Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How we gonna pay ....

Loooooong article in the StarTrib (via TWIE) on Minnesota charter schools and lease aid. The gist: A few hacks are profiting off of it.

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.

Where I'm From

An illustration of how an activity can bomb in one class and rock in another:

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

Hint Hint! Any students lurking out there? Hehehehe.

Edutopia's 2009 Guide to Holiday Gifts for Teachers | Edutopia

Thursday, November 19, 2009

School of Bloggers' return to D.C.

After six years adjusting to the climates of Bolivia, New York City and Minneapolis, the School of Bloggers will now return to where they first met: Washington, D.C.

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

Another wrinkle in the elephant buttock that is American health care

Earlier this year one of our students told me that he didn't want me to call his mom about some transgression or another. Nothing new, except in this case: "She says she's going to send me back to Mexico if I keep getting in trouble."

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.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Many thanks to Alexander Russo for sharing this video of the best rap about Alexander Hamilton ever performed. I showed it to my early American history students today and they LOVED it.

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.

Suspension of disbelief

I can't remember how it came up, but in history class today one student claimed that "Barack Obama is the antichrist." This statement prompted angry outcries from several other students. I simply responded, "Barack Obama is Christian."

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

Boys II Men

Slate on a new album and "the most exquisitely unsettling episode in the history of music" it concerns: the use of castrati starting in the 16th century.
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

Modern Warfare

Two students were telling me today about a new video game they'd played and how it "crossed a line" for them. This game, Modern Warfare 2, includes an incredibly graphic and realistic scene of terrorism. What really got to my students was the fact that the game wouldn't let them run through the scene; players are forced to walk through and watch others kill people around them. One of the kids kept saying, "There was blood everywhere."

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

Ninth Grade = Awesome

I'm starting to realize that I LOVE being an advisory teacher. In a job that makes me miserable almost all day every day, it's the part I look forward to most. I love having daily routines, I love seeing little moments of progress week by week. I love independent reading time with our awesome new classroom library. I don't even mind the part where I have to call home because Matthew has been touching girls inappropriately again.


Sunday, November 01, 2009


Allow me to indulge in a rant.

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, they invented a whole new scene involving the Burrow burning down. What are they going to do when they have to have a wedding there in movie #7?

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 Gandalf Dumbledore magically comes back to life, casting a magnificent fire spell that vanquishes the Inferi and saves Harry.

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

If only this were true ...

State Of Minnesota Too Polite To Ask For Federal Funding | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
"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.'"

"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."
Sigh. Or should I say, world-weary sigh.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Luck, part II

Some useful perspective from Jon Katz:
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.

Unkindest cut

Recently Larry Ferlazzo linked to a London Telegraph story about a study on "lucky" vs. "unlucky" people.

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

This is N.P.R. (Northern Pacific Railway)

Some incredible old photos of Duluth, Minn. at Shorpy.

Readers point out some fine details on this one, including children on top of train cars, two dudes carrying baritone horns, and what appears to be a horse standing on a roof.

Touch me baby

Yay, MEA break. Boo, waking up early.

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

Money ...

Not the sexiest topics, but I wanted to check in with some of you big-picture charter folks to see how common some of our budget woes are around the country:
  • 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.
On a related note, we informed teachers on Friday that the board had directed the school leaders to cut $60,000 from salary/benefits. Needless to say it was not a good start to the weekend.

You're Fired

From NY Times: Lawsuit over the release of documents from the NYC Board of Education about a chilling chapter of Cold War history, when nearly 400 city teachers were fired for "affiliation with the Communist party."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Board blues

It's quite an experience to be on the board of a school that's in serious danger of being shut down. (I don't have qualms about publishing this because a) I haven't identified my school, and b) it's all in the public record anyway.)

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

Let's call the whole thing off

Today a few of my juniors and seniors were going to a college fair. To prove that they had actually been there, and hadn't been off somewhere doing naughty things, I asked them to bring me back some of the freebies that the exhibitors were handing out -- more specifically, I used the word "shwag."

