Friday Assorted Links

1. The Queer Opposition to Pete Buttigieg, Explained. Masha Gessen explains the two divergent tracks in L.G.B.T. politics:

“One kind of queer politics is rooted in ideas of liberation, revolutionary change, and solidarity. The vision of this politics is a society that is radically changed by many kinds of people fighting many kinds of injustice, a society in which economic, social, political, and sexual relationships have been transformed. The roots of this politics are acknowledged in an open letter authored by a group called Queers Against Pete. (The letter was signed, according to the organizers, by more than two thousand people.) They wrote, ‘We are clear that LGBTQIA people are directly and disproportionately impacted by police violence, incarceration, unaffordable healthcare, homelessness, deportation, and economic inequality among other things.’ The strategy of this brand of politics is to work across differences to bring about change.

The other, more mainstream, and often more visible kind of L.G.B.T. politics aims to erase difference. Its message to straight people is “We are just like you, and all we want is the right to have what you have: marriage, children, a house with a picket fence, and the right to serve in the military.” The vision of this politics is a society in all respects indistinguishable from the one in which we live now, except queer people have successfully and permanently blended in. To be sure, all kinds of queer people have been involved in both kinds of queer politics. But the politics of being “just like you” leaves out the people who cannot or do not want to be just like conventional straight people, whether in appearance or in the way we construct our lives and families.”

I’ll give you one guess on which one is Pete’s track.

2. For more than a year, a violent tow truck war has been raging across the Greater Toronto Area. Damn, I don’t like it when my idealized view of one of my favorite countries is challenged. You’re better than that Canada. Aren’t you?

3. Why Exactly Does Putin Love Bernie? No, it’s not because he’s a socialist.

“. . . helping Sanders helps Trump.”

4. Compassion-based Strategies for Managing Classroom Behavior.

“If you’re assuming the best about the kid, that they want to learn appropriate behavior, they want to be positively connected to you, but they somehow can’t, there’s something in the way. What can you imagine the invisible subtitle is for ‘I don’t care?’

‘For me, the invisible subtitle for ‘I don’t care’ is, Mrs. Dearborn, I really, really care, but I can’t tell you that. Do you care?’

Reading the ‘subtitles,’ as she calls them, has helped Dearborn to stop perceiving misbehavior as disrespect. That doesn’t make her a pushover, she said. It makes her an advocate for the student.

So now when kids say, ‘I don’t care’ to me, I say, ‘That’s OK because I care, and I can care for the both of us right now, so let’s do this.’”

“I can care for the both of us right now.” Beautiful.

5. Mike Pence, who enabled an HIV outbreak in Indiana, will lead US coronavirus response. “Only the best people.”

6. Analyzing the “Big Five” Women at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials. The race is Saturday at 9a PST on NBC. I’m going all in on Jordan Hasay.

Expect More Of Students

Normally, I teach graduate secondary education teacher candidates; this month however, I’m teaching undergraduate elementary education candidates.

On the first day I canceled class in favor of a chill book club, now I’m the most popular prof of all time. We drink tea and eat donuts while reading half of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and all of Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren. Kidder is a non-fiction writing marvel. Like me, Among Schoolchildren is old; unlike me, it’s still really excellent.

Schools change so slowly, over three decades later, Among Schoolchildren still rings 90% true. The core of the book is one Holyoke, Massachusetts fifth grade teacher’s struggle with a particularly challenging student. Can she get him to cooperate and do some work without the herculean effort derailing the entire class?

This article, “New Peer Mentor Program at Centennial Elementary” just caught my eye because it was my daughters’ school and some friends work there. And because I was thinking about Chris Zajac, the teacher, and Clarence, her challenging student.

What if Clarence needs responsibility more than rules and restrictions. What would happen if Clarence, and Chris’s other challenging students she regularly struggles with, were asked to help some younger students with their school work? And to be role models of sort.

Would they rise to the occasion? Would they feel better about themselves? Could that create positive momentum; improve their school experience; and make Chris’s classroom a more peaceful and productive place?

The Bane of Every Teacher’s Existence

Students act out. The question is why?

  • It’s personal. They don’t like you. Never have, never will.
  • It’s karmic payback for the way you treated your teachers.
  • It’s a religious conspiracy. God placed them in your classroom to make your life as miserable as possible.
  • It’s in their nature, they can’t help it, their brains aren’t fully developed.
  • They are compensating for too little attention elsewhere.
  • They’re so hungry, they’re distracted.
  • They’re distracted and upset about other outside-of-school life challenges.
  • They don’t understand what you’re asking them to do.
  • They understand what you’re asking, but don’t have the necessary background skills and/or knowledge to successfully complete it.

Most of the time, it’s the last two. How frustrating would it be if you felt yourself falling behind your peers?

 

The Key to Teaching Middle School

In 1999, I traveled in Japan for two weeks with twenty plus other social studies educators, including Ken V, a crazy funny middle school teacher from Winnipeg, Canada. Before departing for Tokyo, we met in a San Fransisco airport hotel conference room to share our respective curriculum research projects. Afterwards, I went straight up to V and said something to the effect of, “That was excellent, super clear and succinct. Thank you.” From that moment on, we were boyz.

