Tuesday, September 20, 2011
So one of the most important things in anything we do in life is being prepared. This is especially true for teachers, or when teaching something to someone. I am not saying every detail must be etched in stone from the beginning, as spontaneity is extremely important for keeping both students and teachers engaged. But good teachers will have contingencies simmering in their kettles of tricks in order to keep a learning experience that takes an unexpected turn from going bad, and scarring the students.
I was at the park after school with my youngest daughter Bella (8 going on 14) and our dog Tika. While Bella was playing with her friends I noticed a family fishing at the park pond. The mother looked to be in her early thirties and had two small kids; a girl maybe 18 months and a boy 4 years old. The father was in his early thirties also, and was showing his son how to fish. They were casting the rod with a bobber and reeling back in. What struck me strange was the father was wearing khaki slacks and a green, pin-striped polo shirt. I thought to myself “he doesn’t look like your typical fisherman??” but who am I to judge; maybe he just got off of work and met his family at the park.
About 15 minutes later a bunch of kids at the park were making a fuss and my daughter Bella ran over to see what was going on. Well, somehow the family caught a 24” catfish and the hook was stuck in its mouth. I am not a nosy person so I stayed back with Tika, and just kept an eye on Bella. The father seemed out of sorts and kids from the park were pouring water on the fish to try to keep it alive . Finally the mother had to ask me if I could get a hook out of a fish’s mouth. I, being the animal rescuer that I am (I told Bella she must now refer to me as Diego since I have saved a baby rabbit, a humming bird, a zebra, and now a fish) said “sure.”
Now I have been fishing maybe 100 times in my life, but I have only been fish catching 3 or 4 times in my life. The only thing I seem to be able to catch when fishing is mosquito bites. However, as a chef I have cleaned and filleted thousands of fish of all sizes and colors, so I felt pretty qualified at handling this fish. It took me two or three minutes, but I was able to remove the hook and send the fish safely back into the water.
The point is: why was the father teaching his son to fish if he wasn’t prepared to handle the catching and releasing of the fish. The mother said in the background “well I guess we will be retiring fishing.” As teachers it is good, even necessary for us to learn along with our students, but this father was a wreck, and may have ruined fishing for his kids forever.
When teaching something you aren’t experienced at take some time to practice by yourself a few times, or at least mentally run through the activity and try to anticipate any issues that may arise. “Frustration begins where knowledge ends” –Clinton Anderson.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I have been researching this idea for the last year or so, as I have noticed a discrepancy between the quality of teaching/learning from one classroom to another; even within the same school and subject matter. It generally boils down to the teacher, but there’s a saying leftover from my restaurant days that I love “The fish stinks from the head.” In schools the head is the principal, and/or the school district. The teachers have to be motivated, inspired, educated, and held accountable to be good. In any other industry people are fired if they become complacent and quit producing results. The integrity of the corporation is on the line.
I read a great article in the Smithsonian Magazine the other day titled “Why are Finland’s Schools so Successful?” by LynNell Hancock. I have read other accounts about how good Finland’s schools were, but most gave statistics and didn’t really surmise the magic formula. I have provided a link so I won’t reprint the whole article but I do want to point out some interesting points and quotes.
Before any of you start suggesting that National funding of education is an act of communism or socialism, consider this: More citizens educated = more citizens employed = fewer citizens on social programs = fewer taxes. So overall the investment in improving our educational system would actually call for less social program funding.
The Finns recognized this as the article states, “The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellant of the country’s economic recovery plan… ‘If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive.’”
Ultimately they discovered that they could spend less per student, “Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.”
So what is the magic formula? Well the culture does play a role to a certain degree, but in my opinion the smallest role. What seems to matter, according to the article, is that education and teaching are respected fields, “teachers were effectively granted equal status with doctors and lawyers.” Pride in their jobs is a big motivator for Finnish teachers. Additionally they despise competition between schools and standardized tests. They focus their time and energy on teaching and finding better ways of teaching and making lessons instead of creating tests, administering tests, grading tests, analyzing test scores, and publicizing test scores. I do feel tests have a place: to identify students and schools that might require more resources. But I don’t think funding should rely on achieving particular scores, or that students should get stomach aches from the intense pressure exuded by all school staff during test time. As a Finnish teacher commented “’We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.’”
Clearly we can’t just imitate a bunch of Finns and walk off, hand in hand, into the sunset, but there is a lot here to cause us to ask how and why we are doing things they way we are. With this blog I plan to leave little nuggets of ideas that I feel could direct our schools to better serve our children, and ultimately our communities.
Friday, September 9, 2011
(After writing this and saving as a draft, my youngest started throwing up again so I am running up and down stairs between the two toilets trying to keep the vomit out of everyones hair and from making my girls look like rastafarians; not that rastas look bad, but my daughters don't fit the look)
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
See, no clean up!
5. Place on the top rack of the oven and cook for 35 minutes at 375. I usually need to cook for 10 minutes longer, but I like to check after 35 minutes to make sure nothing silly is going on in the oven. After 45 total minutes turn the oven off and leave the door open to let the quiche temper inside for 10 minutes. This prevents falling due to drastic temperature changes.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Hi, my name is Bart and I have second-hand Cancer.
