Friday, May 26, 2017

So That's How It Is In Their Family...


Dismissal is a hectic few minutes with quite a few moving parts for our school.  Kids are predictably rambunctious, parents are on the scene, there's the danger of moving cars, someone has always forgotten their flute inside (tying up the entire car line), and there's usually a bus driver who wants to have a discussion about arranging a make shift firing squad line to summarily shoot children until someone comes forward with a full confession as to who has been leaving Blow Pop wrappers on the bus floor. 

Dismissal is also a great time to make connections with kids and I try to filter as much of the other noise as I can during this time to chat with kids about their soccer practice, what they thought of last night's hockey game, or about the book they're reading.

John is a 4th grade boy who dresses in nothing but T-shirts which proudly express his fondness for Minecraft.  John is one these kids who has amazingly learned how to speak without pausing to breathe.  He shifts from topic to topic at lightning quick speeds, all while dancing a whirling dervish and subsequently assaulting classmates with his book bag or art project. 

As with many students excited for adult attention, John is unfazed by the challenge of competition.  Recently, during dismissal I needed to grab a couple PTA parents to briefly discuss an upcoming event.  John located me through the body traffic and came charging up, bull dozing his way into the group.

Immediately he loudly began hot breathed story about his families recent vacation.  "... and I had ice cream in a waffle cone!... and we stayed at this really great hotel!... they had a hot tub!....and they had a swimming pool and I swam for like 18 hours..."  I smiled gently at the other adults.  John was impossible not to like even if his manners needed a little tune up.   

"And they had GOLDEN SHOWERS! Wouldn't you love a GOLDEN SHOWER, Dr. Principal?!  I've never been in a GOLDEN SHOWER, but my mom went in the GOLDEN SHOWER and then my dad went into the GOLDEN SHOWER.  Have you ever been a GOLDEN SHOWER, Dr. Principal?!?"


Um, that's kinda personal, John.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Plea For Social Studies

Political affiliation aside, most people I've spoken to would at least concede on some level that neither major party offered a particularly good option when it came to our most recent Presidential election.  Donald Trump, for good for bad, seems have successfully blended the circus and government, and is seemingly at the center of more controversy each passing day.  He's more entertainer than leader, and to his credit, didn't campaign as anything different.  Knowing all this, the American people still elected him, no doubt in large part to Hillary Clinton's own career (and her husband's) having been mired in scandal.

How the hell did we get here?  How did two lousy candidates become our only options?  How did a man who has openly offended every imaginable demographic, who seems more likely to be impeached than actually accomplish any of his goals, become the fucking President of the United States?  Well, perhaps schools are somewhat to blame.

No Child Left Behind was signed into law in January of 2002, and ushered in the age of school accountability, and with that, testing.  Lots and lots of testing.  These tests were used to judge individuals, schools, and neighborhoods.  They caused re-organization of some schools, were sometimes tied to salary or employment, and their results became the absolute measure of worth when examined by a public who often didn't understand what they meant.  This predictably lead to schools slowly adapting curriculum to better increase their odds of scoring well on tests(regardless of how mundane the instruction became), more text prep, and a re-allocation of time which focused more on the subject areas tested, typically, math, reading, & writing.  Social studies began to disappear.  It wasn't tested and thus became a necessary sacrifice in order to survive the judgments and consequences of government.   In many places where it still existed in some form, students were often pulled from it for RtI needs ("they can't leave math or reading, those subjects are tested!").

Students who were four years old, when NCLB was signed into law were eligible to vote in 2016.  This essentially an entire generation of voters who were likely to have receives less education on Social Studies, Civics, & History than past peers.  Wasn't a primary function of schools supposed to be to develop the future citizens of our country?  How can that occur when little emphasis is placed in this area?

Donald Trump has certainly made numerous ignorant statements.  But I'm disheartened to hear that extremist groups like the KKK and the American Nazi Party are strengthening again.  Hate feasts on ignorance.  If students are not given regular opportunities to study these events and discuss their impact with a trained adult, how can they be expected to understand the complex dynamics of race relations when they become an adult?  How can we have empathy today if don't know yesterday?  How could a generation of collective opinions support identifying and electing wise leaders of any party?  It's at least fair to consider that they cannot. 

School leaders- if social studies has slipped in importance in your school or district- I am requesting that you use your voice and talents to help it remerge in our schools.  The possible consequences of not doing so could be tragic.