How is your little tyke welcomed to school?

August 20, 2014

This is how it’s done right:

“You are the reason we are here.”

No Common Core Standards, no testing schedule, just a genuine welcome. Bet there's a lot more learning that goes on behind that door than many others.

No Common Core Standards, no testing schedule, just a genuine welcome. Bet there’s a lot more learning that goes on behind that door than many others.

Tip of the old scrub brush to @Kiwigirl58, Sahila ChangeBringer.

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MzTeachuh’s secret to getting to know students (a life hack everyone should know and use)

August 23, 2013

MzTeachuh posted this last year, and Tweeted it this year — it’s good on the first days of school.  Quoting the entire post (links added here):

A Writing Prompt to Really Get To Know Your Students

“Three Things I Want You To Know About Me.”

Jim Abbott of the Yankees, pitching a no-hitter.

I came up with this prompt while teaching high school, but it works with younger kids, too. It gives the students a choice of what to comment on, and allows them to use their own voice to tell it like it feels. You may learn a lot about music, sports, and their dog; but sometimes you will also learn about very serious topics like family crisis or illness. And at times the school can help the families. But you will know the students better, especially if you actually read the essays and comment on them. The kids feel very validated, and more willing to write the remainder of the year no matter what the topic.
Jim Abbott of the Yankees, pitching a no-hitter.

I especially enjoyed when the students shared their dreams for their future. You would be amazed how many major league baseball players (of the future) were in my seventh grade classes. Far be it from me to say otherwise. Who knows, anyway? If Jim Abbott, who had only one hand due to a birth defect, became a major league pitcher, shouldn’t I be like his grown-ups and be filled with

– See more at: http://mzteachuh.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-writing-prompt-to-really-get-to-know.html?spref=tw#sthash.taTaa9nj.dpuf

I told MzTeachuh:

Stealing this in its entirety.

As a reporter, I got a lot of mileage from politicians, or anyone involved in a controversy, asking “what should readers know about [you/this issue] that most of us don’t know now?”

With grownups, it’s quite educational to find people who haven’t thought beyond the shouting.

Open questions are the best; open questions that get kids to write in class are the cream of the best. If not exactly the path to truth, it is clearing the path to knowledge that leads to truth.

More, maybe related stuff:


2nd day of school in Dallas: Student asks, “Do you believe in me?”

August 23, 2011

It’s the second day of classes here in the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD, or DISD).  Already we experience great trials from the loss of funding across the board in Texas education, as Gov. Rick Perry encouraged the state legislature to cut more than $4 billion from schools.  Cuts will be larger next fall.

At Molina High School we have about 25% more students, with 10% fewer teachers.  Classes strain the seams of the school — classrooms are crowded, desks and chairs are in short supply.  Computers promised for teachers, supposed to be delivered eight months ago, still are not delivered.  Printers, printing supplies, and paper, stand in conservation mode.  There are so few technical support people that those few new computers delivered often are not set up to operate yet.

Teachers need encouragement.  Here’s a bit of it.

What follows is mostly encore post, from 2008.

_____________

Taylor Mali is one of my usual suspects for inspiring teachers. He does a great job, with just a tinge of profanity (appropriately placed, many teachers argue – if they ask for it, you have to give it to them).

This year’s inspiration for Dallas teachers comes from Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. Here’s a YouTube video of the presentation about 20,000 of us watched last Wednesday, a small point that redeemed the annual “convocation” exercise, for 2008:

Sherman’s presentation rescued what had been shaping up as another day of rah-rah imprecations to teachers who badly wanted, and in my case needed, to be spending time putting classrooms together.

(By the way, at the start of his presentation, you can see several people leap to their feet in the first row — Mom, Dad, and older brother. Nice built-in cheering section.)

Staff at DISD headquarters put the speech together for Dalton to memorize, and he worked over the summer to get it down. This background is wonderfully encouraging.

First, it makes a statement that DISD officials learn from mistakes. Last year the keynote was given by a speaker out of central casting’s “classic motivational speaker” reserves. As one teacher described it to me before the fete last Wednesday, “It was a real beating.”

Second, DISD’s planning ahead to pull this off suggests someone is looking a little bit down the road. This was a four or five month exercise for a less-than-10 minute presentation. It’s nice to know someone’s looking ahead at all.

Third, the cynical teachers gave Dalton Sherman a warm standing ovation. That it was delivered by a 10-year-old kids from DISD made a strong symbol. But the content was what hooked the teachers. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa provided a death-by-PowerPoint presentation leading up to the speech, one that was probably not designed solely as contrasting lead in. In other words, Dalton Sherman’s speech demonstrated as nothing else the district has done lately that someone downtown understands that the teachers count, the foot soldiers in our war on ignorance and jihad for progress.

