This is an amazing discussion between a teacher and a student – it’s well worth the read.

Cooperative Catalyst

This is a dialogue between Leigh Pourciau, an educator at a public middle school and blogger at http://www.bestinclassblog.blogspot.com, and Anna Baker, a rising senior in a public high school. Both live in the Jackson, Mississippi, metro area. Anna’s sister, Stacy, is a teacher; Anna has considered becoming one, too, but is deterred by the current system. 
It wasn’t the first time a left-brained colleague had come to me with such a request. Stacy, the pragmatic and exceptional science teacher from the 7th grade hall, sent me a Facebook message, “If you don’t mind, I may refer my little sister, Anna, to you…She is considering education, but is losing faith in our current system. She reminds me a lot of you…I’m a bit too pragmatic to advise her, I think!” As my school’s resident, right-brained, rabble-rouser, my colleagues and friends occasionally send me the free-spirited question-askers that remind them of me.
I had…

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Bullying, Take Two

The blog post “Bullying” has generated so many emails that I feel I need to further clarify the story. First of all, yes, that was me. It is also a true story. If the story is fiction I will either specify it as such within the construct of the story or tag it as fiction. It was a very traumatic and emotionally draining experience, one that affected my life, relationships with peers and outlook on violence. I have since avoided violence at all costs – I was certainly never picked on again. I was also treated as an outsider and somewhat ostracized by the event. My fellow students and friends never really accepted me back into their world after that, much to the contrary of what our entertainment outlets would make you think. Violence, while a very real part of our world, is met with suspicion and fear – no matter the reasoning behind it.

Secondly, I do not condone my actions. I was trying to make a point over what can happen amongst children when bullying is met with apathy or ignored by adults. I should have walked away, but many would argue that I did the right thing. I did not do the right thing. But such was the culture of our environment – children were expected to stand up for themselves and not involve adults in every conflict. I took this attitude to an extreme, with terrible results.

The bully never bothered anyone at school or within our area again. He didn’t come back to school, and as far as I know never graduated. The psychology of bullying is complex and multi-layered, and is not socio-economically stratified. It occurs everywhere, and on many levels. Such scholars as Dr. Joseph Jones can do this topic much more justice than can I, so I will say that I don’t know what long-term effects my harm to this young man did.

Finally, it is up to us as parents, educators and adults to watch for bullying and to do what we can to educate those young people that we have contact with that it is wrong and that violence is wrong. We often tell young people that – if you don’t stand up to him/her now, then you will have to deal with it all your life. That is not the right way – it’s up to us to provide safe and caring environments and have happy, well-adjusted children in our lives. Only then will bullying be minimized. Will it still occur? Of course. But the children and young adults will have the emotional ability and mental tools to stop it themselves. Without an emergency room doctor being involved.

Musings of an Educator – Reflections of a Broken System

I’m currently surveying the mess that is my office. Three expandable files stuffed to overflowing with papers from this semester’s worth of peer reviewed papers, homework, writing and reading responses, plus textbooks are threatening to gobble not only my desk, but the floor. That’s after I organized everything. I realize that I now live my life in notebooks. They scatter the floor and my shelves, in no particular order, but I am reassured that if I’ve had a thought, I will be able to find it. My laptop is no longer dependable and all my backups are on memory sticks, or as we call them, thumb drives. I’ve always wondered why we call them thumb drives. I guess it’s because we use our thumbs to insert them into the appropriate drive on our computers, but then wouldn’t we call everything thumb (insert word)? Wouldn’t a steering wheel be a thumb wheel? A remote control a thumb control? Of course, that would contradict as it would suggest that the remote controls our thumbs, but one could argue that it actually does. Once again, I must digress.

I’ve always been overwhelmed at the prospect of writing a novel. A hundred or so single spaced, eleven font pages has the prospect of going to war in medieval times armed with a slingshot and a shovel. Painful, and eventually you’ll lose. Yet, as I go through what I have written this semester, including this blog, I realize that I have written enough to comprise two novels, or part of a trilogy, provided it was more on the order of hunger games and not Lord of the Rings. Dr. Morrison, if you are reading this, there are two errors in the former sentence, in direct contrast with APA guidelines. Please be kind.

This semester has been rife with stress and difficulty, yet rewarding in the knowledge gleaned. Before this semester, the words assessment strategy, teaching pedagogy, hemogenic teaching paradigms and stratified educational systems would mean very little to me. It was a sobering and thought provoking semester, yet one that convinced me that I have made the right decision in choosing, so late in my career, to be a teacher. I have been blessed with intelligent and thought-provoking peers, engaged in many heated discussions and I want to thank my professors at Radford University for their insight, guidance and constructive criticism. I have been challenged intellectually and I have learned, for the first time in my life, to partake in a heated discussion without resorting to petty name-calling or losses in judgment due to my inherited lack of control over my temper. Although I have been very close.

I have learned the difference in teaching and assessment strategies and I have been challenged to analyze the pros and cons of each. I have chosen my thesis topic in Native American studies, particularly the effects of their culture, history and environmental conditions on the success of students within our own society. I have been profoundly shaken by our general inattention to the ethnic stratification of an entire group of people in modern America. It has shaken my faith in our government and our political system to my core.

Yet, I am undeterred in my goal to become a teacher. For any change to happen within our educational system, and within our society as a whole, it must start with us, as educators. We must not lose sight of the dream, hopefully at least partially unselfish, that made us pursue such an underappreciated career. We are ultimately in this profession not to become wealthy (insert laugh here), nor famous; nor should we have pursued it in some mistaken sense of entitlement. Instead, we should pursue this career, and our pedagogies with the unwavering commitment to make a difference in some student’s life. A professor of engineering told me not long ago that he preferred to teach college, as the miscreants and underachievers have been weeded out by the educational process and the application of standardized teaching to determine which student is worthy of a higher education. I say, and emphatically, NO! I would prefer to teach those that are struggling, those that need my help, and those that need and can utilize a safe and caring classroom and witness their rise to their own capabilities. That should be the American dream. To provide each and every student with the opportunity to be what they can be and what they want to be.