The EDU Scarlet Letter: When SHOULD you label a student with an F?

I LOVE this teacher’s comments on the purpose of an F. No one wants to get an F; no one wants to give an F. But if an F is deserved it can actually do some real good.

: the readiness is all

The scene of my high school graduation is a bit foggy now, but I can still remember standing on the steps of the church (I went to a private Catholic school) shaking hands with a few of my 12th grade teachers. One by one a few approached with a wry smile or a look of tentative hope on their face.

“Theriault, I was going to fail you, but you’re a nice kid and I didn’t want you to not graduate so I gave you a D. Good luck.”

I bring this up because I want to make this perfectly clear: no one and I mean no one WANTS to give a student an F. The principal, the school board, the parent, the student, and most of all, the teacher they all WANT the student to pass through the system.  But more often than not this is the Metamucil approach.

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The Achievement Gap*

Between chatter on the blogosphere and my own university’s rather insistent focus on social justice, I’ve been thinking a lot about the achievement gap* and racial inequality in the classroom and in the education system as a whole.

First off, you may be wondering what the asterisk is doing at the end of achievement gap*. Well, that stems largely from the opinions of Dr. Camika Royal, which she expressed in her blog post on good.is. The Teach for America alumna claims that the phrase is flawed “because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence.” I was prepared to disagree with her statement, but then I realized there is at least a little truth to it.

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LaFleur SPEAKS!

You know how I said in my last post that Fatih Akin is one of my heroes? Well, add Richard LaFleur to the list.

In the 1960s, Latin teaching in American high schools took a nosedive. People asked themselves, “Why are we teaching our children this dead language?” and pulled their kids from classics programs. It wasn’t until the 1980s that class offerings and enrollment at the high school level began to pick up again, and it was largely due to the efforts of University of Georgia professor Dr. Richard LaFleur. In 1981 he published a rather self-explanatory article entitled “Latin Students Score High on SAT and Achievement Tests,” and followed it up in 1987 with his book The Teaching of Latin in American Schools: A Profession in Crisis. Once people started rediscovering the advantages of a classical education, they also started putting their kids’ butts in the seats. Latin teachers nationwide owe him their gratitude.

LaFleur might be a Emeritus professor over at UGA now, but I have a li’l secret. His class website for Latin teaching methodology is still online. And I found it.

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Pros and cons of anthology-type English textbooks. In college, I never did like that type of text, and it would always be the first on my sell-back list at the end of the semester. I always preferred the book itself.

Thoughts? What do you prefer in your classroom?

How to get hired and stay hired. A drama in four parts.

LOVE this. He says, “You can’t do anything interesting as a teacher until you get hired.” So true. Lots of advice for teachers about to start their careers (like me!). He even has pics of his own professional portfolio! A MUST READ.

: the readiness is all

I’m that guy. I’m the youth league coach watching instructional DVDs, making PPT playbooks, and video-taping other teams to see what works and what doesn’t work. I’m the guy looking for an edge. I’m crazy competitive.

What’s really weird though is that if you know me: as a student, friend, relative etc…I also want to help YOU gain a competitive edge. For some weird reason I think that if I help you succeed, then I have succeeded. So here’s the deal. I’m going to give you an edge in getting hired as a teacher. Not only getting hired, but making the most of your student teaching experience and your first few years so you can get re-hired if pink slips come around.

This is going to be my longest blog post, but it’s also my most important, because let’s face it: you can’t do anything interesting as a teacher until you get…

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Kung-fu und Kebab

Fatih Akin is one of my heroes. He’s one of the foremost German filmmakers today, the director of Soul Kitchen and Im Juli, as well as a segment of New York, I Love You. He’s also the screenwriter of one of my fav films, Kebab Connection. Watch the clip below to see why:

Update: The original video I posted got removed from YouTube. Lame. Here’s the trailer, instead.

Here’s the synopsis: young Ibo, a Hamburger of Turkish descent, aspires to make the first German kung-fu film. Meanwhile, his girlfriend gets pregnant. Comedy ensues.

