Politics is to Education as _____ is to _____

The MAT is a graduate school entrance test composed of nothing but analogies. The key to this test is finding relationships among words, historical events, science, math, humanities, and social sciences.  Finding relationships among terms that otherwise have nothing in common. So, it seemed fitting to put the words politics and education in the form of an analogy. I cannot complete this analogy.  My thoughts were too metaphorical-like politics being a storm and education being the land about to be torn apart. So, I left it blank.

It took my educational politics discussions in class to get my learning mojo back.

Remember the John Travolta movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble?

Travolta plays the part of a young man whose immune system cannot be exposed to unfiltered air. He wants to live a normal life. So he wears all types of protective coverings to see the world. One day, his doctor tells him that he has built up his immunity. He steps outside, sans the bubble-and rides away on a horse. We assume he survived.

Admittedly, my plastic bubble has been my classroom. I won’t speak for other teachers, but I can safely bet that there are bubbles encapsulating classes and teachers all over the country. I keep hearing that we need to raise test scores, and that our school systems are not globally competitive. This is a direct result of the failing schools. So, like most teachers, I scramble to strengthen my craft until I’m a blubbering mess by the end of the year. Well, the blubbering usually begins in October when the first set of benchmark scores come back. This is when a colleague has to talk me out of resuming my job as a personal trainer. I believe in my bubble scenario, the politics serve as the unfiltered air. I have been impervious.

So, I’m reading my assigned chapters, like a good little graduate student.  No Child Left Behind was renamed from a section of an educational program in the 60’s-War on Poverty Program. Eisenhower thought the American school system didn’t prepare students as well as the Soviet schools. You see, they launched Sputnik first, and that was a travesty (to the U.S.) during the Cold War. Because there was a need to build better missiles and strengthen our military, our schools were failing, and the Soviets were better than us. Therefore, the onus was on the educational system in America. So if NCLB is the grandchild of a program that was created to combat the Soviet challenge (space race and arms race)  and the Cold War is over….?????  Have you filled in the blanks to my analogy yet?

The interesting issue is that there was no hard evidence that supported the claim that American schools were failing. You see, it wasn’t the students of the 50’s who were behind, it had to have been the students of the previous three decades who were to “blame”-because they were the ones in the work force at the time. Plus, the American education system was culpable for poverty during that era. But it has never been proven that a stronger educational system, will  improve the economy resulting in the alleviation of poverty. In fact, the work force doesn’t have enough jobs to support the number of college graduates as it is.

One theory is that the education crisis has been “manufactured”.  I’m still looking into this, but it is quite intriguing.  The book, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools, by David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, claims that U.S. students are taking commensurate courses to that Japan and Germany. Additionally, U.S. students are faring as well if not better than the other countries.

Outrage over perceived scapegoating of educators by legislators and other voluble critics of American public schools fuels the authors’ efforts to expose what they consider the real problems. While deploring the campaign of criticism they view as “manufactured,” based on misleading data and leading to questionable reforms, they marshal impressive evidence to counter such assertions as that SAT scores have declined and other, similar charges. The real problems of our schools, they suggest, are societal and economic; they point out, for example, that “family incomes and financial support for schools are much more poorly distributed in our country than in other industrialized nations. This means that… large numbers of students who are truly disadvantaged attend public schools whose support is far below that permitted in other Western democracies.” ( The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools, by David Berliner and Bruce Biddle & Publishers Weekly)

The other influence on how we perceive American education is the media. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a journalist. When I began the journalism courses, I decided that I would focus on political journalism.  My first political science teacher loved Jimmy Carter, and this was the inspiration for the next ten years of my democratic political convictions. I remember an economic study that I did about why the prices at grocery stores were higher in lower socio-economic districts than in more affluent ones. I actually did the field work and visited the same chain of stores in various areas. It was true. The prices were much higher in the poorer sections of town. Why? The assumption was that there was more government assistance, so the prices could be inflated. I remember writing, “The government is charging itself more at these stores. Who is running the country and where is the logic in this?”  Then we learned about putting a “spin” on a story. Who is paying us to cover a story, and how do they want it portrayed?

Apparently, only 1.4 percent of the national news is devoted to covering education topics. Really? I know I’m in a bubble, but everyone has a connection to education. Either you have, at one point been in school, have a child or sibling in school, or you are an educator. So, only 1.4 percent? Plus, the coverage that we do get is usually negative. Which brings me to the movie, Bad Teacher.

