Don’t Blink! It’s A Dog and Pony Show

4.28.15 Dog & PonyI never tried to be difficult or argumentative, it just came out that way.  Teaching, like much in life, always seems to be a balancing act between either standing your ground for what you believe is right, or going along to get along.  In standing my ground, I’d always ask questions.  These Socratic style inquiries always seemed to me to be obvious or logical: ‘How is this training going to help me or my students when, I assure you, it doesn’t fit them or me?’ or ‘Where are the parents and students in this ‘Let’s hold all stakeholders accountable’ reform?’  I could go on, but you get the picture – I hope.

My questions brought me nothing but enmity from the powers that be downtown.  Ms. Curtis told me that I got mentioned (in absentia) at a district sponsored training she attended.  They started the training by going around the room and having each teacher tell their name, subject they taught and what school they worked at.  When Ms. Curtis told them that she worked at West Hollywood, the administrator gave a ‘knowing nod of the head’ and said, “Oh!  You’re friends with DeVuono!”  Curtis told me later, with no small amount of alarm in her voice, “I was damned just for knowing you!”

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Terror as a Teaching Tool? Do the Haka!

MaoriWardanceKahuroaI never considered myself a terrifying person, but apparently I am.  I would never recommend using terror as a teaching tool, but this time apparently it worked.  This is a case of, “oh the gift that God could give us, to see ourselves as others see us!”  You never know what people (students) will take away from our encounters (lessons).  You see…

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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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Sex Education #1: Water Based Lube

Durex Play Intimate Lube an important sex education tool for your lucky condom.Content Alert:

Politically Incorrect Material to Follow

The Importance of Sex Education

As an Algebra teacher who believes in rigorous high standards for my students, I believe that sex education, family planning and life skills are far more important subjects for our students than Algebra!  There I said it; and I stand by it.  I do believe a firm grounding in Algebra is important, it’s just not as important as a firm grounding in sex education, family planning and life skills.  But I can hear your snorts and guffaws of indignation out there already.  Perhaps you think I’m being a bit extreme.  Perhaps you disagree.

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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.

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