Fast forward a week. On a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, V fell asleep with his suit coat thrown over an adjacent seat. I pounced, stuffing a hundred cheap, thin, plastic umbrella rain bags inside all of his jacket pockets. Then I instructed everyone to sporadically ask him for one at our afternoon meeting with the mayor of Hiroshima.

We’ve stayed in touch ever since, even reuniting in Victoria about five years ago. Staying in touch means he sends me sports updates—baseball, football, curling, Nascar primarily, on almost a weekly basis. Canadians are funnier than everyone else, so no surprise his missives are basically one long strand of wickedly funny puns.

A year or two ago, he revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer. His positive attitude was incredibly inspiring and proved integral in his recovery. He’s retired from the classroom, but not the Prairie baseball fields where he doubles up as player and umpire extraordinaire.

Recently, he wrote:

“Filipino Fastball…………….. Sept. 10, I did the Dish for both Medal Games. The Bronze game featured 2 nice teams, who hadn’t played nor practised since mid Aug. At the end of the 4th, the score was 15-6. At the end of the 5th, it was 15-13. It ended after 7, but took way too long. No issues, however it was a hot day, and the Fun was yet to come……..The Gold game featured 2 good teams, who don’t like each other. The eventual winning team began to whine immediately about EVERY call. I finally had a talk with the catcher, and told him to inform his teammates there would be dire consequences if it continued.”

I love the image of V laying down the law. It prompted me to ask “What’s harder to manage a Filipino fast pitch game or a middle school classroom?” He turned on that question and went deep:

“I would rather face a Filipino uprising led by North Korea, catered by ISIS, during a Mexican Earthquake, than manage a Middle Years classroom.”

The first rule of middle school teaching. Always be a little more crazy and funny than them.

 

Why So Many Teachers Quit

That’s the title of this LA Times Op-Ed. I purposely haven’t read it so that you can compare Rizga’s reasoning and mine.

Conventional wisdom is that teachers quit because of the modest compensation, but every teacher enters the profession knowing that.

I hypothesize a lot quit because they fail to master classroom management. Absent positive relationships, classroom life is a complete drag. Also, nothing is more stressful than never truly having students’ attention. And absent attention, respect is elusive. Absent mutual respect, joy is inconceivable. What do those who struggle most with classroom management have in common? They usually aren’t comfortable with their authority.

That’s not all. When some teachers conclude they can’t teach as creatively as they want due to over standardization, they leave.

Another variable is true for everyone at whatever their workplace and for everyone in life more generally, teachers want to be appreciated. Teaching is among the most challenging and selfless endeavors a person can undertake, but no teacher that I know is perfectly intrinsically motivated. New teachers can master classroom management and commit long hours to crafting the most creative lessons possible, but if no one—students, families, colleagues, administrators, the “public”—ever truly acknowledges their efforts and demonstrates a modicum of appreciation, their enthusiasm inevitably wanes.

I suspect a significant proportion of teachers quit because of some combination of these three things.

How to fix it? Empower those teachers in each school that are most skilled in the art of classroom management to mentor those just starting out. Refuse to teach to standardized tests. Continually repeat that teaching excellence takes many forms. Show and tell teachers that you appreciate their efforts.

Hey Beginning Teachers, Don’t Do This

In a 40 yard dash the Labradude would beat me by at least 20 yards, but stretch it out a few miles and the tide turns. In fact, when I pick him up near the end of a run for a lap around the ‘hood, he often slows me down. Until I yell at him. Not that kind of yelling. When I say, “Good boy! That a boy! Keep it up Marley! You’re the Usain Bolt of Labradoodles!” he picks up the pace.

When Kemberly Patteson was getting her teaching credential, someone should have told her that even dogs respond best to positive reinforcement. What’s true for the Labradude is doubly true for adolescents. Which leads to the funny/sad story of the week.

From the Associated Press. STEVENSONSkamania County — A Stevenson High School teacher who used a “Wheel of Misfortune” to discipline students will keep her job.

The Stevenson-Carson School District concluded Thursday that science teacher Kemberly Pattesonused poor judgment but never intended to hurt or embarrass students with the spinning wheel, which violated the district’s anti-bullying policy.

The Columbian reports a parent complained last week about how students would spin the wheel to find out what their punishment would be for low-level misconduct.

One of the choices was a firing squad with rubber balls that classmates would throw. The wheel has been removed.

Think how much time the Wheel of Misfortune took from meaningful teaching and learning. I can just picture the class hooting and hollering as the smiling offender approaches the Wheel. Patteson, playing Vanna White, probably narrated the whole thing. “What has today’s perp won? Death by rubber balls!”

At that point, I imagine, all hell broke lose. If I was a high schooler, trying to bean my classmate would’ve been a highlight of the day. It probably took most of the class period to recover from the pandemonium.