Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Do You Hope Your Child Learns in Kindergarten?

That question took me by surprise.  I found it on a page in my son’s kindergarten registration packet.  It was part of a set of questions to provide personal information about the student that might be of interest to his future teacher.

At first, thoughts of letters, numbers, colors, and such came to mind.  But what did I really want.  I thought about reading.  I would be pleased if he came out of kindergarten reading, but I don’t think it would alarm me if he didn’t learn that skill for another year.  He can already count and do simple addition, I would appreciate some additional number skills.  He’s working on manual dexterity, so a little writing would help.

I couldn’t find a way to really express in a short space what I hoped that he learns in kindergarten.  In some ways, I want to be surprised. 

Maybe he can learn something that I haven’t yet thought of.  I hope that his teacher is able to provide the flexibility to allow my son exposure to some things that he wouldn’t otherwise get at home.  I bet she (or he) brings a unique background and experience into the classroom along with every other student there.  I hope that teacher finds ways to share those experiences with my son.  I hope that teacher finds ways to allow each of them to share these unique experiences with each other.

My son has quite an imagination and at this stage of life, quite an infatuation with superheroes.  I hope that his teacher can appreciate his enthusiasm and find ways to let him express his imagination. 

I hope that my son learns about conflict and compromise in kindergarten.  I want him to have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.  I want him to experience frustration and learn the satisfaction of working through it effectively.  I want my son to learn what it means to remain an individual in the presence of a community without sacrificing the essence of either.

I hope that my son learns that sometimes you must do what you’re told.  I hope that he learns the difference between being made to do something you don’t like and being made to do something wrong.  I want him to learn how to appropriately express his opinion about both.  I want him to learn when to stand out from the crowd and when to fit in.

Resiliency is important.  I hope that his teacher allows him and his friends to work out their differences and sees an occasional disagreement as a good thing.  I hope that he doesn’t get bullied, but I want a teacher that knows how let him get pushed just enough that he learns to stand up for himself.

I want him to learn independence.  At home we do 1:1, and that means adults to children, not computers to learners.  At school I expect something closer to 1:15, maybe 1:20.  I hope that he learns to keep up with his stuff and maybe even look out for his buddy from time to time.  I want him to learn that in this world things happen because people make them happen, not that we sit back and wait for others to do.

I want him to continue to learn how to be himself.  I hope that he gets an opportunity to reflect and work alone.  I hope that he gets a chance to work toward a goal with one or two others.  I hope that he gets a chance to work with his class to complete a project or task.

I hope that he learns about culture.  I don’t care which ones as much as I hope that it is something taught with passion and authenticity.

I hope that he learns about history.  I don’t care which facts as much as I hope that he understands a sense of the past and how it affects the present and future.

I hope that he learns about science.  I don’t care which specialty as much as I hope he learns to question with curiosity the natural world he lives in and ways to understand it through observation, inquiry, and investigation.

I hope he is exposed to the arts, that he is given the chance to appreciate the expression of others that aren’t found in his day-to-day life.

When I sit down with his teacher in November to discuss his progress I hope that she (or he) doesn’t consume my fifteen minutes with numbers and charts.  I really don’t want to see sets of benchmarks and my child’s achievement.  I expect his teacher will be a professional.  I hope they will tell me “your son is doing well” if he is and if not I hope they will tell me what we need to emphasize at home. 

I hope that his teacher shows me evidence of expression, of competence, of compassion, and curiosity.  I want to see his creations, his positive influence on the climate of the classroom, what his teacher has learned from three months of interacting with a new set of students.

Above all else, when I send my child into this school, when I give up my control over his safety, security, and nuture for seven hours a day, when I entrust that which I love above all else in this world, this is what I hope he learns:

You are loved and cared for and appreciated for who you are and who you may become. 

