Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

For so many Labor Day is just another day off from work, but do you know the history of the holiday?  Labor Day has not always been about barbecues and long weekends on the Cape.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fingers Crossed

My daughter and I recently sat down to watch Waiting for Superman and The Lottery.  Waiting for Superman got a lot of hype last winter when it was released in theaters, complete with Oprah appearance and hoopla.  The Lottery is very much the same story, with guest appearances from Geoffrey Canada and a heart wrenching final school "lottery" scene.

In addition to putting the problems of public education in the spotlight for a couple months, these movies also brought increased attention to public charter schools. Both movies highlight all the obstacles facing traditional public schools and their efforts to improve educational programs, most notably the power of teacher's unions and the difficulty in firing bad teachers.  Public charter schools do not, for the most part, have to deal with a teacher's union and the limitation of a union contract.  This has in turn created both a nation-wide call for more charter schools and a backlash from teachers and groups advocating for alternative reforms in public education.

Those in favor of more charter schools and/or changes in the ways teachers are hired, fired and evaluated argue that administrators and parents are at the mercy of teacher tenure and the teacher contract.  Both movies highlight these problems, discussing in depth the "lemon dance"and district offices in which teachers get paid to sit for 6 hours a day for months waiting for disciplinary hearings.  Very rarely are teachers ever fired.

Charter schools, on the other hand, do not have to deal with teacher tenure or a contract.  They may fire teachers at will and are able to extend the school day, school year and/or time during which school staff may have to work.  These parameters are often clearly defined in the union contract in traditional public schools.  In response to this, parents and students are flocking to charter schools.  In many cases hundreds of students have to be turned away from these schools.  Thus the demand for more charter schools.

On the other side you have advocates for teachers, like Diane Ravitch, saying that the problem is not the unions, but rather poverty, limitations placed on teachers by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and an increased dependence on standardized testing.  I have discussed standardized testing and the stresses it places on schools before.  Unfortunately, I do not think testing is going away any time soon.  Too many resources have been expended on national and state standards and, as a result, assessment tools.  Pointing the finger at poverty is not new and it certainly contributes to the challenges faced by teachers.  On the other hand, charter schools draw from these same populations and yet appear to be getting better results.

This group also argues that charter schools are, in many cases, just an excuse for corporate education.  Many charter schools now clone themselves in cities across America.  Many new charters are given to familiar names like KIPP and Imagine and often tout incredible results -- that is until you look a little deeper.  Some charter schools have such rigid codes of conduct that students leave in large numbers after the first or second year.  Charter schools cannot pick and choose their students (students must be selected through a lottery), BUT they can set the rules for remaining in the school.  Additionally, some charter schools have been unwilling to open their books and therefore their accounting of public and private funds has been up for debate.

I do not hate charter schools.  In many ways I am a fan.  But on the other hand, I do think that teachers in traditional public schools are limited by all the demands placed on them by testing and poverty.  I also do not hate unions, but feel that there is room for negotiation.  Many school districts are now implementing tougher teacher evaluation systems directly tied into standardized testing.  We will have to wait and see if this is the answer.  I have a feeling it is not.

For me the jury is still out on large, corporate-like charter schools.  I love the idea of having a small charter school that works like a tight-knit family.  In fact, I dream of starting such a charter school.  The minute you put a corporate structure into that model, the appeal for me is gone.  Public schools should remain public and answer to their constituents, not a corporation or business.  On the other hand, I have not had schools in my neighborhood so terrible that I feel trapped.  I am not always happy with the schools in my district, but they are not bad schools.  In fact, my current schools are exemplary.  As I watched the movies I kept thinking "what would I do"?  If I could not move out of the neighborhood, afford a private school or did not have the knowledge to maneuver the system?  What are my options?  Wait for the school to improve?  Corporate or not, a KIPP school might look good at that point.....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to School!

This summer I have felt a bit unfocused.  I thought I was on one path, searching for a teaching job for the start of the 2011-2012 school year, but given the state of the economy I have had to change direction.  After two years of haunting SchoolSpring and other sources for school job openings, revising my resume, writing cover letters and submitting job applications I have decided to redirect my energy.

