Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seattle Sonics

If you are not a sports fan, I still think you should keep reading. In 1995, I attended college in Kirkland, Washington--just across the 520 bridge from Seattle. In that basketball season, the Sonics made a run at the NBA Championship.
Now, tragedy is about to happen, and very few outside of Seattle know it or care. Not me. I love my New England teams--the Sox and the Celts. I regularly bashed Seattle fans for not caring like we do in New England.
But, this Bill Simmons story, might have swayed my opinion. It is a collection of e-mails sent to him by Sonics fans full of vitriol over the potential loss of their team to Oklahoma City.
I got a little teary eyed. And I especially like the Youtube clips of Shawn Kemp dunking--underated dunker in my book.
If you want to take a dive into passion, skim the article.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Adults Ruin Everything (A Running Series)

A Kindergartener has been suspended from school for sporting a mowhawk. Linda Geyer, the principal, had warned the family that the hairstyle was not acceptable. And so, because he sported it again, she laid the administrative smack down on the young delinquent. Geyer went so far as to call the hairstyle a distraction which disrupted the school day--also grounds for removal.
Ms. Geyer, I wonder if the mowhawk is any more of a distraction than the reporters stopping by or calling your school?

Listen, adults, stop being stupid. Just stop. Step back; take a deep breath and look at the big picture.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Work Time

The ScienceGoddess always has insightful thoughts in her postings at What It's Like on the Inside. Her recent post, Rubber and Road, has me thinking about the way that we teachers utilize the time given to us.
When I taught in the same state as the SG, Washington, the district I worked for had a monthly teacher work day. Some of these days were self-directed, meaning that the individual teacher could mange his time in whatever fashing he felt benefited his teaching. Did we always focus on planning, grading, or collaborating? No. But I did feel that the days had value.
Some of the monthly teacher work days were District directed, meaning we attended some sort of professional development or District informational session. Rarely did I find this time valuable. I hate when these presentations try to turn us into a high school classroom, full of modelling teacher behaviors. I hate it mostly because we can't act like actual high school students!
Here in Connecticut, we have a half-day every other week. There are no teacher work days, and the time allotted on these half-days are filled with professional development sessions. They are pointless. I haven't learned anything new, and I haven't collaborated in the right ways with my peers.
And that is at the heart of my problem with "in-service" days. If our adminstrators made them useful, I wouldn't have a problem attending. If we really knew how to work together for the good of our students, these days could have value. But, too many teachers are entrenched in the antiquated methods of the past. Too many teachers don't know how to work well with others.

To be honest, if we were treated more like professionals, I would be happy. But, more teachers need to treat teaching as a profession as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Student Code of Ethics

We teachers have a written Code of Ethics that the public expects us to follow. When we don't, we lose our privilege of teaching students. I think that students should have a Code of Ethics that the public expects them to follow. It seems that if they are benefiting from the public's money, the public should expect them to steward that gift well. If a student didn't follow the Code of Ethics, he or she should forfeit their privilege of learning.


The Code of Learner Responsibility lists principles which the public expects its beneficiaries to honor and follow. These standards reflect the belief that gaining a fundamental education is the responsibility of American youth. Therefore, the students are expected to carefully utilize the priveleges that society has set forth for them.

a.) Responsibility to the Teacher:

1.) The privileged student, in demonstration of his or her obligation to Society, will:

A. Respect the teacher as sharing common humanity through honoring his or her teacher, and therefore, interact responsibly, politely, and kindly with the teacher.

B. Ask questions of his or her teacher that will enable him or her to pursue a necessary understanding of the subject matter.

C. Communicate to the teacher his or her talents, thereby providing the teacher with an understanding of how to nurture him or her towards achievement.

D. Participate appropriately and actively in the classroom experience with the express purpose of applying his or her understanding.

E. Strive to accomplish the objectives and purposes of the coursework.

F. Remain proactive in dealing with any possible conflicts or sources of confusion.

G. Maintain the honor of the teacher by refraining from gossip, abusive language, unwarranted criticism, or untruths about the teacher.

b.) Responsibility to the Educational Community:

1.) The privileged student, in demonstration of his or her responsibility to Society, will:

A. Refrain from damaging property.

B. Recognize that his or her actions, both positive and negative, reflects on the Education Community that he or she is priveleged to participate in.

C. Value the learning opportunity placed before him or her.

D. Strive to achieve at the highest level.

E. Assume responsibility for his or her development as a student.

F. Encourage other students and teachers towards higher achievement academically and socially.

c.) Responsibility to the Local Community:

1.) The priveleged student, in demonstration of his or her responsibility to Society, will:

A. Recognize that he or she is an integral part of the community that he or she lives in, and therefore, particpate actively within that community.

