Texas.

I might need all new work shoes.

But seriously: it’s a scary time. And it’s ok to acknowledge that. Educators are told (explicitly or implicitly) to be strong for the students. But it’s ok to not be ok. And it’s ok to talk about that. And it’s ok to change your shoes. 👠

Thanks for coming to my JennTalk ™️

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Filed under Higher Ed, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems, Teaching & Learning

Pets & the Microbiome

This article was in my feed this morning. Thought it was really interesting, especially since so many people have worried about catching c-diff or other bacteria from dogs and cats.

From the article: ““A growing number of studies have documented the ability of animal contact to impact the human microbiome (collection of microbes in the intestines) in ways that may help prevent certain types of disease, such as cardiovascular disease and asthma,” said Dr. Laurel Redding, VMD, PhD, DACVPM, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Penn Vet, the project’s Principal Investigator. “In conducting this study, our goal is to shed light on the microbial exchanges that occur between pets and pet owners and assess whether pets can mitigate disruption of their owner’s gut microbiome following antibiotic therapy.””

My dog Oakley is my daily exercise partner.


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Filed under C-Diff, Gut health, Just For The Health of It, Ripped from the Headlines

The Best Friend to Have: One Who Listens

Read this article this morning and the study it references aligns with a lot of what I’ve been learning about neuroscience in my book club:

“The new study found that supportive listening could contribute to cognitive resilience — it seems that having someone who listens to you helps spur neurogenesis, which is the neuroscience term for the growth of new neurons, and boosts synaptic plasticity. Essentially, a friend who pays attention can help your brain continue to work and grow throughout life.”

“Researchers found that people who reported their friends and family listened to them as a source of support had a lower risk of developing age-related cognitive problems, like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Interestingly, the researchers didn’t observe the same correlation for other types of social support, such as love-affection and emotional support.”

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Filed under My Life, Ripped from the Headlines

On Greek Life

Have you read my disclaimer? If not, now’s a good time.

Note: I actually wrote this post about 2 months ago and never published it; however, in reflecting on the horrendous stories about Greek organizations currently in the spotlight, I revisited it and decided to go ahead and post it. Because, obviously, it’s still relevant.  Just insert “OSU and Penn State” alongside Clemson University as necessary. 

Tucker Hipps’s parents have every right to speak out and warn other parents “of college students who want to pledge a fraternity.” After all, what happened to Tucker is completely unacceptable.  While it’s important to note that the official investigation is not yet complete, I personally accept the consistent stories of the students from whom I’ve heard on the matter. As anyone who went to college knows, there’s the official story, and there’s what all the students know to be true.  In addition, it is well-known amongst those close to Clemson University and its student population that Greek life at Clemson is out of control–and has been for some time.  Between alcohol-related injuries and deaths and accusations (often founded) of sexual assault and misconduct, it’s clear there’s a problem. With that said, I feel compelled to point out that what’s happening at Clemson is not indicative of what happens in Greek life across the country.  Hazing is bad. Hazing can lead to death. That much is indisputable.  However, that’s not the way it is in every fraternity or every sorority.  It certainly wasn’t my experience as part of the Greek system.  I pledged a sorority.  And at no time was my life in jeopardy.  At no time did someone ask me to do something that compromised my values, my integrity, or my safety.  I did not experience the sort of peer pressure that Tucker reportedly did.  Rather, I found in my sorority a support system of women who helped me navigate the college experience.  As someone without a solid familial support system, this was incredibly important not only to my survival in college but also to my ability to thrive in college.  In my sorority I also learned the value of giving back to the community and to those in need.  I learned to speak up for myself and for the things I believe in.  I learned not to settle for less than my best or less than what I deserved.  Certainly, I experienced growing pains as I matured into adulthood; my sorority affiliation did not protect me from that. Rather, it nurtured my development. It helped me become who I am today.  The women I met helped form the woman I am today.  Some of them are still my strongest supporters, my closest confidantes, and the people upon whom I call in difficult and/or challenging times.  I learned to accept that kind of love and support and to give it back.  “To give much is to receive much” was our motto. And I learned to live by those words of wisdom during my time in my sorority. I was not just a part of my own sorority while in college; I was also part of the larger Panhellenic organization that governed all sororities and fraternities at my school.  Our sorority worked closely with the fraternities within that organization, and we socialized with the men in those fraternities regularly.  We dated those men, befriended those men. We pledged in the same semesters as them.  We shared our experiences. Later, we shared in welcoming new members to our organizations.  To say that hazing did not occur at all would be a lie, but to say that it happened in the ways it does within Clemson’s fraternal organizations today would also be a lie.  I hear what my students and their friends do to join those organizations–the risks they take, and I advise them that compromising their principles or safety is never worth the friendships they may earn in so doing.  That’s not just part of my job; it’s a part of who I am–based on what I believe. And that is a direct result of my own experience with Greek life. What happened on that bridge–and the subsequent cover-up by members of his fraternity–is not ok.  There should be serious repercussions for all those involved–especially for the upperclassmen who forced a young man-via peer pressure–to do something that could potentially (and ultimately did) endanger his life.  Fraternities at Clemson should be held accountable for their actions and their consistent and flagrant acts that violate the very principles of the organizations to which they belong.  Because what they are doing is not what Greek life is about. It’s not what my sorority was (and is today) about; it’s not what the fraternities of my day/time/place were about. What happened to Tucker Hipps was unacceptable.  But it is not representative of Greek life overall.

