Johnny and His Homework

 

20170428_145008 (2)

The Great Slump

The teacher greets them at the classroom door, “Put your homework on the left side of your desk, and get started on your “Do Now.”

Fourteen-year- old Johnny comes in and sits down. He has no homework to put on the left side of his desk, so he plays with the strap on his bookbag while his teacher walks up and down the rows.

She stands above him, and even though he pretends not to know, he can hear the scratch of her damn pen on her damn clipboard. So much for fresh starts, positive climate, and “I believe in you.”

It’s only 8:03, first period, first failure. Only six to go before he gets the hell out of here, unless he leaves after lunch.

The teacher begins the lesson with a powerful question designed to get them all talking and arguing. Johnny has much to say, but why bother? He drops his head and shoulders, leans back in his chair, and thrusts his legs in front of him. His teacher notes his body language.  It’s the familiar slump and sprawl of defeat— with its jagged edge of defiance.

She asks another question of the class, waits a while like good teachers do, and then calls on people– some of them with hands raised, some not. Clearly her question has stoked their brain fires. Then she says, “Johnny, what do you think?

No answer.

She tries it again. “Johnny?”

“Hate this school!” He pushes himself out of his chair, grabs his backpack, and slams out the classroom door. He knows he will get in trouble, a phone call, a detention, or an in-house suspension — but he doesn’t care.

Johnny knows in two years he will be sixteen, and then he will walk out the school door, and he will never have to come back.

My Thoughts

Johnny is one of many kids who don’t do homework. Many of these kids, if they could start class positively, could thrive instead of fail. In this blog, in future posts, I will describe some of these kids, both high school kids like Johnny and elementary kids who may grow up to be Johnnies.

On Facebook I came upon a viral post by a Mom, Bunmi Laditan. She writes a letter to her ten-year-old-daughter’s school declaring her home to be a “Homework- Free- Zone.” I shared the post on Facebook and wrote a quick comment. I’m sure that Bunmi Laditan and I are part of a growing movement to change the way homework is being done. Here’s the link to her post. http://twentytwowords.com/moms-viral-post-declares-her-house-a-homework-free-zone/

 

Getting Your Child Off to a Successful First Day of School: People to Thank

Looking out my living room window at the kids and their parents waiting for the school bus, I am remembering my own first days—as a parent, and as a teacher. No one has asked, but I am prepared to say, “Thank these folks.”

  • School Staff who are also parents of young kids: Many of them left their own kids in the hands of spouses, grandparents, and neighbors so they could be there for your kids.
  • Those wonderful spouses, grandparents, and neighbors who stepped up for all working parents.
  • The Boss who said, “It’s OK to come in late. Bring in photos!
  • The municipal workers who protected my child.
  • Your school’s: aides, nurses, social workers, office staff, janitors, bus drivers, crossing guards, and those truly wonderful cafeteria ladies.
  • The school’s administrators, who got about an hour of sleep last night, if they were lucky.
  • Your school’s teachers who are experiencing “the longest day” of the school year and who will arrive home absolutely exhausted. Somebody please bring in a pizza for them. For some teachers, it may be just the reverse. For them it will be “the shortest day” because they so over-planned, and the time flew by, and they couldn’t accomplish all they planned. They should get a pizza too.
  • Here are two additional categories of teachers to thank on the first day:
    • Smiling teachers. They could be the best teacher your child ever had.
    • Non-smiling teachers: They could be the best teacher your child ever had.

Parents, you won’t know yet. Give everybody a chance!

  • Finally, anyone in the school community who “parented” any child who nervously waited on line or walked through those big doors that day. Believe me, every school has many of these wonderful people. They are the folks who supply a change of clothes for a wet child, and a comforting arm around the trembling shoulder of a frightened child. These “mama’s and “papa’s” are also the ones who make sure every child has a costume for Halloween; a warm coat, mittens and boots for the winter, and (about fifteen years later) a cap and gown, and maybe even a tux or a  dress for a high school prom.

Parent, you thought I was going to forget. Thank yourselves too! You have done a wonderful job!

This retired teacher wishes everyone a wonderful school year!