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


I kept meaning to send something to Mr. D, but never did - so now that I have a sec, here's a lesson I'm doing this week in my early American history class:

  • 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 (
  • 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

Thanks but no thanks, Harry Wong

Recently I've been re-reading a few pages of the Wongs' The First Days of School each day over breakfast. The book has a lot of great suggestions for classroom setup and management. But I think it's corresponded with a steadily dwindling confidence in my effectiveness as a teacher. When the Wongs say "Effective teachers do ..." one thing and "Ineffective teachers do ..." another, I generally fall in the ineffective category.

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

Why teachers have unions

Don't want to get specific, but a couple of things have happened to staff at my school recently that confirm my belief in the need for teachers' unions.

Suffice it to say that with a union, a teacher who wasn't meeting administrators' expectations would be entitled to due process.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What happens at the schoolhouse door

A great companion story to the chili pepper incident.

Today a student who has strong atheist views taped a sign to his shirt that read "GOD DOES NOT EXIST." When I asked him to have a chat with me about it, he said "It's my first amendment right to wear it, and there's a Supreme Court precedent."

I asked the Spanish teacher involved in the chili pepper incident to get in on this conversation with me. Then I asked the kid if he'd ever heard of the concept of the social contract. He hadn't, so I explained that when we decide to join a community, we give up some of our rights so that we can get the benefits of being in that community. In this case, we give up some of our free speech rights if they take away from other people's ability to learn.

The Spanish teacher jumped in, and it was amazing to hear her spouting back the exact same arguments I'd made against the mustached, sombreroed chili pepper. "Our school's policy is that if it offends one person, we don't allow it," she said, "and as a Christian, I am offended by your sign."

The student then said that our policy was unconstitutional. I said that there have been court precedents on both sides of the issue. But that if he was concerned about the policy, he should put together a case and come to a board meeting.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fired up, ready to go!

While some other gathering was taking place at the Capitol, the School of Bloggers went to Target Center for my first pep rally since I was in high school. Except this time, instead of the class president, the person up on stage was the President.


Nothing to say but ...

... wow. Still blown away by Shorpy. And by these "prep-school gymnasts from Orange, Virginia." Can you imagine how still they must have been to keep the image that sharp back in 1910?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Fight or Flight

I'm not quite getting what all the chatter is about re: this "new" way of teaching reading reported in the New York Times. This method has been around for so long, I thought it was basically standard operating procedure.

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

Memories of Teddy

Today is a day to remember Teddy Kennedy, so I thought I'd add my own moments.

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

First day of staff development before school starts, therefore my first day as "lead teacher." Can't express how woefully underqualified I feel for the job. Exhausted from leading sessions today and trying to get things in order. Trying to figure out strategies for managing stress better BEFORE school starts - if today's any example I have a long way to go.

Came home and was cheered up by this:

Friday, August 14, 2009

We can't afford to ignore it.

A district not far from my school was just ordered to award $25,000 to a student as a settlement in a case of harrassment by a teacher. She had been making repeated comments about his perceived sexual orientation.

Most disturbing part:
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.

"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."
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?

When I brought this up with my school leader yesterday, suggesting we take it seriously, she was offended at the suggestion that it could happen in our school.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is college for everyone?

One of the most commonly searched phrases that ends up sending people to this site is "college isn't for everyone." I guess it goes to one of Chris's posts about his experience in an after-school program.

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

Don't Panic

Dwight D. Eisenhower Radio and Television Address to the American People on the State of the Nation
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 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.
I'm waiting for Obama to make this speech.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Among the thugs

The word "thug" needs to be eliminated from the English language.

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.

It's not the neighborhoods

Caveat: I have not read the whole study. That said ...

"Four in five black children who started in the top three quintiles experienced downward mobility compared with just two in five white children."

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 wholeheartedly agree that our society must reduce poverty across the board, especially when it is shown to affect some people disproportionally.

