Friday Assorted Links

1. To my student on the death of her grandmother(s).

2. My “friends” get endless enjoyment making fun of my down market clothing preferences. Jokes on them though. The Pope is down with my approach.

3. Best headline of the week.

4. The intrinsic love of learning.

5. How the liberal arts help veterans thrive.

6A. How not to be a principal of a school.

6B. How to be a principal of a school.

7. Trump’s biggest blunder so far.

Why Teach?

When asked why teaching, one recent applicant to the teaching certificate program I coordinate said, “Because I have to REALLY get out of retail.” I wanted to stand up and yell, “STOP dammit! Stop! Thanks for coming and good luck making retail less stultifying.”

Most applicants are pulled, rather than pushed into the profession, but their reasons still routinely speak to ulterior motives.

• “I’m a good story teller and students’ find me engaging.”

• “I love when the light bulb goes off when a student learns something new.”

• “It will be nice to have the same schedule as my children.”

That’s understandable. I recently wrote that everyone cares about compensation, benefits, work-life balance, but I’m waiting longingly for a prospective teacher to say something like this:

“I want to become an educator because I have a hunch that teaching is a continuous exercise in selflessness and I want to learn to lose myself in service of others. I’m an impatient listener and prone to self-centeredness. I want to learn to listen to young people in ways that help them fulfill their potential. I suspect teaching will provide me the opportunity to become not just a positive influence in young people’s lives, but also a better person, friend, partner, and citizen.”

I suppose, if that more Eastern starting point leads one to ask, “Relative to others, how well are you serving others and modeling selflessness?” practicing selfless service to others could turn into a tail chasing, self-regarding exercise. “Too bad others aren’t as selfless as me.” Ego is a perpetual trap.

Despite that conundrum, I’m wondering if I should add this tagline to our Teaching Credential Program’s promotional materials, “People with Buddhist sensibilities are strongly encouraged to apply.”

 

 

The Scourge of Vagueness

The Columbia Basin Herald:

“The Moses Lake School District is looking for a new high school principal following the resignation of Mark Harris Wednesday.

“We came to a mutually agreeable decision that his skill set is not the best fit for Moses Lake,” said outgoing superintendent Michelle Price.”

I’d be very disappointed if one of my first year writing students explained someone’s firing by writing, “his skill set was not the best fit”, because that requires readers to work way too hard.

Then a slight elaboration:

“We had a conversation about where we are and the future of two high schools,” Harris said. “And we decided they need someone who knows the community and is steeped in its traditions and culture.”

More vagueness, “where we are”, “the future”, “knows the community”, “its traditions and cultures”. Those references are far from self-explanatory. This reader is going to guess Harris didn’t ask enough questions, implemented changes with little input from teacher-leaders, and probably lacked the needed interpersonal skills to effectively lead a high school more generally.

There’s this pseudo-elaboration too:

“Explaining the phrase ‘skill set,’ Price elaborated that with the addition of the second high school as well as planned upgrades to the existing high school, Harris didn’t really have the skills to lead through that kind of change.”

But again the phrase, “the skills to lead through that kind of change” is the same vague reflex. What does that mean? What specific skills was Harris lacking? The reader has to speculate. After a couple of readings, I still don’t know what “the skills to lead through that kind of change” is code for?

The district spokesperson concludes by proving it is possible to speak entirely in cliches:

“It will take someone special to lead people through the coming changes,” she added. “Leadership is about fit.”

What does “someone special” mean? And “changes”? And “Leadership is about fit.”? Dear CBH, please resubmit.

Even though all of Moses Lakes probably knows, I can’t help but conclude that Harris flamed out as a principal in ways the district really doesn’t want made more public.

Here’s an idea. When no one is willing to tell ANY of the story behind the story, just go to Twitter, and spare readers the public relations chess game.

