Sunday, June 22, 2008

3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias

I just read this on the Washington Post site, that 3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias.

It reminded me of my first day in Civil Rights class in college. A room full of mainly white students in a class taught by James Farmer , who was a founder of CORE, and one of the major leaders in the Civil Rights movement. When the march on Washington occurred, he was in a jail in Alabama from the Freedom Rides. In 1990, the year of this class, he was blind partially from diabetes, partially from years of tear gas. (note: he's one of the main characters in "The Great Debaters") The bell rings, class gets quiet, and the first thing he says to us is "We are all racists." You could hear a pin drop, faces turning side to side trying to figure out how to react. The next thing he says is "I am no exception." At this point I had no idea what to think. Throughout the course, in learning about his experiences with the Civil Rights movement, he wanted us to keep an open dialog about race and stereotypes. He wanted us to realize that we have prejudices, and while that's not ideal, it's better to discuss it and try to understand.

After teaching for a few years in DCPS, and hearing things that students and teachers say regarding race, I find it amazing that only 3 in 10 Americans will admit to racial prejudices.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer School - will tech help?

I got the definitive word today - I'm teaching two full three-hour classes this summer. 8:30 - 11:30 will be juniors, 30 minutes for lunch, then 12:00 - 3:00pm will be seniors. No planning time, and about two hours more than I signed up for. hmmm. I get the curriculum next Tuesday, and I'm already wondering what I can use from this Ed Tech class in my summer school classes.

I'm pretty sure that a Classroom 2.0 board for each class will be a start. Get an online dialog going regarding the books and projects that we're working on. With the juniors, as they're also working on their summer reading project, I'd like to set up some opinion forums for students to have their say once they feel like they've learned about their topic. I'll need to sort out some ground rules so there's not some fiery Pro-Choice / Pro-Life debate, but hopefully something thoughtful and understanding.

By Tuesday night I'll know more and how much wiggle room I have. Let's hope it's lots.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

School's Out

The school year ended last Thursday at midnight. That's when grades were due at least.
Those last few days of the year are always similar to living in a blender, always moving, grading, answering questions of students worried about not ending up in summer school.

Coming down from the high that graduation was to the reality of my juniors trying to become seniors reminded me of the struggles of the job. I think the last few weeks of the year I averaged five hours of sleep a night. That's mean, so some nights it was 3 hours, some nights 7. I think those were the highs / lows. Hard to say how much of those late nights I bring upon myself and how much is student procrastination. I'm sure in either case I'm partially at fault.

Summer school starts next Thursday, still not sure what or whom I will be teaching. It'll be interesting to say the least.

For the meantime, school's out. Ain't that right, Alice?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I got to see my kids graduate tonight, and suddenly, all those all-nighters with a grading pen and stack of late essays all become worth it. Truly amazing. I feel like last year in my first year of teaching I'd get all emotional and teared up because I was exhausted and drained and I had nothing left to give. Tonight I was getting all teared up and emotional thinking of what these kids have been through and what they've accomplished. Students who
- tried to drop out three times last year but decided to stick it out
- who had dropped out until one night at her job cleaning office bathrooms realized that she wanted more out of life, and now will study business
- who never knew her father, barely knows her mother and works full time while still making honor roll
- who live in fear of immigration officers but now will pursue careers as nurses, psychologists and social workers
- who have lost family and loved ones to violent crime, but went on
- who just met their parents last year
- who have had babies but continued their education

I could fill books with the stories of my students and what they have overcome to achieve what they did tonight. And these aren't stories they wear on their sleeves, it just happens to be what has been their norm. Standing there with tears in my eyes watching these kids walk across the stage, I just don't know how else you can react to experiencing this kind of evening.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Grading / Social Networking

First off, I've been buried in grading college essays (70 students X 3 essays X 3 revisions = cross-eyed teacher) and final exams (two essays), and there have been a handful of things I've wanted to blog on this week, just haven't found / made the time. I need to work on that.

Tonight we learned about Classroom 2.0 which is a social networking site which lends itself well to education. It took me awhile to figure out why this would be helpful, and then it hit me like Mike Tyson.

School-wide for teachers: set up a network / forum within your school where you can keep up with what other teachers are doing. Everything from "Does anyone have an LED projector" to "my kids' test scores went up 20% last week!" to "I'm really losing it, does anyone want to go out after work?" Like the prof said, teaching can be a lonely job. Not in that you're ever alone, but in that some days I barely leave my room for 10 minutes between 830 and 2pm. That's kind of nuts.

By department for teachers: would be great for sharing best practices, discussing lessons, calendar, etc. Would be an easy place to coordinate.

For students in class: Kids could help each other out in various formats. In my class there could be a thread for each chapter in a book where students could discuss what they read, and I could make it part of the grade (posting something original). It could be a place to get help on projects (i.e. "Hey, I'm struggling with writing my thesis statement - is anyone good at writing those?") Or just a place to keep track of lessons / projects.

For students school-wide: Post upcoming events, concerns, ideas, etc.

That's all I have for now, I need to examine their site more. Learned a few more sites tonight (Ubuntu, Open Office) which I also need to examine.

But first, the essays call...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mini computer for the students...I like

Asus is coming out with a new mini computer for students called the Eee Box. About the size of a hardback book, the idea is that students could take this to and from school so they'd always have computer access.

I like this idea. In fact, I'm always surprised that we're not already at a point where there are student / cheap / basic computers so that all students have their own computer. I mean, for all the nice cell phones, iPods, cameras, etc. that I see in the school, if there was something for under $300, it'd be hard to justify NOT getting one.

Looking at the Cnet review they break it down by specs, which is a nice start.

The basic specs: Linux OS, 1.6ghz chip, 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, Bluetooth, WiFi, audio outs, two USB 2.0 ports, S/PDIF, DVI out (no optical drive)

Some questions I have, or places where I could see an upgrade in years to come:
- no mention of ports for keyboard / mouse, which means that unless you have a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse, the two USB 2.0 ports would be taken up. Which makes using a thumb drive an issue (or any other USB tools / toys)
- no optical drive means no installing anything via CD / DVD (download them instead?) or using those formats for lessons / information
- if it's going home with kids, at some point it'd be nice to move to a solid state drive (like the Mac Air ) so that it's less likely to die. I know this isn't affordable now, hoping that solid state drives get cheap as fast as Pentiums did.

And that's it. Kudos to Asus for coming up with this, you'd think that some PC companies would have mimicked the Mac Mini. And kudos to them for using Linux, which means less kids picking up viruses when they use their computer on MySpace, Facebook, etc.

Thoughts? (I know, brevity, brevity...)