Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"When Death Comes" by Mary Oliver

A poem about death may seem inappropriate for this season. This is when we make plans, set new goals, convince ourselves that next year, in the New Year, Things Will Be Different.

But today, December 31, is the "death" of 2008. And even though it may seem to be a depressing topic, in this poem about death Mary Oliver displays her amazing ability to infuse wonderment into daily reflections.

I cherish the second half of the poem. Ever since I first read it a few years ago, I knew that I would be returning to it over and over.

Question of the day: What do I want out of 2009?
Answer: I want an amazing year. I don't want to end up simply having "gotten by".

Lastly - even though they're all over the internet, poems are not free. So I've decided to link to a few different sites that have the poem. And also I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing a collection of Mary Oliver poems. Here's a link - it's worth it.

When Death Comes, Link 1
When Death Comes, Link 2
When Death Comes, Link 3
(they're all the same - just want to make sure you get there okay!)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Teaching & Football, Together at Last

Earlier this month I read the Malcolm Gladwell article on how to identify / recruit good teachers.

A few great quotes. Typical Gladwell - not thinking of anything new on his own, just demonstrating his ability to listen to smart people within a certain field and write about it in plain english.

Basically my own intro to teaching was something like an apprenticeship - two years of working as an "associate teacher", where I was given 80% of a full schedule and also had an assigned mentor and weekly meetings with the other young teachers. It is a much better model than the baptism by fire public school approach.

Also agreed with the point about the unions. They're one (of numerous) reason I don't want to work in US public schools. Teaching isn't really a blue-collar job like most other unionized fields. automatic tenure and the annual increase in salary no matter how well you do your job, bleh. (Caveat - after student teaching, I've not clocked a single minute inside an American school.)

What Gladwell doesn't tackle thoroughly is that the US public system, and teaching in general as a profession, still hasn't figured out a way to fairly implement a different pay structure. There are plenty of failed attempts but to my knowledge not even one success story that's repeatable. One tricky part is side-stepped in the beginning of the article, in the comment that looking at value-added statistics only shows how well a teacher conveys learning that measured by a test. But if you open that door and allow for other areas of expertise, how can you afford the manpower to have a thorough performance appraisal system? The guys watching the video are at the university / district-wide level, not close to the site level.

My prediction is that we'll move towards hologram teachers - great quality courses available online at affordable prices - and that will result in a change in the responsibilities of the adults who work with the students inside the school.

I'm sort of serious about that, too...

Oh and. Happy Holidays to any lurkers out there still hanging on to this barely-breathing blog.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh How I've Changed

A funny "aha" moment this week when I dusted off my resume to touch it up for grad school applications. I'd already worked on it over the summer so it was just an issue of managing space / design.

And to my amusement / horror, I realized that I was still using Times New Roman.


What a philistine I used to be...