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

Dollars and incentives

So I'm getting my thoughts together for this World History class I'm teaching. Last night I talked with a veteran teacher who taught AP Euro for many years, then World History for his last few before retirement. In his district, there were cash incentives for the school, then for the teachers if kids passed the exam, and since he was particularly successful, he benefited from the policy.

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

Paeon to Ben Franklin

Oh, Ben! In college we learned to revere the man, so I was excited to find this in the New York Times today.

Monday, July 27, 2009

History Shmistory

Okay, here is another question for any students or teachers of history out there:

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

Yassky forever

Just when I thought I'd never post about Yassky again,

It turns out Yassky is a Four-Square Champion!

Also, ahead of the curve on saving the bees.

Shout out to former classmate Aaron Short.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Those damn communists

Today I asked my mom what she remembers about growing up in Charlotte, N.C. during the era of integration. She remembers being only vaguely aware of it; only that one year, in seventh or eighth grade, she showed up and suddenly there were black students at her school when they'd never been there before. They kept to themselves in the cafeteria, she said.

Then I asked, "what about the pool?"
"Oh, they closed the pool."


"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."
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."

Friday, July 24, 2009

AP World History - Help!

For the past two years I've team-taught a humanities class with one of the school's founders, a veteran language arts teacher. We bill it as a college-style seminar. The first year we tackled disease in history and read Guns, Germs and Steel. Last year we examined the question "What is the American Dream?" and read books in literary circles from the Grapes of Wrath up to There Are No Children Here.

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!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peacemaker Leymah Gbowee

This woman is amazing and makes me want to teach a class about peacemakers.

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 ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Leymah Gbowee
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

Colbert: "Neutral Man's Burden"

A beautiful piece of social commentary:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Neutral Man's Burden
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sol and Walter

My grandfather, my Zeide, Sol, drove a cab in New York City for a time after immigrating to the United States as a Holocaust survivor. He had some crazy stories, but one of the best was the time a man got in his cab and it turned out to be Walter Cronkite.

Zeide passed away in May. Maybe he's up there somewhere showing Walter Cronkite around one more time.

Pursuit of happiness

When the state of Minnesota told me I had to take two U.S. history classes to get my license here, I have to say I wasn't psyched. But I'm actually getting a lot out of being in history class 14 hours a week.

Recently we've been talking about the 1950s seeing an increase in the diagnosis of depression and prescription of antidepressants and tranquilizers. We talked about gender roles and how middle-class, college-educated women were expected to get all their satisfaction from staying at home, buying consumer goods, and raising children, while men were expected to derive satisfaction from bureaucratic jobs and being fathers.

Basically society was making them depressed because they didn't fit what they were told was supposed to make them happy.

I wonder how much of that is going on today. Why are so many of us depressed? What are we told will make us happy? And if that's a lie, what will truly make us happy?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

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

Milk musings

Some have argued that charter schools "skim the cream" of student populations because students have to apply to get in, rather than simply being geographically zoned in.

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

Pig Out

In two years in Minneota I have not had a single snow day, but yesterday we all got sent home at 9:30 a.m. because of a suspected swine flu outbreak.  There was a sudden run on the nurse's office with high fevers and other H1N1 symptoms.  Half the school was already out sick, so they just decided to send everyone home.  However, when the sick kids went to the doctor and got tested, it turned out to be a regular non-swine virus.

In other pig news, Chris, the other School-of-Blogger, is in Austin, MN today interviewing workers in the pork industry about working conditions.  He's been down there before as part of a larger workers' rights project.  (Austin, I'll remind you, is where workers were contracting the weird neurological disorder after being exposed to aerosolized pig brains. There's also a great documentary about a union drive at the Austin Hormel plant.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stricter charter oversight in MN

As a charter school board member in Minnesota, I have to say, it's about time.  

According to a story in today's StarTrib,
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.
The minutes of our board meetings are public record, so I don't feel guilty about saying that I think we could use a lot more oversight, or at least training, in our financial decision-making. We don't have anything illegal going on like the charter school director who walked away with $1.4 million, but it just sort of feels like the blind leading the blind. Apparently our authorizer has barely come around to check on us except to make token yearly visits - that is until we got audited this year and the state had to get involved.

