Ice Breakers Part Deux

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The Hairless Rat

It’s summer school, 8:45am and the second graders are doing ice breakers (see yesterday’s post)

Adam*: “I have a little dog, a big dog and a cat…that cat is not so nice.”

Me: “I see. Does the cat bite?”

Adam: “Sometimes. If you came to my house and tried to pet it, then yes.”

Me: (laughing) “Well, I’ll try to remember that.”

“Oh! I also have…had…a hairless rat.”

Had? Did he die?”

“Yes. He’s dead.”

“Dare I ask…did the not-so-nice cat…”

“No, no. The rat, he just died. You know, it’s the circle of life thing.”

* (not his real name)

Kids and Pets Part I

The Setting: Summer School with eleven 2nd graders, 8:45am.

We do an ice breaker: How many of you have pets? I ask.

Sam* raises his hand. 

“I have a little dog, he’s part…”

Poodle?!” Adam* interrupts.

“No, he’s part…”

“Beagle?” 

“No, he’s part hot dog dog and…”

“Terrier?”

“NO! He’s part hot dog dog and chi…”

“He’s a chihuahua!”

“NO! I HAVE A CHIWEENIE!”

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Beatitude (Supreme Blessedness)

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Today was the fourth day of summer school (I’m teaching a 2nd and 3rd grade combo class).  We hadn’t even gotten to the fun stuff yet (math Bingo with M&Ms and vocabulary skits) when one second grader beamed and said, “I love summer school!”

What part?” I asked.

“All of it!”

Her gratitude was intense and contagious. Other students murmured in agreement. Summer school is the bomb. 

She could have complained about waking up, getting dressed and going to school.

She could have dreaded doing math (again).

She could have complained and compared herself to other kids who are going on vacations to California and beyond.

But she was completely present. She was 100% here with 16 other kids and me and we had a great time.

 

Slow and Sure

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Snail doodle

Tonight, our school will hold an Awards Night to recognize students for exceptional GPAs, Service Work and other academic accomplishments.

Not one student will receive recognition for work achieved in a day or a week. These kind of successes require dedication throughout the school year.

 

 

A Teacher’s Week

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Morning Run

I started going out for runs at 5:30am this week. It’s a phenomenal way to start my day.

It was Teacher Appreciation Week and I received very touching notes from students (as well as their gifts).

It’s allergy season and it seems just about everyone exhibits some symptoms. My classes have gone through many boxes of tissues.

A word of advice: When a student sneezes and says, “Oh gosh!” Don’t look.

Succeeding

 

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Bikini Doodle 

This will complete my summary of Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed.

5. A Better Path

The author of this book, Paul Tough, did NOT graduate from college!

Tough does not fit the demographic of college dropouts: He came from a well-to-do family; and got admitted to (and briefly attended) Columbia University.

However, he was rebellious after high school (where he did very well).  Inspired by Jack Kerouac, he wanted to travel and do something uncertain, unsafe…something he felt uncertain if he could succeed at. Believe he would learn more on the road than on the campus.

Steve Jobs’ famous graduation speech at Stanford (2005): Job told graduates that dropping out “had been one of the best decisions I ever made.”

  • allowed him to take classes he was interested in (calligraphy, typography)
  • this led to his creative typography in personal computers – distinguished Mac from all other computers
  • Biggest failure – being fired from Apple – a very public failure
  • allowed him to reorient himself and his work that led to his greatest successes: buying and transforming Pixar, getting married, returning to Apple rejuvenated
  • “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.”

Paul Tough: became a magazine editor and journalist. Twenty-four years after dropping out of Columbia, Tough quit the New York Times and wrote this book.

 

2. LG Parenting

Remember the high and low level Licking and Grooming experiment with rats?

Paul Tough thinks about that often now that he has become a new father.

Realizes that the most reliable way to produce and adult who is brave and curious and kind and prudent is to ensure that when he is an infant, his hypo-pituitary-adrenal his functions well. How?

  • Protect him from serious trauma and chronic stress;
  • provide him with secure, nurturing relationship with at least one parent, ideally, two.
  • provide lots of comforting, hugging, talking and reassuring;
  • also provide discipline, rules, limits, someone to say “no”;
  • help him to learn how to manage failure;

“More and more graduates from prestigious colleges are going into investment banking and management consulting and far fewer become artists, entrepreneurs and iconoclasts. Why? Because Wall Street decision is easier…they are driven by fear of not being a success than by a concrete desire to do anything in particular.” p. 184

3. A Different Challenge

Liberals and conservatives differ greatly on how the government should aid families in poverty, but just about everyone agrees we need to do something.

“The government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep.”

In 2012, the child poverty rate was 22%. This means between a fifth and a quarter of American children are growing up in poverty. (From 1966 to 2010, the child poverty rate was 15%.)

Unsurprisingly, children who grow up in poor families in the United States do very poorly in school.

If we can help poor children escape the cycle of poverty, we can help them improve their academic skills and academic outcomes.

Conclusion: We could replicate on a big, national scale the accomplishments of the schools outlined in this book and make a huge dent on poverty’s impact on children’s success.

4. A Different Kind of Reform  p. 189

For a long time, educational reform was focused on teacher quality  and they way teachers are hired, trained, compensated and fired.

Whatever your stance, research on teachers remains inconclusive in some important ways:

  • we don’t know how to reliably predict who will be a top-tier teacher in any given year;
  • variations in teacher quality accounted for less than 10% of the gap between high and low-performing students.

The only official indicator of the economic status of an American public-school student today is his or her eligibility for a school-lunch subsidy.

If you qualify for subsidies, you probably can’t afford adequate shelter, nutritious food, new clothes, books or educational toys. Statistically, you are likely being raised by a poorly educated, never-married single mother.

5. The Politics of Disadvantage

The biggest obstacles to academic success that poor children, especially very poor children, often face: a home and a community that create very high levels of stress, and the absence of a secure relationship with a caregiver that would allow a child to manage that stress.

 

Character matters: grit, resilience, perseverance and optimism.

Perry Preschool – 128 children in poverty randomly chosen to attend high-quality preschool program. Experts believe that the school gave a return between $7 to $12 for each dollar spent.

The website displays data that starting quality education for the very poor at an early age has lasting effects (through the participants’ 40s)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Teacher, Not a Martyr

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Mr. Wright is leaving. He’s my daughters’ high school orchestra teacher. Everyone is deeply saddened because he’s an exceptional teacher and person. In fact, he just won the district’s exemplary teacher’s award. His students were crestfallen – he’s such an amazing teacher! This is his dream job. So why is he leaving?

Because he can’t afford to stay: His wife stays at home and he has children he must support and can’t with a teacher’s salary.

This is wrong.

One of my co-workers is a single mom and her two sons are not covered under health insurance because she can’t afford it. Every sniffle, ache and potential accident gives her great cause to worry.

This is wrong.

Arizona has been identified as the worst for teacher pay and teacher friendliness by at least two separate studies. More teachers are leaving than entering with each year. Even substitute teachers are in great shortage.

This is wrong.

It’s time to make things right in Arizona’s education system. You can ignore the symptoms of any illness, but that doesn’t mean it will go away.