The kids came back Monday, bless ’em. School’s in session, to anyone paying attention.

Resources:

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Inspiration for the first day of school, part 2 – Taylor Mali, and “What do you make?”

August 23, 2010

It ain’t easy being a teacher.  Newsweek puts you on the cover, saying you need to be fired.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry says you don’t need job security, as if getting additional money for teacher salaries would make teachers secure in places like Dallas, where mid-year RIFs are a too-recent, bitter memory.  Heck, just looking at the curriculum in Texas can depress a teacher.  Parents think you don’t call them enough, or too much — but never the Goldilocks optimum.  Students?  Even the best student is surly in the last period of the first day back at school.

Taylor Mali knows all about that.  He taught for several years — but he struck out as a professional slam poet.  His work there remains among the best tributes to teaching of the past 50 years, at least.  You probably heard this poem, or somebody sent it to you in an e-mail (especially if you’re a teacher) — but attributed to “Anonymous.”

Well, here is Anonymous, the Unknown Teacher — whose name is Taylor Mali.  Watch for him and his work.

This is an encore post from 2007.  (Mild profanity.)

_________________________

Killer lesson plans:  Teachers as superheroes

Reader Bernarda noted this site in comments, and it’s good enough to promote more formally: Teachers as the alter egos of superheroes.

Teachers ARE superheroes, a lot of them. More than in other professions, certainly.

Which reminds me of this video. Teachers, you need to watch this sometime here in the first month of school. What do you say when someone rudely asks, “What do you make?” Wholly apart from the Ann Landers-style answer, “Whatever would possess anyone to ask such a personal question?” there is an answer to give, as explained by slam poet Taylor Mali; surely you’ve seen this before, but watch it again — to remember what teachers should be doing, as well as how to talk about it. See below.

[Update August 2010:  Hmmmmm.  Well, that video is out of commission at the moment — Mali and copyright?

Mali has a version at his website, for sale.  Buy it, you have it in high fidelity audio, video and emotion.

Here’s a shorter version of the tape not available above:

It remains the single best piece about teaching and why teachers do it when they don’t get paid the big bucks, when administrators make it so hard, and when society at large wants to fire them all — they do it for the kids.  What do they make?]

You can support Mr. Mali. Just purchase a pen that includes that little poem.

You can support Mr. Mali and his campaign for good teachers in another way, too. Make sure that whenever you talk about this poem of his, you credit it to him. I think we as teachers owe that to artists, and other teachers, as part of our continuing struggles against plagiarism.

But we also owe it to ourselves to get credit to Mr. Mali. Odds are he has some other good things to say. When you properly attribute his work, you increase the chances that someone else will find the rest of his work. You increase the chances that some superintendent will hire Mr. Mali to speak to the teachers in his district. You increase the chances that someone will understand that Mr. Mali is a real human being who loves teaching — he is, in short, one of those superheroes we call “teachers,” even without a cape.

Uncaped crusaders need compliments, too.


Inspiration for the first day of school, part 1 – Dalton Sherman

August 23, 2010

An encore post from two years ago.  50,000 educators from Dallas ISD gathered at the American Airlines Center, and then-5th grader Dalton Sherman gave the performance of his young life.

That was 2008.  Later that school year a $64 million shortfall showed up in the Dallas ISD budget, and many of those teachers were laid off mid-year.  In 2010, Dallas ISD provided a short video of encouragement from Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, rather than a mass gathering and pep rally.

Below is the post from 2008.

______________________

“Do you believe in me?”  5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers

Taylor Mali is one of my usual suspects for inspiring teachers. He does a great job, with just a tinge of profanity (appropriately placed, many teachers argue – if they ask for it, you have to give it to them).

This year’s inspiration for Dallas teachers comes from Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. Here’s a YouTube video of the presentation about 20,000 of us watched last Wednesday, a small point that redeemed the annual “convocation” exercise, for 2008:

Sherman’s presentation rescued what had been shaping up as another day of rah-rah imprecations to teachers who badly wanted, and in my case needed, to be spending time putting classrooms together.

(By the way, at the start of his presentation, you can see several people leap to their feet in the first row — Mom, Dad, and older brother. Nice built-in cheering section.)

Staff at DISD headquarters put the speech together for Dalton to memorize, and he worked over the summer to get it down. This background is wonderfully encouraging.

First, it makes a statement that DISD officials learn from mistakes. Last year the keynote was given by a speaker out of central casting’s “classic motivational speaker” reserves. As one teacher described it to me before the fete last Wednesday, “It was a real beating.”

Second, DISD’s planning ahead to pull this off suggests someone is looking a little bit down the road. This was a four or five month exercise for a less-than-10 minute presentation. It’s nice to know someone’s looking ahead at all.

