Friday, November 16, 2007

A Teacher's Story

A teacher's story...

A group of students shuffled into a classroom, smiling sheepishly and explaining that the reason they were so miserably late was that they had just had a flat and stopped to change it. The teacher nodded. Then, seperating the students into different corners of the room, asked that each one write on a sheet of paper which tire had been damaged.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Story of Cynical Inspiration

I hate inspirational stories.

In an old non-profit I worked for that did foster care, the executive director would step up at almost every staff meeting and public event and deliver the "Starfish Story". If you don't know it, here is a thumbnail of it:

"A guy walking along the beach after a storm spotted an area where thousands of starfish had washed up on the sand and were drying out and dying in the sun. He came upon another man who was carrying each starfish gingerly back to the ocean. The first man said: 'why do you do this? You can't possibly save the starfish? What does it matter?' The second man held up the starfish and said: 'It matters to this one.'"


After listening to this story forever, I wrote a response and mailed it to the executive director of this non-profit agency.

"A man from a nearby fishing villiage was walking along the beach after a storm and spotted an area where thousands of starfish had washed up on the sand and were drying out and dying. He came upon another man carrying each starfish gingerly back to the ocean. The first man said: 'What are you doing? The starfish raid our fishing area. They ruin everything. Starfish are pariahs to us.' The second man shrugged and continued to the ocean. 'Sorry,' he responded. 'I'm only licensed for starfish'."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Time For Rick To Rethink His Avatar

Author Ferrell Moore, a friend and critic, who never updates his blog, and who provides all manner of smug and erudite commentary (designed to bait the gullible) has had this white cat as his avatar.

I think it's time he changes it. It's not that I dislike cats (I do, but that's irrelevant), it's just that I don't think this particular image suits his personality.

And speaking of avatars, I think it's time for Jon Zech to try another as well. Here's Jon's:

See what I mean? Smug. Self-satisfied. Over-confident. You want to just take a magic marker and draw Groucho eyebrows and glasses all over the picture. Good thing I love this guy.

Another avatar begging to be changed? SQT.

Don't defend her. Mystique is an interesting image. It begs for a closer look. But I want something raw. I want something that screams at me, a rage, a fury, an explosion of personality that erupts like a volcano.

Yeah. I could toss up a few more. Charles and his motorcycle (yawn), Jim Miller's Cartman, Pythia's nymph....but I think my point is made and well taken. Time for a change.

Now, I know, there will be some people who will jump to the defense of the cat and the smarmy guy, and they'll do it by attacking "THE CULT OF STERNBERG". Okay. Well, attack away, because in a day or two, I'll practice what I preach and put my new image up. Something that reflects the wry, gentle man with a heart of gold that all who know me come to love. No. Seriously.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No More Horror

With Halloween over, I hid my horror films and put aside my horror novels. At least for a little while. For the next month I will be watching dramas, comedies, and chick flicks. I sat through "Eight Below" the other night and cried like a little girl with a hormonal abnormality.

Fiction? I'm in the middle of Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat". When I'm done with this, it's "Cannery Row" and maybe "Of Mice and Men" again. Then....Dickens? Maybe "The Pickwick Papers".

I love horror. But a steady diet of it guaranteed to depress and give one shoulder acne.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Changes In Education

I have a simple question. How much have human beings changed in the last fifty years? I don't mean who we are, I mean what we are. Physically? I think it's a valid question and one worth examination.

As a teacher, I am constantly being told that I have to be accountable. People want me to keep trying different techniques. They say education is failing.

Yet, teachers pretty much do what they did fifty years ago. We assign reading, we engage the students in discussion, we attempt to engage them through interactive activity, we take on the role of Socrates. We assess and check to see what the class isn't getting, target some students who seem to be lagging too far behind, and then we test to check for competency. Sure, teachers are constantly being told to work on critical thinking, to teach to the test, to do a myriad of other things which sound great to the community-at-large, but the basics of teaching haven't changed. Even homeschool teachers can't really teach differently, although they have the advantage of a smaller group of students.

So if education is failing, then what's changed? The teachers? Most teachers I know go through a four year program, majoring in their desired content area. They take two more years after that and get certified. Then, they take eighteen additional college credits over the next five years and assorted professional training experiences.

Over half the teachers graduating college leave the profession within the first five years, so those that remain to teach have accrued some strong knowledge of their craft and appear to have a degree of dedication.

So what has changed? Really? Why is education failing? I go back to the original question: are human beings physically different in how they are able to learn?

Or is it possible society has changed? Could education's failure somehow be influenced by a fifty percent divorce rate or the amount of single parents? Could it somehow be influenced by the amount of time students spend in front of a television, playing videogames or watching vapid programming? Could it be somehow influenced by the diets of the young, manifested by the obesity level in the country? Could it be influenced by the elements within the government who, desiring to implement an agenda of privatization and politicization, twist curriculum this way and that?

So what's changed?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Last Night

I live in a working class neighborhood and we get a fairly large amount of kids on Halloween. I have some observations from last night:

1) A large amount of our trick-or-treaters dressed up as soldiers. Some wore bandages. I've always seen kids dressing up as militarymen, but this time there were more of them. Not sure what that means. One thing I can say: watching those kids walk away from me was an eerie experience. I prayed that they wouldn't be wearing real uniforms and marching off to war in the next ten years or so.

2)In Detroit, where the Pistons, Tigers, or Red Wings didn't have championship seasons, there were scant amounts of kids wearing sports getups. No kid was seen in a Lions outfit, but then, no kid is ever seen in a Lions' outfit. Maybe this will change in the next year or so, but I doubt it.

3) Retreads and Make Do's constituted the bulk of outfits. It was almost as though this year parents threw together last minute things for their kids or bought whatever was on sale at the store. Of course, this meant a healthy mixture of faeries, monsters, and ninjas. Among the littlest kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles were hot.

I'm not sure what these costumes say about conditions in my area. We probably have the highest number unemployment numbers and foreclosures in the country. Things in Michigan are pretty dismal. I get the feeling that next year, it won't be the kids that will be coming around for handouts, but the parents.