Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Our school would not be able to operate without lease aid given the type of lease we have and the current per-pupil funding for charters. Not only do we pay rent, but we also pay property taxes and all maintenance and repairs. I don't think that the state should write a blank check for schools to construct new buildings. But the article suggests that spending on lease aid is wildly out of proportion. Perhaps it's just that per-pupil funding simply doesn't cover the full cost of educating a child in a charter school.
My first year teaching I adapted a unit that my wonderful student teaching mentors developed: Using the poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon as a mentor text, students write their own poem by brainstorming, drafting, and then writing numerous consecutive drafts until it is a well-polished piece of work.
I decided to add a second mentor text option: The song "Where I'm From" by the hip-hop group Digable Planets.
By the time the song ended on my little CD player, the students were looking at me and each other like, "Who is this crazy lady and what is this strange music?" It was one of those terrifying first-year moments when the class reacts exactly the opposite of how you expected and you are at a loss of how to proceed.
I was brave enough to try the assignment again this year with a class I thought would be more receptive. The benefit of a bit of experience paid off. After we spent quite a long time reading and discussing the poem, they got to see the YouTube video of the song. They got so excited about making their own version. Today a student asked me, "What was the name of that group again?" and then wrote it down so he could remember.
Edutopia's 2009 Guide to Holiday Gifts for Teachers | Edutopia
Thursday, November 19, 2009
After school ends this summer we plan to pack it up and head back east. Chris will be conducting his dissertation research and I will be looking for teaching jobs.
I figured I would put out my feelers in case any readers know of schools that might be looking for social studies teachers for 2010-2011.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
When I did call her, what she told me was that she was no longer able to afford his ADHD medication up here. She wanted to send him there to live with family and get his medication from the doctor in Mexico.
Yesterday he came in, packed up his stuff, and said goodbye to his friends. I asked if he'd send us a postcard. He looked at me as if I had suggested he use the Pony Express.
I hope he gets better care than he's gotten here. And I hope someday we get better care here than we have now.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
The course only went up to the earliest colonies and the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705. But since today was the last day of the course, I offered the video as an example of the kind of project students could do if they are interested in pursuing the subject further.
I started out with a "Do Now:" Who is on the $10 bill? One student knew it was our buddy. We talked about why he was important enough to earn the spot. Next, since the students had mastered studying history through artifacts, I showed them a photo of the pistols used in the duel that killed Hamilton.
"Wait - he was shot?" "With his own gun?"
When we finally watched the video, the students were more attentive than I had seen them all term. They were shushing each other to hear every word.
The student scoffed. "Have you been reading the papers?" he asked.
"If you believe that," I said, "I have a bridge to sell you."
It took the kids a while to figure out what that meant. Fortunately it got the class off the scent long enough for me to reroute back to the lesson.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The tradition rose from an unholy trinity of religion, money, and art. The church forbade women to sing in services. There was a standing ban, enforced primarily in the Papal States, on teaching women to sing professionally at all. Church choirs were staffed by boys, castrati, and adult tenors and basses. Meanwhile, in secular life, the greatest castrati, their virtuosity almost superhuman and their voices uniquely beautiful, were superstars of the opera stage and concert hall. As both singers and sexual toys, they were favorites of royalty and clergy, enjoying oceans of applause and cries of "Evviva il coltellino!" ("Long live the little knife!"). The presence of castrati in church music helped attract fans to services. On the opera stage, they played virile heroes and fiery heroines, competing for fame with the female divas of the day.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My students are not sensitive -- they have grown up on Grand Theft Auto and the like. It was really interesting to hear them explain why this scene crossed the line.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
What is the deal with the new Harry Potter movie?!?!
I don't mind a few changes for the sake of brevity and plot simplification. I've even gotten over the fact that the actors don't remotely resemble how I think the characters should look and behave (particularly LeStrange and Snape). But what they did to HP and the Half Blood Prince was just WRONG.
First of all,
But the worst offense, to me, was the scene near the end inside the cavern. In the book, Dumbledore, nearly lifeless, begs Harry for water. When Harry is forced to scoop it from the lake, the Inferi become animated and start to attack. Dumbledore manages to make a fire and Harry gets them both to safety. The best line in the whole book is when Harry says to Dumbledore "Don't worry," and D replies, "I'm not worried, I'm with you."
