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?