Friday, September 21, 2007

I am....or not

Lary Kleeman and I teach an integrated U.S. History and Language Arts class to freshmen. Lary has the students creating "I Am From" poems that ask the students to reveal who they are by writing about "what" they are from. Confused? So was I, but it's a great exercise in understanding who you are by looking at the past. To set an example for the students, Lary shared his "I Am From" poem with the students. One line in his poem refers to Binks, the ranch dog, who saved his dad. Without Binks, Lary wouldn't be here, he and I wouldn't be teaching together, students wouldn't know bird calls, etc. Lary has the students present their poems and we heard poetry that conjured up great images and stories to share. Then Lary asked me to present. Now I'm no wallflower, but I don't necessarily enjoy sharing my writing--writing for me is like a window on my soul--perhaps that's why I'm a reluctant blogger. But, I figured if 9th graders could share their writing, if Lary could do birdcalls, I could take a chance and share my poem. So I did. Even for a seasoned professional (or, ancient veteran teacher), I found it hard to recite my poem in front of the kids. Eye contact was hard to make and my stomach lurched, but I did it. Then Lary challenged me to put it on my blog. So I am. No eye contact, but my stomach is lurching...
"Cotton Farmers and Gamblers"
I am from windswept plains and sun-drenched earth.
I am from horny toads, bullfrogs and cockroaches.
I am from kolaches and strudel,
brisk German accents and soft Czech sounds.
I am from high dive acts and circus barkers
and German midgets with smuggled books.
I am from Irish wit and a gambler who died too soon.
I am from "Pack up and go!"
Texas, Louisiana, California, Oklahoma, Colorado
I am from a grandpa who foiled the Klan
and a grandma who waltzed.
I am from cotton farmers and a burned, dead child.
I am from a Texas Aggie, Sul Ross volunteer, a conservative
and a French horn playing drum majorette, a liberal
who treasures the written word.
I am from a grandma who swam with sharks to save me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Charles C. Mann (yes!)

Charles C. Mann’s article, “The Coming Death Shortage”, offered thought provoking ideas on the implications of the longevity boom. I was excited to see 21st Century using an article by Mann because he has a nice way of combining science, history, and pop culture while challenging generally accepted views and offering whole new interpretations. I use Mann’s website, , to start my A.P. U.S. history course. Students listen to an audio version of Mann’s reasons for writing the book, “1491”, which argues that the Americas in 1491 were profoundly different than previously imagined by historians. Students read the online article which offers a great introduction to the study of historiography (changing interpretations of history) and poses several complex problems for students to ponder. Mann argues that Indians in the Americas existed in greater numbers than previously thought, and they imposed their will on the landscape. He suggests that Columbus set foot in a hemisphere thoroughly dominated by humankind. The argument challenges the traditional interpretation of the Americas as a pristine Eden, inhabited by people who existed in a largely “unhistoried” state (Holmberg’s Mistake). He challenges environmentalists by saying they have chosen to make Amazonia the emblem of a vanishing wilderness, but it may actually be a cultural artifact; in other words, created by Indians, not a pristine wilderness. Mann’s comments stimulate great classroom conversation and force students to confront the role of revisionism in historiography and assess its value. Students are also given a chance to read more of Mann’s work, “Oldest Civilization in the Americas Revealed” from Science, Vol. 307, Jan. 7, 2005 at

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The most useful and relevant parts of the February 13th Cohort 2 Session included Barb Kitch's "Gallery" presentation and Anne Smith's Fishbowl discussion. The hands-on teaching demonstrations allows me to explore new ideas for my classes and gives me a greater appreciation for other members of the staff. I enjoy being introduced to new technology such as podcasts, but I need more time to work with it. Thanks much.