In the MOVIE, first of all, the Inferi look like thousands of Gollums, one of which drags Frodo, I mean Harry, under the lake. Fortunately
The key difference here is that in the book, Harry realizes he no longer needs Dumbledore to protect him, just in time for Dumbledore's exit. In the movie, once again, the adults have all the power and wisdom, and the teens are just along for the ride.
One thing that bugs me about the movies is that the adults are too grown up, they have all the answers - they don't have the faults and flaws that make the characters in the book so great.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"Minnesota should just take the spending money, already," Department of Education Undersecretary Edward McPherson said. "It's not like it's a special handout—all schools were allocated extra money under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But they refuse to accept their extra federal funding on the grounds that their schools 'don't need to be fancy.'"Sigh. Or should I say, world-weary sigh.
"Frankly, they're just being stubborn and I'm not going to stand for it any longer," McPherson said. "They're gonna get some more funding by the end of the year if the federal government has to airdrop in school lunches and forcibly place new teachers in the classrooms with the help of the National Guard."
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Bedlam Farm Journal: What Positive Thinking Means to Me, cont.
I don't really know to what extent we determine our fates. I think our attitudes do have something to say about it. Recognizing our own worth. Building confidence in our ability to navigate difficult times and bad and sad things.
It's seeming relevant today, since I was informed my position is being cut to half time to fix our budget shortfall.
I'm trying to count myself lucky, since I was offered an additional 50% position as a special ed paraprofessional. It's actually a great deal - I will be able to keep my full salary and benefits. It's not clear at the moment what the position would involve, but 50% of my salary would be reimbursed by the state/district.
Meanwhile I have been scouring the job listings every day. I am trying to feel lucky that I have a job at all, because there is absolutely nothing out there for social studies teachers.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I had a weird memory of seeing a TV show at a childhood friend's house that involved non-actor parents and children. Near the end, the host said something like, "Now let's all put on our 'kid gloves,'" miming putting on a pair of gloves. The parents then started touching their kids - like patting them and caressing them. Definitely Good Touch, not Bad Touch, but I remember being a little creeped out by it even then.
Can anyone corroborate this, or did I make it up?
Saturday, October 10, 2009
- School funding hold-backs: In July the state legislature passed a budget that changed the funding formula: Previously, the state held back 10% of our per-pupil funding - now, they hold back 27%. That means that this October we will receive funds amounting to 10% of the 2008-2009 per-pupil funding from the 2008-2009 school year, but we won't receive this year's held-back funding until October 2010.
Typically a school would borrow money to fill in that gap, but since we are in Statutory Operating Debt, we are legally required to be paying off debt, not incurring new debt.
- Property taxes: I recently found out we have a "triple-net lease," which means we pay all maintenance fees as well as property taxes, which come to around $50K each year.
To help with this, we are going to try to appeal to the county tax commissioner -- some MN schools have had success doing this since as schools they are not supposed to have to pay property taxes. But they have had to keep at it for years before making any headway.
- Stimulus Funds: Our school applied for - and got - federal stimulus funds this year. However, it turned out to be a wash since the state just subtracted the stimulus amount from our state funding.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Our board had a visit today from a guy from the state who basically told us to cut $60,000 in salaries/benefits or face the possibility of closing as soon as January.
So what else can we do? The board authorized the administrative team to make those cuts however it deems best. The cuts are for THIS YEAR, not next school year.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Apparently, the word "shwag" (also?) refers to low-grade marijuana. My students were like, "uhhh ... you want us to bring you back some WHAT?"
Duh, this is what i meant.
Amusingly enough, this is not the first time the students have had to correct me about this kind of thing. How fondly I remember the time in debate class when I suggested they choose as a topic the legalization of "cah-NOB-is."
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
- We are in the middle of studying early American societies, and have just finished learning about Mississippian (mound builders) and Taíno societies
- This lesson introduces students to early Mesoamerican societies (Maya, Mixtec, Zapotec, Olmec, Aztec)
- The students will visit the website of ImageBase (http://www.famsf.org/fam/about/imagebase/index.asp)
- I have assigned several students to each Mesoamerican society (Maya, Mixtec, etc.) In the "Search" box at ImageBase, the students in the Maya group will enter "Maya," which will generate images of artifacts.
- The students will choose one artifact to analyze.
- The students will complete a worksheet that will help them analyze their artifact. The point of the analysis is for students to understand what "stuff," or material culture, can teach us about the people that used it.
- Once they finish the analysis, they will bring what they've learned and "jigsaw" it with the other students. Next steps include a more general discussion of those societies, trade networks, etc.
