Tag Archives: education

Teachers — Drought, Unions and Agency Fees

Our local papers, the LA Times and the OC Register have had several articles (news, ed and op-ed) about teachers and unions the last couple of days:

  • Orange County’s Teacher Drought — OC Register – 1.9.16
  • High-stakes showdown for union-backed Democrats — OC Register – 1.10.16
  • Mandatory union dues trample First Amendment — OC Register – 1.10.16
  • Interests seek to silence teachers — OC Register – 1.10.16
  • They’re not in the union, but pay anyway — LA Times – 1.11.16
  • Teachers union case goes before the Supreme Court — OC Register – 1.11.16

The above list excludes articles on the LAUSD search for a new superintendent and anything dealing with charter schools.

Bias

Like most people I am biased in my feelings about unions, dues and agency fees — I do not like them, but I believe they are necessary. The individual working man or woman has no power — as an individual. The only way for them to have an impact on an employer is as a member of a group. Call it an association, an organization or a union, the name, except as an emotional button to push, does not matter.

My father was a printer for most of his life; he worked at the LA Examiner and the LA Herald-Examiner. The paper was unionized and the union served to protect the workers. But even a good local union cannot protect against the financial might of a major national corporation. The 1960s strike against the Hearst Corp. destroyed my father’s union.

The last few years before that strike, he had been working a second job as a parimutuel clerk at Southern California race tracks, living out of his pick-up truck/camper in their parking lots five days a week — an eighty-hour-plus work week. When his union was broken, he had just accumulated enough seniority to begin working the tracks full-time, or we’d have been in real financial straits. He supported that union too — I even walked picket lines with him when they went on strike.

History

Historically, the individual worker, be he free or slave, has never had any power. Accept what is offered or move on. A boss, be he (or she) an individual, an organization or a government will always try to get the most for the least. Anything else is seen to go against their own economic self-interest.

Organizations of workers, farmers and slaves who have sought to re-dress their grievances have been put down by private guard forces and government troops. It happened in ancient Rome, medieval Europe and in nineteenth and twentieth century America.

Those who have to deal with unions (as opponents) detest them, or grudgingly accept their presence and would prefer to deal with individual workers rather than a group of them.

Have you ever told your child, “No, or “Because I said so,” when asked a question? Can you imagine your boss’s response to questions involving hours, salary, health benefits and time off without a contract or labor laws?

Employers and corporations, and their associations do not exist to benefit the worker.

Teachers and Unions

Our teachers are intelligent, hard-working and well-educated. Yet, no matter how intelligent, how hard-working or how well-educated an individual teacher is, he or she is still a single worker, on a par with a janitor or clerk, as far as a school district employer is concerned.

Many Orange County school districts employ more than a thousand teachers. Imagine you are an individual teacher working for a district without a teachers’ union or union contract. Imagine negotiating your own individual contract, salary schedule, work load, etc. Imagine enforcing that individual contract should your employer do something you believe is not in accordance with what you thought you negotiated. Who has the final say, you or the district?

Are you prepared to go to court as an individual against an employer of thousands or, maybe, just quit your job?

Teachers, and other workers, need unions to protect their interests. An individual worker, no matter how intelligent, hard-working or well-educated, has little or no power to bring pressure on an employer, especially an employer of thousands.

Are you a teacher? Think of life without a union contract:

  • Five new students are added to your second period English class — it now stands at forty-three and is the smallest of your six classes. “But when you hired me, you said none of my class would have more than thirty students.”
  • Remedial classes are needed on Saturday — you’re selected to teach two of them.
  • Parents complain that you grade too harshly and are not “fair” to their children.
  • You have a disagreement with the principal and she, or he, terminates you.
  • You want a raise.

Nature

“Nature,” taken as a whole, does not care about the individual. An ant, a bee, a gnu, a person means nothing. Colonies, hives, herds and species do matter. An individual clerk at Target or Wal-Mart means “nothing” to the corporation (despite their lip-service to the worker’s rights and value) as long as the work gets done and the profits roll in.