There are SO MANY reasons to include this film in your German classes. For one, the role of Turks in Germany is a hot topic issue, and this is a good way to get students to start discussing immigration issues both in Germany and in the states, as well as other German current events. For another, the exploration of fine German cuisine, the omnipresent Döner (I’m drooling just thinking about it). Or even still, listening to real German helps students with their Hörverstehen skills and expands their vocabulary. Which is why, you know, we teach German. Right?

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A great compilation of resources for learning German! Most are for self-learners rather than for classroom application, but useful all the same. Expat even includes links to her reviews of them!

Expat Linguist

I noticed recently that a number of people have found my blog after searching for information about German vocabulary or grammar. I have written a number of blog posts about learning German, but that information is scattered throughout the blog. Here is a list of resources, more or less in order from least to most commitment, along with links to some of my blog posts about them:

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In which I rant about incompetence

I am currently in a M.Ed. program, majoring in Secondary Education. The program is mostly for career-changer-types who didn’t major in education for their undergrad, but are now earning their teaching certification. A teacher prep program at a major US university would have some of the best teachers to pass on their knowledge, right?

Nope.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still early in the program, so this is in no way a condemnation of all the professors here. I think I’ll actually like my methodology teacher, in fact. But there is this one…

Let me give you an example. Twenty minutes into our first day of class, he starts explaining one of our assignments, which involves a class presentation. He tells us, make it Socratic. Ask lots of questions. Involve the class. Good, good… But then I realize no one but him had spoken that entire period. Not a word. If class discussion is so important, why does it seemingly not matter whether or not the class speaks? WHY DON’T YOU TEACH BY EXAMPLE, YOU TEACHER OF TEACHERS?

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Shakespearean Sonnets and Other Stories

Ah, the sonnet. For my English literary history class near the end of my undergrad I had to write a sonnet. According to my professor, the sonnet was the tweet of the Elizabethan age. I’m not on Twitter, but I imagine 140 non-rhyming, non-metrical characters would be easier to write than a sonnet. But that’s just a guess.

Today’s post comes to us from ReadWriteThink, which has a plethora (yes, I said plethora) of lesson plans and other resources for the English teacher of any grade level. Discovering Traditional Sonnet Forms by Jaqueline Podolski is one of their better examples. This lesson plan is set up for three 50-minute class periods, and has students read, analyze and write sonnets. Her step-by-step instructional plan is very detailed, allowing even for teachers less than fluent with the form to intelligently and creatively teach the sonnet.

What I really like about Podolski’s lesson plan is her use of sonnets from many different eras, like Gwendolyn Brooks’ “the sonnet-ballad” from 1949, which is used to initially introduce the form of the sonnet. Shakespeare, of course, is the king of the form, but using more modern bards will show students that it isn’t quite dead.

However, I was most impressed with Podolski’s method for introducing the sonnet’s poetic formula – she doesn’t. The entirety of the first class period has the students in groups looking at three different sonnets, and discovering for themselves what rules the form entails. Students might actually remember what the rules are if they have to work to figure them out, instead of simply glancing at a handout or powerpoint! Genius!

Here’s the link again. Enjoy!

The Element of Fire

When it comes to teaching, the “torch of enlightenment” gets passed both ways. This teacher takes a great poem, and launches into a thought-provoking discussion with her students.

On a side note, I also really appreciate her and her students’ thoughts on mental illness. Society attaches far too much stigma to a problem that is already causing enough pain and anguish for an individual and their family. Don’t hate.

Teaching and Learning Along the Way

I was teaching the poem “Her Kind” to my students this morning and discovered that this was the only time I have ever taught it correctly.  I have tried teaching it before, and would find myself floundering in trying to convey the kind of alienation Sexton goes through in this text.  To read the poem, the link is: “Her Kind” Anne Sexton.

This is the first time I felt my students sympathise with the persona of the poem.  The persona mentions that she has felt what it was like to be a witch during medieval times and to be considered strange by society, and eventually would just retreat in her small enclave and try to “fix suppers” for worms and elves, and would still be misunderstood.  The last part of the poem is about how witches were burnt, and how she has waved her “nude arms” at the villagers…

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