It’s a beautiful story but…

8.26.14 Teddy's Shoes iStock_000033354782_SmallThis is a long one but I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

I don’t like having my emotions manipulated without my permission.  I do frequently give my permission.  I have a fondness for Frank Capra movies.  I can recite lines from “It’s a Wonderful Life” before they are spoken on the screen and I still cry at every tearjerking scene.  But the important issue here is that with movies, I seek out this emotional catharsis.  It isn’t thrust upon me with the tacit message that if I don’t feel the right emotions at the right moments I must probably be missing something as a human being.

One day, while teaching, I (as well as the whole school district) was subjected to just such emotional manipulation by a high ranking district administrator.  All schools and offices were sent an INTEROFFICE CORRESPONDENCE labeled A TRUE STORY.  It is the Teddy Stoddard story (two versions follow below – the original and mine).  You may have heard of it.  It is a wonderful parable about the power of love.  I can’t read it without getting choked up, until I remember it was sent to me to deliver a message: all we need to do is love and understand our students and they will all succeed.

Read moreIt’s a beautiful story but…

3 Things to Know About Bullying Before You Assault Someone at Your Child’s School

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA•  The Problem:

Robert loves his daughter. When she told him she was being bullied at school, he contacted the school to find out what was being done. He was dissatisfied with the way the school handled the matter. So he went down to the school during a varsity basketball game, marched up to the Principal during half-time and in front of a packed gymnasium, threatened him by saying, “If you don’t take care of this, I’m going to mop the gym floor with your ass!”

Robert had a hard time seeing my point of view when I told him I felt that his actions weren’t the best way to handle the problem. He got angry and bellowed about being a father and protecting his daughter. I tried to make him understand that I could sympathize with him since I’d had hundreds of daughters to protect over the years. But you can’t protect your daughter if you are in jail. It might be a valiant piece of paternal showmanship but it is rarely effective. The smart play is to get a better understanding of what you’re up against and work from there.

To start with: three things to know about bullying:

Read more3 Things to Know About Bullying Before You Assault Someone at Your Child’s School

Sex Education #2: Condoms

Hand holding a condom isolated on whiteDifficulties with sex education

It’s hard to imagine the power of bad information from the home or the street until you experience it.  All too often we teachers, trying to present a lesson in as clear, believable and understandable a fashion as we can, wind up seeing our best efforts swept away by some student’s belief that has no bearing on reality or science.  Sex Education often shows how much bad information is floating around out there.

I always start early in any discussion of reproductive biology by making sure I am on safe ground.  I frequently would ask, “Am I telling you to have sex?”  To which I’d expect a resounding, “NO” from the class.  Then I’d ask, “Am I giving you permission to have sex?”  To which, I’d also be expecting a “No.”

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John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things” and the Hero of Second Grade

7.28.14 Sax iStock_000028194066_SmallJohn Coltrane

I was on a John Coltrane kick.  You know, that bebop jazz saxophonist who led his own band and worked as a side man with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and others.  I played “Trane’s” greatest hits album for my Special Ed. class while we did art.  I especially liked his arrangement of My Favorite Things from the musical The Sound of Music.  So when I taught second grade, as part of my student teaching, I came up with a lesson using My Favorite Things and it turned out to be more fun than a trip to Disneyland.

This lesson had everything: art, cross cultural awareness, music, physical movement and self-esteem building. And it made one young boy a hero in the class.  Here’s what I did.

Read moreJohn Coltrane, “My Favorite Things” and the Hero of Second Grade

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