B. Return the goodwill bestowed upon him or her.

C. Search out opportunities to volunteer both with the older and younger generations than himself or herself.

Editorial Writing

Okay, I continue to not see the point in teaching my Seniors how to anaylze and write about literature. Instead, I want to teach my students about editorial writing. I have never taught a unit on editorials and therefore need help. If you have any good unit plans or links to good unit plans, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A total eclipse of the heart...or moon.

With apologies to the Science Goddess, I'll admit that the sciences were not my strongest academic adventures. But, this world and universe that we live in fascinates me, because whether you believe in the Creation story or the equally ludicrous Big Bang story, our universe is beautiful.

So tonight, I took my mediocre camera on to my deck and braved the mid twenty temperature to capture some pictures of the lunar eclipse. I think some of the photographs came out well for an amateur photographer with mediocre equipment. As you can see, as the light faded, my ability to capture the scene faded with it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Evolving into Chaos

Just under a year ago, I wrote a post titled "F--- School." While reading Dennis Fermoyle's recent post, I bounced over to an article that one of the commentors mentions titled, "Legalized Child Abuse," which likens "government schools" to prison cells.
Because I am struggling to convince my poor performing Seniors that skills like writing and reading are important, the question I raised my post a year ago, "what exactly does meet their needs?" must be raised again.
Though my reaction to "Legalized Child Abuse" falls into the category of general indifference, I do wonder about what exactly we need to do for these children we teach. But that is a different post. Today, I want to focus on a few points raised by the author, Butler Shaffer.

"Students come to accept that others will select what is of interest to learn, when and how they will learn, and will judge the value of what they learn. "

Discussion Question: If students are put into privately run schools, as Mr. Shaffer seems to encourage throughout the article, are these students then left to determine their own interests in learning? If so, does society allow students to focus their interests on nose-picking well into their teens in the hope that they find interest in writing to communicate?

"I then noticed that they had been unable to retrieve the ball themselves because the gate on this fence had been padlocked. These boys didn’t appear to be criminal types at all, and yet the school was treating them as such, locking them up in what is little more than a state penitentiary for children."

Discussion Question: Should elementary aged students be allowed to run freely on a playground that is encircled by a road? Do you believe that giving students the freedom to wander into a road, which may be one of their interests, is an effective method of teaching our students the basic American belief of "the pursuit of happiness?"

"Do you see the vicious nature of the game being played, by the state, against those least able to resist, i.e., small children? Is it any wonder that children who were bullied into subservience by a system premised upon one rule – obedience to state authority – might years later find it justifiable to join the Army in order to bully the residents of another nation into submission to the authority of their state?"

Discussion Question: Because our "government" run schools are clearly indoctrinating young minds to join the military, as is evidenced by the enormous percentage of students joining the military these days, what should privately run schools be indoctrinating their students with? A few points to ponder: socialism, terrorism, anarchy, institutional greed, religious intolerance.

"The mother wore a T-shirt upon which were emblazoned, in about six inch high letters, the words "Up Yours!" I have no way of knowing, with certainty, where she or her children had been educated, but if I had to bet my life on it, I would venture that they were all products of the government school system!"

Discussion Question: Which of the logical fallacies does this statement best exemplify?

My final thoughts:

At the time of this article, Mr. Shaffer taught law at Southwestern University School of Law. I wonder if he views his students, many who surely are products of "government" indoctrination, with the same disdain he presents here.

But mostly, I wonder if Mr. Shaffer views himself as one who indoctrinates. It is one thing to think critically about an issue; his final statement, presented above, does nothing of the sort. Therefore, because he doesn't demonstrate any real critical thinking at the end, something he would have learned had he taken my English class, I find it hard to give him much credibility.

And that folks is why so many public teachers are defensive. So many ill-informed individuals have much to say about what we do. If you want to write about education, do some real research.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama on Education

The following public education ideas are taken from :

Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America's Teachers

Recruit Teachers: Obama will create new Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in a high-need field or location.

Prepare Teachers: Obama will require all schools of education to be accredited. He will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.

Retain Teachers: To support our teachers, Obama's plan will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. He will also provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices.

Reward Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

When Adults Ruin Everything (A running series)

Outside of Seattle's liberal city limits in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, a political correctness battle is heating up. The Seattle Times has an article that does little to really get to the heart of the matter.
The Setup
Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations often include a speaker who is supposed to celebrate the life of Dr. King, reflect on the painful past of our country, and in my opinion, point us towards the dream that Dr. King envisioned.
Mount Si High School invited the Rev. Ken Hutcherson (read this article if you want to know what the Seattle Times thinks of him.) He is an outspoken pastor who has been villainized by many for his anti-homosexual comments. The tolerant people of society do not tolerate his desire to share with people his religious views.

