Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Day of 2007

It is a bit after 10 pm and we are in our PJ’s watching Kathy Griffin on the D-List on Bravo.. Make fun all you want. We have had fun, we just did our end-of-the-year fiddling in the afternoon.

The wife and I sent the daughter to the in-laws and we went to see … Sweeney Todd! It was bloody awesome. I’m not a huge fan of the musical, although I’ve seen several. My wife loves going to see them. I can do without Cats, A Chorus Line, and Phantom of the Opera. Sweeney Todd, however, rates right up there with Les Miserables. We went to see Sweeney Todd at the Landers a few years ago, and it was great. The movie adaptation of Sweeney Todd was boss. Funny and tragic and a great piece of celluloid.

For lunch we ate at Bailey’s, which took the place of Rasta Grill. I ordered the coney and the thing hung off each end of the plate. A half-pound of hot dog, yes a half pound, tends to do that. Food is good and cheap and is an alternative to the pish-posh, overpriced, fare of downtown. Bailey’s is even open on Sundays with $1 hamburgers and chili. Had I had my camera with me, I would have taken photos of the food.

When we got home we put in a Casino Royale (from Netflix). It was undoubtedly the best James Bond movie in 15 years. It was great, getting 94 percent fresh from Rotten Tomatoes.

So there we are. It was a good day. We bought some underwear and undershirts for me, saw two great movies and had good food. Spending time with my wife seems a great way to send out the old year.

Here’s looking forward to a new year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Year of Blogging in Review

I the ought it might be fun to go back through the archives and pull out some of my favorite FAT JACK blog posts from the past year. Just for kicks and giggles. You can take them or leave them, read them or skip them. These are listed by month starting with January.

God is a Hermaphrodite

The Apple iPhone: It's Finally Here!

What We Need is a New Law

Vote YES on the Litle Anti-Fornication Law
Can you believe that I originally misspelled my good friend's last name? This argument is over, so don't bother emailing him with hate email. This was all in good fun.

A Fun-Filled Night on Non-Learning

In Memory of the Dirty Old Bastard
I sure do miss blogger buddy John Stone.

A Rose by any Other Name
Thoughts on anonymous blogging

What My Mother Taught Me
Thoughts of Mommy on Mother's Day

Quagmire of the Incidental

Special Schools for Special People

Poo Cheerleaders

Teachers Who Teach Teachers
(can be the worst teachers)

What Teachers Make
(Great YouTube video)

The Modern Church

The Religious Right
(You might be a member of the religious right or a redneck …)

Christians and Bigotry

Christians and Bigotry Part 2

Every Child Left Behind

Church of Christ is Not a Protestant Church
(It is the one real church set up by Christ himself, or so say the crazies.)

Just Admit You Are Wrong Already!

Sometimes School Beats the Education Out of Students

Snapping Mad: Beating the Education Out of Students Part 2

Every Child Still Left Behind: Part 1

Dear God …

JUST an Elementary Teacher?

Muslims Seek Reconciliation, Peace with Christians

A Roar for Powerful Writers

I want to thank the Academy … oh wait. Wrong ceremony; wrong speech. Still, we've been awarded "A Roar for Powerful Writers" by none other than our Girl in the Sky. Terribly nice of her to think of us. We like her too.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Only Comic Book Convention for Kids is Back!

The second NYC KIDS' COMIC CON is coming March 29, 2008! And this time, one of the co-sponsors will be the NEW YORK COMIC CON!

The focus of the comicon is to bring young people, parents, artists, and educators together for a fun and enlightening view of the industry. Specifically they are inviting teachers, librarians, and more to show them how the comic book field works and how it can support literacy and other academic goals.

All of this without the gore, extreme violence, nudity or vulgarity. How about that? They report that it will be a full-blown all-age event.