I’m not sure if there is a standard or test for that one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A TU Effort at Transparency

TU regulars may have noticed a slight decrease in our productivity.  We pride ourselves on our ability to churn out quality thought provoking material or more often posts that are slightly below mediocre. But this has been a tough stretch with a noticeable decrease in the volume of posts we are writing.    It is not writers block, it is something else. First off the Hunger Games came out, the premier of Mad Men, there's the whole Supreme Court review of "Obamacare" thing and of course we mustn't forget the NCAA tournament.  In the words of the Bandit(from Smokey and the Bandit) "I can't lie to you Sheriff, you're too good man."  Truth is we are just really busy teaching. 

We're not quite a s popular as these folks, but we do eat.
Sitting around the lunch table as we do, the simple fact is that we are a suspicious bunch.  The modern world of education has conditioned us to the readily understood reality that there is more to most things than meets the eye.  Most “reforms”  have some underlying motivation or are far more complex than they appear on the surface.   The devil is in the details.  What on paper and in public is represented as a great idea is seldom as advertised.  Hard to argue against the intended effects of No Child Left Behind.  Hard that is until you stop and ask a seasoned teacher.  One who is willing to share an honest and open opinion based on years of feet on the ground experience. This often occurs when they are at ease, like during lunch.  Many things in education lack the necessary transparency to avoid missteps and problems.  SOL tests and their development, state and local education budgets, Value added, common core standards, tenure reform,  are among those that could use a little fresh air.  Such is also the case for the basement where we work.    If we are one thing in the basement at lunch I think we could be described as open and honest.  Brutally so.  So today’s post is an effort to shed some light on what happens when we discuss happenings between bites at lunch.

Teacher #1 only eats only "juice"
As background, you must know that whenever teachers hear about new plans or mandates there is an immediate rush to explain things.  As experienced teachers we are now programmed to execute a well-established analysis of the unforeseen consequences for most new ideas. It is hard to explain since we by our very nature are not completely cynical.  Our lunch crew is no different.  Most teachers' work or lunch rooms have negativity in excess.  Not us.  In an effort to offer the outside world transparency here is how it might play out.    For the purposes of illustration I will abridge and refine the dialogue.   This not an effort to avoid transparency,  just protect the innocent…or at least those that eat lunch with us.    It also will help you to follow the sometimes odd and rapidly shifting conversation.

Teacher #1-"Hey you guys read about the vote about such and such?”

Teacher #2 -"Yeah, dude. That’s an effort to improve scores.”

Teacher #3 -“No.  No its not.  It’s cause you are a horrible teacher..”

Teacher #4 -“No it is actually because the politicians have an agenda and this will provide evidence that they are doing something to reduce costs and further weaken the organized teacher .  That legislation stems from

Teacher #1 “So what does this mean locally?”

Teacher #2 “I can tell you what it means to my students.  More testing.”

He's in everything.
Teacher #3 “Michael Ironside”

I mean they look
Teacher #4 “I read this book and the basic premise was that privatization is the natural progression of those seeking to remove inefficiencies caused by overburdening legislation and growing complexity caused by the demands to step away from standardization and uniformity.”

Teacher #1 But aren’t they passing more legislation?”

Teacher #4 “Yes”

Teacher #3 “Nope. It was Michael Dudikoff.  He is skinnier than Ironside”

Teacher #4 “Wasn’t he in…?  Anyway that’s the beauty and idiocy of the situation.  Governments strapped for cash that is needed, but taxpayers are unwilling to pay and are forced to seek alternative and potentially more efficient and flexible methods and approaches as part of global and social change.” 

Teacher #1 “But won’t the end result likely be a reduction in quality caused by a greater demand placed on students and teachers?”

Teacher #4 “Yes”

Teacher #2 “So you are sure about this?”

Teacher #4 “I read this other book and it said …”

Teacher #2 “No, not that, you’re sure it was Michael Dudikoff?”

Teacher #3 “Oh yeah no doubt.  He was in total recall.”

Teacher #1 “Nope it was Ironsides”

Teacher #3 “Yep you’re right”

Teacher #1 “Man, This stuff just makes no sense.  It boils my blood.”

