A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Yes, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln ..."

OK, an informal poll...

This week is the week I take two of my students to DC for the Ford's Theater National Oratory Retreat. My two students will get to work with the teaching artists and students from across the country. On Sunday, they will get to perform their speeches on the Ford's Theater stage. I am so excited for them! I will spend my time with my fellow Fellows, out first time working face to face all year. I'm excited for that as well. Which leads me to my poll.

They have asked all of the teachers to prepare a speech for the event as well. The prompt is: “Tell us how your experience in the National Oratory Fellows program has impacted your teaching practice, and why was it important for you to be a part of this program?” I am working on my speech and I keep coming back to the idea that we've distilled curriculum to a point where it is purified for test taking but not good for much else. Oratory is one of those things seen as 'other than' and so distilled out. Like the tragedy at Ford's Theater, you can't parse it--you have to see it as a whole.

And so...

I'm playing with starting the speech with the quote, "Yes, Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, but other than that, how was the play?" I'm worried, however, that it would be seen as rude or disrespectfulto Ford's, they have been a pleasure to work with and generous to a fault. Disrespect is the last thing I want to be so I am asking all of my closest Facebook friends ... does it cross the line? Post in facebook or on the blog itself.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"I'm starting to think I don't feel anything anymore..."

Of late, this blog has been about oratory. The power of the spoken word to make change. The past couple of weeks has gotten me to think about what happens when voices are silenced. When words are misunderstood or twisted and used again the speaker.
In preparation of a lesson on the Fourth Amendment, I tripped into a movie that is haunting me. The documentary is called Bully (this link is to the movie's website) and follows the lives of students and parents for whom bullying is a reality. The camera follows them on the bus, in juvenile jail, as they hang out with their friends. It follows the parents as they navigate school systems which miss the point and a justice system which looks at bully and victim with the same lens. It is haunting to hear the parents of seventeen year old and eleven year old sons grieve and look for meaning in senseless loss.
The numbers from the CDC say that, on average, 4000 teens commit suicide each year. An Australian survey (I would argue out numbers would be similar) found that half of all teen suicides are the direct result of bullying. 160,000 students stay home from school each day as the result of bullying (physically or emotionally unable to attend).
The quote in the title is the result of a conversation between a boy, Alex, and his mother. She is asking him why he doesn't report all the bullying on the bus. She asks if the hitting and punching and stabbing don't hurt. The title is his response. He refers to the boys as 'friends' and she counters that, if they are so vicious, they aren't his friends. His response: "If you say these people aren't my friends, what friends do I have?"
At the end of the documentary, they follow the father of an eleven year old boy who has committed suicide as the result of his bullying. He actually lives about two hours from Wichita and has started a Facebook page Stand for The Silent. He is trying to make sense of the senseless by raising awareness and challenging teens to stop being bystanders to tragedy.
Oratory calls for change and I'll admit that I don't know what changes I need to make and advocate for. My first step is awareness. I keep you posted on the next one.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

...in his natural habitat."

The reason for this post is to show I actually take pictures of myself. A student pointed out that I am never in any of the pictures I show them in class. There is a reason ... but here I am in all my glory.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Do I feel sorry for you? No I do not. There are people way worse off than you."


To those around me I have been a bear.

Spring has been rough on me for some reason. I could opine all of the reasons why but ... quite frankly, they don't matter. The final nail in Spring's coffin was yesterday I received formal notice that I wasn't selected for an opportunity I had been working towards and hoping for. This is the fifth straight letter in as many years and I suppose that has been weighing on me. I keep asking myself how many times do I apply before I become 'that guy'.

There is a line from a Milton sonnet which says, "I fondly (read that as 'foolishly') ask/ but Patience, to prevent that murmer/" My "Patience" moment came this morning as my son, who has borne the brunt of my growly-bearness reminded me that he loved me as he got out of the car this morning. We say that to each other most mornings but that he wanted to say it me this morning reminded me that I'm a blessed man. Blessed with a wife who is not feeling well but still lets me rant. Sons and daughters who love me despite a shockingly long list of failings. I'm blessed I get to do what I love every day. I have friends who have comiserated at what really is a minor loss in the scheme of themes.

Patience also reared its ugly head in class today. I am writing bios for the students I'll be taking to DC next week. They've earned the right to perform on Ford's Theater's stage and I couldn't be prouder of them and my class as a whole. One of the student's selections is the Gettysburg Address. I've stood on that battlefield and I've stood in that cemetery and that reminder humbled me. The other student is reciting Lou Gehrig's Luckiest Man speech. I've experienced a minor professional setback, but still get to 'play ball'. I listened to both speeches again and I felt embarassed at how hard I am taking the disappointments of the last few weeks.

I kept thinking of a moment in West Wing between the president and his secretary. He's had a bad few weeks as well and Mrs. Landingham reminds him that he needs to get over it.

Thanks for the reminder Mrs. Landingham.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gosh, I love Barney Fife...

I remembered this clip and am showing it to my charges at the end of their Constitution Test today. I require them to recite the Preamble and show them how if feels listening to it on my end.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What content is 'sacred'?

In class today, a student asked how I chose what to teach and when. As background, this student was a mid-term transfer to the school and so had another American History teacher this year covering the same time period as me.

I've never been asked that before and it has me thinking...

What content is sacrosanct in
American History?
I want to get out of the way for the answers and so will not try to muddy the water but my response may be instructive. I acknowledged that there were some events I didn't cover in depth or at all in my class. One reason was many history teachers have all year to get to Reconstruction. I have a semester. I also have to cover Civics and Economics as stand alone sections and so Jacksonian Era gets short changed so does the War of 1812.
The other reason may be more controversial. I wondered out loud how important content is in the days of google and wikipedia. Now before the hackles get raised, I am not suggesting that open source content be the teacher, but the ready access to data changes the rules for me. Part of my job is to teach them facts, but part of my job is to teach them where and how to access and analyze facts they find out 'in the wild'. So the question becomes, what is essential in history. What people, events or ideas are so central, they have to be included?
Teacher-types and parent -types...what is on your list. As usual, please comment below. You don't have to join the blog but please give me your first name at the beginning or end of your comment. Don't be afraid to pass this blog post along to other teachers, parents and heavens forbid, students. I would really like to gather a list of the 'non-negotiables.' 

For your viewing pleasure...Constitution Edition

We are prepping for our Constitution test this week and I have been showing them some of the great School House Rock videos as well as one made for the TED Ed project. I wanted to share them with ya'll as well.