Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Gluttony. (A day late. So, happy sloth too.)

I was too busy dying of an intense stomach ache yesterday to post, but I meant to. Not a bad stomach ache mind you, but a good sort of dull over-indulged kind.

Thanksgiving wishes to all my friends and family. I hope it was a good day. We did well. I made my famous cranberry sauce, and I tried a new recipe this year as well: Spiced Pumpkin Fudge. My first batch was awful, but I nailed it on round two. We also had the proverbial turkey, potatoes of mashed variety, stuffing, peas, and bread. Often, we over-make side dishes that just go to waste. So, this year we kept it simple. All in all - it was a glorious feast.

So, not much else to say. If you are reading this because you know me and not for some other random reason, know that I am thankful for you. Maybe that's cheesy, I don't know. Really, and this may sound a bit pessimistic, I'm glad this year is almost over. It's been rough for us. But we are pulling through.

Here's pie in your eye.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cool titles are for posers.


I am beginning to become more vocal about my educational philosophies. Like walking out into the desert sans water, I am opening my reluctant maw. I teach in a "traditional" school. (GASP)

Chapter One: The First and Only

I am beginning to reach a very different level of enlightenment. A new high, maybe. I think that Compass, great as it was for me, really fogged my brain. I lost track of what was real. What, actually, WAS authentic learning.

I have felt honored lately. People ask for my opinion a lot now. And, I realize, we are learning this together.

I guess I thought once that all we had to do was open up shop and slap an alternative model onto it, and we'd be doing everything there is to do. Sadly, that is not a reality. Real teaching is hard work. And, I'm not poking at those of you in alternative schools right now. What I'm getting at is how terribly we were misled back then. Just because someone works in a "conventional" school - they are not necessarily bad teachers, or inauthentic or clueless as perhaps we once thought. They are just overwhelmed with the realities of their job. And frankly, 90% of them rock. Seriously, real teaching is like trench warfare. And again, no offense is meant here, but I don't believe that one can truly understand what is alternative until they try to ply said warfare in a "conventional" setting.

My point is, I guess, that I used to fall back on Compass as this paradigm of how great passion meets great resistance. I thought it to be quite formative. Point blank... it was not. Sure, the megalomaniac at the gates sure could be grumpy, but in general - there was one focus.

You see, I'm the guy at huge district-wide staff meetings that suggests portfolio assessments. I'm the guy screaming for experiential pedagogy to be built in IN LIEU OF state standards. I'm the renegade that pleads with administrators to realize that authentic, meaningful learning CAN'T BE MEASURED. And most of the time, I am awed by the fact that I am received with support. With kindness. With enthusiasm. But putting it out there is hard. Not being sure. Hoping I know what I'm talking about. The truth is simple. Teachers want to teach. As long as my passion is well-aligned and I can support what I do, my administration is fine with it. Truly, it's not as I was told. I am met with no great injustice or blatant ignorance.

We had it all wrong. Sure, there are bad teachers... but overall - there is no wrong way to learn. Such a thing is a logical fallacy.

Like most of my posts, I am dancing around a point here. I think it is this: Reform happens from within. I commend all of you that are working so hard from the outside to change things, I really do. But I think it always has to come down to this question: Am I doing what I am doing because I really believe it to be the most authentic way to teach, or am I doing this because it looks "alternative" to outside eyes? And be honest. We teach kids all the time the power of self-reflection and integrity. But do we always live it?

Perhaps I am disappointing some of you by this revelation. I hope that is not the case. I still believe in my heart that this is my calling. I know it is for many of you reading this, too. But, public education is in jeopardy. Maybe charter schools provide a brief sanctuary from that darkness, but it won't be that way forever. We mighty few have to take it back. That seems to be the legacy time has given us.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sucker? Call me dum-dum.

Well - I seem to have chucked fairer judgement in favor of my heart strings. This morning, a 3 or 4 month old pitbull puppy showed up at school. Apparantly, the Maricopa Animal shelters don't like the pitbulls so much - and don't even get me going on that rant. They don't try to adopt them out, which means that if a shelter employee didn't take him... well we all know the rest.

So, anyway - he lives with us now... temporarily. He is a very sweet boy and is a beautiful dog... just in time for Christmas. (Wink)

I am vowing to find a home for him. I love the idea of keeping him - but not the realities of it.

So... anyone looking? Keep an ear out for me.

I'll try to post a picture or two.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Square Pegs are Punk Rock.

I sat in an inservice all day yesterday. I have to admit, I've never felt as dumb as I do working in Special Ed. A complex system of documentation of documentation for the sake of assessing assessments to better enhance enhancements for the action of meeting the needs of a small handful (per capita) of students exists as a badge of self-righteous bitching. And seriously, I don't understand a goddamn word of any of it.

Special Ed teachers, all teachers, have a certain right to bitch. We are underpaid and have way too many things to do. But there comes a point when our bitching begins to adversely affect our job performance... not to mention our emotional and mental health.

And, when we aren't bitching, we are obsessed with this concept of measurable outcomes. All of you: Seriously think for a moment... of all of the amazing things you've learned in your lifetime thus far, how many of them were measurable. I can't speak for others, but the learning of my lifetime that is NOT measurable is the most profound and most dear to me.

I feel everyday that I don't fit in.

My friend is an architectural drafter. My friend is a prison guard. My friend delivers pizza.

There is a point somewhere in this smattering of syllables. I don't know exactly what it is... but I am getting tired of making it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What's this "Democracy" I keep hearing about?

There is a problem here. I am disheartened by the attitude that some great injustice was righted. The general scuttlebutt seems to be of such victorious self-adulation, that it is really difficult to distinguish what, exactly, is to come.

Let's be frank:

It's easy to stand up and shout about how well democracy was served when your candidate won. I'll be honest... my candidate lost. And the evidence that democracy was not really served at all is easy to find in the overwhelming shock that such a statement causes. "You voted for McCain?"

People love to formulate their own vision of the founding of our country. They do it so proudly and yet, so gratuitously. For, in truth, their actions aim to serve their own need to add backbone to their philosophy. The reality is that our country was founded. That's the important part of the equation. What's more, it was founded in the common unifying cry for having our voices heard. Beyond that, it's a bit superfluous for my needs.

I did not vote for McCain. But all one needs to see in order to comprehend the magnitude by which our train has derailed is that our default setting is to think in such black and white, blind reverence.

Is democracy really served when only two opinions are "allowed?"

So sayeth the masses.