Third, the cynical teachers gave Dalton Sherman a warm standing ovation. That it was delivered by a 10-year-old kids from DISD made a strong symbol. But the content was what hooked the teachers. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa provided a death-by-PowerPoint presentation leading up to the speech, one that was probably not designed solely as contrasting lead in. In other words, Dalton Sherman’s speech demonstrated as nothing else the district has done lately that someone downtown understands that the teachers count, the foot soldiers in our war on ignorance and jihad for progress.

The kids came back Monday, bless ’em. School’s in session, to anyone paying attention.

Resources:

Full text of Dalton Sherman’s speech to Dallas Independent School District teachers, August 20, 2008:

I believe in me. Do you believe in me?

Do you believe I can stand up here, fearless, and talk to all 20,000 of you?

Hey, Charles Rice Learning Center – do you believe in me?

That’s right – they do.

Because here’s the deal: I can do anything, be anything, create anything, dream anything, become anything – because you believe in me. And it rubs off on me.

Let me ask you a question, Dallas ISD.

Do you believe in my classmates?

Do you believe that every single one of us can graduate ready for college or the workplace?

You better. Because next week, we’re all showing up in your schools – all 157,000 of us – and what we need from you is to believe that we can reach our highest potential.

No matter where we come from, whether it’s sunny South Dallas, whether its Pleasant Grove, whether its Oak Cliff or North Dallas or West Dallas or wherever, you better not give up on us. No, you better not.

Because, as you know, in some cases, you’re all we’ve got. You’re the ones who feed us, who wipe our tears, who hold our hands or hug us when we need it. You’re the ones who love us when sometimes it feels like no else does – and when we need it the most.

Don’t give up on my classmates.

Do you believe in your colleagues?

I hope so. They came to your school because they wanted to make a difference, too. Believe in them, trust them and lean on them when times get tough – and we all know, we kids can sometimes make it tough.

Am I right?

Can I get an Amen?

So, whether you’re a counselor or a librarian, a teacher assistant or work in the front office, whether you serve up meals in the cafeteria or keep the halls clean, or whether you’re a teacher or a principal, we need you!

Please, believe in your colleagues, and they’ll believe in you.

Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe that what you’re doing is shaping not just my generation, but that of my children – and my children’s children?

There’s probably easier ways to make a living, but I want to tell you, on behalf of all of the students in Dallas, we need you. We need you now more than ever.

Believe in yourself.

Finally, do you believe that every child in Dallas needs to be ready for college or the workplace? Do you believe that Dallas students can achieve?

We need you, ladies and gentlemen. We need you to know that what you are doing is the most important job in the city today. We need you to believe in us, in your colleagues, in yourselves and in our goals.

If you don’t believe – well, I’m not going there.

I want to thank you for what you do – for me and for so many others.

Do you believe in me? Because I believe in me. And you helped me get to where I am today.

Thank you.


“Do you believe in me?” 5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers

August 26, 2008

Update, September 19, 2008: Dalton was scheduled to appear on Ellen Degeneres’s program on Thursday, September 18; did you see it? What do you think?

Taylor Mali is one of my usual suspects for inspiring teachers. He does a great job, with just a tinge of profanity (appropriately placed, many teachers argue – if they ask for it, you have to give it to them).

This year’s inspiration for Dallas teachers comes from Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. Here’s a YouTube video of the presentation about 20,000 of us watched last Wednesday, a small point that redeemed the annual “convocation” exercise, for 2008:

Sherman’s presentation rescued what had been shaping up as another day of rah-rah imprecations to teachers who badly wanted, and in my case needed, to be spending time putting classrooms together.

(By the way, at the start of his presentation, you can see several people leap to their feet in the first row — Mom, Dad, and older brother. Nice built-in cheering section.)

Staff at DISD headquarters put the speech together for Dalton to memorize, and he worked over the summer to get it down. This background is wonderfully encouraging.

First, it makes a statement that DISD officials learn from mistakes. Last year the keynote was given by a speaker out of central casting’s “classic motivational speaker” reserves. As one teacher described it to me before the fete last Wednesday, “It was a real beating.”

Second, DISD’s planning ahead to pull this off suggests someone is looking a little bit down the road. This was a four or five month exercise for a less-than-10 minute presentation. It’s nice to know someone’s looking ahead at all.

Third, the cynical teachers gave Dalton Sherman a warm standing ovation. That it was delivered by a 10-year-old kids from DISD made a strong symbol. But the content was what hooked the teachers. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa provided a death-by-PowerPoint presentation leading up to the speech, one that was probably not designed solely as contrasting lead in. In other words, Dalton Sherman’s speech demonstrated as nothing else the district has done lately that someone downtown understands that the teachers count, the foot soldiers in our war on ignorance and jihad for progress.