I've found that this type of activity is great for kids with language processing difficulties and English language learners. If I'm delivering content day after day through English-language documents, films, and discussions, it's nice to take a break and have students learn history by examining an artifact.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
What I need to do is read more things like this, remind myself that kids actually do learn in my class, and try not to hold myself to impossible standards. There has to be some middle ground between "effective teachers" and "ineffective teachers."
Plus, I'm sorry Mr. Wong, but you would never get away with a name like that in high school.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
To me it makes perfect sense: You can't teach Hamlet until students get to that reading level. Students won't get to that reading level until they have practiced enough on easier material. And why not give them books that they will actually enjoy while they practice those skills? Why stick to dusty old "classics" just because we read them when we were in school?
Today I had a conversation with a parent who was upset about my choice of book for a read-aloud. The book I chose was Flight by Sherman Alexie, one of today's most highly regarded writers, winner of numerous prizes and honors. The parent was upset because her daughter had reported that the book contained profanity. She felt that I was setting a bad example for the student by using this language, even in the context of reading it out of a book.
I explained that I had chosen the book because of its utility in teaching independent reading skills. I told her that my high school teacher had taught Cather in the Rye, which similarly used strong language to make a point. She said, "Are you saying that the only way you can connect with your students is to use bad language???"
What could I do? I'm a 28-year old teacher. It's not a battle I had the energy to fight. Most of the class loves the book, but I will make it available for them to finish on their own if they choose. I will pick a more appropriate read-aloud and learn my lesson for next time.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I was an intern at the American Federation of Teachers during the 2004 presidential campaign. The AFT was visited by all of the Democratic candidates. At some point, Ted Kennedy came by to give a pep rally about the importance of the national union's work in the campaign. He brought along his dog, who I believe is the same breed as Bo Bama? The effect was electrifying and animating.
Earlier that year there was a rally outside the Department of Labor (under Secretary Chao). My intern buddies and I were sent with our AFT paraphernalia to increase the presence on a cold, rainy day. We happened to be standing a few feet from the podium, behind the speakers. With no warning, Ted Kennedy walks out of the Department of Labor building, strides up to the podium, and delivers an eloquent speech based on nothing but a few notes on a paper napkin. (I was close enough to read them!) He said, "If you work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, you should not have to live in poverty in the United States of America!"
His vision was compelling, and his way of expressing it simple and clear. I feel lucky that I had the chance to be so inspired by him, at least for those moments.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Came home and was cheered up by this:
Friday, August 14, 2009
Despite his complaints, and a resulting investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the district recently rejected a local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) advocacy group's offer to help train staff in the district's recently revised policy on discussing sexual orientation. Until February district policy directed staff members to refrain from discussing homosexuality "as a normal, valid lifestyle" in health education classes.I could see some of my coworkers saying something just like that. We've had serious issues with students who are gay or perceived as gay at our school, and some of our staff members don't seem to think that it's a problem. The students need a lot of guidance, but what kind of message do they get when their teachers make comments about the way certain students dress? How is a student supposed to react when their teacher tells them they think gay students are receiving special treatment?
"There are so many advocacy groups out there that you could have one for every social concern there is," said Michelle Langenfeld, associate superintendent of the district, which is the state's largest with more than 40,000 students. "What we've tried to do is create policy around a neutral stance, focusing on respect, appreciation of diversity, responsibility, integrity and compassion."
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Edutopia now has a poll up on the question "Should all students go to college?" As of this minute, 63% of 176 respondents answered "No. College is just one of many paths students can take after high school, and is by no means the only road to success."
I was actually one of them. But I hope I don't send the same message to my students that the teachers in Chris's school did.
As the career coordinator, I try to put college on the agenda of every student - particularly those who'd be the first in the family to go, and who haven't really considered it. I do all I can to keep the possibility open: I have them take the PLAN test in 10th grade; I arrange college tours and bring in speakers as often as I can. I offer college and FAFSA workshops throughout the year.
I do my best to help kids make an informed decision. But I would not push college on a kid if it wasn't his or her choice. I believe kids when they tell me they don't believe college is for them. And I let them know that after they graduate, if they ever do decide to go, they can always come to me for advice and a recommendation - I will always be their career counselor.
I try to send the message that any of them could succeed in college (given the proper support), but that I believe and trust their decisions.
