oh canada

The news of impending government shut-down provided some interesting material for class discussion. After taking a few minutes to review the Federal budget process as well as Congressional powers, I led my students into a seminar on the shut-down. Thankfully many of them were watching the news over the past several days and were somewhat aware of how a shut-down would impact the public. Others had a more creative view…

“So if I kidnap someone and take them across state lines, the FBI won’t stop me?”

“Does this mean no one has to pay their taxes?”

“We’re gonna get blown up, aren’t we?”

“It’s time for Canada to make their move.”

After being asked about US debt as compared to other countries, I came across this chart.  One of my students pointed out that the top debt-holders are also democratic nations.  An interesting thought…


the grade-in phenomenon

I read a post on Facebook tonight from the President of the local NEA chapter.  He shared a link to a story about a “Grade-In”, a new trend sweeping the country. The Grade-In seeks to show the public what teachers really do, that it’s not all fun and games, and that we teach because we love it.

What an incredibly refreshing idea – teachers making a statement by doing what we do best rather than leaving our posts to rally at state capitals. I would never deny or disparage someone’s right to peaceably protest, but some of my colleagues make me ashamed to be an educator when I see them yelling on the news…in the middle of the school day.

If we are to bring about a positive change, why don’t we try being positive about it?

Many thanks to the FCAE for posting the story on Facebook, and for hosting their own “Grade-In” on April 30th in Winston-Salem, NC.

Video from a Grade-In that took place in New Jersey:

business 101

A Monday can be daunting for anyone in any profession.  The Monday after Spring Break proves nearly insurmountable for teachers and students alike.  By midday we were all a little slap silly.

1st period proved to be a challenge as we discussed the Great Depression and the start of WWII.  Some well-meaning questions:

“If we need money so badly, why don’t we just print more?”

The follow-up:

“What about those stimulus checks?  Isn’t that just like printing money?”

My 4th period was charged today with creating a business.  They were warned that we will be working with these businesses for the next two weeks as we study various micro-economic concepts.  Their only requirement was to make it legal.  I will let you decide if you would give your hard-earned money to any of the following:

“Plantation Cars – we plant toy cars and watch them grow!”

“Africa Express – bringing African animals to your home.  It’s just logic.”

“Sex Sells – specializing in pornographic magazine sales, and any movie with Tom Cruise.”

“Good Head – creating hats for your head.”

Sometimes (very rarely), I get a question that I cannot answer.  This usually happens when I start the unit on Criminal Trials.  Today was no exception, as my students peppered me with questions that I have no doubt came from real-life situations:

“What if you and a friend go to the gas station.  You wait in the car, and don’t realize that your friend is robbing it.  He gets back in the car and you drive off.  Will you get in trouble?”

“It’s not a crime unless you get caught, right?”

social studies coach

My husband and I have been immersed in the NCAA basketball tournament for the past month.  We do this every year – giving up hours upon hours of our week nights and weekends, filling out brackets, cheering for teams with whom we have no geographical or emotional connection.  It is glorious.

Tonight’s game is VCU v. Butler.  I decided to do a little google searching, and I came across this article about coaching salaries and bonuses. I have never been one to harp on the injustices of public school salaries – I chose to teach, and I’m grateful for the monthly allowance and the experiences that teaching has given me.  However…

I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if someone with money valued what I do as much as they value what Calipari, Smart, and others do each year.  What if I had a higher salary?  I will admit that my job now technically does not take into account my performance (test scores) as a teacher.  What I am suggesting has its flaws.  For a moment, I even found myself thinking, “They get paid more because they accomplish more.”  But do they really accomplish more?

Granted, we can never fully compare the job of a basketball coach to that of a teacher.  There are too many unique variables.  Then I came across something that closed the gap a little more.  VCU’s overall field goal percentage per game (during the regular season) was 43.6%. Numbers are a universal language.  For example, last year one of my Civics & Economics classes was 94% proficient on the final exam – one of them scored an 80 and was not considered proficient.

94%.  43.6%.  I know what you’re thinking.  It would be more fair to compare VCU’s overall wins, right?  71%.  Clearly a good record, but not quite as accomplished as my 94%.  And yet here I sit, finding myself grateful for a $30,000/year salary while reading an article outlining enormous bonuses for coaches who probably couldn’t explain the law-making process, or who probably don’t spend time discussing the Constitutionality of Writs of Habeas Corpus.

The logical side of me knows why this is the way it is, and part of me sometimes agrees.  The public does not pay for tickets to come watch me teach (though I would highly recommend it).  I don’t bring in any income for my school.  But the idealistic part of me dares to assert that I do something better and much more important – I educate.  And I don’t just educate those who have already proven to be the best, or have a natural inclination towards my subject.  I educate everyone and anyone.  Because even though my salary would lead me to believe otherwise, what I do is important and lasting.


i still love my job

It has been a while since my last post.  I was admittedly hesitant to write anything online after the blowup over this Pennsylvania teacher. In the end, I decided that if anything similar is to happen to me, I might as well have fun.

We have all been busy the past several weeks, what with the Federal budget crisis, state budgets being dramatically scaled back, and the Wisconsin teacher strike.  The event that has held my attention most over the past two weeks though surpasses each of the others in both importance and magnitude.  Two weeks ago, my principal announced that our school was to receive….


Each year, Title I schools like ours get a certain amount of funding from the Federal government that can be used for instructional resources.  After polling each department, the administration gathered ideas ranging from lab materials to supplemental reading texts.  They decided that it would be in every student’s best interest if the funds were used to  buy a poster maker.

I will let that sink in for a few minutes.

In the world of students, mine have provided fantastic material recently.  I will try to recap the best moments below:

When discussing who was really at fault for WWI, one student responded, “It was the United States.  We have Chuck Norris.”

When asked what role Italy played in WWI, I was told, “They were like Michael Jordan, they just joined the winning team.”

In one of the most sincere moments ever, a student asked, “Wait…is it illegal to make your own money?”

And one student finally worked up the nerve to tell me, “I thought Washington, D.C was the one on the other side of the country, the state of Washington.”