“Please Send Your Child With…”

Photo Credit: --char-- via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: –char– via Compfight cc

“Ma,” my son said, “Hannah needs to bring a bag of cleaned parsley for her Sunday school’s model Passover Seder.” Hannah is our granddaughter, and Jerry and I were in Arizona visiting with her and our son, David.

The Seder is a symbolic meal celebrated by Jewish people to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery and Egypt. At Hannah’s Sunday school the teachers were going to conduct a model Seder to give the kids a feel for the larger scale Seder that would take place in their homes on Passover. Symbolic items on the Seder Plate are used as props to tell the Passover Story. A Seder plate includes: hard-boiled egg, salt water, matzoh, lamb shank, charoseth (a yummy mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine), horseradish (bitter herb), and the aforementioned parsley.

A home Passover meal is a BIG meal with many courses, and it takes a whole lot of preparation. Here are some sample foods I have served at various Seders given by Jerome and me over the years. First we put out the Seder plate as described above. Everybody loves my charoseth on their matzoh.

Then it’s time for some serious eating and the first courses: gefilte fish with horseradish; chicken soup with matzoh balls

Then,  the main meal: a chicken dish which changes every couple of years; matzoh stuffing; brisket with red wine and tomato paste; potato kugel (casserole with eggs, potato, onions, matzoh); tsimmes(casserole with carrots and/or sweet potatoes, raisins/prunes; brown sugar); green vegetable such as asparagus or brussel sprouts.

And lastly, desserts: an apple matzoh kugel; brandied peach compote cake (see epicurious.com); chocolate covered matzoh, assorted macaroons.

We have served from 6 to 26 friends and relatives and I cook everything myself…from scratch (except the gefilte fish, matzoh, and macaroons).

No one has complained because they all keep coming back; so I think I’m a reasonably proficient cook. Also, fyi, I do Thanksgiving every year for the same gang plus about 15 more folks. Everyone says I make it look easy.

I’m confident about my food preparation—until my granddaughter needs to bring parsley— TO SCHOOL—then I go crazy!

I ask myself:

  • Should the parsley be the good kind (Italian flat leaf) or should we buy the curly parsley like my mother used? Maybe the curly parsley is the authentic Jewish parsley?
  • Should I trim the long stems off the parsley? If so, how much? Is the parsley on the Seder plate supposed to have stems, or is it just the leaves?
  • Do I send a whole bunch so each little kid can get a sprig? Or should I just send a sprig for the Seder plate?
  • When should I wash the parsley?  The night before? The morning of?
  • If I wash the parsley, and I wipe it with paper towel, should I put the moist paper towel in with the parsley in the plastic bag overnight?
  • The next morning when Hannah takes her zip lock bag of parsley to Sunday school, should I leave the damp paper towel in the bag? Or does that look sloppy? Should I re-wrap the parsley with a dry paper towel? Should I just put parsley without paper towel in the bag?
  • Lastly, should I put the zip lock bag inside another little plastic bag?

Surely, I can’t be the only parent/grandparent who worries about this stuff? Am I?

1954: The Stupid Teacher

382951783_41134131fc_o

FOR VETERANS’ DAY 2014

1954: Fifth Grade Classroom: Yonkers, New York

“Do you know what they do with stupid boys like you?” Miss Reynolds, my teacher, said to two boys in my class who were fooling around.

Nobody answered, so she continued. “Well, I’ll tell you what they do. They put them in the army in the front lines so that they can be killed off right away.” I swear this is an exact quote, even though this event took place sixty years ago because I remember going home and sharing what Miss Reynolds said with my mother and father.

My father was a World War II Veteran. To be exact, he came to the United States in 1936 from Poland, just ahead of the Holocaust, served in the American Army, won his citizenship and a Bronze Star along the way. He saved another soldier’s life when they were crossing the Moselle River in France, under fire. This amazed me because I thought my father, who did the sidestroke, swam like a girl.

I was born in February of 1945. My father did not meet me until he came home from the war in November of 1945, and I was nine months old.

My father never talked about the war, but when he did speak, he spoke with a heavy accent.  He said things like “uppels” for apples and “vash” for wash. When I was a child, I wished he did not have that accent. It made him seem less American. But, what did I know? I was a child.