The Problem Begins
According to the article, English teacher George Potratz "booed Hutcherson," and another English teacher, after the speech, "stood up and asked Hutcherson whether he believed in equal rights for gays and lesbians."
The article makes states that at no point in the assembly did the Rev. Hutcherson discuss or mention his personal beliefs on gays and lesbians.

The Problem Grows
The Rev. Hutcherson did not feel welcomed at Mount Si High School and the district apologized to him for the treatment he received.

The Problem Divides
The more tolerant and civilized people in the argument believe that the district should not show tolerance towards the Rev. Hutcherson by inviting him to speak about Dr. King's legacy knowing that he owns intolerant beliefs about gays and lesbians.
The less tolerant and uncivilized people (the article leads us to believe that these insensitive people are Christians) in the argument believe that the problem is that two teachers voiced their political and personal beliefs in the public school setting.

The Daily Grind's Commentary
First, I must admit that I attended Northwest University. My religious views, though personal, shape the way that I approach the world in which I live, move, and have my being.
The Daily Grind believes that tolerance is important and essential to the society that Dr. King, Ghandi, or even Jesus envisioned. If the Rev. Hutcherson, who is known to have a certain measure of charisma as a public speaker, can deliver a powerful and moving speech on the life of Dr. King, his religious views should not prevent him from speaking on such an important matter. I can't imagine that a homosexual in need of medical attention to save his life would refuse help from a paramedic known for her religious views against homosexuality. The Daily Grind believes that in the matter of celebrating Dr. King's life, we should view it as necessary to the health of our nation.
And yet, the Daily Grind believes that the Rev. Hutcherson, if he is truly known for his anti-homosexual stance, ought to focus his attentions more on carrying out the two greatest commandments that Jesus taught--Love God and Love Neighbor. If the Rev. Hutcherson wants to follow Jesus (the true meaning of Christian), then he should be known for his compassion and not his condemnation.
But the issue at hand still remains complicated. Should the teachers have been corrected for their actions? Yes. I think that we teachers have a responsibility to demonstrate that same tolerance so many of us preach at our students. It seems that when we stand in front of our class and reprimand a student for calling the test "gay," we shouldn't then stand and boo a person for his religious views. That defies tolerance.
Can we engage our students in thought provoking discussion? Should we? Without question. But booing is not discussion and challenging an invited speaker's beliefs at a school wide assembly is neither the time nor the appropriate place. The Daily Grind believes the teachers were in the wrong.
This issue, and issues like it, continue to demonstrate that adults have a way of ruining everything. We preach life skills that we ourselves do not employ; but then we tense in disgust when our students don't practice what we preach.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


What pissed me off most about his comment was that he was right. For an entire period, this student talked even though he was two chapter behind on his reading. As usual, he packed up early to stand by the door. Standing by the door typically doesn't irritate me, but when he opened the door and stood outside, I became annoyed.
"Jimmy, come inside please," I asked and then closed the door behind him. As I walk back towards my desk, he opened the door and stepped outside again.
"Jimmy, come here please, " I request.
"I didn't go outside," he quickly claims. This of course gets me off track momentarily while I explain the physical impossibility of being both outside and inside the room.
"Jimmy, you talked all period and then disrespected me. Explain to my why you don't deserve a referral," I prompt.
"It doesn't matter mister. Go ahead, give me a referral. I'll serve it. I'll come back to class. Those things don't matter, so I don't know why you teachers threaten us with them," he states.

And he's right. The bell rings, and I tell him to "have a nice day, Jimmy."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Creating a Riot?

FoxNews has as tory of three thirteen year old girls who were "cited for 'hurling missles.'" Those missles were french fries. Normally, I would put this in the category of adults ruining everything. A citation from the police for trying to start a food fight seems too harsh for the infraction. The article reports that the student body was warned the day before, but these girls still tested the rule.
Today though, I reacted with very little empathy for the students. At some point in our nation's educational philosophy, we stopped holding students accountable for their actions. I can have a student walk out of my class and recieve a warning from the administrators. Too often administrators, fearing reprecussions from parents, soften punishments for students. The theorists tell us that these kids are fragile, that punishments only hurt the child.
After what I have experienced already this year, I am fed up with students acting like morons and getting away with it based on their age. When I was thirteen, I never once threw food in the cafeteria, walked out of class, swore at a teacher, or took part in any other insanely stupid actions. Did I talk back? Sure. I recieved a detention for it. When I whined to my dad, he told me to knock it off and then grounded me.