March 29, 2008
10 am- 6pm
Bronx Community College

I would love to go and speak, but I do not know if I can do either. The graduate student’s wallet is pretty thin these days. We will see how things go. I would love to take my wife and daughter and really have a good time.

For more information contact: Alex Simmons at

'The Hobbit' to Hit the Silver Screen!

Years of disputes between Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have kept the shooting of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s book, “The Hobbit” at a stand still. Apparently the problems are over and New Line is moving ahead, according to the official Hobbit movie blog.

Two films will come out of the deal: “The Hobbit” and a sequel to it, which will act as some sort of transition to “The Lord of the Rings” films. “The Hobbit” will be released in 2010 and the sequel will debut in 2011.

No word yet who will director or if any of the earlier actors will show up.

[hat tip: Scoop]

Flakes, One and All

Here's a happy little reminder of what politics is all about. Before you get too on board with any candidate or political party remember: They are all a bunch of flakes.

I've said it before and I am telling you again: There is no such thing as a Christian politician. This becomes truer the higher the office sought. The things one must do in order to be a viable candidate for president compromises even those with the best of intentions and ethics.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The War On Christmas Started with Christians

The News-Leader was particularly interesting yesterday. Roger Ray, the ever controversial Christian lefty wrote a funny piece about the War on Christmas. Crack me up! Here’s a taste:

“In 1659 Massachusetts passed their "Anti-Christmas" law which read: ‘Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting, or any other way upon such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for each offense five shillings as a fine to the country.’”

At one point, this so-called “Christian Nation” banned Christmas. What a war this has turned out to be. Maybe everyone should just calm down, celebrate, and quite whining.

Personally, I am celebrating both the religious and the secular and no one is trying to stop me. Quote Charlie Brown: “Good Grief!”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Teaching Religion in Public Schools

The issue of religion in the public schools has risen to a point where it cannot be ignored any longer. Apparently, there is an international push, complete with a final report, to study religion in public schools, according to today’s News-Leader.

Charles Haynes, the writer of the opinion piece, stated: “the report urges nations to take religion seriously in education and provides a human rights framework for including fair, accurate study about religions and beliefs in the classroom.”

I’m all for it. As a pre-service teacher, I think it is important for us to talk about religion, religious culture, and the influence of religion on belief systems and political governments, starting in elementary school. Further, I believe we should do so in a scholarly manner and not a religious manner. I think putting a “human rights framework” into the picture is fine, but the question must be asked: Is putting a “human rights framework” on the religious study a form of religious doctrine?

Some people do not want their religion to be portrayed within a “human rights framework” because they feel that is some sort of liberal, secular way to strip God of his wrath and air condition Hell. I think that goes for some who believe in Christianity and Islam as well as other religions.

It is certainly worth talking about. Let’s face it. I am a Christian but I see Christianity very different than say crazy Fred Phelps. Even if we teach religion in schools, there will be problems and objections.

Donate Money To Teachers & Classrooms

December is the time for giving, what with all the holiday traditions and season of giving. The problems can be that the monies donated to large charities do not always go where they should. That can be frustrating. Others want their money to stay in the city, county, state or even the United States.

How about donating to a classroom? Teachers are always in need for certain books, supplies, software and other educational tools that the school may not able to afford. Teachers always buy things for their classrooms out of their own pockets, but sometimes these expenses can be too great. allows you, dear reader, to go online and find a classroom that needs you. From the site: “Teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.” You choose the project and your own price range.

How cool is that? You can help a classroom out. If I were the teacher, I would enjoy connecting with the donor to help the children understand the importance of giving. Maybe send the donor a photo of the items(s) being used and a link to my classroom website where they can keep in touch if they like.

A Poem By a Second Grader

My second grade daughter brought home a poem that she wrote in school. Last month they were studying the Native Americans which concluded with a powwow. I was amazed at the writing ability of my 7-year-old and just had to share. Makes a writer and Dad proud.


