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Book continued


The absent-minded 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.

The First Paragraph of the Book

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.

Forward

Over the course of my final years as a public school teacher I decided that I would write a book about my experiences and my thoughts about teaching. I have quite a bit of material written now. Maybe one day I will organize it all into that book, but for now I will put some of it up here. Starting with what I thought would be the forward:



I had to write it all down. I’m a writer. When asked about myself recently, I described my writing as an affliction or a disease, as if the words needed to come out of me or I would retch alphabet soup or explode in a cloud of well-worn and yellowed scrabble tiles.

Active Listening - A Life Skill

There is an old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” This saying expresses the fact that often people do not follow their own advice. Every year, somewhere around the third day of school, I present the children with my modified version, “Do as I say and as I do.” When I ask for a volunteer to repeat back to me what I just said, about half the time the response mimics the original expression and not my modified one. I like it when I get this wrong answer here as it really drives home my point. The fact is that we have gotten too impatient to really listen anymore.

Social Education

As I finish out my service as a public school teacher I have come to several conclusions about the educational system. Even at its best, there is still too much wrong to just fix it. I echo the words of Sir Ken Robinson, "We need to rebuild it from the ground up."

I believe some of those who have already started in new directions have gotten part of it right. Those who are flipping the classroom so content is learned for homework are 100% correct. But I diverge from them about the classwork.

Another snowy Sunday 3/2/14

My thoughts today are of curriculum and how passé it is to teach for content knowledge when facts are a smartphone away. I educate my children in useful skills like fun, passion, compassion, and cooperation. All of us working together for the benefit of all. Give a group like this any task and they will work together to complete it. Wouldn't "school" be a wonderful place if this were the mandate?

But I'm not a politician, just a teacher so I cannot change the world. The irony of that statement surprises me.

Beginnings

My career in education goes back more than 40 years. In the middle of October, 1969, the Mets were showing just how Amazin they were by beating the Baltimore Orioles in the final game of the World Series. Mayor of NYC Lindsay was taking a few moments away from watching the game on a backstage tv as he handed me a silver medal commemorating my winning the Best Essay on fire Prevention in the 5 boroughs. As soon as school began that following Monday I started my first tutoring business, charging my fellow 2 graders a quarter each for my help with their writing assignments or math homework.

After the storm

This is the continuation of the previous post about Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.



It is Wednesday and it is Halloween. Both my son’s and daughter’s schools have already cancelled school until Monday, but of course, my school has only cancelled Thursday so far. We drove south and west today and found a Shop Rite that was working off a generator and we bought dried salame and cheese and best of all, fresh baked bread and hot coffee from an in-store Dunkin Donuts. The lines were long, but we were happy to have some good food so we didn’t mind.

Sandy and Fractions

I came across this piece of writing I did during Hurricane Sandy and thought I should share it.



It was 2:28 Sunday afternoon October 28, 2012 when I noticed the first raindrops. Hurricane Sandy was coming and both my children’s schools and my wife’s work had long ago sent notices that they would be closed tomorrow. The state offices had also decided to close. The only place that had yet to weigh in was, of course, the NBBOE. For all I knew, I was supposed to report to work in the morning.

Almost exactly one hour later my daughter’s school joined my son’s school in extending the closed notice through Tuesday.

Two Days Later

2/5/14
 
I guess I am never satisfied. Whereas just two days ago I was happy with an unexpected day off for my birthday, today I am mad at Gov. Christie for declaring an emergency and forcing us to close. We have no choice, which shouldn’t surprise me as I have no choice in what I have to teach or where and when I get to teach it. Of course I have no say in making any decisions but if I did…

Instead of forced stifling classrooms I envision a huge open space divided into hexagonal pods. The building is open 24/7, staffed by three shifts of educators and there is a police station by the only non-emergency entrance.