Does that make sense?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sometimes you feel, almost, that we can be excused for getting a little bit hysterical, because these dangers come from so many angles, and they are of such different kinds, and no matter what we do they still seem to exist. But underlying all of these dangers is one thing: the threat that We have from without, the great threat imposed upon us by aggressive communism, the atheistic doctrine that believes in statism as against our conception of the dignity of man, his equality before the law--that is the struggle of the ages. ...I'm waiting for Obama to make this speech.
I don't mean to say, and no one can say to you, that there are no dangers. Of course there are risks, if we are not vigilant. But we do not have to be hysterical. We can be vigilant. We can be Americans. We can stand up and hold up our heads and say: America is the greatest force that God has ever allowed to exist on His footstool.
Monday, August 10, 2009
A Google News search of the word shows why.
When I did it, stories about Michael Vick came up first ("thug" is usually used in connection with African Americans), then stories about teabag protests allegedly encountering (working-class) union "thugs," then more stories about black athletes.
"Four in five black children who started in the top three quintiles experienced downward mobility compared with just two in five white children."I wholeheartedly agree that our society must reduce poverty across the board, especially when it is shown to affect some people disproportionally.
The Pew Charitable Trust studied black children in the top 60% of income who lived in high poverty neighborhoods as opposed to low poverty neighborhoods in the 1980s and determined that poverty in the neighborhood increased downward mobility by 52%. Neighborhood poverty explains between 1/4th and 1/3rd of the downward mobility gap between blacks and whites.
While 59% of whites from the bottom two quintiles were upwardly mobile, only 25% of the black counterparts were. When the poverty rate of black children’s neighborhoods dropped by 10% in the 1980s, their family income was nearly $7,000 greater in 2005.The implication, of course, is that we must reduce concentrations of poverty in neighborhoods as well as schools. But "even today 30% of black children experience a level of neighborhood poverty - a rate of 30% or more - unknown among white children. - John Thompson
I disagree with the blog poster's implication of "it's the neighborhood", meaning the neighborhood is the problem in student achievement. The image he chooses to accompany the post is particularly uncalled for.
First of all the study only says that coming from a high-poverty neighborhood accounts for 1/4 to 1/3 of downward mobility in achievement. The rest is unexplained (in this blurb, anyway). What about the structural racism a child experiences from the moment he enters school?
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Today I read about a program targeting minority students in New York that rewards students for passing AP exams:
The program awarded a total of $825,000 this year. A student from Flushing High School in Queens earned $3,250 for passing four tests.It's something to ponder, and you have to wonder about the unintended incentives and disincentives created in these systems.
Unfortunately, it's purely a mind experiment for me this year. Due to our budget, my students will have to be motivated by the love of learning and/or the ambition to earn some college credit.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
For the AP World History class I'll be teaching, I'd like to have a class set of texts. Not a textbook, since my school can't afford it, but something similarly comprehensive.
I was just looking at the New Penguin History of the World, but based on the reviews it looks like it's a little too Eurocentric for my taste. But I guess this Roberts guy is considered something of a guru, so maybe I could supplement it with my own readings.
This book, The Origins of the Modern World, is a great, short text, but I'm afraid the language is too difficult. I may use it as a supplement.
I also came across The People's History of the World, which I have not read, but since I'm a big Zinn fan I'll definitely check it out.
Or maybe I should just bite the bullet and have them all get the AP prep book. Then they can read texts on smaller topics in literature circles (like King Leopold's Ghost) (strokes beard excitedly...).
Any ideas? Anyone read any of these books? Help me please!!!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Then I asked, "what about the pool?"
"Oh, they closed the pool."My dad grew up in Greensboro, N.C., and would have been 11 when the Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in happened. I asked my mom if he'd ever talked about it. She said no, but that he'd spoken of restaurants with signs that read "No blacks, No Jews."
"Yeah, I forgot about that! They closed our pool for sure. We went at the end of my sixth grade year, and shortly after that it was closed."
Friday, July 24, 2009
This year my partner, also my boss, has decided to shed that responsibility, but still wants me to offer an advanced-level seminar. I did a bit of research and decided to teach a course around the AP World History exam.
My dear readers: Have any of you ever worked with this exam? Have you taught this curriculum? Do you like it? Would you recommend it? Do you have any suggestions? I am an AP virgin and any/all advice would be so helpful!!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I had a professor in college who argued that women decide whether or not war is possible. He explained a theory, I'm not sure whose, that there are four types of women whose consent and collaboration are necessary for the prosecution of war: the faithful wife, the supportive mother, the prostitute away from home, and ____________________ (anyone know?).