I only recently got my teaching certification and felt pretty committed to the field.  For the last two years I have worked as a substitute teacher and special education teaching assistant.  I earned certification in both Middle School Humanities (Social Studies and English) AND English as a Second Language. I already had a master's degree in Education.  I participated in additional training and professional development.  I applied for a lot of teaching jobs, but so many teachers have lost their jobs during the economic downturn, jobs are hard to come by without knowing someone and/or years of teaching experience.  To add to this challenge, I did not come into teaching via the traditional route.  I took the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) rather then going through a college teacher preparation program.  Therefore, I have not participated in student teaching.  I could try to find a job as a teaching assistant again, but honestly it is a lot of work for not a lot of money and I have the credentials to work as a teacher.  For the past two years I have longed for my own classroom.  I know I am a good teacher.  The kids I have worked with love me.  My colleagues and supervisors have given me endless praise.  I have even been collecting books for my future classroom library.   

Rather than keep torturing myself looking for a teaching job, I am going back to school.  This is something I have toyed with on and off for several years. Regis College has a new program in Heritage Studies and after talking with the director of the program, I think it is a good fit for me.  Also, they contacted me and I enjoyed having someone court me.  I begin classes next week.  

To support my new life as a student I plan to substitute teach a couple days a week and teach yoga and Zumba®.  I have been teaching yoga for the last couple years.  I just finished my Zumba training have been working daily to prepare the choreography for my first classes.  I have added a link to my class calendar on the side bar and will update as I add classes this fall!  Life has thrown me a bit of a curve ball, but I am ready to shift focus and move ahead.

This blog originally started as an education blog, a topic that will still remain prevalent, but as my life shifts, so will the focus of my blog.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School House Rock Wednesday #7

I believe this is the most famous of the School House/Grammar Rock videos.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Iowa State Fair

The Political.....

and non-political side of the Iowa State Fair.

Turkey in the Straw

Currently, I am in the Hawkeye State, Iowa, visiting my family. As some may already know, it is state fair time and the Iowa State Fair, immortalized in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair, is the most famous. Once a year about one million fair goers gather to eat various food items (usually fried and on a stick), take a peek at the famous butter cow and largest hog and wander around for hours viewing all types of entertainment. This year the beginning of the Iowa State Fair coincided with the Ames Straw Poll and thus the Republican presidential candidates, both announced and anticipated, and the media have descended upon the state and fairgrounds.

The straw polls and subsequent Iowa Caucus always cause me to reflect upon the various methods we use throughout the country to elect our presidential candidates and, ultimately, the President of the United States. For those of you from states in which a caucus is not the norm, you should know that it is both a bizarre and fascinating experience. Bizarre in that it seems antiquated and not totally representative of the entire voter constituency (the process can take the entire evening, so not all can participate), but fascinating because it is an experience, much more so than going to the polls and just casting a vote.  The only thing to which I think it compares is Town Meeting, but that is a discussion for another time.  Yes, partaking in a caucus or straw poll is truly participatory and one easily gets caught up in the excitement of the process, but at the same time it leaves one open to the influence of others (votes are not secret and the supporters of candidates can openly try to sway other voters) and leaves out anyone who would like to participate, but cannot because of other obligations (I am thinking specifically of families with small children, people with evening jobs).  

Primaries, on the other hand, are run much like elections, but with some variations.  Once you are registered to vote, and in some cases, registered with the party in question, you just show up to vote and cast your ballot. Polls are typically open from early morning to evening.  In theory, almost everyone can, with a little bit of effort and not a lot of time expended, cast their ballot and participate.  Not as much fun, but open to all voters and the ballots are secret.

In so many ways we have outgrown our election processes (the electoral college is also a discussion for another time), but I do not know if we are ready for sweeping changes.  Iowans certainly are not willing to give up being first to vote on presidential candidates and will most likely not give up the current system of caucuses and straw polls. Especially when the Iowa State Fair and local businesses gain so much from the process.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Big Testing Monster

Over the years, testing and the issues associated with testing, have consistently remained in the news.  The most prevalent testing story in the news this week is that of cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools.  In Atlanta the cheating was not only widespread, but carried out by teachers and administrators.  The entire school system had a culture in which rising test scores was rewarded by high level administrators, any evidence of cheating was ignored (sometimes even hidden) and whistle-blowers were reprimanded.  Shocking?  Perhaps, but this has happened or is alleged to have happened in other school systems like Chicago and Washington DC.  Some point toward Campbell's Law and the natural tendency toward corruption when quantitative indicators are used to monitor social processes.

