Category Archives: Education

Social media are today’s glass houses

The familiar saying, “He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” keeps bubbling up in my head.  This morning I suddenly realized that today’s social media is the equivalent of the glass house in this saying.

According to the website, https://www.phrases.org.uk/, which I accessed this morning,  “PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN’T THROW STONES – “Those who are vulnerable should not attack others. The proverb has been traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ .”   . . . [and] Benjamin Franklin also referenced this saying with a slight adjustment,  “‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors’, if your own windows are glass.'”

Today we live in a transparent world when we step onto the world wide web through any of the social media available to us.  The social media is our glass house and what we post has the potential to damage another as easily as a stone destroys glass.

When I taught high school students journalism, I used to ask students would they want their grandmother to read what they wanted to print (yes print medium rather than broadcast medium was the standard in the 1970s and 1980s) if that was said about them. It seemed such an easy way to have them self-edit their work before publishing anything.

Today, that no longer serves as a good test as we are so removed from the social stigma’s of the ’70s and ’80s when grandparents were part of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.  Now the grandparent has evolved to those in the Baby Boomer generation who lived through the 1960s and 1970s when social standards began shifting–or tumbling.

Today we need to teach our young people, and maybe reteach even the younger Baby Boomers, that what they post on social media is forever printed in one manner or another.  The social media makes spreading gossip or menacing words so easy and once posted is there forever.

True, the social media has the positive value when spreading good news or complimentary words, but sadly our society seems not to share them as readily as they do the negative–another concept that needs direct teaching.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people from the first click of the electronic devices that what they say has tremendous power to damage someone else’s life.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people the power of the social media to do good, also.

Once that final click to post is made, there is no way to take away the effect of the words posted.

Let’s use the social tools we have available to keep the glass houses in tact rather than destroy with social media stones.

 

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Prayer for our students

I cannot imagine leaving the latest school shooting out of Sunday’s service.  We may live have a nation away from Florida, but our schools are being shaken repeatedly by shootings.  The country needs to pray for healing and for answers about how to stop the violence.

When the UM News department posted the comments from Florida’s Bishop Carter, I could not ignore it and felt that it provides us the tool we need.  Please read and join in prayer:

The statement issued by Florida Area Resident Bishop Ken Carter, who is also the incoming president of the Council of Bishops, reads as follows:
On this Ash Wednesday, our services announced the biblical imperative to “repent and believe the gospel.”  In light of today’s shootings, we repent from our participation in a culture of death, we acknowledge the harm we do to others, and we claim the power of the cross that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation.  We also grieve with the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida, in the deaths of seventeen persons and the wounding of many others on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A number of surrounding United Methodist Churches have students at this school, and our connection will support their healing ministry in the days ahead.

 

Using these words, let us pray together:

 

Dear God,

We accept the role of being your servants,

But sometimes we cannot be all that we want to be.

We hear the news and cry out for answers,

And we forget to turn it over to you.

We feel anger boil up within us and we scream,

As we try to renew our faith during Lent.

Let us begin with Bishop Carter’s words:

“In light of this week’s shootings, we repent

from our participation in a culture of death,

we acknowledge the harm we do to others,

and we claim the power of the cross

that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation.

We also grieve with the communities

of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida,

in the deaths of seventeen persons

and the wounding of many others. . .”

Guide us in our prayer life

To share our pain and to hear your words.

Guide us in our scripture reading

To find wisdom and encouragement.

Guide us in our fellowship

To love one another,

To make disciples of others,

And To transform this hurting world

So all my know grace and love

Now and forever through your son, Jesus Christ.–Amen

 

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Enough is Enough: School shootings

I just sent off a letter to the editor at the KC Star.  Sometimes I just have enough.  Even though I already posted once this morning, I turned to the electronic of the KC Star and could not stop thinking about what has happened in Florida.  I can’t let this slide.  I can’t say enough about how change is needed.  Therefore, here is one of my entries I am calling Enough is Enough.  Please share if you agree.

 

Seeing Florida mom Lori Alhadeff’s outrage pains me and justifiably so.  The raw emotion should trigger the entire country’s sense of enough is enough. She rightfully screamed into the camera and asked that our country fix a problem that cannot be ignored another day, another week, another month.   

