Two Choices Technique and the Gangsta’

11.29.14 2 choices Gang iStock_000005364632LargeI got a gangsta’ challenge.

Andre and Nicolas were not doing their math.  They were talking nasty stuff about jail.  They were showing off, whispering just loudly enough to make their private conversation public.  This was at a time when we had some pretty tough customers for students and it was obvious that Andre and Nicolas were working at showing how tough they were.  They didn’t need to.  At a school full of hard guys, Andre was easily one of the toughest and Nicolas wasn’t far behind.  They were trying to show the other kids that they could bully me.  I hadn’t been their teacher for very long so they were testing me.

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The Bully on the Bus: Part 1

The Bully on the busWhat do you do with the bully on the bus?

What to do about a bully is not always clear cut.  I want you to put yourself in this teacher’s shoes and ask yourself, ‘What would I do about the bully?’

David Calvin was a history teacher at a small, midwestern, religious based high school.  Along with teaching history, one of his duties was to drive a school bus full of students from the city to school in the suburbs in the morning and back to the city again after school.  It was a nerve-racking and thankless job but Mr. Calvin believed in helping his school as much as he could.

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Is That Really What They Called Him?

MozartIt started with The Mozart Effect. That’s the name for research first put forth by Alfred A. Tomatis (and later by others, eventually trademarked by Don Campbell, Inc.) which claims that listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, may have beneficial effects on some kinds of mental skills. Some musician friends asked me if I thought it had any effect on math. I didn’t know.

I have always been on the lookout for any technique which would improve learning. Since I considered my classroom a living laboratory, and I had plenty of music to play on the computer, I decided to give it a try. Please understand, that although I considered this an experiment in learning, it could hardly be considered scientific. I had no way to do a control group or any kind of double blind testing. I just figured I’d play with the idea and see what happened.

My Mozart Effect experiment did have some startling outcomes, but I can’t say it improved mathematics performance in my class in any measurable way.

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The Snake and the Fist in the Face

9.30.14 Garter Snake iStock_000016388184SmallEmpathy

This is a case of emotions overruling good judgement.  I will probably come off as weak, stupid or crazy.  If so, mea culpa!  But these posts about school violence are leading to a tragic conclusion; and if you are to understand the horror and shame I experienced as a teacher, I have to come clean about my shortcomings as well as my triumphs (check out A Ticklish Approach to Self-Defense).

You see, I feel the hurts of others very strongly.  I can’t stand to see others suffer.  Empathy is defined in Wikipedia as “the capacity to share or recognize emotions experienced by another sentient being.”  My empathy goes way beyond that.  Back when I was a kid in the hospital, even though my face was cut, bleeding and stitched back together (see How I Got Gangsta’ Street Credit Without Getting Shot), I was always way more upset at witnessing the pain of the other kids than at my own suffering (‘the eye sees not itself but by reflection, by some other thing’ Julius Caesar Act I,ii).  This wasn’t and isn’t nobility.  It’s a curse.  Occasionally it’s a help, but mostly it’s a curse.  I cry in movies.  I cry during the T.V. news.  Once during an American Literature class I was teaching, I read an example poem out loud and started to cry in front of my students.  “Hey Mr. D. are you crying?!?”  Yeah!  So what?

You needed to know that to understand what I did in high school and what I did back in 8th grade.

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