Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Graphology, Television, Plato, and Paul

When I was in third grade, we had a guest speaker who was a graphologist. I was FASCINATED by the idea that you could discern someone's personality traits from their handwriting.

The guest said since we were just learning cursive, it was too soon to really analyze our own writing. But I do remember a classmate asking that since our writing showed our personalities, could CHANGING our handwriting shift our personalities--because the guest said YES. I tripped out.  (Hold that thought.)

Now I have never researched graphology (although I admit to analyzing people's handwriting all the time based on what I learned that day--high cross on your t's mean you think highly of yourself. Open loops above your a's and o's? You can't keep a secret), but this morning I wondered if there was a similar link between SES and TV viewing. 

I found a study from 2001 which analyzed viewing habits of 26,420 people in five Latin American countries, and sure enough, what they watched was influenced by their wealth and education.

Here is what the researchers found:

" Insofar as their television viewing are concerned, we observed these preferences:
  • SES Level A: travel, business & finance, economy, recent Hollywood movies (on premium cable channels or pay-per-view), internationally produced drama series, politics  [TOP 10% of SES]
  • SES Level B: biographies, documentaries, general interest & education, local news, sports [NEXT 20%]
  • SES Level C: sports commentary, live music concerts, music videos, cooking, home decoration, entertainment, home shopping, internationally produced telenovelas [NEXT 30%]
  • SES Level D: domestically produced novelas, game shows/contests, comedies, horror, cartoons. [NEXT 40%; see chart below; all brackets Haiku Education's]"
Back to the held thought: can changing one's viewing habits influence one's SES? Hmmm.

Here is the education connection. Aristotle believed that the purpose of education is "to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought." Everything Else Thrown In puts it this way:  "Plato, the teacher of Aristotle, said that a properly trained youth was one “who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of men or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man gentle of heart.”    As scary and Big Brother-y as this can sound, it's true that children tend to develop tastes heavily influenced by those around them and their culture, INCLUDING their teachers. 

AND SO... I want to expose my charges to the beautiful and the true. I want them to feed on integrity and good character. I want them to ask "why?" I want the novels in my class library to help them become noble and jolly. This TV study supports my notion that mainstream TV is an enemy of their financial future; perhaps so are certain types of books. This is not a censorship argument--if a kid is into bodice-rippers, that's her business--but I want to have a shot at helping to WIDEN and perhaps shift that taste to include, perhaps, some Charlotte Bronte or Jane Austen, or Ray Bradbury for that matter. 

I guess I am just echoing what Paul wrote in  Philippians 4:8:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Monday, June 18, 2012

They can't say I didn't try...

When kids finish my final, I have an optional, anonymous survey for them: I ask them to rate each technique on its effectiveness or inspirational quality, from 1  -  4, and leave a space for them to 'splain anything they want to:

1) passing around the grade sheet on Monday and then posting it
2) making you keep track of your grades in your agenda
3) if the teacher could somehow force you to use your agenda
4) assigning goal sheets asking you to set goals and write out your game plan
5) passing out tickets for random candy drawing--tickets for academic or citizenship excellence
6) rewarding good work with bonus points
7) knowing that late work is half credit
8) getting donuts when the whole class turns in hw three times
9) Stupid Teacher Plays where we act stuff out with the teacher narrating
10) our mnemonic songs
11) Stupid YOU plays where YOU invent the skits
12) having kids teach a section/topic
13) the Constitutional Powers project
14) getting a printout of your missing assignments
15) notifying parents when you are missing three assignments
16) the teacher writing a note in my agenda when I did something fabulous
17) knowing my class ranking
18) taking graphic notes (all those cartoons the teacher drew!)
19) keeping your notes in one separate, bound composition notebook
20) doing reports and projects
21) knowing that the homework will be directly helpful for doing well on the tests
22) review game: brain gambling [note: other teachers call it "Las Vegas"]
23) review game: jeopardy
24) review game: steal the bacon
25) knowing that if your grade is high enough, you can skip the final
26) earning a free hw pass for having six weeks of perfect hw turn ins
27) the study guides
28) when the teacher draws a star on the class chart with the highest class average that week
29) when what we study in history overlaps with what we are reading in English
30) getting tests signed by a parent
31) knowing your teacher believes you can do better than what you are doing

I end with this: "What else could your teacher do or try that would encourage kids to do their work, learn, or try harder?"

And then I read them. This year the big winners are #9, 1, 19, 31, and 10.  The relative losers (most were still helpful, but not comparatively) were #30, 11, 12, 3, and 4. I am sad about #4 and don't intend to stop it, but I need to figure out a way to revisit the plans and make them more immediate. The kids do write their goal percentage in their agendas so they see their goal every Monday, and #2 scored pretty high, but....sigh, there is just too much to do in 55 minutes--or there are just too many chilluns. 

It was interesting to see how many kids shot down being taught by their peers. I asked my seminerds about that, and they explained that you really learn your section, the one you are teaching or performing, but you get next to nothing from the other groups. 

