Commentary #83: “Sunny Days on ‘Sesame Street'”

Sesame Street

Image Credit: The Wrap

My dad sent this hot link to me in an email recently, with the exclamation of “Big Bird!”


A little background on Big Bird first. Big Bird has been one of my favorite characters for as long as I can remember. I had such love for “Sesame Street” as a child, and I still do as an adult.

Seeing Big Bird in the video with Jane Pauley made my heart soar and brought a huge smile to my face. And, if we’re being completely honest, it made me tear up a bit, too. Big Bird has brought such joy to my life. And he’s been a part of a wonderful show that is celebrating it’s 50th season in 2019!

Big Bird said that Sesame Street “is the kindest place, where everyone’s welcome.”

I had three stuffed versions of Big Bird as a kid – A small one, a medium one, and a big one with a pull string where he talked. There are many photos that feature a version of him from my childhood. He was definitely a “lovey” for me.

I recently shared this throwback photo on Facebook. This is framed in my parents’ house. We went on two cruises as a family with my dad’s parents. This was on “The Big Red Boat” in the mid-1990s, when we went to Cozumel and Cancun. You can see my dad holding my big Big Bird at the bottom.

I also wrote a comparison-contract research paper on the educational effectiveness of Sesame Street versus Barney & Friends in my first college English class in the fall of 2007. One of my friends who was in that class, Adam, mentioned it recently when we reconnected via Facebook. It was so cool! I need to see it I still have it in my files. I know I used the book Sesame Street Unpaved: Scripts, Stories, Secrets and Songs (1998) as a reference source.

Sesame Street Characters

Image Credit: Celebrity Access

Started by TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney and Carnegie Corporation executive Lloyd Morrisett, Sesame Street is truly a cultural revolution. It’s now broadcast in 150 countries around the world.

CEO of Sesame Street, Jeff Dunn, said, “Our co-founders had the wonderful idea, ‘Could you use the power of television to help teach less advantaged kids and get them ready for school?’ And what they knew was that kids who arrived to kindergarten knowing their ABCs and their 123s, were ahead of kids that didn’t. So, if we could figure out a way to help kids arrive at school ready to learn, that would be a big contribution.”

Don't Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983)

Don’t Eat the Pictures (1983) was one of my favorite Sesame Street videos growing up. Image Credit: IMDb

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The cover of The Monster at the End of this Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover (1971). This is one of my favorite Sesame Street books! Image Credit: Wikipedia

They partnered with Jim Henson and his Muppets. It’s true – Kids are captivated by Muppets. I know I was, and I still am. If you see my Facebook page, I regularly share things related to Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Beaker, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird, of course.

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Image Credit: Muppets Wiki

Sesame Street Poster

Image Credit: IMDb

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Sesame Street is producing a new TV special and embarking on a 10-city tour. Also, a Manhattan street will be named after it.

Now four years into its five-year-deal with HBO, Sesame Street has had quite a history. It’s home for decades was PBS, which I watched exclusively during my childhood (See Commentary #44: My Life as a PBS Kid from October 2016). In addition, Sesame Workshop signed a deal with Apple last year – The financial terms were not disclosed, by the way – to have “multiple live-action and animated series as well as a new puppet show for its planned video service.” Also, PBS still airs new episodes, but the deal with HBO stipulates new episodes are aired nine months after their original release on HBO and their HBO Now on-demand library.

There have been more than 4,500 episodes! It’s YouTube channel boasts more than five million subscribers. That’s incredible! Roughly 80 percent of parents watch Sesame Street with their children. I know my parents did.


Resources


Do you have a favorite Sesame Street character?

Do you have a favorite Muppet?

Did you watch Sesame Street growing up?

Let me know in the comments!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #25: Teachers On Strike

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Image Credit: Vox

First, it was teachers walking out in West Virginia.

Then, it was teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

All of them have one thing in common: They have gone on strike, to protest numerous issues.

These include low pay, pension laws, and the abysmal state of the public school education system in the United States.


Timeline (so far)

  • February 22nd: The call for West Virginia teachers to strike comes from the West Virginia branches of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
  • February 23rd: Teachers rally in front of the West Virginia State Capitol, while others picket individual schools.
  • February 27th: An announcement of a deal between union leaders and Governor Jim Justice.
  • February 28th: Every county in West Virginia announced school closures.
  • March 3rd: The strike is extended into the eighth workday when the West Virginia Senate proposed a 4% pay rise, instead of the 5% pay rise passed by the West Virginia House of Delegates.
  • March 7th: School personnel return, after the State Senate agreed to the House’s position.
  • End of March: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signs a bill raising spending on teacher and support staff pay by $405.5 million. This equates to average raises of $6,100 for teachers, and $1,250 for support staff. However, the teachers’ union had been asking for an average of a $10,000 raise for teachers.
  • April 2nd: Oklahoma teachers go on strike, concurrently with Kentucky teachers. Oklahoma teachers protest low pay, overcrowded classrooms, and tax cuts which created lower state-wide education funding. Education spending per student in Oklahoma has decreased 28 percent since 2008. Kentucky teachers are protesting changes in their state’s pension laws.
  • April 13th: Oklahoma teacher walkout ends. Teachers around the state pledge to continue fighting for more school funding and higher pay. Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the entire U.S. The walkout ended when the union understood the state legislature did not want to contribute any more revenue for public education. The amount of extra education spending for the next fiscal year is roughly $479 million for teacher and support staff salaries, and school needs.

