A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
It all started from one dumb mistake, but it escalated into a total disaster. In the fall of 1943, in the middle of World War II, my buddy Pinhead and I were in the seventh grade at the regional high school. We hunted together, and in those meat-short days we were able to add to the family food budget. Both of us were named Robert, but Pinhead’s pointed head shape had earned him that nickname. He was smart, cocky and that never seemed to bother him.
One of my favorite places in the world is the classroom across the hall from me. This room full of wonderful children and teachers is affectionately known throughout our building simply as “Mr. David's class.”
But each morning, as I pass by their door on my way to pick up my second-grade reading group, I hear music and I am drawn in.
One of the surest ways to motivate students to not only write, but to write with passion, purpose and power, is to make sure they have an authentic audience. This means they must write for somebody other than me, their teacher. Students must know that there is power in their words and that they can be heard.
Religious topics have long been a touchy subject in public schools and none of them touchier than atheism.
For young people though, the taboo surrounding unbelief appears to be disappearing. Recent surveys have found that younger Americans are the least likely to be religious. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, 29 percent of 18-29 year olds are religiously unaffiliated, compared with 15 percent of the population as a whole. And a 2006 Pew Research poll found that 1 in 5 young people said they have no religious affiliation, nearly double the proportion of the late 1980s.
We often talk about the teachers who change our lives. We hold them dear in our hearts, conjuring their images and words of wisdom in our dark hours. They continue to guide us throughout our lives, whether they know it or not.
What few talk about is the students who change teachers' lives. Yup. It happens that way, too.
I'm a middle school English teacher. If any of my former teachers are reading this, they will (a) be shocked I'm entrusted with our future generation, (b) question what happened to the character-education movement, or (c) ask how I made it past high school.
When I was a student in middle school, life seemed to be an endless maze of getting to class on time, getting homework done on time or trying to fit in somewhere. There was the added problem of not wanting to wear my Coke bottle-thick glasses. It didn't help my self-image knowing every night I had to attach my braces to a medieval torture device known as headgear. To this day I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy those awkward middle school years of being laughed at, picked on, and socially lost.
Mr. Franklin changed my son’s life.
Alex used to hate school. He angrily questioned and resented every assignment, no matter how easy or fun it seemed. I dreaded the monumental struggle it took just getting him to do his work. Many parents fight this daily battle. Even those of us who are professional educators are not exempt from it.
Then came Mr. Franklin.
Shrinking there on the stool in the science classroom, I just want to gather my ungraded quizzes and my dignity and flee to freedom. But, I don’t. I sit there, paralyzed by the assault.
“We are not your enemies,” I finally counter. “We are not Blake’s enemies.”