Posts Tagged ‘students’

Waiting for “Superman” – I’d Rather Wait for Godot.

I finally saw this film which garnered so much attention last year.  While all cinematic experiences involve manipulation of the viewer, I was disappointed at the extent to which this highly touted “documentary” dragged the spectator along.

“Superman” jumped from topic to topic while lightly brushing on nearly 40 complex education issues over the course of 1 1/2 hours.  Big topics may have received as much as four minutes from the filmmaker.   However, some important issues were touched upon in as little as 30 seconds.

You want an example?  The contentious issue of “merit pay” for teachers.  This magic bullet proposed by former Washington D.C. schools’ chancellor, Michelle Rhee, seeks to reward teachers for high performance with increased pay.  Eventually, it would come to replace the dysfunctional merit system currently plaguing American school districts. Continue reading


The Future

Where will my kids go to school? What about global warming? And what am I going to make for dinner?

I’ve always loved that word — future.  It’s totally appealing.  In French, l’avenir, and in Italian, l’avvenire, mean “what’s to come.”

Despite my fondness for the word, I admit to occasional bouts of that middle-aged man malady, fear of the future.

Just when everything is going well, you stop and begin to despair about the future.  If you’re like me, you worry about whether your children will have the opportunities that have existed up until now.  I also worry about what type of planet they will inherit.

Of course, fathers have been preoccupied with thoughts like this since we emerged from primordial slime by walking on our fins.

We have difficulty intellectualizing that, although things will certainly be different in the future world, new opportunities and fresh innovations will develop.

I guess it comes down to one of my favorite John Hiatt lyrics, We can live in fear or we can act out of hope.  I try to choose the latter. Continue reading

Think Before You Speak, Would’ja?

Remember this story? If you haven’t read it, you should.  The story is as follows:  The Fashionista shows a teacher a project that is due the following day.  She asks for feedback and he says, “This project sucks.”  He goes on the show her project to other classes later in the day.  Her name is not on it, but word gets around.  He says to the other classes, “This is an example of a project that sucks.”  So not cool.

The Fashionista re-worked the project that night and ultimately completed the course with this teacher.   TF had zero interest in dealing with this situation.  She wanted it to go away.  She did not want an apology.  In fact, she wanted us to let the entire situation fade swiftly in the First Quarter’s rear view mirror.

We told her, “Sorry.  Parental veto power taking effect here.”  We agreed to let it go until the class was over.  As soon as she started her new “satellite” class, The Major contacted the school. Continue reading

In Support of Teachers’ Unions

Scapegoat — n. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.

Bête noire — n. a person or thing strongly detested or avoided.

In the labor world, unions are the scapegoats for everything that is not right with the work place.

In the world of education, teachers’ unions are both the scapegoat and the bête noire.

In 21st century America, it has become fashionable and, indeed, socially acceptable to bash teachers’ unions.  Continue reading

My job is the best job out there!

I grew up in a family of educators.  Two of my grandparents and both of my parents were in the education field.   It’s in the blood.

I went to a public school; but thanks to my mom, my entire childhood was like one big home schooling experience.  She made learning fun.  She made us costumes.  We cooked together.  We went on “field trips”.   We were surrounded by art projects.  We were avid readers.  We belonged to a food co-op back before that was the cool thing to do.

Despite all of these experiences, I was convinced that I never wanted to be a teacher.  Music was my thing, but a music teacher?  No way!  No one at my college, a music conservatory, ever talked about teaching.  It was looked down upon.  I always loved children, but the idea of organizing concerts for children terrified me.  I was frightened to even think about how to go about preparing kids for performances.

Fast forward 20 years later (yikes) and I am convinced that I have the best job out there!

I teach music to children in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.  My school would be considered by many to be a tough school.  For one thing, it is a Title I school, which means it has a high percentage of students from low-income families.  There are other issues, but suffice it to say I love my school.  I love every minute I’m there.

I teach music using the Orff method.  What is Orff?  It is a way to teach music through singing, dancing, playing instruments, chanting rhymes and drama.  Orff teaches through “doing” or making music and hearing music first.  Writing and reading comes later.  This is how we learn language too.

I love seeing the joy on my students’ faces as we explore, play and learn together.  There is nothing better than having a student sit down after an activity and turn to me to say, “Boy, that was FUN!” or “Music’s over ALREADY?”

Music also gives me a unique opportunity to find something in each student that might not be obvious when they are learning in their classrooms:

  • A kid tapping his pencil incessantly in the classroom?  Fantastic steady beat in music.
  • Cannot sit still in her seat in the class?  Amazing creative movement ideas in my room.
  • Chatterbox?  Is able to “say” their instrument part while playing it and can be a leader for others.  The list goes on and on.

Do I still have performance anxiety about preparing the kids to perform? Not as much.  Orff is more about the process than the performance.  When my students get up on stage it feels more like we are sharing what we’ve been learning about rather than simply performing.

Here’s an added and unexpected benefit from my efforts: Last year we started a new Character Education program at my school.  We had monthly assemblies based on the Character Trait we chose for that month.  I prepared the kids to perform at these assemblies.

Since then,  myprincipal has told me numerous times that discipline issues in her office have decreased significantly.  She attributes that to the fact that the students are actively engaged in learning about these traits.  Feeling a part of an ensemble with your peers and sharing with the school is a huge incentive for them.  They feel good about themselves.

I love my students.  I missed them in the spring when I was home focusing my attentions on my favorite pupil:  Island Boy.  I am so happy to be back in the classroom this fall.  There was nothing better than hearing a student walk by my classroom and say to a friend, “Did you hear?  Running Girl is BACK and I am so excited!”  Me too, kiddo, me too.

–Running Girl