 

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Image Credit: USA TODAY

Image result for teachers on strike

Image Credit: Vox


For me, I’m glad that teachers are utilizing their voices. They have reached their breaking points. It’s not all about their compensation, but a host of issues. State funding has decreased. Schools are not being maintained. Teachers don’t have enough textbooks, and some of these books are more than 20 years old. Others have taken to social media to post photos of broken chairs, outdated equipment, and even their salaries. Several have questioned why they need a college degree to be making so little money.

Some teachers in Oklahoma have been working THREE additional jobs, or more, on top of their teaching. Some do landscaping, others drive for Uber and/or Lyft, and so on.

That’s absurd!

The most recent development was in the state of Arizona. It was looking like those teachers were going to strike, but the governor recently offered a 20 percent pay raise. We’ll have to see how this pans out.

Teachers are entrusted to give quality education to our children, and future generations. How can they possibly teach well if they struggle with so many issues? I could go on and on about:

(a) the detriments of standardized testing.

(b) teachers buying basic school supplies for their classrooms throughout the year, in order for their students to be able to learn effectively.

(c) teachers dealing with student hunger, either by recognizing how many are on free or reduced-cost meal programs, or having food pantries in their classrooms because their students aren’t getting enough to eat.

(d) administrators and school boards working against teachers, including issues such as continued disciplinary problems, vandalism, dysfunctional parents, and more.

(e) school administrators, school board members, and district/city school superintendents receiving substantial pay raises.

And there are more. Before she retired last year, my mom saw several excellent teachers leave their public elementary school in favor of private schools. These teachers did not feel free to truly teach and be creative in their classrooms, among other problems. It was incredibly sad!

And my mom taught English as a Second Language (ESL), so she didn’t have the full classroom of kids that were going through round after round of standardized testing. She did teach elementary school in North Carolina during the 1970s and 1980s – 13 years total – and it was completely different back then. The teaching environment has changed so drastically in the last few decades, and not for the better. No wonder there are less and less people majoring in education and becoming teachers.


If you’re curious, here are the five of the top-paying states for teachers. However, keep in mind that these states are also some of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.

  1. Alaska – Average salary: $74,122
  2. New York – Average salary: $73,247
  3. Connecticut – Average salary: $72,524
  4. California – Average salary: $68,711
  5. New Jersey – Average salary: $67,938

And, here are the lowest-paying states:

  1. North Carolina – Average salary: $43,059
  2. Arizona – Average salary: $42,875
  3. South Dakota – Average salary: $42,564
  4. Mississippi – Average salary: $42,393
  5. Oklahoma – Average salary: $41,088

Source: These states pay teachers the most. Where does your state fall?


Sources


In addition, the fight for teacher pay and benefits continues in my local area, as well. I live and work in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. There are seven major cities here: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach.

As recently as this week, teachers have been packing local City Council meetings, calling for raises and more school funding.

In case you’re wondering, Virginia ranks eighth in the list of teacher pay by state, with an average salary of $64,285.


What do you think about teachers going on strike?

Do you think other states are soon to follow?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #24: Thoughts on the LGBT+ Community

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Image Credit: Barnardo’s (U.K.)

Disclaimer: I have several friends who are part of the LGBT+ community. I tried to write this post as objectively as possible, and I mean no disrespect to anyone!

If you have questions for me, please make a constructive comment on this post, or use my Contact page.

Thank you!


What does the acronym LGBT+ stand for?

Source: We know what LGBT means but here’s what LGBTQQIAAP stands for

L – Lesbian

  • A woman who is attracted to other women.

G – Gay

  • A man who is attracted to other men, or broadly, people who identify as homosexual.

B – Bisexual

  • A person who is attracted to both men and women.

T – Transgender

  • A person whose gender identity is different from the sex listed on their birth certificate.
  • FTM: Female-to-male.
  • MTF: Male-to-female.

Q – Queer

  • Some want to reclaim this term, but others continue to find this offensive.
  • I personally do not use this term in my vocabulary.

Q – Questioning

  • A person who is exploring sexuality or gender identity.

I – Intersex

  • A person whose body is not definitively male or female.
  • Example: A male with a vagina, a female with a penis, etc.

A – Allies

  • A person who identifies as straight, but supports people in the LGBT+.
  • Since high school, I have considered myself to be an ally, or advocate for the community.

A – Asexual

  • A person who is not attracted to people of any gender, in a sexual way.

P – Pansexual

  • A person whose sexual attraction is not based on gender.
  • The person may also be gender fluid, or fluid with their sexual identity.

In addition, I want to list this as well:

GQ – Genderqueer (non-binary)

  • People whose gender identities are not exclusively masculine or feminine.
  • Having two or more genders – Bigender, trigender, or pangender.
  • Having no gender – Agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree, or neutrois.
  • Moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity – Genderfluid.
  • Being third gender or other-gendered – Those who do not place a name to their gender.

In a recent Facebook Messenger conversation with a friend, I expressed my commitment as an ally, which I believe they appreciated seeing / hearing.

In the same conversation, the topic turned to equality. As much as I would like for everyone to be treated fairly and equally in this world, we are still so far from it. There is still so much prejudice and stigmatization.

As an individual, I want to be as accepting and loving as I possibly can.

As a Christian, I have been taught that we should love others unconditionally.


Resources


What about you? What are your thoughts?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