In New York this never would have happened, because the system is much more centralized.  There are only two charter authorizers in the state of New York, and their standards are very rigorous.  I've heard terrible stories about some of the many Minnesota charter authorizers.  

So apparently the state is putting pressure on authorizers: 
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

Mental Health Day, Redux

I had a comp day coming, so I decided to take it today when all the kids were busy testing.  How did I spend it?
1. Knitting
2.  Reading
3.  Going to the gym
4.  Sleeping
5.  Not grading.  

I am lucky to be at my current school in many ways.  The flexibility to call at 6:30 a.m. and tell my boss I'm not coming in is a big one. 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hope springs ... not at all


I got two pieces of news today:

One: My co-worker, next-door neighbor, carpool buddy, and best friend in Minneapolis (other than my co-School-of-Blogger) got an offer at another school.  

Two: The job I'd applied for (at a similar type of school but likely without the racial issues I've been dealing with all year) is no longer available; that school is "sticking with their current staff" next year.

The sum of One plus Two is me not looking forward to next year very much.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A better way to merit pay

I've been catching up on my reading this weekend and saw two blog posts about merit pay, via This Week in Education.  

It's timely for me because my school is in the process of applying for a grant to start using Q-Comp, Minnesota's version of merit pay.  Governor Pawlenty is a huge fan and has made a pool of funds available, at a time when the state is cutting funding left and right to try to balance the budget.  

We need to balance our budget too -- we can't be squeamish about things like principles.

But actually, we've found a way to do merit pay that sort of fits with our mission.  Only 10% of the pay increase is tied to test scores, and that applies to all teachers, not to any teacher in particular - so it gives us an incentive to work together.  The rest is tied to projects that teachers come up with at the beginning of the year.

For example, as a social studies teacher my project might be to design and run a class that utilizes oral history.  I write up the proposal.  If I'm successful in my stated goals, I get the extra pay bump.  Q-Comp even provides some funds for materials for my project (such as tape recorders, etc.). 

Teachers at our school who experienced Q-Comp in traditional districts and hated it are excited about doing it this way.  It's cooperative rather than competitive.  I'll keep you posted on whether we get the funding.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If Only.

Senior Prank Somehow Leaves High School With Increased Math Funding

MAY 21, 2009 | ISSUE 45•21

TEXARKANA, TX—A prank in which seniors at West Texarkana High arrived for first-period classes with their shirts and pants on backward has somehow resulted in a $50,000 increase in funding for the school's math program, bewildered administrators announced today. "We'd like to thank the state superintendent, I guess, and also the fine folks at Texas Instruments for all those brand-new graphing calculators," vice principal Ed Guerrero said during his morning announcements. "I'd send everyone home and make them change, but maybe we should wait and see whether our computer lab gets remodeled first." The incident comes on the heels of last year's district championship by the debate team, after which the school's football program mysteriously had its entire budget cut.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

To the student who left me a prank voicemail wishing me a "cock-tastic" day ...

... and asking when that paper is due so he can be sure to shove it up my ass for me ...

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

Okay, let me have it.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confiscated a reporter's cell phone today when it went off during his briefing.  Then, a second reporter's phone went off, and the dude had the nerve to take the call and walk out of the room!  I would have definitely given him detention.

Video below, via the Washington Post.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Problem unsolving

Each year in May my school staff takes a week in May and reflect on what has gone well, what's not working, and what changes we can make for next year. We break into task forces to address the various changes we need to make. It's a really productive and exciting time.

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

What Not to Wear

This afternoon a student told me he wanted to nominate me for the TV show "What Not to Wear." I said I was game. When I asked why, he said "All you wear is brown. And your hair, it's just, blah."

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

Precious moments #2

Me: Jeff's (the math teacher's) baby was born this morning - his name is Wesley!
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

Precious moments

Student 1: [burps loudly]
Me: Wow!
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

Budget talk in St. Paul

I've been thinking about state budget policy ever since my days working here in college, but it has taken on new meaning since I've joined a charter school board of directors! Now every 1, 2 or 3 percent has me reaching for the Pepcid.

