Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Falling Water

In March we had a little getaway and I got to visit something I had always wanted to see - and it did not disappoint!! "Falling Water" is a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built for the Kaufman family (of Kaufman's Department Stores) in 1936 in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is built into the natural landscape over a waterfall with reinforced concrete and a cantilevered design that seems to defy gravity. In 1963 the Kaufman's only child donated it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and it became a museum in 1964. Over 6 million people have since visited.

I found it to be truly beautiful and hugely inspiring. The second photo shows a living room "hatch" that could be opened to stairs that go straight down to the river and waterfall. Spectacular!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him, "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Luke 23:39-43

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hopefully - It Gets Better. . .

These comments are taken directly from a blog called "The Stranger". The facts were published by Lindsey Tainer. The commentary is by Dan Savage.

Suicide attempts by gay teens—and even straight kids—are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don't have programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found. Those factors raised the odds and were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, said study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher. His study found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among kids who weren't bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.
Gay and straight teenagers who live in an areas with more same-sex couples and more registered Democrats, in areas where schools are likelier to have gay-straight student alliances and anti-bullying programs, are less likely to attempt suicide. "Environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth," the study's author told the AP.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

21st Century Education

The children I am teaching today have not lived in a world without the Internet. The children I am teaching today have experienced school mostly as a place to hear about tests and take tests with a paper and pencil - and yet, the way they see the rest of the world communicating and gathering information is through Skype, Facebook, iPhones, iPads, teleconferencing and the Internet.

In 1898 The Committee of 10 came together to create education standards for America. They were learned educators who decided there should be 8 core subjects, that students should be in school for 180 days a year with 6 hours of instrcution, that they should graduate with so many years of math and English etc. Sound familiar?? That was over 100 years ago and we still operate by the same standards.

Then a decade ago we threw in No Child Left Behind. The intentions sounded good, but beyond the poor funding by the government that decreed it, this law has been at the expense of preparing children for real world skills. Research shows we have turned out a decade of young people completely unprepared for 21st century employment. They all may be great at taking bubble tests, but this has not taught them critical thinking and problem solving. Tests have taken the joy out of school and removed any opportunity for teachable moments. Teachers have not had any time to delve into any non-tested subjects.

Leading curriculum expert Heidi Hayes Jacobs has researched our educational system and determined that we are preparing out students today for the world of 1991.

Along with integrating the rapidly changing use of technology, schools need to be graduating critical thinkers, collaborators, communicators. Author Daniel Pink says the future will be ruled by right-brained thinkers. He says that American will never lead in manufacturing again, Those days are over. So if America wants a successful future we will value the creators, those with imagination, the problem solvers. (Maybe MFAs will be more desirable than MBAs?)

The building where I teach is working to become an International Baccalaureate School. We will spend the next year as a candidate school and then become official. I am very new to this process, but my first impressions are positive. Sometimes It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and I am not one to jump into every new fad - I've seen too many fail miserably.

But here is the gist: Education in our building will be student-centered, not teacher-led with teachers giving the answers and students regurgitating them out on a test. It will be research-driven, not textbook-driven. It will encourage the use of all available technology and be project-oriented. It will integrate subject matter just as it is in the real world. We're moving from passive learning to active learning. Does this sound logical to you?

The big drawback is that our students will still be taking standardized tests until our legislators come to their senses and admit that these tests have been mandated to measure teacher performance, not student learning.

How will our kids fare after spending a few years actually learning to think and solve problems? That remains to be seen,but I actually feel some inspiration at this new turn in education - something I haven't felt for a long time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Value of Public Workers

We all know what's been going on. I have been a teacher for over 30 years. I have valuable experience, I have a Master's Degree, I have continued my training and learning all these years - I have stuck with it. I have a retirement plan based on all those years I have worked and I think I've earned it.

But, in the mind of Ohio's new governor, it can be taken away now. Young teachers who planned on supporting a family on a teacher's salary may have to kiss that idea good-bye. I wonder, in 10 years, who is going to be teaching our children, when it becomes a low class, disrespected, low paying job. Is anyone interested in the impact on children?? Do they really expect us to believe that this will balance the budget when all public workers in Ohio amounts to 9% ??

The sad thing is that teachers (I can't speak for police and firefighters) have always been willing to compromise and negotiate for the good of their students. But do we have the chance to compromise and negotiate now? No. When you take away the right to collectively bargain you take away everything.

