Sunday, November 02, 2008

Education Isn't All About the Negative. Really. Some Of It Is About the Affirmative.

In trying to offer up a blow-by-blow of a school year, Burque Babble has largely eschewed the political since August, instead electing (get it, "electing"?) to prattle on and on and on about the mundane, the bad and the ugly of working in the public schools, circa 2008.

Looking back there's been rants about bad teachers (many), Winston Brooks, standardized testing results, the Pledge of Allegiance, school counselors, school "Instructional Coaches" and school secretaries. There's also been running theme of "school-day wasting activities" from fundraising assemblies to Jackie Chan movies.

And no, I'm not writing anything else about the "Jackie Chan movie". I promise*.

Quite noticeable from a quick perusal of school-based posts since August is the high percentage of ranting negativity about public school, teaching in the public schools and, in general, K-12 education in the early years of the 21st Century.

Dear reader, I applaud your cast-iron stomach for ranting negativity, and offer up the following little anecdotal (as we teachers call them) as faint proof that your humble blogger is not ALWAYS negative about the K-12 teaching profession. In fact, he quite loves the job. Really, he does. And yes, he is talking about himself in the third person, which is irritating.

Also irritating is that the little positive anecdotal is about something going on in his own classroom, which not only stinks of braggadocio, but might give the impression that your humble blogger thinks that only his own classroom is doing things "right", and every other teacher is "bad". Nothing could be further from the truth. There are tons of fantastic teachers out there doing unbelievable things. In APS. And I see these teachers/students from afar all the time doing their wonderful things.

Your humble blogger has just made a mental note to start writing anecdotals about these other teachers in the very, very near future. This, however, is not going to be one of those times. Instead, it's about what we're doing in my class and throughout campus tomorrow. Your humble blogger also notes that the build up to this "anecdotal" has hyped it so much that when it finally arrives you, dear reader, will inevitably be letdown and wonder why the Hell your humble blogger has bothered writing about it in the first place.

Oh well. Here goes....

Over the past week the students in our (my co-teachers and I) little program have been frantically preparing speeches, etc. to get ready for a series of debates to be held in classrooms throughout campus tomorrow. Given that our little program has about 220 students, and that 20 debates will be held over the day, the total number of students impacted will be something like 600-650.

Moreover, in trying to keep these debates relevant to this year's Presidential Election, we chose four issues that are not only topical, but complex as Hell. Namely, there's Health Care, Immigration "Sanctuary Communities", Invading Pakistan and Abortion. Yes, you've got that right folks. We're debating abortion at my little middle school. I must say that I have been the "stick in the mud" when it comes to the whole Roe v. Wade thing, and that my co-teachers have been the positive catalysts. My principal has also been completely fantastic in supporting us in the endeavor (well, except for the whole Jackie Chan movie thing, which we're not talking about anymore).

Student response to tackling these terribly complex issues (resolutions, issue packets linked above) has been inspiring. Despite being given only a few days, these 11-12-13 year-olds have leapt to the challenge, already demonstrating astounding ability to both comprehend difficult issues and creating admirable arguments/rebuttals. I think anyone suffering from a negative outlook regarding today's public schools couldn't help but get at least a glimmer of hope watching the proceedings, even one who tends towards ranting negativity in his blogpostings.

Of course the actual in-class debates are tomorrow, and your humble blogger might be jinxing the whole enterprise. Still, I've already seen enough to be very, very proud of my students and their ability to work hard, work as a team, and not give up when faced with incredibly complex materials. It's been a sight to behold.

Especially thinking back to last Friday morning. Let me set the scene. It's Friday. It's Halloween. Jackie Chan and crew are filming scenes for a movie immediately outside the door to my room. You can't open the door to my room without hitting a production assistant or high-intensity light standard. In fact, we've been told to not let students go to the bathroom because Jackie Chan is cartwheeling down our hall, or something. We can literally hear the director yell "Action!" from inside my room.

And my 6th/7th/8th Graders don't miss a beat. Not only do we have "practice debates" but they are of a high quality. We are having meaningful feedback discussions about the best way for "Affirmative" to explain "sanctuary cities" to other middle schoolers, while a Jackie Chan movie is being filmed outside my room on a Halloween Friday.

Those unfamiliar with middle school and middle schoolers might not understand me when I say: wow.


So, dear reader, if you catch me in future months on my 42nd straight rant about how much public schools suck, and that American K-12 education is beyond collapse, and that No Child Left Behind blah, blah, blah, blah... stop me and remind your humble blogger about the time those kids were having a completely focused argument over whether drone aircraft alone can slow down al-Qaeda in Pakistan while a Jackie Chan movie was being filmed immediately outside the room on a Halloween Friday. That should shut me up for a bit.

Have a good Monday everybody. Mine is looking pretty good, I think. And so is Tuesday, now that you mention it, but more about the "Election" and all that noise tomorrow night.

*I admit it, I'm lousy when it comes to promises.

1 comment:

amber in albuquerque said...

Dang kids. They'll insist on succeeding despite our meddling.