Friday, December 08, 2006

After our last meeting, I know many of you were deeply worried that I wouldn't get to cover the Progressives before the end of the semester. Ahh yes, the great paradox of depth vs. breadth....Sadly, it still looks like I won't get to cover them, but I think they'll fit in nicely at the start of next semester when I introduce the themes of the 20th century in U.S. History. On a brighter note, Lary K. has kindly offered to give me time to show "O Brother, Where Art Thou" during his class period of our Humanities' class. Now, many of you may be wondering how in the world that movie fits into any curriculum. Well, it's a fun and visually interesting way to wrap up a semester that explored the recurring theme of "odyssey" in both our classes. Whether it was America's trek westward following Jefferson's dream or pursuing Hamilton's dream of urbanization and industrialization, or Odysseus' and the Old Man and the Sea's personal journeys, Lary and I are discovering more and more workable links between 9th grade history and English. In the last few weeks, Lary has done a great job of exploring the 1920s through the book, Witness. His work has freed up time constraints for me on completing American history through the Great Depression by the end of the semester. It's given greater depth and breadth to the political, economic, and social issues of the 1920s and 1930s. So I learned that voicing a frustration (the Progressive issue), might lead to help from a colleague. As the blind prophet said in "O Brother, Where Art Thou": The treasure you seek shall not be the treasure you find.
Thanks Lary!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My class assignment is to respond to today's meeting of 21st Century Learners.

Today's session was meaningful to me in several ways.
I appreciated time to discuss the article and process the information in it with members of my department. this activity made the discussion more relevant to me.
The protocol we followed in the large group session ("Listen actively.", etc.) kept the discussion focused and allowed people to contribute if they so desired. I'll probably use a modified form of it in my classes.
I found Anne's, Brad's, and Brian's comments of real interest.

Suggestions for the planning team:
I think I understand what the author of the article is explaining, but I need time to work on understanding and creating a "good problem" to use in Social Studies. I'm trying to transition from a "didactic" model of teaching to a constructivist style and creating "good problems" might be helpful.

Although I found myself tiring toward the end of the meeting (probably due to the drop in my blood sugar from the overly large piece of chocolate cake I ate), I do appreciate that the meeting allowed us time to think, discuss, and process. Each time we meet and discuss, I find my anxiety about the coming changes diminishes. Who knows? If we keep this up, maybe I'll take up blogging on a regular basis!

A discussion that included a few of the negatives experienced by Anne, Brad, and Brian would have been interesting. I know there have been a few issues over the use of lap tops with parents and students, and I would like to know how they responded and how it affected their teaching.

Since I had discussions about the class after school that lasted until 5:00 p.m., I'm assuming many of us have comments to share.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm still thinking about our last meeting...especially the group session led by Brad and Barb. I greatly appreciate that newer teachers said they valued the veterans' input, but I think we old teachers should have done the same in return. In large part, I joined this group to spend time with a variety of colleagues: newbies and veterans, teachers from other disciplines, geeks and the technically challenged, etc. Over the last few years in working with the mentor program, I've been humbled by all that new teachers have to offer Arapahoe. You're on the cutting edge of technology and teaching techniques, you're enthusiastic, and you're the future of our profession. So I'm hoping that we old teachers will return the favor of listening to our new teachers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

September 22 Meeting

I greatly appreciated the chance to share thoughts and observations with other members of the class. The discussion seems to have cleared the air of some misperceptions and miscommunications. I want/need more time to continue processing (as an individual and with the group) some of the core goals, purposes, definitions, activities, etc. of the course. For instance, Karl's closing comments reassured me that our journey will be treated as an individual process. Also, his response in regard to finding balance and understanding as to what constructivism is reassured me that we weren't abandoning all we know, discarding all syllabi, throwing the reins to the students, and launching into a student directed universe. It was also helpful to have Brad reveal that he has posted only 14 times since last year. Barb's admission that she is a private person who doesn't blog also helped to relieve some of the pressure I'm feeling. I'm understanding more thoroughly that it is necessary and helpful for me to spend more time reading the cohort's blogs and class blogs. I'm definitely feeling more comfortable with blogging as homework for this class. Thanks.