Here is a case in which the faithful wife does not consent. Without her, the war effort cannot go on.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 02, 2009
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.According to David McCullough's John Adams, which I am slowly plowing through, Adams, who was a diary freak, wrote nothing on July 4 of that year. Jefferson wrote only about the temperature and a shopping trip to buy ladies' gloves. So there is reason to believe that nothing at all happened on July 4. Later in life, though, both Adams and Jefferson would swear up and down that it had all happened on the fourth. And, of course, they both died on the fourth, 1826, within hours of one another.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Our school tends to get students whom traditional schools have expelled and sent our way. So we're not starting out with the cream, if that exists.
At the same time, this year alone we "moved along" something like seven students, out of a total student body of 85, for offenses like repeated stealing, repeated bullying, and drug dealing. What are we left with: the students who don't steal, don't bully, and don't deal drugs. The cream.
You can argue that we are skimming the cream and leaving the chaff (am I mixing my metaphors?) for someone else to deal with - or worse. Of those who leave, most end up at online school (another charter) or district-run ALC's (Area Learning Centers). A few don't go back to school at all - they are dropouts.
But what are we supposed to do with someone who deals drugs, or repeatedly steals from or bullies other students after multiple disciplinary measures are tried? According to the NYC Department of Ed's discipline code, selling drugs is a Level 5 infraction (the highest it goes); bullying and persistent stealing are Level 4 infractions. We don't have a "Suspension Center" to send kids to.
I'm not defending these decisions. Just discussing.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Legislative changes affecting the special breed of public schools will increase oversight, close loopholes and clean up unclear language that had made it easier for some schools to get away with sloppy management or outright theft. Charter school sponsors will have stricter guidelines -- which could drive some away -- and the state will have more power to withhold taxpayer money or to shut down a school that breaks the law.
Some authorizers have gone "above and beyond the law" watching over the finances and operation of their charter schools, but others rarely even visit schools, said Chas Anderson, state Education Department deputy commissioner. "Without a strong authorizer, it's really hit or miss whether a charter school is going to be successful."Now, all of a sudden, our authorizer has started to pay attention.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
3. Going to the gym
5. Not grading.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Senior Prank Somehow Leaves High School With Increased Math Funding
MAY 21, 2009 | ISSUE 45•21
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I give you points for creativity. But by no means is that the most shocking prank voicemail I've gotten from a student.
Keep working at it!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
This week one of the things I brought up as "not working" was our policy on stereotypes and harassment. Those of you who follow this blog know that our teachers are, shall we say, divided on the issue as what is acceptable in a public school. The "policy" our staff has been using so far when an issue comes up is either to ignore the situation, send the kid to me (because Julie's the one who cares about these things), or totally overreact by suspending kids without proper explanation of what they had done wrong.
The task force worked on it and came back with a written policy: Anything that's clearly harassment or stereotypical will be punished. Any "gray area" will be dealt with by the individual teacher who sees it.
That means that, for example, if a kid is wearing something like this * in one teacher's class and I find it inappropriate, I may ask him or her to take it off. However, no other teacher minds, that student may wear it in every other class. This policy absolves our administrators from having to be the bad guy.
*Which, by the way, apparently one of our TEACHERS wore one year for Halloween, complete with PAINTING HIS FACE BLACK.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Earlier in the day a kid told me I should buy a pair of really skinny jeans. Usually when kids comment on my appearance I tell them they can come to my house at 6 a.m. and pick out my outfit, do my hair, etc.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Student 1: Like Wesley Snipes?
Student 2: Like Ron Wesley?
Student 3: Don't you mean Ron Weasley?
Student 4: I can't believe they named it Wesley! I am NOT calling that baby Wesley.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Student 1: What, I'm not allowed to burp?
Me: No, it's a natural bodily function.
Student 1: Yeah, like when I heard you fart in your office the other day!
Student 2: Awkward!
Me: Everybody farts.
Rest of class: [breaking into chatter]
Me: Okay! Anyone who's talking in five seconds is going to have the teacher fart on them.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Minnesota House of Representatives has just passed a bill that would hold K-12 spending flat for the next two years. Minnesota Public Radio had a great segment that sums up most of the politicking: The Democrat-controlled House and Senate are trying to balance the budget by skimping on K-12 funds; the Senate bill, which passed a few weeks ago, included a 3% cut (HUGE).
