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Swap room.


Swap Room Robot

Over the course of the year, we have been working on Levels of Questions and Annotating Text (the capitalization is to show importance). We’re stepping it up and incorporating more of the technology we have at our disposal. Should have been doing more of this all along, but…(dunnnn…dunnn..dun..) there was a threat.

Even though we’re a high-tech savvy, millenial-baby school, students have figured out how to get out of class with two words: Swap Room.

Yes, Swap Room has become the new “may I go to the bathroom/get a drink of water” hall-walker, excuse to meander cry of the bored and disengaged student. No teacher in our building has dealt with the number of intense technical issues this year’s crop of students have found. Everything from virus to battery death, students have taken the technology issues to the next level. I can trouble-shoot a myriad of computer issues, but these are beyond the pale, even the pale skin of the IT dude waiting in the Swap Room.

Many of you “frequent flyers” have become shocked and dismayed, when requesting to go the Swap Room, when I say, “no.” I deftly hand you the assignment from my back-up paper & pencil stash, and you are sent bewildered back to your seat.

How about this?

Charge your battery. Don’t download junk (you were told not to). And focus on your work. Be resourceful: if you do have a tech meltdown, what’s YOUR backup plan?

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“Lioness of Iran”–Simin Behbahani

From National Public Radio:

The authorities in Iran continue to block the travel of the nation’s most prominent poet.

Last week, as she was about to board a flight to Paris, police seized the passport of Simin Behbahani, who is 82 and nearly blind.

Behbahani was interrogated all night long and then sent home — without her passport.

So far, she has not been charged with any crime. Neither the police nor the Revolutionary Court has asserted any legal basis for taking her passport.

‘We All Thought She Was Untouchable’

Known as the “lioness of Iran,” Simin Behbahani has been writing fierce poetry for decades, during the reign of Iran’s Shah, during the Islamic Revolution, during the reign of the ayatollahs, and over the past year’s political turmoil.

Through it all, she was not imprisoned and continued to enjoy the freedom to travel, says Farzaneh Milani, who teaches Persian literature at the University of Virginia and is one of Behbahani’s translators.

“We all thought that she was untouchable. And it’s amazing that a woman of 82, a woman who can barely see anymore, a woman who has brought nothing but pride for Iran, is now a prisoner in her own country,” Milani says.



She looks very threatening, doesn’t she?

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Silly Texas, textbooks are for kids!

I will never be ashamed to admit I was born in Austin, Texas.

Texas has produced great women such as Molly Ivins, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, and yours truly.

But, not so much this group:

I understand that great education always relies on great educators, from all walks of life and perspectives. I was truly hoping and believing that the biased and limited textbook publications of the past were over. These were the textbooks that only tell the story of dead white guys, and even limited their purposes and intent. For example, the Texas Board of Education wants to include that all of our nation’s founding fathers were Christians. That’s fine. But will they also include that those same men intentionally and vehemently included separation of church and state, because they witnessed first hand the atrocities (inquisition, anyone?) perpetrated in the name of spiritual beliefs? I am more than doubtful; I fear they will use this knowledge to justify prayer in school, and THEIR style of prayer. (Sorry, Muslim students, you don’t get to participate?)

Textbooks need to  include all the wonderful -ugly of history’s dirt, grit, mud, blood, triumphs, perseverance, and explanations of ideologies from many cultures and diffusion. Ask the BIG QUESTIONS, and give many points of access for students. Excluding a humanitarian because he isn’t as “famous” as Nelson Mandela just further exacerbates our “celebrity/culture cult” society.

But Texas, and those who are seeking more narrow-minded, closed, stunted thinking, think again. The good teachers will circumvent your cheesy choices and teach what needs to be taught. They will help all students navigate their way through difficult times, and find their own voices. When did that ever work? When did trying to stifle a perspective ever work out in history? When did throwing Christians to the lions ever stop their beliefs? When did persecuting one group ever extinguish the light of knowledge? Why not shine a light? (Or, in my more angry moments…go to the light!) Are you so afraid that the worst thing you’re going to uncover is your own ignorance?

Teach the BIG things: What happens in conflicts? What are multi-perspectives? What are primary, secondary and other forms of documentations of history that help us gain insight? And, most importantly of all:

How do we learn from our mistakes?

Texas Board of Education cuts Thomas Jefferson out of its textbooks. thomas-jefferson-big copy The Texas Board of Education has been meeting this week to revise its social studies curriculum. During the past three days, “the board’s far-right faction wielded their power to shape lessons on the civil rights movement, the U.S. free enterprise system and hundreds of other topics”:


– To avoid exposing students to “transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else,” the Board struck the curriculum’s reference to “sex and gender as social constructs.”

– The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”

– The Board refused to require that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”

– The Board struck the word “democratic” from the description of the U.S. government, instead terming it a “constitutional republic.”

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From the Writer’s Almanac, March 17, 2010:

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. It was on this day in the fifth century — probably in the year 460 — that Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died. He was born in Britain to wealthy parents, but not much more is known about his childhood until he was 16, when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. He was a slave for six years, herding sheep, often alone. He wrote in his memoir Confessio: “I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.” He said that he heard the voice of God telling him to escape from Ireland, and then to come back as a missionary. He made it back to Britain, was trained as a priest, and then returned to Ireland. He wrote that he would have loved to go home to his family and his country, but that it was his duty to remain in Ireland, converting people to Christianity and baptizing them. There were few Christians in Ireland at the time, so Patrick tried to integrate traditional beliefs with the new religion, and legend has it that he introduced the Celtic cross as a way to combine the Christian cross with a symbol of the sun. Another legend says that he used the three leaves of the clover to explain the Trinity, which is why shamrocks are a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day. And March 17, Patrick’s Feast Day, has been celebrated as a religious holiday ever since.

But the green clothing and all-out festivities of St. Patrick’s Day are largely a product of the United States. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762 by Irish immigrants. These days, about 3 million people line up to watch the parade in New York, and there are similar huge celebrations in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, where they dye the river green.