Thursday, April 8, 2010

Eric Hanushek, writing in Educationnext (Florida Positions Itself at the Forefront, 04/07/2010; ) says:

"Over the past decade, Florida has shown its laser-focus on student performance.  ...
Now it is showing additional leadership by moving aggressively on issues of teacher quality. It is poised to pass legislation that would do two things. It would do away with teacher tenure for newly hired teachers. And, it would require that half of teacher pay increases be based on student performance.
Who could be against these ideas? Certainly parents and students cannot be. But just as certainly, the teachers unions are aghast that anybody would want student outcomes to play a prominent role in teacher retention decisions."

After 37 years as a teacher, one of many questions I have for Mr. Hanushek and those who have enthroned "student performance" as the only measure of good teachers and good schools is: What about those students who refuse to do anything to learn anything? Yes, even in this make-it-as-easy-as-possible-for-everyone-to-feel-good-about-themselves-with-little-or-no-effort-at-all society there are children who refuse to participate in their own education. Regardless of teacher and school efforts in their behalf, some, and the number is growing, have no interest in participating in or contributing to their own learning. And who can blame them. There are no consequenses for failure. A student can fail seven classes and be passed on to the next grade, not by the frustrated teachers, but by the system which is controled by the government and politics. So why are these students even there? Some are there because it is the law and they are forced to obey: some are there because their parents use school as public funded day care; some are there to stroke their attention needs by disrupting the learning of others; and some are there simply to socialize and talk, talk, talk. I had a son who went to school only because it was the law, and though he is very intelligent, he did only enough to usually earn a "D" and not an "F." I would never want any teacher or school judged by his refusal to participate responsibly. (Happily, after almost not graduating from high school, he did later decide to go to college where he was a "A" student. Much to my relief, he has become a responsible adult.)

Now, how does the government these days judge a teacher or a school to be failing? By the ridiculous NCLB pie-in-the-sky standards, where one child in one subgroup can fail an entire school. Yes, dear reader, out of forty unrealistic chriteria for judgment of a school, the school must pass all forty. 39 is not passing. This is never explained to the public; they see only "passed" or "failed" reported in the media. And if the government bean counters mistakenly proclaim a school to be a failure, the retaction of their mistake is never reported to the public. Parents would riot if teachers graded their children by the same standard the government uses to grade schools: 100% you pass; 99% you fail. This is what happens when political agendas set standards for those who have limited influence over the final outcome; teachers are working with individual human beings of varying abilities, desires, and effort not robots which can be programed for perfect results on standardized tests. Of course, if there were no "failing school" crisis, real, imagined or manufactured, our dear politicians would have no emotionally charged political football to kick around every time there is an election looming on the horizon.

Don't get me wrong, I am for high educational standards. I am against unreasonable standards not grounded in reality and common sense, and where the responsibility of the variable element, the student, is ignored. My solution to all rediculous education "reform" legislation is to require all politicians to teach eighth grade math, science, language, or history for three weeks before they can submit any eduaction bills. Then we just might end up with reasonable, informed, intelligent education standards. But, alas, along with all my other solutions to world problems this will never happen either.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Life at the Frontier

Memoir Class: I finished the latest memoir for my class that meets next Tuesday. We were to write about a club we belong to or have belonged to. I had planned to write about the Order of the Arrow and my Brotherhood or Vigil ceremony, but as I was cleaning out a box of my old manuscripts, I found a short story about a movie theatre I went to in the late 50s. Much of the story was memoir, so I removed the fictional portions and rewrote the piece as a memoir. The subject is an unofficial club, but it met regularly and had a hugh membership. If you read this, please comment.

Life at the FRONTIER
c. Michael L. Goodman

High noon and cars begin to ease up to the curb at the corner of South Shipp and West Dunnam to disgorge chattering children onto the sidewalk under the marquee of the Frontier Theatre. Mom turns our two toned, blue and white ’57 Ford Country Squire station wagon into line with the rest of the mother chauffeurs. After checking to make sure we each have our dollar and an extra dime to call home, Jill and I hop out into the warm marquee shade with the growing crowd of mostly elementary and junior high kids. Girls in peddle-pushers or pale print dresses, almost all of them with bangs and ponytails that bob and swish as they collect excitedly into familiar gaggles. Boys with crew cuts and flat tops dressed in blue jeans or slacks with white or geometric print button-down shirts and white tee shirts visible at the collar meander singly or in pairs pretending to be interested in the “NOW PLAYING” and “COMING ATTRACTIONS” posters. No one willfully ventures out of the shade into the scorching Saturday sun and the heat radiating off the building’s red brick fa├žade and the sidewalks.

