Nov 04

Blogging for Teachers?

Tom Hoffman writes:

As teachers and principals, we can keep blogs, but we can’t blog about many of the most important parts of our work. We can’t blog about students for obvious reasons. You notice that Chris can’t keep the kids out of his blog entirely, but wisely only refers directly only to graduates and sports teams. Like anyone working in a regular job, we can’t blog about our bosses or coworkers. Classroom teachers can’t publically admit in real time their fears and failures without having it thrown back in their face sooner or later by a parent, administrator or student.

And he’s right. I am still struggling with writing about students. Clearly, some of the most important stuff I deal with all day long isn’t reported on this blog. There are, I’d think, a fair number of the sort of rumination posts where someone could guess some of what is going on in school for me, but, yeah, it’s hard to use a blog as a full release for school stuff because there’s just so much you can’t write about.

The question for me always is, can we write about enough of our thoughts on schools to make blogging a useful and important tool for both ourselves and others in education. Is there enough we can share that blogging really is good for thinking about schools? (And granted, much of what I blog has nothing to do with Beacon in specific or schools in general, but hey, we’ve all got other interests.)

Thanks for an interesting post, Tom…

Nov 02

Bill Moyers Interview

Bill Moyers recently gave this interview on Buzzflash, and it really is required reading for anyone interested in the way increased corporate control of journalism is bad for our society.

BUZZFLASH: Have we created a circumstance where we have little perspective beyond the most recent news cycle? The words of the White House on one morning, for instance, may be contradicted by events in the afternoon, but the news coverage rarely seems to bring any information or comments from the past to compare them to the unfolding news of the moment. It’s almost as if news no longer has a historical context.

MOYERS: Down the memory hole, as George Orwell would describe it. And yes, it’s all about stimulation now. Watching the opening of the second game of the World Series, I was struck at how effectively the Fox producers mixed patriotic imagery with prurient promotions for upcoming programming in what amounted to a sedation of the viewer’s critical faculty. It’s a fitting metaphor, I think, for what’s happening in politics as the mainstream media have been silenced and the partisan media have turned propaganda into "news." Wave the flag, stroke the sentiments, stir the prejudices — and you can keep the masses distracted from the real game happening out of sight, behind closed doors in boardrooms and oval offices.

BUZZFLASH: And what is that game?

MOYERS: Class war. The corporate right and the political right declared class war on working people a quarter of a century ago and they’ve won. The rich are getting richer, which arguably wouldn’t matter if the rising tide lifted all boats. But the inequality gap is the widest it’s been since l929; the middle class is besieged and the working poor are barely keeping their heads above water. The corporate and governing elites are helping themselves to the spoils of victory — politics, when all is said and done, comes down to who gets what and who pays for it — while the public is distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes.

As I said, required reading. In fact, I might just give this to my New Media class tomorrow. In fact, I think I will.

Nov 01

How To Fall In Love With Basketball

Philly is a sports town to begin with — the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles and Flyers have fan-bases that are as passionate as they are hyper-critical and grumpy. But few things will inspire the passion, the love, the loyalty as basketball — and especially Big Five college basketball. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and I remember going to Big Five doubleheaders with my dad as a kid. Going to Penn meant that I spent four years at the college hoops grand dame of arenas — the Palestra. The Atlantic 10 used to hold its early round tourney games there, the Big Five doubleheaders there were amazing, and of course, there was always Penn – Princeton.

Now, Andy Katz of spends some time on a quick tour of Philly-ball and comes away duly impressed. It’s a fun read that does hint at the fun of Philly college basketball. And there still is nothing as cool as a pure Philly point guard. All pass, all D, and just a gym-rat love of the game.

Oct 31

Small Schools Report has a new report on small schools in which they state that, if done poorly, small schools can fail too. (I know. Shock.) Now, it’s an interesting piece on what does and doesn’t work in small schools, but why does InsideSchools have to link to it off their main page with a salacious headline about failing small schools?

