27 August 2010

Friday U-boat, ed.1

My goal is to always send you into the weekend with something to make you chuckle. Actually, my goal is that you'll always chuckle a little bit.

My personal favorite reason to chuckle? The U-boat. U-boats are answers that are so ridiculously wrong, that you just have to share. I call them U-boats because of the first one I remember, and just had to share, was this gem.

ID Terms: Please explain what the term or person was, and why they were important to World War Two.

U-boats: U-boats U-boats were like submarines, only different. They were boats that floated under the water. They had telescopes so you could see out. They helped the germans greatly to defeat their enemas.

A classic.

But now, in light of this blog being as much about my current teaching as it is about my past, I'm going to add in work from advanced kids that makes me laugh. It may not be wrong, (in many cases it's actually really right) but it's also very funny.

So here's today's U-boat:

And yes, that is Chuck Norris kicking a wolf. Enjoy your weekend!

25 August 2010

PBS, NBR, and other appropriate acronyms

Greetings, readers.

I am a guest contributor to this blog, and it is my erstwhile hope that, through my writings, and your reading, we can become collaborators on a movement which will help to change American public education for the better. 

Now, let us not be fooled into thinking that this new paradigm, through which we will view education will be easy to adapt to, or that others in education will be quickly swayed to our side of this philosophical debate. Indeed, as there is with any serious change, there will be serious resistance, I suspect. That being said, our cause is just, and right, and in the end, as they say, truth will out!

As a bit of background, I hold an EdD. in Administrative Sciences Support from the renowned Indiana Normal School, and a pHd in Behavioural Sciences, from the Shannon Higher Institute of Teaching, in Ireland . I have been published numerous times in both scholarly journals and less serious works, including some poetry. As will become obvious from my writing, I also spent many years in high school teaching and administration, prior to my sojourn to academia.

Well, let us begin our discussion of student behaviour, and my plan to drastically change the way public schools in America attempt to regulate and modify student behaviour. As I am sure you are aware, there has been a split among behavioural scientists, such as myself, over what the best way to modify behaviour is.

1. There are those who hold dear to the theory of Positive Reinforcement. These people, guided by the ideals espoused in instructional films, such as Whale Done, believe earnestly that by simply rewarding positive behaviour, and ignoring negative behaviour, children will, out of a desire to fit in and be rewarded, behave properly. They draw much of their evidence from the trainers of killer whales, who only use positive reinforcement.

2. There is a second group of behavourists, who I count myself among, who believe that human beings, especially once they reach adult or young-adult-hood, will act in their own self interest, and thus, will act in many cases not for reward; but to avoid punishment.

The positive behaviourists have created a system for school-wide discipline, which they call "Positive Behaviour Support". In order to sell this system to schools, they have dressed it up with acronyms and fancy charts. (they never call it Positive Behaviour Support, rather choosing "PBS") They think it is one of the best systems ever devised. I think it is rubbish.

And so, in cooperation with some of my learned colleagues, and with willing teachers in several American public high schools, I have developed a response to "PBS". I call it "Negative Behaviour Response", or to keep up with the Joneses, NBR. My system is simple, and I hope to present it to you here, over the next several weeks. Today, I just wish to explain the basic outline:

1. Students misbehave.
2. Students receive a consequence, which is unpleasant.
3. If students continue to misbehave, then they receive more and more unpleasant consequences until they stop misbehaving.

In the future, you can expect me to explain some of my favourite concepts surrounding NBR, such as my patented OIR and STFU methods of behaviour modification.

23 August 2010

What's that Phil Collins says about another day?

Today, I broke up a fight.


It wasn't even a good fight, like between girls, or junior boys. Nope, this was freshmen boys. Together they might have weighed 95 pounds, 96 max. They even stopped fighting once they were in the patented "double head lock kick the call button" hold that I dropped on their heads like I was Chuck Liddel.

All in all, not the greatest fight I was ever involved in stopping (those honors belong to that trash can fight I've referenced before, and am referencing right now).

But it did make me think about what other jobs I've had, and if they ever presented me with the serious potential to get hit in the kisser. I've worked in retail, at a summer camp, and on the NASCAR circuit, but none of those jobs have offered me the potential to get hit. In fact, none of them have offered any serious competition in the "you won't believe what happened at work today" category.

And that's what critics of public education don't get. They are quick to talk about ineffective teachers, and the failures of schools. They want to turn education into a series of schools where people get to "choose". They want schools that don't meet ever-moving targets to go out of business. They often argue that if funds are stripped from schools, schools will get better.

I'm not going to refute that, it's been done by Diane Ravich better than I ever could.

I think their problem is bigger than being wrong about the economics of schools (they miss that teachers and schools don't exist, for the most part, for profit). Their problem is that they don't understand teaching and education from the front of the room, they only understand it from the students' perspective.

Let's say you have a job in an office, and you go to work. When you have a meeting with a client, to try and convince them to buy your product or service, it's a big, stressful deal. You put together presentations, and practice. You put on your Sunday best to go to work that day. And when it's successful, you go out for dinner to celebrate. On top of that, you're judged by not just if the clients buy, but if they really understand what you're selling. Oh, and your clients might just hit each other, mid-meeting That's what a high school teacher does between 3 and 7 times every day.

