Showing posts from December, 2007

The Great Christmas Truce of 1914

Christmas truce
Click above to hear this post read aloud.

Once upon a time the British and the Germans were fighting "The War to End All Wars" in Western Europe. Cold and rain plagued them as December lengthened toward Advent. Trenches for the British and trenches for the Germans were sometimes as close as 30 yards apart. A sneeze in one trench could bring a "Gezundheit" from the other.

The war had just begun, this was the first winter away from home for the soldiers. Bodies began to pile up and stink, half-frozen in and around the trenches. A "no man's land" between the trenches was pocked with artillery holes, puddles, dead men, and remnants of rural civilization.

Packages began to arrive from England. "Tommy" would receive plum puddings, letters from home, treats and goodies from mom, letters of thanks from British citizens, and "Princess Mary Boxes" (tins filled with butterscotches, cigarettes, tobacco, a picture of Princess…

The Gift of Humility

As you listen to these men sing I think it appropriate to ponder the moments we have had as teachers that have thrust our feet into our mouths. One cannot help but say the wrong thing or confound students if one is human. Humility is part of being a teacher. The serious math teacher with his fly undone, the well-coiffed Second Grade teacher with her skirt stuck in her pantyhose, these are memories we treasure. When one is a teacher one cannot take one's self too seriously for too long because one must humiliate one's self as a matter of course.

Please let me know your stories. Here are some of mine.

Teaching in an Hassidic Jewish school, I praised one girl's flair for the stage by saying "You're such a ham." The girl looked at me in horror, I had just called her an animal that was extremely not Kosher!

Trying to discipline an entire class in a Middle School, I threatened to "penalize" them. The class became stonily quiet as they imagined me wav…

The Need for Reinforcement in Learning

Last week I tried to go to my book club meeting in Medford. I had been there twice, knew landmarks, and spoken the turns aloud to myself during the previous trips. On the second trip I didn't need to look at the directions once.

This time I took the wrong exit, thought my friend lived in Everett instead of Medford, went round and round several rotaries, and spent 3 hours looking for the place. I hadn't saved the needed phone number in my phone. Since I had the wrong town in my brain, police were of no help.

No matter how well we think a student has learned a concept, it could always bear repeating. Constantly reinforcing concepts and sequences of operations can be easily lost. This week, the week before Christmas break, try reinforcing the concepts already taught. Use all the learning modalities, move around a bit. Have quiz shows with the class. Go on scavenger hunts. Have the students design the assessments.

Prepare yourself for the inevitable amnesia that will plague…

"Intelligent Design" is rhetoric friendly to the KKK

I am concerned about the push for the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in schools, especially in public schools; I find this teaching to be fundamentally unchristian and a form of heresy. The teaching of "Intelligent Design" violates the First Amendment of our Constitution (my personal favorite)

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"
discussing G-d in the classroom violates a child's freedom from a Protestant world view. Since there are literally thousands of Protestant denominations (over 3,000), virtually all children would be subjected to beliefs and doctrines which are not those of their family, community, or self at some point in such lessonsforcing a teacher to say statements that are antithetical to her religious beliefs is abusive and cruel. We are not looking for an inquisition-like atmosphere where people must say things that they find morally abhorent in order to be saved. Losing insurance, income, and the…

Innocence vs Ignorance

"I don't want to go to college. I don't want to change the way I think. When you hear other sides of arguments you start to believe them. I don't want that to happen to me." -anonymous student

This is a very well-spoken young lady. She is afraid of learning new ideas because they may challenge her faith and turn her from the girl on the left to the girl on the right.

Sure, If I had to choose, I'd want young people to have more hesitancy about the outside world. I want them to listen to their elders and show restraint in their endeavors beyond home. Proper dating supervision, web use, attire, and other daily parenting tasks need to be set by example and followed through with consistency throughout a child's life. My student realizes that and is anxious about the decisions that she will soon make as an adult.

I'm also scared for her and for people who hold the same beliefs. Self-imposed ignorance and isolation lead to the deaths of millions of J…