High schoolers usually come later when the kiddie crowd has moved into the theatre, or they wait till the evening show and come with dates; but there are always a few who come to the early matinee. These few older boys among us run a comb through their greased hair to make sure their wimples and ducktails are perfect and furtively check out the older girls in tight skirts with pastel colored blouses who are checking their lipstick or adjust the chiffon scarves at their necks.

When the circular ticket office at the left of the entrance finally opens, we cheer and jostle into a ragged mass of a line. Impatiently, we wait our turn to push our money through the half-circle hole at the bottom of the ticket window. A cool hurricane of stale cigarette smoke mixed with the smell of eau de cologne and the hum of the ceiling fan blows through the hole in the window into our faces. If we do not carefully hold on to our dollars as we push them through, they will escape from our hands and fly back out the window on the breeze. The bored looking girl behind the glass punches colored buttons on the counter, and a ticket jumps out of a slot. Change rolls down a miniature slide into a dish just inside the window. Clink! Clink! Clink!

We push through the glass, double-door entrance, and a flustered, teenage boy in a red jacket and pill box hat punches our ticket. “Stop pushing,” he chides us. “You’ve got time! It hasn’t started yet. Stop pushing!”

The foyer with its charcoal colored walls trimmed in red is always dark as we come in from the bright outside. The red carpets with gold flowers and the red velvet curtains have a faint, comfortable, musty odor of age and stale popcorn mixed with the smell of fresh popcorn from the glass-cased popper behind the snack bar candy counter. The light from the glass candy cases is defused by the pressing crowd of noisy kids. The suspended corn popping pan rumbles as it drips popped corn like golden lava into a yellow mountain below. The candy counter girls have shoveled the last mountain of popcorn into paper bags and thin cardboard boxes and lined them up in regiments against the glass case to await the attack of the matinee kids. Jill and I always buy the same three treats: a dime box of popcorn, a Dr. Pepper, and a nickel Big Hunk. Jill likes Bit-o-Honey sometimes, but I stay with the Big Hung because it’s bigger and lasts longer.

When we have our treats in hand, we weave in and out of the tangle of kids past the steps that lead down to the men’s restroom and pass through the red velvet curtains into a curved, gently ramped hall. The pale blue walls reflect the blue lights high in the ceiling and seem to glow in the darkness helping us find our way up the ramp. At the end of the ramp, we enter a wide, high walled aisle that runs across the middle of the theatre. Kids our age never go up the steps to the raised area above the wall called the “balcony.” That’s where the high school kids sit. I always take Jill to the middle opening in the wall and walk half way down the aisle toward the screen. Sitting in a seat on the middle aisle has the best view of the screen, even though other kids climb in and out of the row. If Jill has to go the bathroom it is easy to get her back to the lobby and return to our seats without having to climb over other kids. I don’t mind taking her when it is not a double feature. We always stay and see the single features twice, so I don’t miss anything.

The side walls have murals painted in shades and tints of blue. On the right wall is a riverboat and trees along the river shore, and on the left is an Indian maiden waving to the riverboat from more trees. After seeing all those westerns, I wonder if she is a decoy for an Indian attack on the riverboat. The murals fade to black when the blue ceiling lights are turned off. The screen flashes into life with a Looney-Tunes or Disney cartoon and the kid chatter turns to cheers and whistles. Usually there is a short subject, a news reel, a cartoon, the feature, and a preview of next week’s movie.

I am enamored with the movies. In the coal dark theatre, I am a participant in a world that is real for only a glittering afternoon. Westerns are my particular favorites. The colored shadows that flicker on the screen in front of me is the only reality for the afternoon, and I relive the stories all week. I am there with Charleton Heston as he parts the Red Sea; I watch the clock inch toward high noon with Gary Cooper; I struggle to pull the African Queen through the feted swamp with Humphrey Bogart; I stand in the Teton valley with Brandon DeWilde and cry for Shane to come back. And I also blubber through tear jerkers like Old Yeller, twice.

After the second showing, the white lights are turned on and the theatre ushers start cleaning up before the evening show. The matinee diehards that are left in the theatre file out into the foyer and line up at the pay phone to call home. We then push out into the real world of a faded afternoon to wait for a ride.