An individual janitor, clerk or teacher means nothing to a large school district as long as the classrooms get cleaned, documents are filed and children taught.

Contracts, Dues and Agency Fees

A contract is an enforceable legal document. It is not enforceable by an employee as an individual. It takes, unfortunately perhaps, legal experts, lawyers, judges, hearings and trials. Individuals and organizations, both those for and against you, must be paid. If your organization, union, does not do so, the burden falls to you alone.

Union dues and agency fees pay for these services. If no one pays for these services, these services do not exist.

Can you as an individual afford the time and money to both negotiate and enforce a contract with your employer — your school district? Think about it.

If you believe yourself to be an exception, that you shouldn’t have to pay an agency fee to your union, do you also believe that the union should not have to enforce its contract with the school district in regards to you? If the union has to enforce the contract in regards to you without your dues or agency fee, that means that other school district employees, the other teachers at your school (your friends and colleagues?), and at the other district schools, are carrying you on their backs and paying for your representation — you’re accepting their charity.

Think about labor laws, OSHA, the five-day work week, the eight-hour day. Do you believe they arose out of the goodness of the government’s heart, or perhaps, those of the robber-barons and mega-corporations? No, they came out of the political pressure exerted by workers and their unions and were financed by the dues of union members.

Right-to-Work

What about my rights to only belong to groups, associations, that I desire. Why should I be forced to join a union? I don’t believe in them.

Do you really believe this to be to your advantage? Think about things realistically.

It is to the advantage of bosses, employers and owners to belong to voluntary associations to further their ambitions. What are their ambitions? To keep and enhance their discretionary power over employees and customers and to increase their profits. They do this through their “contributions” to advertising budgets and politicians.

Advertising to convince you that they have your best interests at heart. Do you believe that the health care industry really cares for you? Have you had to deal with them as an individual? Contest a charge? Get an expensive, non-covered prescription? An out-of-network doctor? Five, ten or fifteen percent increases in coverage costs year after year?

They are profit driven like every other corporation.

But, they’re supposed to be non-profit. Yeah, have you seen the salaries and perks of those who run them?

All of these organizations, corporations and associations hire lobbyists and contribute to politicians. Do you think they do so to further the interests of their workers and customers? No, they do it to increase their power and profits.

An individual worker cannot do this by himself or herself. Workers need to band together to accumulate the money and voting power to contest the economic and political power of those currently in control. They aren’t going to help you because you are a good person and deserve it — that would cut into their profits, and do you really believe that is going to happen?

A “right-to-work” state is one in which an individual is free to deal with government entities and corporations as an individual and not as a group.

A “right-to-work” law is one which guarantees that government entities and corporations do not have to deal with workers as powerful groups but as nearly powerless individuals.

Belief in “right-to-work” laws and their attendant advertising (propaganda?) merely cements the control of mega-corporations and the ultra-rich over the government and, hence, the individual.

Individuals, working as individuals, are never going to be able to accumulate the money necessary to contest in the political arena with the rich and the corporations.

To believe otherwise is to confess to a naiveté that is simultaneously based in fantasy and ultimately suicidal — in both an economic and a political sense.

Conclusion

No, you are not going to agree with everything your union does. (I certainly didn’t.) Your union is not, and will not, be perfect — no organization composed of fallible types like us human beings ever will be.

But, remember this, the union is not some far off entity that exists outside of you — you are the union. The more you participate, the more the union reflects you and what you believe. Get involved. Use the dues and agency fees your union collects to enforce your contract and pursue the kind of life you want for yourself, your family and your students.


PS: I was going to concentrate on the “Teacher Drought” article. Ah, well, maybe next time.

Accountability in Education

Accountability

In the Opinion section of yesterday’s OC Register Aaron Smith laments the lack of substance in the emerging educational accountability standards for the state of California and its local school districts. If the instances he cites are an accurate Orange County Registerrepresentative sample of those standards, I would have to agree with him that the standards don’t hit the point when we consider what we really want our children to be taught and learn in our schools.

