Monthly Archives: April 2012

Where’s the Conservative Clamor Over Socialized Education?

Why is it that the conservative movement is allowed to pick and choose when big government is bad? Think for a moment. Government run health care is the devil come to earth, government is getting bigger and more expensive and that is what is ruining America. Yet look at what is happening in our educational system. 45 states have adopted the Common Core standards, effectively neutering local control of curriculum. Wasn’t it Thomas Jefferson himself who advocated local control for education (I’m certainly no constitutional scholar)? Certainly the government is not funding the Common Core directly, rather big business is and therein lies the answer to my own question. Apparently conservatives have no trouble removing local control from districts as long as corporations are making big profits, and there has never been a bigger cash cow (looking at you Pearson and your billion dollar profit) in education than the common core.

As for liberals…yeah I’ve got my eye on you too. Where’s the gripe about individual choice or corporate control on this one?

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You Can’t Talk to Me Like That! Pineapple Badge

I like that the pineapple can become a symbol for a movement, its not a fist in the air but it is something. Feel free to use the image if you want or make your own. I’m going to link the image to this article over at edGeeks because I like it and it spoke to me. Also check out United Opt Out National!

More opt out links:

Read this opt out of testing letter from parent – Get ready to be inspired!

OptOut Texas Facebook Page


Weighing the Sheep

So this week we weighed the sheep. It took three days to weigh them all, I guess we had to weigh different parts of them each day. They were good sheep and I was proud to weigh them, they calmly submitted to the scales. I had been preparing them for the scales for weeks, giving them tricks to make them appear fatter. I taught them to try to look past the scales that would make them look skinny. Now the market will judge me to see if they are fat enough. I hope the weight is good.

Of course I really only get to influence them when they are in the barn, as much as I want to I can’t affect what happens to them out in the pasture. I have a hunch that some of them are eating grass while they are in the pasture and others are only eating what I feed them in the barn. Some of my sheep didn’t come to the barn at all on weighing day, didn’t they know how important it was? I wonder if they were eaten by wolves out there in the pasture. Maybe the wolves are in the barn.

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The Problem with Push and Presence

I suffer with anxiety, I have my whole life. When I was a teen I remember being physically ill with anxiety (mostly related to school). Recently my anxiety level reached a point that triggered intense panic attacks and major depression. This was a bittersweet experience for me. Of course it was terrible feeling that way and my teaching suffered greatly. I was no longer able to look my students in the eye as I just went through the motions of trying to keep it all together. With the help of my wife and my doctor I have been able to regain some semblance of control over my mind and have begun the real hard work of fixing the problem. When I take the time to reflect I can see signs of my anxiety level rising long before now. I actually had a panic attack this summer and nearly missed my first moderating responsibility at the Reform Symposium.

So what has happened? What has pushed normal, everyday stress to completely absurd levels? I wish I could say. I wish I could pinpoint it so I could eliminate it. But the truth, if I am honest with myself is that it is not a thing… it is everything. I am complicit in creating a life filled with tiny little things, each of which I grant a modicum of importance. Each of these things require a bit of my concentration until I am not able to concentrate at all. What I’m recounting here isn’t groundbreaking, in fact this phenomenon has been explored with reputable research. My brain has changed and I am going to fight to get it back.

What does any of this have to do with education you might ask? I think that the issue of presence, and how it has been robbed from us is at the fundamental core of what is simultaneously wrong and right with education. What I mean by presence is the ability to be truly and wholly in the moment, engaged in what you are doing at the moment you are doing it. Think about the simple ways this applies in the classroom. All of us have the desire to be truly invested in what we are teaching but many of us have been asked to shoulder a greater burden as staffs contract. Many of us are teaching four or maybe even five classes in a row. How many times do we think of what is coming up in the following period as we are teaching? This momentary thought pulls at our concentration and robs us of presence. I often ponder these smaller, unintended consequences that have come about as the educational system is gutted by short-sighted bureaucrats.

But I digress (I am an English teacher after all). For me he biggest metaphorical poster boy for this intrusion into presence has been my phone. I happen to own an iPhone, but I am certain the metaphor holds true for other smartphones as well. When I first got the phone I was transfixed, as apparently the rest of the nation was as well with how connected you could be. As the phone evolved I began to ask what I was being connected to. The phone was beeping or buzzing or dinging or boinging every other minute informing me of something. Each sound was connected to a unique event and my brain was trained to recognize the difference. When the email alert would go off it would activate my brain, and I would begin to ask questions like “who could it be from”, or “what could they want”. Once my brain was activated in that way I was pulled out of presence.

As a symbol of wanting to reconnect in a real way with my students, my wife, my children, myself I deactivated all push notifications on my phone. Beyond that I turned all notifications to manual. I’ve done the same with my computers as well. Now the only time my phone makes a noise is when it rings. I know what you are saying, why not just get rid of that iPhone? Have you played Angry Birds? But seriously… baby steps. Lets get back to sitting next to our students, or crouching next to their desks until our legs burn. Let’s take the time it takes. If those things that are interrupting you are so important… why aren’t you doing those things? This is how we will learn to love what we do again, because when you peel away all of the crap that is thrown at us teaching is about relationships. It always has been, and those damn noises and what they represent are keeping them from us.

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