Walk, Walk
Walk with the Indians
Walk through the grass with yellow daisies.
Waling in the light brown dirt
Walking with the big, strong chief
Walking past colorful butterflies
Walking past a blue lake
Walking by a bush of berries
Walking fast, walking slow
Walking by trees
Walk, Walk
Walk with the Indians

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Governor’s Inclusion Awards: Educator of the Year

Kathy Staeger-Wilson, Director of Disability Services at Missouri State University (MSU), was named Educator of the Year by the Governor’s Council on Disability. I just so happen to know this fine lady and she is a dandy.

From the Press Release:
“Her efforts for inclusion have extended beyond the University by expanding her reach into the community. Ms. Staeger-Wilson advocates for principles like full inclusion and Universal Design on campus and locally. Together with MSU student with disabilities, she worked on making Universal Design a top priority for MSU’s new recreation center. She started a poster campaign titled “Chaning How We Perceive Disability”, pertaining to disability pride and invisible disabilities. She initiated the first Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society at MSU for students with disabilities and recruited volunteers to work with the Southwest Center for Independent Living’s youth transition program to act as members. Ms. Staeger-Wilson sees youth with disabilities the future for creating a more inclusive world.”

Good job, Kathy. We are proud of you. I’m sure your students are very happy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Beer & Beef Veggie Soup

Just in time for the great snow storm that is supposed to rock our world, I just made the best pot of vegetable beef soup I’ve ever made. Man sakes alive it was tasty stuff, so I thought I would share the recipe with you. The secret is the beer and the honey.

3-4 pound beef roast
1 box (2 packets) Lipton onion soup mix
1 onion chopped
1 cup of chopped celery
2 potatoes
1 cup of beef broth or so (in a box)
1 bottle beer
1 package frozen veggies
1 can (46 ounces) of V-8
¼ cup or so of honey

Trim excess fat off beef roast and place in a large crock pot. Add the onion, celery, 2 packages of onion soup mix, 1 cup or so of beef broth and 1 bottle of beer. Cook for 6 hours on low or until the roast is done.

Take the roast out and let it rest. Shred the beef with a fork and put back in crock pot. Combine all remaining ingredients in crock pot and set on high until bubbly and veggies are cooked to your satisfaction. I like my carrots to be a bit firm so I do not cook it that long. Serve with wheat crackers and grilled cheese sandwich. I have a big honking crock pot, but this makes more than it the old crock pot can handle. So after I cook the roast, I put some of the excess soup in a pot on the stove. After we eat dinner, there is usually enough gone that I can combine the soup in both containers.

Media Says Principal Asks Teachers to Dumb Down. The Media is Wrong.

Principal Bennett Lieberman, Central Park East High School in Harlem, wrote a memo to his teachers and this little tidbit has knotted all kinds of panties in the city as reported by The big whop-tee-do? His memo stated, among other things:

“If you are not passing more than 65 percent of your students in class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities, and you are setting your students up for failure, which, in turn, limits your success as a professional.” (emphasis mine)

Folks have taken that statement to mean that teachers should lower their expectations of students and pass them along. That’s a fine sack of apples, isn’t it? I’ll let all this sink in for a second.


I don’t think that is what the principal said at all. This is a case of teachers getting mad at being asked to do their jobs and the media jumping on without asking questions. The good principal goes on to say something else, which is what makes me wonder if his statement above is simply crafted poorly and misrepresenting his views.

“Most of our students come from the lowest third percentile in academic achievement, have difficult home lives, and struggle with life in general. They DO NOT (emphasis theirs) have a similar upbringing or a similar school experience to our experiences growing up.” (emphasis mine)

I do not think Lieberman is telling his teachers to just dumb things down and pass uneducated students along. He is telling his teachers that their classroom culture is based on white, middle class culture, which is alien to Black and Hispanic students of low socio-economic status. He is telling his teachers to rethink their approach to teaching and do something else to connect with students.