Republican Governor Pawlenty is proposing a K-12 budget increase tied to school reform measures:
"If you look at the discussion around the country around school reform and accountability, adequate funding is important, I don't mean to diminish it," Pawlenty said. "But their bill is devoid of any meaningful reforms, either in the House or Senate, that would substantially, directly impact student learning."Of course, it's questionable whether Pawlenty's reform measures - mostly merit pay - would actually "directly impact student learning."
At our school, we have budgeted for 0% increase or decrease from the state in the upcoming years. We are also considering enrolling in Q-Comp, the state's merit-pay system, which could get us an additional $20,000 next year.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The officers came in with a big, goofy german shepherd who looked like he was probably a teenager himself in dog years. He was so excited about doing his job that he didn't have time to be graceful as he bounded up and down off of students' desks, sniffing for contraband. Every now and then they would have to plant a little baggie in a kid's binder just to keep the dog's hopes up. When he found it, he would just sit.
They found a couple of questionable items at the students' desks and some weed in a student's car. Meanwhile, many of the students saw this big dog and were afraid. Not to mention the fact that their stuff was not being treated gently. When we met as a school after the police left, one student asked if they would be getting an apology for the search experience. The response: No.
Later in the day I told the student that he had a right to feel angry.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Best find - This shopping list:
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I spent way too much time prepping for my Geography of World Conflict class, but I'm really psyched about teaching colonialism this week. We're going to read some Bartolome de las Casas.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
But we're psyched - we get to meet Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and show off our service project: an attempt to start up a peer mediation program. The kids will get to meet some other committed teens and I will try desperately not to freak out about the fact that I have 2 new courses starting up on Monday that I haven't planned yet. (Geography of World Conflict and Debate)
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I'm using the time to relax and reflect. And root around for possible job openings in other schools.
As I'm doing this, I'm thinking, "What would I say to my school leaders if I actually did decide to teach at another school next year? How would I explain my decision?" And I came up with a list, sort of a Declaration of Independence, of qualities I'm looking for in a school leader that my current ones lack.
Here it is - let me know what you think:
- I'm looking for strong leaders who will make it easy, not hard for me to be successful.
- I need leaders who won't take things personally. Right now we are so afraid of anything we say or do being taken personally, and of retribution, that we can't be effective. It's no longer about the kids.
- I want a leader who makes us feel good about our work, not someone who makes us feel like shit.
- I need someone who is able to make hard decisions as a leader and doesn't expect us to just figure things out.
- I need someone who supports us in front of the students.
- I need the leader to be seen as fair. Other schools also have restorative justice models of discipline, in which consequences are not always the same in every case, but unlike at our school, students see those systems as fair.
- I want a leader who leads by example - do as I do, not as I say.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It took us a while to sort that one out. Another student was with me at the time and said, "Is Ally McBeal even gay?"
I had to say, "Ally McBeal isn't even real!"
Siiiiggghhhh... Seriously though, I've been thinking and talking to other teachers recently about high expectations. And motivation. I've had a lot of crappy, crappy work recently. My plan is to not accept it - hand it back for no credit. What I haven't totally figured out is the relationship between expectations and motivation. Obviously I haven't motivated the students to do high quality work. How do I communicate that I expect better? And if I give them no credit, what does that do to their motivation for future projects?
Actually I read she's married to Elmo
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Anyway I came across this recent video from Slate and thought it would be good for a material culture lesson:
I got to watch some Tivo, read Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe, and work on a baby blanket.
Best part about sick day on Wednesday - getting out of the staff meeting. :)
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Last Friday we had our celebration for Black History Month. As the school’s only social studies teacher, I decided to form a “Black History Month” committee. A group of students volunteered and took on the task of putting together activities for the month, which took the form of an afternoon of discussions and games.
At the staff meeting prior to the event, one of the school leaders asked, "What are you going to do when students object?" She meant white students. I said the students had planned to lead a discussion around whether Black History Month is necessary, based on articles from The Root. But I had the feeling that the teachers were trying to manufacture a controversy.
Needless to say, the controversy reared its big teenage head. Some quotes:
"Why do we always have to focus on the negative parts of history and not the positive parts?"The upside was that the whole school was talking about race for an hour and a half. The downside was that rather than learning about the often-overlooked part of African Americans in the narrative of U.S. history, we spent that time instead focusing once again on ideas we can't agree on rather than ones we can agree on.
