Archives for the month of: September, 2013
Unexpected mindfulness proponent.

Unexpected mindfulness proponent.


Louis C.K. on Conan?  But yes.  He nails it:  letting it all wash in and through us, welcoming what Zorba called the full catastrophe.  Do listen:


Why Louis C.K.’s girls can’t have cellphones



My hero:

Crusader for truth.

Crusader for truth.

Please read this article:

Here’s What Works.

Diane Ravitch, a former supporter of charter schools and ever increasing testing of kids, now spends her time advocating for sanity.  Listen in:

 Most of the policies that are now being imposed across the country have evidence that says they’re wrong and evidence that says they don’t work at all, yet they continue to do it. It’s faith-based policy. If you do something and you know that it doesn’t work and people tell you it didn’t work ever, and yet you continue doing it, how can you explain that other than it’s a matter of ideology and faith?

And again:

What matters most in school is not test scores, but, first of all, encouraging a mind-set and attitudes that say, “This is really great – I want to do more of it on my own. I’m going to go to the Internet, I’m going to look this up. I really am interested in this.” We’re killing that sense of enthusiasm by our current approach.

And again:

In fact, when I go out speaking to teacher audiences and I go through the failure of merit pay, I get huge applause because teachers don’t want merit pay. The reason they don’t want it is not because they don’t want more money – sure they’d love more money. They don’t want to be placed into competition with their colleagues. They understand that when you work in a school you’re working in a collaborative environment and you’re not there to just hide what you’re doing that works and not let anybody see it. Rather, you’re all working for the same goal – you’re trying to help these children do better in school by a whole lot of different measures. The only way that’s going to work is if people work together.

And yet again:

I think that Race to the Top encourages the market mentality. Secretary Duncan has been very vigorous in promoting charter schools and charter schools act on the market assumption, which is: We keep the winners and get rid of the losers. Every time somebody will say, “I found a school that is a miracle school” — I’ve seen this again and again – “Here’s a school where 100 percent of the kids graduate!” If you look closer, you find out that they got rid of about 50 percent of the kids on the way to that 100 percent figure. They’re very good at shuffling off the losers. Another of the popular ideas right now is called the “portfolio model” and I’ve seen this in many cities, where they say, “Well, we’ll close the schools that have low scores and we’ll open new schools and we’ll have a new portfolio.” What they’re really talking about is a stock portfolio. That’s very much a business model and so they’re rewarding the winners and punishing the losers. Meanwhile, the kids are being shuffled around and no one really wants those kids who are considered losers. The losers are the kids with low scores. But we have an obligation to educate all children, not just the kids who get high test scores.

 The market mentality, the competitive model, the bell curve:  why are these our idols?  We do incalculable harm to our kids by squeezing them into a competitive model.  Yes, some will surpass others financially– but this was never a concern of education and should not be now.  Yes, we want them all to be able to earn a living, but is that it?  To equip some with the skills to make a pile and others to be their handmaids?  What about the intellectual lives of all the kids?  Why can’t the model hold out the promise of each one fulfilling his potential, rather than clubbing all the others out of his way?
Teaching is definitely not like business, nor should it be, and those who imagine that business holds the promise haven’t been paying attention to what harm greed and selfishness and competitiveness have done to our entire society even over so short a period as the last ten years.  Offer me merit pay?   Make me a fool for sharing ideas with my colleagues.
Back to Diane:
What I don’t like about it is that the real goal here is to replace teachers with technology. There’s an assumption that you can somehow get rid of teachers, reduce their numbers and have a hundred kids in every classroom, and they’ll have one teacher and a lot of iPads or a lot of other kinds of technology. That’s a mistake because, ultimately, kids will learn or not learn based on human interactions, not based on technology.
Kids need models, kindness, respect, guidance.  Teachers are human beings who have lived in this world a little longer than teens have.  How can you replace someone who cares about you with a tablet?
And here she is on standards imposed nationally or locally, without teacher input:
At different times, I have urged people involved in the standards setting to do a field trial — try them out in a state or two or three states and give us three years of experience. Let’s find out from teachers how they work and what goes wrong. And they resolutely refuse – and this is people in government and out working on the Common Core. They absolutely refuse to have any field assessing. So now we’re beginning to have the tests associated with the Common Core, and their idea of rigor is to make the tests so hard that most kids fail them. That — to me — is sad because I spent seven years on the federal testing board and I know that standards are not science. Standards are a matter of human judgment and human beings decide what’s going to be the passing mark. When a test is put together, the people who put the test together know exactly how every question will perform. They know how hard it is or easy it is, and they typically put together a test that produces a bell curve, where half the kids are above and half the kids are below.
Evidently, those who concoct the standards engage in magical thinking.  If we require kindergarteners to read Shakespeare, then read him they will, and like it.  And we’ll fail any who don’t, field tests be damned.  How is it possible that we have nationally imposed standards created by people who aren’t in classrooms, who haven’t spoken to those who are, and who have no interest in testing their standards to see if they’re appropriate or helpful?  It’s like a tantrum:  childish, uninformed, monied people aiming to foist their wishful thinking on all without regard to reality, making a bundle in the process.  This is reform?
It’s all about undoing a successful cornerstone of democracy.  If you knew the teachers I knew, if you saw the education of kids I see, you would not say with such high zest the old lie, our kids can’t pass the dumbest test.
I’m going to buy this book:
You tell 'em, Diane.

