Sunday, December 14, 2008

Not such a lame duck

NY Times video of Bush getting attacked by shoes here. Shows interesting footage of the perpetrator being "escorted" out of the room.

Here's the video with Bush's response. I gotta say - the man must still have great reflexes and reaction time to dodge both the shoes and the journalists' questions afterwards.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Going back to our racial sensitivity issue, something happened today that made me feel lucky we haven't had a fistfight already.

I noticed today that one student (a white student) had put up a sign at his workstation that said "I was abducted by aliens" and had a picture of someone being carried by people wearing sombreros. I mentioned it to another teacher who was going to ask him to take it down. Before the teacher got a chance, however, I came across another student (a Mexican-American student) who had taken down the sign, crossed out the word "aliens" and written "crackers." I took the sign away saying "neither this sign nor that word is appropriate at school."

Apparently later on in the meeting between the two students and our administrator, the white student made a convincing case that he really didn't understand what was so insensitive about the sign. The Mexican-American student said that at his old school he would have met the other kid after school and beat him up over something like that.

This is why we need some outside help - now. At least our administrators are on the same page (which is an improvement), but our students desperately need - and are asking for - education on how to live in a diverse society. I've given our school leaders many different names of people who specialize in coming into schools and teaching about diversity, but they have done nothing to move forward. What do I do now?

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Too tired to write a full post now, but I will say that I am gaining a new perspective since I've been elected a teacher representative on the board of our school. I always worked with charter school boards in my other jobs, but it's a different view from the other side of the table.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Competing values

Sometimes I get to see first hand how parents instill exactly the type of xenophobic "American" values in their children, the opposite of which we are trying to teach.

Basically, it's our competition for the kids' hearts and minds.

We are in the middle of college application season, and one college in particular calculates scholarships based on class rank. We do not usually calculate GPA or class rank, but we will do so if a student needs it. A student applying to this college had apparently been #2 as of the end of her junior year, but at the end of the first marking period this year, she dropped down to #3 - effectively disqualifying her from a large scholarship.

One of the students ahead of her is a foreign exchange student. I got a call this morning from the student's mother, very upset. She was ranting about how the exchange student shouldn't be included, my daughter has been worried and crying about this all night, and I'm sorry, but when I was in college there were all these foreigners that got a free ride, but I'm an American and I had to pay my whole way, and it's time for us Americans to get a break.

I calmly told her that I would have an administrator call her back. Glad I am not the bottom line on that one - what would I say?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Via: Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day


Popularity of names starting with JULIE

Via: My sister, when she was pregnant with her now 1-year old, Lila

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Big sigh

Two articles from the NY Times this week about New York teenagers who went out to attack a "Mexican" and ended up killing an Ecuadorian man.

It hits pretty close to home given what's been going on in my school this year. I don't think I wrote about what happened around Halloween, when one of our students came dressed up as a "Mexican," wearing a sombrero, a fake mustache, and some kind of rug, and the administration didn't have a problem with his costume. We have a few Latino kids in the school, we have first and second generation immigrants from all over the world, and we have a pretty substantial number of students who have said things like "illegal aliens should be executed at the border!"

The issue keeps coming up, and it is becoming more and more clear that it's something we need to deal with as a school. Our students come from families that have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and for a lot of them it is a very appealing narrative that "others" are to blame.

But the part that has been giving me the most ulcers is how other staff members have reacted. I've made my peace with the Spanish teacher who thinks there's nothing wrong with gross racial stereotypes - we have agreed to disagree on this point, but at least the students know we respect one another. The big problem is teachers - and ADMINISTRATORS - who have been pushing the problem onto me, because they don't want to be the bad guy.

These problems aren't going away. Just the other day a Latina kid ran out of my class crying after another student said "the Mexicans are taking our jobs!" There's only so much I can do alone, and the kids have stopped listening to me already. I think it's only a matter of time before something terrible happens like what happened in Long Island.

Thanks DreamBox!

This School of Blogger is just coming up for air after a week of getting grades in, so I finally had a chance to check the School of Blog email account, where I saw that we had been chosen as one of the top 8 education blogs by DreamBox. Thanks for the recognition and the nice write-up!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why we must vote

From ASCD Inservice: Five Reasons Educators Must Vote.