Teacher #3 "Michael Ironsides boils your blood?  Why?  He’s a great actor.”

Teacher #1 “You know what I mean.  It is just demoralizing.”

Teacher #2 “Sure it is.  What are you gonna do quit.”

Teacher #4 “Yeah you should quit.  Seriously, you're are not that good.”

Teacher #3 “Don’t quit.  Just stop coming. That’d be epic.”

Teacher #5 "I made this podium"

(awkward period of silence)

Teacher #2 “I’d like to think someone would notice if I didn’t show up.  Wouldn’t they?”

Teacher #3 “Michael Ironsides would notice.”

Teacher #4 “Point is we just need to try and convey to the public and decision makers that some of the reform ideas we encounter have little to do with us, but greatly affect us.  It makes teachers less able to perform well as educators”

Teacher #1 “I gotta go set up for my discussion seminar next period”

(student delivers a pass)

Teacher #3 “I taught him last year.”

Teacher #2 “Great kid”

Teacher #4 “I have him now and had all four of his siblings”

Teacher #1 “He is smart.  Works hard too.  Makes teaching worthwhile”

Teacher #2 “So you’re not quitting?”
( 27 Minute lunch ends as Teacher #1 exits)

Teacher #3 “I had dibs on his desk chair”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bottom 10 Things about Virginia SOLs.

As we enter the "silly" season, AKA SOL season, we thought a list of this variety might be interesting. 
So below is TU's list.  Please feel free to add.

  1. How they intrude upon the schedule.  For at least 2-3 weeks a year, schools basically shut down.
  2. The money that is poured to testing.  They exist and the testing machine must be fed.
  3. The amount of time spent prepping specifically for tests, that could be used to teach/learn.
  4. They (the tests) now define us, as in schools.
  5. End of Course Tests start in March?  How does that make sense?
  6. Their secrecy.   How much time gets wasted because of “test security.”
  7. S.O.L.  The acronym is appropriate for obvious reasons.
  8. Kindergarten through 8th graders are only “expected to take the test”- that should read "can if they want to" and extend that approach to High School.
  9. 2% of schools met the standard in 2001, that number was up to 92% in 2005-2006
  10. The tests were developed in secret, and are still pretty much handled that way.  To avoid “teaching to the test”                                                                                                                                                            
(10 Just wasn't enough) 
     11.  The impact on students is so profound.  They are changed by these tests and not in a good way
     12.  Not being able to use the gym or media center for 2+ weeks kinda sucks.  
     13.  Pearson-controls the curriculum materials, create the test, grade the test, any questions? At least they don't write the standards (maybe).

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    A Communication Failure or Success-- You Decide

    "I think I just had a conference with a parent and I don't even teach their kid!"

    I replied, "How did you let that happen?"

    "When she came in I couldn't really understand her so I just faked it for a few minutes thinking I'd figure out who she was.  By the time I realized that I didn't really teach her son it was too late to say anything."

    Interesting I thought.  "So what did you tell her?"

    "I just told her that her son was doing fine."

    "Is he?"

    "I don't know, but I've got to call Kevin to make sure."

    This actually happened to a co-worker years ago.  I kind of felt sorry for him, because I can kind of see how you could get yourself into that situation.  He shared a classroom with the student's real teacher, so the parent showed up to the wrong place for a conference.  There was a language barrier involved, so the teacher tried to be polite.  By the time he figured out what was going on he was already in too deep to back out.  So, he tried to ask questions and said some general things to let the parent know the student was doing well in his class.

    Luckily, he called the student's real teacher that night.  The real teacher told him that the student was a good kid in class and was earning an "A" so far.

    All's well that ends well...
    ...I guess.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    A Fact that Speaks for Itself

    LSAT  (test for law school applicants)- Three-hour and twenty-five minute test

    MCAT (test for med school applicants)- Five and one-half hour test

    For the 2012 Virginia Math SOL Tests (9-12 grade high school student test to earn verified credit for math) schools are increasing their testing block to accommodate the 4-6 hours that many students need to complete it.