We want them to be able to read, write and “do” math. We want them to know their history and science and, through these, how our society and world function and their place in it. We want them to be able to work alone and in cooperative and competitive groups.

We want them to emerge from our families and educational institutions as hard-working and honest people of whom we can proudly say: “He is my son.” “She is my daughter.” “They were my students.”

However, our emphasis on standards (be they local or national) and testing, rules and regulations is not the answer. If our children are not learning what we want them to learn, we must fix things where the learning occurs, or is supposed to occur. And you cannot do this in the state legislature or in a meeting of a board of education.

The first place learning occurs is in the home. Neither educational institutions nor individual teachers have any control of the educational process at home.

A well-educated and economically well off family with parents who both actively participate in the raising of the child (children) are going to send to school a student markedly different from that of a poor single parent working multiple jobs with only a grade school education and a limited acquaintance with the English language. There are, of course, an almost infinite number of permutations of the above situations, and schools and individual teachers are supposed to deal with them all successfully.

It just isn’t possible and isn’t going to happen in your lifetime or mine.

Students also learn out in the “real” world, away from family and school. They learn from their friends and acquaintances and their families. They learn from the people they encounter everyday: the cop on the beat (or in the patrol car), the polite (or rude) clerk at the market, the old lady walking on the sidewalk, the neighbor with the aggressive dog. They learn from television, the movies, their video games, their sports’ teams and coaches.

Schools and teachers cannot compete with all of these, and other, influences, positive and negative. All of this teaches your children more than he or she could ever learn at school.

What schools and teachers can do, however, is to help show your child how these individual interactions contribute to and shape our society as a whole. And, in the later grades how our society fits into a much wider and diverse world.

They also “give” your child the individual tools: the ability to read and write, the ability to do simple arithmetic for the needs of daily life, an introduction to the higher maths necessary for more skilled jobs and functioning of our increasingly complex society.

While learning these skills, hopefully, they also learn how to think logically and use their intuition when necessary.

We expect our schools and teachers to do all of this and more. We need to hold them accountable; we need to make sure that they are doing a good job; and, if they aren’t, we need to get rid of them and replace them with someone who will.

There is something that is usually forgotten in this discussion, however: tools and conditions.

Carpenters cannot build homes without hammers and nails (or nailguns) and saws. A good carpenter cannot build a house that will last without good dry wood.

A painter cannot paint the outside of your house during a rainstorm. The paint will not last, no matter the skill of the painter, if the paint is of low quality.

Most, if not all teachers these days, are well-educated. They have subject matter degrees and credentials that show they have been taught how to teach and have actually done so–under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

They also like kids and want those children to succeed.

Ideally, these people will succeed and our children will all learn and none of them will be left behind. But, you know as well as I do, in the real world it isn’t going to happen no matter how the deluded individual hiding and ranting from the bushes feels about it.

In education, as in many other things, demographics is, quite often, destiny. Richer areas are going to have better roads, houses and schools than are poorer areas–redistribution of wealth and tax dollars by governments notwithstanding.

Children of educated and economically well off parents are going to be better prepared for school than others.

Classrooms, books and other tools and facilities are going to be more up-to-date and in better condition in well off areas than in poor areas.

Yet, we expect our teachers to teach–successfully–all of our children, all that we want them to know, no matter the child’s background and preparedness, the condition of the facilities or the tools the teachers have.

This is laughable, or would be if it were not so tragic.

We expect each teacher to treat our child as an individual, in a class full of individuals (usually forty of them in California these days). We seem to forget that the terms individual and class are synonymous only when the class contains but a single individual.

But if the teacher fails with our child, (and, remember, in our system today neither the child nor the parent bears any fault or responsibility) we want that teacher fired.

Let’s see: thirty-nine successes and one failure in a classroom. That’s a .975 batting average. Ted Williams hit .406 only one year. Zack Greinke will get about one million dollars per start, win or lose, for the next six years. We accept high failure rates in many occupations and pay extraordinary salaries, but we expect our teachers to be perfect.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. In the upper grades teachers have five or six classes of forty students with the same expectations, and in physical education that can be fifty students per class.