I would take this a step further and say educators should consider other forms of participation. Voting is just one way to participate; you can also write letters to, or meet with, your elected officials, get involved in local issues you care about, or even run for local office. When your students see you doing these things, they get the message that participation is important, real, necessary, cool, something they might be able to do someday.

Forget that "don't wear political buttons" bullshit. Recently a Federal judge ruled in favor of New York City when it argued that "when a teacher wears a political button in the classroom, it creates an environment of intimidation and hostility toward students who do not share that view." Of course we need to make sure we are not creating that kind of environment in our classrooms. But we have the power to do that, buttons or not. Our politics are always going to make their way into the classroom, no matter how hard we try to stay "neutral." And even with our buttons, we can say, this is my personal view. Here are the other views. Here are the resources whereby you can make your OWN decisions.

I think we MUST wear our buttons. I plan to tell my students that I made 150 phone calls for Al Franken this weekend. But I know, and they know, that I have the kind of classroom where if they tell me they knocked on doors for Michelle Bachmann all weekend, they will get a big smile and an "awesome!" out of me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Paid for by Norm Colemonster?

I should show this to my students when we start talking about campaign advertisements and how they work:

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Friday, October 17, 2008

"I Spend 3 1/2 Hours A Day Online"

My mom, a fourth grade teacher, passed along this video created by students about meeting them where they are. Really relevant for post-secondary educators, but also interesting for 9-12 teachers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Historical archives from The Onion

The Onion has opened up its archives and reprinted its October 6, 1783 issue. Here is one of the more enlightening articles:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Can't wait ...

... for my reward in heaven.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Finally getting around to posting about the PeaceJam Global Call to Action Conference that 4 of my students + myself went to on Sept. 11-13 in Los Angeles.


First of all, if you are not familiar with PeaceJam, check out their website -- it is a great organization, and an awesome thing for kids to be involved in. Nobel Peace Laureates work with youth on service learning projects, and there is an excellent curriculum for the adult educators to help the kids develop their projects.

In their written reflections after the conference, my students said the most memorable part for them was seeing how other teenagers have developed projects to meet needs in their own communities. There were kids there from all over the world doing awesome things, and getting so much love from peace activist superstars.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kicking back.

Week 1 down. Already it has been SOOOOOOO much better than last year. And already I had a conflict with another teacher, and resolved it using our schoolwide restorative justice process, which I believe in deeply, and I am so happy that I can now say to kids "It works -- I know from personal experience."

Meanwhile, I am running out the door to school again, even though it's Saturday. ACT prep class waits for no man, woman, or anxious teenager!

p.s. Though I will never volunteer to do the schedule for the whole-school orientation again, I am glad that I scheduled in a schoolwide game of kickball.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Reality check

Have been having an experience at school that makes me feel sort of isolated and crazy. Meanwhile Chris has the RNC going on in the background which is sort of amplifying the effect.

Last year we had a few students who thought it was funny to draw pictures on the whiteboards of "Mexican" people wearing sombreros and mustaches, and in one case standing behind a barbed wire fence. When I would ask the kids to erase these pictures, and later write them up for it, I got very little support from the other staff members. They would say things like, "Well, personally I don't find it offensive, but if Julie does then we shouldn't have it in our school."

On Friday, I noticed that our Spanish teacher had hung up a poster outside her classroom with a drawing of a chili pepper wearing a sombrero and a mustache, saying "Ole!" Long story short, I am basically the only teacher in the school who finds this culturally insensitive. I am getting no back up from our school leaders, one of whom actually told the Spanish teacher not to take it down so that it could be used as a teaching tool.

What do I do? Am I crazy that this is insensitive and doesn't belong in a school?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The truth about cats and dogs

We have a new exchange student from Azerbaijan, which has gotten me into this blog from a teacher in that country.

Leigh has a really interesting recent post about how dogs and cats are viewed in Azerbaijan. Very different from how we view them (almost as children), and also quite different from what I observed in Bolivia, where nearly every household has at least one dog for guarding purposes. Dogs are also rarely spayed or neutered, so they have the same hordes of stray dogs roaming around as what Leigh is talking about.