Yes, I openly admit that I saw the movie. My 81-year-old father was even surprised. Plus, I would guess that at least half of the movie goers were teachers. We asked the people next to us and they were teachers. It is our sick sense of curiosity. What? A movie about teaching? So, here we are, in a middle school where Cameron Diaz plays a teacher who commits every possible immoral act as an educator. There is a “good teacher” across the hall who is basically the most annoying cheery teacher archetype. We see her with a captain’s hat and microphone the first day of school acting like a tour guide through the curriculum. Yikes. She eventually loses all control while Diaz comes out ahead in the end. The sick part, is that I saw a part of myself in the cheery teacher with the cute room and engaging activities. Her focus in life was to take down the “bad teacher”.  Diaz only showed movies for instruction, drank during the school day, did drugs, and stole testing materials. Seriously? No wonder the cheery teacher loses it in the end.

The public is influenced by the media. So, this influence has affected the platforms of political candidates, which in effect, begins the cyclical process of reform.  I won’t discuss Bill Gates’ influence on our school reform at this point. I will say that the ones making the reform mandates and changes are not educators, but the financially sound institutions and foundations. When the reform initiatives don’t work, then the teachers are accountable for  the failed programs for which they had no voice.

As I look at these issues from a grain of sand at the beach perspective, I feel powerless. However, the collective awareness of these issues is a start. Like Travolta, I’m stepping out of my bubble-don’t know about riding off on a horse just yet.

If you can create an analogy to complete the title to this post, send it in.

K

Ants, Rubber Tree Plants, and a Shrew

I have seven literacy coaching books, an APA manual, and a grant writing book watching me-and at any moment, they may just flap their pages to tell me to get to work.  It must be time to write a new blog.

I’m distracted by my environment. The other night was my friend’s going away party.  I had made him a playlist of songs, because we are a bit socially awkward around each other, and  the songs represented my thoughts about saying good-bye. He, in return, made me a playlist-as this seems to be a great way for us to communicate.  The last song, #20, is High Hopes by Frank Sinatra.

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

I know that he added this song because a while back, he sarcastically quoted back to me, from one of my blog posts, about my “pie-in-the-sky idealism”. When I heard this song I laughed because it is such the teachers’ anthem. Then I realized, that it has ultimately been the driving theme of my personal life.

Just what makes that little ole ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

So, if you have ever taken a class where the text is analyzed, battered, manipulated, and squeezed into meaning that may or may not be accurate; you will understand the following. Teachers are the ants, the rubber trees are the kids, the system, and the bureaucracy of educational politics. There is a spark of cynicism to say things can’t be accomplished. But, with Rocky-like drive, we move one rubber tree plant, turn around to high-five anyone who cares, then look back  to find an infinite number of plants challenging us to move them as well. Our little ant hands can only handle so much.

I forgot how much I used to listen to this song. I was so glad that Daniel was inspired to add this to the wonderful mix he created. I know that the theme of the song will be an integral part of my classroom culture-maybe we will make a huge rubber tree, and I’ll have the kids move it around when they need a mental boost. I don’t know, it is June and my ideas are still liquid.

Yesterday morning, when I walked into the kitchen, the remnants of his Star Wars cake made me sad. It was as if its purpose was over, and its presence on my counter made me wish for a few more hours with my friend.  So, I texted my dear neighbor and friend, Kate, and I asked her if she wanted chocolate cake for breakfast. She came over, and brightened my day by giving a new purpose to the cake. See, my high hopes worked because my heavy heart was elated to see her enjoying the cake, while listening to me ramble.

The Dancing Goat Theater has been running, The Taming of the Shrew. I know this is like literary whiplash, since I abruptly changed topics. But, there will be a connection-even if it is only in my mind.

The last scene has been bothering me. This is where you may want to look up the Spark Notes online, or try to remember your junior year lit class.

And place your hands below your husband’s foot, In token of which duty, if he please, My hand is ready, may it do him ease. (Taming of the Shrew-William Shakespeare)

AHHHH!  I have seen this play many times now. I have read the monologue. My insides recoil as she speaks these words. I keep wondering:

Did Kate lose her voice?

Did she give up the fight for independence?

Was she beat down by the patriarchal system? 

Was she just playing along so that she could eat?