It all comes down to a definition of terms. In this case the problem comes down to the word “expectation”. What does the principal mean by “expectations”? Does he mean being able to add 2+2 or does he mean making inner city Black youth conform to a white, female, middle class, culture? Those are two different things. I seriously doubt this principal wants teachers to just dumb things down. I suspect he wants teachers to change the way they teach in order to connect with students. [gasp]. How dare he ask teachers to change how they teach to meet the needs of their students! The classroom is there for students, not for teachers.

Much has been said about students who are of color – of minority status – and how culture affects academics. We have talked about this issue in my educational philosophy class this semester. In short, the criticism comes from the fact that the bulk of teachers are white, middle class females, thus the “school experience” is based on white, middle class, female standards. In turn, the argument is that school is not designed for people of other races and cultures therefore it feels less relevant to them.

If you are a Black or Hispanic boy living in poverty in Harlem and your only exposure to academics and school culture happens to be mostly white, middle class females, then you may have a hard time connecting with school and seeing the purpose of it all. To succeed is to become white, middle class and possible female, metaphorically. It is to embrace the white experience.

The issue is much larger than that. My presentation is very simplistic, but that is the idea and I think people have missed Lieberman’s point. Every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks he knows how to teach, and new techniques are always coming around, many of which are actually just old techniques with new names. So teachers get tired of always changing. The revolving philosophical door is problematic and I can understand why teachers buck. Just because something is new does not make it better. But … we need to re-examine how we approach students.

Simply lowering standards because students are persons of lower economic status is not the answer (and I do not think anyone is suggesting we should despite the news article’s slant), but if our classroom culture, our teaching methodology, is not somehow constructed with the students’ home culture in mind, then we are failing to adequately reach and educate them.

The idea here should be to bring education to the children, not to force children to education. So many teachers, poor teachers, believe teaching is about opening up a student’s head and dumping in information. So many think they are to stand in front of the class and lecture. It is up to the students to get what they get. That is an old approach that is not relevant or successful in today’s classroom.

So what do we do? We do not grade easier, or simply pass kids along. We may, however, have to [gasp] change the way we teach in order to help students get the education they need to be successful. That requires work on the part of the teacher and some do not want to do it. So they just make class easier, lower expectations and pass the kids along.

Good teachers teach. If kids do not get it with one approach, then you change approaches and see if they get it this way. The one-size-fits-all approach to teaching is a failure and I suspect that is what this principal is actually talking about. If I am right, then his first paragraph was poorly crafted. If I am not, then he needs to be fired.

We need more male teachers, Black teachers, Hispanic and Asian teachers in the classroom, especially on an elementary level. One of my professors said that males make up about 10 percent of pre-service elementary teachers on our campus. Children need to have role models on which to base their worldviews. Check this. According to the article “Why Kids Hate School What Kids Say” by Emmett Sawyer and Judith Gregg, they interview many inner city students and discovered “in some instances, students perceived it was not a black cultural thing to do to complete high school.” Like it or not, culture plays a huge role in how students perceive education. They need to see more men and minorities teaching school.

Notice, will you, that the story mentions that the teachers could get bonuses of $3,000 if improvement is made. How is that improvement measured? Who decides if improvement was made? Should be base teacher pay on student achievement? Oh there is so much in this entire news article, beyond the typical media response. So very much, indeed. This issue of teacher bonuses for student achievement is a whole other discussion.

Cookies and milk to Chatterman for posting the article on his blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Lesson in Economics and Caring

We have to do a good job of teaching economics to children our lives are full of folks who live a life of unmanageable credit card debit, rent-to-own businesses and payday loan places. We have become a nation of people who do not understand economics and the impact of financial decisions. Economics lessons start in elementary schools, although because Social Studies is not a part of high stakes standardized tests, the subject goes untouched in many schools.