The rows of white light bulbs under the Marquee are now on and they splash light on the windows of passing cars. Neon tubes of red and white on the tower above the marquee spelling out “FRONTIER” sputter and buzz like a thousand angry insects. It is especially nice if it has rained while we were inside. Then the colored lights shimmer on the wet street and passing cars. The sidewalk beneath the marquee is a bright cave where whirling tides of exhaust fumes and ozone and wet dust smells wash over us. But it’s not raining this evening, so warm evening air wafts over us as we read the “COMING ATTACTIONS” posters and count the number of weeks we have to wait for the movies we want to see.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Salt Lake City St. Patrick's Day parade was a very wet and cold morning experience. We go every year to see Emma and her lifelong friend, Sarah, dancing down the street with the Crawford Irish Dance School. Alex loves the day, and he has gone with us for several years. His mother was able to go with us this year.  Alex brings a sack with him, holds it open at the side of the street, and the paraders drop candy and treats into his sack. It is easier than Halloween.  Here is our little leprechaun, Alex, before the parade and the rain. We usually stand at the northeast corner of the Gateway across the street from Old Navy. A few years ago, we were about the only people who stood along that street. Now several more families have found this area, which is the least crowded, best view, and most candy.  Most of the Irish danced schools either march/dance along the parade route or have a truck pulling a platform for the dancers to perform on as they move down the line. Crawford School dances down the street, and they always have a huge group. To me, it looks like they have the most dancers of all the schools, at least in the parade. We were happy that the dance schools were performing after the parade in the Union Pacific Building. We always eat lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen. We had only a twenty minute wait this year. The rain sent a lot of people home early, and Gateway was the least crowded I have ever seen it on St. Patrick's Day.

Here is Emma in middle of the second row with a big smile.

One of the many Pipe and Drum Bands pumping up the crowds!

Emma in the middle and Sarah on the left in the Union Pacific Building after the parade.

We caught another leprechaun!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Librarians Meet and the Heavens Weep

The Utah Educational Library Media Association yearly conference was last Friday at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah. Even with a morning snow storm, we had 100 more attendees than were expecting from the 350 preregistrations. The number of conference attendees keep growing each year, which indicates the interest and dedication of the school librarians in the state of Utah. Our librarians are devoted to their students and spend their own money and time to improve their skills and expand their knowledge in all areas of knowledge and technology. Research continues to show that dedicated librarians in schools are essential for student achievement even while an increasing number of school districts throughout the nation are eliminating librarians and libraries to save money. This these districts do to the detriment of their students.

Anyway, the conference commenced with a keynote address on advocacy, School Library Advocacy: Ensuring Libraries for a Lifetime, by Dr. Ann Ewbank, from Arizona State University. We had a power outage just after she began, but she never became flustered, just adapted, as librarians always do. She moved off the stage closer to the audience, and we all moved down closer to the front of the auditorium. A prepared-for-anything librarian handed her a flashlight to read her notes in the dim glow of the emergency lights, and off we went. Just before she finished, the power came back on, and we saw a few of her slides on the screen.

Three talented Utah authors were guests and presenters at the conference. Utah authors, popular speaker Michael Ramsdell, author of Train to Potevka; James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner and The 13th Reality Series, and LaRene Ellis, author of the Stones’ Quest Series and her memoir How to Rebuild Shattered Dreams. Many of the sessions were packed because the classrooms were smaller than conference rooms we have been used to in the past, and many of us had to scramble to get to other sessions or "camp out" to be in the sessions we just had to see. I was fortunate to be in the session on the Flip Camera co-presented by my old friend and neighbor of 34 years, Brent Woffinden.

The session before lunch, my daughters, Rachel and Rebekah, both childrens' librarians in Salt Lake County Library System, presented their "Prop Me Up: Story Telling for Children." Rachel presented two years ago, and I invited her back with Rebekah last year when I was conference chair. They were the most popular session at the conference last year. They beat me out by two votes. I didn't present this year. I'm taking a rest; can't take the competition.

The lunch was an experience. The caterer had planned to have the attendees pick up their lunch as they entered the cafeteria. But the librarians got ahead of them and came in faster than the caterer could set up, so they sent everyone to sit down at the tables to be served. The problem with that was there were only two girls to serve. Several people started picking up plates and serving the tables at which they were sitting.  With four hundred and fifty people to be served everything fell apart. UELMA board members and a few other altruistic librarians joined in to serve, as librarians always do. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be patient and helped direct us to tables where the hungry were waiting. It was extremely difficult to weave our way through the closely packed cafeteria, but we made it, hopefully before too many lost their patience or missed the next presentation at two o'clock.

