A New Chapter

The school year is over, and every end is the start of many new beginnings.  There is no way to express in words the gratitude I feel for the students and staff of Maureen Joy Charter.  But this video can go a long way in showing you the many things I love about the work they’re doing.

Here’s to making the new ones as wonderful as the past couple chapters.



This Blog Post…

I don’t cite other blogs very often on this blog (for fear that those of you follow only this one will realize there’s a bigger and better world of bloggers out there), but this time I just couldn’t resist.

This blogger was in one of my Discover DC groups (I want to say the first year, but let’s be honest, I’m getting old and I can’t really remember), and later transferred to Ohio State (I take no credit for that switch- I did everything I could to help him ‘Discover DC’).  Now he’s a first year Teach For America teacher in New Orleans, and blogging about his experiences there.

First of all, the blog name is the BEST ever.  My ‘Big Goal’ (or BG if you will) during my TFA summer institute was to learn to speak fluently the language of acronyms, something Teach For America is VERY fond of.  I got my CMA group involved, and by the end of the summer our agendas were only acronyms, and I could read several lines of only capitol letters with very few errors.  I’ve since lost the touch, but still enjoy trying 🙂  Hence why I enjoy the blog title ‘Relentless Pursuit of Acronyms’ as much as I do.

Okay, enough about how good the blog is, as I’m actually rating one particular post that I just discovered tonight.  It’s getting a huge 10 and a ‘must read’, so I’m reposting here (hope you don’t mind Matt :))

Make sure to check out the original post here and leave nice comments 🙂

I Believe Dat

As I’m sure you all know, the long suffering New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 on Sunday to win the Super Bowl. Much ink has been spilled describing what this means to the city and for professional football. Many sportswriters much better than I have already covered that story, so I won’t waste your time with it. Instead, I’d like to offer up how the Black and Gold’s march to the Super Bowl has impacted me and my classroom.

Growing up near central Ohio, I had the misfortune of being a Bengals fan. From 1993 (when I was 6) to 2004, the Bengals failed to finish better than 8-8. I blew my meager allowance on a Peter Warrick jersey and Carl Pickens football cards. I lived too far away from Cincinnati to actually go to a game, but I dutifully watched as many as I could from TV. Times were tough now, but I knew eventually the Who Dey nation would have their day.

That day never really came though. In 2005, my senior year in high school, the Bengals finally broke through, winning the AFC North and booking a trip to the playoffs. On the 2nd play from scrimmage, star QB Carson Palmer took a shot to the knee, and never recovered. The team fell into a spiral of defeats, and more embarrassingly, increasingly serious criminal charges. By 2007, after more Bengals were appearing in the police blotter than the box scores, I decided I had enough. The Bengals jersey was folded up and placed in a dark corner of my apartment closet. I declared myself an NFL vagabond, searching for a new team.

I moved around the country a little bit, trying out the local team, but the Redskins and the Raiders didn’t really feel right. I didn’t have the right emotional attachment to the team. I took a few seasons off from serious NFL devotion, and decided if I couldn’t latch on to the team in my next city, me and pro football might be done. As luck would have it, TFA placed me in New Orleans, so I decided to pick up the Saints.

We love football in Ohio. High School’s of only a few hundred students often draw several thousand for Friday night games, and Ohio State packs in over 100,000 every home game. I’ve never really witness such passion for a pro team though. What New Orleans’ has for the Saints dwarfs whatever is going on in Buffalo, Cleveland, San Fransisco…everywhere except perhaps for Green Bay. it is impossible to not be swept up in it. By week 5, once a serious buzz was starting to gather around the team, I couldn’t help but let myself get swept up in Saints fever.

Me and my students have had a hard time getting on the same page. We don’t seem to have very much in common…in interests, life experiences, background, or even values. When I came here, I couldn’t tell a crayfish from a crocodile, and they couldn’t find Ohio on a map (some stubbornly still insist I’m from Hawaii). We had very different ideas about what we wanted to get out of school. We shared few common interests (I wanted to teach multiplication, they wanted to ask about my girlfriend. I wanted to teach them how to pass the LEAP, they wanted to show me the correct way to Moonwalk, etc). About the only common ground we were able to establish was a love of football, and by extension, the Saints.

We used the Saints in class as much as possible. There is a huge poster of Drew Brees in our makeshift gym. BLESS YOU BOYS, and headlines from every Saints victory adorn our cafeteria trailer. My students sometimes write WHO DAT instead of their name on assignments, and lately, have insisted that I call them by certain player’s names instead of their own (Reggie Bush sits next to Darren Sharper, who sits next to Pierre Thomas, who sits next to Nancy. She didn’t want to participate in the name changing). Like many other teachers in the 504, I tried to incorporate the Saints into as many lessons as possible. I think that is the only way my kids learned about averages.

I didn’t put in the 43 years of suffering that the locals did…but I hope the church of the Saints takes converts, because I burst into euphoria like everybody else after Porter returned that interception.

There have been some wonderful, exciting experiences since I moved to New Orleans…but if I am being totally honest, most of it has awfully rough. I was unemployed for a month and a half, my classroom has mostly been a mess, my car has flooded, and I’ve been terribly lonely. There has only been one thing that has consistently been good since I moved here…The Saints. I knew that no matter how bad I was professionally beat down during the week, and no matter how sad I got on the weekends, I could count on Sunday afternoon to pick me back up. I know thousands of people in New Orleans felt the same way.

Thank heavens for the the Saints, for giving me something to hang on to and believe in, when everything else seemed to fall apart. That season is why I follow sports, and I hope that everybody who passionately follows one can enjoy a season like it. Everybody should get a chance to sprint outside like I did Sunday, embracing random strangers on Magazine Street and screaming WHO DAT at the top of my lungs. Everybody should get to see a victory parade.When the winds blew and the rains fell, Believing In Dat helped keep me and my students going.

Believe Dat. Its whats its all about.

Authentic Assignments

Alright, in the past I’ve attempted to avoid too much techy/teachery stuff, because I realize I’m a giant nerd and not everyone loves it as much as I do.  HOWEVER, the past week has been too much to not rate, so I’m picking one of the many 10’s to blog about this morning.

In my sessions on technology integration, one of the main goals is for teachers to understand how powerful a tool blogs can be in our classrooms.  They can be powerful for many reasons.

1)  They help our students to develop stronger writing skills and voice by giving them an authentic audience.

2)  They can extend conversation outside our classrooms, and teach about other cultures and the world, by inviting adults and other classes from around the globe to engage in conversation with our students.

3)  Lastly, and possibly my favorite, they provide an incredible way for us as teachers to extend our personal learning networks and engage in thoughtful conversation about teaching, students and education without the confines of time and space.

Case in point.  One of the follow-up assignments for my sessions taught this past Saturday in NY, was for teachers to visit two of my favorite education blogs, and respond to two specific blog posts about teaching, one by David Warlick and one by Will Richardson.

My goal was for teachers to be exposed to the powerful conversations already existing out there, become motivated to blog themselves, and begin to follow education blogs and become part of the conversation.

So far I am SO impressed with the level of thought and engagement being put in by the teachers, and every time I read another comment I get excited about what they have to offer, and the power of these conversations.  This in itself is a great example of how a genuinely authentic assignment (they are required to actually post their comments on Will and David’s blogs, where hundreds/thousands of other teachers will be reading them) can produce impressive investment and results.

I LOVE IT.  This just made my night/morning 🙂