My wife has come up with a great idea on how to teach about the basics of the marketplace, economics, and the hard work involved in being an entrepreneur. The hope, of course, is to help instill an interest in business in children so they can grow up to be self-sufficient members of the community. She’s a smarty, my wife. is a website that helps Johnny Beercan donate some of his money to struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries. Beercan lends $400 to some family in Cambodia. The family uses the money to start a business or expand a business. The family then takes the next six to 12 months to repay the loan. Once the loan is repaid, then Beercan can pull out his money or lend to someone else. Throughout the process, Beercan will receive email updates about the progress and how his money is being used.

How cool would it be for a fifth grade class to raise money and lend it to some family overseas. Then the kids could monitor how the money is used, see the process of entrepreneurship change someone’s life. They could correspond with the recipient and use real life to learn about … real life! Once the money is repaid, then that money could be used for next year’s class of fifth graders. If that group of kids also raised money, then maybe more than one family could be helped.

We adults lecture kids all the time about the importance of a good education and how it can help them succeed in life. I’m reminded of an English teacher in college. Mr. Turner was strict about us fiction writers “showing and not telling”. Seems the same principle can be used in teaching as well. And we show our kids how to care about someone else besides themselves in the process.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Days of Self-Doubt

Even those of us who are high on philosophy and are rip-roaring ready to teach youth have our days of uncertainty and “what the heck have I done” moments. I’ve been having mine lately, wondering if I can do it – teach, that is – and if I have chosen careers wisely. A monkey can run a classroom, but he cannot do it well. Only the best of us can really teach, in the sense that I think of teaching. Yelling, snapping, controlling, bossing, and harping are not proven methodologies. It ain’t teaching, folks. Babysitting, maybe. Teaching? No.

Sometimes I think I am doing myself a disservice by being a substitute teacher. A school counselor once told me that subbing is not about teaching; it is about survival. Props to him for passing that along as I really needed that bit of information this week.

I find that I have lags in my time between lessons. Lag time is death to the classroom and I am working on fixing that before I student-teach. It is hard to actually teach kids when you do not have a relationship with them. It is hard to teach when you are handed a textbook and told to teach a lesson in five minutes. Some days it works alright, but usually the days are full of worksheets and lag time. Kids test your limits, push, and that is okay because it is what kids do. Pushing is how they make sense of their world. Like it or not, kids do thrive in consistency. When their consistency is broken, then they act out.

Not that I have had any “bad” classes lately. I really hate that term. As a substitute teacher, it is impossible to implement my own philosophical beliefs into a class, yet that causes me distress. I find that sometimes my philosophical beliefs are trumped by the practicality of the real world. Damn that ivory tower! Teachers are not the only ones who struggle with this. Despite the fact that this conundrum is common in many fields, I still feel alone. I want to be better. I want to be one of those teachers who finds the way through the muck and is able to institute those philosophical beliefs into practice. I know it can be done. I just know it, but I am scared that I will revert back to “teaching how I was taught” mentality when I get my own class. It makes me crazy to think of that possibility.

The fact that the stats for teacher retention are worse than the divorce rate leaves me shaking in my shoes. I keep telling myself that subbing is not teaching, that these are not my classes, that I can and will do this. I have to. Otherwise I will be no better than my own fifth grade “teacher”, and I do not want that. I teach for the kids not for me. The classroom is for the students and not for me.

This is what I tell myself. The good thing is that I am good at building relationships with kids. The key to the good classroom teacher is his or her ability to connect with kids first and teach them second. I hope that connecting with them will help me create a wonderful classroom of energetic learners.

TeacherTube: Technology in the Classroom

It was only a matter of time until educators took hold of the YouTube phenomenon and made it work for them. Born: TeacherTube – an Internet site where teachers post their lessons and ideas for other teachers. Blogging, podcasting, newspaper writing, and any other curriculum topic you can image are on TeacherTube. Educators take notice. If you want to learn about something particular or you wish to bring technology into the classroom, then TeacherTube may be very useful for you. It doesn’t look like you can post a video to a blog yet, but I’m sure that feature is on the way.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Stealing from the Poor

The Salvation Army has seen a rash of thefts lately. Stupid people, who mean well, just drive by any old time and dump off their belongings. People have figured it out and they come by in the SUV’s and Pick Ups and steal the donations before The Salvation Army ever sees it!

