Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Miscellany and leftover thoughts

She look's like grandma
Originally uploaded by Tin Green.
Since I did not win the Mega Millions last night, I've decided to post about a few odds and ends which have been hovering on the periphery for a while.

A funny story. Steven W. Simpson recently wrote about an instance when he subbed for a colleague and didn't quite have the lesson plan fully worked out. He improvised, which in this case let him down a primrose path to show his students a clip of a man getting naked. Too funny a story and a must read. I was reminded of the power preparation, my own over-reliance sometimes on seat-of-the-pants and intuition, and the always present world of unintended consequences.

Art is in the eyes of vocal parents.Following Dr. Simpson's tale of accidentally showing a man surviving in the wilderness, there's this tale, brought to us from Ralph Blumenthal and the New York Times, of Sydney McGee, a teacher outside of Dallas, TX, who took her fifth grade students to the Dallas Museum of Art where, alas, they saw nudes. That's right: there in the museum they had nude studies, and these students saw them! Of course there were and of course they did; it's art. But here's the kicker: "One of her students saw nude art in the museum, and after the child’s parent complained, the teacher was suspended." I hate to think what sort of a school would can a teacher for taking her students to the Dallas Museum of Art.

I'm reminded of my first year of teaching; I had a sophomore class and at some point I introduced them to Philip Larkin and his poem "High Windows." If you don't know Larkin's "High Windows" do read it; for a slew of reasons, I love this poem. But, yes, there is some controversy, and, I'd say, more controversy than a field trip to the DMA. After dinner one night I was talking with one of my student's mother; she was a teacher at the lower school and her husband was a long-time senior administrator at the upper school. Their son was in my class; later I learned he was in my class because they'd requested he be in my class.

Anyway, Mrs. E says to me, "John was talking about class and told me you had read him a poem by an English poet."

"Oh, boy," I thought. "Here it comes. I'm going to get reamed by Mrs. E and then I'm going to find myself in the dean's office... again."

Not so. We had a great talk about the poem, the imagery, the use of language, the meaning, the decisions the poet made, and everything else. We were the last ones out of the dining room.

Being stuck. Will Richardson notes he's stuck, blog stuck. He wrote,
what if we just stop focusing so much on school and just focus on learning? What if the mere term “school” limits our thinking as to what’s best for learning? What if School 2.0 whatever that is is nothing more than a short term transition to a better system for learning that has nothing to do with physical space it the ways we are familiar with it?
Now there's a paradigm shift.

Motivating students, motivating people. David Shenk points us to a recent essay reminding us we ought to praise not for ability, but for effort.. Praising ability, Mr. Shenk notes, "discourages effort by creating a mindset that equates effort with inferiority, discourages risk-taking, removes kids' sense of control over their own lives, and leads to worse study habits and lower grades" while praising effort "imbues kids with a greater sense of control over their lives and leads to improved study habits and grades."

The Internet may be forever.Well, if not forever, for a long time. In a recent piece in the Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reminds us that Harsh Words Die Hard on the Web. She writes specifically about law school students suffering the consequences of anonymous postings about character and background on an Internet message board. The consequences are many and sometimes severe as prospective employees conduct due diligence using the Internet. In this case, the reputation-maligning came from people other than the prospective employee, but we've certainly seen cases where the evidence is self-incriminating; think YouTube and MySpace.

And that clears this morning's leftovers. I do hope you found something satisfying munch on and fill your hunger.

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