    Seriously-  if you are a decision-maker in Virginia and you honestly think it's ok for fourteen year-olds to take four hour long math tests you should go ahead and turn in your decision-making credentials now.
    This sample is one item, but in fact requires students to work five equations.  It is also possible to get the answer partially correct; but the student would not get partial credit.  This link connects to the Virginia DOE website's .pdf guide to the Algebra II SOL test practice items.

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Khaaaaaaaaan! Academy

    Shatner is clearly not a fan.

    The future of education involves technology.  No one disputes this.  Less certain is how that technology will and should be utilized.  If you are savvy enough to locate this post then you have most likely heard of Khan Academy.  If you haven't then you need to watch the 60 Minutes segment linked below.  Everybody who's anybody in education including Bill Gates and everyone in the media seem to be falling in love with the potential of what Khan academy might mean for the future of our schools.  I'm in love too.  I love the simplicity and usefulness of Khan's videos.  But as a Star Trek fan and teacher, I am wary since Khan was formerly managing hedge funds and also has ties to Bill Gates. I, like Captain Kirk, approach the unknown carefully.  I wish I could say it is because I am smart.  It's not. 

    Khan's emergence is nothing short of amazing and it illustrates how the internet has redefined our world and access to knowledge.  When I watch some of his videos I get sort of hypnotized.  They are great.  His intellect shines through; even just hearing his voice and seeing his illustrations you realize how capable his mind actually is.  But they are videos.   A lot of folks seem to forget this. To describe them as better than lecture is like saying DVDs are better than VHS.   It is a logic that is hard to argue with I suppose.

    The brilliant Sal Khan seems to best understand how to use this as a resource.  He stresses the non-profit approach and that to me is a profound fact.  The technology use is meant to free the teacher up to help kids.   These videos have tremendous potential to achieve quick concise conveyance of knowledge and empower teachers to do more.

    Yet as the phrase "flipping the classroom" shows, there are potential issues with implementation.  Please forgive me and other teachers for pausing and thinking but we do so with cause.   Maybe we are wary of how powerful people are drooling over this approach to learning.  Resources such as Khan's are perceived by decision makers as more than they can possibly be.  Another latest greatest thing.   You hear the phrase "the future"...that alone makes me cringe a little.  What will be the implications of all this?  I couldn't pretend to know(actually I could but won't). 

    Some issues that arise:
    Should all students everywhere access the same uniform version of the same set of information?  Is that a good thing?  (I get annoyed I can't ask questions or get simple clarification.)   There are few if any teachers working to develop this stuff...from what I can tell.  Some cite the "gamification" of math skills as they work to earn "badges."  It'd be better to tie that into the reliance on standardized testing as a whole.  I could go on, but I am a busy man.  Google for yourself,  but as always be mindful of the source.  You can't trust everybody as you can trust the TU.

    For now, all I know is that I have used Khan's videos with my students as well as for myself.  Maybe he could put all these videos on one of those new laserdisc or something?

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Teacher Job Satisfaction Low- So What?

    Teacher friendly bloggers and websites are all writing this week about the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.  (See Ed Week , Huffington Post , The Answer Sheet , Larry Ferlazzo for more)  The take away headline is this "Teacher Job Satisfaction At A Low Point."  Interesting headlines usually provide some bit of surprising information.  Not this one.

    Look at what is happening across the country: reduced funding, larger class sizes, more initiatives and mandates with less support, legislation to weaken the status of teachers, accountability movements that are detrimental to student learning, the list could go on.

    While the headline about teacher satisfaction may fall on a few sympathetic ears, teachers in public education should realize that for many this finding will fall under the category of "who cares?"  Our salaries are paid by the public.  A public which has largely dealt with economic problems for nearly half a decade.  This same public cringes at the gas pump, worries about mortgages going under water, faces uncertainty with employment, and otherwise lives in doubt about the economic future of their household and nation.