After a stormy morning, the sun broke out and the rest of the day was beautiful, eventhough I went back to my school and worked for a few hours cataloging new books.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Big Twit

Social Media-Twitterpated: I opened a twitter account this morning, and I can say that I am a big twit when it comes to understanding the mechanics of this social media. I don't find many of these social media accounts "user friendly" at my age. Maybe my brain is too concrete and not sufficiently flexible and intuative to go with the flow. When a novice, who was perfectly content being less wired, joins up, the site presupposes that the person knows all about it and can start right in. Maybe in the case of others, but not me. I decided to seek out some Twitter Tutorials on YouTube and found a few that promised to help make things easy. Unfortunately, the tutorials must have been done a while ago since some of the features they were tutoring me in are not found on the twitter page at which I was looking. Then I went to Wikipedia, and all I found was the history of Twitter, nothing for a novice to learn anything practical about using it. I then went to Google and found Mashable: The Social Media Guide. This is an excellent site for learning the how tos and where fors of social media. There I found the answer to the burning question: "What the retweet button, and how do you use it?"

I tried to use the Find People section like it was demonstrated in the You Tube tutorials, but the "email your friends and let them know you are tech savey by using your contact list" only allowed AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo, not Hotmail as shown in the tutorial. Of course, I have no contact list on AOL, Gmail, or Yahoo, but I do have an extensive list on Hotmail. So I had to do a lot of copy/paste manuevers to send out a notice that I have another wire sticking out of my head.

My "Alice in Technoland" adventure continued when I found I was following seven twitterers by only clicking on one Canyons District IT tweet. AND there was one follower. Wow, all this in a hour and a half.

On Mashable I found this quote about The Twitter Guide Book:
“Twitter is a social network used by millions of people, and thousands more are signing up every day to send short messages to groups of friends. But where’s the user manual for Twitter? Where do new Twitter users go to learn about Tweeting, retweets, hashtags and customizing your Twitter profile? Where do you go if you want to know all about building a community on Twitter, or using Twitter for business? How can you find advanced tools for using Twitter on your phone or your desktop? To answer all these questions and more, we’ve assembled The Twitter Guide Book, a complete collection of resources for mastering Twitter. Happy Tweeting!”   - Pete Cashmore, @Mashable

Friday, February 26, 2010

Social Media: Darren Draper ask me what impressed me about Will Richardson's presenteations at the Literacy Promise conference last week. First, Will’s enthusiasm for how his own children (ages 10 and 12 I believe) are connected to so many intelligent people throughout the world (with his oversight and rules) caught my attention. Second, he demonstrated how he uses Google Reader for his RSS, and how he manages what could be an overload of information. I watched what he does and said, “I can do that!” Third, his emphasis on ethical and safe practices, and the concept of having hundreds of people reading and filtering information, writing articles and reviews, and communicating directly with authorities in your fields of interest startled me awake to the possibilities for classroon use. I started thinking how nice it would be for all the students at my school to have Google accounts they could use at home and school.
I'm sorry, I didn’t feel that way when Darren presented the list of 24 social medias to the district teacher librarians with a deadline to become familiar with 20 of them. I looked at the list and could only count seven that I had already done. Exploring and using 13 more in two months was like throwing more piranhas into the pool. Richardson stated at one point in his presentation: “Part of literacy is fixing mistakes.” So I am now attempting to fix that mistake. I still don't think I want to twiter, but I did add texting and internet to my cell phone , and I am texting (to my daughters' amazement). I signed up for RSS immediately and subscribed to Richardson's blog, wiki, and Powerful Learning Practices web site on Google Reader. I want to jump into the rest, but I am the kind of learner that likes to see it demonstrated, usually while I am following along, so that I don’t waist time slogging through on my own making tons of mistakes. Fortunately, says Richardson, there is a plethora of YouTube tutorials on many of the things I want to do. I don’t know if this addresses Darren's question, but it is too late to be brilliant. I like this quote from one of the articles I read at Powerful Learning Practices:

"Gaining confidence is extremely important in using new tools in the classroom. I notice that I usually have two options, roll it out and the class learns with me at the same time or I need to find a group of teachers to play with.
Either way I still find myself with no skills and don’t want to look foolish. Let’s see if we can work this out here. …We are going to help each other to learn how to use these tools in our classrooms."
“Gaining Confidence” Brian Licata, quoted in “We Are Going to Help Each Other Learn” by Lani Ritter-Hall .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Back to Writing Again