Just think about successfully interacting with and teaching two hundred forty to three hundred teenagers per day–and none of them really want to be there. (Think about it. Did you really want to sit through your English classes learning about independent and subordinate clauses and verb-noun agreement? How about Algebra? The differences between capitalism, socialism and communism? Did you really enjoy running laps and doing jumping jacks? Well, neither do your kids.)

We give teachers all of the responsibility, all of the blame and none of the power.

Teachers cannot: force a student to study, to pay attention, to do homework, to show up to class on time, to be respectful. (A student can even tell a teacher to F-off in front of class without fear of punishment or suspension today.)

Parents? What can a teacher do about a parent(s) who does not do his or her part in preparing a child for school? Nothing, except, maybe, cuss at the phone after another useless conversation.

I believe that some (many?) parents’ attitudes are best captured by that office supply commercial of several years ago. You remember it. A parent joyfully taking two glum and frowning children on a shopping expedition for school supplies–“the most wonderful time of the year.” Glad I didn’t have either of those two kids in one of my classes and very happy about not having to deal with that parent.

But enough ranting and raving, it’s a beautiful day outside and it needs to be enjoyed.

Yes, hold teachers accountable for doing their jobs–teaching. Don’t hold them accountable for the interference and failures of society or the conditions in which they teach that they have no control over.

Supply your carpenter with good tools and good wood; you’ll get a well-built house that will last for decades.

Supply your painter with high-quality paint and your house will look good for years.

Give your teachers well-equipped and maintained classrooms; provide them with the books and other tools they need; prepare your children to be good people and good students. Then the teachers will be able to do their jobs and your children will receive an education they, and you, and all of us can be proud of.

Retired and out of the classroom.

Retired and out of the classroom.

Pro Athletes — former Student Athletes?

Professional / Student Athletes

Are the professional athletes who play for our NFL teams (and other professional sports) really former student athletes or did they just attend school on dollars paid by others, including taxpayers and other students?

What kind of an education did, and do, these players actually get? What do they learn beside how to be better athletes? Do they attend the same classes other students attend, or do they attend classes especially set up for student athletes?

Many of them never graduate.

Los Angeles is currently in the hunt for an NFL franchise to call its own. Personally, I think our two current “professional” football teams are sufficient, but what do I know? In the running are three teams which used to call Los Angeles home: the San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and the Saint Louis Rams. Why we would want any of these back again is beyond me.

I ventured to the San Diego Chargers website and looked to see if I could find out anything about the education their players received while in college. After all, if you had a team composed entirely, or almost entirely, of college graduates, wouldn’t you want to brag about it?

The only place I could find any information about the education of the people in the Charger organization was their Media Guide. As you might expect those in charge of the organization and its finances were highly educated. The players . . . not so much.

Following is a list of coaches and players and their college majors and degrees. I may have missed a few but the list below contains the information I found while looking at the Media Guide rather than watching football.

Maybe you’ll come to the same conclusion about “student” athletes I did.

San Diego Chargers

General Manager — Tom Telesco — John Carrol University, 1995, degree in business management

Head Coach — Mike McCoy — University of Utah “graduated”

Asst — John Pagano — Mesa State, degree in business marketing

Asst — Frank Reich — Maryland, graduation and degree not mentioned

Asst — Kevin Spencer — He earned his bachelor’s degree from Springfield College and a Master’s from Cortland State.

Asst — Joe D’Alessandris — Bachelor and Masters from Western Carolina University

Asst — Fred Graves — Utah, degree in business

Asst — Don Johnson — Butler Community College and Jersey City State, no degree mentioned

Asst — Kent Johnston — graduated from Stephen F. Austin University and he earned a master’s in physical education from Alabama

Asst — Pete Metzelaars — Wabash College, degree in economics

Asst — Ron Milus — University of Washington, graduation and degree not mentioned

Asst — Mike Nolan — University of Oregon, graduation and degree not mentioned, “Nolan began his coaching career in 1981 as a graduate assistant at Oregon.”

