Monday, December 8, 2014

A Scary Conversation

Today I was teaching one of my favorite short stories of all time - "Cask of the Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe.  If you're not familiar with it, here is a brief synopsis.  Montressor (who is only referred to in the first person) is insulted by a man named Fortunato.  Obviously Fortunato has been blessed with wealth, health, respect, etc.  The insult was so slight that Fortunato was oblivious to the impact his words had on the narrator.  During Carnival Season, Montressor and Fortunato meet, and Montressor tells Fortunato he has a cask of this rare wine "Amontillado".  Fortunato is thrilled and almost gallops down into the catacombs for a taste.  Several times Montressor hints that the's going to kill Fortunato, but Fortunato is clearly in the dark about his fate.  Eventually Montressor chains Fortunato to a wall, and literally "walls" him in.  Fortunato's body remains in the catacombs for fifty years until Montressor confesses (because he felt others should know about his perfect crime.)

The conversation today was something along this line.  Was Fortunato partly responsible for his death?  After all, his obsession with amontillado led him to the creepy catacombs where he was eventually killed.  I honestly believed that my students would say the victim is not responsible for a murderer's behavior, and we would move on.  Nope, instead about half the class said, "yes".  I have to admit I was shocked.

So I tried to create a parallel example, "I'm walking through Central Park, and a mugger jumps me, stabs me, and I die. Am I partly responsible because I'm walking through Central Park?"

"Yes, if you're stupid enough to walk through a scary park, then yes, it's partly your fault."

I can't begin to explain how this disturbs me.  The lack of empathy for a victim and on top of that blaming them for their own demise just overwhelmed me.  And to be honest, I was a little crabby the rest of the class period.

I tried to again get them to see that a victim is not responsible for the crime committed against them (and granted by now I'm talking directly to only three students as the rest have bowed out), so I brought up Ferguson, MO.  Were the store owners that had their businesses burned due to looting responsible because they should have had some kind of security?  Response - What happened in Ferguson?  It was at that point I threw up my hands and moved on.

I think what I find so discouraging is the idea that several of these students believed someone could be responsible for a crime committed against him/her.  Some of them refused to see things from an alternative point of view because they enjoyed arguing with a teacher.  I get that.  And unfortunately there was a little name calling, which I tried to immediately squelch, but the lack of empathy really bothered (bothers) me, and I hope the entire conversation gets the kids thinking outside of class.  I know it did me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Technology in a Small Iowa School

It's 5:30 PM on a Sunday afternoon, and I've been searching the Internet for resources, updated several SMART board lessons, and tried to implement several Google projects for several of my classes.  And to be honest, I feel like I've accomplished a lot, and yet feel I haven't completed a thing.  There are so many resources out there, and I feel like I haven't the time, knowledge, or opportunity to harvest them.

I feel like I'm constantly skipping rocks - just skimming this big technical pond of resources.  How do I use all those great lesson plan ideas?  I just don't have the time to research all that is out there.  When given the time, I sit on Twitter and read posts, retweet to read later, and then realize I will never get back to those "tweets".  I have Learnist boards, but once things are posted, I don't have time to return and/or use.  I use Pinterest for more than my craft obsessions, but recently discovered I had several things posted for a federalism lesson I just finished teaching my seniors.  If I only would have remembered they were there, I would have added a few extra technical elements to that lesson(s).

So does anyone have any suggestions?  How do you sift through the myriad of technical resources?  And then how do you remember to implement the good ones?  Where does the time come from?

I'm just trying to teach, laugh, and survive!

Friday, October 31, 2014

End of First Quarter

After 25 years of teaching, I'm amazed at how much things truly haven't changed. Parent teacher conferences are still about what is in the best interest of the student.  They still are a long night with little food or opportunities to go to the bathroom.  They still are a chance to see parents face-to-face and reconnect.  I love the social interaction that I have with parents on PT nights.  Since I'm privileged (and I truly believe it is a blessing) to have all the kids in the high school for all four years, I get the opportunity to see kids grow and develop as "children" to young adults.  To talk to the same parent for four years, the conversations do change from how to help them with their reading comprehension to are they (or will they) be ready for college next fall.  What an amazing opportunity I have to share those things.

Ironically though, a lot of parents simply don't attend Parent/Teacher Conferences at the high school level.  Parents may think, well, my son or daughter is in high school, what could we possibly talk about.  If they would have attended this past week, you would have found out that in our freshmen classes we focus on being organized and putting our best foot forward.  They might have learned that the notebook grade is about their work ethic and attention to detail - a portfolio if you will, of their commitment to English.  In government, parents might have discovered we're actively working on current events and an on-line forum to discuss them.  In American Literature, the importance of the novel project and the skills I hope students get out of it.  In English 10 we might have discussed the power of communication, and how I do understand that speeches are hard and scary, but together we'll get through them.

Every student that walks through my door (and any teacher's door for that matter) is cherished.  They are beautifully and wonderfully created learners, and I hope to help them find their path as they journey through high school.  I just wanted the opportunity to share that with all the parents of all the students I have the inestimable privilege of teaching.  Hopefully more will come to the spring conferences.  Happy Halloween everyone!