Social Media: Thursday and Friday last week, the 18th and 19th of Feb., I went to the 2nd biannual Literacy Promise conference in Salt Lake City. I am alway energized by going to teacher conferences when the sessions are so well done. The high light for me were the two sessions by Will Richardson on the use of social media in increasing one's own learning and creating children who are independent learners. Even though I consider myself to be a life long learner, a Renaissance man, the older I grow, the more desperate I become as I see so much that I do not know and want to know; so much that I have not learned and want to learn. My favorite quote for many years is by Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” (I sometimes long for that world that no longer exists.)

Evenso, I have been cautious about jumping into social media, though I do have this blog (which nobody reads), several e-mail accounts, too many listsevr subscriptions, and a Facebook account. Darren Draper, Dir. of Technology Servicess for Canyons School District, Sandy, Utah, has strongly challenged the librarians in the district to become conversant with and use 24 types of social media. I have been reluctant and a bit resistant to the idea because of the time involved in gaining even cursory familiarity with them. I have so many people clamoring for my attention and time every day that I feel like I am swimming in a pool of piranhas. I also could not see an educational value to most of them. Will Richardson certainly opened my mind to the educational possibilities of social media, if not directly for the classroom right now, certainly for my own personal learning right now. I started Google Reader for my RSS today, and tomorrow I might investigate wikispaces.

During my 37 years as a classoom teacher and a librarian, I have been saddened and frustrated when I have had to deal with children, more than a few, who vigorously demonstrate that they don't want to learn; or those who seem more than content to know very little. Yet many of these same children demonstrate knowledge and expertise in technology, both harware and software. I have had a couple of these electrified students help me with computer problems and have used free computer time as an incentive for other students to improve grades.I can see some applications of social media as a tool for helping these wired types of reluctant learners become connected learners within and outside the educational institution.

I taught for many years with Lloyd Naylor who said that the way to get a horse to drink the water to which you have led him with love and care, is to salt the oats. I contended that there will always be a "horse" or two willing to shrivel up and die of thirst rather than accept the fountain you offer, regardless of how much you love and care for them. My mind is now opening to the idea of incorporating social media networks into classroom instruction and research projects as a way to reach reluctant learners and expand the resources of those already excited about learning.  Lifelong learning is probably in the mission statement, goal statement, or DRSL of every school and every district in the United States. But, we cannot measure lifelong learning in our students without following them around for the rest of their lives. We can, however, measure the skills necessary to become a lifelong learner, which skills we strive to inculcate into our students. Maneuvering around the internet is now one of the necessary skills of lifelong learning. Students are using and will use social media for good or ill whether we like it or not, whether we guide them or not. I don't know how or what can be done to minimize the real dangers of life on the internet for the young and immature (of all ages), but the potential for harm must be addressed before we fully embrace the electronic biome in our schools. Will Richardson has written some interesting observations on social networking on his blog.
Ballet West: Friday night after the conference, Chris and I went to Ballet West's new production of Swan Lake. This is my favorite ballet among all the other ballets I really like, and I have seen it at least six times. Our daughter Rebekah has sesson tickets with us, but she had a conflict and decided to go to the other activity. Emma went to the ballet in her place. We had a lite supper at Siegfried's Delicatesen and arrived at the Capital Theatre ten minutes before the curtain went up. It was a stupendous production, but Chris was disappointed that we didn't see her favorite principal artists Christiana Bennett as Odette/Odile, and Christopher Ruud as Prince Siegfried. Bennett is a tall, gorgeous dancer with beautiful red hair, and is Chris' favorite as is Ruud. We saw Katherine Lawrence and Thomas Mattingly. She was very good; he was a little weak. Christopher Sellars did a fine job as the prince's friend and would have made a stronger prince. Sellars is from Huntington Beach which I claim as my home town, because I spent my teenage years there. The production had all the popular standard dances, but new choreography for some parts, which we enjoyed very much. Especially impressive were the finale changes in act IV.

Hale Centre Theatre: On Monday we went to see Fiddler on the Roof at Hale Centre Theatre. It was a good, but not great performance. Evenso, we enjoyed the evening. The singing was strong and the dancing was adequate. I am always impressed with the way this theatre company utilizes the in the round stage.
This has been a very "theatrical" weekend considering that Chris and I also went to see the Percy Jackson movie on Saturday afternoon.