    To this public, a likely response to the headline may be "Welcome to the club!"  Our current economic situation is not an excuse for teachers to roll over and watch the systematic dismantling of public education, but general surveys of the working public show the same trend.

    What is the appropriate reaction to this survey?  Should teachers shout out for change and demand better conditions or is it time we realized that times are hard all around?

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    How Do You Make a Teacher Great?

    You make a great teacher by shaming or firing the bad ones.    Written with tongue firmly ensconced in my cheek!  But that is the approach currently gaining favor in a growing number of states.  Abolish tenure, hold teachers publicly accountable for test scores and make it easier to fire them.  Allow me to inject some sanity back into the fray and add my 2 cents.  "That's dumb". 

    Gates' work in education gives antitrust a whole new meaning.
    "How do you make a teacher great? You don't."  These words were spoken by Bill Gates during his speech at the annual TED conference.    Everything Gates then proposes suggests that you can in fact make a great teacher, by doing things like getting rid of all the bad ones.  Mr. Gates and I agree on many things and I admire his well publicized efforts to help and heal around the world. He penned a recent Op ed "Shame is not the Solution" condemning efforts to publish teacher ratings in New York.   The numbers were released anyway and I know for certain that no good will come of it in terms of teacher effectiveness.  No bad teachers will improve directly as a result of this.  Linda Darling Hammond does a much better job explaining why here. It took lawsuits and media pressure to force the scores out and their validity is certainly questionable.  Transparency is good.  This was bad.  Too bad no one seemed to care.  Gates spoke out as did many others against putting the scores out.    I and many others were a bit skeptical of his degree of conviction given Michelle Rhee also spoke against release the information.  Was he genuine in his objections? Worth pondering.

    Gates and his foundations are known for their heavy handed approach to advance efforts and reforms that he sees as a remedy the perceived ills of our profession and education as a whole.   So based on what he supports actually we disagree on just about everything else when it comes to education policy.  What is the difference between someone with billions of dollars like Gates and someone who makes less than $50,000 a year in terms of their awareness of education like me?  Besides my amazing singing voice and skill with a fishing rod I have a firm grasp on what is happening in our schools.  If you don't believe me contrast some of what Gates says with some of the information released from the VDOE.  There's more to most stories than what you hear from the loudest people talking. 

    Gates at the TED conference works to answer among
    other things "How You Make a Great Teacher?"

    Gates is not all bad.  He has saved more lives than I ever will and I admire his dedication to doing what he believes is good.  But he comes from a world where software glitches are remedied by patches and working hard to debug programs.  For each problem there is a practical and tangible solution derived from effort and re-invention.  It is natural he applies this model to education.  In his mind we are failing.  He is wrong.  In his mind bad teachers are responsible.  He is wrong.  Our profession is not immune from individuals who do not do their job well but simply "culling the herd" will do little to help where and how students need it.  It will likely accomplish the opposite.  Still the ratings measures and software systems pour from the minds of economists, statisticians, software engineers and other worlds who are curiously not involved directly with education. Are they really designed to improve education?  Worth pondering again.  More importantly what unintended consequences will these steps generate.  Consider the tangible example shared by Gates of having students log on and access great teaching.  On paper it sounds good.  For the average kid it is a bit shortsighted and noticeably unrealistic.  Worth pondering.  

    In Gates' mind we can test away our problems and use the data it provides to guide or way.  That would put us back to the top of international comparisons. You guessed it, wrong again.  Now going 0 for 3 in baseball is not a huge deal but when you are a billionaire who has a firm grip of the keys to the reform agenda and the ear of every politician, we've got problems.  It has become difficult for the citizens of this nation to make informed decisions about our education system in our the current climate due to the negativity that has been aimed squarely at our schools.  It is hard to find good balanced reporting that paints a holistic picture of where we are educationally and why.  Maybe that's why the TU likes Jon Stewart so much.

