Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy’
There’s something to be said for our principal. He’s a shortish man with a mustache; he’d look a little like Super Mario if he wore red overalls and a matching hat.
Principal of an inner city high school with the highest dropout rate in the district, he showed us this video at the latest staff meeting.
Then he gave a little monologue I decided to transcribe about halfway in. Here are the excerpts I ended up with:
“This video represents our kids. This guy was, what? Some guy with a regular job? He went all the way to the top. Our kids have hidden talents. We may not see it all the time; sometimes we never see it. Never stop believing in them. I don’t care if they don’t do anything all year long, but never stop believing in them.”
“I had three students in my office today. They weren’t all good students. In fact, they were all pretty poor students. But they all told me, ‘Don’t give up on me. I know I’m screwing around, but as soon as the teacher writes me off, that’s when I really give up.’”
If there’s a school this supportive of the students, and has this approach when dealing with teachers, it might just be one of those rare flocks in the education world worth joining and worth sticking with.
Inner-city setting be damned, I want to work here.
While reading a text book of chemistry, I came upon the statement, “nitric acid acts upon copper.” I was getting tired of reading such absurd stuff and I determined to see what this meant. Copper was more or less familiar to me, for copper cents were then in use. I had seen a bottle marked “nitric acid” on a table in the doctors office where I was then ‘doing time’! I did not know its peculiarities, but I was getting on and likely to learn. The spirit of adventure was upon me. Having nitric acid and copper, I had only to learn what the words “act upon” meant. Then the statement “nitric acid acts upon copper”, would be something more than mere words.
All was still. In the interest of knowledge I was even willing to sacrifice one of the few copper cents then in my possession. I put one of them on the table; opened the bottle marked “nitric acid”; poured some of the liquid on the copper; and prepared to make an observation. But what was this wonderful thing which I beheld? The cent was already changed, and it was no small change either. A greenish blue liquid foamed and fumed over the cent and over the table. The air in the neighborhood of the performance became colored dark red. A great cloud arose: This was disagreeable and suffocating — how should I stop this?
I tried to get rid of the objectionable mess by picking it up and throwing it out the window, which I had meanwhile opened. I learned another fact — nitric acid not only acts upon copper but it acts upon fingers. The pain led to another unpremeditated experiment. I drew my fingers across my trousers and another fact was discovered. Nitric acid acts upon trousers.
Taking everything into consideration, that was the most impressive experiment, and, relatively, probably the most costly experiment I have ever performed. I tell of it even now with interest. It was a revelation to me. It resulted in a desire on my part to learn more about that remarkable kind of action. Plainly the only way to learn about it was to see its results, to experiment, to work in a laboratory.
The man who wrote this was one Ira Ramsen, a chemistry professor at and eventually president of Williams University.
Science is the only general topic I wouldn’t be comfortable teaching. I don’t like playing with things that require adult supervision. I’m barely an adult, myself.
Anyway, back to the anecdote. I would have liked a chemistry teacher with such a good sense of humor. I still would have disliked chemistry — nitric acid acts upon fingers, after all — but I would have disliked it while having some degree of respect for the teacher.
Any thoughts, observations or pedagogical lessons to be gleaned from this?
I substituted for my master teacher, which meant that I got to cover his AVID classes. That’ll look good on the resume.
Even better than that: Fridays are Fun Fridays, where AVID-ites play games and have quick little bonding activities. Today, it was a simple game of 20 Questions, but we play the Famous Person Edition. Obscure figures need not apply.
I went first, and guessed correctly — on the dramatic 20th question, no less — that I was Jennifer Lopez. As a courtesy, I got to choose the next famous person, and as a history teacher who just started the totalitarianism unit, I had one man on my mind.
With the guesser facing the rest of the class, I wrote Adolf Hitler on the whiteboard. The class — all nine of them — groaned.
Worried by the groaning, he asked if he knew the person. They told him that he had better know this person. Some of the following questions amused me.
Am I a cartoon character?
Am I a superhero?
Did I make movies?
Hitler has been a cartoon character, he fancied himself an Übermensch and he was in a few movies. However, saying so for the purpose of 20 Questions, whatever degree of truth there might have been, would have been outright mean.
After all, Hitler didn’t, strictly speaking, start out as a cartoon hero as was the intent of the question, and he wasn’t a superhero in the eyes of at least a few German citizens. Moreover, he didn’t make movies so much as appeared in them — he left movie-making to Goebbels.
Missing a teachable moment usually doesn’t make me giggle so much. Knowing that it would ruin the spirit of the game, I kept my snarky observations to myself.
We got one more round of 20 questions in — Li’l Wayne — before they started playing volleyball with an inflatable globe.
I have a loose interpretation of Fun Friday.
Moral of the story? Anything can be a punchline. Anything.