Friday, November 30, 2007

The Recruit

I've never known anyone who's gotten involved in a cult. But I'm getting that kind of vibe with one of my seniors who is planning to join the military - let's call him Pete. Pete had taken the ACT and was the only one to have also taken the SAT, and was planning to apply to college and study criminal justice, when he got a call from a recruiter. Now he's far more motivated to decrease his time running the mile than increase his chance of getting into college.

My political views aside, I actually support going into the military for some of my students. It is a great way to get job training and money for college. If that's what they want to do, I believe it is my job as the career advisor to help them do it. But something about this situation makes me nervous. Pete's gone from a kid who spends his time writing college admissions essays to one who walks around wearing Army paraphernalia and thinking about where he'd like to be based when he's not in Iraq.

The No Child Left Behind Act tied Title I funding to schools handing over students' information for military recruiting. (You can opt out, and many families do, even in my gung-ho military community.) It would be one thing if that information was going to people whose primary concern was teens' best interest, or even national security. Instead, I've learned, military recruiters get paid for filling certain quotas for certain positions, and they can use some questionable means to do so. One of my students' fathers was an Army recruiter for 30 years, and warned me not to let any student speak with a military recruiter without talking to him first.

I don't know what the recruiters say to my students, but obviously it's much cooler than what I or their parents have to say. There's nothing new about teens not wanting to listen to their parents or teachers. But still I get this cultish feeling. I'm nagged by a story of a former student who was contacted by a recruiter. The recruiter was planning to throw him a big 18th birthday party with all of his friends, but told him not to tell his parents. The idea was that they would have him sign all the papers the minute he turned 18. Long story short, a teacher found out about it and told the parents, who put the kibosh on the idea. The recruiter apparently wigged out on the kid, calling him parts of the female genitalia.

Anyway, I had a parent-teacher conference today with Pete and his dad, during which Pete said there is a "100% chance" he will go to Iraq. The parents are against it but Pete will be 18 in a few months. My concern is not to keep Pete from joining the Army, but to help him make a rational decision that will put him on a good career path and minimize his chances of injury.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Climate change made real

The school of bloggers are back from Atlanta, where we spent Thanksgiving with tons of uncles and aunts and second cousins and so forth. Being in a place with such a threatened water supply left made me acutely aware of how much water I use every hour of the day.

My Uncle Steve (the national hydrographer) and my Uncle Eddie and Aunt Paula, who used to live up there, took a trip up to Lake Lanier. The lake is a major source of water for the northern suburbs, but is said to have less than 80 days worth of water supply left. They took pictures, including this one:

It's sad that this is what it took, but I'm finally forced to think "do I REALLY need to use water right now?" each time I turn on the faucet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Charter renewal

My school's going through its charter renewal now. Very different from the charter renewal process in New York, which was a yearlong, ulcer-inducing gauntlet for the schools I worked with there.

Our sponsor (or authorizer), the local school district, hired a team of three current and former teachers and administrators to conduct the site visit. Today, Day 1 of their two-day visit, they met with school leaders, students, and parents. After school they met with the teachers (no school leaders) and asked us some general questions about the school model. Tomorrow they will be sitting in on classes.

No one seems too concerned about the charter getting renewed. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Or, as my students would probably prefer, Guns, Guns and Guns

The Global Studies class I'm team-teaching is starting to read Guns, Germs and Steel this week. I think a few kids will be okay with the reading level, but the majority will struggle. So I'm looking for some sort of teaching guide for the book -- finding nothing.

Anyone know of anything out there? Anyone ever used this book with high schoolers? Am I crazy?

One thing I did was to prepare students for some of the big themes in the book using an anticipation guide. These were the questions:
Agree/disagree: The way the world is today COULD NOT be any different than it is: history follows a set course.

Agree/disagree: It's possible that things could have worked out differently in history and our world would be a very different place.

Agree/disagree: There couldn't be a world without "winners" and "losers:" someone has to win and someone has to lose.

Agree/disagree: It's possible for the world to exist without "winners" and "losers."

Agree/disagree: A person's or group's success in life depends on genetics.

Agree/disagree: A person's or group's success in life depends on what resources they grow up with.

BTW, I know this book is problematic in many ways. But I think that it's a great entry point for advanced high schoolers into a critical understanding of history, and while the reading level is difficult, it's within their "zone of proximal development." (My, I'm going crazy with the education school lingo today!)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Thank you for reading my mind (and posting it on the internet).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happiness ...

... is taking a mental health day.