You tell ’em, Diane.

There is just nothing for coming to terms with a book like teaching it.  Not only the repetition, but over the years the multitudes of ways kids can misunderstand or misperceive it allow teachers to see it from all the angles, even the jaundiced ones.  Here is a sweet article by Ron Rosenbaum on a recent and reductive misreading of Catcher in the Rye:

He’s Not Holden!

Fiction doesn’t work the way memoir does.  In and around Holden’s many crises and disappointments, there is a tender understanding of his shortcomings.  Where can that come from if the author is the protagonist?  Mr. Antolini and Phoebe even call Holden out on his “simplistic black-and-white hate-the-phonies attitude”, to quote Rosenbaum.  Holden calls himself out on it sometimes, too.  To conflate Salinger and Holden brings us back to the kids’ big complaint, that Holden is just a whiner.  What would be the point of a book that cramped?  That annoying?

But the best thing about the article is Rosenbaum’s ardent love, a love over many decades, of Holden’s sweetness and confusion.  Read to the end.  The last sentence is the best part.

Kids don't always love Holden.  He needs friends these days.

Kids don’t always love Holden. He needs friends these days.

Hello, mindfulness for teachers class!  As promised, here are some body scans in various lengths.  I hope you can download them with no trouble.  Let me know if you have an issue– just post a comment and I will receive notice in my email.


Body Scan Meditations from UC San Diego


And this is my favorite book on mindfulness meditation:

A classic.

A classic.

Amazon has them used, or you can ask for it at the Doylestown Bookshop and support our local economy.

Come breathe.

Come breathe.

Join our mindfulness class for teachers!  This class will have nothing at all to do with the district, with the students, with the parents:  this is exclusively for teachers who would like to explore some mindful practice, utterly untethered from our school lives, on private, non-contractual time.

Here are the dates.  They are the same ones we were going to hold it before minds were changed:

Tues Sept 17

Tues Sept 24

Tues Oct 1

Tues Oct 8

Tues Oct 15

Tues Oct 22.

Each session would be 3:15 to 5:15, give or take.

We hope to meet at Dragonfly Yoga Studio, on Green Street opposite the Mercer Museum:

map of Dragonfly Yoga Studio

Friendly place in Doylestown Borough.

Friendly place in Doylestown Borough.

Dragonfly has the space for us, but we need to pay for it, so a donation will be requested.

If you’d like to do this, and you can commit to all the sessions, find a way to reach me on my home phone or leave a comment here telling me where to reach you.  I’ll put your name on the list.

We teachers experience a new year twice a year, and this is one of them.  We arrive at school full of hope and so do our kids.  There are many limits on our hopes, many realities to navigate, even mines in our field.  It’s a good thing that this is the time of year when seeds go out.  from this:

Make a wish when you see this.

Make a wish when you see this.

to this

Strange cases with new life inside.

Strange cases with new life inside.

To this

Oh the work plants do.

Oh the work plants do.

This time of year is all about getting seeds planted.  If only there was more fertile soil.

Here is to good, deep, rich loam in us all.

100 Day Journey

In which we explore and discover.

Katherine Good

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