Sunday, September 19, 2010

Social Engineering?

from Joanne JacobsU-Minn backs down on teacher ed plan:

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is redesigning admissions and the curriculum to focus on “cultural competence.”...In response to a letter from FIRE, General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg promised that “[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University.”
This has got to be the harbinger (great word, no?) of the country's swing to the right....Since when is cultural competence a bad thing for teachers?  That said, I don't know all the details about the requirements the U planned to use.  I did check out the document provided on the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) article about their "sustained pressure"on the U. From that U document:
Teachers will complete and receive feedback on TWO Self-Assessment measures: The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and the Cultural Intelligence Instrument (CQ). 

Self-assessment seems like a positive chance for self-reflection, no?  I didn't find evidence in the U's report of what FIRE called "plans to enforce a political litmus test for future teachers."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Digging in

We're on Day 3 (don't get me started on the law that won't let us begin before Labor Day).  I have about 20% of names down (naughties and cuties and needies, mostly), there were five new kids in one class, and yesterday I apparently completely missed that a student added into one of my classes, because he came in and sat down in the seat of a kid who dropped the class before I changed my seating chart.  Gah.

We're starting things off with the start of the American dream.  My awesome partner-in-crime focused on figuring out how to make Of Plymouth Plantation seem relevant and meaningful through some read/think aloud action that gets the kids thinking about the Puritans' traits and what we can still see of those traits in the way Americans live today.

Before we got down to OPP (Yeah, you know me!), I gave the kids the quick and dirty run down of why and how the Puritans wound up here.  I start with Henry VIII and his devout Catholic Spaniard princess of a wife, the hussy Anne Boleyn and the king's throw-down with the pope, the quick succession of wives following Anne's execution, including Catherine Howard (an even bigger hussy) saying she would rather be another man's wife than a queen before her execution.  [BTW, have you seen The Tudors?  Holy man is it hot!  Netflix on demand rules!]
All of this to prepare them for the Anglican-->Roman Catholic (Bloody Mary)-->Anglican-->Anglican progression that sent the Puritans out of England and into...the Netherlands!  That part always surprises the kids, but they can relate with the idea of being totally out of their element if they were in the same place, unable to to speak Dutch.

Today was also ruin Pocahontas day: Sorry, kids, but P. was just a wee girl when John Smith was in the area.  Trees don't talk.  Later, girlfriend married some other English dude, and  pictures of her from later in her life make her seem like any other old white lady.  :(

I love the history, and I think that makes the kids dig it.

Oh, also, today my team teacher said that one of our kids asked her yesterday, "Is Miss MIKD a genius?  She seems like she might be a genius."  I still got it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chat Pack

Today, after our theme-related warm-up and collecting signed syllabi, each kid got a card from the Chat Pack.  I got the idea from another teacher in speech coaching community, and it's really a nice ice-breaker.  Each kid gets a questions, and as they take turns, each one stands up, gives their full name, reads their question and then answers it.  If they don't like their question, they can use someone else's but only if they can use the person's name to reference it--no "I wanna use that guy's question."

From the website:
"Some samples:
* If you could have any book instantly memorized cover to cover, which book would you choose?
* Of all the movie characters you have seen, which one do you believe is most like you?
* Which of the 12 months do you think would best describe your personality?"

Fun stuff.

To paraphrase the Pioneer Woman, I don't know the Chat Pack people, they don't know me, and I am not being paid for this endorsement of their product.  I just like it.

P.S. I like Ree's latest post about blogging well.  A lot.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The first day of school


Feet are swollen.

Lesson plans for tomorrow are ready.

Classroom is still clean.

Spicy kiddos.

Curriculum begun.

Idiotic new lunch bell system withstood.

Website updated.

Some student introduction emails already received (Thanks, Epiphany!)

Still working my way through Teach Like a Champion.  Used "Technique #1: No Opt Out. How to move students from the blank stare or stubborn shrug to giving the right answer every time" in class today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comments & Review: No Impact Man

Last week I finished reading Colin Beavan's No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, and I've been meaning to post about it since I started the book.

I appreciated his honesty in recognizing (in hindsight) that his demand that his fashionista wife not wear fur was perhaps hypocritical since he "managed to exempt, back then, [his] leather shoes from [his] concern that humanity puts vanity before kindness to animals" (4).  I, too, struggle with the day to day choices that put my convenience before the needs of my planet and our future.  I can totally get behind Beavan's fear of being a "do-nothing liberal" (4).

I did not appreciate how often his project involved his wife giving up something that she was clearly quite attached to when he didn't really give a rat's patoot.  When he blew his nose with a paper towel first thing, I wanted to shove that paper towel UP his nose.  Or other orifice.

The quandary that the book presents can be summed up when Bevan quotes then-candidate Obama as saying, "Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective" (Beavan 219--I can't find the original article, but here is HuffPost's coverage of the comment).

