My class had run out of steam. Once, in early August, there had been four full tables of more than six people each. I
needed a valet to help park the walkers that had to be lined up at the door.
When we compared our answers we often had people trying to talk over each
other. Today we sat sparsely spaced around two tables. I addressed the ten
older adults. Doing my best not to show my exasperation, I asked, “No stories?
It wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t my fault. Well,
actually it was my fault.
My basic point system works in multiples of 5,
making tallying point totals easy even for the mathematically challenged. Small
tasks and demonstrating positive behavior are worth the minimum 5 points. Bonus
tasks and something you want to recognize as especially good are worth 10
points. Group completion of large assignments and homework starts at 25 points
and goes up from there, but nothing is ever worth more than 100 points and
there should be very few 100s. At the end of every class, the group points are
tallied and the totals written in sharpie on the scoreboard in the back of the
Teachers – What if I told you there was a single
system that could handle most discipline problems, guarantee high student
engagement in classroom activities, and ensure most, if not all, of your
students turn in their homework every day? Read on, because all of this and
more can be yours for one low price.
No, I’m not going to charge you for the information.
However, the first thing you have to do is spend about $40. Every year I
patiently wait for sales on games like Connect 4, Jenga, Monopoly, and
It's hard to pretend. But, day after day, I put on a smile and do my job. I do my paperwork according to the latest model and set about the business of trying to get kids to pass tests. The thing that set me on this path was believing I can make a difference. Pretending I still believe gets harder every day.
Let's look at the numbers. There are 180 days of school. This year students will take 5 state assessments, 10 major assessments for their report card grades, a pre and post test for teacher assessment in every class, and the week-long rollout of the new PAARC test.
I hardly know where to begin. It's been a whirlwind of activity for me and for Purplearn. For me, the summer of 2014 will be remembered as days cool enough for me not to melt into my usual uniform of suit and purple tie.
I wore this uniform at the class I taught at Brookdale. I grew up across the reservoir from the college campus and it is still beautiful. In room 101 of the ATEC building my twelve students and I explored game theory and proper cooperative learning techniques. I am already looking forward to my next classes there in the spring.
My grandfather, Hy Schiffman, died in a VA Hospital in Florida. In his later years Hy was your typical jolly fat man and I can't picture him without a smile beneath his thin pencil mustache. As a young man, Hy was very handsome and the lovingly restored black and white wedding photo of him and Nana Tillie made them both look like movie stars. Hy was not an educated man, first laboring at 13 years old to help his family and then drafted into the war, Hy never had formal schooling past the 8th grade but he was always sharp as a tack.
I started teaching in the middle of the war zone that was south central Los Angeles in the late 80's. I was also the assistant director of a Beverly Hills tutoring agency. One thing was the same in both groups of kids. It doesn't matter if the parents are in Europe or in jail, if the parents aren't actively participating in the children's lives then the children have problems.
This is as true today as it was then. I offer no solutions to the persistent problems of overwork and violence but what about the parents who want to spend time with their children.
We just received a new magazine from United Health Care called Renew. In it there is an article entitled "A-Z Brain Booster". It is not a serious, scientific article, but more of a fluff piece where they assign each letter of the alphabet a word that they feel people should do to help keep their brains healthy.
Out of the 26 different things they highlighted, the Purplearn program meets 11 of them. The one I want to mention here is the one we find most important here at Purplearn - Have fun with friends.
science teacher, an old woman long past her usefulness that we are unable to be
rid of due to the influence of the teacher’s union, shuffles up to me, begging
for my key for the third time this week. Once again I graciously open her door
for her and as I stand there with a frozen smile waiting for her to realize
that she can go in now, I look around me. Above my head broken or missing
ceiling tiles make a checkerboard pattern, and I mentally plug the face of the
kid who broke each tile into the proper hole.
I am dancing to the
music as I step in a semi-circle to the left and punch my opponent’s face with
my right hand, turning my heel and rotating my hip in unison as I strike to
impart more force. I pause and center my weight so I use my body more than my
arms to throw my limp opponent away. Then as the lovely Ms. Lopez sings the
end, “Until it beats no more,” I step to the right and slowly raise my center
of gravity, feeling my body expand with my inner energy. My imaginary opponents
dispatched and the Tai Chi short form done, three quick, measured steps and a
tap of my finger stops the music.