Asst — Nick Sirianni — Mount Union, graduation and degree not mentioned

Asst — Ollie Wilson — Springfield College, BA, MA in physical education

Asst — Craig Aukerman — University of Findlay, degree in elementary education

Asst — Andrew Dees — Syracuse, degree in child and family studies

Asst — Bobby King — UTEP, graduation and degree not mentioned

Asst — Rick Lyle — Missouri, degree in parks, recreation and tourism

Asst — Greg Williams — North Carolina, degree in sociology

Asst — Shane Steichen — UNLV, degree in journalism and media studies

Asst — Chris Shula — bachelor degree from Miami of Ohio and masters in education from Oklahoma

Asst — Mark Ridgley — Pittsburgh, degree in economics, masters in education from Central Michigan

Players —

Jahleel Addae — Central Michigan, major/degree not mentioned

Keenan Allen — University of California, African-American studies major, degree not mentioned

Jerry Attaochu — Georgia Tech, science, technology and culture major, degree not mentioned

Joe Barksdale — LSU, general studies major, degree not mentioned

Donald Brown — Connecticut, exercise science degree

Donald Butler — Washington, construction management and business major, degree not mentioned

Ryan Carrethers — Arkansas State, interdisciplinary studies degree

Kellen Clemens — Oregon, business administration degree

Kavell Conner — Clemson, sociology degree

Richard Crawford — SMU, major and degree not mentioned

Chris Davis — Auburn, public administration degree

Greg Ducre — Washington, sociology major, degree not mentioned

King Dunlap — Auburn, adult education degree

Brandon Flowers — Virginia Tech, sociology major, degree not mentioned

Malcom Floyd — Wyoming, health sciences major, degree not mentioned

D. J. Fluker — Alabama, health studies degree

Orlando Franklin — Miami, psychology degree

Antonio Gates — Kent State, general studies major, degree not mentioned

Ladarius Green — Louisiana-Lafayette, degree in finance

Chris Hairston — Clemson, management major, degree not mentioned

Melvin Ingram — South Carolina, degree in African-American studies

Dontrelle Inman — Virginia, digital art major, degree not mentioned

David Johnson — Arkansas State, degree in physical therapy

Stevie Johnson — Kentucky, sociology major, degree not mentioned

Jacoby Jones — Lane College, Tenn., interdisciplinary studies major, degree not mentioned

Cordarro Law — coaching education major, degree not mentioned

Sean Lissemore — William & Mary, kinesiology major, degree not mentioned

Corey Liuget — Illinois, sociology major, degree not mentioned

Ricardo Mathews — Cincinnati, criminal justice major, degree not mentioned

Kyle Miller — Mount Union, health and physical education major, degree not mentioned

Nick Novak — Maryland, degree in kinesiology

Branden Oliver — Buffalo, completed last two classes for a degree in sociology

Tenny Palepoi — Utah, degree in sociology

David Paulson — Oregon, business major, degree not mentioned

Austin Pettis — Boise State, communications major, degree not mentioned

John Phillips — Virginia — degree in sociology

Kendall Reyes — Connecticut, degree in communications

Philip Rivers — North Carolina State, degree in business

Patrick Robinson — Florida State, social science major, degree not mentioned

Trevor Robinson — Notre Dame, management/consulting major, degree not mentioned

Lowell Rose — Tulsa, communications major, degree not mentioned

Mike Scifres — Western Illinois, communications and broadcasting degree

Brad Sorensen — Southern Utah, economics major, degree not mentioned

Damion Square — Alabama, major and degree not mentioned

Darrell Stuckey — Kansas, degree in communications

Manti Te’o — Notre Dame, graphic design degree

Johnnie Troutman — Penn State, African and African-American studies degree

Mitch Unrein — Wyoming, criminal justice degree

Jason Verrett — Texas Christian, sports broadcasting major, degree not mentioned

Chris Watt — Notre Dame, marketing degree

Eric Weddle — Utah, special education major, degree not mentioned

Kenny Wiggins — Fresno State, communications major, degree not mentioned

Steve Williams — California, sociology major, degree not mentioned

Tourek Williams — Florida International, sport and fitness major, degree not mentioned