Suggestions this year: 
• replace tests with more projects to "engrave the info in our minds"  (but some kids hated projects)
• use more puppets (apparently the one I have, Citizen Genet--a critic of the Proclamation of Neutrality--is a big hit and the kids asked about him all year.)
• get privacy boards to use during tests
• change seats more often
• more review games (not different ones, just do more games in general)
• during the Civil War game, give kids points for answering, not just points for their side
• use more graphic notes--they really help and they are motivating

and the "I wish" award goes to: 
• make the kids think in a positive mind frame

Thursday, June 14, 2012

a hundred candy wrappers and some "jerky"

File the following under:

As I dropped off my class keys at the custodians' office this afternoon (yippee!), A. exclaimed, "Tell her, J.!" So J. asked me, "Guess what I found under your Promethean board? About a hundred candy wrappers and a dead rat!"


"Was it old? Maybe it OD'd on sugar."

"Yeah, it had definitely been there a while--it was like jerky..."

(Major ew!)

"How come I didn't smell it?"

A. chimed in with a smile: "Maybe your kids outsmelled it." Which is entirely possible, but the whole situation is grosser than I care to consider. I am so glad that I wasn't the one to discover the thing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Good Personal Hygiene AND Charm???

My room was smelling like a thirteen year old boy without deodorant, because somewhere in it was a thirteen year old boy without deodorant.

I made a general announcement: "Some people in this room are not wearing deodorant and are stinking up my room. I do not want to smell you. Please do something about this tomorrow."

J.H. instantly assured me: "It's not me, Miss M--I smell like poetry, rainbows, and freedom."

True story: the very fine Old Spice guy used to be a middle school math teacher.
I am pretty sure he knows the importance of the product he is selling.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Second-best Worst Lottery Ever

I was cleaning out my desk today during the kids' English benchmark test. I'm gonna get rid of it. I don't use it. I never sit at the desk. EVER. It just holds some useful items out of sight, such as:

• paper clips (that multiply when left unsupervised)
• dice (handy for random calls on kids, more dramatic than the Promethean board)
• erasers (students tend to leave them behind and so I have an impressive collection)
• permanent markers (gotta keep those suckers away from the clientele)
• loose change (how come that doesn't multiply when unsupervised?)
• files (but I am moving them to something smaller and better-looking than the blocky ugly 70's metal-and-simulated-wood-grain monstrosity)

But it also holds useless items out of sight, such as official pass slips. I never use them because I just grab a piece of scratch paper--quicker than filling in tiny boxes with my illegible scrawl. 

It also holds things that I don't think are trash but they sure aren't treasure. So today I placed all the items on the carpet and had the computer randomly select kids to choose items if they wanted. I called it The Best Worst Lottery Ever, but as soon as I announced it I changed it to The Second-best Worst Lottery Ever because of Shirley Jackson's horrifying story*, "The Lottery." Here is the list of what was in my desk that has no business being there:

• a 3D duck-shaped clip that is cute and ineffective
• a giant marble
• a small yellow clothespin with a pink pom-pom glued to it
• a Bush-Cheney pin (I had two--why???? I did decide to keep one and to keep the Obama '08 pin, too, even though the Obama pin doesn't have its pin backing anymore.)

• a McDonald's gift card I had found and never bothered to check the balance (could be empty, or it could be Ray Kroc's grandson's inheritance)
• four Sammy's Messy Sundae cards (valid still? who knows?)
• eight brightly colored metal dog tags
• a crossed rifles metal insignia that fell off one of our Civil War slouch hats.
• a plastic silver bracelet that jingles maddeningly
• a Pink Panther magnifying glass
• a hairpin with a rhinestone dragonfly on it

I realize that most sane people would've tossed these items long ago. But I remember asking my aunt for stuff she didn't want when I was a kid. And boy, she didn't want the coolest things! Anyway, it was great--I got rid of 100% of the items, the kids felt like they had won something, and it was fun trying to guess which kid would pick what, and which item would go last.

Have you guessed what went last??? Scroll down:

* Hope you didn't think The Hunger Games's lottery was completely original. Jackson's story froze my blood without one sadistic description of death.

Madness, I say--madness!

The school calendar:
Finals are on Thursday, but
school's out next Tuesday

Don't you think this is
expensive babysitting?
Or insanity?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bad Manners and No Class

If your doctor makes you angry,
do you barge into her appointments with other patients to tell her so?

If you think your lawyer made a mistake,
do you choose his courtroom time to inquire about it?

Today's hero is my colleague. As he is doing his job, educating the ignorance out of his jillion 8th graders, into his classroom DURING CLASS TIME strides a parent who begins to berate him. My colleague keeps his calm. Instead of reaching for the phone to call for the VP to bounce her out, or the cops, or Chuck Norris, he asks for the parent's work address so he can return the favor. "Really, tell me, where do you work? Sharp Hospital? I will come by to conference with you when you are on the job because apparently that's ok with you."

I want to shower him with accolades and palm fronds and leis and ticker tape and whatever heroes are showered with. I want to carry him on my shoulders before cheering crowds of teachers who have been disrespected in similar ways simply because they are public servants. Why do some parents treat teachers differently than they do other professionals? Could it be because they don't value what we do? I can't stand it when a parent comes by before or after school without an appointment; invariably I am tutoring or counseling kids or setting up my classroom or on my way to or from a meeting or from the workroom. (Why? BECAUSE I AM AT WORK, WORKING. Imagine that.) They always seem a little surprised when I ask if they have an appointment. ???

Parents are ALWAYS welcome to visit my class as observers. I am ALWAYS glad to conference with them at appropriate times. I just wish some parents would use good manners, because they are teaching their children how to behave, and trust me, that is getting to be a scary proposition these days.

Hmm, some people need to work on #1.