« Run for your life!! | Main | Beer Pong »

Become the change you tweet in the world


I am sitting in my classroom, watching the summer rain beat decidedly against the window - a reminder to me that "green" requires some meteorological sacrifice, and a reminder to the students that it's not vacation until they finish the state English test placed before them. With a cool New York rain outside, and a traditional New York state assessment inside, why am I inadvertently thinking of a very hot, dry, and unsafe place on the other side of the world?

I truly don't know much about Iran. Because of a serious news event from my childhood, I usually think of this country as being followed by the word "contra", although I'm not sure I could explain that to you. As a comfortably middle-class American, Iran and its people do not realistically affect my existence. But as I sit in school, I can't help thinking of the tumultously fascinating situation that is happening RIGHT NOW in this dangerous place.

Right now these safe American students, who cannot leave my room until 10:00am, craft a hand-written essay that must include "specific and relevant evidence" that develops a "controlling idea" using various literary elements in a "logical and coherent manner". Oh, and please follow the "conventions of standard written English" when you communicate your ideas effectively.

Right now these proactive Iranian citizens, who cannot leave their country, are risking their lives via Twitter and YouTube, starting a revolution in 140 characters or less. Acting as citizen journalists - covering pro bono the most volatile news story in the world in spite of their own safety - they are telling the world their story and their opinions.

Is there a rubric for that?

As they watch the rain and the wall clock, having long finished their exams and waiting for their impending freedom, I wonder if our students feel empowered by their education or even think of it at all. When their cell phones are returned to them at the exit, will they consider the power that sits with potential in their hands?

I wonder how effectively we've positioned them to inherit this new media, this new world.



A well written musing on a view I have often shared. In this increasingly globalized society, I sometimes feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland, disoriented by the fundamentally more significant battles raging across the globe...in Darfur, in Somalia, in Iran, in Iraq...as human beings struggle to articulate and defend coherent arguments for existence and voice. As a middle grades math teacher, I think the sacrifices made in the areas of social studies learning are all too sad. Our kids, members of this digital generation in America, need a raison d'etre--a purpose--a generational cause--and it is right before their eyes if we show it, and in their ears, too, if we let them hear it. Teachers' lives revolve around the same relentless chorus: "Is it in our standards? When do we squeeze that in?" Our classrooms are now somewhat archaic in the flat-world, global sense, it seems to me. Understanding Darfur, and Iran, and the Chinese struggle to balance shifting national identities with economic realities, for example, gives our kids a reason to learn. A reason to problem-solve.

I don't teach math because it is my first love (it is not); I teach it because it allows me to facilitate learner empowerment (including my own) more than any other subject I know. My hope is that kids will become disposed to proactive problem-solving, considering variables and their interactions, justifying arguments with precise, clear language, so that they become careful, logical, reasonable thinkers who can detect the fallacious arguments around them...globally...and develop counterarguments and solutions to problems.

I suspect that is why you teach what you do, as well...and I honor you for it. Sometimes, in the frustration of creating a well-worded and meaningful rubric for a learning/performance task (and it always includes that justification piece!), I forget what the point was. It was...and remains...the empowerment of mindfully disposed problem-solvers in a generation of learning ennui.

I honor your heart, my friend. Keep it soft. Keep it real.

Um.... Iranians can leave their country.

The high school students sitting in your classroom CAN LEAVE that room whenever they so choose. If they do not know this fact, there is a problem in the Social Studies department.

It is likely the Iranians, who use such communication technology, speak and write English more competently than most American high school students. Given the Iranians' current societal situations, they DESERVE to write garbled English in order to put out their message within the "space provided."

American high school students think "Text" and "Tweet" slangs ARE the language and use such idioms in their quest to become the purveyors of all things useless.

One of my most effective lesson plans is for the students to each write a letter to a celebrity whom they idolize. There can be no "sob stories" in the letters, but the students MUST ask for a refund of any money the student spent on the celebrity (i.e. - concert tickets, t-shirts, the value of minimum wage for 30 minutes watching the TV show, cost of tickets to a sporting event).

Most receive no response. None have ever been sent a check.

The students soon realize the celebrities earn big money from them, but have little or no interest in meeting the students, befriending the students, showing concern for the students' well-being, etc.

As the Iranian government continues its attempt to blockade social networking sites, Iran's citizens will be forced to revert to cooperation and communication at the grassroots, neighborhood, or local level. American high school students have hundreds, nay thousands, of "friends" from ALL OVER THE NATION (if not the World), but have no concern that the little, old lady right next door could use some extra help with household chores.

The parents of today's youth are members of the first generation which, so far, HAS NOT made great sacrifice in order to live the American dream. As a result, children have become "entitled." The expectation of entitlements, by a whole generation, is a good indicator of that society's pathway toward demise.

Performance-based assessment is often touted as the best measure of learning (in comparison to multiple guess). The best lesson all teenagers need is a year WITHOUT any "creature comforts"... particularly electronic ones. After all, a bunch of men who, in general, were the sons of uneducated parents and lived in a time without electricity, created this "Great Experiment" in Capitalist, Federalist, Democratic, Republicanism.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Rory T. Sponsler: Um.... Iranians can leave their country. The high school students read more
  • Lianna Nix: Katie, A well written musing on a view I have read more



Technorati search

» Blogs that link here