Recharging your Battery !

battery-charging

I was roused from my slumber by an unusual sight. A bright, almost brilliant flash of light! I jumped up in bed and shaking the gauzy cobwebs from my brain, I realized what this mysterious sight was. It was the sun!! OMG it’s 7:30 AM .I panic my first class starts in 4 minutes! Then a Zen like calm engulfs me. It’s SPRING BREAK!! I have slept past sunrise! I nestle back in bed for a few more minutes before my mind starts racing with my “things to do while not doing anything list.”

Sure, I may not be in school, but that doesn’t preclude me  from not working. Even scheduling “downtime” or pleasure reading must be planned. But, is this really a good thing. Am I doing myself and my students an injustice by not slowing down. By scheduling and “doing” something every minute am I draing my battery, my power supply? My major plan for break was to not get up in the dark every morning.So far so good, but am I really recharging? Do I need to? Umm, yes ! We all do.
Recently in a #BFC530 chat we discussed teacher burnout.I used the analogy of being in an airplane when the oxygen mask deploy. We must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.How can we be effective if we can barely keep our eyes open by 6th period on Thursday.sleeping teachers

In The dark days of the recent past ( 2 years ago) before I got my first Smartphone, I couldn’t fathom why the students always had to recharge their phones. I charged my flip phone every night and it could go for days. Then when I upgraded to my new phone I got it. The more programs that were running the more the battery drained. We are like that smartphone. Education is a tough profession. There may not be a lot of heavy lifting, but there sure is a lot of mental lifting. Lesson planning, instruction, student conferences,  observations,meetings, being connected online etc. etc. This is not a poor me lament. I am OK with all of this. But we need to be at the top of our  game to serve the students the best that we can. They deserve nothing less. If we are “running all of these programs” our battery will drain, and drain quickly.dead batterySo how can we be competent  educators? I miss my students this week. I enjoy being in the classroom, but recharging is vital to being a proficient  educator. It’s not selfish to sleep till 7:30, it’s OK not to check email for a day or two. I will be grading and lesson planning later in the week, but let me get up to about 75% charged first.

In February of 2015 The National Sleep Foundation issued new sleep guidelines.

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category) 

I understand this is not going to happen for most of us.  Sleep is at a premium.Life, family and other responsibilities do get in the way.However, let’s take advantage of the recharging time when we get it.

If we truly desire to be the best we can be for ourselves and our students, there are times we need to give ourselves permission to step back. Read a fiction novel, sleep in, go off the grid for a day or two. We will be better for it  in the long run, and as a result, be more abt to have the strength and sharpness to be the best educators we can be.

When I come back to my classroom next week I hope to be close to 100% charged. Hopefully the power supply will last a while longer. So with that said, I am heading off to the kitchen in my penguin PJ’s to pour another cup of coffee and read a novel ( after all it’s almost noon !!)

 

Hat’s Hoodies & Crackers!

hoodies

 

I was at #edcampsouthjersey last weekend and had a chance to lead my first Edcamp session. It was a bit nerve-racking, but since this is my year of risk taking, I thought I needed to do it. Also, I wanted to discuss with fellow educators their thoughts and opinions on a topic that has been prevalent in my classroom as well as my school.

Hats, hoodies & crackers (food) in the classroom. Do these really impede learning?

I wasn’t looking for affirmation, I wanted to hear how others felt about, and dealt with this. Just about every school on every level has rules about attire and food. However, are teachers spending too much instructional time battling with students about dress and granola bars? Are we removing students from classrooms (thus having them lose learning time) over arbitrary rules? Are the rules arbitrary?  I asked this of the participants in my session. Can they justify the hat & hoodie rule? Explain how it stops learning? One middle school teacher made a very valid point. In his school behavior problems are often in the hallways, with hats & hoodies cameras cannot identify students.In his mind it’s a security issue. And in the class he pulled up his hoodie (many of us were in hats & hoodies!!) and covered most of his face. “To me “, he said,”this is a distraction, how do I know if he is paying attention, and not hiding ear buds”? To me this was a sound rationale. Whether I agree or not, at least there was some thinking and reason to the rule. In my US History class, we spend a number of lessons on Civil Disobedience, and how to use your voice for change. If a government can’t explain why a law is valid or in place, well, maybe it needs to change. Why should school be different? Students (and teachers) need to know why a rule is in place. I am not advocating anarchy, but questioning yes.