As a retired teacher, I hear the news and cringe.  I know the faces of the students, and I know them personally.  I may have taught in the Midwest, but that does not lessen the outrage I feel as the long litany of school shootings continues.
Young people carrying guns in backpacks is simply unacceptable.  Young people in school must focus on preparing for the adult world being educated how to learn, how to question, how to create, how to dream.  Schools must be filled with teachers and administrators focused on teaching the individual to the best of that student’s ability.
Our society is out of time.
Stop reacting and start shifting the paradigm now.
Education has become a numbers game:  educating all students as a mass, not as indviduals.
Education must value the students each as an individual at all cost.  And yes, it will cost; but we must not allow the cost to slam the door shut on the country’s future.
Enough is enough!

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Filed under Education, Enough is enough . . ., Paradigm Shifts

Reality through R-2’s class of ’72

Admittedly graduates of 1972 are facing a new reality–we are reaching traditional retirement age.  Last week my hometown class faced the reality with the death of our classmate Steve.  The event might not seem noteworthy, but only one other classmate Debby has died and that was due to a train wreck within the first year after graduation.

Flash ahead to the events of another tragic school shooting this week.  How do these become connected?  For my classmates education was valued.  We were taught that school came first.  We were pushed to focus on academics even before sports–I know, that may shock many today.

My parents tasted college, but never finished a degree plan.  We lived in rural American when family farms were the norm in the Midwest.  They instilled the value of education for my brother and myself so we did complete college, even achieving our masters later in our adult lives.  We were blessed to have our parents and live in a rural community.

Reviewing the circumstances of the 1972 Class from Montgomery County R-II, I cannot escape making observations that may be overlooked in our current school environments, especially after this week’s horrific Florida school shooting:

  1. Numbers.  The size of our schools continues to grow reaching the size of a city.  How in the world can students be individuals if they are forced to bump shoulders, often literally, in the halls and classrooms of a building?
  2. Testing.  Another concern is that success in school is based on numbers, not on student individual growth.  The individual is lost in the demand that testing prove achievement. Some testing is necessary, but just as a marker not a permanent diagnosis.
  3. Teachers.  Value teachers!  What other profession places educational demands at the cost of the individual without fair and equitable salary and benefits.  The profession cannot maintain the gifted teachers who are called–yes called–to step into the classroom alone with 20-30 kids who no longer value education and/or have no stable home environment to support them as they step into the classroom.
  4. Students.  Yes, there are those who do value education, are respectful, and have a supportive system, but sadly they are being outnumbered by the students on the opposite side of the spectrum who need schools to be a safe, supportive, nurturing environment that can teach them how to dream, set a path to reach that dream, and to work successfully towards that dream once they are fed, clothed, and housed safely.

The classes of ’72 is waning and the generations now entering into the profession of education may not have any of the critical skills or understanding of how to teach the masses who are now generations removed from the Greatest Generation and its values.

Do I have recommendations?  Certainly,

  1. Reduce the size of schools.  Create a learning environment that is safe, family-like, and supportive.  I realize the cost is beyond consideration, but why not be inventive and establish settings in some of the places that are unused during the school week.  Think about empty store fronts, empty Sunday school classrooms, office buildings.  Use the spaces effectively and reduce the physical size of the schools were kids are crammed into one place.
  2. Establish reasonable testing expectations.  Numbers are NOT the only way to measure student growth.  You cannot boil education down to one standardized set of scores.  No child should be left behind, but education is not about a set of numbers, it is about growth and nourishing our young people to be the best they can be.
  3. Value teachers.  Provide a reasonable financial package, including appropriate benefits for teachers that attracts them into the profession rather than turn them away.  Teachers are life long learners, but the salaries do not support continued education even while requiring more formal education.  Masters degrees are expected within five years of starting one’s career.  Sadly the income cannot sustain a teacher to live at a comfortable standard and pay for the coursework demanded of the profession.  There is very little incentive to invest in teaching as a lifelong profession, especially if wanting to raise a family, too.
  4. Students are important.  Every teacher must be taught the neurology of learning and the development markers that all students inevitably must face and manage.  Education is malleable, not concrete.  No one student follows a prescribed formula. Each student is different and all teachers must be taught to know that and even to recognize that reality.  Students must be valued.  Students must not be just a number.

Our society must accept the reality that we are far removed from the Greatest Generation.  The truth is the potential for each generation to be the greatest is always present.  The horror is that we are not acknowledging the potential in our individual students by the devaluing of the human factors in education.

Our culture places the dollar before education.  Education is how we make American great again.  When we prioritize the profession, the teachers, and especially the students then we will make American great again.  This week’s violence must not be forgotten.  Let’s use it as a cry for the change at the very foundation of our society–our education of the future.  This is the way to stop the violence in the schools–shift the value, even the paradigm, of education in our schools today.

