27 May 2010

missing link

We were discussing plate tectonics in class the other day when the subject of Pangaea came up. My students were very interested to learn how plate tectonics and continental drift are responsible for our world shifting from looking like this:

To looking like this:

Naturally, some of my students began asking questions about human evolution. I wondered how to address this topic in the remaining five minutes of class, as it can be touchy, at best.

Luckily, Kewpie Kid spoke up, ready to address their questions. You may remember his serenade to my treasure troll.

He explained his theory of human evolution to the class, and later that day, I found this note from him in my classroom mailbox:

The guys that had there

chins big died becaus the human exented

them then thats why we cant see them

those people were made for the woods

there feet were cool when they first haded

those people they didn't knew how

to walk but they started learning

and fine too.

Well, then. I guess the mystery has been solved!

Images via, via, and via.

17 May 2010

teachers, you make

Officially, Teacher Appreciation Week was May 3-7, but since I was out of town on the college field lesson with my students then, I'm recognizing this event today.

So, to all of my teachers, past and present, thank you for all you have done for me. I know it can take me a while to learn my lessons, and I am grateful for all of your hard work over the years.

I'd like to thank four teachers in particular:
Mrs. Ewing
Mrs. Clark
Ms. Ramakrishna
Mr. Blackburn
...for teaching me three of the most important "things" I've ever learned:
1. How to read and to love reading
2. How to find the answers to my questions
3. How to shake someone's hand
...and for cultivating my curiosity and desire to learn what I don't yet know.

Image via.

13 May 2010

a wise man once said

"Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures." -Cesar Chavez

It's a sad day when those who most need to hear his words are essentially making it illegal to spread their message.

Image via.

waiting for "superman"

Have you heard about this movie, scheduled to be released this Fall? Its tagline says, "The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield, it will be decided in a classroom." Kind of reminds me of a bumper sticker on my friend's old family van that read, "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." Right on.

If you haven't already seen the trailer, check it out below. It's because of kids like these, who are so eager to learn and go after their dreams, that I became a teacher. The realization that somewhere inside every student, there is a kid like this (sometimes that spirit is just buried a little deeper), is why I am still a teacher. In this movie, "filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education 'statistics' have names, and follows a handful of promising kids as they go through an educational system that inhibits, rather than encourages, their academic growth."

I'll be interested to see Waiting for "Superman". Part of me has my guard up in anticipation of a steady stream of complaints against the teachers and others who are working every day to open up educational opportunities for our kids. Of course I know that the education system must go through some major changes if we are to educate all of our students effectively. But often, I see far too much hand-wringing over the state of the system, and far too little action being taken to actually make the changes the system needs. On the other hand, I do appreciate that the film's focus seems to be on those who are most affected by the educational system, and have the least control over it--the kids themselves. If nothing else, I think the movie will bring attention to an issue that has been ignored for way too long, and I hope this film will spur people to action rather than wallowing.

The film's official website has a place where you can pledge to go see the movie when it hits theaters later this year. What about you? Will you pledge to see this movie?

I'll save my thoughts on changes the education system needs for another day. Until then, check out this post on ed reform from Tricia, an awesome educator in Austin.

Image via and trailer via.

12 May 2010


Yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill banning Latin American/Latino/Chicano Studies courses in public high schools. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the bill was implemented to target the Chicano studies program in the Tuscon school system, which he says "are designed for students of a particular ethnic group" and "promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals." With this bill, they plan to stop the influence of classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.

School districts don't have to comply with the new law...instead, they can choose to have up to 10% of their state funds withheld each month.

Um, what?

I guess the title of this post makes my opinion on this issue pretty clear, but this legislation bothers me a great deal. As a teacher of primarily Mexican American students, and just plain as a teacher, I think this bill is a frightening disregard of events and ideas that are part of all Americans' history, and an obvious attempt to silence various ethnic groups, starting with Mexican Americans and other Latinos.

While these officials don't outright say that studying the history of a specific ethnic group (namely Chicanos) leads to a desire to overthrow the U.S. government, that seems to be implicit in the legislation. And they do explicitly say that the bill is targeting the Chicano studies program in Tuscon school system. Perhaps they're trying to get points for honesty? What's next? Will it be illegal to speak Spanish in public places? Illegal to be Mexican American?

Granted, I don't know anything about the Mexican American studies program in Tuscon, but I can say with 100% certainty that in all of the times I have taught Mexican American history to my students, I have never seen any indication that these lessons "advocated ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals" or led to students wanting to overthrow the government. Increased pride in their cultural heritage and improved self-confidence? Absolutely. Desire to lead a mass uprising against The Man? No way.

Pearl S. Buck said, "One faces the future with one's past." What kind of future are we facing if we can't teach our students about the events from our collective past?

Read more about the bill here.

I'm interested to know...what do you think about this bill?

Image via.

11 May 2010

jeremiah was a bullfrog...