Testing places incredible stress on schools.  In most schools everything and everyone is scheduled around testing.  It is priority number one.  Teachers stop teaching if their students have an exam.  The entire school has to cease any noisy lessons so as not to disturb the students taking tests.  God forbid you need the school psychologist, assistant principal or guidance counselor during that time.  They are busy proctoring exams for students requiring accommodations.  The school secretary is completely stressed trying to keep track of every single test booklet and tracking down students absent on testing days.  The principal is stressed because these tests are the main way that he/she is judged by parents, future parents and the central administration.  The superintendent is stressed because parents are worried, not on how their children will do necessarily, but on how the results will effect their property values.  And sometimes the students feel incredible stress, depending on how the school handles the situation.  Some students get butterflies, cannot sleep and worry about "passing".  I am not trying to make excuses but simply point out that the system places stress on those working in the schools and beyond.  (Just an aside, the integrity of those of I have worked with is beyond reproach.)  

The tests are supposed to be for the benefit of the students, but so much energy is placed on the administration of the tests and the end results, the best interest of the students sometimes get lost along the way.  In Atlanta, this certainly happened.  Many students in need of remedial services did not receive those services because their "fake" test scores made them ineligible.  Sad indeed.

I often think that we are trapped in this system and cannot find a way out.  There is an incredible demand for accountability, but no one seems to know how else to place checks and balances on public schools.  I am not exactly sure what the answer is and may want to explore the options in other blog posts, but I know the current system is flawed in multiple ways.  I think Atlanta is evidence of exactly how flawed. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Declaration of Independence Wordle

Tonight I caught the end of a discussion on the Twitter New Teacher Chat (#ntchat) that centered around the use of Wordle in the classroom.  Wordle creates word clouds that gives more frequently used words prominence.  The word clouds help to illustrate themes and ideas and are just plain cool!  I think I'm hooked. For more ideas, check out What Katy Did...

School House Rock Wednesday #4

In my opinion, an explanation of interjections cannot compare to this video.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Trial by Jury

"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" -- William Blackstone.

Today, a jury in Florida found Casey Anthony "not guilty" of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter or aggravated child abuse.  To those of us occasionally caught up in the story and trial, the verdicts came as a shock.  I think many, perhaps even the jurors themselves, believe Casey was somehow culpable in the death of her daughter.  But the evidence was obviously not enough to convince a jury of Anthony's peers that she was guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" of murder.

Cheney Mason, one of Anthony's defense attorneys, blasted the media in a post-verdict press conference.  The media's obsession with the trial and murder certainly did have an effect on public opinion, but what does this all say about our judicial system and trial by jury?  It is not by any means perfect, but the alternative is hardly palatable.  Is there a difference between law and justice (I'm watching Alan Dershowitz on Piers Morgan right now)?  I think these are all very interesting questions to ponder with our peers and within our classrooms and this trial certainly provides an interesting case study.

Too Late to Apologize

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend Travels

I just returned from a few days in the Berkshires with my family.  The main reason for the trip was the opportunity to see the BEMF performance of "Niobe, regina di Tebe", but additional cultural experiences ensued.  A visit to my husband's favorite museum, the Norman Rockwell Museum, is always a must while in the Berkshires.  To mix things up a bit, we also scheduled visits to The Mount, Edith Wharton's fabulous estate, and Mass MoCA.  

(A big "thank you" to my lovely daughter for the photos!)

Niobe was my first opera experience and an impressive one at that.  The opera was presented in three acts and even with cuts by both the composer Agostino Steffani and the BEMF, lasted nearly four hours.  My post-opera experience has gotten me thinking about the possibilities of using opera and other musical genres to teach humanities.  Niobe is based on a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses.  The story is one of love, power and tragic endings (mocking the gods is NOT a good idea).  I am not sure if most adolescents could sit through a four hour opera in Italian, but the power of music to introduce a classic story or history lesson certainly has appeal.  My first introduction to both Carmen and Hamlet was of the musical variety -- who can forget the Giligan's Island musical Hamlet?  It may have been silly, but both the music and story were stuck in my mind for years after seeing the show as a kid.

