Thursday, October 27, 2016

Time to get "lit"!

Fall is here, and that means ninth graders at my school are plowing through The Odyssey, tenth graders are trudging through The Canterbury Tales, and the juniors are pondering nature as they read Walden.  Meanwhile, I'm spending a lot of time reading trashy fanfiction.

To be honest, I re-read all the required novels and short stories every year, so that I'm always prepared for every question, questions such as, "Why do we have to read this?" and "Why did it take Odysseus so long to get home?  He's not that far away from Ithaca - I mean, can't he just look at the map?"  I think that after awhile, I get tired of reading things to look for symbolism and motifs.  I'd rather just be blown along with the story if the story is mildly entertaining.  Let's be honest, if you're constantly digesting lots of fibrous fruits and vegetables, you want a Twinkie.  At least I do.

In my review of the required reading, I've found that my perspective on these classic works of literature has changed as I've aged.  I had to re-read The Crucible last month, a play I've read two or three times and have seen performed.  Like most people, I felt heartsick at the end when John Proctor goes off to be hanged.  After my latest perusal, I noticed my feelings were less sympathetic (not about the hanging, because who wants that?)  But geez, John, you had an affair with a psychotic seventeen-year-old while your wife was sick, and you thought she'd just get over it?  And the investigating clergy never thought about why the girls would want to accuse so many pillars of the community?  Most people aren't that blind, or naive.  Hester Prynne never squeals on Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter and no one but her ex suspects, even though she's left on her own to raise a child in the community whose father doesn't even acknowledge her?  Either Hester has ironclad self-control or she has major self-esteem issues.  I would've ratted Dimmesdale out the second I knew I wasn't getting child support. 

Is it because I have a better understanding of human nature that I now see more flaws in character portrayals or logic?  And by that I mean don't get me started on Lord of the Flies.  There are so many things wrong with that novel that I don't even know where to begin.  (But if you're a fan, keep it to yourself, because I think you're wrong, and this is MY blog.)  Still, my "improved" understanding of human nature means I still think To Kill a Mockingbird is the perfect book. 

I think that's why I've been escaping into fan fiction.  I can overlook inconsistencies or chuck it if the story is lame, then just move on to something else.  My worry is that reading literary junk food might negatively affect my writing overall.  But that certainly can't happen, right?  RIGHT??

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tech time is just a technicality...

Schools love technology, in theory, just like schools like catering to diverse learning styles.  In theory.

Technology is the word du jour in education right now.  Everyone wants to see how teachers are incorporating “technology” into their lessons, by either teaching students how to use it or introducing new programs that are supposed to be the answer to all the education problems we face right now.  It’s even part of teacher evaluations now.  No technology use?  You’re screwed.

But really, teachers get screwed anyway.  Technology is nice, but the reality is that schools are underfunded and crowded.  Who’s paying for the technology?  And how is it going to spread out among the teachers or students?

The last year I was at TCS, the school received a grant that meant it could provide each student with his or her own Chromebook.  In theory, this is a great idea.  Google products are inexpensive and easy to use.  The school already assigned each student a Gmail address, so deciding on Chromebooks was a natural next step.  The problem was the implementation of the Chromebook use.

One problem the school didn’t foresee was that it didn’t have enough bandwidth for that many students.  The network repeatedly crashed for the first two weeks when everyone tried to log on.  That meant registration was inaccessible, and the teacher grade books were also locked out.  It took another $20K to get everything up and running. 

Meanwhile, teachers were now required to make laptop use part of their daily lessons.  But, as any parent knows, giving a piece of electronic equipment to a teenager guarantees that it will eventually get broken, left at home or “borrowed” by a student’s friend who “needed it.”  The IT person was soon swamped with requests to fix student laptops that were frozen, cracked, or infected with viruses.  As a result, students regularly didn’t have their laptops when needed.  So how does a teacher plan for laptop use in the lesson with a third of the class won’t have one?

Furthermore, teachers were now fighting to keep students off of YouTube, social networking or inappropriate sites.  The school didn’t have the foresight to block certain sites or put the students on a separate network than the teachers.  We teachers were told that we were responsible for making sure students weren’t goofing off when using the laptops, which meant a showdown was in order. 