And I’m tired.
I’m angry that Cancer has interrupted my plans. I’m angry that Cancer has made Marcia Depressed. And tired. And scared. And cranky. I’m angry that every time we think we’ve turned the corner, another long hallway is thrust in front of us. I’m angry that once the Cancer is treated, no one has any time or answers for all the “LITTLE” symptoms or side effects.
I’m angry because we can’t make plans for next week, or next month, or next year because we don’t know if we will be well enough to execute those plans. I’m angry because Cancer has made my kids afraid. Afraid for Marcia. Afraid for themselves.
I’m angry because sometimes I don’t have enough patience for my kids. I’m angry because my kids have to be quiet in their own home. I’m angry because we have to wait until noon or later each day to know if we will be well enough to make plans for the day. I’m angry because once we know we can make plans for the day there isn’t enough time to enjoy the plans. I’m angry because I have to make a choice between school and supporting Marcia.
I’m tired of doing EVERYTHING.
I’m tired of being a father, and a mother, and a husband, and a wife, and a mother-in-law. I’m tired of being a student, a psychiatrist, a nurse, a pharmacist, a doctor, an advocate, a life coach, a friend. I’m tired of pretending everything is OK. I’m tired of answering the obligatory questions with answers that won’t give anyone else second-hand Cancer. I’m tired of still answering those questions four years later. I’m tired of not having any money left at the end of the month because an out-of-pocket maximum isn’t an out-of-pocket maximum. I’m tired of the stacks of medical bills that fill more boxes than my family photos.
I’m tired of having to use a magnifying glass to sift through medical bills from doctors I’ve never met of heard of to figure out whether or not the $500 bill for looking at a CT scan for 43 seconds is legitimate. I’m tired of insurance companies not paying bills they should, hoping we won’t notice, or have the time or energy to investigate whether or not they are responsible.
I’m tired of missing important phone calls because my voice mailbox gets filled up with messages from people looking for money they don’t deserve. I’m tired of getting unripe fruit. I’m tired of being strong.
I’m angry about and tired of feeling guilty for being angry and tired.
I’m tired of waking up at 6:15 A.M., taking the dog outside, feeding the dog, unloading the dishwasher, making everyone breakfast, telling my kids 3 times to keep eating or “we’ll be late,” telling my kids 3 times to clear their breakfast plates, keeping the dog from jumping on everyone and tearing their clothes, taking rolls of toilet paper away from my dog, picking up socks my dog has vomited up, cleaning up dog pee right when it is time to put a meal on the table, making snacks and lunch for everyone, checking my kids’ backpacks to make sure they have everything, making sure their clothes match, making sure their clothes fit,
making sure their clothes aren’t covered with animal hair, making sure they have brushed their teeth, convincing them that they actually do need a coat, walking them to school, trying to wake Marcia up so she can appear to be getting her work done and keep her job, getting her medication, making sure she takes her medication, filling and refilling her prescriptions, changing her bandages, emptying her drains, getting yelled at for telling her things are going to be OK, going to school, concentrating on school, giving a damn about school, picking up my kids from school,
going through their backpacks to organize their homework and fliers from the school that take more time to go through than my college homework, helping my kids with their homework, getting snacks, making dinner, taking the dog out to potty, cleaning up more pee because I didn’t take the dog out to potty soon enough,
putting dinner on the table, bringing dinner into the bedroom for Marcia, doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, getting Marcia’s dinner plates, taking out the trash, making sure my kids take a shower, resolving fights over who’s turn it is to take a shower first,
making sure they brush their teeth, reading to my kids at bedtime, telling my kids not to come out of their rooms anymore and to get to sleep, taking the dog for a walk so she gets enough exercise and stops jumping on everyone and tearing their clothes, doing my homework, making sure I spend enough time with Marcia, justifying why I have to get homework done instead of laying in bed watching TV with Marcia, checking to make sure all the lights are off, the dishwasher has been turned on, the doors are locked, my kids lights are out, and the dog is in her crate. I’m tired of brushing my teeth.
I’m tired of mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, putting the trash bins away, cleaning the leaves out of the pool, cleaning the pool filters, pulling weeds, raking leaves, picking up the dog poop in the yard, making grocery lists, clipping coupons, going grocery shopping, at 2 stores so I don’t go over budget, putting the groceries away, finding out that I forgot to buy the paper towels, collecting all the dirty laundry, washing the clothes, getting the clothes out of the dryer before they wrinkle, re-drying them when I didn’t get them out before they wrinkled, folding the laundry, getting my kids to put their laundry away, putting Marcia’s and my laundry away,
getting dressed out of the dryer when I didn’t get to the folding and putting away part, doing the bills, going through the junk mail, finding everything for everyone.
I’m tired of being tired of things I normally don’t mind doing.
I’m tired of wanting to run far away sometimes.
I’m tired of reminding myself that other people have things worse than we do.
My name is Bart and I have second-hand Cancer.