Was she saying what Petruchio wanted to hear so that she could get through the day?

Was she truly tamed?

Can a person’s spirit be tamed?

Maybe, this was the only way Kate (from Shrew, not my neighbor) could move her Rubber Tree Plant.

I know, the degree in Italian has made it difficult to take text for face value. I belabor most decisions which is socially debilitating, and most annoying to those around me. I’ll blame it on the years of the agonizing search for hidden meanings in Dante and Petrarch. I remember getting in trouble for saying, “Maybe it just means what it says.”

So, while I was watching Kate’s final speech, I had to create a more palatable meaning connected to education. Have we lost our way and are we putting our core values under the feet of the national and state mandates? Are we succumbing to the system, while valuing differing philosophies? Kate went against her intrinsic understanding of who she was. Was it a conscious choice, or did her fortitude erode with a lack of support? Of course, this comparison puts teachers in the role of the Shrew, which poses a semantic challenge. A strong-willed teacher is a shrew to some, and a super hero wearing a jetpack to others.

One of my class assignments is to write an article about educational change. I’m sure any references to High Hopes or Taming of the Shrew might be lost, but it might be worth a try. Since change is such a bitter-sweet circumstance in life, yet the foundation of all we do in education; I cannot help but make personal connections.  The word change is often disguised as “reform” in the world of education. Who are they kidding? Kate wasn’t “reformed”-she was completely changed, or as they say, tamed. The bottom line is that Kate didn’t need to be changed, reformed, or tamed. Teachers unite! Fight the taming!

I am coming to the understanding that dealing with change gracefully is art. Art defined is: Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. So when life swoops down and hurls us into the eye of the storm, all we can do is learn from it, lament, or make some big changes in our understanding of ourselves. We exert more energy when we change then we do in standing still.

We will always be expected to change, but hopefully without losing the drive of the tiny ant, or relinquishing our grasp on what is true.

It is time to get rid of the last of the cake. In its place, is the memory of  sharing a change with one friend, and another friend patiently watching me move the rubber trees, so I can see what is ahead of me.

K

Wigwams, Portals, and The Bermuda Triangle

Have you ever been hit suddenly with the absurdity of your situation?  This happened today, as I was carrying a wigwam prop down the hall (in wedges), stuffing it in between the useless doorways in the school hallway. I broke out in a sweat by the third doorway. Everyone is gone, and I am carrying a wigwam.  It just seemed a bit surreal.  I did panic when I saw the custodian-so I begged him not to lock me in the school, again.

Now there is a wigwam in my classroom.

One of the parents of my students stayed after school, for hours, building the wigwam.  She was so happy to do it, and I was so thankful for the help.  My cynical funk began to dissipate-a tad.

Before the wigwam transport, I had just cleaned up after our Independent Study Open House.   You see, I felt the need to instill in the kids that learning should be motivated by intrinsic rewards-you know just because you want to know more about stuff.  I explained that there would be NO GRADES given, just feedback, from me on a regular basis.  They would have to pick a topic of interest, do a full on research paper (including citations), and a visual display. Eleven kids signed up to do the I.S. project! This was above and beyond their  regular assignments and assessments.  That alone restored my faith in the world.

So, for the last four months, these eleven students studied the following topics: Extreme Architecture, Black Holes, The Eagle Nebula, Falling Water, Greek Sports and Entertainment, Greek Mythology, Dinosaur Extinction, Broadway, Famous Landmarks in Dubai (no joke), Michael Jordan, Lighthouses , and The Bermuda Triangle.  Each child came to class with questionnaires regarding their project, a visual display, and a research paper.  They dressed up, presented these amazing projects, and made me know the world is in good hands.  I asked the kids what inspired them for their subjects.  They answered with responses such as:

“I want to be an oceanographer.”

“I want to be an architect.”

“The Greeks inspired so many new ideas that we use today.”

“I read The Lightening Thief, and decided that mythology was cool.”

“Lighthouses have saved sailors for years and years.”

“One day, I will be on Broadway.”

The great-grandmother of one of my students was there.  This was the first time I had met her. The school air-conditioning was turned off, and I was beginning to melt. She came up to me and said:

“Do you know why I like you?”

I couldn’t be snarky and say, “People usually don’t like me when they first meet me.”

But instead, I just looked into her eyes.