A teacher quit on the spot when an administrator tried to discipline her because he’d seen a student watching Netflix during a lesson.  She said it was ridiculous to expect that she monitor what 30 students were doing on their laptops all the time.  Finally, the school tried to fix it – by blocking 90% of all sites, even the ones that teachers were using.  The students couldn’t even access Google Drive to save their work.  Our appeals to fix the network went nowhere, until the day the superintendent brought some corporate visitors, and tried to show off how much technology we had.  The network was fixed the following day.

All in all, it was a disastrous experiment, but it’s typical of trying to shove technology into the classroom without thinking about the ramifications. 

No one tests to see how this will work, and no one who comes up with these large scale ideas (IPADs for all!) seems to understand how this will work with KIDS.  In Los Angeles, a district gave out IPADs and ended up returning them all because students quickly got around the server block for some sites. 

Worse, most people are not technological geniuses.  Kids see technology as entertainment applications.  Unlike our generation, they didn’t grow up seeing computers as work machines.  They don’t even know how email works, or why they should use it.  I know, because I can’t tell you how many teens don’t understand how to send an email.  But teachers are also not geniuses.  Don’t give us a new software program, tell us it will be the answer to all of our problems and then instruct us to “figure it out.”  Most people can’t “figure it out” without tutorials or explicit instruction – you know, like a TEACHER.   

Tech products aren’t necessarily toys, and they aren’t the de facto solution to education woes.  They also aren’t the key to making students prepared for the workplaces of the future.  What do kids need to know for their life as an adult in the workplace?  How to type, how to compose an email, and how to answer the phone correctly, leave a message, properly complete an assignment or project and get along with coworkers.  These aren’t being taught at school or even at home anymore, with the assumption that students will just “get it.”  

I suspect that education boards all over the country jumped on the “tech” bandwagon in order to show that education folk are hip and “with it,” not out of touch as they’re sometimes accused of being.  Yes, we need tech, but more than that, kids need to learn how to learn, how to study, and how to function in society.  Technology does not facilitate that.  People facilitate that. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reading, righting and wronging...

Yes, it's been quite a while since I posted, as I battle against a lack of inspiration and an excess of sloth.  But luckily, one can always be roused by indignation and disgust that come from grading writing assignments.  Pull out the liquor if you have it.

As the education is becoming increasingly more and more important…

Which system has a better strategy for atchieveing maxim success?

The ways of education has always been a highly debated topic.

High school is a stepping stool into young adults emerging themselves into society.

In conclusion, to set up the main points I just talked about…

I have first handedly experienced the intimacy this provide.

High school is a place of larning.

High school does not only teach us lessons on mathematics and reading comprehension, but experience.

High school is arguably the best years of an individual’s life.

I'm not sure about that last one.  The essay actually ended mid-sentence.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ISWG: Yeah, well, so...

Usually I feel insecure about what I'm doing, and whether it's good enough.  Lately I just feel insecure about what I'm NOT doing, which is writing. So for this month's ISWG post, I'll focus on my lack of output.

I know I wrote last month about being too busy to write and not accomplishing a whole lot, but now I feel that putting off any writing has just made it easier not to do so.  I'm sure it's the same with working out: the less you do it, the easier it is to keep not doing it.  Plus I've made the excuse that I'm out of ideas and motivation, but really, that's garbage.  Writing is often just an act of sheer will, where one just pushes through the distractions and tries to get words on the page.  I tell my students that they're not going to get ideas if they just sit there and wait for them to come; clearly, I need to take my own advice.

I know discouragement over blogging has been one factor behind my de-motivation.  Remember when we knew that all prospective writers needed to blog to grow their audience?  I don't know if that actually works anymore.  Often, I try to remind myself that it's not about expanding my audience, but it's more about practicing.  But I don't think I'm listening to myself.  I wish I would, because then I'd have more drafts and material to rewrite or edit.  At least that's something to be proud of.

Regardless, it's time for me to get back in the saddle, if I can even find the saddle, or the horse, or even the corral...