Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 11th, Syria, the Dead Bodies and More.

Our school marked yet another anniversary of the September 11th attacks. My ninth graders were two at the time.  We did a reflective journal and some shared stories of their parents' experiences but did so with a sense of disconnect.  I shared my experiences and together we discussed how our world has changed.  Our posts of the past (here and here)bring up these same issues that we confront each and every year as teachers.  I wish we could go deeper.

At the tail end of that discussion a student asked a pretty provocative question about possible US involvement in Syria.  I did my best to respond with some appearance of ful understand which likely failed miserably.  Such real time events are so difficult for the experienced news consumer it must be near impossible to comprehend for the average 14 year old.  But believe it or not amid all the snapchats and Facebook updates I think there is actually some genuine American sense of concern for their world.  After going around in circles and bringing in everything from Pearl Harbor, ethnocentrism, oil prices and how to define terrorism, I punted. John Green saved the day.  To be honest the bell to end class helped a lot too.

The rest of the week has been pretty normal if you call taking your classes outside for a Mock Archeology Dig to learn about Prehistory "normal".  In what I can only describe as either my most ambitious or most foolish project ever another teacher and myself created two fake dig sites full of artifacts.

The students have been excavating for two full periods engaging in a variety of jobs.  In the 90*+ heat they've been digging in the dirt,  sorting and cleaning artifacts and cataloging them using a Google form.  Put that in your reform pipe and smoke Pearson Inc.   All of this has happened under the watchful eye of a former student of mine who actually did archeology in on a site in Pompeii.    Will we do it again?  Absolutely.  But I suspect we will also do some things differently.  For instance don't bury anything that might make students think I actually put a body in the pit.  Those jokes got old after about 3 minutes.  Also never hand a 9th grader a digital camera without first saying "You are not to use these to take selfies." I really enjoyed the time it took to discard about one third of the images they took.

Lastly this week our division was visited by the former CEO of Lockheed Martin who discussed STEM in education.  That buzzword and the either real or manufactured shortage of experts in these fields is all the rage in eduspeak nowadays.  The article in our local paper asked him some rather leading questions which hint and the media's willingness to accept the narrative about needed reform from just about anywhere.  Anywhere except teachers or people working in schools. These question in particular stood out:  "What’s working in Albemarle County Public Schools?" and "Why are so many school divisions struggling with STEM-focused education?"    No one has ever asked me anything even remotely like that...and if they did they certainly didn't wait for an answer.

Still his was a good visit and he likely has positive goals in mind for kids.  We are on the same team.  I just wish that folks in charge would pass the ball  a bit once in awhile or at least listen to me in the huddle. 

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