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Heroic measures: let’s do something (anything)

Happy New Year’s Day!

Last night we went to see the new Star Wars movie. I bought the tickets in November and made it until the show without a single spoiler. I am thinking now — if I can navigate social media for over six weeks without a single spoiler or discussion thread — I can certainly navigate social media better overall. Because at times, it’s been terrifying.

Even from those I respect and admire.

In fact, quite disheartening.

There are many wonderful voices shaking up the world now and have been. Voices whose candor, truth to power and legions of loyal fans pave the way to get them to the forefront. And yet, I still have the nagging feeling that anytime anyone puts forth shakey argumentative devices, credibility and authoritative legitimacy are lost. We know better.

However; I can only be mindful and reflective of the information I seek or is provided: “Be critical of the media you love.” — Anita Sarkessian.

Resolved:

  • Continue to question, research, and revisit/revise
  • Continue to change and adapt
  • Keep track of the narrative; revisit accordingly with new information
  • Understand people are in pain, and pain causes fear.
  • Take care of your own heart: then take care of others:

I don’t have anything financially to give now. It’s been a cause of my own stress and concern. But being who I believe myself to be, I always think there is a way around or through it, it being the problem or task at hand. If not having enough money to pay the bills or worrying about when the next paycheck will come from interferes with my teaching ability, consider how this stress and insecurity affects students every day.We all must be unstuck. They need to see past the fear in the next place.

Follow me here, though: ideas are relatively inexpensive and can provide bountiful returns.

The other day my friend and I were sitting have a sandwich, and the older couple sitting next to us struck up a conversation, found out we were teachers, and long story short, treated us to our entire meal. It was a generous deed that buoys my heart. I needed this good deed more than I realized. And if I can feel this way, perhaps our students need this as much, too.

What we tell students we need to tell and support teachers, too: just as we tell students they are more than a number, I, too, am more than one observation. My aggregate joy as a teacher cannot be summed up in a tweet or post: it is sustaining and messy. Clarity and chaos. Human, and flawed. And perfection. With this support we all can use our collective creativity, generosity of ideas, and metaphorical community barn-raising about how do we educate our children and support the professionals who are in the classroom every day, on the front lines, learning how to navigate this world as it changes?

So–if you want to do something, really do something–continue to speak your truth to power. And in your power, please consider:

  • Buy a teacher a book for his or her classroom. Go around the bureaucratic time wasters. (The couple didn’t realize how much time is spent for teachers to fill our Donors Choose forms, POs, etc.) Find your local schools and buy a class set of diverse novels from diverse authors.
  • Does anyone know Jeff Bezos? Does anyone have his ear? Perhaps a trillionaire can begin giving back, too?
  • Better yet: if you know authors because you’re a well-known activist and have connections, come speak in classrooms via Skype.
  • And really free (except for your time): Don’t have $340? Neither do I. But perhaps you could write a post about your favorite current books and share with students around the country what you liked in a book discussion.

If you want to change the world, create literacy. Create critical thinking skills. Show students who are coming up in the world that you aren’t afraid if they disagree with you. Show them that there are a million other voices besides the narrow, tunnel-visioned silos of past hierarchies.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
― Isaac Asimov

Resolved: help students hear that books, discussions, and real people doing powerful writing may sometimes act in self-serving ways, but the act of service and hope to others far outweighs everything else. We must fight the anti-intellectualism together, fight fears that make us lie, fight with whatever tools we have.

And one of the best tools to fight ignorance is a book.

Please share with me other ideas you have about helping our students be true, thoughtful and confident critical thinkers. Confidence not from hubris or willful ignorance, but the confidence that comes from open-minded that they did their research, they understood the nuance between truth, opinion, and facts, and can adjust their thinking when new information comes around.

Happy New Year: I am hopeful and excited.

 

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series: the good stuff

Things I think about in the middle of the night:

  1. What was that noise outside?
  2. What are the best ten to twenty best, time-tested lessons for middle and high school students?

The noise was nothing. Probably just a small monster or trashcan panda. The best lessons, now that’s something else.

The first post in this series is something new: Bob Probst of Beers/Probst renown gave us teachers this gift:

It’s a dialogue booklet that helps students move through a text with purpose. I haven’t vetted it yet, but it holds much promise.

 

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Mind the Map.

https://ed.ted.com/on/7WdV6Sqw

Here is the teaching point/issue:

How do we concurrently 1. teach students how stories work (or how anything works for that matter) 2. use technology to best demonstrate concepts 3. have students practice and grow their own knowledge?

One idea: mind mapping.

There are multiple available apps, etc. for this technique. We had Inspiration in our district, but not sure if we renewed the license or not. No matter.  I know we have other similar apps on our PCs for work. Mind mapping is simply brainstorming, sketching ideas in a hierarchal visual mode, and revisable in real time. For anyone who’s done a cocktail napkin sketch, written a grocery list, or planned an essay, you’ve done a form of mind mapping. It’s finding your way, setting a course, and looking at the big picture.

 

There are some exquisite examples of mind maps.

Cool examples: https://mindmapsunleashed.com/10-really-cool-mind-mapping-examples-you-will-learn-from

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/app-list/

http://mashable.com/2013/09/25/mind-mapping-tools/#ncJJyS7Bx8qG

I looked through this file and added MindMap:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKyQvl3l_F5aVNLZnc1Q3dmQ1E/view?usp=sharing

https://www.visualthesaurus.com/

http://www.mindmapping.com/

Canva:

Mind Map

https://bubbl.us/

http://www.inspiration.com/visual-learning/mind-mapping

How to Mind Map

All mind maps begin with a main concept or idea that the rest of the map revolves around, so choosing that idea or topic is the first step. Begin by creating an image or writing a word that represents that first main idea.