“I like you because every time one of the kids got stuck, you jumped in and got them back on track.”

I replied, “Really? I did that? Well, it is very difficult to present to a large crowd, they are just kids.”

She had her hand on my arm, and I didn’t even mind that she was in my “bubble”.

Right now, I’m suppose to be completing the play my home room is writing. The basic idea is that literary characters fall into portals that bring them to Wonderland.  I have enjoyed this project immensely.  We are discussing the plausibility of events and situations given the understood demeanor of the characters.  My mind is racing, and the day is re-playing, over and over.  I am refraining from making all of the characters end up in the Bermuda Triangle.

It was a good day.  I guess my pie-in-the-sky idealism has settled to an appreciation of a wigwam builder, kind words from a stranger, and creative kids who question EVERYTHING.

K

What Now?

The email blasted all the teacher laptops: TESTING IS OVER!!!!  The tubs have been turned in and amazingly enough, I had all the materials that I started with-counted, over and over-and in front of people.  They will all be shipped off to some grading warehouse. I imagine it looks like the one in Reservoir Dogs, but with scantron machines set up in rows, while retired teachers, wearing rubber shoes, scan-in unison. My imagination runs away with me if I don’t have visuals.

I look at my calendar to see that I have five weeks of school left. Seriously?  I see my class, staring back at me as if to say, “What now?”

So if you don’t know, these last weeks of school are “review” weeks. Translated, this could mean movie-watching-a-palooza.  In the ten years I have taught, I have had little to no success in watching a movie in the classroom.  I keep thinking, “I could do this at home, in my pink sweat pants.”  The kids start talking, and soon-no one is watching the movie-except for the ONE kid sprawled out in front of the screen, annoyed with the rest of us.

So, like all other O.C. teachers, I ATTEMPT to plan things that will affect change in the lives of the students.  Because, this is how all this teaching career stuff got started.  But this year seems different.  Did testing suck the life out of me?  Do I still have a pulse? Did the Greg Mortenson news contribute to my creative flatline?  Did I lose my powers like Samantha often did? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

In our last planning period, we were discussing what academic activities we had planned for the end of the year.  It was my turn. Oh, yah-that.  Things are…forth coming.  Forth coming-a polite phrase to say, “I got nothing, and don’t know when I will have something.”  I mumbled about a time-machine project that I have been tossing around in my brain for years.

I think I want to do more than create an engaging project. I want to do something that is far-reaching-that has a global perspective. At the end of the curriculum, there has to be something more-Oz, Wonderland, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory?????  What can I do to make the kids continue to love school?  Because, I’m beginning to believe that this is a critical time to sell them on the idea that learning is fun.

So, we are writing a play.  Not world-changing, but not a coma-inducing activity either.  As always, the imagination pouring from my class makes me want to keep going back to work.

We could have done a readers’ theater, or pull a play from somewhere  But, we have been there and done that.  It is tIme to spark those synapses a bit after hours of testing has dulled our  senses.  The end of the year also means that  the phrase “simple activities” is not part of my end-of-the-year-engage-the-kids vernacular.  I’m still working on the Global Project, because it needs to be done. Performing arts, global awareness, and small children…oh the possibilities.

I also know that the 5th grade field trip is looming.  Just think, hundreds of 5th graders, in a narrow cave-a mile under the earth, followed by a river boat ride.  This is what dreams are made of.  You never know who has claustrophobia, until it is too late.

For the next five weeks, I will be embroiled in Odysseus’s and Robin Hood’s journey to Wonderland.  Maybe, I’ll find my mojo somewhere between the tea party and the battle with the Cyclops.

K

Crying Ranting Crawling Twitching

If you teach in Georgia, do you see the cryptic message in the title to this blog?

I see bubble scantrons in my sleep.  I hear the sharpening of the no. 2 pencils while I drive to and from school.  I dream that I lose the testing bucket (that we take with us everywhere we go-even the bathroom).  Our morning conversation starters are, “What was your testing dream last night?”  My most frightening testing dream involved “test detectors” at the entrance of the school. Each teacher had to walk through(without the alarm going off)  on the way in and out. Of course, it was my paranoid, neurotic dream, so the alarm blared when I went through.

I never mean for this blog to be a complaint forum.  So, I’ll save those thoughts for the teachers’ lounge.  This is after we have all been carried out on stretchers, revived, and placed back in our classrooms.  Eventually, the incessant American Idol talk will resume, and our angsty testing woes will be history.