Promises to keep

Sarah Vowell has a really nice homage to Ted Kennedy and the Democrats, the party of Pell Grants, in yesterday's NY Times. I particularly enjoyed her interpretation of Obama's vision of the "promise" of the U.S.:
Picture this: a wind-powered public school classroom of 19 multiracial 8-year-olds reading above grade level and answering the questions of their engaging, inspirational teacher before going home to a cancer-free (or in remission) parent or parents who have to work only eight hours a day in a country at war solely with the people who make war on us, where maybe Exxon Mobil can settle for, oh, $8 billion in quarterly profits instead of $11 billion, and the federal government’s point man for Biblical natural disasters is someone who knows more about emergency management than how to put on a horse show.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The second year

... already I can tell is going to be so much better than the first year.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

School of Bolivia

Hello from La Paz, the world's highest capital. The School of Bloggers have been in Cochabamba, Bolivia for a couple of weeks (following two weeks in and around Guadalajara, Mexico, where Chris's sister got married), and are now in La Paz for a little bit of business and mostly pleasure.

Now on to the interesting stuff: Bolivia has been in a familiar state of discontent recently in the weeks leading up to a referendum on the country's first indigenous president, Evo Morales. In the past week or so there have been a lot of road blocks, protests, and strikes over the pension system.

In the Cochabamba department, the urban and rural teachers' unions have been on strike for about a week now. All of the strike days will be made up at the end of the school year, like snow days, but that hasn't prevented government officials from making nasty statements that sound all too familiar. A representative from the Department of Education said something the other day like, "We ask that the teachers have a little more respect for their students."

Hmm. Just like in the U.S., if teachers think about their own livelihoods, they are being selfish.

Anyway, we are having a great time, and I will post another update when I can.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Love it or fix it

I don't often click on web ads, but today I did and came across GOOD Magazine. I was particularly excited about their slogan "Love it or fix it."

I have a lot of students who have a "Love it or leave it" attitude when it comes to being critical of the U.S. I'm excited about having a catchy new blurb to use as a teaching tool this fall.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Gap

As an SAT prep instructor for several years, and now as a high school career advisor, I have always made it a point to encourage any kid who will listen to take a year off after graduating high school to do something totally random before continuing down their career path.

It seems like the editors of the New York Times are of the same mind. Every now and then they'll publish a story about students who take a "gap year" in Ghana before going on to Princeton or Yale to study nanotechnology or microfinance.

I'm being snarky, but I really do believe that taking a year off before college was the best thing I ever did for my post-secondary education and my career. My instant best friend in college (and still one of my closest friends) had taken a year off to live in France. We were both just a little more mature, and a little more ready to get on with the whole college thing.

When I bring up The Gap to parents, they typically look at me like I'm crazy. But once I explain the benefits -- that you're likely to get more out of college when you're more mature, that it gives you another year to save for college, that you can apply for college now and defer your admission -- they tend to warm up to the idea.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Testing testing

I'd be really interested in seeing the Georgia statewide middle school social studies test that was so hard, 70 to 80 percent of students failed, and the state had to throw out the results. (Via ASCD Inservice)

What was so hard about the test? I'm curious. Not just because I'm a social studies teacher, but also because I grew up in Georgia and took plenty of standardized tests there.

Meanwhile, Georgia's lucky that they can throw out social studies scores, since social studies tests are not mandated by NCLB (yet), but they have also "questioned the validity" of the math tests, which are required. What do you do about that in the NCLB era?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Should have, would have, etc.

The last day of school was on Friday, which was also D-Day. has a great series of photos from that time period that I wish I could have used for my contemporary U.S. history class. Sigh.

So I'm done with my first year. All of my seniors were able to walk at graduation, though some will be attending summer school before they can get their diplomas. My grades are entered, and I've taken the college posters down from the career office so they can paint the walls. I've sent reams of paper to the recycling bin. I even had time to sign a few yearbooks.

Now all I can do is reflect on what happened in 07-08, and what I can do differently in 08-09. I feel like as a social studies teacher, I should be scurrying around trying to plan curriculum to take advantage of this historic presidential election year.

But ... that can wait a day or two, can't it?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"Well you give HIM some trouble."

The Department of Ed is now giving my school trouble about the fact that I don't have my Minnesota license. The reason I don't have my license is that the Department of Ed wouldn't give it to me. So it goes ...

