Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Category: Soapbox (Page 2 of 3)

About The Soapbox

This blog is about math, and math teaching.  That said, it is on the internet, and is therefore a little soapbox for me to spout my thoughts about whatever. If I can’t sit quietly about something, I’ll post it here.

Who Can You Reach?

“You need to graduate for your Mama!” The student at the receiving end of the comment held his head down, quietly acknowledging the truth being loudly directed at him from the barrel chested veteran teacher across the room.  Weeks ago, another teacher tried unsuccessfully to get this kid to change his ways, but you can tell that hearing it from the advisor he’s had for a couple years might make him think a little harder about it. So when the kid said to these teachers that he wanted to work 50 hours a week as a grocery store manager while going to school, because he wanted to help get his mom and his family an actual house, his advisor called him out.  Over the next 20 minutes he walked his kid through the flaws in putting off school for a 50 hour a week job with as much animation and flair as you would see in a daytime talkshow.  After drawing a chart on the board, making the kid laugh and then bringing the kid to tears, he finally delivered the haymaker, “I’ve talked to your Mom, and she said her greatest wish is for you to come to school.  You need to graduate for your Mama!”

The kid was quiet.  At this point, he’d crying long enough that there was no need to act hide his emotions.  Certainly emotional, but it wasn’t if clear he “got it”.  He could wake up tomorrow and go to school inspired, but what is going to be behind this new resolve? Getting the kid to agree to new behavior will only be successful if he changes the thinking behind the behavior.  If someone just told him “Go to your internship!” and avoided the show that I got to witness, why would that student decide to listen?

  • Because this teacher is mean?
  • Because he’s ashamed of not being like his peers?
  • Because he’s “supposed” to go to college?

These passion behind these reasons will ultimately wane if this kid doesn’t connect school success to what he really wants.  If he doesn’t know WHY he needs to change, this talk will have little effect because they won’t address his current thinking, that his family needs him to work 50 hours a week.  No one knows this more than the 22 year-old veteran teacher who turned my lunch period into a Dr. Phil episode (if Dr. Phil used to play street ball at Rucker Park in the 80’s).

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Kimmy Schmidt and some assumptions about teaching

In an episode of the new Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” there were a number of jokes about public education as the lead character goes to school. It seemed like a good idea to blog about this at the time, largely because it was 11:42 at night and I hadn’t yet made a blog post.

Without wanting to provide too many spoilers, Kimmy hasn’t been to school since the eight grade after being forced to live in a hole for 15 years. Now that she is out, she has decided to go back and get education which leads her to a GED program that she begins work on in the episode “Kimmy goes to school.” Through the shoe she goes to school and finds out that her teacher is terrible and has kids watch the movie “Major League” on VHS as a lesson plan. You should watch it if you get a chance.

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What I learned From Starting A Failing School

Thinking about starting a school brought back a flood of memories of the school I helped start a decade ago this year.  There was a lot of stuff involved in this school.  Someone could easily write a book about all of it, but I don’t have time to do all of that, so this is just the broad strokes.  This ended up being a lot longer than I expected. If you read the whole thing, let me know what you think in the comments.

In 2004 I spent a weekend away from my teacher certification program and drove out to Doral Arrowood, a conference center in upstate New York, in order to attend a planning summit for a slate of new small schools starting next fall. I was excited just to have a job by march of the year before I graduated, and I was excited about moving to New York what and who wouldn’t want to plan a school? A month earlier a couple other friends from school and I had interviewed successfully so we already knew about the school-to-be.  We would have the 6th and 9th grade in the fall and expand each year until we became a 6-12 school.

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Emphasis

With issues of race arise I always wonder, “should I talk about it?”.  Typically, my willingness to talk about it is less than other people’s willingness to talk, and is rarely matched by people’s ability to objectively listen.

When I arrived back from honeymoon to the images of life in #Ferguson after the murder of Mike Brown I was so unaware of American Politics that I needed to get caught up, and the highly polarized media reports and shifting stories made that task difficult.  As the facebook/twitter/etc. conversation steered away from this one incident and towards the larger topic of race in America, and people began connecting what happened to incidents in their life.  Somewhere between reading this post about privilege and watching John Stewart’s coverage of Fox news’s coverage it got stuck in my head that I need to write something about this incident, and what it means for our country.    But it was hard to figure it out, one, because of the confusing nature of the incident, but mostly because of the role of race in America.

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