Archive for November, 2007

The Patience of Job

Posted in Education on November 30, 2007 by weirleader

sorry – not a religious article… just thinking of how much patience I must exercise on a daily basis as an “inner city” high school teacher. (not inner-city in the sense of downtown L.A., but WAY more inner-city than Cerritos, CA)

For example, I have a student ask me for a letter of recommendation to some program (I didn’t get far enough to read the details) and in the process of scanning the directions I discover that (as should be the case) I need to seal this recommendation in an envelope. That actually makes me feel a great deal better, because this particular student has enough interpersonal issues that I’m not sure they’re going to like my evaluation. BUT I don’t happen to have an envelope on me… so I politely ask how long I have before this needs to be returned.

Today.

Immediately.

Well, then I’m going to need you to go to the office to pick up an envelope for me, since I don’t have one…. instant chaos. I’m the big-bad-wolf. I’m unhelpful. I don’t really want to fill this out. Another teacher filled it out and didn’t seal it, so why do I have to? And now this student won’t talk to me – worse… if I attempt to say a word to her she is rude and talks over me. Hmmmm…. I wonder why I had qualms about openly returning a recommendation….

A few moments pass. Things calm down. She finally hears what I have to say about picking up an envelope from the office. I, the very forgiving and patient soul that I am, am about to write her a pass to the office to get said envelope and I will still fill out this form without letting this recent incident affect my evaluation overmuch.

Oops…. I just remember that about 20 minutes ago we were instructed not to give out passes for the remainder of the day (probably has something to do with the morons that set a fire or two in some school trash cans today). You’re not going to like this, ma’am….

Blam! I’m the jerk again. My fault…. I can’t even get in a word edgewise again to explain that I’m very sorry, but I can’t go against the rules from the front office.

Well, at least now I can say that she’s better off without my recommendation. At this point, I’d have to rate her as low as it gets.

Boy, did I need to vent! Thanks for hearing me out!

Next up, the SNAFU with my Master’s Degree….

Do I pass the snob test?

Posted in Meanderings on November 27, 2007 by weirleader

Well, maybe that’s not very accurate.  But it was sort of my gut-level reaction to discovering this interesting site which rates your blog’s readability level.  I should give recognition to (interestingly enough) Austin for directing my attention to it – it really feels quite cool, though I suppose I should have the awareness to take its rating with a grain of salt since I don’t really know what kind of algorithm it uses for this identification.

Nonetheless, at least I rate high school – which is more than I’m sure many others rate (and thus the “snob test” portion of my title).  I’ll have to see what I can do to increase that….  hmmmm….

I’m guessing Pete is gonna top me – with all those “exegesis” this and “epistemology” thats…  😉
not to mention the occasional sprinkling of “rubicon” or “eschatology”…

Hey, I think I just raised my reading level right there!!!  🙂

Try it on your own site!!!  Enjoy!

Laptops for the third world

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Education, Technology, Toys & Games with tags , , on November 20, 2007 by weirleader

XO laptopJamie came across an ad for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and it intrigued us enough for me to look into it. I have to say, this article in the N.Y. Times was compelling. It’s basically a low-cost laptop with rugged design and some pretty cool features – we’re tempted to pick one up ourselves. It doesn’t hurt that for a very reasonable price you get a laptop for your own child, the pleasure of a gift for the less-fortunate, and a tax write-off as well. My only dilemma is that this computer seems well-designed to be used as part of a network of XO machines (a special network, called a mesh) and it seems a shame to buy only one when I have two kids that could get good use out of it. The sad thing is that, while $400 sounds like we could work it into our budget, the $800 for two just sails right past *ooo-kay* and right on up to *boing-zowie*!

Now the warning – this is not your typical laptop in that it doesn’t load software (as we know it), doesn’t have a hard drive (it makes use of 1GB of flash memory), and has no CD- or DVD-drives. Still, what it does have it seems to excel at… great power management, slimmed-down open-source code (as opposed to corporate bloatware), neat extras like sound editing, picture-taking/movie-making, sharing of documents, and an e-book reader all wrapped in a durable, dirt-proof shell.

I just don’t know – very tempting… what would Dave say?

Teaching and Ethics: A Teacher’s Obligations

Posted in Education with tags , , , on November 13, 2007 by weirleader

Ethics in education has broad implications and applications – but I want to begin by addressing a single aspect: What should a teacher’s obligations be to his/her students?

What brings this on is my experience with a large percentage of students who have an attitude of apathy toward school. And I’m confronted with the questions every day: “How far do I go to make them successful?”; “What is the scope of my job?”.

Sure, a Jaime Escalante can turn around a program – but at what cost? The movie Stand and Deliver (I know, it might not be accurate) portrayed his family suffering as a result of his work. Do I want to be a Jaime Escalante? Do I want to give up my evenings, my Saturdays, my summers? And did he turn around students who didn’t want to achieve? Or did he turn around those who originally couldn’t get the help they needed?

Which really leads to MY ultimate question: “Why am I a teacher in the first place?” Continue reading

Amateur Mathematics

Posted in Education, Mathematics on November 12, 2007 by weirleader

There is a Nobel Prize for physics, chemistry, physiology of medicine, literature, and peace. There is a related prize for economics (though not officially a “Nobel Prize”). But there is no such award for mathematics… it seems a shame. When my good friend Manuel pointed this out to me years ago, I was surprised – I hadn’t ever given it much thought before. The only prize that I know of (perhaps the biggest, though I’m not certain) is the Fields Medal . Which is great, but if you don’t make your mark by the time you’re 40… tough luck, dude. Continue reading