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READ! For crying out loud, READ!

Yes, I am on a rampage.  I grew up reading.  My school was rural and small.  I only had about 13 in my class, but I read.  I read almost every book that sat on the shelves in my classrooms of Bellflower Elementary.  I read what was available.

This morning I started looking up information online and I realized that I miss reading.  And I read.  I miss reading novels.  I miss reading magazines.  I miss reading for fun.

After becoming an adult, reading became more focused on need than fun.  Reading filled a purpose more than it did down time.  But reading provided me the skill that was so necessary to manage the complexities of adulthood.

Now, the skill of reading is becoming lost.  Or maybe not.  As I was on line this morning, I realized I was reading.  I was using my learning skills that started me reading and searching for information.  I used a different format–the world wide web, but I am reading.

The epiphany then caused my mind to leapfrog (a term I use to explain how ADHD causes my brain to jump from one thing to the next) to my concern about how kids today do not know how to read.

Of course our schools are showing students how to identify the characters in the alphabet and how they make words and how to read them out. But I see major ommissions that we are not doing in our schools–and remember, I am a retired teacher.

As students in the 1960s one of the skills taught was how to use a textbook.  How to use a dictionary.  How to ask questions that taught us how to move from one word to the next to the encyclopedia–yes, that set of about 26 books that all families thought they had to own.

I have taught school.  I know that our curriculums are so focused on making sure the students are “learning” according to the scores on all kinds of standardized testing.  But, and this is huge, but are our students able to use the knowledge successfully on their own–can they study independently.

During my teaching at Wentworth Military Academy, a private company was allowed to come in and provide individualized training on how to read, how to speed read, how to improve study skills.  Unfortunately my long term memory has lost the name of this company from Massachusetts, but I remember the lessons.

Then during the 1990’s I was fortunate to join forces with the Orton Dyslexia Society, now known as the International Dyslexia Association today.  I attended the national conferences and was trained in the Orton-Gillingham methods for learning language.

I can assure you that very few teachers today are pressured to teach the study skills that takes the basics of reading and pushes students to the level of becoming effective, successful self learners.

What happened this week?  I worked with a very small group of rural American elementary students.  Every time I step into a small group of kids, I am saddened how poor the skills for learning are evident.  We must teach the kids to read, and with that comes teaching them how to study–how to learn.

Yes, there are methods to use that work.  But instead of focusing on successful scores on standardized tests, focus on the skills.  The end result will be successful adults who can adapt in the ever-changing world.

READ!  Read anything, everything whether in the form of a handheld book or whether it is on line.  Read.  Think.  Study.  Ask questions.  Think and then read some more.

In today’s world the immediate availability of all forms of texts is at our fingertips.  Access it.  Read it.  Ask questions.  Think and then read some more.  Teachers, stop and teach how to read.  Teach how to study.

And new teachers, if you have insecurity about how to do it–read.  Ask the experienced teachers that students seem to love what they do.  Remember your own learning expeirences in your favorite classroom and analyze it.  I lay odds that the teacher there was demonstrating how to learn.

READ!  And then read some more.  It is critical to the well-being of our global community in virtually every facet of our lives.  READ!

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Back home

IMG_2003Over the weekend, we traveled through six states.  We followed what had been a rare southern winter storm, seeing as much as 10 inches of snow outside of Padukah, Kentucky and finding that Florida really can be cold, too.  What a treat it can be to step away from a daily routine, but coming back home is also a treat.

The hours and hours in the car can be exhausting, but also productive.  Getting home, the routine quickly kicks in and yet there is new energy to do those daily chores that seem so tedious.

The traffic can be overwhelming and leaves one a sense of claustrophobia, yet the traffic teaches us the power of patience and forgiveness, too.  And then, coming home the traffic seems to be no problem at all.

The speed of the trip did not allow for sightseeing, but seeing the many miles of road shows many interesting things.  For instance, we were very impressed by the fences that line the highways of Florida.  Very little roadkill was visible and the idea seems so logical, especially when crossing back into Missouri we can hardly travel a mile without roadkill.

The miles that we traveled were also tree-lined.  So much of the highway system along these states were literally lined with trees, especially pine trees.  I also was surprised how many miles of the interstate also had a barrier of trees between the two separate lanes–whether east and west or north and south.  The tree-lined highway makes the insanity of traffic less stressful–at least for me as a passenger this time.  Back home, the interstate system really is not tree-lined.  Of course that is environmentally natural, but I certainly appreciate the miles that are cedar-lined or Ozark oak-lined.

