Monday, April 19, 2010

Day of the Weed

So, tomorrow is April 20th, or 4/20.  For those that don't know, 4/20 is the unofficial national day of smoking pot.  A day that most of my students seem to be planning to celebrate to the fullest.  Many of them ask me what my plans are for the day in quite seriousness as if it were Memorial Day or even Christmas.  I simply explain that I don't celebrate Hitler's birthday and leave it at that.

When I was in high school, it was explained to me that the name and date came from a police code, but I don't think that's actually true.

Every year, when this "holiday" rolls around, it makes me think of the prevalent use of the drug in schools and why kids smoke it.  For decades it's been students' drug of choice, even though a smart and enlightened teacher can smell it a mile away (as I did a week or two ago with a student).  Do students do it as a way of rebellion?  I honestly can't answer that as I've never touched an illegal substance for fear of becoming addicted.

Is it the peer pressure to try it and then they become hooked?  I'm not sure the pressure is truly out there the way many think it is.

What is so appealing about a drug that makes 9 out of 10 users look completely idiotic while on it?  Is that the allure?  If that is the case, forget about the cannabis.  The simple fact that a large majority of you (students) aren't doing your work and seem to take the prospect of failing with the attitude of a Doris Day song will get the same foolish looking results.

Monday, April 5, 2010

In Memoriam

I feel I should acknowledge that Jaime Escalante died last Tuesday the 30th of March.

I did not know him personally, but like many teachers his story was inspiring to me.  He never wavered in his faith that his students could perform and even out perform.

I wish I had his constant faith in his students.  While I care deeply for my students, my faith in them has wavered.  This year more than any other.  However, my belief in their abilities has not.  This is probably one of the biggest frustrations I've faced this year: knowing they could do and be so much more than they are.

I'm a bit jealous of teachers like the late, great Mr. Escalante.  He was always able to keep his faith in his students and he was beloved by them for it.  His students pushed themselves to the brink to meet his standards.  They pushed themselves because they respected him and loved him the way he loved them.

So, rest in peace Jaime Escalante.  I can only hope I can be a fraction of the teacher you were.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Now You Care?

What are we teaching our students when we let them suddenly care a week before the end of the quarter?  If a student comes to me, after seeing the counselor, and asks me what s/he needs to do to raise their grade (after they have been turned in per the demand of the administration) from below 20% in a week, should I really do what I can to help them raise this grade?

I know I should be saying yes and I did tell the student to do all of his/her missing work and do some extra credit essays of his/her choosing, but what does this really teach the student?  That it doesn't matter how many "In Danger of Failing" notices you get from a teacher and grades the teacher posts to let you know you aren't doing your work, that if you give a half-asked effort in the end you'll succeed.

What is truly more important?  Getting kids their diplomas regardless of if they really learned and if they are really ready for life after secondary school or having them grasp the concepts and truly gain the knowledge we are supposed to impart as educators.  I want to teach my kids not only how to pass a test the state demands they take, not only the standards of my content, and not only what I can give them through books, but what it takes to succeed at life.

When we allow students to work the system to allow for their laziness, we are doing nothing but assisting them in stacking the deck against themselves for the future.