No recording is currently available, but here is a little taste "Niobe, regina di Tebes":


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

School House Rock Wednesday #3

Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla.  Pronouns have never been more clearly explained.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Founding Fathers

In my house we all have our favorite founding father.  For my daughter and husband it is John Adams.  My son's favorite is George Washington.  But for me, although John Adams runs a very close second, it is Alexander Hamilton.  Most find Hamilton an odd choice.  He could be.... let's say abrasive, often getting into arguments with not only Thomas Jefferson and his followers, but also fellow Federalists.  And of course, most notably, Aaron Burr.

I admire Hamilton for many reason, the main one being that he truly came from nothing.  He is an example of living the American Dream, but he lived it before there was an America.  Alexander Hamilton was born in 1755 (1757 in some documents) as the illegitimate child of a Scottish trader in the West Indies and was orphaned as an adolescent.  In 1773 he was sent to the colonies to pursue a formal education at King's College and almost immediately took up Patriot cause.  He joined a militia two years later and by 1777 became George Washington's aide-de-camp.  Hamilton wrote most of what we now call the Federalist Papers, in an effort to counter anti-federalist opposition to the ratification of the Constitution.  He then went on become the first Secretary of the Treasury and established the First National Bank and the foundations of our modern day banking system.  Not bad for a bastard immigrant.

On the other hand, Alexander Hamilton was arrogant, a terrible politician and was obsessed with honor.  For these reasons he was disliked and is today lesser known (perhaps unknown) to most Americans.  And then there is of course his tragic death in a duel with Aaron Burr.  No one is perfect.  So next time you take out a ten dollar bill, take a moment to reflect on the accomplishments of Alexander Hamilton and his contributions to our current system of government.

For additional resources on Alexander Hamilton check out this virtual tour of the Hamilton Exhibition, screen the PBS American Experience documentary, or visit Hamilton's grave at Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kindergarten Pressures

Kindergarten today is much different than it was when I attended in 1972.  I have very fond memories of my kindergarten experience.  I did not speak a lot of English, but I recall one corner where we played house and another with blocks.  There was also the ever important nap time with our heads on our desks and milk delivered to the classroom.  Not a lot of reading and writing was going on beyond the occasional story read aloud. We learned our ABCs and some basic number facts, but were not expected to read at the tender age of 5.  I was not, as a result, doomed to a lifetime of academic struggle and illiteracy.

In many suburban schools today, kindergartners are expected to be able to read and write by the end of the year.  When I first started teaching a couple years ago as a substitute teacher, I actually found this a bit disturbing.  The students in my district's kindergarten program write daily.  They are also constantly assessed in math and reading.  If they struggle in any of these areas they are given support.  In my opinion, kindergarten has become a grind.  The day is long and, for some, the expectations are a bit too much.  Is this a good thing?  As a result more and more parents feel the pressure to have their kids "ready" for kindergarten.  I am not sure that we have research to support the assumption that increasing the academic expectations for kindergarten students (and preschoolers) has the long term effects we postulate.  This shift has certainly not helped us compete internationally.  And I am not talking about children who are natural early readers and learn to read without a lot of instruction at an early age.  I am also not suggesting that reading to children is a waste of time.  (I am in fact a huge advocate of reading aloud).  I am much more concerned about taking away the play aspect of early childhood education to make room for academic instruction.  Play and socialization are essential parts of early learning.  Some are even asking if this increased pressure toward early childhood academics is contributing to childhood obesity.  I am not suggesting that we eliminate all academics from kindergarten, but rather reassess whether we need to turn school into an academic pressure cooker at such an early age.    

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The End is Near

It is that time of year again.  The time when moms like Laura at 11d and families all over the country have had enough.  School is coming to a close, but yet, this is when ALL extracurricular activities decide to have a performance, projects and assessments HAVE to get done and room parents decide to schedule a barrage of end of the year family events in school.  As a parent I am lucky.  My youngest is 14, independent and beyond his 8th grade moving up ceremony, has very few end of the year events.  But I completely understand the frustration.  This time of year I often think suburban moms have a secret death wish all in an effort to one up the previous years' activities.  If the room parents planned a bubble blowing activity last year, this year they plan a bubble blowing event with Popsicles.