Jimmy Wilson — Montana, business major, degree not mentioned

Mike Windt — Cincinnati, degree in psychology

Danny Woodhead — Chadron State, math education major, degree not mentioned

Melvin Gordon — Wisconsin, life science communications major, degree not mentioned

Denzel Perryman — Miami, Sociology major, degree not mentioned

Craig Mager — Texas State, physical therapy degree

Kyle Emanuel — North Dakota State, degree in construction management

Darius Philon — Arkansas, enrolled in college of arts and science, degree not mentioned


 

The list goes on, but I got tired after the sixty or so above. I may have spelled a name or two incorrectly or missed a degree or two, but on the whole I believe the data is correct–at least, as it was laid out in the Media Guide.

I realize that in today’s world we treat entertainers, and professional athletes are only entertainers, in a manner that is different from how we treat others. I do not, however, believe that we should give them or their organizations a free ride. If they go to tax-supported schools, they should take real classes designed to give them a real education–in something other than the sport they wish to play. College should not be a taxpayer supported minor league for the NFL or the NBA.

They should get an education that will prepare them for life, not just a couple of good years in the professional leagues before they are worn out and tossed away.

Perhaps this article would be instructive–The cost of a career: NFL players and bankruptcy

 

Immigrants, History and Culture

We are all either immigrants or the children of immigrants. Some of us are recent immigrants, within the last few years or decades, and some of our families have been in their current homes (country, state, province, city) for generations and centuries.

I was born in California about fifty miles from where I now live. My wife was born in England and has lived in the U.S. for forty years. Although my mother was born in Minnesota, her parents and some older siblings came from Sweden. My father came from Missouri where his family had lived since at least the 1790s (originally coming from France).

Those of us who live in the United States, and are not descendants of Native Americans, are either immigrants or the descendants of those who came here in the years following the European discovery of the Americas by Columbus’ expeditions in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Native Americans are also the descendants of immigrants, but immigrants who came here millennia ago.

Some of us came willingly, even eagerly. Some of us came as refugees, forced by circumstance to leave our ancestral homes. Some of us were brought as indentured servants, criminals or slaves. In one form or another people still come to the United States for most, if not all, of these reasons.

The same is true of people and nations all over the world. Australia was colonized by Aborigines from Southeast Asia thousands of years ago, people who left Europe for a brighter future and criminals exported from the British Isles. Refugees have fled Syria and Somalia for Europe and America. Vietnamese fled South Vietnam following the fall of Saigon in 1975. In the 1840s the United States stripped Mexico of one-third of its territory and since then millions from the remaining two-thirds have come here legally and illegally. (Of note to some may be the historical reminder that there were those Americans in 1848 who wanted to annex all of Mexico. Maybe, that would have solved today’s immigration problems?)

The point is that, as we now understand it, all of our ancestors came out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago. Wanderlust, population pressure, and warfare have caused us and our ancestors to be refugees and immigrants time and again. Groups have intermarried and interbred again and again over that span of time–there are no pure nations, races or ethnic groups.

The Egyptians of today are not the Egyptians of Cheops’ or Ramses’ or even Cleopatra’s era. Italians are not Romans; Mexicans are not Aztecs. We are not just the great-grandchildren of the Puritans and the Pilgrims. We are the sum total of all who have come before. Caesar and Constantine might not understand us as individuals, but they would recognize our multi-ethnic society–an amalgamation of people from all over the world creating a culture that would be the envy of the world.

And I have gradually come to understand that it is the culture that is important–not religion, language or race. My great-great-grandparents in pre-Civil War Missouri had quite different feelings about color, race and equality than my father held. Mine are different still. As a society and as individuals we have grown more tolerant and accepting of those whose physical characteristics and beliefs are different from our own.

It is our culture, our belief in the freedom and rights of the individual, that has allowed, and even mandated, this growth.