Then, they go home and grade the assignments they've collected, and if they're motivated, perhaps they plan for next week. They make their own copies (how many kids are 6th hour? 34 or 36?), they don't get coffee or bathroom breaks, and they provide children with the skills they need to function and succeed in society. And on average, they do it for $43,000 a year, before Uncle Sam gets his.

Now, I'm not complaining (much), but I am saying this: the next time your good friend, your co-worker, that lady in Sunday school is talking about how you "just won't believe what happened in school to my kid this week", listen (because I wouldn't want you to be inpolite), and then pause for a moment, and think about the stress that teacher is under everyday. The teacher may have done something wrong, I know that I screw something up every day, however, they probably did 99% of the day right, so maybe you can find it in your heart to forgive them.

19 August 2010

The Most Ridiculous Thing I Have Been Asked to do as a Teacher

In my 9 years in the classroom, I have been asked to do many ridiculous things. I have been asked to change a grade for a student, because the principal had promised the parent that the child wouldn't fail. (nevermind that the student couldn't read). I have been asked to show up at 5:45 AM for parent meetings, to stay until 9pm for parent meetings.

I have been asked to make the College Board exam "more fair". I have been begged to take late work. I have been cried at, screamed at, pouted at, and had trash-cans thrown at me. (ok, technically I've only ever had one trash can thrown at me, but that's a story for another day). I've had principals I like get fired, and ones I hated kept around.

Long story short(ish); this job is full of humiliation, and so, for me to title something The Most Ridiculous Thing I have ever been asked to do as a Teacher, it must be pretty bad.

You won't think that it is. You'll think that I'm over-reacting. You'll say, "that seems like a decent idea" or "why are you wasting the valuable real-estate of the internets with this drivel?".

So what if I am? This is a decision, made by some joker who makes 3 times my salary, who has probably never worked in a classroom, let alone taught in one. So naturally, the district has put him in charge of school security. And he has instituted an epically stupid idea. Epic like Gone with the Wind, not epic like The Odyessy.

And frankly, my reader, I give a damn.

Here's what I'm so upset about

I know this seems like an innocous little magent. Here's how the "security guy" thinks I should use the magnet:

1. Lock my door at all times

2. Put the magnet over the latch on the door

3. Now, the door is locked, but people can enter and exit as though the door were unlocked.

4. In case of emergency, as you can see on the magnet, remove the magnet, and the door can re-shut and be locked, no keys needed!

Let me address the problems one by one:

1. But what if I don't want my door locked? Or better yet, what if I do? With the magnet in place, I can't actually shut my door and have it locked.

2. When the magnet is over the latch, my door doesn't stay shut. Neither does my next door neighbor's, or her neighbor's. This would be great, if all classrooms were silent little cloisters. They aren't. So now, it's like the world's rudest movie theater, all of the time. That seems like a good plan

3. Since the door doesn't latch, people enter and exit as though the door were unlocked. Even people I don't want entering, since my door is constantly open.

4. In case of emergency, I now have to open my door, take the magnet off and then reclose the door. Do you know what I did before the magnet? I locked the door from the inside. Now, I open the door, to the place where all of that danger is, remove the magnet, and shut the door. I think I just got less safe by writing about it.

I'm not even going to talk about how ridiculous it is that these things are prime material for stealing, how they don't work on science, art, band or choir doors. I'm not going to talk about how they're district branded, or how there was no room for negotiation when any of these things were pointed out.

I'm just going to say that being told to use this magnet, and being told to do it without question, is The Most Ridiculous thing I have been asked to do as a Teacher.

18 August 2010


Before I delve into our tale of public education for the day, a quick word about this blog and its author:

I am a public school teacher, with 9 years of experience. I taught in the poorest per capita school in Indiana for 3 years, at a school in Colorado that had 1000 too many kids in it for 3 years, and am in my 3rd year teaching in what seems to be an ideal suburban school. I obviously have had many experiences, many of which are hilarious, and I intend to share them here, on the interwebs.

That being said, I also have exceptionally strong opinions about public education. I abhor movements which evaluate teachers with any real weight put on state tests. I like the idea of charter schools, but think that they should have to play by the same rules as public schools if they're going to tout their results.

I'm going to try and keep myself and the place where I work semi-anonymous (we'll see how well that goes).

On to the story for the day....
Today, in a quest to get a picture of the most ridiculous thing I have been asked to do as a teacher, I stopped into our school's journalism lab. The students were writing fictional obituaries of their lives. One of them, in a quest for inspiration, turned to the most inspiring person in the room. When he didn't have anything to say, she asked me a series of questions, ending with, "What age do you want to retire at?"

Without thinking, I replied "31".

You're thinking 1 of 2 things at this point. 1. This blog sucks or 2. So what, you want to retire at an unreasonably young age.

Here's the thing: I'm 30 right now. And I don't really want to retire at 31, but it sure feels like it some days.

Now, those of you in education know what I'm talking about, I suspect many of you in "real" jobs do as well. But you probably think that I, as a teacher, want to retire because the kids make me crazy.

Its not the kids.

Its never the kids. They're dumb. I knew that going in. That's what the taxpayers pay me to fix. Its the people at the top. That's where the problem is. Because they can't be fixed. And I suppose, in the grand scheme, that's what this blog is about. Its about the problems that most people don't know are out there. The problems that can't be fixed.

It might not make for great reading, but it'll be cathartic for me.