As a teacher the end of the year involves a lot of meetings, daily disruptions and assessments.  I would not mind this so much normally, but I currently work in a therapeutic classroom for students with behavioral and emotional special needs.  Sudden changes to our routine are a big deal.  A day with one assessment is often a challenge, but on Monday my second grade students had both a spelling AND a math assessment.  The spelling assessment involved one sentence with 28 words.  I had to give the assessment over two days with one of my students because he was having a meltdown trying to keep up with my recitation of a ridiculous sentence involving the removal and use of books off a shelf.

Tomorrow is Field Day.  Sound fun?  For most yes, and normally I am an advocate for outdoor activities, but for students who become easily overstimulated and need regular down time, it is a recipe for disaster.  All of the teachers in my program are dreading Field Day.  There are 6 stations and a transition is required between each one.  This is problem #1.  Snack time and lunch time are at atypical times.  Problem #2.  And the situation involves the entire school and is a bit chaotic.  Problem #3.  To top it all off, we have an 1 1/2 hour meeting after the events to talk about our special ed program and how the year has gone. It is a very challenging program for the teachers, so I do look forward to this meeting and all the pent up frustrations coming out -- especially after Field Day.

All I can say is, thank goodness, the end is near and summer can officially begin next week.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

These famous words were uttered by Ronald Reagan on this day in 1987.  Today this may seem like old news, but to those of us who lived through it, the events that followed two years later seemed, at the time, improbable.  Germany had been divided for so long, a united Germany seemed unlikely to happen in our lifetime.

Just a little food for thought as we read the news and observe the various political events unfolding around the world today.

Slam Poetry

A little poetic inspiration...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Lost Art of Declaiming

I love poetry -- the rhythm, the emotions.  I especially love poetry when it is recited.  Unfortunately most schools only teach poetry once a year.  In much the same way that all things African American are studied in February (but that is a story for another time) poetry is taught in April during national poetry month.  I love to incorporate poetry as much as possible with my students.  I love to read aloud poems and have them read to me. I currently work with lower elementary aged students and do not have a self-contained classroom, but my goal with a older students in a classroom setting would be to open each class with a poem.  If one student opens the class each day, this would require students to recite about one poem per month.  The recitation of poetry improves student self confidence, as the preparation is not incredibly time consuming (I would not require memorization -- at least not in the beginning) and would allow students to explore poetry throughout the entire year and not just during the month of April.  Over the course of a year students will have read 9 or 10 poems in front of their peers and listened to about 170 poems.  Getting into the daily habit of listening to a classmate recite a poem also has benefits.  Poetry draws a student into the process of listening.  The rhythm and repetition can be very soothing and over time the class will get into the habit of being still for those few moments and taking in the poem.

My ultimate goal with this daily recitation would be a classroom or school-wide declamation competition .  This could include poetry, speeches and prose, but would give students the opportunity to build some memorization skills and learn the art of using their voice to translate emotion and emphasis.  Unfortunately most schools have abandoned all things traditional in their pedagogical practices.  Because of the taboo of "memorization" teachers have decided that there is no benefit in students memorizing anything.  I am in no way an educational traditionalist, but there is something to be gained from some memorization.  With memorization and performance, the declaimer is forced to better understand the passage they are reciting and is able to look directly at the audience and relay the author's point.  Admittedly not all students are going to love participating in a declamation, but some might find their niche in this lost art.

Here is a wonderful example of a student performing in a declamation:


Thursday, June 9, 2011

And where is Portugual?

A couple years ago I was with a friend when she noticed the above background picture on my computer.  The picture was taken in Sintra, Portugal.  I mentioned that it was taken in Portugal.  She paused and then said.  "And where is Portugal?"  I mentioned that it was.... in Europe (face still a bit blank)... next to Spain (that seemed to help... a bit).  On the one hand I found it funny, but on the other hand I was horrified.  It brought the American lack of geography knowledge a bit closer home.  My friend was educated and living in an affluent New England community.  I would not have been surprised if she did not know where Burkina Faso is located, but Portugal?

