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Burning Questions.

No. 1 Burning Question: Will the World End in 2012?
No. 1 Burning Question: Will the World End in 2012?


One of my all-time, absolute, fantastically favorite enduring understandings to discuss with students is my “Burning Questions” lesson. I developed this with my friends and colleagues, Dr. Laura and Dr. Holly, two of the smartest people I know; so smart, in fact, that you don’t even know how smart they are because they make everyone feel like “they can do it, too.” (Note to my students: that’s how I want you to feel in our classroom, as well).

We started the discussion yesterday, Friday. And overall the initial discussion went fairly well. There were some side conversations in 7th, but I suspect that some of the talk and chatter was on-target. There was some silence in 1st period, probably because you hadn’t had your Monsters or Mountain Dews yet. (Just kidding!) So, we’re all still getting to know each other. It’s only the third week of school. We started late. We’re cramming a lot in, in a short time. This discussion usually goes a little awry at first, only in the sense that when confronted with the question, “what are your burning questions?” most people don’t have a ready answer. It’s like when you go to the mall or the grocery store and there was something you really wanted and then poof! you forget why you went there, there are so many choices, you’re overwhelmed. It’s a “deer in the headlights” feeling–you’re not sure which way to go. Well, that explains why some of the students didn’t participate. But of you most did. Given the conversation and discussion, in every class period, people had something to say. And I know your brains were working.

Here are some of the questions you posed:

  1. Is the world going to end on December 21, 2012?

One ridiculous website I found was: Its cheap commercialism and sensationalising of the world’s end is laughable. Now, students – I want you to tell me why I would state this thesis. You can post it in a comment or in our other forums.

The other mistake I made was thinking it was the Aztec calendar: yikes. It is the Mayan calendar that has this prophecy. To learn more about the ancient Mayan civilization, click on this link. I don’t know why I was confused, but everyone makes mistakes, and I knew something wasn’t quite right. (Using my powers of METACOGNITION to correct my thinking! Ta -da-da!!! Super Reading Strategies, AWAY!!!)

Go to these links to learn more, and read the books: This article lists books that relate to this topic:

Current and coming books on 2012:

2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck (Penguin/Tarcher, May 2006)

2013 Oracle: Ancient Keys to the 2012 Awakening by David Carson & Nina Sammons (Council Oaks, November 2006)

Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilization’s End by Lawrence Joseph (Random House/Morgan Road, January 2007)

The Revolution of 2012: Vol. 1, The Preparation by Andrew Smith (Ford Evans, January 2007)

Serpent of Light by Drunvalo Melchizedek (Red Wheel/Weiser, Autumn 2007)

Other burning questions:

2. Why do people age?

3. Is there life on other planets?

4. Why do parents abuse their kids?

5. Why is there war?

6. Are there unseen worlds?

7. Why am I drawn to fantasy novels?

8. Is North Korea going to start a war, and will that war affect my family in Guam?

9. Who invented vampires? (This led into a discussion if vampires are real or not–you’ll have to research that burning question on your own time.)

10. Is there such a thing as reincarnation?

There were many more, and I’ll post them as I collect them. The next steps are to dig deep into our true purposes — are we afraid? Are we seeking answers to help alleviate some of our fears? Do we talk to parents, friends, read books, watch documentaries? Yes, yes, and yes…seeking the answers is the journey.

Here’s what I know: You all have more inside of your heads than you show on the outside.

Let’s work on getting it out.

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The saddest day.

On September 11, 2001, the United States experienced horrific terrorist attacks on its soil, against its citizens.

There are events in history that are so jolting, so frozen, that when you ask someone who may have been old enough to remember, “what were you doing when that happened?” you will see someone darken, a shadow will cross over their face, perhaps their smile will slack and eyes look away somewhere, like they’re seeing a ghost.

Since something like that had never happened before on U.S. soil, at least of that magnitude, no one knew what to do. I had a total stunned catatonic meltdown. I just stared at the TV, and felt the world had been flipped inside-out. It had.

I am sure that the families and friends of those who were murdered that day are not whole. They are forever sad. I don’t know what’s been solved, who paid for the crimes, or if justice was served.

Remember the good spirits of light, and that energy and matter is never lost or destroyed. And never forget.

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Not write now.

Lady of Justice, Dublin
Lady of Justice, Dublin

Before, during, and after last night’s meeting with the Kent School District teachers, I have thought, meditated, wished, weighed and measured all aspects of this situation, and I’m not totally ready to write about all of it, not quite yet. I should let my thoughts simmer a bit more, not react, over or under, and collect my points.

But I will bear witness on how painful it was. To see so many parents, children, teachers from other districts cheering us all on, not caring what our opinion may be, who we were, or what quality of teacher we may or may not be. We could have been the worst teacher ever-sarcastic, lazy, not interested in our students or ourselves as professionals. They didn’t care if we were National Board certified uber-teachers with umpteen hours of extra time spent away from families and other duties. They clapped nonetheless.

And if truth be known, the majority of teachers in the Kent School district are uber-teachers. They are among the best and the brightest; hard-working, dedicated, moral and conscientious citizens. They did not come to any conclusion or decision lightly; and, I would guess the majority of them have never had to face a legal or ethical dilemma of this potential magnitude before.

Whatever you believe, think happy thoughts for all of us, no matter what. We seek guidance and support. Know that none of us reaches decisions lightly, or frivolously. We’re teachers, after all. That means we’re learners, thinkers, reflectors, and dreamers. We seek to inspire children, and motivate them to be the best citizens and critical thinkers in a difficult and dangerous world.



