Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunrays and Mondays

The Gardener's life for me. Ive been trying to grow some seedlings in my window so that I can plant them in my outdoor garden--but yesterday, I transplanted two squash plants to the out-of-doors and they seem to be having separation anxiety. They were growing great inside and now they are struggling to survive. Well Here is my indoor garden.

I'm Feeling a bit of that Burn-out feeling this week about teaching. Summer fever is setting in, and school seems to be loosing importance both for me and for my students. But regardless of my energy, we're doing debates. I am a little bit aprehensive about how it will go. I am trying to create a lot of structure so there aren't any fights or chairs thrown (there were some last year), but I'm worried that I might create too much structure and kill the momentum of the debate. I am adapting the Lincoln- Douglas Model. Ill see what happens.

Currently listening to: Lucinda Williams "Everything Has Changed"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Standardized B.S.

I am sitting here proctoring the California State Star Test. A standardized test that says how well our school is doing, how well our teachers are doing, and where we should focus our energy. There are no direct consequences for the students, they can fill in all of the answers to their best ability or they can make designs and spell words--they have a difficulty seeing the direct connection.

I am writing this after yesterdays testing revolt: Kids finished their test in 2-3 minutes then started writing all over their booklets and asking me who cares about this test. This is a hard question for me to answer when I personally think standardized testing is a complete waste of time and energy.

Here are the reasons why I don't like it:
Its Racist-- there is no multi-cultural awareness and it is biased to the wasp majority
Its gender biased-- studies show males do better on it
Its multiple choice-- how much knowlegde can one pass on through abc or d
Its an unfair measurement of teacher and student progress-- can one test really tell the state how good or bad of a teacher I am.
It focuses on a WASP perspective of history

Here are some interesting alternatives

Monday, April 23, 2007

An important dialogue

So as I was leaving school today (albeit with a splitting headache)
Two of my colleagues got into a discussion about rap music and introduced some interesting opinions to me.

I come from the place or an opinion that words are extremely powerful, and when used incorrectly can cause irrevocable damage. I feel especially strong about hurtful or hate-filled words, the "n" word, b-ches, "hos," words that have bee intentionally used to degrade a person. I don't tolerate these words in my classroom and I don't really think they should be used in any way shape or form. Even if they are being used to "re-claim" a word for a groups own use. I think that people may hear the word and not understand its message and allow its hateful message to propagate. I am extremely strict in the classroom with these words, and I have difficulty getting my message across to my students. ( as I seem to be struggling here). I think that a hateful word is a hateful word, no matter who uses it.

Now this has become a hotly contested topic after don Imus was asked to leave the radio station he worked for-- and even more contested as Oprah brought the spotlight to rap music.
I agree with Oprah in a number of ways:
1) Racism and Sexism is a prevalent problem in Contemporary American Society and it needs to be confronted
2) Hip Hop, in using sexist and racist lyrics is contributing to this problem.
but I don't think its the only problem.

Let me go back to that conversation. These two other young teachers (of whom are both minorities), who are much better versed in Hip hop than I am, didn't completely agree that music needs to change. They believe that hip hop is an art form and art exists as its own medium, as to say, artists should be allowed to say what they want and it doesn't matter what Oprah says. They also said that using the n-word is part of an urban dialogue and it has nothing to do with hate or slavery, it is part of being an urban American.
Mark, one of the teachers said, "Rappers aren't raised to be role Models, they might drop out of school, they don't realize how widespread their message could become."
"And it usually doesn't become a problem until wealthy kids start listening to it."

They made some interesting points and made me think about art and the integrity of it. I still am pretty firm on my beliefs, but realize that my beliefs come from a place of white privilege, and that I might not see the whole picture.

It also got me thinking about the messages I let out as a teacher.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

Is it wrong to post twice on the same day? Well who cares.

Today is Earth Day, and I'm hoping to reduce my impact on the environment, the problem is, I have become less conscious of my Carbon Footprint, its very difficult in this consumer society we live in. I am constantly finding the need to drive somewhere, even if it is in the name of appreciating nature.
Although, yesterday, I basically rebuilt a wheel on my bike at the Santa Cruz Bike Church and I plan to begin working on my bike commute again to move away from car usage.

