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My Problem With Averages

Opening up a school has been a dream of mine for as long I can remember…well at least going back to 6th grade. Every year since I began envisioning the perfect educational model, my views on what constitutes model education evolved.

In 6th grade more vacation was my primal focus. I later started railing against uniforms. I matured a bit, and vowed to get interesting teachers, who knew their subject like their own child. I swore not to play politics or money. Most recently I’ve been advocating a school for the average child.

Of course, I could never promote my school on that platform; no one would enroll. Nobody is going to publically admit that they believe themselves to be mediocre. Actually, I don’t think anyone would consider themselves a candidate for my school, but they would surely know plenty other wonderfully average people that would make terrific students for my establishment.

Nobody truly believes that s/he are average. Every person imagines s/he have some redeeming quality or talent that puts him/herself the above the line, but somebody, or actually most people, have to be among the average. It’s just basic statistics.

As a high school teacher for the past 5 years, employed in three different (very different)schools, I have witnessed one common link between them all. They love to recycle, and I don’t mean going green. When it comes to any positions, privileges, committees, jobs, whatever term there is – the schools always referred to a small pool of students. Those students who exhibited that X factor (or their father’s checkbook) early on, earned themselves the spot of go-to girl.

These girls throughout their high school careers have ample opportunity to develop coveted skills for life: leadership, delegation, organization, brainstorming, creativity, self expression, confidence, just to name a few. They get to be on top of the totem pole, ahead of the pack, the prized few. The other girls have two options, follow them or despise them.

Yes, I know, that a success in high school does not equal success in life, but giving opportunities, safe risks, a place to try and fail without drastic consequence is a high school’s obligation. And our schools are falling very short of this goal. The Jewish High Schools rule extra curricular like a dictatorship, who’s in who’s out, who’s on top, is all by their say so, even the G.O. “elections” aren’t safe – who do you think selected the candidates. Extra curricular should be run by students and supervised by adults. Kids give each other more chances than any adult ever would.

Going back to success outside school, how many people do you know who “blossomed” after graduating high school. Suddenly they “came into themselves”. People see them as the capable talented adults that they are – and very often ALWAYS were. They were simply never given a chance to show the world who they were, because the adults in the world were too busy with the same tried and true students.

So that’s who my current school is for, the child who deserves the chance, deserves an opportunity, deserves someone to say, “I believe you can”, but won’t receive it, because they have the unfortunate lot of being “average”.

Anyone want to back this venture?

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Teaching

 

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My Students Ask/Asks a Question

All I wanted to do was teacher subject-verb agreement. I prefaced it by telling them that besides for being important in writing, this lesson can be applied to their speech as well. Naturally, they’d rather argue the validity of the importance of the lesson than the actual lesson itself.

“Why do we have to speak properly, everyone speaks incorrectly anyway.”

“No, one knows the difference.”

“I can understand someone when they speak incorrectly, so who cares.”

I fought back.

“If all your friends jump off a cliff, will you jump too?”

“I know the difference.”

“You understand when you cleaning lady says ‘I clean floor’, would you like to sound like her too?”

They weren’t really swayed by my argument, (partially, or maybe mostly because they just wanted to avoid learning grammar, so disagreeing with me would delay the torture) Most girls simply couldn’t get past the concept that everyone they know speaks a certain way, so why should they be different?

The cleaning lady example, or black dialect, didn’t work, these people were too distant from them, and they couldn’t relate. My students spoke a decent English, the others had blatant disregard for the rules.

And then I told them about my sister, and her job. She’s a nurse in a office with a VERY large Chassidish clientele. Too often, she’d call me up and tell about the slaughter of the English language she witnessed that day, including gems like:

My son was fevering

He got a cold this night

And

I was vominating

My students roared with laughter, some of them eagerly raising their hands to tell me their funny chassidish story.

“You think it’s funny?” I asked them. They nodded vigorously. “Well, you’re probably someone else’s fool.” It was pretty cool to see how fast their expressions changed from derisive laughter, to dumbfounded and slightly embarrassed.

So I won the battle today. And they learned all about the different conditions of subject-verb agreement. Don’t think they’re not gonna pull the same shtick with their next year’s teacher.

It’s not about the answer, but the quality of the banter.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Teaching

 

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I Say…

I wrote this poem in response to a student approaching me about some issues she was having with friends…this poem basically takes her talking for hours on end, running around in circles, and condenses it into 4, 4 line stanzas.

I feel for her.