To read more on the lastest vote, go to:

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Wow. That was weird.

 Well, last night I had a surreal experience. I went to my first large group teachers’ union meeting. I’m still trying to untangle how democratic the process was, what benefit it created, or detriment the outcome threatens. But before I go any further with my thoughts, I will say this: I am darn glad I know how to read. Why? Because these are some life-changing issues, and I really needed to be informed on what both sides were saying and doing about MY JOB, MY LIFE, MY PROFESSION, AND MY FUTURE.  I am not that different from many of the 1,500 or so teachers packed in that gymnasium last night. Many have my same credentials: a Master’s Degree in Education, many additional college credits, many hours of professional development classes, hours spent developing top-notch lessons, creative ways to motivate students, the latest teacher’s professional publications such as In the Middle by Nancie Atwood or anything by Robert Marzano.  I have spent a large percentage of my salary on setting up my classroom library, only to find that if a student lost or stole a book, there would be no recourse on my part, no chance of reimbursement. (But at least they have a book, right?) I am in the process of seeking National Boards’ certification to sharpen my reflective skills as a teacher, always asking myself, “How can I do better? How can I help one more student reach his or her potential? How can I motivate my students to be the generous and courageous young men and women I know they can be?”

So, last night, here’s what happened: For months, the union and the district had been in negotiations over workload, time, and compensation. The numbers are there, but they’re a little fuzzy. There’s no clear answer on what money is there. (And mind you, this is the most precious money of all: taxpayers’ money.) There were some clear cut recommendations on class size. I do think reasonable caps need to be put on class sizes, and when I say “caps” I don’t mean they all need new hats. That means a stopping point, a lid, a maximum number. (I know the adults reading this blog understand the idiom, but some students may not.) Also, they couldn’t agree on the reasonable amount of meetings. We do have too many, maybe,  but most teachers complain bitterly about them. What upset me is I’ve been in charge of many of the meetings, and I strive to make them meaningful, informative, and time well spent. I’m not going to take it personally, however; planning those meetings for the department or the school is hard work, and mostly I’ve found them fun and a good time for everyone to get together as a school. Perhaps other schools don’t do such a great job with the meetings. One of my colleagues has a difficult time getting to the meetings because of childcare issues, and when “they” take roll call during a last-minute meeting to check who’s there and who’s not, well, that might get a little demoralizing. The class size issues are valid. It is very difficult to meet and confer with each and every student if a class size is over 25, much less so if over 30. The heart of this issue is, many of our students do not have the home structure they need in order to succeed in school. In my own household, we have two working parents, and it’s extremely difficult to juggle home and our jobs. I get it. So, my job is to, before, during, and after school (when I”m not going to a meeting, running Anime Club, or trying to figure out what to make for dinner) is to be there for every student, every day, because every one of my students counts.

Now, as far as compensation goes, well, every teacher will tell you they didn’t go into this job for the money. And, I really hope that if the first two issues are resolved, then maybe they can come to an agreement about reasonable pay. Some have said we’re top heavy as far as administration goes. I also know that I know many of the skilled and dedicated professionals who have ambitiously and purposefully risen to the ranks of administration, and they are some of the most dedicated, intelligent, and creative people I know and have the honor to work with. So, the vilification on both sides is very tough to hear, too.

I wish there was a third option for public schools, where there wasn’t this “us” and “them” dynamic, but truly a “we,” a genuine professional learning community. I do think the seniority scale needs to be reviewed, meaning one doesn’t keep their job simply because they’ve managed to do it for 30 years. I also think one should reach the “top” sooner than 25 years–having entered this career later in life, there’s no way I’m going to make it for 25 years! Well, maybe I will…who would want me for a teacher when I’m 70 years old? (Shivers and horror, I know!)

All of this is my opinion. I’m still trying to sort it out. And, I feel a little powerless in the process, too. The only thing that helps me feel better is reading about it, and writing about it. Those are the only things I have true control over–keeping informed and working it out with words.

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You’ve got style, babe…

You know, my Washingtonian darlings, you won’t start school until Monday, August 31. And you will complain, although I have it on good authority you’re actually excited to be back. It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.

Anyway, one of my favorite cousin’s sons has already started ninth grade English. I’m not sure if he’s in honors or not, but my cousin asked me if I could help him with an assignment. Apparently, his class is reading Alas, Babylon and Lord of the Flies. I have never read Alas, alas, but I am fascinated and fond of Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

He asked me to help him develop questions based on stylistic elements of literature. Um, yeah. That was kind of like asking me to pull apart the richness of a thick, gooey, chocolate cake with chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, and a side of chocolate–LOTF is so rich with symbolism, motifs, allusions, allegory, foreshadowing and all-around awesomeness of writing, it’s almost impossible to pull it all apart–but not totally. This is the challenge of discussing amazing literature–novels, short stories, poetry–all deep and interesting texts that connect us as humans. Lord shows us that we, in our deepest hearts, can be cruel, savage, and bloodthirsty bullies. It also shows us that evil may take many forms, but it can be fought: when it’s left unchecked, our society and connections fall apart.

Oops. This wasn’t about me writing a thesis paper on Lord of the Flies. It was about finding and understanding literary terms, so you can apprecitate, understand, and desire reading:

Fairly comprehensive glossaries of literature terminogy:

Embrace your literary style.

Ooo-ooo– another literary terms website that, well, rocks:

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