It is best practice to utilize test data  for instructional purposes. I get that. However, I wonder how much emphasis should be put on one test?    If you saw, Waiting for Superman, you know that American students  are deficient in both math and literacy skills.  So, how do students (who PASS nationally normed and criterion-referenced tests) move through school without maintaining age-appropriate literacy and math skills?  Conversely, what about those students who have a rough testing day and don’t do well on the tests? Does anyone ask the teacher for anecdotal records, or observations from the year to refute the test results?

All year, I try to offer a multitude of learning opportunities to my students. We do projects, we work on critical thinking skills, and we study  real literature. But, by April I feel like I’ve sold out, because I’ve mutated into a testing troll. I see myself handing out test packets, and I hear myself discuss test taking strategies.  I don’t recognize me.

I began wondering how it all got started.

The earliest record of standardized testing comes from China, where hopefuls for government jobs had to fill out examinations testing their knowledge of Confucian philosophy and poetry. In the Western world, examiners usually favored giving essays, a tradition stemming from the ancient Greeks’ affinity for the Socratic method. But as the Industrial Revolution (and the progressive movement of the early 1800s that followed) took school-age kids out of the farms and factories and put them behind desks, standardized examinations emerged as an easy way to test large numbers of students quickly.
Read more:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1947019,00.html#ixzz1JiTB65W0         

Think for a moment.  How would the world of standardized testing change if there were assessments on the arts?

We could integrate art history, literature, music, performing arts, and drama into the mix.  We have state standards on all of these subjects, and standardized testing is not going away-so why not sprinkle these elements into the testing recipe? Learning to read and answer questions about a passage or story is essential.  Let’s take this one step further.  What if the tests assessed the understanding of a specific piece of grade-appropriate literature?

Let’s encourage students to think about how the social and political events of the world have impacted the arts.  Think of the Harlem Renaissance, The Great Depression, The Industrial Revolution, the 1920’s,the 1960’s, etc…  People use art, music, and literature to reflect how the world changes.  Elementary students can make these connections, if they are given the opportunity.

We spend the year teaching with a global view in a holistic manner.  I’m wondering why we cannot test students similarly?

The point is to develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition and to guide the child over to important fields for society. Such a school demands from the teacher that he be a kind of artist in his province. Albert Einstein

I know that I would like my students to think beyond the bubble.  Just sayin…

Our end of the year project is to write a one-act play.  This was my students’ idea-not mine.  How could I possibly say no?  It will be a challenge for all of us.  But I’m hoping my testing troll fades into oblivion.

K

Practice What You Teach…

I am amazed by the brain.  I have researched brain-based learning and Multiple Intelligence Theory. I wrote a  thesis averring that when children know how they learn, their motivation levels for academics increase.

I told my class that when we learn new skills or concepts, our brains create more synapses.  I explained that learning something new can be uncomfortable.  I compared learning to exercising and using new muscles that are first sore, but later become stronger.  I may have possibly imparted great wisdom that day.

The easiest way to conceptualize this is that there are more synapses in the human brain than there are stars in the known universe. Mem­ory and learn ing occur when the neurons and synapses reorganize and strengthen them selves through repeated usage.
http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/06/05/your-brain-on-trading-101/

I  have said time after time that the MINUTE we feel that we have a hold of this job, the rotation of the earth changes.  All my brain talk seemed silly, since I was the biggest brain hypocrite around. Where were my synapses? Where was my discomfort in the new material that I should be learning? My synapses failed me.  Therefore, I probably shouldn’t talk about  them.

Another fun fact about me is that I have a difficult time with change.  As a child, when my mother would rearrange the furniture-I would become frenzied.  A hair cut may have just put me in therapy.

After school, two weeks ago, names were being called on the intercom.  The buzz was that if your name was called, your grade assignment has changed.  My name was called……

What? Me? Change? Huh?

I walked into the office to see the three administrators smirking just enough to make me more paranoid than usual.

Remember in my last post I wrote, “Last time I checked, I didn’t teach Kindergarten?”  I eat my words.

I will be teaching Kindergarten and first grade gifted.  I will be doing other wonderful things with literacy and 5th grade math as well.

I have wanted to teach gifted for years, so I am thrilled to have this opportunity.  But it all happened so suddenly.