I say I’m not the hugging type

So if you don’t

It’s not because

You don’t want to.

 

I say I’m not the phone type

So if you don’t

It’s not because

You don’t want to.

 

I say I’m not the hang out after school type

So if you don’t

It’s not because

You don’t want to.

 

I say I’m not the caring type

So if you don’t

It’s only because

I let you.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2009 in Poems, Teaching

 

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The Right Rebel

I was discussing the concept of the past with my students.

 

I opened the floor for comments on how my students think they should perceive and respond to the past. I called on one student and she said.

 

“Umm…is this my perspective or the Jewish perspective?”

 

She said this lightly, with a wry smile, but she was serious.

 

I asked her where she thought her perspective diverged from Jewish thought. She responded robotically,

 

“I’m supposed to learn from my past, to enable myself to do mitzvos and maasim tovim to serve Hashem better than before.”

 

I laughed and told her they taught her well.

 

“And what do you think?” I prompted…and she responded with an answer that actually matched up with the “Jewish” perspective without the “do mitzvos and serve Hashem” part.

 

The learning, and having your past motivate and form a person made sense to her. She just rejected the religion because she had an automated response. She knew what she was supposed to say and think, but then she thought on her own, and she was so adverse to the indoctrination, she didn’t even see that her own independent thought was aligned with the rote response.

 

What are we going to do with education system?

 

She’s a good kid. She’s smart enough to realize she’s being indoctrinated, but not wise enough to realize that while indoctrination isn’t a good thing, the ideas it promotes may be.

 

So now she thinks she’s a secret rebel, when all she really is, is right.

 

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2008 in Jewish, Teaching

 

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Proselytizing Productions

My schools production was tonight. It was actually quite cute, tons of great musical numbers taken straight from the best of Broadway…

 

…so let’s break it down…

 

Choir – the choirs were gorgeous, had great interesting harmonies, the soloist were good, except for one kid who obviously took voice lessons but hadn’t mastered the art yet as she tried to infuse her singing with a forced and lousy vibrato. Ouch. Also, don’t tell the kids in the second row that NO ONE could see them, and they were basically disembodied voices.

 

Song Dance – Well the fancy lady one, the ones that looked good were wearing my clothes, everyone else unearthed their costumes from their great aunt’s closet. The whole thing was really impressive…

 

*We interrupt this program to bring you an important message*

 

Ok children, today we are going to learn how to behave in public areas, particularly places of the arts….

 

Rule number 1: SHUT UP

Rule number 2: DO NOT KICK THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU

Rule number 3: STAY IN YOUR SEAT

Rule number 4: REALLY SHUT UP

 

That was a brief message from my sister who had a considerably worse time and seat than I….I experienced none of that tonight, and now return to our scheduled critique.

 

Dance: If the girls weren’t so inhibited and terrified that they be branded with a scarlet A for actually dancing, they would have been fabulous (barring the Michael Jackson Thriller moves). That said; they were uninspired. MOVE your hips!!!

 

Acting: Was good. Most of them at least. There was excellent ad-libbing when lines were forgotten…it was an interesting combination when the wife’s voice was on a considerably lower pitch than her husband’s…and when someone almost said prostitute instead of proselytize (that actually didn’t even almost happen, would have been funny if it did). And then I got to bear witness to the ugliest wedding gown known to mankind. Where did they pick that up!?!

 

Moral: I left with a warm and fuzzy feeling toward my Jewish heritage…awww, let’s go mark papers and be nice about it.

 

I wish I had funnier and snarkier  things to say on the subject, but they really did a decent job. And sitting there I felt like a proud Mama. GO MY STUDENTS!!!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 21, 2008 in Jewish, Teaching, Uncategorized

 

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Borrowing Intelligence

I took my students to the library to do research the other day. Now I know most of my students do not go to the library on a regular basis, I did however assume that they were all in a library at some point or another in their life…or at least know and understand what a library is and how it functions. Apparently I have high expectations.

 

One student didn’t have library card, so I told her to find a friend who likes her enough to let her take out a book on her card. She came over to me two minutes later with a friend in tow.

 

“She said I could use her card, how much does it cost to get the book?”

 

I looked at her a little confused

 

“You can’t buy a book from the library.” I said.

 

Now she looked confused,

 

“So what do I do, how much do I pay her to use her card?”

 

Now her friend and I both gave her weird looks

 

“You don’t pay to use the library, it’s borrowing system.”

