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.