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Filed under Higher Ed, My Life, My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines

Powering Down and Unplugging

I ran across this article the other day, and I agree with the idea that “people have a pathological relationship with their devices.” I know I do. I’m constantly checking the smart phone, the tablet, the iPad, the MacBook, the laptop…and the list goes on.  And I’m a big social media addict, regularly using Facebook, Twitter (multiple accounts), Instagram, LinkedIn…you get the idea. I’m connected–as connected as a person can be probably.

I also agree with this: “Our addiction to screens is affecting our well-being, productivity and creativity…”. And I’m ready for a break.  Today is my last day of work until January 3rd. And I mean that. I am not checking that e-mail account one more time effective immediately. For real. I’m also going to unplug my other devices. Ok–maybe not so much unplug as at least put on Airplane Mode (i.e. disconnect from the Internets). I still want to get phone calls or text from friends, my husband, and in case of emergencies. But I’m saying no to e-mail (all 4 accounts) and no to social media (all…however many accounts) and no to the internet in general.

This isn’t altogether new for me.  For the past two years at this time, I’ve done the same thing. And each time I really enjoyed it. I read books, watched movies, wrote,  relaxed, played with the dogs, went on walks, cooked real meals, and just generally enjoyed the time off.  The difference between those years and this year is simple: for the last two years, we went up into the mountains, where there was no service.  So even if I wanted to, I couldn’t check in. And again, I loved it.  It was so freeing.  This year we’re at home and Verizon works just fine here.  But I’m making a commitment. Effective tomorrow I’m putting these mobile devices on Airplane Mode and disconnecting for a week.  We’re having a real vacation.

“See” you in a week–when I’ll probably tell you all about how awesome my time off has been. Happy holidays!

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Filed under My Life, Ripped from the Headlines

Is this wrong? Yes.

So today on my ride into work, there was a discussion on the radio about this letter a teacher in NY sent home with her pre-K students.  The question offered to listeners/callers was this: “Is this wrong?”  The answer is yes.

The letter in question attempted to address the personal hygiene (or lack thereof) of children in the class. Here is a photo of the letter:smelly letter

If I were a parent who received this letter, I would write a letter back, and it would look something like this:

Dear Teacher,

I am writing this letter to inform you that you have failed–both as a teacher and a human being.  Allow me to explain why using a traditional scale: U = Unacceptable; NI = Needs Improvement; A = Acceptable; E = Exceeds. I have organized this from least important to most important for your benefit.

Professionalism: U

Did you hand write this with a marker and mimeograph it down the hall? How am I supposed to take you seriously? My (hypothetical) 4-year-old can use an iPad. You can’t use a computer? It’s 2013; if you’d like me to read something, type it up, print it out, and then send it me. I refuse to read scribble from anyone other than my child who just learned to spell his name.