 

“Oh,” she said abruptly. “I’ve never been to a library.”

 

I guess she thought library cards were like Costco, or Sam’s Club memberships. But even so, if you’ve never been to a library, wouldn’t you at least know that it’s a borrowing system…or am I once again expecting too much from “this generation”.

 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 19, 2008 in Teaching

 

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I Did It Again!!!

I was back in camp tonight, only better.

My 10th grade students had a Shabbaton. I did not attend.

I decided to be a nice dedicated teacher, and showed up to the Melava Malka.

I stood on the side at first, watching my students sing songs, put on song dances, and eat.

Then the athletics started: Relay races, potato sack races, limbo….and JUMBO.

For those of you who remember, I won the staff Jumbo game at camp.

My students begged me to play, and I complied.

I won, together with a student.

The rope was a significant 2 inches above my high waist.

I have progressed in my prowess.

My principals gave me hugs and kisses of congratulations.

My students were thrilled.

They cheered for me, came over to me, complimenting me in amazement.

They see me very differently now.

Did a teacher ever do something outside your perceived expertise of them?
Did it change your opinion/perception of them?

Should I have done it?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 7, 2008 in Teaching

 

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I Like Me (Ergo)

We were having a discussion in class about choices,

 mistakes,

decisions,

second chances,

and if you could do it over again

would you?

 

So many of my students said

they’d love to start over

Do it again.

I didn’t want to.

I can think of so many things that when they happened,

I wished had gone differently.

That I had said something else.

That had known something.

That some things just didn’t happen at all.

 

People always ask,

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

and then the defeating

answer

“because they can handle it and Hashem loves them.”

(that answer never satisfied me)

 

I don’t know if I’m a “good” person

or if I “handled” it…

Hashem loves me,

that I do know,

but I’m here today because of everything,

I’ve done,

didn’t do,

gone though,

experienced…

                    for better or worse,

                    the good with the bad…

 

I am me, because of it…

 

And I kinda like me.

                                                              

                                                                                 So no,

                                                                                 I’m not gonna go for a

                                                                                                              do over.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 5, 2008 in Poems, Teaching

 

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PTA…Bring on the Euphamisms

Tonight is PTA.

I have no patience.

I don’t have enough euphemisms.

Why can’t I just tell it like it is.

“Mrs. _______ your daughter is an obnoxious brat, who makes wholly inappropriate comments in class.”

“Mr. ________ your daughter is stupid and isn’t smart enough to keep it to herself.”

“Mrs._________ your daughter talks too much and says very little.”

“Mrs. __________ I love your daughter, she’s sharp, well read, challenging, inquisitive and a hard worker. Can I take her home?”

“Mrs. ___________ your daughter sleeps through my class, but aces my tests, I get the type, but it’s a little annoying.”

“Mrs. __________ I really like your daughter, she has a lot to say to me…and everyone else around her.”

“Mr. ____________ your daughter is passing the course, but failing my class. She needs to stop eating, and making weird groaning noises when she finishes.”

Actually it’s only about three students that I have “bad” reports…most are relatively neutral; good, nice kids that I like, but nothing particular to say about them…boring. And then the handful that I’d love to tell their parents how great their kid is, but I’d sound obsessive….

What are your favorite euphemisms?

What did your teachers say about you?

 
19 Comments

Posted by on December 4, 2008 in Teaching

 

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Stress Compressed

I’m under a lot of stress.

If I make it to Friday, I hereby declare myself SuperWoman.

  • I have 11th grade memoirs to mark.
  • A Thematic Unit to create for a college course
  • A ten-minute presentation on my independent study project to put together for Tuesday
  • A section of my thesis is due for review on Tuesday
  • Marks for first term are due on Tuesday
  • 10th grade is handing in their short stories on Tuesday (which means I’ll be on a marking marathon to get the marks in by Thursday)
  • I’m giving a quiz tomorrow which I have yet to make up
  • I’m starting a new work of literature with my class, I need to review it and refresh my memory
  • I’m starting a new unit of study in writing, and need to construct the actual lesson…and lessons for the week.
  • I have a wedding
  • I have to tutor
  • My great-aunt is in the hospital
  • I have two lesson logs to create for tomorrow
  • I have to figure out my student loan situation by the end of the week.
  • I have make up two practicum sessions (not my fault, kid didn’t show too many times)

And then I was talking to my married; she was pairing socks.

I think I’ll keep my life…for the time being.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 24, 2008 in Teaching, Uncategorized

 

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