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

Police State

Our school has been having issues lately with students using marijuana during field trips and selling prescription drugs on campus, so the administrators made a decision (bless their hearts!) to do something about it. This morning we were told that the K-9 unit would be coming in to search the school.

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

Other People's Trash

For her senior project, one of my students coordinated a day of service for Earth Day that got the whole school out picking up trash at various locations. She did a great job and the students did awesome.

Best find - This shopping list:
Velveeta Cheese
Paper Plates
Frig Soda
Fiber 1

Peppermint Oil

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Time (mis)management

Came home this weekend with an unprecedentedly huge stack of grading and somehow managed to avoid it all weekend. Ah well, that's what my morning prep is for.

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

More about financial literacy

My mom pointed me in the direction of, a site that has videos on all sorts of topics for educators. This month they are focusing on financial literacy and asking teachers to post videos on their blogs. I am glad to oblige.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Break out

Even though it's Friday, it's my last day of spring break ... Tomorrow at 8 a.m. I'm picking up 6 students and spending the weekend with them at a youth conference. Nothing like spending the last weekend of spring break with your teacher!

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

When in the course of human events ...

Aaaaahhhhhh. Spring break.

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

This is why we don't use Wikipedia

I have a student working on a project on gay rights. The other day I was looking over one of his PowerPoint slides, which had to do with Ellen DeGeneres, and saw that he had written "Ellen DeGeneres is married to Ally McBeal."

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

Barbie's long, strange history

One of my favorite methods I learned at NYU was teaching history through material culture. My school has a lot of bodily-kinesthetic learners, so it helps them to be able to hold and examine objects to learn from them. (You should have heard what they came up with last week when I had them try to guess what one of these things was used for.)

Anyway I came across this recent video from Slate and thought it would be good for a material culture lesson:

Sick day

After holding out against most of the bugs that have passed through the school this year, I finally succumbed to a particularly nasty one and let Chris talk me into staying home today.

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

Now on to Women's History Month!

When things get overwhelming at school, I just tell myself I'm collecting fodder for my book about kids and race.

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?"

"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?"
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.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Procrastinator

This School of Blogger has an exam coming up on Wednesday! With blue books and everything! And instead of studying I am procrastinating.

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.

Conversations with students part 1

One conversation with a student yesterday:
"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.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Diversity training update

First of all I keep thinking of the episode on the Office where they have to go through diversity training because of Michael's blunders. That and Stephen Colbert. Particularly when my coworkers say "I just don't SEE color!" (Skip to minute 5:00 - basically word for word what I hear.)

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

Be advised: I stalk your grocery lists

I don't know about you but I love reading other people's discarded grocery lists. One from today:

Smart Bud Light (I didn't know there was such a thing?)
Beef gravy
Turkey gravy (these people love gravy!)
Bread 7 gr.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Don't get too comfortable

From the Star-Trib: Minnesota charter schools are in for a change

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

Can you help?

In my humanities class, one of our trios is studying the 1930s and reading The Grapes of Wrath. As they make text-to-self, text-to-text and text-to-world connections, they can't help but compare the suffering of the 1930s to today. Many of my students' parents are getting laid off, losing their homes, losing their health insurance, losing their pensions. When they came across the word "apocalyptic" in reference to the economic disaster of the '30s, they really got it.

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 - 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.

Thank you!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This is too funny

From the NY Times. The whole article is worth reading. Especially if you have a high school sense of humor like me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Nation

Just finished watching the installment of the HBO John Adams series where both Washington and Adams are inaugurated. Two words: Dork Heaven. Not sure about the accuracy of the portrayal (haven't gotten to that part in the McCullough book yet), but in the series Washington is sworn in before masses of cheering patriots. Adams is sworn in before Congress, and gets his most rousing applause during his inaugural address when he praises Washington.

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.