The hospitality of the South is also evident.  The clerks and the servers that greeted us as we made refueling and food stops is refreshing.  Only once did we run into a questionable situation and that was in our home state as we departed.  The host seated us, but we never were served.  We literally had to get up and leave.  Fortunately, we did not ever have to do that again.  In fact, the service we had at the stops after that were delightful.

The food.  Maybe there really is nothing more to say, other than one goal we make on our trips is to avoid the typical chain restaurants that exist around our home, and to really get a taste of the region.  We had two meal stops, on the way home, that were outstanding.  One in Tallahassee at Wahoo Seafood and a second in Marion, Illinois at 17th Street Barbecue.  There is no way to explain the exceptional taste of those stops except I would plan a trip back just to enjoy those flavors again.  Back home, for instance, I tied to make homemade mac and cheese to match the one in Tallahassee.  Close, but not quite.

The point of the trip was a graduation ceremony.  In today’s world of on-line education, all too often the students do not opt to join in a graduation ceremony.  But we made the decision to invest in the ceremony and I am glad we did–despite the long hours in the car.

Celebrating life events has a value that cannot be explained logically, but psychologically it is wise.  I was so impressed by the Walden University’s skill at putting on a ceremony that pulled together hundreds (I have no idea of the final count) of graduates–bachelors, masters, specialists and doctorates–to celebrate with family and friends.

The graduation speaker was Soledad O’Brien.  What a treat for me.  Soledad has been a journalist I enjoyed and had lost track of her.  Seeing her name as the speaker, I looked forward to listening to her.  She was real, honest, personable, and professional.  No boredom at all and great words to mull over in the days, weeks, months ahead.

Thank you, Walden.  You made the experience personal and impressive from the check-in to the following reception.  You have let us return home with memories.

But today, I am back home and have finished catching up the laundry.  Today the goal is to return to the ‘work’ routine that I need to re-establish.  The trip provided new experiences and a winter-time break, but now back to daily life–mac & cheese, puppy love, laundry and all.  What a treat the weekend road trip was, but back home looks pretty good, too.

 

 

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Suzanne Collins: Reading Revivalist

Having just finished reading Book One, The Hunger Games (HG), I cannot contain myself any longer.  Thank you to Suzanne Collins for writing a book that reaches out to younger readers and even to myself.

This is my third reading and I am using it in my alternative ed classroom.  Often reading is an impossible task, but right now HG is working.  Even I have struggled to find reading which holds my attention from one book to the second to the third!

HG leaves my heart racing, my emotions in a swirl, and a deep-seeded sadness.  Why?  The timeless storyline of star-crossed lovers is just one reason.  Then there is the eternal battle between good and bad.  How can the reader deny the sense of agitation in the midst of the battle!  And the music created by the mockingjay!  Of course, it is silent reading so there is no true music, but in my mind there certainly is.

In fact, putting the full realm of my feelings into words is difficult–especially since most say I am so wordy.  Yet, this trilogy has sent me into an entirely new world of the future, but also of the ancient world filled with gladiators.

I find myself struggling with the political conflict presented, too.  Not only am I a language teacher and trained journalist, but I like history, esp. American history and politics.  These books create an echo in my head that shouts an alarm.  Why do people have to be so power crazy?  Why does HG leave me with a sense of doom?  Is it because of the power struggles we witness in government?

There are so many things that go running through my heart–err, I mean head–while reading these books that I closed HG tonight almost drained, yet oddly pumped up by adrenalin.  I have a sense or urgency to open Book Two and I know I cannot do it at this moment.

Suzanne Collins is reviving reading at a level that even young people clear up to adults and even seasoned, near retirement teachers cannot put the book down.  Thank you, Ms. Collins.  I just really regret that I will have to put the books away after this semester.  Maybe in August I can begin the journey again.

And just for the record, the trilogy fits into a school semester.  I find so many literary elements, so many themes, so many characterizations, so much conflict in the story line, so many twists, settings that identify regions of the US and a style which lends to literary analysis.

This is a book that offers much for concrete readers, but possible is even more valuable for the higher order thinkers.  The series lends itself to developing curriculum which focuses on rigor and relevance.  The alternative ed arena proves it and reading can be revived!

Again, thank you, Ms. Collins.  Thank you, Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch, Cinna, and all the others who bring the story alive.  Thank you.  I cannot wait until I can return to your world and share it with my students.

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