After I told my parents what Miss Reynolds had said to the boys in my class, my father, the man with the accent, went to my school the very next day. He didn’t even dress up. He wore his heavy work pants and works shoes. I was not there for the conversation.

I do know this quiet man, for the first time in his life, arrived at work late because he needed to meet with my teacher first.  He never shared what he said, but I knew I was very proud of him.

 

 

 

 

The Meaning of “Existential”: An Empirical Study of the Pragmatic Use of Big Words in English Language Arts, aka ELA.

20140912_173002_resized

Students, try to use big words to sound smart.  One of my favorite big words is existential.  I can write or say stuff like, “The existential purpose of blah blah is blah blah,” and people will nod their heads in serious agreement, or squint their eyes in serious disagreement. Using words like existential in conversations makes people feel flattered that you have shared deep thoughts with them.

I do not know what “existential” means. This is a minor point.

My real concern is that there might be a list out there of “Teachers Whose Students Do Not Know the Word, Existential.” These days, you just never know!

Therefore,  all students who will be taking the College Board SAT’s ,  ACT’s,  KAT’s (Kindergarten Assessment Tests)and PNVEE Tests,  (Pre-Natal Vocabulary Enrichment Exams), please thank me in advance for giving you one of the  definitions of existential.

Courtesy of dictionary.com, one of the definitions of existential is:

  • Logic: denoting or relating to a formula or proposition asserting the existence of at least one object fulfilling a given condition: containing an existential quantifier.

Why are you cranky?

Here’s another dictionary.com definition of existential:

  • Of or related to existence, esp. human existence

I made up this sentence for you to clarify the definition of existential:

  • I eat because I am existential, and I need Rum Raisin ice cream to continue existing.

Now, my loyal readers, as an added bonus, I am going to share two new words that have always been problematic for me.  Common Core Standards expect you to use high level academic language. These two words qualify. According to dictionary.com, both of these words are synonyms for existential! Who knew?

The two new words are empirical and pragmatic.

Students, try substituting the word, empirical for the word, factual.

  • Example: If I write the word empirical in my essays instead of the word factual, my test scores may jump from a score of one to a score of five!

Now students, let’s take the word, pragmatic. Use pragmatic, students, every time you are tempted to use the word, practical. This is easy to remember because both words start with the letters, pr.

  • It was pragmatic for me to use the word, existential, because I had read many empirical essays about humans who existed.

Comments? Questions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School’s Starting! Let’s Go to the Pool!

When I’m not writing about stuff, I help teachers, teach. Uh-oh! So now that part of me is out of the closet on this blog. Yikes!

Prior to admitting that I teach teachers, (I did teach kids for 30 years first) I outed myself in this blog for being:

  • a fake foodie
  • a pear-shaped clothing shopper
  • an inept cook, social media user, hiker, dieter, etc. etc. blah blah.

Then I outed myself as a gephyrophobic. That’s a fancy word for a person who is afraid of being or driving on a bridge. I prefer to use my own made-up word, Brobic.

From my background as a phobic, I was hooked by The NY Times Article, “Terror Conquered, the Water’s Fine.” Written by N. R. Kleinfield, the article’s tag was “A New Yorker Faces His Phobia, One Stroke at a Time.” It was about a 33 year old guy, Attis Clopton, who was afraid of swimming. After suffering  with his aquaphobia  for years, Attis signed up for swimming lessons.

As I read  his story, I forgot that I was originally hooked by the phobia angle. I was caught up in the methods,  an old teacher word, that teacher, Lori Pailet, used  to help Attis learn to swim and overcome his fear.

The story showed a teacher at work, a damn fine teacher. Most teachers I know are damn fine teachers too. Some of you will look at the article and say the man in this story  was “ready to learn,” and that’s why it worked. I don’t know.

I do know that we, teachers get all kinds of kids. Some of those kids are “ready to learn,” and some of them are not. Good teachers do their very best to reach them all. Hats off to Lori Pailet, and to all great teachers!

Here’s the link to the story: http://nyti.ms/1pPOPYU