Yes, real change does rely on collective effort, but any collective is made up of individuals, and I believe in what Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  It is disheartening to learn that a man whose personal legend is built on community organizing seemed to dismiss the "little person's" contribution.

As a read, this wasn't the best book I've ever read, and it's not the best I've read about decreasing environmental impact.  A lot of things that he seemed to be learning for the first time I've known for a long time, but I am almost 20 years younger than he is, and in theory we've been getting better educated about such things.  I was also involved involved in an organized kids' action group for environmental awareness when I was young, so I'm probably a little better informed than people my age.  I wanted less statistics and more human story, but I am a story-geek, so that makes sense.

I can totally get behind Beavan's continued blogging:, and I'm looking forward to checking out the documentary on his year.

I have more to say on this, but I've run out of steam tonight.  Maybe another post later.

Monday, August 16, 2010

LOLCatz 4 life!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm Lovin' It...and it's calorie free!

Epiphany in Baltimore had a double-dip of goodness in his post about teaching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:
  • The professional deliciousness of the kids coming in with understanding and openness:
 "Hands shot up. They wanted to talk about it. 
'At first I was confused by this boy, but when he started explaining his behavorial problems I got it more.' 
'I liked it but got confused when he went off and started talking about things that didn't seem to fit, like ice cream.' 
'Christopher was such a visual learner and drew stuff out but I didn't like that and it confused me. I liked the book overall though.'"
  • The kind of deliciousness I can steal for my classroom:
"I created an 8-page handout about all the summer reading, including a couple of passages from the novel for which students had to text-mark for the IB Learner Profile."
Hells to the yeah, Epiphany!  Love that idea!  Yoink!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Post With Little Social Value

So, here's the thing.  I'm very judgmental.  I know this is not an attractive trait, and believe me when I say I am trying to minimize it.  The minimization always leaves me with questions, though: what if I just don't say it aloud...what if it's figure skating/The Bachelor/my high school reunion...what if the person is sloppy drunk...what if I'm bored at the mall/a restaurant/the grocery store....  As you can see, I'm just not always a really nice person, and sometimes it leaks out a right now.
Today I added a few rules to my personal toolbox:
  • Wearing a wet washcloth on one's head makes one look like a jackass, especially when said washcloth was clearly stolen from one's mother's pink wedding towel set.
  • I know it is eight-hundred-bazillionty degrees outside.  Believe me, I know.  Add the humidity, and we're up to a heat index of eighty-five-hundred-bazillionty.  However, this does not excuse grown men from wearing shirts in public.  Especially when riding a bicycle.  Especially when that bicycle seat drags down one's sagging pants and his visible underoos...which reveals one's ass crack to the sun and EVERYONE ELSE (on another note, that's got to be a nasty place for a burn!).
  • Even if one still has a flat tummy when one is over 60 (or younger, depending on exactly how unkind the years have been), regardless of gender, one should not expose the area below the belly in the neighborhood of their waistband when one is not at the beach.  Yucky.  Actually, I take the caveat back: not one should wear pants in such a way that this area is visible.
  • There is something weird about wearing a halter top when one's hair is grey.  I don't know why, but them's the rules.
  • Men should not wear capri pants.
Now I shall breathe out and continue with my day.  As you were.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are you kidding me right now?

Ms. Cornelius, over at A Shrewdness of Apes. sums up a union issue in Milwaukee pretty well by titling the post "This is dumb." According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel Online story,
The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association has filed a civil suit claiming that MPS' exclusion of Viagra and other drugs that treat erectile dysfunction from its health insurance plans constitutes sexual discrimination against male employees.
The union now seeks a review of that decision by a Milwaukee County circuit court judge.
"This is an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members," said Kristin Collett, spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

As far as I'm concerned, not only does this show a lack of focus on priorities, as Ms. Cornelius mentions, but a grave waste of union and taxpayer money, as well as public good will.  Teachers around the country are fighting for fair wages and health insurance coverage while these yahoos are fighting for the right of their male members to get an inorganic hard-on.  SERIOUSLY?  Never mind that Viagra is not a medical necessity.  Never mind that this is clearly not an issue of equal rights for all members, since it leaves out all the women--the estrogen replacement therapies mentioned are the kind that keep women's brains from getting eaten by the menopause, I think.  What gets to me is that bullshit like this is a media dream, and that BULLSHIT LIKE THIS IS THE REASON PEOPLE DON'T SUPPORT UNIONS!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bring on the Healing!

Today I watched Oprah for the first time in a long time, and the show was about the effects of compulsive hoarding on a family.  It made me think about how much is hidden behind what we see when we interact with people.  I don't know whether the kids in front of me had breakfast, has clean clothes, doesn't get smacked around or called an idiot at home.  So frequently, I learn about heartbreaking circumstances in a kid's life when the term is done with.  Of course I work to know kids, and make community, and know them, but most of the kids who I need to know about hide themselves best.