I think teachers would have been quite willing to rethink and negotiate new agreements on tenure, retirement contributions, maybe even benefits - but we were not given the chance. We have been disrespected and somehow been labeled the enemy.

A small example would be last year when we were asked to give up some planning time during each day and an early dismissal day meant for parent conferences during the school day so the students had more instructional time. I did not hear any complaints (although we miss our early days) what I heard was - this is good for the students. We need more time to TEACH.

Labor unions were created to keep children from working adult hours, to provide workers with clean, safe workplaces, to assure break times and fair wages. Schools that run smoothly and efficiently do so, in part, because of conditions that unions have negotiated. Class sizes are not set for the convenience of teachers, but so that students have a fair and equal opportunity for a real education.

Forty-three years ago Martin Luther King was killed. In his last public speech he said, "You are doing many things here in this struggle. You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. . . all labor has dignity.

To question the dedication of public workers, to assume that we are all out for ourselves, when, in fact, the jobs we do are jobs of service to our communities, to blame us for the unbalanced budget, to take what we have worked for, does not give us dignity.

Will we hear about the governor and the legislators taking a pay cut? How about losing their benefits, or expense accounts? (Does anyone really believe that they actually work a 40 hour work week?) Or will they vote themselves another pay raise?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Where Have All the Protest Songs Gone?

I've been thinking about this long before I read a review in yesterday's Plain Dealer about a book called "33 Revolutions." The author Dorian Lynskey wrote, " I began this book intending to write a history of a still vital form of music. I finished it wondering if I had instead compsed a eulogy."

I am word person, a lyric listener. The sole reason I love certain songs are for their meaningful lyrics. My daughter gave me satellite radio for Christmas. I figured I would hear all kinds of new music and new brilliant lyrics - but, not so much. I started wondering why twentysomething artists are not commenting on the state of our country or the world anymore. Certainly there are enough reasons to protest!

I grew up in the 60's and 70's when, yes, we had our share of bubble-gum pop, but also evocative, mind-changing lyrics that impacted who I became in some ways. We had Neil Young singing four dead in Ohio, songs like "He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother", Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway, Don't block the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There's a battle outside and it's ragin'. It'll soon shake your walls for the times, they are a-changin."
Other songs like "Eve of Destruction" and "For What It's Worth." I could go on and on.

Now I hear one of the recent top songs is "Just the Way You Are." Didn't Billy Joel write that a few decades ago?
When I see your face there's not a thing that I would change, 'cause you're amazing just the way you are." Brilliant, huh?

Another popular one says, "You're so delicious, you're so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue. You taste like sunlight and strawberry bubble gum."

Even the music is boring. I call them silly little ditties. There's even one called "The Giant Turd Song" but I'll let you imagine the lyrics.

The "Just the Way You Are" rip-off is an artist named Bruno Mars. In the PD review a critic from The New Yorker named Sasha Jones said in her critique of Bruno, that most current pop stars seem oblivious to the times in which they live.

So I did a web search for more recent protest songs. Guess who was doing them in the 2000's? Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Tom Waits... sound familiar?
I looked for some younger artists and there were a few: Pink and her "Dear Mr. President" - What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street? Who do you pray for at night before you sleep? What do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Greenday's "American Idiot" - Don't want to be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media, information age of hysteria.

John Mayer's "Waiting for the World to Change" apparently his protest against the apathy of his contemporaries in song writing. Now if we had the power to bring neighbors home from war, they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on the door."

There were a few more - Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, Eminem, Arcade Fire, but can you think of a current song that is going to stand the test of time like the ones written in the passionate time of the 60's and 70's? We are in two on-going wars, we have lived through a disastrous economy, we have poverty and hunger, celebrity worship and disease - doesn't anyone have anything to say? I am around a considerable amount of twentysomethings and I don't hear anything.

Where have all the protest songs gone?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kyrie Eleison

In an unfathomable universe
moving in free will on the path to heaven.
The iniquity we're drawn to
fades to prisms of merciful light.
We are loved and forgiven.
Awash in complacency, mired in errors
of omission, then waking up with wings,
pure love is revealed, and
we are existing in the divine truth
that we dwell in the midst of grace.
Kyrie eleison, christe eleison