Listen to a voice of experience

August 14, 2007

Quoting from Second Drafts, verbatim:

My mother, Charlotte, just retired in May after 30+ years teaching high school English. As this will be her first August without having to prep for school, I thought I’d better ask for her top ten teaching suggestions before she forgot them all. Here’s what she emailed me:

  1. Establish a seating chart at the beginning, but allow time for schedule changes. Some of my colleagues would allow students to sit where they wanted, and they all would end up at the back of the room. I always wanted them under my nose!
  2. Greet students cheerfully. You may be the only one to do this in their day.
  3. Have high expectations, but be realistic.
  4. Dress professionally, even though others don’t.
  5. Be alert to students whose eyes are focused on their laps – they’re probably texting!
  6. You gotta have a gimmick – a daily trivia question written on the board works well here. I always used the question cards from the Trivial Pursuit game. The first person to answer as the students come into the room gets a piece of peppermint candy, which enhances higher level thinking skills.
  7. Surprise the kids once in a while by diverting from the syllabus (Thoreau would love you for this).
  8. Be consistent in routine and discipline.
  9. Take care of discipline problems yourself, as much as you can.
  10. Be real and enjoy your students.

School starts tomorrow. Anybody else got any counsel you’d like to share?


Teacher pay, Teacher unions — What teacher would switch places with Richard Cohen?

August 14, 2007

Richard Cohen, whom I regarded a good columnist when we lived in Washington, D.C., had made an odd turn in the past decade or so. Where normally he’d stand up for public institutions and the people who run them, he just sounds cranky lately. In short, he’s turned into a person who likes Bush Republicans. Oh, my, it erupted in his recent column which is just grousing about how much education costs in the District of Columbia, with an ambiguous, implicit claim that maybe there’s too much money going into education there.

(Well, maybe too much for the results gotten compared with a few suburban districts; not enough to boost performance on the tests.)

Jason Rosenhouse at Evolutionblog Fisks the column, Fisks Cohen, and generally supports teachers — it’s worth a read.

It’s worth a read especially if you’re one of those who, like Richard Cohen, think we should suppress the pay for teachers until they improve, ignoring all the lessons you might ever have learned about getting what you pay for, and about the economics of hiring the best, the brightest, or just the heroes necessary to make a change. Here’s part of Rosenhouse’s commentary:

But that is not the main subject of this post. Instead it’s that gratuitous slap at the unions that struck me. Cohen, like a trained seal, has learned that mindlessly bashing teacher’s unions will never get you into trouble. That is why he feels no need to provide any specifics about what, exactly, the unions are doing wrong. Instead, when it comes time to reveal those subtleties of the education problem about which Democrats need to be instructed, Cohen only produces this:

Only one candidate, Barack Obama, suggested that maybe money was not all that was lacking when it comes to educating America’s poor and minority children. Parents had a role to play, too. “It is absolutely critical for us to recognize that there are going to be responsibilities on the part of African American and other groups to take personal responsibility to rise up out of the problems we face,” he said. What? It’s not just a question of funding?

Parents! Of course! How could those money grubbing teacher’s unions and their slavish Democratic puppets have overlooked such a thing? All this focus on making sure schools have the funds to heat their buildings in the winter and patch the roof when it leaks, this crazy idea that a school using twenty year old textbooks needs money if they are to procure new ones or that science labs are not exactly inexpensive, and they simply overlooked that parents have a role to play in their children’s education. One can only hope the Democrat’s pay attention to someone as perceptive as Cohen.

::heavy sigh::

The U.S. is not alone.  Australia has some teacher pay and facility issues, too, according to Matt’s Notepad.  Another interesting read.


Sacrificing accuracy and children for art

August 14, 2007

Cartoon Brew has an upload of an animated ad for the abominable Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham’s monument to denial of reality and campaign against science. (I wish I knew how to upload a link here . . . if you have suggestions, pass them along.) Here’s Youtube version:

Yes, it’s nice animation. As art, it functions rather as the opposite of Picasso’s Guernica, though, doesn’t it? Instead of revealing a truth, even a horrific truth, it is art aiding a campaign of deception.

What do you think?

Does biology need to recruit the ghosts of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones to keep pace? Or is this just one more demonstration of the scientific and moral vacuity of creationism?

We still can’t get legal copies of that brilliant Civil War animation from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, but we can get crap on television from Ken Ham. It’s just a matter of time before Ham has a slick DVD promo for his museum, mailed to 40,000 high school biology teachers . . . what’s the hurry, and why are we in this handbasket? Going where?

Update: Soyeon Kim, the animator/designer for the commercial, notes in comments that the creators of the ad did not realize it was a creationism museum, since they’d never heard of anything other than legitimate natural history museums. Think of the moral dilemmas: A paying client, versus accurate information. The poorly-paid biology teachers in Dover, Pennsylvania defied their employers and refused to teach creationism. At what point should one simply refuse to go along, even for pay?


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