April 2006 Archives

Mr. Lawrence, the blogger at Get Lost, Mr. Chips, has figured out why students so often hate reading "classic" literature in English classes. It's not the material itself, he says. It's the presentation: What doesn't help their appreciation/comprehension of these works is arguably in the piecemeal presentation, which breaks down chapters and has students analyzing sentence after sentence instead of 'enjoying' the book for what it is. Many cheat—and I know I did—by reading the CliffsNotes / SparkNotes for the books (I used the one for Lord of the Flies). 'Pleasure' is negated by turning the books into...


Chris of School of Blog writes of taking his 8th graders on a field trip to Columbia University “to get them thinking about the importance of college.” The students, mostly black and Latino kids from Queens, focused on the imposing architecture of the campus and on how different the Columbia undergrads looked from them. He could tell they didn’t feel comfortable: [I]t was pretty obvious that they felt like there was no way that they could ever get to a place like Columbia. It's sad that kids who are just starting to make their way in life (they'll ...


Paper or plastic? At First-Year Teacher's school, paper is the wrong answer: Apparently the teachers at my school use too much paper. So my principal yelled at everyone at the last staff meeting for, like, ten minutes. Now, I've just been told, we are not getting anymore paper for the rest of the year. In the words of my students, "Fa reals?" ...Now I have to buy paper, too? Fa reals? Because, call me crazy, but I think that paper is a necessary expense in a school. I think I need to have paper in order to do my job. ...


Jessica Shyu, the Teach For America participant who's teaching and blogging on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, finds that sometimes the hardest part of the job is coming to terms with the fact that she's actually the one in charge: Because after more than 9 months of this "being in charge" business, I still feel like a kid. Sometimes as I run a meeting, I pause mentally and realize that I'M running a meeting; that these adults are listening to what I say and doing as I tell them. We must all be crazy...I'm quickly seeing how, like ...


Coach Brown files this thoughtful report on the funeral of a former student. It was Brown's first time attending a student's funeral, and he doesn't pull any punches. There's nothing romantic about a student's death: At almost every funeral I've attended there is some sense of laughter or fond memories. This funeral was straight sadness. ... Watching people you know, students and ex-students, grieving so hard was brutal. I watched happy-go-lucky people that I taught in so much pain that it was really hard being in attendance. ...By the end of the whole ordeal, my teaching partner and I left with ...


Immigration demonstrations across the country may have been making headlines the past two days, but the issue takes on a greater meaning when you're faced with it every day, as TMAO, the blogger at Teaching In The 408, explains: More than 80% of my students (and our school) are Latino, and even higher percentage is composed of immigrants or the children of immigrants...Ask the kids, and they’ll tell you a variety of things that you, from your lofty perch, will dismiss as ill-informed: Schwarzenegger hates Mexicans, nobody wants Mexicans in this country, they’re trying to send everyone ...


The folks at The Education Wonks today highlight a newspaper article straight from the sad-but-true file. The Tampa Tribune reported over the weekend that an increasing number of male teachers are facing scrutiny because they've chosen to teach kindergarten or other early grades: "It's very sad. Male students have come to me after they've been challenged by their own families and friends," [Pam] Fleege [an associate professor of early childhood education] said. "Some are accused of being pedophiles. But they mostly get a lot of, 'What are you going to say when a parent confronts you?" Confrontations with suspicious parents ...


Miguel, over at Mousing Around, writes that, in at least one school district he knows of, administrators have blocked sites that even reference the much-vilified myspace.com. Miguel notes that the rule is "...pretty straightforward and broad: Web pages containing the UNMENTIONABLE will be banned." Not an unusual response to a perceived threat, right? Except that education bloggers who mention myspace as part of a legitimate discussion are now off-limits in this unidentified district. (Like Blogboard, for instance.) Even worse: If one does a search on "space" in Google [from within this unnamed district] ...the search results are blocked. So ...


Mei Flower, a 30-year-old high school English teacher, at Randomville High, reflects on a recent conference with the parent of a child who is failing: YES I AM 532% AT FAULT FOR YOUR CHILD'S GRADE. IT IS ALL MY OWN RESPONSIBILITY AND IF I WERE A GOOD TEACHER, WHEN I SAW THAT HE WAS GOING TO FAIL, I WOULD HAVE PICKED UP HIS PENCIL AND DONE THAT WORK MYSELF. File under: What I Should Have Said. But teaching at RH does have its bright spots. In a separate entry, Ms. Flower does the happy dance when her ninth-graders finally get ...


FYI: Hitting on a topic near and dear to our hearts (obviously), The Washington Post published an article today on the growth of teacher blogs. Here’s the essence: On one level, blogs are little more than personal journals posted on the Internet for all to see. They provide a forum for teachers to share ideas with colleagues around the world or simply talk about themselves and others. But under a wider lens, the sometimes funny, sometimes searing blogs paint what may be the rawest portrait seen of the teaching profession in transition—and by some measures, in trouble. Hmm....


Multi-talented science teacher Ms. Frizzle provides a nicely written account of a recent screening of Granito De Arena, a documentary about the political mobilization of teachers in Mexico, at the United Federation of Teachers’ headquarters in New York. During the discussion period after the film, there were fervid calls for greater activism on the part of U.S. teachers. But for Ms. Frizzle, something was missing from the conversation: a “meaningful vision of an alternative” to current school practices. She asks: What would the [New York City] school system look like in our ideal world? If we did away with ...


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