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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A map literally dripping with anger

States Names, Jaune Quick-to See Smith, 2001
Smithsonian American Art Museum
I have used this piece of art before in class and I was wondering if I needed to put away this year. I started using artwork consistently in 2011 and so this was year four for this piece. Its a great way to start the year and I knew the kids would get into it. I just wasn't sure what new things we would find after nearly 150 young eyes had already explored it.

I was wrong! I just needed fresh eyes to show me.

I wrote about this painting and my students experiences with it first in 2011. A link to that post is here. Each year, I have had students analyze it and they notice things new each year. This year, the insights to add are:

The oceans are black, but the artist made the lakes white. Why?
The blue paint drips in the Gulf of Mexico look like their showing the route of a ship going south.
The eastern seaboard was painted, then painted over in white and then dripped in paint.
It looks like the painting is melting, like crayons, not paint dripping.
Canada and Mexico look like they were intentionally painted white. The US has all those colors.

There were heated discussions of how the dripping was achieved. There were several questions about they meaning of the painting: climate change, time zones, unity, sadness.

After were explored the painting, I found a video of Ms. Smith talking about this painting:

It sparked a discussion on how the different European nations built empires. Spaniards conquered for God and for gold. The French explored in small parties call 'coureur de bois' and built partnerships with the Native Americans in the St. Lawrence Basin, Great Lakes and Misssissippi River. Because England never had a specific policy in their colonization (each colonizing group had their own specific charter), there was a never a consistent policy on how to deal with the Native Americans. So you see a little of both tactics-in some cases, they partnered with the 'Indians', in other cases, they tried to dominate the first inhabitants.

Not bad for the first week of school and photocopy of a painting. Guess I keep it in starting line up for next year.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Days Before the Day Before...

Rock-em Sock-em: The 'ideal' of America in conflict with the reality we have to live in.
As I headed into my classroom, I left my sons at home asleep this morning for probably the last time this summer. Our first report day as a teacher was last week and we had a couple good in-service day. For those of you who think that there is no such animal as a good in-service, I have seen one and I refuse to settle for less in the future. Day one had a speaker from Washington University, Jill Stratton. She talked about flow. Flow is the idea around working at high capacity--in the zone, if you will. She was high energy and engaging and what she had to say resonated with the staff.

The next day, we talked about learning modes and differentiation. For the non-teachers thinking of hari kari, think about the way you learn best. Do you understand things better when you see things; when you touch them; or when you hear them? Learning modes and differentiation is all about helping students learn in their best manner. Its also about helping them develop skills to adapt when their best mode isn't the mode being used. The presenter, Rick Reed, is a teacher in McPherson, Kansas. He is high energy, has a great sense of humor and has an interesting resume. He is a Madison Fellow who teaches AP Government, but went back to get a Special Education certification so he could be a better teacher. He teaches AP in a manner that is intriguing. I've already made plans to visit his classroom to watch him in his natural habitat. he did something I hadn't seen, before. He got teachers on the second day of an in-service to play at three in the afternoon. they were fully engaged. My colleagues are passionate about their crafts and want to be the best teachers they can be, but day two of an in-service is usually grueling; it was the most engaged I've seen from a school training ever. Impressive.

Friday was the Ice Cream Social. Kids received their schedule, decorated their lockers and generally caught up with each other. It was fun to see kids back in the hallways again. It was also nice to have my classroom around. I still have loads of stuff to get done before all of the kids are here on Wednesday, but the room is ready. The rest will come if I can find my zone. That will require me getting off this blog, so...

In case you are wondering, Mr. Madison took a tumble a couple years ago. The company who makes them has him in their 'retired' group. Have been looking for a new one, but to no avail. I tried to glue him but his legs aren't having any of that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thoughts on New York #3-A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar...

This will probably be the last of my reflections on NYC. Today was the first report day for teachers at school and so I will be knee deep in students soon. I've had a great summer, but I am ready to start back up. I've curious to see where this year will take us.
As I've said, almost everything I know about New York City comes from the movies. I had forgotten one though. It is called Keeping the Faith. Edward Norton, Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman star. Norton is a priest. Stiller is a rabbi. Elfman is the friend from middle school who moved away, but is moving back. It is charming. It also speaks cogently about faith in a way most films never do. These are men who are genuinely called to ministry and its fun to watch them with their congregations and each other. Besides, Norton does the best Rain Man impersonation ever.
The reason this film fits the NYC theme is it is set in the city and the city is such a large part of it. They go everywhere in the city and it looks like it did when I was there. Trash. Mystery moisture. There is a scene where the priest and rabbi are having a very serious conversation at a stop light. The bit is vintage NYC. Here is the trailer:

Here are the last few photos (admitted, some of them may have already made it onto the blog). Think of them as my last gasp before the new year begins.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thoughts on NYC #2--Selling you the Brooklyn Bridge

One of the oddest moments in New York City, for me, was seeing places I could immediately identify. The Chrysler Building. Empire State Building. The New York Subway. Central Park. I was in NYC for a weekend 25 years ago, so how did I recognize them? Movies.  