...and I sound like one. A whispering bullfrog, if that's possible. Somewhere between planning last week's field lesson and actually going on the field lesson, I caught a case of laryngitis. Not being able to talk makes my job a little difficult, so I've had to get extra-creative with my lessons this week.

One nice thing about feeling less than 100% is that the students are especially well-behaved and eager to help. At least thirty students offered to be my voice today and proposed standing next to me to pass on my directions to the other students.

Also, a bunch of them channel their creative energy into making the most incredible get-well cards. Take this card my student Edmund made for me when I was sick in October, for example. It's practically a multi-media event with all its layers, cut-outs, and pop-ups.

In case you can't read it, it says:
I learned a lot from you. Your in the hospital now with pneumonia, but I know you'll be better. There is nothing the Lord can't heal. Don't worry, cause you might be 90% horrible with a sickness, but you'll be 100% better in no time. I miss you and if we were electrons you would be a proton and a neutron in my heart.

I {heart} U
And I Miss You

Too funny! I especially love the atomic references and the protron/electron/neutron identification key. I can't quite figure out the references, but I definitely appreciate the effort.

My frogginess has been in effect since Saturday. According to Wikipedia, laryngitis can last up to three weeks, but I'm hoping to sound normal again by Thursday. If not, I'll be spending some quality time developing intense hand signals to convey messages to my students. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Bullfrog image via.

10 May 2010

home again, home again

85 sixth graders. 9 chaperones. 6 visits to universities and cultural sites. 3 days. 2 nights. 1 AMAZING trip! Yes, I still feel a little like the boy pictured above, but I have to brag on my students for a bit here, because even though it was crazy hot in San Antonio, and even though we were all pretty worn out at times, they were so positive and focused the entire time. A few students said they were hot (and, to be fair, we were walking around in school uniforms in close to 100-degree weather), but that was it for complaints.

People complimented our kids' behavior throughout the trip. At the Witte Museum, a woman stopped me to ask what model we use to teach our kids. She told me that she's in the process of trying to form a charter school and wants to use whatever model we use, since she was so impressed with our students! I have never been more proud of them.

I was so worried that the students wouldn't have a good time on the field lesson, but as it turned out, I didn't need to be. The students were so thrilled to be on our adventure and were ready to, in their words, "take a-vantish" of the experience. As we pulled away from school Wednesday morning, one student turned to me, saying, "Miss, I'm so excited! We never got to do this at my other school!"

Check out some more of the awesome things I heard from my students during the trip:
"Even though it's hot, Miss, I want to enjoy this beautiful place we're in, because I might not get to see it again." (referring to the Mission San Juan)

"This is the most amazing thing I ever saw!" (referring to the rec center at University of Texas-San Antonio)

"This garden is so beautiful, it was worth that walk." (referring to the Japanese Tea Garden at Brackenridge Park)

"O.M.G. I can't WAIT to go to college!"

Ok, who ordered the television after school special?!

For chaperones, I couldn't have asked for a better group. We took four parents with us, and they were incredibly helpful, doing everything that we asked of them (which was a lot, given the nature of the trip), and helping out in other ways that we didn't even think of beforehand. Besides the four sixth grade teachers, another chaperone from school came on the trip as well, and thank goodness he did. He's from San Antonio and navigated our routes throughout the entire trip. We probably would have ended up in the San Antonio river without him.

Here are some visual highlights from the trip:

Riding the SkyCycle at the Witte Museum

Fighting off giant creatures, also at the Witte

Remembering the Alamo

Eating Texas-shaped waffles
(Side note: Texas seriously has more state pride than any other state I know of. Are there waffle irons shaped like your state? Apparently, Bed, Bath, and Beyond sells these babies. Who knew?!)

Touring Our Lady of the Lake University

Discovering the hidden Japanese Tea Garden at Brackenridge Park

It was so fun to interact with the students in a different type of setting from the classroom. Overall, a wonderful trip.

One little guy, Omar, scampered up to me as we were walking through the shrine at the Alamo.

"Miss!" he exclaimed. "I just heard the man behind the desk say, 'These children are wonderful!'"

How right that man is.

Sleeping child image via.

04 May 2010

100% to and through

My school district's mission is to send 100% of our graduates "to and through" a four-year college or university. To help students understand what going to college is like, we take them on a trip to visit colleges and cultural sites in a different city every year. Tomorrow, we are taking 85 sixth graders to San Antonio for their annual college field lesson. We'll be gone three days and two nights (overnight trip--ahhh!), and will hit up places like UT San Antonio, Our Lady of the Lake University, the Witte Museum, the Alamo, the San Antonio Missions, and Brackenridge Park. I've had trouble sleeping the last two nights, worrying that I've overlooked some important part of the plan--the other night I dreamed that I forgot to book the hotel--but at this point, everything seems to be as thoroughly planned as possible. Unexpected little glitches are bound to come up, but for now I'm just going to focus on being excited and having a great time with the kids, who could not be more thrilled about going on this trip! Wish us luck--I'll let you know how the trip goes!

Image via.