The kids came back Monday, bless ’em. School’s in session, to anyone paying attention.

Resources:

Read the rest of this entry »


Alligator bait: Louisiana science teachers, and school boards

August 18, 2008

Louisiana’s state legislature — the legislature that the Supreme Court slapped down in 1987 for trying to introduce religion into science classes in Edwards v. Aguillardrushed through a bill drafted by the deaf-to-the-law Discovery Institute which purports on its face to make it legal for Louisiana science teachers to teach creationism, intelligent design, tarot card reading, UFO-ism, or any other crank science that the teacher feels compelled to offer.

A Louisiana alligator used by c design proponetsist Denyse OLeary to illustrate a blog post about Louisianas litigation bait law on creationism in schools.  Without any appreciation of irony, or as a subtle warning, we cant say.  (photo from The Advocate?)

A Louisiana alligator used by c design proponetsist Denyse O'Leary to illustrate a blog post about Louisiana's litigation bait law on creationism in schools. Without any appreciation of th irony, or as a subtle warning, we can't say. (photo from The Advocate?)

Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Mars, rushed to sign the brain-sucker into law, in his ambitious quest to get John McCain to name him as the nominee for vice president. It appears on the surface that Jindal’s national political aspirations will have to wait, but the law he signed requires Louisiana’s school districts to be ready when the students come back in the next few weeks, to do whatever it is they are going to do about creationism and other crank science.

Discovery Institute minions have been hawking creationism wares, and other creationists have offered to put Genesis into the science curriculum — but the law does not authorize those actions or wares itself. Instead, it passes the judgment to local school boards, sort of.

“Sort of.” Words that make a litigator’s heart flutter when talking about to-be-implemented laws! You’d think that, with all the money the Discovery Institute spends to entice legislators and school board members to poke their noses into matters they do not know, DI could spend a few thousands of dollars to get a competent legislative law drafter to draft a workable law. The cheapskates always pay more, Click and Clack say, and here’s another case to prove the point. It would have been difficult to intentionally write a law better intended to get local school boards sued.

A few of us noted the law does not indemnify local school districts against lawsuits if they goof and put religion into science classes. This is important, because the law requires local school districts to step up to the line and have a policy in place by the start of this school year. Which means, if the district doesn’t have the policy written out now, they’re late.

Tony Whitson at Curricublog spent time this summer pondering exactly how the law works, what it requires, and who it requires to act. His analysis — that the law is litigation bait just waiting to snare a local school board, a real “Dover Trap” — is cool, hard, and chilling. Go read it at his blog.

Whitson recommends that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education get an opinion from the state’s attorney general. This will not comply with the impossible and punishing deadline the legislature established, but it’s a much wiser stewardship of local monies, to try to avoid litigation. Tony wrote:

Taking stock of the situation: To summarize where things now stand, in light of everything above:

The law is by no means so benign as its promoters pretend. It will unleash all manner of chaotic mischief. On the other hand, there is a method to this madness, making it predictable that the perpetrators’ strategy will be to insinuate Exploring Evolution into the state’s (and then other states’) public schools.

BESE and the school districts cannot comply with the statute, which commands that

The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and each city, parish, or other local public school board shall adopt and promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this Section prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

There are legal requirements (public notice, etc.) for adopting administrative rules for implementing legislation that make it impossible for that to be done by every state and district school board before the new school year begins.

So what can BESE do?

My suggestion is that BESE, at it’s meeting Tuesday, should move to request an opinion from the State Attorney General. They should ask him for an opion advising them, the district Boards of Education, and individual school principals, as to who will be responsible for the costs of defending against litigation for unconstitutional state promotion of religion in the use of supplemental materials. Presumably, if there’s a suit brought directly against BESE itself because of the substance of a text they have approved, then they would be defended by the AG’s office, on behalf of the state (like when the AG hired Wendell Bird as as special assistant for defending the state’s “Balanced Treatment” law). But will the AG commit his office to defending every district, every school, and every teacher whose use of “supplemental materials” is challenged for violation of the First Amendment?

Louisiana’s legislature set a trap for Louisiana science teachers and local school boards — whether intentionally or not is immaterial. Rather than authorize specific material for the curriculum, the new creationism law requires school boards to analyze materials to supplement the science curriculum. The law passes the buck to the local school boards.

So, Louisiana school board members now must become expert on science, and Constitutional law.

Rule of thumb: It costs a school board about $1 million every time they goof and put religion into science classrooms, in litigation costs alone. Louisiana’s legislature didn’t appropriate any money to compensate the school boards.

This law promises to entangle science educators and curriculum, and ensnare local school boards – all of which helps dumb down science achievement and prevent U.S. kids from getting the education they need to compete in a global economy. Alas.


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