I knew KY3 was doing a story on it. They did their own version of “To Catch A Predator”. They caught folks on camera stealing. I never saw it run here, but I caught the story on CNN’s Headline News today.

The thing is, these folks appeared – appeared – to do well enough on their own, considering their modes of transportation. Who knows, but to steal from agency that helps the poor? Think of the Karma? These folks better hope that God’s grading curve is lenient.

Changing Traditions

My family has a big Christmas party in early December – a day-long event with tons and tons of food. Think fishes and loaves to feed the masses kind of party. It is a lot of fun and we enjoy going to this event, but it is not good for me. At least not right now.

In my feeble attempt to make lifestyle changes, we decided to forego the event this year and stay home. Rather than eat, we hauled our rear ends to the streets of Springfield to watch the annual Christmas parade. Interestingly enough, they handed out candy by the gobs [laugh]. I did not realize it, but my daughter had never been to a parade before. Shame on us. She loved it and we had a good time not stuffing the faces with food.

I did really miss all the family though. It’s not the same, but it was good in its own right. It’s not like I won’t see the exact same family members – all of them – on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and a few days before and after. So it’s not that big of a deal.

A Christmas parade in the heart of Springfield is a nice piece of nostalgia. It really makes life feel like Christmas. It was good parade too. The floats were pretty poor, as compared to the floats when I was a kid. We saw the Central High School Kilties and that makes a parade, I tell you what. Those girls rock.

Batten Down the Hatches!

Groceries? Check.
Flashlights working? Check.
Candles? Check
Fireplace cleaned? Double freaking check! (Thanks to Aunt Bessie)
New waterproof insulated gloves? Check.

The ice storm of the year will probably pass us by, but better safe than cold, wet and sorry. I made Hungarian goulash and chili last night, just in case we need to eat. Not that I want to eat cold goulash or chili, but its better than starving. Hopefully all the limbs that could fall did fall last year. Doesn’t seem like there’s many limbs left anyway.

Missouri State is watching the storm closely, according to the email from our president. Next week is finals week. Imagine the school having to close during finals.I hear tell that if they have to close, then they put off finals until we get back from winter break. Talk about ruining the holidays. The only final exam I have was a take-home exam, which was really like a research paper with high expectations, so I am okay. The rest of my classes had projects and papers and things of that nature. But for the rest of them, what a sucky thing to have to go through.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

‘Let It All Bleed Out’

Cousin Austin with Sheri Moon Zombie

Zombie is on tour with Ozzy and he took a break to do an independent show in Springburg last night with the hardcore band “In The Moment”.

We are fans of Rob Zombie, but not so much so of the other band. The teenage cousin got us into him a few years back and since then, we have been to two Zombie concerts. Great concerts both, but last night’s shin dig was a real party. The Shrine Mosque played home to the concert and there was little security. I have never seen such poor security at a concert and people got hurt because of it.

This crowd pushed – hard – and it was hard to stand at times. We were very close to the stage in the middle of the floor and folks were fighting over places to stand. At one point we were between two different mosh pits, both of which were rough. People were crowd surfing, sitting on shoulders, girls showing off their goodies. The place, as you can image, was a cloud of cigs and reefer.

Picture this. There were at least two times when the crowd got upset and tried to get the attention of the Springfield PD to take some drunk poobah out because he was picking fights. Metal fans do not typically care for the fuzz much. The PD did nothing both times. I do not even know why they were there. The security did finally drag one guy out of the crowd. No wonder the floor has smatterings of blood all over it at the end. It was the roughest concert I’ve ever been to. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, just rough.

