Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flattered By Comparison

I'll take it...anytime, anywhere. I had to laugh, though, because it was said in all seriousness.
As part of a competitive physical education class featuring many of our school's most gifted athletes, I sponsored a team track and field week. The class was divided into groups and all competed in a variety of relatively safe events. The latest was the discus throw. Mind you, not every one was a track athlete, and there were only a couple of discus throwers in the crowd; naturally, there was some instruction and tips provided by myself as well as the athletes familiar with the event. Ashley wasn't so sure about it. She is a good athlete who hates to look uncoordinated at anything. Today, she was spending time getting some tips from her significant other who is one of our school's discus throwers. He was getting frustrated, and she was getting a bit peeved so I walked over and spent five or six minutes working with her on the really basic steps. An adept learner, she soon had the idea firmly entrenched in her mind and began to make progress. Seeing this progress, I began to walk away to rejoin other students. I overheard her say to Logan: "He's a better teacher than you are!" Now, who could retire after hearing that?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Standards Are Plummeting

The University of North Carolina, yes, MJ's school, has decided that it's students no longer need to know how to swim in order to graduate. Another standard falls in the educational world. This will be the last year that students have to pass a basic swim test (50 yd. swim and 5 minutes floating) in order to get a diploma in Chapel Hill. The university feels that there are much more available fitness outlets for their graduates than swimming.
Somewhere near sixty years ago, almost every institution of higher learning required students to pass a basic swimming test in order to graduate...something about being able to save one's own life when toppling from a yacht. Anyway, as recently as 1977, 42% of all universities in America STILL required students to be able to swim in order to graduate; by the time the early 80s were ushered in, that figure was a mere 8%...sad. Now, except for the hallowed halls of places like Notre Dame (where they no longer require students to take the test in the buff, a practice which was halted by the inclusion of women to the campus), MIT, Cornell, Columbia and Swarthmore (as well as all the service academies), this test of determination has gone the way of, say, the high school graduation test in Wisconsin...and other states as well.
In fact, California is in the process of suffering through a lawsuit which challenges their gradution test as unfair to poor students and students in large schools. apparently, such students get poor teachers. This was supposed to be the first graduating class in California which was required to pass a test to graduate. Litigation will, no doubt, hold up many a graduation party there!
At least Governor Jeb Bush and the politicos in Florida give lip service to standards by requiring high school student to declare a major. Their idea is that it will allow students to focus more on a career choice (at 13) while avoiding things they don't want to take. Core areas like math, English, science and social studies would still be required, though. You can just hear the anguished cries of students who wanted to major in shop so they would not have to take all the other stuff.
Come to think of it, I was required to take an introduction to music class in college which met the same day the school newspaper was published. At least part of that time was then spent somewhat profitably. The professor finally got so irritated at the rustling of the pages that he turned the lights off in the auditorium, leaving only the stage illuminated. However, he proceeded to fall off the stage and break a leg. I knew there was some kind of commotion but had to wait a couple of days to read about it in the next edition of the school paper.
All of this except the inane part about my college music class leads to this question: can standards get any lower? What will get dropped next? Classes on Friday?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Groovin' For Fitness Across the Age Continuum

I have been studiously avoiding work-related musings in an attempt to placate those who felt that such musings were out of place on the internet. Today, however, I just have to relate an experience which served to underscore why I decided to return to teaching for at least one more year.
It was Wellness Day or Fitness Day or something of that ilk event sponsored by the state education folks. We have a committee formed to debate and resolve wellness issues (as dictated by the Feds). The committee decided that it would be great fun and wonderfully educational from a wellness perspective if we could get EVERY student and staff member of our school district together for 30 minutes of exercise...that being the number professional fitness folks say we should ALL get at least five days a week. While the committee seemed comfortable with the idea, implementation was beyond them. Naturally, that's where I come in. As Teacher of the Year (for five more months!) it was assumed that I could come up with something approriate for ages 4-67 or however old the oldest person was. No easy task, to be sure.
I decided to modify some aerobic dance things we do for warmup sometimes. There's hand clapping, arm waving, a few simple foot movements and LOUD singing: something like a pentecostal tent meeting. My PE students love it, but applying it to an all-age group was a daunting task.
There was much resistance from various factors: students who thought it was dumb and subsequently skipped school (not mentioning any names, Joe), staff members and board members, some of whom thought it was a waste of educational time, serious questions about whther or not the kindergartners would make it back to school in time for lunch and others ( myself initially included!) who didn't believe we could assemble 500 people in one place at one time for one activity. Then, the weather forecast wasn't the best. It was a recipe for disaster, but my philosophy is that if a task isn't a challenge, it's not as much fun. The elementary teachers had worked on the activity a bit with their kids, and every comment I heard from them was was the day.
The day dawned with some dark clouds on the horizon which gave way to beautiful Simpson-like skies and sunshine. All the groups arrived more or less on time, the PA system worked (thanks to Terry Q.)and Kathy had organized the whole thing wonderfully. That left my part. Since the Jumbotron at Perry Field was inoperative, I was perched atop the press box with my Madonna wireless microphone ready to lead the troops in a rock and roll fitness revival. Actually, standing there, I felt somewhat like the Pope though not as conservative.
The singing, dancing and arm waving was amazing to see. Teachers were shaking their groove thing, students even volunteered to lead the large group, and my students mixed with little kids to help out. I must admit, that 30-minute period was among the most moving I have ever had in education. I was so into the activity that I didn't realize I had whacked my hand on a railing and was bleeding all over the place. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.
So, just when I begin to have doubts about our school situation, an activity like this provides enough joy to carry me all the way through to summer. And the name of the place is " I Like It Like That!"