I returned to my room to catch my breath.  I looked at the boo-coos of 5th grade resources staring me down.  The stress of the classroom move smacked me in the head.  The hideout under my desk was looking good.

Last night, I  dreamed that I was being observed while teaching the five and six-year olds. My evaluation said that I the vocabulary I was using was too difficult for them to understand. What do you mean? I can’t discuss the thematic relevance of The Odyssey with first graders?

Something strange happened-the synapses in my brain became audible.   I would have to learn new curriculum, create extension activities for very little people, and for the first time in eight years-not have a home room.  Snap, spark, pow…

In my stupor, I filled out the application for the specialist program in teacher leadership.  It was like the automatic writing that people do when they have been taken over by other entities.  It was too easy.  They can even use my MAT scores for admission! Yes, I skirted the GRE by taking the Millers Analogy Test.

What? Classes begin the third week of  May? Spark, crackle, boom…

Later in the week, I went to drama rehearsal.  Again, Daniel came to help.  Since I am completely directionally challenged, the blocking is a conundrum for me. The synapses fired as I tried to envision stage directions. KABOOM!

I’m grateful for my brain sparks.  I continually research and read educational material, but the sparks had dwindled.  I didn’t follow my own research-based words. I am happy to say that I am incredibly uncomfortable and thrilled to be in a small panic.

See, this is what I get for being a know-it-all about the brain.

K

Superman and Cookies…

 

Watching, Waiting for Superman, in a Comtrex-laden flu haze was a bad idea.  It is a movie that every teacher and parent needs to see.  It is raw, uncomfortable, and rife with debilitating statistics about what children (in the United States) know-or better yet, what they don’t know.  It seems that some people feel that there are children out there, who cannot learn.   One thing that I know for sure (thanks Oprah) is that all children can learn.  Ok, so this is pie-in-the-sky idealism.  What is so wrong having a Mary Poppins educational  philosophy?  Without the hope of teaching all children, we are at risk of becoming like the evil principal in Matilda.

Ms. Truchbull-


I am a realist and I have been faced with extreme challenges in the classroom. The way I saw it, I had two choices, similar to that of Robert Frost and his road dilemma.  I could ignore the problem and say I did all I could.  Or, I could work with the challenge, ask for help, research, plan, teach, re-teach, go back to square one.  When this doesn’t work, I keep going; because something has to work.

Now, I’m not Mary Poppins, and I don’t smile all day while imparting boulders of wisdom.  Many days, I get frustrated and feel like a failure. Some days, the paper work, meetings, and assessments can saturate even the sunniest teacher disposition.  The thing is, teaching is another member of the family.  It follows me around as if it were my shadow.  The educational day does not end at the last bell.  The faces of my class pop into my mind, one-by one, like the old projector slide shows.

The movie discussed how the lower socio-economic districts continually have lower math and reading scores than the more affluent districts.  Some failing high schools are nicknameddrop out factories.

Consider the following statistics cited in the film: the annual cost of prison for an inmate is more than double what is spent on an individual public school student. Eight years after Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act, with the goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading, most states hovered between 20 and 30 percent proficiency, and 70 percent of eighth graders could not read at grade level. By 2020, only an estimated 50 million Americans will be qualified to fill 123 million highly skilled, highly paid jobs. Among 30 developed countries, the United States ranks 25th in math and 21st in science.

The end of the movie left me encouraged more than discouraged.  The animated “good teachers” depicted in the movie made me hopeful.  If every teacher in the U.S., took one step beyond what he/she is currently doing to affect change-what would happen?  Again, Mary Poppins seeps in, but without her the cynic would take over, and the kids deserve more than that. Don’t they?

This week at school, I’m teaching plate tectonics and how mountains are formed.  The activity calls for boo-coos of cookies, icing, and graham crackers.

As the mound of sweets slowly rolled by the girl at the check out, she asked me:

“What is all of this for?”

I heard myself explaining how when two plates move together it can result in the formation of a mountain.  I told her that I was doing an activity with the cookies to model the various faults in the earth.

The girl bagging the groceries asked, “What grade do you teach.”

“Fifth grade”, I replied.

“I don’t even remember fifth grade”, she mumbled as she stuffed the grocery bags.

The girl ringing my groceries said, “I wish I could have been in your class.”

I believed her.

So, here it to a new school week, and to all the teacher superheros.

K