Saturday, September 20, 2008
Thursday was Back to School night. Afterwards, on the drive home, Ed said, "It's Hogwarts." So that's two of us.
Why is it Hogwarts?
I don't know.
Some of it is the physical layout of the building, which is nothing like the schools I'm used to. For one thing, it has practically no windows. The effect is to make you feel, not too long after you've gone inside and gotten disoriented and turned-around thanks to the unconventional layout, that the outside world has vanished. The school is the world now.
The school-world is a rabbit's warren of dimly lit hallways and out-of-the-way stairwells. The halls are exceedingly narrow, so narrow that the words "not built to code" have popped into my head both times I've walked through them; the halls are so narrow, and so unconnected to any central corridor or architectural heart of the school, that they feel like secret passageways. At one point, seeking the biology lab, I asked directions of the polite and well-turned out young man standing at his post near the intersection of two corridors, his mission for the evening to re-direct the hopelessly lost. He turned, pointed down the hall we had just searched, and said, "Turn right at the end." Following his eye, I saw only the same dead end we'd encountered the first time we tried to find a biology lab down that way. But we about-faced and walked to the end of the hall again, where, this time, a right turn materialized, and then a left turn, and suddenly we were inside a biology lab at the front of which stood a biology teacher.
That's another thing: the teachers seem all to exist inside their classrooms and nowhere else. These are their rooms, their domains; they aren't just using the room or passing through. And all of them are characters. More on that anon.
I had been telling friends that the place was joyous and strict. That's the way it feels, from afar. Ed said, at the end of the night, that the school is both "more serious and more fun" than a regular school.
That's not a bad description of the real Hogwarts, if you think about it, a place so serious a boy playing Quidditch could plummet to his death.
I don't understand it well yet, and I imagine there is a literature on the nature of "happy" organizations that I haven't come across. If anyone knows titles, I'd like to hear.
The 'Middle Child" is the type of student who does not feel at home at Langley because, while they may be smart and academically focused, they are not academically superior like many of their peers. Nor are they outstanding in extracurricular activities. This student does not enjoy the prospect of coming to school to face the intense competition, which is ubiquitous in excellent schools, only to be disappointed.There is no simple answer to this problem. In my id eal world every student will walk through the front door on September 2 with an exuberant, positive attitude and feel comfortable and be happy throughout the entire year. Of course that does not happen. As we start the school year, the Instructional Council will open dialogue with the general faculty and I will talk with parents at PTSA meetings and parent coffees to solicit your input and ideas. As the discussion continues with all the stakeholders, I am confident we will find a way to serve the 'Middle Child'."
from: Open Letter from John Dewey to the Principal of Langley High School
There are a number of terrific comments in the "middle child" thread at Joanne Jacobs.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
1. The first assignment in Connected Mathematics Prime Time: Factors and Multiples
My Special NumberMany people have a number they find interesting. Choose a whole number between 10 and 100 that you especially like.
In your journal
*record your number
*explain why you chose that number
*list three or four mathematical things about your number
*list three or four connections you can make between your number and your world
Topic: Whole Numbers
Topic: Whole Numbers
Hassan said he disagreed, "Only sometimes."
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
another Niki Hayes alert:
Come January, when the election frenzy is over and it's time to fix (again) our endlessly collapsing U.S. public education system, I can already see who'll be sitting around that West Wing conference table helping you craft your policies (aka, calculate the flow of dollars): the usual passel of political appointees, lifer administrators, think-tank policy wonks bearing white papers funded by the Gates Foundation, rock-and-rolly inner-city charter school innovators and the "social entrepreneurs." No actual public school parents like myself will have the remotest input.Want Schools to Work? Meet the ParentsBy Sandra Tsing LohSunday, September 14, 2008; Page B03
No actual public school parents will have the remotest input except when our districts spend tens of thousands of dollars staging "Community Conversations" with a view to co-opting, reframing, or otherwise squashing the views of dissident parents.
My own district's Community Conversation seems to have transformed a widespread parent interest in "Singapore Math" into an item entitled "Global Awareness," which if all goes well will be inserted in the "Character education" portion of the revised Strategic Plan.
Now that's input.
Eduwonk admonishes suburban parents.
So: a quick post for now of this book recommendation from lefty, who is a linguist: Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning edited by Eli Hinkel. I asked for a book or books to read because I'm curious about foreign language immersion programs: do they work?
Or do they suffer from the same (or similar) flaws as whole language or balanced literacy programs?
I'm curious because I ordered a copy of Fluenz Spanish 1 + 2 this week. I took enough Spanish courses to consider majoring in the subject in college, but never came close to fluency either in speaking or listening. That has always bothered me, and I've decided now is the time to do something about it.
I chose Fluenz because Concerned Parent said a while back that she thought it might be the better bet for C. Then, once I looked at Fluenz and Rosetta Stone I realized that Fluenz may have been created in "opposition" to Rosetta Stone, which teaches foreign languages through immersion while Fluenz explicitly says that English-speaking adults should learn foreign languages by relating the foreign language to English:
2. It really helps to use English to learn a new language. When learning a new language as an adult, nothing makes more sense than to understand the process in English. While small children learn arbitrarily, absorbing language like a sponge, modern linguistics points to how adults are better off having a clear understanding of what they're learning and how it works. It's rather difficult to understand how Italian works if the explanation is in Italian, not to mention if no explanation is given at all.
Fluenz is so committed to the idea of explicit instruction that it features an educational telepresence.
I don't like educational telepresences, it seems. I don't know why. (Does anyone?) I ended up purchasing Fluenz in spite of its educational telepresence, not because of.
More on that anon.
lefty book recommendation
Monday, September 15, 2008
Isn't "May you live in interesting times" supposed to be a Chinese curse?
Or is that an urban legend?
(I was going to say "old wives' tale but thought better of it.)