It was a special concert because it was the cousin’s 17th birthday. He and the niece are both Pearl Harbor babies. (Happy birthday to you both.) When he found out Zombie was coming to town on his b-day he went nuts. His dad took the night off and came too: A real boys night out. Get this. The cousin also won a Total Skull contest and he got to go backstage to meet Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob’s wife.

While he was backstage, his dad and I sat and talked. It is cool to see a teenage boy have so much fun. That dad was amazed how excited his boy got at these concerts. The boy is usually pretty somber, but he cuts loose at these venues. That is why I spend the money on tickets when I do not have it. He means a lot to me and it means a lot to him to go. I love seeing him so happy. Now I need to find something like that to take his preteen brother to. I wish my nieces and nephews lived closer so I could do things like that with them. I’m hoping that when I am a teacher and have summers off, I can have the nieces and nephews come and stay a week with me. That would be so much fun.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Snapping Mad: Beating the Education Out of Students Part 2!

I was volunteering at a local agency that provides services to children and teens, many of whom are labeled at-risk, live in poverty (or close to it), and are in foster care. I was hanging with my kids, in the dinnertime chow line, and I hear her say quite snappingly, “I read your blog.”

Oh goody, a Fat Jack fan! But how did she know who I was? It just so happens that one of the ladies divvying out the food is none other than the student teacher that I blogged about recently. Do you remember? She’s the one who spent the day snapping her fingers at the kids. That’s right. I’m standing in line and at first I do not remember her, but she remembers me and apparently read my blog about her poor teaching techniques. Did she use that as an opportunity to reflect on her shortcomings and make changes for the better? Not a chance. Much like President Bush, this Evangel student dug in her heels and proclaimed: “That was just your opinion.”

I think to myself: “Holy crap! I cannot believe that I just ran into her.” I wrote that piece as a response to what I saw. I never intended or imagined that she would ever read my post. I asked her how she found out about it and she said that a friend read it and sent it to her. Bare in mind that I never once mentioned her name or the school in which this happened. Never. So a friend of hers reads my blog and knows it is her? Yikes. That does not bode well for this pre-service teacher.

I will not lie. I was shocked into a near loss for words. What do I say? We are in the middle of dinner and I am volunteering for these children and she just … snaps at me. I keep my head and do not want to escalate her. It’s obvious by her tone and look on her face that she trying hard to hide her emotions. I’m sure, had she been able to, she would have reached across the sneeze guard and given me a firm snap in the face, much like she did to her third graders.

“I hope it didn’t hurt your feelings,” I say as I pick up my tray and walk away. She announces that she has thick skin. Not thick enough, apparently, or she would have been professional enough to keep her personal problems out of her volunteer opportunities.

I cannot blame her. Who would not have been hurt to have a peer be critical of your performance? She is only human. The thing is, she could have, and should have, used that experience to reflect on her teaching and make corrections. I do it all the time. I do not think for one second that I am a master teacher. I am a pre-service teacher who will make plenty of mistakes during my first few years and throughout my career. Snapping at your students is disrespectful. Using that as your major mode of behavior modification is a serious problem. To not recognize that and make corrections is a sad commentary on the state of teaching. Schools of education are supposed to create teachers who are reflective and life-long learners.

I was in a class the other day. I recognized the students were restless because of me. I was not engaging them and I was not keeping their attention. It had nothing to do with them or a diagnosis of ADHD or any other external factor. I was the problem. I was relying on old school, direct instruction and I was failing. Why did I do that? I know better. I did not need someone in my classroom for me to recognize that I have more work to do. Had the principal noticed I would have had no choice but to agree, lest I lie.