I am a total map nerd.  Whenever my family visits a yard sale or book sale, I inevitably end up buying an atlas... or two... or three.  Old, new, outdated, children's version -- I love them all!  Even more tempting is a beautiful, framed map.  So it saddens me when I hear about Americans and their lack of geographic knowledge.  I am therefore thinking of starting a crusade to get a map of the world hung in every classroom and every household in America.  I realize that most classrooms have lovely, pull-down maps, but in my experience, they are rarely pulled down and not made for marking up.  My family owns a wonderful, very large, laminated map of the world (similar to this one) and it is incredibly handy.  One can mark them up to highlight places studied in a particular lesson, to trace students' ancestral heritage, or to indicate the places visited or that one would like to visit one day.  I think exposure to maps is essential to understanding the larger world.

Although useful, online maps, like Google, and Bing are not enough.  One has to manipulate them to really get a feel for where things are located in relation to oneself.  The ability to walk by a map daily and, on occasion, take note of where things are located cannot be beat.  It is like a daily reminder that we are part of a larger world.  By having to consciously think about looking something up on Google maps, we are not given this subtle message.  So if you do not already own one, do yourself and your family a favor, buy a world map and hang it prominently in your home.  Talk about where you live, where you grew up and where your ancestral roots originated.  When a story comes on the news that seems to interest your children, walk over to the map and note where the story takes place.  Is it the location far away?  Is there something familiar nearby?  Maps, although simple in concept, provide a  real educational opportunity.  Who knows, you might even learn something in the process. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

School House Rock Wednesday #1

School House Rock played an important role in my educational development and thus, because Wednesdays are tough days (and nights) for me, I will post a favorite School House Rock video each Wednesday.  In honor of Sarah Palin and her re-writing the famous ride of Paul Revere, I think this video is most appropriate.  Please note that although the video does not make this clear, Paul Revere made his famous ride on April 18, 1775 and "the shot heard 'round the world" (not fired by Revere) occurred on April 19, 1775, now fondly commemorated as Patriots' Day.  (If you are ever in Massachusetts around Patriots' Day, there are awesome re-enactments in Lexington, Concord and other surrounding towns).  And, yes, I realize that the School House Rock Video has Paul Revere yelling "The British are coming! The British are coming!" into a bullhorn.  He did in fact state that "The Regulars are coming out!" after he was asked to not make so much noise.  This is why School House Rock is a good starting point for a discussion on the American Revolution, but not a final source of information.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Those Summer Nights

As the school year draws to a close, I start to think about summer and how to best spend those days and nights.  Many schools, such as the one in which I work, have summer reading and math requirements.  As an educator, I can understand the theoretical ideas behind these requirements, but as a parent I am a bit of a rebel and opposed.  I am a firm believer in down time and passive educational opportunities.  Lazy summer days with quiet reading, trips to museums and outdoor exploration.  Summer nights filled with bonfires and s'mores.  I spent a large amount of my childhood summers wandering aimlessly in the woods and fields.  For some reason (I'm sure it all goes back to my relationship with my mother), I take great offense to someone telling me what I HAVE to read, especially in the summer. I am in two different book groups and yet I know I can choose to NOT read a book if I so desire.  (Rarely does this happen because of my nerdy nature.)  Anyhow, my prescription for the summer for most school children and their families would be the following:

1) Regular DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time.  I think adults need to model this behavior.  Depending on the household, maybe 1/2 hour a day, maybe 1 hour a day, maybe one hour 3 times a week.  Free choice of reading materials.  What if you don't like what you have started reading?  Pick up a different book.  No book reports.  No stopping after each chapter and writing a summary.

2) At least one trip to a museum or cultural event.  Local or not, the family should choose based on their vacation plans and financial situation.  Many museums offer "free" days and passes through local libraries.  Trips to museums and historical sites are a part of my family's regular routine, much to my 14 year old son's chagrin.

3) Time to reconnect with family.  For some this might mean the nuclear family -- too busy during the regular school year to sit down and talk.  For others this might mean the extended family -- family reunions and barbecues and time to meet and talk to cousins.