I still get emails on my NYU account about social studies job openings at all of these wonderful New York City schools, including both schools where I student taught, for which I would be perfectly licensed and certified. I don't know why I even bother opening those emails.

Meanwhile I'm working on proving that I am qualified to teach social studies in Minnesota. Luckily my school is supporting me throughout this process. But what happens if the state comes down on my school with more than just a slap on the wrist? With their budget they can't afford to keep someone on staff who legally can't teach, and they wouldn't risk having to pay fines or lose funding over it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Students being historians

My contemporary U.S. history students today conducted their oral history interviews. Two groups went to the senior apartment complex next door and came back really excited about the people they'd interviewed, one of whom was a soldier during World War II under General Patton. The Cold War group interviewed one of our school leaders, who told them about being a child in Iowa when Khrushchev made the "We will bury you" speech from an Iowa cornfield.

We'll see tomorrow how much they got out of it. This oral history project has been a huge challenge and a huge learning experience for me ... hopefully the kids have learned a thing or too as well.

UPDATE: Obviously I meant to write a thing or two. And obviously I have been hanging out with teenagers and reading their writing too, too much. They presented their interview data today -- pretty interesting! More in a post to come.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer, summer. I love the summer.

Hard to believe I'm coming up on the last week of my first year of teaching. I have a lot of mixed, confused feelings about it all. But most of all I'm ready for a good long break. The School of Bloggers are making travel arrangements for a trip to Guadalajara for Chris's sister's wedding, then on to Bolivia for the rest of the summer. We'll be there long enough to see the UrkupiƱa festival in mid-August, then get back just in time for staff development before school starts again!

Graduation's on Monday. I think I'll breathe a huge sigh of relief to see my seniors walking across that stage.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fashion police

One of my students said to me today, "Do you even think about your outfits before you put them on?" I said, "What do you mean?" And she said, "Like on Friday, you were wearing these khaki-ish pants, a green shirt, and a blue sweater. It just really didn't work."

I invited her to come to my house every day at 6 a.m. and be my personal wardrobe adviser.

Seriously though, it's amazing what kids notice.

I had another couple of students -- seniors -- in my office today talking to me about an issue they were having with another teacher. Right before they had to leave to go to class, they looked at each other conspiratorially and asked, "This may be a personal question, but are you okay? We have noticed that you've been sort of sad recently."

I was touched that they had noticed and that they'd said asked about it. It's nice to have little reminders every now and then of why I keep chugging along.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chug chug chug

Minnesota's giving me a hard time with my teaching license. It's a pain but apparently it's something of an unofficial policy: making it hard for out of state teachers to get certified in Minnesota. The line they're drawing in the sand for me is the fact that my undergraduate major was Urban Studies and not history, economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science or geography.

Oh well, just keep on chugging. This week the kids in my contemporary U.S. history class will write their interview questions for their oral history project, and hopefully we'll have two guest speakers: a student's great uncle who was a scout in World War II, and a member of the Minnesota Eight.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why did Humpty Dumpty have a great fall?

To make up for a horribly depressing spring. Last week we had our staff development week in which we started planning for next year. There was something so energizing about taking a break from thinking about all of my "failures" from this year and starting over, learning from my mistakes.

One of my many hats is as the advisor for the senior projects, which the seniors have been working on all year. The students will be presenting these this week, so I'm excited and nervous to see how they will turn out.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Not quite this bad, but close

The Onion

Economic Stimulus Check Burned For Warmth

HELENA, MT—Saying the extra bit of kindling material couldn't have come at a better time, 43-year-old school teacher Tim Donaldson received his...

Monday, May 05, 2008

The dumps, and being down in them

The other day in my reading and writing lab we went over subject/verb agreement, and then as an informal assessment of the students' understanding I asked them to write a little story in which they played around with the S/V rule by using it both correctly and incorrectly. When I was grading them this morning I saw that one student had written this:
This IS such a boring class. July [sic] IS just about the worst teacher in the school.
I don't know if it's just first-year-teacher syndrome, or if it's just me. But if today hadn't been a professional development day I probably would have gone home sick at that point and never come back.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Zombie Prom

My usual Friday Night Syndrome is being too exhausted after a week of teaching to move very far from the couch. Tonight, however, I am finishing up my job as prom coordinator. A job I will NEVER DO AGAIN.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The NY Times has a great expose today about how the Pentagon controlled TV news analysis of the Iraq war by using retired military officers with ties to government contractors:
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
I'd love to use this somehow in a critical thinking skills lesson. Any ideas?