Grammar: U

Unkept? You’re talking about my child, not my lawn. The word you’re looking for is unkempt. Also, you use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it’s used to combine two independent clauses. You missed two of those. And one more–please proofread and edit before you send me or my child anything else. I really don’t want him picking up bad writing habits. (FYI: If you’d typed your document in Microsoft Word, spell and grammar checker would have helped you with your struggles to appropriately use Standard American English.) Also, periods. Enough said.

Communication: U

Did you really need to send this out to everyone (Consider reading my post on Bcc and Reply All and apply to this situation if you have the critical thinking skills to do so, which based on this evidence, I doubt.)? Don’t you think it might have been more effective to have targeted your message to a specific audience?  And is a generic handwritten letter really your best device for getting your message across? A more appropriate method of communicating to parents of children you think stink would have been a personal phone call. Furthermore, watch your language! “Enough said?” Really? Your tone is…self righteous and arrogant and…all around negative. It’s like you were hoping to start a fight, not resolve an actual problem. Also, for the record, despite the all-caps title, this is not actually an urgent notice. An urgent notice (!!!) would be something like, “There’s black mold and asbestos in our classroom, please only send your child to school tomorrow if he has a Hazmat suit!” An offense to your olfactory perception is not urgent.

Empathy: U

Empathy, since you seem to have none, is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s (like a 3-year-old’s) shoes and understand how they likely feel and then behave accordingly. Did you even stop for a second to consider how these supposedly dirty and stinky kids might feel upon discovering that their teacher doesn’t even want to be near them? Or how their parents might feel upon receiving your letter? You should know this, but I’ll go ahead and make sure it’s clear: sometimes people do the best they can with limited resources. I read that 30% of the population in your area lives below the poverty line. Maybe they’re doing the best they can. You should at least consider the possibility.

Social Responsibility: U

Look, if some of the children in class are really a health and safety concern, you might consider that the appropriate action to take is reporting a case of possible neglect. Sending a letter like this home to an abusive and neglectful parent could actually make things worse for the child in question.  If you are that concerned, call DSS and let them know.  Had someone done that for my foster kids, they would have been removed from their abusive home years before they were. Speak up–you may be the only voice those children have, so instead of marginalizing (and dare I suggest bullying) them, be an advocate for them. Be a friend to them. Be a role model. It’s your responsibility as a teacher and a human being.

Enough has not been said here, but I feel like this might be a good starting point. I encourage you to reflect on your behavior, consider the ways in which you may have better addressed this issue, and make a commitment to do better in the future. Accept that this was a BIG mistake and make a plan to better yourself. In short, take this as a a teachable moment. Learn. Grow. And then maybe you’ll be able to rise from Unacceptable to Exceeds (or at least Acceptable).  Let me know if I can help.


Parent of (a hypothetical) child in your class.

PS: Finally, please sign below indicating you have read this report in its entirety and understand its contents.


(Bad Teacher)

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Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems, Teaching & Learning

Reading in SC–Reform?

So this is another one of those educational endeavors created and lauded by non-teachers that will undoubtedly be passed into law and forced upon educators who (and I know this comes as a shock!) might actually have a better idea.

Look–I get it. We need to do a better job with education in this state. And yes (yes, yes yes!) reading is fundamentally important. Should students know how to read by 3rd grade? Ideally. Teachers know that, y’all. For crying out loud, they spend 8 hours a day with these kids. They know who can read and who can’t…and they probably know why better than you–or a bunch of politicians.

What’s particularly maddening about this particular case is that Greenville County already recognized the reading problem and developed a program for fixing it. And their program is outperforming everyone in the state. What they are doing is working. They’ve got research to prove it. But the State would rather have them throw all that good work out the window to adopt some new system that they’ve chosen (a new system that likely requires teachers to fork out an estimated $4800 each to be retrained  while creating a new office within the Department of Education to give oversight to the whole thing–yay! More government!). Further, this system is reactive (if you can’t read by 3rd grade, we’ll keep you back a year and make you do summer school too), whereas the interventions Greenville County has seen success with are proactive and help students before there’s that serious a problem.