4) Time with online resources.  Summer provides a great opportunity for kids to refresh their math skills via Khan Academy or, for older students, to take the time to brush up on current events via their Google Reader or News or a variety of news sources (YahooMSNBing).

5) Time outside.  Playing, camping, swimming, exploring -- family's choice.  I was a Girl Scout leader many years ago and remember very clearly one of my girls being openly hostile to the idea of our troop going on camping trip.  Let me just start by stating that I am, by no means, an outdoor enthusiast. At one point we were making s'mores and she said to me "this is my first one".  I was a bit surprised, but the big smile on her face said it all.  Even a city kid can gain something from the most basic of outdoor activities.

I know this all sounds counter to my "educator" title, but I truly believe in down time and, and as time on this blog will reveal, in activities that are not overtly educational on the surface.  Kids are, in general, over-scheduled, and the summer is no exception.  Purposefully plan some time this summer to be lazy and carefree.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bells, Bells, Bells

Little did I know that we would hear about Paul Revere and his bells so soon after my last post on the subject.  Palin supporters are even trying to amend Wikipedia.

My Hero

Sal Khan is my hero.  My 18 year old daughter recently introduced me to Khan Academy.  Khan Academy is a free online resource for math tutoring and instruction with over 2100 instructional videos and 100 exercises.

The possibilities of Khan Academy are seemingly endless.  For many it supplements the traditional math program.  For others it provides an alternative to the the traditional instructional environment.  But for those without access to school, the opportunities may be life changing.  This is proof positive that one person can make a difference.  Don't miss the TED video on Sal Khan and Khan Academy.


Many are probably wondering about my selection of the word "paideia" for the name of my blog.  Paideia derives from the Greek word meaning "to educate".  In ancient Greece this meant a system of classical instruction in which the goal was developing a well rounded student.  It included a variety of subjects to develop the body and mind.  For this reason, I think we should look at the education of the child in this same fashion.  The overall goal of education should be creating well rounded students and future citizens.

In graduate school many years ago I had to write about my paideia.  My paideia focused on global awareness and knowledge.  Students would be required to learn about world history, geography, literature, philosophy, citizenship, music and art in addition to math and science.  They would also become multilingual and learn strong reasoning skills.  This was, of course, in many ways just a dream...... a dream I still have.

Today I would modify my paideia to include learning about building a strong body and mind through exercise, meditation and nutrition.

What is your paideia?

History Re-told

Welcome to my first education blog post! Initially I was not sure what to discuss for this post, but have decided to go with this....

Sarah Palin discussing the historical importance of Paul Revere.  Palin's misunderstanding of history is not as disturbing as the fact that like Palin, so many other Americans take history and re-interpret it for the benefit of their own political ideas.  No Governor Palin, Paul Revere did not stand up to the British and tell them that they were not going to take our arms and he did not "ring those bells" -- that would have been counter-productive and most likely a suicide mission.  Paul Revere was a silversmith and he might have made bells, but the signal Palin is referring to is the two lanterns placed in the steeple of the Old North Church ("one if by land, two if by sea") as a warning. Revere rode on horseback from Charlestown to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock about the British coming to arrest them, all along the way spreading word to fellow patriots about the advancing Regulars.

Palin is not alone in this need to rewrite history.  Here is Michele Bachmann discussing our founding fathers and slavery.

To say that our founding fathers "worked tirelessly" to eliminate slavery is a gross misstatement of history.  Many of them, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington, owned slaves.  And John Quincy Adams, although openly opposed to slavery, was not even 9 years old on July 4, 1776.  

American history is not always pretty.  We study history not only to learn about our past, but to learn from our past mistakes.  By rewriting history and glossing over those events for which we may not be so proud, we do a disservice to those who fought to change the status quo and make history.

Currently most Americans have a very poor understanding of American history, and an even worse understanding of world history.  As a history lover and social studies teacher I find this very disturbing.  I think the biggest challenge in the years to come for history teachers will be undoing all the inaccurate history floating around in the media.  Unfortunately, once it's out there in the world wide web, for many it is fact.  I'm sure in the years to come we will hear more about Paul Revere and his bells.