Three Wishes

Before you read on, what would you wish for if granted three wishes?

A couple of recent events have made me consider how selfish we are. I count myself in “we” as well so this is not a “holier than thou” post.  Truth is, most of the time if I think about having wishes they involve my family, our health, and happiness.  So following are my three selfless wishes (Really they aren’t selfless because everyone’s life would be improved).

I wish for every parent to spend quality time and effort with their children to ensure that every young person is enriched and grows with the ability to reach their full potential.

I wish that those who chose to go into politics will do so for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life for every citizen, refusing to accept any form of payment or privilege thereby limiting their own term to the time they have to offer.

I wish for everyone of working age to have a job and, as they find a career they enjoy, they are respected for the job they do contributing to our society. (Shouldn’t we respect food service, waste collection, or any other job as much as another? Where would we be without many services we take for granted?)

What selfless wishes would you add?

 

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A Nice Teacher

My niece asked my wonderful husband, who is a teacher, “what kind of teacher are you?” this weekend.  He is humble and will say he is average, but I am proud to say he is a great teacher who really cares about students and makes learning science fun and interesting.  He is a storyteller.  He can weave a tale with facts and examples that students won’t forget.  I know there have been many former students who have let him know they became teachers because of his influence.

So it is interesting to find this article from the Washington Post, “It is harder for us to be nice to kids”.  It is well worth a read,

“Getting tough on kids will not make them tougher or any smarter.  Forcing educators to act like their hands are tied at the most important moments in a child’s life only teaches children that the adults in their lives are powerless.  Turning a deaf ear to the needs of kids, to moments when we could be kind rather than just follow the rules, does not help kids learn anything except that those in charge are operating at the lowest level of ethical reasoning.”

“We can teach our children a better lesson.  We can teach them, as I’ve seen hundreds of children learn at my school, that when the chips are down teachers come through.  We can teach them that when it seems like there is no way out of the hole that they have dug, a member of the school staff will show up with a shovel.  We can teach them that no matter what silly, dumb, or downright ignorant thing he or she has said or done in the past, caring adults have short memories for minor mistakes and longer memories for serious work and accomplishment.”

So true.

Manny Scott

In March I presented at the Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement in Greensboro, NC. You can find the materials link from the session here.
The most powerful experience of the conference for me was speaker Manuel Scott. Manny Scott began his keynote by singing a cappella, the spiritual If I Can Help Somebody. The first stanza is “If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody how they’re traveling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain”.  The room was reverent as he began to speak.
Manuel Scott grew up in inner city California and was one of the students characterized in the book/movie Freedom Writers. His message is, in part, to ensure that teachers don’t give up on students; especially those who give the biggest reasons to leave them alone. He offered that there are many, many damaged children who need help, guidance, interventions, and reminds us that often a life is what hangs in the balance.
You can learn more about Manny and his work here.

Here Comes the Boom

The movie, “Here Comes the Boom” provided a pleasant surprise as I watched this week.  Kevin James plays a school teacher, Voss, who takes up ring fighting.  His mission is to raise money to save the job of a music teacher whose program is set to be cut.  James’ character does not start as a noble teacher but a worn down, sub-standard teacher who is late, barely tends his classes, and tries to get out of duties.  The story that develops is while he is inspired by this music teacher, it rekindles his own passion and he begins to instill passion in others as well.  There were a few poignant quotes. 

The school nurse character says to Voss, “I don’t know how [our school] got so off track.” Voss replies, “It’s not our fault, it’s the system.”  The nurse retorts, “So it’s the system that’s creating teachers who just don’t care?”  Voss sighs, “You know the deal, we can’t speed up to help the gifted kids, can’t slow down to help the slower ones.  It’s about moving cattle through, you know, it’s a numbers game.”  To which the nurse replies, “That’s what they want but what about you?”  Voss says, “There was a time when [I cared and got excited…].”

This scene touches on a truth.  In recent years, education has focused so squarely on growth and testing to ensure every child is the same that it has fostered the mentioned “numbers game” and “cattle” metaphor.  Teachers feel the pressure to practice tests to the point that, for so many, it has quenched their passion.

Passion is the most important ingredient in teaching.  Without passion teachers don’t enjoy their work and students become apathetic to learning; they see no reason in it. 

Later in the movie as Voss is finding success and rekindling his passion he is speaking to his brother.  Voss says to his brother, who is working at a job he doesn’t enjoy,

“You’ve got to go after your dreams; you’ve got to find your passion and then let it guide you.”

Finally, at the end when faced with losing a match (and not earning the money for the teacher’s salary) with his students watching, the music teacher tells Voss that it is alright to give up because,

“Our students are witnessing complete resolve in the face of an unbearable obstacle, they are invested.  They are inspired, that’s what we’re supposed to do as teachers, right?  Inspire.”

In order for teachers to inspire students they must have enough autonomy to be able to share their passion.  Too often teachers are forced to pace with other teachers using cookie cutter lessons or use plans that are all about the numbers rather than hands on creative, and practical methods they would prefer.  If students learned from this type of environment there would be no need for a person in the room, particularly a well educated one. 

This was not the best movie I have seen but it certainly had some thoughtful moments for anyone concerned about the education of our children.

Who’s the Boss

From a Diigo list I came across an article with Tony Danza about his year teaching English at Northeast High in Philadelphia. The title of his book drew me in, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. I have to admit I didn’t watch his show, Teach, or even know it aired. After seeing this quote, “how do we send a message to students that being in school and making the most of their time there is important”, I started looking deeper because it sounded like a sincere quote from a teacher rather than an actor. An Amazon review really puts his year and the book into perspective. The book is now on my read list but the quote haunts me.  How do we send a message? OR Why has the message been lost?

Thoughts here?

After his commencement speech at Northeast High Mr. Danza said, “he enriched his own life by being a part of theirs[the students]”. This is the reason teachers stick with their job year after year.

danza

Subtraction Poetry

This is an interesting idea I came across earlier in the year. Thank you to Austin Kleon, a writer and artist who lives in Texas, for the idea. The idea of subtraction poetry involves taking words away in order for the information to take a new form.
Using a Mac computer with Preview, take a piece of informational text in pdf, annotate to strike through the unwanted words and highlight the final product. How might you or your students use this?