It just doesn’t make sense. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you’re going to change education, talk to the teachers–ask them what works and what doesn’t–what are they doing and what aren’t they doing–what resources do they need to get their students where they need to be. Ask them. Because they actually know more than you (evidently) give them credit for. And how about let’s stop scrapping programs that work just to say we’re doing something different. If it works, don’t just throw it out.

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Filed under Developmental Education, Ripped from the Headlines

I’m Not a Black Man

I’m not a black man. Never have been. Never will be. I have never grown up black in America. I’ve never been raised by a father who lived through the 1960s Civil Rights movement.  I have never  sat on the knee of a grandfather who stood thirsty before a Whites Only water fountain or who had to give up his seat on the bus to a white man.  I have never been followed through a department store because I look like a possible thief.  No one has ever crossed the street to avoid me because I had a hood drawn up over my head. People don’t hit the lock on the car door when I walk by. Because I’ve never been a Black American.

President Obama, yesterday, in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict commented that “it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that that doesn’t go away.” He explained, “those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

I have my own set of experiences that have shaped my world view, made me who I am. Those experiences color my responses, reactions, and feelings to and about certain events and situations. I can’t know how I would’ve reacted to the Zimmerman verdict as a young black man or as the mother of a young black man. But I can imagine that my feelings would’ve been different because they would’ve been colored by my experiences as an African-American. And I know those experiences are different than mine as a white woman.

People all over social media and IRL are fired up. The “conversation” about this verdict is heated–and divisive. I see African-Americans declare justice hasn’t been served–and never will be for Blacks in America.  I see them expressing fear for the young black men in their lives. I see white people, in turn, defensively claiming that these fears are unjustified–an overreaction because this isn’t about race. “Why is it always about race with these people?” they ask each other, annoyed. Our justice system worked exactly as it should, they say. Black people, incredulous, respond: “How can you say this isn’t about race?! The justice system failed us.”

These responses illustrate very clearly the president’s point. They reflect the experiences of the people who make them. The president reminds us to take that into account. And we would do well to do just that. Instead of responding angrily or defensively when we don’t understand–instead of just arguing about it, we would do well to have a civilized conversation about it: “Why do you think the system failed? Why don’t you? Why do you think it’s about race? Why don’t you?”

We would do well to listen to one another, really listen. To try to understand, to empathize with one another, put ourselves in each others’ shoes.  To try to understand, accept, and respect that people have different ways of knowing, doing, and being. 

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Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines

Encouraging Creativity

The other day, I came across this article, which claims that “study results show there is a serious lack of creative stimuli in the American education system.”

I’d have to say I agree.  Our focus on assessment–on standardized testing in particular–kills rather than fosters creativity.

Every semester in my Freshman Seminar class I give my students some containers of Play-Doh and some “creativity kits,” containers with everyday objects like thumbtacks, paper clips, buttons, toothpicks, pennies, and random tidbits I’ve picked up at the craft store.  Their assignment is to create something that represents how they best learn.

We do this assignment after talking about the differences between high school and college learning and how students need to relearn how to think creatively–think outside the box.  Children do this SO well. It’s why a toddler will play inside a cardboard box for hours or why kids have imaginary friends who visit for tea.

And then, somewhere along the line, we kill that creativity. And by the time students arrive as freshmen in college, they just want to know how to pass the test.  They don’t really want to think outside the box–they just want the right answer.

Inevitably, the majority of my students, when given that Play-Doh, will struggle for the first 20 minutes.  They’ll say, “I don’t know what to do!” And they’ll try to quit or take the easy way out: “I made a hand because I’m a hands-on learner,” and I have to push them to try harder.

Once they get past the initial hurdle, they come up with some really clever ideas.  And they enjoy the activity (click here for more details and pictures!).  They enjoy learning that’s fun.  They enjoy flexing their creative brain muscles. And that’s important.

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Filed under Higher Ed, Ripped from the Headlines, Teaching & Learning