Friday Assorted Links

1. The universal phenomenon of men interrupting women.

From the comments:

“. . . I got into a taxi the other night with my husband. I knew the directions and address better than him, so I gave the taxi driver the instructions. He did not reply to me, but then said, “should I take the tunnel or the bridge, sir?” I was shocked. He would only speak to my husband. When I complained later to my husband, he said he was an older guy from a traditional culture, that that was what he believed. My husband–whom I consider to be enlightened and egalitarian– did not notice the slight until I pointed it out. That one word “sir” rendered me and my words invisible and “put me in my place.” In the middle of “cosmopolitan” Manhattan. It made me think society is becoming more–not less–patriarchal. . .”

2. Just 5% of Americans account for 50% of all U.S. medical spending.

3. Why I’m giving my children their inheritance now.

“They are pretty levelheaded young people.”

That’s an understatement as attested to by this:

“They have each parked the money in low-cost, diversified index funds.”

And this:

“You are giving us part of our inheritance now. Time value of money, and all that. Cool. Your grandson thanks you for helping to pay his college tuition.”

4. Canada to teach computer coding starting in kindergarten. Not from The Onion. What’s next, resume writing in first grade, internships in second?

5. Alison, the most important question of our time?

Strong closing:

“The Hive is there in solidarity.”

6. If not, this may be, “Is $9,000 too much for a gravel bike?

Lost Baby Pig

Our neighborhood’s electronic bulletin board regularly reminds me that living in the country is different:

Case in point.

“My daughter just lost a baby pig. He’s mostly black, with a pink circle…or maybe diamond, on his nose. We’re between 36th and 46th on Libby Road. He ran through the woods, northbound, but no telling how far he would run. He’s just 7 weeks old, so he’s very afraid (has had nearly no contact with people) and has no survival skills at all. Please let me know if you’ve seen him and we’ll come right out. It would be great if he was cornered.”

A reply:

“Found one little piggy? Don’t think it was going to the market or eating roast beef.”2227d192d5b8bae7d8abf95c2a2c6c96.JPG.115x115.jpg

Then this:

“How in the world did you catch the little guy? They’re so slippery!”

And finally:

“Well my puppy started it all. Then three humans and one senior dog joined the chase. We have a mostly wire fenced yard and so we did a couple rounds. Piggy ran through the electric chicken netting which really torqued him then my partner got him in the salmon fishing net. Three people two dogs one piglet! I wish I would have had the whole thing on video!!”

I wonder, how did the owners know the piggy was “very afraid”? Maybe he had courage to spare, had been feigning dependence, and had been plotting his escape for four or five of his seven weeks. And found the entire attempt exhilarating.

Can We Please Stop Celebrating High School Graduation?

[From the archives. Four years later, one high school graduating class, I think it stands up pretty well.]

Like it’s an amazing accomplishment that means something significant. Note to the graduates. We expected you to successfully finish all twelve grades.

For shit’s sake, my cycling training is suffering and I missed a triathlon in Portland last weekend because of the first of an endless number of graduation-related events that dot the Byrnes family social calendar.

We’re long overdue on updating our traditions. Forty-fifty years ago a high school diploma was meaningful. High school graduates could get manufacturing jobs and support families. Now, a high school diploma is simply a ticket to continue around the game board of life. That’s all. It’s not an amazing accomplishment. And to the well intentioned people congratulating me in church on Sunday, not necessary. I didn’t sit in boring class after boring class or complete any homework. I did inquire about school at dinner (to no avail) and I did drive the forgotten violin to school a few times, but that’s hardly grounds for congratulations.

Here’s what graduating from high school means, plain and simple. Instead of having most decisions made for you, you get to make more of them yourself. Enlist in the military or enroll in a vocational program, a community college, or a four year college or university. In a few more years, if you apply yourself in one or more of those settings, you will have sufficient knowledge and skills to begin making a positive difference in people’s lives and get paid a living wage. And you’ll be economically independent.

And then we’ll party hearty.