To quote Yogi Bera, "It's deja vu all over again," last Saturday when I walked a few blocks from the World Trade Center Memorial and tripped into the Brooklyn Bridge. I knew immediately where I was when I saw it. Thanks to, Ghostbusters, I Am Legend, The French Connection and Enchanted. It was funny. I was watching TV a couple days before I left for the conference and the movie, The Seige was on. The synopsis from Internet Movie Database: "The secret US abduction of a suspected terrorist leads to a wave of terrorist attacks in New York that lead to the declaration of martial law." It was released in 1998, 30 some months before the attacks on 9-11. So, as I was walking the bridge, that was one of the thoughts. If you look at the poster you see the Bridge as well as the twin towers. Its chilling to think that things so dominant no longer exist except in photographs and movies. I posted my thoughts from the memorial when I was there.. 
Alright, there are also a lot of movies which have used the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop for good, as well. One of my favorite movies is On The Town. Its IMDB synopsis: "Three sailors on a day of shore leave in New York City look for fun and romance before their twenty-four hours are up." Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Here is a clip-the Brooklyn Bridge makes a guest appearance.

In my search for that clip, I found this one for the new Broadway version of the movie. Pretty cool re-creation.
BTW- as a note... the phrase 'Selling you the Brooklyn Bridge' comes from a con man named George C. Parker. His story is here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thoughts on NYC #1

Normally, I write as I go. I try to keep up the blog day to day when I'm traveling. NYC was different for some reason. I have some thoughts as to why, but the reality is that I'm still unpacking the conference and the information and the experience in NYC. I will post more as I'm ready, but I thought I would unload some initial thoughts and images today. These are my more tourist-y impressions. I'll post some teacher thoughts later.

1. Pack a lunch for your trip to The Met.

I love the almost architectural vibe of this piece.

This is an El Greco of a saint, but It looks like John Brown became a pope.

I love that this painter is looking right at you. Its a detail from a larger painting, but it really struck me.

Everywhere you turn in this wing there are heads of people. This one stood out for just the opposite.

This may sound like a negative, but its not. The Met is too large for a one day visit. In DC, the Smithsonian Institution is divided into individual museums and you can make it though one of them in a morning, for the most part. There is always more to see and I would recommend multiple visits, but it can be done. A morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will get you through maybe 10-20 percent of the museum. One of the highlights of my week was lunch on the steps and 40 minutes of free time in the galleries. I went back to areas we had already explored or sought out new wings to wander through. I did that every day and am still sure I missed stuff.
2. New York City ain't normal.

Time Square from several blocks away

In the thick of Time Square

All of the Broadway theaters are just off of Time Square. Almost right on top of each other.

The number of A-list movie stars on Broadway was larger than I had thought. Don't know if that is a good or bad thing, but ...

The electric bill must be staggering. This is one block in about six-all that wired.

I've had the chance to travel to large cities and so I thought I was prepared for  NYC. I was not. I can give you a laundry list of what I liked and what I didn't, but often what I liked about the city and didn't like occupied the same space. For example: Time Square is impressive. It houses these gems of theaters and stimulates you visually in a way I have never encountered. But is also more crowded that this small city boy enjoys and there is a general smell like a ripe diaper.

3. Greenspace is gold in NYC!

A softball game in Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

A park near the Brooklyn Bridge

The reservoir in Central Park

Washington Square

I take parks for granted. You can't in New York City. I was surprised at how many people congregated in all of the parks in the city. Washington Square, Union Square, Madison Square Park, Central Park... It was where people met up and hung out. In Wichita, a park has a completely different function. That's not a judgment either way, it just is. But in NYC, there was never a time that there wasn't someone in one of these parks. It made for great people watching.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The two World Trade Center memorials, two blocks apart.

The truth is that I had no words this morning and I am still at a loss.

So, I will let William Collins speak for me. This isn't the first time I've referred to this poem, How Sleep the Brave. Same sentiment fits.

HOW sleep the brave, who sink to rest 
By all their country's wishes blest! 
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold, 
Returns to deck their hallow'd mould, 
She there shall dress a sweeter sod         5
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod. 
By fairy hands their knell is rung; 
By forms unseen their dirge is sung; 
There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey, 
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;  10
And Freedom shall awhile repair 
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there!

I wandered into the little church next to the 9-11 memorial. You know me, I like old cemeteries and this one had some from before the Revolutionary War. The church was open, so I wandered in there as well. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. This was the closest aid station for first responders and was open day and night for the year they were doing rescue and recovery, and then debris removal. They have collected everything from that year and it is on display. This is where the first responders from all over the country slept. The church pews are pocked with scratches and worn paint from boots and gear they were too tired to shuck off. This is where, like the rest of us, they began to grieve for the dead. Only they did theirs while working 12 hour shifts looking for the missing or pulling wreckage from the site. This is where the church staff, as well as their congregation, served these men and women by providing water, food, clothing, pillow and blankets. They sat with the first responders as they wrestled with their loss and the emotion torture their work had to have been. The humbly served and sat beside and prayer with. 
The next time I talk about the church being Christ in the community, the model I'll think of from here on out is St. Paul's.

As usual, I'm using my iPad to compose and so will fix the photos and add a couple hyperlinks when I get a chance.