I was hoping for more going on in Santa Cruz based around Earth Day, It seems like there were more festivities around Friday's 420 holiday. As long as it dosnt rain too much I will spend the majority of the day outdoors.

If you haven't noticed, I am playing with hyper links today, hope you find them informational.

To the other side of the Ecuador

So, after much consideration and a good conversation, it looks as if Meghan and I will be traveling to South America this summer for about a month. This destination kind of jumped onto the page sporadically. I was looking for tickets to South America and found the price to be less expensive than other places. And after reading up on it, it seems like Ecuador will be great. It has a coastal region and a jungle region that is split by the Andes. there are two active volcanoes and an active indigenous population. It also might include a trip to the Galapagos islands. I will look at as a necessary educational expense.

I am getting excited about the trip, but I first need to make it through the rest of the school year.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Thought is Unsettling

I had a discussion with my principal today about a student who, last year, said that he would bring a gun to school and shoot the kids who bugged him. I guess it was a disregarded comment that has made its way back to the administration after Cho and the Virginia Tech shootings.

Its scary, but we need to be so aware of how students react and how they are dealt with. This specific student is a student who has some social issues, and deals with them by saying inappropriate things about other students under his breath--and most of the students react. He was assaulted in October because some students were mad at him. The problem is, he doesn't realize the damage he might do.

Because of his social issues, he doesnt have many friends, so he plays a lot of video games. I don't believe that video games lead directly to violence, but we are all products of our environment. His environment is blood, gore, guns, and the things that permeate many of today's popular games. So seeing this he might be called a name and instead of saying, "leave me alone," he might say, "I'm gonna shoot you." Thinking that life works like video games and we can just shoot people we don't like. I'm not too worried, but it makes me realize how susceptible we all are to others; the words, and gestures they make.

Otherwise it was a pretty normal day

I am surprised how disconnected my students seem from the shootings. They think it sounded "cool." I guess the fact that it happened in a college on the other side of the continent makes it hard to grasp.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Four Agreements

I recently read an interesting book. I guess it fits in the "new Age" category, but I found it to be slightly interesting. It's called The Four Agreements it talks about four basic things that one could change in their life. I find that some of the ideas behind these elements could be somewhat self-righteous but I also see some truth in them, especially in my teaching and dealing with youth.

The first is Be impeccable with Your Word-
Basically say what you mean, and don't use words that are intended to hurt or have the potential to hurt. If you say something bad to someone it has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophesy, whether its positive or negative.

The second is Don't take anything personally-
If someone says something mean spirited or acusatory it shouldnt be taken internally, it is just an emancipation of the person's disposition. This one really helps in the classroom, although it is very difficult to do.

The third is Don't make assumptions-
Stereotypes, prejudices, etc. Hard to avoid doing this, but an important thing to think about... but also, be clear with what is said and what you are saying. Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings.

And the fourth is Always Do your best-
This one seems kind of sesame Street but it makes sense and it makes the other agreements work, it makes them less self righteous. If my partner is mad at me and I haven't done my bestm then i can't disregard it as her professing her problems on to me. My friend Andrew showed me that one, and I like it.

I think these are basic lessons, but could be used positively in life and in the classroom.

These are some of the beautiful flowers I encountered while hiking in Humboldt

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Just Like Honey

This is my first attempt at Blogging. I thought it would be a good venue for me to write about my thoughts and get myself writing again. I also thought it would be great to write about my first year teaching and start a mini-community of other first-year teachers.
There are a few problems with that though. First, i seem to have no time at all to do anything except plan for class, grade papers, spend time with my partner, and sleep. So we will see if I am able to keep this blog Active. I am also afraid I am spending too much time in front of this darn computer already.
Well today I met with one of my students who got in my face the day before spring break and cussed me out. It was a strange meeting in which I feel almost no resolution. I am glad that my administration supports my safety, but I don't feel as if the student has learned that his behavior is not ok.