Life’s a carnival

The Education Buzz Carnival has returned with “Wish Life Were A Beach,” hosted by Bellringers.

Miss Eyre writes on NYC Educator about the pros and cons of looping, teaching the same class for the second year.

Mamacita loves children’s books about kids who have adventures — not play dates organized and monitored by their mothers, TV and computer games.

Yes, bad things do happen to our children.

Some of those bad things are their lack of freedom, initiative, adventure, creativity, and self-made friends of all ages. Another bad thing is the inability of so many of them to even READ about these kids.

. . . No wonder so many of our kids are fat and stupid. Sheesh. Some of them have never breathed fresh air in their lives – they go from hermetically sealed homes to hermetically sealed schools, with the occasional jaunt to air-conditioned WalMarts and malls. I bet a lot of “allergies” are really just the body’s reaction to fresh air. It’s the lungs gasping and saying, “What IS this stuff?”

There are even DVDs playing the van “lest they have a moment to sit still, look around, notice things, and think,” Mamacita writes. She recommends Elizabeth Enright’s books.


Frank McCourt: Teacher and writer

Writer Frank McCourt, who died Sunday of melanoma at the age of 78, spent decades telling stories to New York City students as an English and creative writing teacher, reports the New York Times.  Those stories became Angela’s Ashes on his desperately poor Irish childhood, then ‘Tis and Teacher Man.

Gotham Schools quotes McCourt on his first teaching job at a vocational school on Staten Island. (He was rejected by several schools because of his thick Irish accent.) It was staffed by World War II vets who considered students “the enemy”  and young, Dewey-eyed teachers who wanted to meet the students’ “felt needs.”

From his second book, ‘Tis:

They don’t want to read and they don’t want to write. They say, Aw, Mr. McCourt, all these English teachers want us to write about dumb things like our summer vacation or the story of our life. Boring. Every year since our first grade we write the story of our life and teachers just give us a check mark and they say, Very Nice.

In a closet, McCourt found old student compositions going back to 1942.

The boys back then yearned to fight, to avenge the deaths of brothers, friends, neighbors…

… I pile the crumbling papers on my desk and begin reading to my classes. They sit up. There are familiar names. Hey, that was my father. He was wounded in Africa. Hey, that was my Uncle Sal that was killed in Guam.

When I read the essays aloud there are tears. Boys run from the room to the toilets and return red-eyed. Girls weep openly and console one another.

The old essays, written on brittle paper, are about to fall apart. The students agree to copy them by hand.

We are saving the immediate past of immediate families. . . . This is my father when he was fifteen. This is my aunt and she died when she was having a baby.

They are suddenly interested in compositions with the title, My Life, and I want to say, See what you can learn about your fathers and uncles and aunts? Don’t you want to write about your lives for the next generation?

McCourt was a thoughtful, creative, inspiring and original soul, writes NYC Educator.

Self-interest is OK

“We have teachers in our name, but children and their families in mind,” proclaims a United Federation of Teachers’ commercial. A teachers’ union should have teachers in mind, writes NYC Educator. No buts about it.

. . . when your girlfriend or boyfriend says, “I really love you but…” you know it’s time to seek a new one. When your boss says, “You’re doing a great job but…” maybe it’s good news for someone in India.

So after “We have teachers in our name,” there should be no but. We are a labor union. We should have teachers in our minds. In fact, that is our purpose. To buy into the propaganda that it’s somehow evil to act in our self-interest is to lose the war without firing a shot.

. . . The message that we don’t care one way or the other about teachers is insidious, counter-productive, and a massive abuse of the dues for which we work so hard.

Three Cheers for Self-Interest, responds EIA Intercepts.  Unions receive dues to protect their members’ interests. That includes trying to keep members employed.

Teachers have their self-interest, and many times it coincides with the self-interest of students and parents. Teachers’ unions have their self-interest as well, but like to pretend they don’t, which is why the UFT ad mentions class size, supplies and quality teachers, but fails to mention bumping, release time, exclusive representation, and summary dismissal for teachers who fail to pay their union dues – all things that have nothing to do with the interests of students and parents.

So why pretend otherwise?

A hypothetical union that advertises itself as acting in the interests of itself and its members creates an equivalency between itself and other self-interested parties. Like parents. And taxpayers. And, dare I say it, management.

In my newspaper years, my union, the Newspaper Guild, talked about freedom of the press and freedom of information, but its function was to negotiate better pay, benefits and working conditions for members — and to protect members from being fired, even if they weren’t very good.

Worst Slide Story

When you’re in debt, you’re in debt all the way. From a late mortgage check to car bills you can’t pay . . . Check out animator Walt Handelsman’s Worst Slide Story, courtesy of NYC Educator.