Monthly Archives: March 2009

Day 129 AIM: Should I allow my students to eat in class?

Do Now: This is a mixed bag. On one hand, student performance is inherently tied in with blood-sugar levels. Early mornings can be as disastrous as story time with Stephen Hawking unless you get some bagels in your sleepy scholars’ mouths. Afternoon classes will be absolutely silent unless sandwiches manifest themselves. I have a rule in my class: students can eat as long as they work. This is where we must be cautious, for eating can be productive for a diligent student, but it can also be downright distracting to any lesser ones. Candy bars become noisy wrappers. Corn chips become speed bumps to the lecture flow. So implement your own food rule, but remember, food in the classroom is a contentious issue, for it all depends on how the cookie crumbles.

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Day 128 AIM: Why aren’t my students coming to class anymore?

Do Now: Be observant. Teachers have to utilize all of their senses, including the all-too-famous sixth one, which we in the industry like to call, teacher intuition. It’s that fuzzy feeling you get when your lesson isn’t going quite right. It’s the force, only it can only inform and not manipulate the situation, which is unfortunate when you’re dealing with a classroom issue. Instead of waving your hand and Obi-Waning some little talkative shit in the corner, you just get the prickles on the hair on your neck, which really isn’t the same. 

But you’ve noticed that your students are coming in fewer numbers, and that’s something even untrained Jedi padawans like us can observe. Well, there are multiple plausible reasons why this may be. It’s late in the semester, so those kids who gave up already gave up. It could also be the month of March itself, which snakes along like an endless tail to a gargantuan monster. But take one look outside, one smell of blossoms in the air, one taste of the air, once frosty now moist with life, and anyone can tell you where your students are: they’re somewhere outside, and it’s almost spring.

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Step Up to Parent Teacher Conferences

I am sitting here in my classroom, currently waiting for students, parents, or a combination of both to walk through my door. I have my grade book set up and the lighting just right so that everyone can see the yellow line that denotes homework disappear into obscurity. I hear my co-teacher speaking to a student’s parents in Spanish. My Spanish is about as good as a five year old kid with down syndrome, but I do make out the following words: “baja”, “malo”, “castiga”, “dio mio”, “conejo”, and “?Quieres comer? !Manos a la obra!”

To me, conferences are like Christmas. Bad ass students are suddenly reduced to syccophantic chipmunks. Loners and introverts suddenly ask for extra work. I realize its temporal, but gosh, it’s nice to see what could be.

UPDATE: Our Assistant Principal just makes an announcement for the raffle winner. We have a raffle at Parent Teacher Conferences. For showing up, you get a ticket, and the winning ticket wins a Nintendo Wii. Considering all the distractions our students face on a daily basis, this proves to be an overtly inappropriate gesture.

I’d say the best way to marginalize any school-wide function is to incentivize it with a Nintendo game. For all of our students who cannot manage their time and their parents who cannot manage their students, an interactive time-sucking machine should be the last thing they want. But to pander it with tickets? Who came up with that idea? Why do we want to transform Parent Teacher Conferences into a carnival?

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Day 123 AIM: How can I use March Madness in a lesson in my classroom?

Do Now: Let’s face it: everyone loves March Madness, and everyone loves teachers. Even Dick Vitale was once a teacher. Bracketology should be part of every child’s education, and commentary from the Duke-Kentucky Laettner shot game should be recited like poetry. Show a clip of Jimmy V running onto the court and have students write a poem about how it makes them feel. Show them the correlation between free-throw percentage and win percentage and have them describe the relationship statistically. Have them fill out a bracket and write a 1 paragraph response for why they made the choices they did. Or better yet, make it a 5 paragraph essay; after all, you have your own bracket to update.

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Day 121 AIM: How can I set my people back hundreds of years?

Do Now: Make a stupid youtube video and sport Yao Ming jerseys.

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The Chance to Become a Slumdog Millionaire

slumdog_millionaire_movie_imageI don’t see movies all that often, and I hardly consider myself an expert, but I highly recommend Slumdog Millionaire and encourage you to see it as soon as you can. Critics have raved about its classic rags-to-riches story within the allegorical tale of the birth of modern India. Within its two hour duration viewers are exhausted keeping up with protagonist Jamal Malik, running through the slums and decades past of the gargantuan Mumbai metropolis. It features great acting, an even better plot, and a captivating message that will inspire all.

But through it all, I noticed something that seemed both critical and somehow overlooked within the film. So much of the focus is on Jamal’s accomplishments; how his rise to fame and success somehow is fait accompli, each moment perfectly crafted for the next. Much of the plot is predicated on Jamal’s fate; that he is somehow destined to be successful. However, what seems to be overlooked is the deus ex machina of the movie—the game show itself—the very vessel that has enabled Jamal to utilize his diverse upbringing for fame and fortune. Without it we are titleless, for Jamal remains a slumdog without his chance at millions.

And with that we are given the true lesson of Slumdog Millionaire, albeit with one important caveat: fate, without opportunity, is meaningless.

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Happy St. Patty’s!

Grab some green beer and corned beef sandwiches…

st-patricks-day1

…after school, of course

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