Showing posts from September, 2010

Living the Mission

I facilitated a panel discussion Monday afternoon entitled "Safety and Learning: Optimal School Environments for LGBT Students" in conjunction with the series of events related to The Laramie Project and Judy Shepard's visit to campus. Although there were several other events going on at the same time, we had a good turnout and great discussion. Despite the world's obsession with numbers and stats, we really learn from stories, and the five panelists shared some meaningful ones.

One student told the poignant story of how her mother struggled with her daughter's sexual orientation so much that it seemed to override everything else about the bright, social, athletic. 3.5 GPA student. It got so tough at home that she moved to a teacher's house for a month or so. Another student told about how she knew coming out didn't feel like an option in her suburban school and that only at college has she been able to hit her stride as a young woman. A third student tol…

Get Out of the Wake

I had the good fortune to hear the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling speak on campus last night. That I babysat for Sarah and her younger siblings back in the day is a nice bit of trivia, though it is entirely possible (perhaps quite likely) that I benefited more from the experience than she did. Sarah delivered a superbly sincere and uncomplicated message to the audience of current and future educators last night. Two thoughts stand out.

Like any good teacher, she knows that we learn through stories.  She recounted a nice tale of how her grandfather had always wanted to teach his grandkids to water ski, especially since he had not been able to afford a boat when his own kids were at home. So, every summer, there was a good deal of time spent learning to ski behind grandpa's boat. Sarah was a decent skier, but a little on the cautious side, preferring to stay directly behind the boat despite her grandpa's cajoling to get out of the wake.

For quite a while…

Calling All Slackers

This short piece by Robert Samuelson generated a lot of talk last week, at least around the places I hang out. My class of future principals will get into it on Monday. Samuelson notes some percentages about a couple of common suspects in the student learning investigation, namely teacher salaries and class size, noting that several years of political spin and rhetoric have failed to produce stunning changes. Those two ideas are worth continued discussion.

The bigger problem with his argument, however, is that it puts too much blame on the students and not enough responsibility on the rest of us. Yes, student motivation makes a big difference, but come on. We might nostalgically yearn for the "good old days" when we think students worked harder than they do now. Without question, there were some students in the 19-whenevers who were more motivated than some are now, but there were some loads, too.

Let's not confuse compliance with motivation.

Many of the students Samuels…

Peace in Italian

A few years ago a friend returned from vacation in Europe with a gift for me. It was a rainbow colored flag from Italy with the word "Pace" written across it. I learned that the flags had first appeared in the early 60s and had long been a symbol of the no nukes movement and that "pace" is the Italian word for "peace." Cool. When my friend was there, the flags were all the rage as a way to express concern over the impending war in Iraq.

I didn't know it at the time, but mine is actually different from the rainbow flag commonly used to show support for LGBT people. The timing was interesting, as I was in the midst of working on my dissertation which examined the school experiences of some gay and lesbian high school students, that later became the book I've offered as a free gift to Newt Gingrich (see my post Connected to Reality Sweepstakes). I'm also willing to provide one to Bob Vander Plaats, as I'm sure the topic would be of interest t…

...Know how Much you Care

I've always liked the old saying about teaching that goes, "they won't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Trite as it may be, it's a good reminder that this is, despite what all of those who grossly oversimplify education say, a people and relationship business. While the results of the latest  Iowa Youth Survey are generally positive, there are a few things that should concern us.

For example, many would be disappointed but perhaps not surprised to see that in 6th grade, 53% of students strongly agree that their teachers care about them. By 11th grade, the percentage has fallen to 19%, although the overall percentage is still positive. If you haven't seen it, take a look.

I drop my ninth grade daughter off at school on my way to campus. Though we should probably be riding our bikes instead of driving, it represents a few minutes each day that I have her captive and can get her talking, mostly about school. She said something the other…

Prude or Prudent?

My excellent colleague, Tim Gilson, shared this article on twitter earlier today about the controversy that has boiled up at some schools over kids wearing bracelets and t-shirts in support of breast cancer research and those battling the disease. In some places, administrators have banned the shirts, while in others they've created no ruckus. 
This made for some interesting watercooler conversation for the Ed Leadership gang, to say the least. Wouild I be a prude to ban the shirts or would it be prudent?
Some took the position that tatas, boobies, rack, girls, guns, and all the rest are inappropriate terms that objectify the female body and even though some in the fight breast cancer movement have embraced the term, they're not cool for school. My wife has a pink t-shirt with these and a host of others.
Others said that this was really much ado about nothing, or at least much ado about nothing that the princi…