It’s really no big deal. I am a pre-service teacher and I am supposed to be learning from my mistakes not pretending they were a figment of someone’s opinion. The same goes for this Evangel student. Any attempt to justify or deny her behavior is simply a fabrication based on ego. Now lets see. How many teachers have I had throughout my life that were egotistic and, in their own inflated opinion, never wrong? I have encountered plenty on the university level. The funny thing is that many of them are education teachers. Of all people, educators should know better. We sure can be a egotistical bunch.

I write this post knowing full well that this student may read it. Fine and dandy. I know it will upset her, but I think it is something that deserves to be considered, pondered, questioned, critiqued, studied and ultimately correctly. By engaging and distracting me while I am volunteering with children tells me that she needs to talk about it to. That is a step in the right direction, assuming she can do so in a professional manner, checking the ego at the door.

If you want to have a real discussion about this incident, without snappy comments and without children around, then you are welcome to leave appropriate flame-free comments. Please do not identify yourself. There is absolutely no need. This is about more than me or you. It is about teaching and doing right by our children. We both have things to learn and I suspect we can learn from one another.

Sen. Obama Lays Out Agenda for Persons with Disabilities

The title says it all. On Dec. 3, Sen. Obama released a statement, which you can read here, where he promises to try to break down barriers excluding Americans with disabilities by next week. He says he will accept nothing less.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Muslims Seek Reconciliation, Peace with Christians

One hundred and thirty eight Muslim scholars and clerics recently released an open letter to Christians looking for common ground and peace between the two religions. This comes at an interesting time as President Bush is meeting with leaders in the Middle East to also find peace. He joins the ranks of several presidents who have tried.

The letter titled, "A Common Word Between Us and You” look to the similarities between Christianity and Islam in order to reconcile, heal and find a path together. An abridged version is available here. Here is an excerpt:

“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

“The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”

The letter goes on to quote both the Qur’an and the Bible. Despite what some Americans see as a religion of hate, these Muslims feel that the Qur’an demands they find peace.

“Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.”

This is just what the Christian world needs right now. It is important that Americans see moderate Muslims speaking out against hatred and seeking ways to live together in harmony. I am thankful that this message is being presented. I hope that members of the mainstream media will pick up on this positive piece of news and help alleviate the misconception that all Muslims hate Americans.

Click here for more information.

The CNN YouTube Republican Debate

I have not seen all of the debate, but I have seen most of it once and some of it twice. I thought that was an interesting debate. My wife and I are somewhere along the liberal continuum, but we watched what we could. You never know. Here are some passing thoughts for anyone who gives a crap:

On John McCain
I have always liked and respected Sen. John McCain, until he partnered with President Bush and sold his soul to the devil. My respect of Sen. McCain went right down the toilet. Then I saw the debate and I saw the old Sen. McCain. He was bright, witty and stood for what he thought regardless of everyone else. While our politics are vastly different on most subjects, I enjoyed seeing the old McCain back and full of fire. He flat out nailed Gov. Romney to the wall on torture. Romney made a huge mistake by not taking a side on the torture issues. Pansy!

Democratic Operatives Asking Questions
This is nothing more than a distraction from the issue. You know what? It does not matter who asks a question at any debate, so long as the question is fair. Asking any presidential candidate where he or she stands on allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military is a fair question. How exactly does the political leanings of the questioner affect the validity of the question? Now the good general prattled on a bit, but it was still a fair question. If Sean Hannity went to a Democratic debate and asked all the candidates where they stand on homosexual marriage or abortion, that would be a fair question. So what if Sean Hannity was the one asking? They need to get over themselves. I mean really. What kind of debate only allows questions from their base? You do not get hard and fair questions doing that. By the way, the Dems would have cried too, had a Repug asked a question during their debate. Boo hoo, says I. It matters not.

Fear Gov. Mike Huckabee
The good Governor from Arkansas is gaining speed. I must say that he did a great job at the debate. It scared me. As a Christian, I would like to support a candidate with my same religious beliefs, but I am wary of those who proclaim their Christianity too much. I do not know about Huckabee.