Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blacktop to Blackboard: It's Green

My submission to the forces of the technology I do not wish to embrace is this blog. I hope that in the bytes that will follow I will succeed in sharing my thoughts as they emerge from hours on the blacktop to hours in front of the blackboard.
I have been writing, poorly, for many years, perhaps with your insight my futility will turn about and find some meaning in yours, if not my own, ears.
I hope that no single posting will be wholly representative of what is to come - be it from the past, present or the cloudy foresight, of my life. I hope to include poetry, subtle instigation's, reminiscence, rants, thoughts, observations, movie and book quotes, infuriates and dreams... Kadima!

As I dismount my trusty steed amidst gentle flurries and hurrying cars, the rumbling in my belly that should have subsided once the engine was turned off - only increases in it's intensity.

I stare at a 1930's behemoth of a school, with all the trimmings we find so rare in new buildings. What started as a grand gesture of generosity so many years ago, now houses three schools and the remains of one about to be phased out completely.
This is not a new concept in New York and though it has met with relative success at some sites, housing multiple schools, each of which strives to create its own culture and success, is not a task given to ease.
But be that as it may, this is now my home for the majority of my waking hours. I have my own classroom (haaaalleeelujah), my own blackboard - which to my great dismay is green, my own desk and books and computer and projector... but sadly not my own students. These I have to share with a number of other teachers, and being an only child you can imagine how well I do this.

To digress for but a moment: why the hell is my blackboard green?! One of the perks I though was the chance to write on a black blackboard, with white chalk, crisp and fresh, each stroke containing a morsel of knowledge that perhaps, if I am lucky, would be remembered many years later by the now oblivious youth, but who then would recall my words or the class discussion, and somehow steer his life to some great point of satisfaction and success.

So to quell my dissatisfaction I got a white dry-erase board on which I write with variably colored markers. Humph!

Back to the Kids. One thing that is somewhat comforting is knowing that the same excuses we tried to use when I was in high school for not doing things are alive and well in schools today, with some added gems of-course! I will try to include some of these in future posts.

What I can't remember though is whether we were as oblivious to the coming demands of college as the kids today? Did we really kvetch at homework, be it 10 pages or 30? Did we think that once we got into college and could choose our classes and when to attend them that all the horrors of education would dissipate?

We are trained to speak often of college, almost as an inevitability; we are supposed to treat all children as though they will go to a place of higher learning by virtue of them being alive, a minority or in such graces as to be found in our, the enablers, classes. But the more subtle messages we send are in contradiction to our preaching, and the reality much more grim than anyone cares to admit.

A fellow teacher and friend posted a wonderful blog on the message Regents Exams send: http://yomista.blogspot.com/

The other two major "subtle" messages that I would like to mention are the continuous use of extrinsic motivators and discipline (a lack thereof).

Experiments upon experiments are shoved down our throats about the wonders of reward systems - how they quickly build some level of control, allowing you to get on with your teaching, quick! But I pose this question to the greater audience (in hubris like assumption that more than 10 people will read this): is not the educators job defined as more than a knowledge vessel hired to transmit said knowledge to the "eager minds" patiently in wait? Are we not the teachers of culture, organization, discipline, citizenship, respect, responsibility, hope and strength? Are we not responsible as much for the students college prospects as we are for decreasing the chance that said student will rob us in 10 years, become a drain on our welfare system, or not find themselves in a position to sustain us when we hand over the reigns? If we are, then how can we skip the all important step of building a sense of responsibility and desire to obtain knowledge for its own sake, and not for the sake of getting a candy bar or more tokens for a raffle? What will our students' future managers tell us when they find that they need to continually offer raises, promotions and vacations in order to motivate their employees to work? How many more jobs will go to foreign lands because we are unable to sustain profitable businesses due to necessary extravagant expenditures on mediocre employees?

Perhaps I should save discipline and the rest of this thought for the next post. But the questions have been posed.

Back to the blacktop: As you may have guessed I ride a motorcycle; what you perhaps did not know is that in my insanity I choose to ride it every single day in the most hazardous of all U.S cities.
But I argue, mostly to myself in the shower, that with every mile I clock in a given place, I gain that much more insight as to the underlying drive of the humanity contained therein. A bit too existential? Sound like an excuse to not take public transport? Perhaps to some degree, but I hope you will stick around and give me the opportunity to tell you what I mean, and give you a chance to disagree, write me off as an adrenaline junky, a lazy-ass or, perhaps, a keen observer of things flying by at 60mph.

Thank you for your engagement and patience with my piecemeal-ed first blog.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck gold stars and mediocrity!

    I have a solution for your "greenboard" - use your SMARTboard background template as black and then using options, change all the colors of the electronic pens you have to white ;)