    Evidence Gates is moving away from his Charter support? What's next?
    Gates correctly suggests that good teachers make a difference.  But instead of working with them to strengthen our profession, he slaps us with some labels and walks away.  He references the "Top Quartile Teachers" and admits that the way to measure variation with teachers is "based on test scores."  Gates and those at his megawealthy(yes that is a word) and influential philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation think it is data that will lead us to the promised land of learning where we apparently once stood as a nation.  They have advocated for charters, privatization and multiple measures which seem contrary to free and appropriate public school.  They argue the result will be a more learned population, better workers, international strength, restored prosperity...all that good stuff.  I'll admit education is key to the success of our students and our nation. 

    What Gates either won't admit or doesn't realize is the path and measures he supports will attempt pave the road to improvement with the careers and enthusiasm of once good but now demoralized teachers.   Ultimately dooming any such approach to failure.   Education develops people not computers.  It is not a business.   Methods advocated by Gates will irrevocably alter how kids approach learning and not in a good way.   It will undermine quality public education and simply define us as improved numerically.  What makes things worse is Gates is quickly becoming the prophet to many like-minded school reformers and their 8 fold path is heavily laden with testing, value added measurements, elimination of job security, and numerous other things which few classroom educators can support.  Ask yourself this: If we all want the same thing(improvement) then why is that reformers calling for such measures do not typically inhabit classrooms?

    Do I sound scared. I am.  I am fearful of what they are turning our profession into.   I fear my own children will face a diminished quality of schooling based on a narrowing focus.   The job and system I have labored in for more than a decade is being threatened by ill conceived legislation, short sighted leadership and profit driven corporations intent on getting their share of the tax income. Finally an utter inability to separate good ideas from bad makes people in the know very nervous.  The current path cannot coexist with quality public education as we know.  So the lines are drawn.

    It's clear which side the TU stands on this and other similar issues.  You cannot simply make a great teacher.  You can make someone better and find ways to help them improve their professional practice.  Efforts to do so should not pit teachers against each other and must not be devoid of sound human judgement.    Beware attempts to use metrics to judge people.

    I enjoyed the part of the video where Bill Gates plays Oprah and hands out free books. The response from those in attendance is lukewarm  at best and the applause are noticeably timid.  Maybe they wanted cars?

    What if we spent testing funds on smaller classes?
    Great teachers to me are like wizards or magicians.  Trying to "can" what they do and replicate it on scale is futile.  To be honest much of what keeps me from being better is simple.  What is missing is TIME.  I do not have the time to accomplish what I want to , and increasingly I do not have time to accomplish what I need to.    Why?  In part because of the measures stemming from efforts to make teachers great.

    I'll close with simple advice to any education reformer who sees it differently.  When your work gets tough and you feel uncertain of what exactly you are working towards.  Stop.  Take two weeks off and don't even think about things related to school reform during that time.  Then quit and go find some other institution and profession to destroy besides education.  Those of us who are working in schools will reform ourselves just fine.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Virginia Snow

    AHS with some snow, we had school that day
     I have always appreciated living in central Virginia. We have the best of all things here and Charlottesville is routinely listed among the top places to live in the country(I do not think that is a good thing). Our weather is a good example.  I am a native but must admit that both parents arrived from northern latitudes.    So snow is in my blood.  It is no big deal to me.  But snow around here means total insanity.   Bread and milk fly off from shelves at an alarming rate.  Students in class lose all self control when they see the white flakes coming down.  The carnage and disabled vehicles along the shoulder of the road looks similar to a scene from Mad Max, only everything is white instead of brown.

