Detracking Middle School Math

by Finn

Few things rival the calculus track for their place in Totebagger culture (the half cookie being one of those few). Thus, getting their kids into the right math track in middle school is of vital importance to Totebaggers, who may find this new trend alarming.

Is it time to stop segregating kids by ability in middle school math?

Navigating the Holidays in a Pandemic

by Louise

I am thinking about this as I have two sets of seniors to consider and kids who are attending school in person.
My thought is to have the kids do remote school for a week and half (is that enough ?), so we make a sort of a bubble to enclose our family. I am not going to bubble for Thanksgiving, just make sure I visit my parents the day of and take them food. I’ll muddle through somehow and hope that I have taken enough precautions to come out of the holidays safely.
What are your plans for the holidays ? Is it going to be better or worse than years past ? DD has already given me her Christmas list !

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic Means Smaller Birds, Fewer Leftovers
Holiday season brings new challenges to grocers and food makers

The Hottest Ticket in Town This Year Is Your Family’s Covid-Constrained Thanksgiving
Cities and states around the country have capped gatherings at 10, creating angst for holiday hosts


Favorite shops

by sunshine

Many of us have mentioned paying our cleaners, tipping extra-generously and supporting our local shops. Which of those shops are hidden gems that rise to the level that even people from other places would adore? Give them a shout-out on here, perhaps even with sharing with us what your favorite things are from the shop. Many of these shops have worked hard to figure out an online platform….maybe we can find some unique treats or gifts and show some totebag love to these businesses.

If there’s a special backstory for your love of the shop or how you discovered it, please tell us about that too.

Follow-up Friday

by Finn

Many of us have consulted with The Totebag for thoughts and advice on various situations, or mentioned new things in their lives. What did you end up doing, and how did that work out? What would you advise fellow Totebaggers who might find themselves in similar situations?

Sky, how’s your DS’ math program? Allie, how’s your motorcycle? Minca, how’s the wine making? Mooshi, what sort of window treatment did you buy for your bedroom window? What headphones did you end up getting? Did you ever figure out how to play CDs through speakers? DD, how’s your volunteer gig as a college coach? Meme, how’s the Cam Newton signing working out?

Black Friday in a Pandemic

by Finn

The pandemic is obviously going to mean a much different Black Friday shopping season in in recent years. What are your shopping plans? Anything in particular you’re shopping for? Any good deals you want to share with your fellow Totebaggers?

These two articles recently were reprinted side by side in my local paper:

The first article suggests a possible “shipaggedon” during the holidays, and the second suggests an alternative.

The death of undergraduate teaching degrees

by MooshiMooshi

Enrollment is way down in undergraduate education programs, and some schools are closing their programs now. Most likely, many of us see this as a good thing. I myself have long advocated that teachers, especially at the high school level, should major in an academic subject and then take some teaching courses and then enter a teaching apprenticeship program.

But the reality is that undergraduate education degrees are being replaced by “alternative certification pathways” that may be far worse than the undergraduate programs they are replacing. I first realized this a few years ago when a friend of mine, who had an undergrad general business degree and who had worked as an office manager for 10 years, was able to get certified as an advanced mathematics teacher at the HS level after only 6 months of online classes! I happen to know she barely made it through business calculus back in college.

‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’
Teacher education programs were facing major problems even before the pandemic, but are they dying of natural causes or being killed off? Either way, what’s lost when they go away for good?

This article details what is going on. Here is a quote on the alternative certification programs
“The first programs focused on getting “content-proficient” adults with backgrounds in science, math and other fields into secondary classrooms without making them earn another degree. But alternative paths to teaching have since proliferated. The national council, in its 2014 study of 85 alternative programs, gave the majority D or F grades. In general, they all ask the teacher candidate to serve simultaneously as the “teacher of record” and an “intern” prior to obtaining certification. Learning happens first and foremost on the job.

Failing grades mean the programs have no required grade point average for applicants, or a minimum GPA of 2.5. There is generally no standardized test or teaching audition required. Required fieldwork prior to teaching amounts to a week or less, and there is no clinical practice. Teachers within these program are observed infrequently.”

I suspect most Totebaggers would prefer that our kids have teachers who have passed a test, have a good GPA, and have spent more than a week learning how to teach. I know that I would not want my friend the former office manager teaching pre-calc to my kids. These alternative certification programs sound more like a way of getting warm bodies in front of classes, preferably at low pay, than a way of attracting good candidates with STEM backgrounds. While I think that a serious reform of teacher education programs is long overdue, I do not think this is the right way.

OK, opinions?

2020 Year-End Giving

by Fred

Many of us have actually saved money/are better off financially than we might have otherwise been because of Covid…no/limited commute costs, eliminated/reduced housekeeping costs, less clothes buying/dry cleaning, little restaurant dining, no real vacation spending. Perhaps offset by wants or needs brought on by the pandemic to make our nests more comfortable. If you find yourself in this situation, and I realize at least a couple of regulars’ spouses have lost their jobs so I know it’s not universal among us, are you stepping up your charitable giving as we approach the Holiday season, especially to social services agencies like food banks, or adding (more of) them to your list? Or have you been doing more all through 2020?


by Louise

What things about food did you discover during the pandemic. It could cover anything from supply chain, growing season to how easy or difficult it was to make certain things. Did you miss any specific restaurant food ? Do you want to share any new food shows or cook books ?

Friday open thread

We have an open thread today.

stretch jeans now make up 23% of the men’s jeans market, compared to 19% a year ago: “There’s a lot of opportunity there.”

Really?  I thought it might be higher.

Men’s Jeans Are Back, So Suck in Those Guts
During lockdown, men cast stiff jeans aside, relying on looser, lazier sweats and gym shorts. This fall, denim—tweaked to be more comfortable—is worth reaching for again.

Coping strategies

by Kim

How are you coping with stress these days?

Usually I don’t find these types of articles to be very helpful, but all these recommendations are ones that actually make a difference for me.

Mindfulness coach: 5 mental shifts that will instantly enhance your life

1. Adopt a ‘can do’ mindset.
2. Embrace the uncomfortable things.
3. Develop a desire to help others.
4. Avoid social disconnectedness.
5. Be present.

Embracing discomfort or uncertainty is the hardest for me.  What helps you cope, especially in dealing with everything that’s going on these days?  What about exercise, music, or an occasional cocktail?

This article combines #s 2 and 5 from the list as a way to handle stress:

What ultimately helps is being present, even if that means sitting with uncertainty, sadness and, yes, a certain amount of worry — approached intentionally…

Basically, accept and even “schedule” your worries, but try to be fully mindful and present at other times.