It did not originate in the tribalism of Africa, the Chinese “Mandate of Heaven,” the god-kings of Egypt. It originated in the city-states of Greece some twenty-five hundred years ago. It was defended at Thermopylae and Marathon and Salamis. It was spread by Alexander and the Caesars. It was rescued by the Renaissance and cemented in political reality by the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (and its amendments).

It is this cultural heritage, brought to western Europe and the Americas by refugees and immigrants that is important. Race, religion, color and language do not, I believe, in the long term, matter.

Our children are marrying people of other races and colors and our grandchildren are a blend. That doesn’t mean we love them less. And, are we not ourselves the product of an ongoing blending tens of thousands of years old?

Let us dispense with the aberrational fears and discriminatory attitudes of previous generations (and our own upbringing) and embrace the diversity that comes with immigration and the changing human landscape. Immigration is not going to stop, and we are not going to deport millions of “illegals” anyway–at least, not without turning ourselves into a police-state that would have Washington and Lincoln spinning in their graves.

Your daughters and sons are already dating, marrying and having children by men and women of other races. Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren may not look like you, but, if you love them, they will love you in return. Indeed, they may love you anyway, despite your intolerance and prejudices.

Remember, it is our culture, not our racial and ethnic composition, that is important–and education is the key. The more people we educate in our schools to believe in the rights of the individual, in freedom of thought and equality, the safer the world will be for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.


Jump Start

Stone Soup

Blogging for the (English) Teacher

Blogging

Blogging is the modern response to the pamphlets and soapboxes of previous eras. Anyone with access to a computer, or a computer-like device, with Internet access can blog. S/he can find an audience of from zero to billions.

A blog is a tool to express opinions, to spread ideas, to sell products or ideology. It can also be used to educate. It is one of the “new” tools available to classroom teachers.

I believe that it can be of great value to teachers of English (Language Arts), especially writing teachers and to History (Social Studies) teachers. I’ve taught both subjects and my wife is an English teacher—both of us at the middle school/junior high level.

English teachers: give your kids a prompt and have them respond to it; have them respond to the responses of others; learn how to respond in a professional manner; learn how to defend your own position.

Your class has just finished reading a book: don’t assign a book report—assign a blog post. Don’t have them recap the story; have them give you their opinion of the story, the characters and defend their point of view from the story itself.

If the girls all liked the book and the boys all hated it, or the opposite, you might find you have to re-evaluate your own use of the book.

“But I Don’t Know Anything About Blogging.”

There are plenty of places to learn. As a start try reading the NCTE magazine Voices from the Middle, Volume 22 Number 2, December 2014.

The Classroom Blog: Enhancing critical Thinking, Substantive Discussion, and Appropriate Online Interaction by Shannon Baldino. Don’t let the name of the article scare you; Voices uses title like this for all of its articles, even the good ones.

Baldino gives you both her first hand experiences with this tool and links where you can get further ideas. Including:

Also try: readwritethink.org  In the Keyword Search box type in: blogs

My advice (as though you wanted it):

Give it a try.

Play with it over the upcoming holidays (Christmas/New Years).

You have five or six classes—try it with one.

You have five or six kids way ahead of everyone else—have them try it.

School district, or your principal’s, control is too anal retentive to use EduBlogs? See what the district offers, Blackboard maybe?

– – – – –

Too much trouble and not worth the effort?

Maybe, but if you use it in a classroom of forty kids (like I used to have), think of the audience each kid now has. John posts an opinion and thirty-nine others have “instant” access to it without exchanging papers in class or posting papers on the bulletin board. Use it with five or six classes? Hmmmm . . . A budding writer now has an audience.

Who knows, you might be helping the next Jim Murray, Ring Lardner, Owen Wister, insert name of favorite writer here.

 Leary about trying it? Beats taking home 200-240 two to three page book reports over the Christmas holidays.

Ho, ho, ho . . .

PS: Have an opinion of your own and want to share it with the world? Had a lesson, assignment or project that went over well? Something went horribly wrong and you want ideas from others how to make it go right (but not from the guy who teaches next door)? Start your own blog. Lots of teachers have; add yourself to the mix.