    Just park that anywhere.
    Two years ago when "snowmageddon" struck I am pretty sure that I witnessed several scenes reminiscent of Lord of the Flies.  Heavy snow pretty much shuts the place down.  Worse than that is when we get  just a few inches.   The typical southern driver get overconfident and seems to think their SUV can go as fast as they want with impunity.  Watching people slam on the brakes when things get slippery is so comical it is not funny.    What really gets things going around here is when snow is in the forecast.  The news and media spin everyone up into a frenzy and people prep for some sort of pending invasion.  I think our northern neighbors find it quite amusing.  

    My dog Otter "swims" through 2+ feet of snow
    But it is not all bad.  Once in a great while Mother Nature will decide to play a trick.  Such was the case this morning.  After a long night of grading papers I turned in around 12:30 AM and as I did I checked the weather online.  A clipper system was predicted to push south of us and maybe drop an inch or two in nearby counties.  Any snow would turn to rain after a brief period.  We were predicted to get only "snow showers".

    At 5:54AM when the county's automated system called to announce a 2 hour delay I took the dog outside and there was not a flake in the air.  We received the second call at 7:51AM to announce school was canceled we had about 2 inches.  By the time I had the kids bundled up and we went outside it was up to 8 inches.  As a teacher I must say the unexpected snow day is a beautiful thing.  Sure it throws a wrench in SOL testing schedules,  makes it tough for parents who have to work, fouls up countless plans that hinge on a Red/Blue Day cycle and we will likely have to make it up.  But a surprise snow day brings a euphoric response among teachers and kids alike.  A welcome diversion and break from the routine, at least for the TU.

    Should we expect a few more snow days?  Who knows.  I would have preferred this one back in January but I am not complaining.   That in like a lion thing sure seems true so far.  This month involves a lot of change.  March has reminded us that the weather can be pleasant, unpredictable and sadly sometimes violent and deadly.  But today at least it brings a welcome respite.   I am not worried about school related matters and instead will enjoy one the best things about being a teacher.   So to all the teachers across the south where it doesn't snow and all the northern ones out there where snow is routine, I send my condolences.      I'm off to take a nap and make some microwave popcorn.

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Friday Afternoon Inspiration- Redux

    I know this isn't the normal stuff of the Teaching Underground, but yesterday I shared a video of the "Reading Rainbow" intro at the end of my post. It seemed too good to be coincidence that I ran across a similar video just today. I couldn't help but share. Another great Jimmy Fallon parody- Jim Morrison and The Doors cover "Reading Rainbow."

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Friday Afternoon Inspiration

    You made it!  Another week down.  Twelve to fifteen to go?  Depending on where you work.  I'm usually drained on a Friday afternoon, maybe you feel the same, but it's the good kind of exhausted.  Sometimes you get burned out, sometimes you give too much, sometimes you just want to quit.  But I hope that at least today, you know that you've given all that you've got and all that you've given will be taken by your students, carried out into the world, and multiplied as they take their lessons from the classroom into life.

    In college, a friend of mine argued that "Levar Burton is the most influential man in America."

    "What!?  The guy from Star Trek with the cool glasses?"

    "Yes, but no.  The same guy, but not because of Star Trek.  It's Reading Rainbow."

    "It's a kids show."

    "Exactly.  Levar Burton has the attention of so many kids every day when they get home from school.  If he wants to make a difference, he's in a greater position than anyone else in America to do it.  He influences the minds of a generation of youth."

    Maybe not exactly an "expert opinion", but the conversation has stuck with me for over twenty years.  Every day I influence the minds of a generation of youth.  Probably more than 100 kids a year care more about what I say than the President.  Decisions that I make every day will impact the quality of life for over 100 kids more directly than legislative decisions.  One hundred children-citizens of my county will learn from me whether they can name the members of our school board or not.  Lot's of people can claim that they are "in it for the children" but I'm in it so deep that my contribution can be measured.

    So while I will hope that this Friday night will allow me to slip into the "comfy clothes" at an early hour and find the bed before ten.  I also appreciate the fatigue.

    This weekend I will not rest from the exhaustion of last week.  I will rest to prepare for the next.

    Happy Friday from the Teaching Underground.