Joe Luft also has some good quick summary points about the piece. Me, I’m hoping to write a longer reaction to it this weekend… but on some level, it’s sad to me that Beacon isn’t mentioned as a small school that works, but at 1,000 kids, I don’t think we qualify as a small school anymore. We still work, but we’re medium sized these days.

Oct 30

Basketball Stuff

I love basketball season.

I love 6:30 am and my girls.

I love building one skill at a time… the way the individual and the team skills build together.

I love that Toya and Sara and Tessa and all the veterans just make lefty lay-up after lefty lay-up.

I love seeing the new players start to fit into the team.

I love tweaking our O so that it fits for our personel this year.

I love form shooting my own shots while Toya leads the stretches.

I love calling other coaches "Coach."

I love basketball season.

Oct 29

NCLB Does It Again

Blogger Amy Sullivan writes that, thanks to NCLB, father, an award-winning teacher of history with twenty-seven years of experience is not allowed to teach history anymore. Apparently, he majored in English, not History, so there you go.

I took one computer class in college, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve built with technology at Beacon. I’m waiting for someone to tell me that I cannot teach technology anymore because I was an English major.

You know… with everything that needs fixing in public education today (small classes, small schools, anyone?), you would think that the government could make sure not to enact laws that make matters worse.

Unless of course, that’s what they want to do.

Oct 28

The White House Doesn’t Want You Searching

Courtesy of Brad Delong… it looks like The White House is disallowing any spider searches on its site for Iraq.

It’s amazing that the White House doesn’t want you to look up documents it has already published about Iraq.

I think I need to talk to SOS about doing a huge Voter Registration Drive this year.

Oct 28

Testing Twists and Turns

This one almost got by me… but a NY State Regent is now advocating for an appeals process to the Regents, so that if a student shows strong progress in their classes but fails the Regents, they can appeal for graduation.

He also argues for portfolio-based evaluation of student work as an alternative, stating:

"I’m a big outcomes guy, and their outcomes are so good," he said.

Richard Mills, of course, countered, arguing that Regents work. More disappointing is that Joel Klein agreed with Mills. (Hey Joel… how about listening to your own people for a change?)

But it’s clear that with the debacles over the Math and Physics Regents the last few years… and the roll-back of Regent scores so that 55 is now passing… that these tests aren’t working. The fact that a Regent would come out publicly in favor of alternatives shows that the wall is crumbling.

For Beacon, this means we just have to stay committed to our portfolio based assessment, because the testing "standards" based movement is going to fail, and we have to be ready to step in with an alternative when that day comes.

Oct 26

Privacy and the Internet

You know, with Citibank’s latest commercials about anti-identity theft commercials, you’d think that Citigroup would be all for stronger privacy laws. (What… you mean that a company might use advertising to mislead the public as to their actual politics? Shocked… shocked I am to find gambling in this establishment!)

Well, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights wanted to make a point to Citigroup about the need for strong privacy laws, so they skywrote Citigroup CEO’s social security number directly over the Citigroup building in Manhattan yesterday.

According to the head of the FTCR, the group was able to buy Prince’s SSN over the net for $26. They also claim to have Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft’s SSNs too, but they are afraid to post those numbers for fear of prosecution under the Patriot Act.

I’m really not sure how I feel about the actions of the FTCR. Their actions seem extreme and borderline illegal, but at the same time, I’m all for making CEOs deal with the consequences of their actions.

Oct 26

The Ethics of Care

Nel Noddings’ ethic of care really resonates with me. I admit, I’ve read Noddings before, and for me, she was someone who was very important in the development of what I see as my decision to prioritize kindness as the most important way human action. I’ve seen so many bright people who could just logic and ethical language to justify behavior that, in the end, was just not kind. It did nothing to better the condition of those around the actor. In the end, my ethical beliefs boil down to a very simple statement – try to leave the world a slightly better place because you happened to live in it. And for me, and ethic of kindness and care has the chance to do that.