On a similar note, I want to do a lesson tomorrow where kids learn how to think critically about textbooks -- who writes textbooks and why, what biases they might have, etc. One of the essential questions in my Contemporary U.S. history class is "is there one 'true' version of history?" And a lot of kids have been saying, "sure, the version that's in the textbook." So I want to disabuse them of that notion.

Has anyone done a lesson like this before?

A few more years of the Bush administration and we'd all be studying this ...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ladies' Night

Chris is off in Boston presenting a paper at the American Association of Geographers conference, so this weekend it's just me, myself, and an APARTMENT FULL OF LADYBUGS.

Massage circle

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ladybug exoskeleton shards on my sheets

My apartment is infested with ladybugs.

It is not the cutest infestation ever.

Apparently this is:


Yesterday I had so many occasions to be proud of my students. Wish I'd told them at the time, but I will tell them today.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Where's Chris Rock when you need him ...

I was just perusing the unsolicited emails I've gotten recently at theschoolofblog AT gmail DOT com, and one in particular stood out: an advertisement for a character ed program marketed toward homeschoolers. The spokesperson for this program is a little being named Cracker the Crab.

Something tells me that there weren't too many kids in the homeschool focus group who knew the other meaning of the crab's name.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

NY Times: "U.S. to Require States to Use a Single School Dropout Formula"

Boring as it may sound, this is actually really good news (and it's about time). As someone who's had to deal with a lot of graduation and dropout data, I know there are a lot of schools and families who are going to benefit from this.
From the article: The requirement would be one of the most far-reaching regulatory actions taken by any education secretary, experts said, because it would affect the official statistics issued by all 50 states and each of the nation’s 14,000 public high schools.
Margaret Spellings: Much Better than Rod Paige.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring break

It's finally sinking in that it is, in fact, spring break. Yeehaw.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The teacher becomes the student

I went snowboarding for the first time today! I didn't break anything personally, but we had three casualties among the students. The kids inducted me as a "real Minnesotan" now that I have participated in winter activities. (Even though I spent much of the day on my buttocks.)

Not what I looked like today

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday morning blahs

These kinds of news articles always annoy me because they perpetuate the idea that there is only one kind of "history" and one kind of "literature." That there's this "common core" (hence the organization's name) of knowledge that students must have in order to be well-educated.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My little minions

Today in Life Skills class I had my students do my taxes. I gave them copies of my W2's (with certain bits of info redacted, of course) and the 1040EZ worksheet, and had jolly ranchers ready for the first ones who did it correctly.

One student said, "Isn't this something you PAY people to do for you?" Another said "You know that feeling you get when you're going to the dentist? I'm getting that feeling now, doing your taxes."

Turns out I'm going to be getting a $440 refund.

p.s. Filling out tax forms is part of the standard for personal and family resource management ...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Heads up

Not sure how many of you this applies to, but I work in a school where the computers are on a network, and students are using the computers ALL THE TIME.

We discovered yesterday that a few of our, shall we say, more creative students have downloaded a program that will allow them to access desktops of other people on the network. They use the program to do things like turn on their iTunes at full blast right when a teacher walks by, perform inappropriate web image searches, and delete each others' files.

The real problem was when they started doing it to teachers' computers, which contain confidential student information.

So. FYI.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

When it's time to change ...

Here's some historical perspective on the buzzword of the moment:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Your military"

I feel like I will keep coming back to this question again and again: What is my moral obligation as a career advisor to expose kids to military options? What is my moral obligation as someone who opposes the war in Iraq to advise kids against joining the military?

Yesterday I had a wonderful speaker - who also happens to be a parent - come in to hold a session at lunchtime. He had been an Army National Guard recruiter for many years, but now works in the private sector, so he had no (blatant, anyway) ulterior motives behind the information he gave to the students. My student who seems like he's been brainwashed by his recruiter sat down with the speaker and got some really excellent advice.