"Black History Month just makes it seem more like black and white people are different."
"I can see why it used to be important, but racism isn't an issue anymore."
"Why can't we have a White History Month?"
Saturday, February 21, 2009
How did I get into this pickle, you may ask?
I decided to teach social studies in Minnesota. Since moving here I have discovered I'm hardly the only one who has run into this problem. While most states will grant you a teaching license if you have been certified in another state, Minnesota does not have reciprocity with any other state. In addition, they are notorious for making it difficult for out of state teachers to get certified.
So when I applied for my license here, they told me I did not have enough undergraduate social studies credits to qualify. I have to take three intro-level history courses and one middle school pedagogy course.
I was pretty pissed at first but what cannot be cured must be endured. When life gives you lemons, etc etc. So I'm taking an American Indian Studies course right now and liking it pretty well.
"I'm angry at Obama."
"Because he lied."
What do you mean?
"He said he was going to start bringing home the troops. But in a few weeks Brian* has to go back to Iraq for another year in a half."
*Brian is an ex-boyfriend who came back from his first tour with post-traumatic stress disorder. He couldn't do anything but sit in front of a TV and play video games night and day. But that didn't stop the U.S. government from sending him back to the front lines again - and again.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
So the cultural competency educator came back yesterday and had us go through actual scenarios from our school. One of the scenarios we went through was the chili pepper incident. (Second update here.) The Spanish teacher brought out the actual poster in question (with the chili pepper wearing the sombrero and mustache, saying "Ole!"). And, to my great vindication, the trainer confirmed that this is not a poster that we should have hanging up if our mission is to create an environment of respect for all cultures.
By the end of the morning, however, I still don't think that all of my coworkers agreed. Why should they, when half the staff and the students watch and love the incredibly offensive comedy of Jeff Dunham, which includes this exact same stereotype? If it's okay for a comedian to perform it and Comedy Central to air it, why wouldn't it be okay for staff and students to hang similar pictures in their work spaces?
The cultural competency educator was good, but she wasn't going to change people's deeply held beliefs about what "should" and "shouldn't" be offensive. That's frustrating to me because it means some people think it's okay to do things that could be hurtful to kids. And that means we're right back where we started before we spent $1000 on the training.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Smart Bud Light (I didn't know there was such a thing?)
Turkey gravy (these people love gravy!)
Bread 7 gr.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
This is change I can believe in.
I can definitely see the difference from working with charters in NYC and working with charters here - going from a state with only a handful of charter authorizers to one with dozens, and little oversight of the overseers. Our school barely gets any oversight at all - which is why we're in the fix we are in right now. The article mentioned "shoddy fiscal management and conflicts of interest in school governance" ... I wondered if they were talking about us!
Some good changes:
- In Minnesota, changing the rules about sponsors is a key point. A 2008 legislative auditor's report said the state should increase the authority of charter school sponsors and require the state to approve them.
- Two state proposals deal with religion, Anderson said. One would bar a house of worship from sponsoring a charter school (none does now). Another would require charter schools to follow a state law that currently applies to district schools, which allows students to attend limited religious instruction but only if it's off campus.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
It's in this context that I'm teaching my Life Skills class. Yesterday I had a speaker, a financial planner, who talked to the kids about the cost of life after high school - buying a house, a car, etc. He told me beforehand that he expected that everyone would know at least one millionaire - but only one kid in the class did. I think he was a little taken aback by some of their questions. One student asked about the financial burden of having a child. The speaker said, "That's something you really need to think long and hard about before deciding to do," not knowing that this student's girlfriend had recently given birth to a daughter. Another student asked, "If my parents have tons of debt and they die, will it all get transferred to me?"
It's scary out there - especially for my kids. That's why I hope you can take a look at my proposal on DonorsChoose.org - I am asking for a camcorder to help us practice some financial literacy skills. Even if you can't spare $10 or $25 right now, it would be great if you could pass it along to friends or family members who care about schools or financial literacy.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
I read in a New Yorker article that Adams' inaugural address was both "indefinite" (a large percentage of the words in the address were "if") and "cumbrous" (the third to last sentence was over 700 words long).
Meanwhile, if that's not enough inaugural trivia for you, check out these "Quick 10 Facts" about Presidential inaugurations from Mental Floss. My favorite: Andrew Johnson was so drunk he couldn't speak clearly during his inauguration.