From that main idea, create branches (as many as needed), that each represent a single word that relates to the main topic. It’s helpful to use different colors and images to differentiate the branches and sub-topics.

Then, create sub-branches that stem from the main branches to further expand on ideas and concepts. These sub-branches will also contain words that elaborate on the topic of the branch it stems from. This helps develop and elaborate on the overall theme of the mind map. Including images and sketches can also be helpful in brainstorming and creating the sub-branch topics.

Mind maps can be created on paper but are more easily and fluidly created on a computer with mind mapping software such as Inspiration Software®’s Inspiration® 9.

via GIPHY

https://www.text2mindmap.com: I got a safety message when I tried to go to this site.

 

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Saving Summer: More Good Things

Literary Analysis, Themes, and Essay Writing, Oh my!!

How did I not know about this? (probably because of PG-13 language: I’ll get permission slips, promise!)

ThugNotes is narrated by Sparky Sweets, Ph.D., and yes there is some language, but the plot summaries and analysis are epic. For a secondary audience, this modern version of CliffsNotes is helpful and entertaining. Since I’m teaching a unit on Lord of the Flies next year I am thankful for his analysis and insight.

Next: thinking about essays and writing structures differently:

An Essay Primer for Adults: Six Essay Types You Should Know by Lorraine Berry

An Essay Primer for Adults: 6 Essay Types You Should Know

Here they are to preserve and keep:

The linear narrative essay: This essay structure is self-explanatory. The story is told in a straightforward narrative, and is usually told in chronological order. Sometimes, there are flashbacks contained in the essay, but that doesn’t disrupt the forward motion of the narrative. One essay that may be of interest in the coming weeks as we approach the August 21 “Great American Eclipse” is Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse,” which is published in her collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk.

The triptych essay: Just as a triptych painting features three panels, so too does a triptych essay feature three separate sections that are not continuous with each other, but that may shed light on the other two parts. See “Triptych” by Samina Najmi, which was published in World Literature Today.

The collage essay: This type of essay features bits and pieces – vignettes – of prose that are collected together to form an essay. They often resemble poetry as the writing for a collage essay tends to be lyrical. One of my favorite collage essays is Sherman Alexie’s “Captivity,” which appeared in First Indian on the Moon.

The experimental essay: These essays seem to buck all known structures. One of the most unusual of these essays is “The Body” by Jenny Boully. The pages of the essay are blank – except for the footnotes, which are extensive. It turns out that the footnotes are the entire essay. “The Body” is characterized as a lyrical essay

The last two forms of essay that I wish to discuss are the “hermit crab” essay and the “braided” essay, and here I’d like to offer more exploration of two particular essays that are examples of them.

The hermit crab essay: In 1972, John McPhee wrote “The Search for Marvin Gardens,” and it was published in the New Yorker. He used the original game of “Monopoly” – the original American version that was based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey – and he uses going around the board as the frame for the essay, making this a perfect example of a “hermit crab” essay.

In the essay, McPhee is playing a game of Monopoly but he is also recounting walking the streets of Atlantic City. The game is taking place at an international singles championship of Monopoly play, where it is possible for two skilled players to play an entire game in fewer than fifteen minutes.

McPhee intersperses the history of America in the details, but also how Atlantic City was the planned “invention” as a railroad terminus that would be a “bathing village.” In preliminary sketches, the village was labeled as an “Atlantic city,” and the name stuck. In the early 1930s, Charles B. Darrow took those early sketches of the city and based a game board on it.

So, as McPhee lands on each property or group of properties, he tells the story of each part of town. When McPhee’s piece lands him in jail, he uses it as an opportunity to visit the city jail, which in 1972 seemed to be chock-full of drug offenders. He also documents the “facade” aspect shared by resort towns. Once you travel off the beach-side main drag, you are in “the bulk of the city, and it looks like Metz in 1919, Cologne in 1944. Nothing has actually exploded. It is not bomb damage. It is deep and complex decay. Roofs are off. Bricks are scattered in the street.”

He walks these streets and sees long lines of people standing in line at the unemployment office. Newspapers in 2017 tell us that we have an “opioid crisis,” but a multiplicity of signs urging addicts to get help are present in Atlantic City in 1973 (perhaps another reminder that something doesn’t become a crisis until middle class white kids in the suburbs are dying).

McPhee walks through these neighborhoods looking for the one Monopoly property he can’t find: Marvin Gardens. No one with whom he speaks, those living in their bombed-out neighborhoods, has heard of it. It turns out that Marvin Gardens, “the ultimate out wash of Monopoly, is a citadel and sanctuary of the middle class.” It is a suburb within a suburb, what we might now refer to as a “gated community,” separated from the rest of Atlantic City and patrolled with a heavy police presence to keep the rest of the city out.

If you’ve been paying attention while reading, you realize that McPhee has used his hermit crab essay to write a critique of capitalism.

The braided essay: “The Fourth State of Matter,” by Jo Ann Beard is, I must confess, my favorite essay. It, too, was originally published in the New Yorker in 1996. Beard offers a braided essay – in which she is telling a number of stories that are all related to the time she spent on the editorial staff of a physics journal at the University of Iowa. Over the course of the essay, which begins with Beard’s poignant description of the daily routine she experiences as she cares for her aged, incontinent dog, the reader is braced in anticipation that the dog will die.

 

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