Afterwards I was talking about it with an administrator who said, a little disapprovingly, "When are you going to bring someone in from the other side?" I hadn't thought about that, but my gut reaction was, would that be helpful to me as a career advisor? Will I lose all credibility with the students who are planning to go to the military if I bring in a peace activist? Would they just choose to ignore all my previous advice and find themselves in a more dangerous situation?

Meanwhile, what message does it send to the rest of the school if I bring in a speaker who talks to the students about "Your Army," "Your Navy," "Your Coast Guard," etc., and don't bring in, for example, a soldier who has been to Iraq and come back totally disillusioned with the system?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This video has been going around Chris's geography department. I think I'll show it to my students tomorrow.


This blog used to be ALL ABOUT education policy, and then I became a teacher and stopped having the energy to follow it. But I really need to respond to what's going on in NYC with the teacher-level test score analysis.

First of all, we knew this was the direction they were heading a while back when they started assigning individual ID numbers to each student, the kind that can be used for value-added assessment. However, in order for that to work, the students need to be taking the type of test that was designed for value-added assessment, such as the TerraNova. The New York State tests, to my knowledge at least, were not designed for value-added assessment. They weren't even really designed to show gains from one year to the next for each individual student, though that's what the city would like to do with the data.

I'm not opposed to analyzing and publicizing "value-added" data, given the appropriate measuring tool. But I think whatever experiment they're cooking up right now could not possibly provide meaningful insight into whether this is a system that can work in NYC. It's like using a teaspoon to judge a 100-meter dash.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Yesterday was one of those days. You know what I mean. The energy I was projecting combined with the energy I got back from the kids resulting in a neverending day from hell.

Now it's 6:30 a.m. and I'm not sure I have the energy to go back to school ...

Maybe I should just do what the kids do and get a couple of these ...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Zone

We're going into week 3 of reading Guns, Germs and Steel with our Global Studies class, and the kids are amazing me every day.

Today I'm grading the journals they've been keeping as they read the book. Here are some excerpts [Warning: objectionable content ahead. Keep in mind, they are teenagers, and I always tell them that while I might not agree with everything they say, I respect their right to say it]:
In my opinion it could be possible to say that a less developed civilization stayed less developed because a more developed civilization held them down. However this is an effect not a cause. What factors made the "superior" civilization? What made them able to hold others down or enslave them.

If we relate the content we just read, he is saying the New Guineans are more smart and intelligent than white Europeans. If we see today's world the writer is totally wrong. Our present world show who is more smart and who is not and it's obvious from the observation that white people are smart.

While I was reading today, the thought popped into my head about when we went to the race exhibit last year. There was a moniter that showed the spread of of the human population. Humans started in Africa, then moved to other eastern countries that have people that are not white. From this information, I think that I can answer why white people had more "cargo." I think that darker skinned people evolved first, so they may have less of a drive to create new things. Although there may be less products that they get from the land, so they can't make the products that were brought over.

The explanations that the author comes up with for how societies ended up so different are insane. The possibility that it is because of the climate is crazy to me, but highly possible. Does it have anything to do with genetics? Does asking these questions really make a difference because are we honestly ever going to know for sure?
What I'm finding as the kids are struggling through the text (and we are still just finishing up the Prologue!) is that maybe what they said in grad school was true: kids will stretch up to their "zone of proximal development." We gave the kids a book that was too hard, but did a lot of preparation, and somehow they're getting it. A lot of them are actually REALLY getting into it.

I think teaching that way is like walking on hot coals. Until you've actually seen it happen, it sounds like a myth or an impossibility. If I weren't team-teaching this class with an experienced teacher, I don't think I would have had the guts to do it. It makes so much more sense to teach to the bottom than to to the top, or at least to the middle. But kids need more of our guts than that.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Sorry, that last post was a bit irritable. I do want to do the whole New Years' Resolution thing; I'm just not feeling quite as refreshed and ready to go back to school as I thought I would be after winter break! Okay, I'm resolving to come up with some resolutions. Or revolutions. And to tide us over, here's a picture from winter break: three of my sisters engaging in one particular form of revolution:

Has this become a blog about weather?

When the day began, I was in sunny, 50 degree Atlanta, enjoying the outdoors and life in general. Moments ago I fell onto my butt while trying to mitten-shovel snow six inches deep off of my windshield so that I can get to school tomorrow morning. Did I mention it was 4 degrees?