Another teacher was mildly angry “We are teaching the whole child, they have to learn how to follow rules. What are we teaching them if we don’t enforce the rules?” Again, I understand her thinking, but does anyone drive 65 miles an hour in a 55 zone? Probably yes. Okay that’s not following the law. Is the extension of that we are going to steal a car? Most likely not. Yes as a society we needs rules and law for the security and benefit of us all. But that doesn’t mean all rules are good or necessary. Our representatives are in place to try to make all of our lives better. The same is in our schools. If the end goal is to educate our students, we must have them in the classroom. And, make them feel safe and create an environment comfortable for learning. Not adversarial. If a student is comfortable then hopefully they will be more open to learning. If we are in a cantankerous relationship with the students, we are becoming a hindrance to education.  Rules that are counterproductive to this need to be reexamined. enforcement  hats

Another reason brought up was the dress code. “Look at how some of the girls are dressing! Bare bellies, low-cut tops, off the shoulder shirts.” I agree students need a dress code, clothes that objectify  women have no place in a school. But, that is a different issue.

One other teacher brought up the point that “in my day, a man took off his hat inside, and they (the students) have to learn how to dress for work.” For me this speaks to some core issues. Firstly; it’s not your day anymore. Look at the world we are living in today. Many of these students are modeling the world they live in. I spoke in a previous post about showing a world outside of what they see every day. However, we need to acknowledge where they are also. How many parent meetings have you sat in where the parents are dressed in a hat or hoodie? Are we sending them a message that their environment and culture is of lesser value than ours. In many ways the dress of our students reflect their culture. In this session we were a room of young to middle age white men and women. Are we imposing our standards and values on our students? When I was in High School (the 60’s and ’70’s) we protested and marched so we could wear blue jeans! Every generation, every culture has different standards and styles.How can we be inclusive if we are ignoring or devaluing our students and their backgrounds.

As for the workplace, in my Alternative Classes, most of my students are not a not on a college track. The majority have plans for a more “hands on” “blue collar career.” Many will be dressing for work as they dress now. Also, many of the parents and caregivers of these students also are dressing for work like this. What message does that send if we tell them their parents are not dressing “right “The message we send when we say take off your hat in class, may go deeper than we think.

So, we certainly did not come to any consensus, but we did have an open dialogue and that where it starts. I believe I now have a better understanding of why the rules were implemented, and I respect them.  However I need to consider what my goal is for the student’s as a whole. How do I make learning a collaborative endeavor and keep them in class, on task, and respect our differences? Yet at the same time teach them the need to follow rules, but also learn how to implement change in a positive way ?

IT’S ONLY ROCK & ROLL (BUT I LOVE IT)

“Hey Fieldman can you cover my shifts this weekend? I’m going to a rock concert”

It’s the Summer of ’69 ( thanks Bryan Adams) and I’m working in the Cresthill Deli. My friend Jerry and some of the other waiters ( all a year or 2 older than me ) are driving a couple of hours up the New York State Thruway ( later to close, got that Arlo!) to some hog farm for a rock festival ? Well, my dad wasn’t letting me go, so I covered the extra shifts. For 4 days as all my buddies got stuck at Woodstock ! So here I am a member of the Woodstock Generation who spent Woodstock serving Pastrami Sandwiches to the fine patrons of Spring Valley, NY. Yea no regrets !!! Right! Woodstock_poster

So obviously music and rock & roll have a strong, almost visceral effect on my life.As I’m sure for so many of you, of all generations, music is a measuring stick of our life ,events and who we are and sometimes why & how. 

Of course missing Woodstock had left a void in my young psyche, but over the decades music and events connected to them have helped to shape who I am dylan

I teach US History and much of the focus of my classes is learning about the mistakes we have made as a society and country , for the students to recognize the injustices and inequities in the world. But, just as important, to show students how to use their voice and power to make changes in the world. On occasions I have wondered where it all started for me. Why is social justice such an important focus for me? In a voxer conversation on #edbeat with the esteemed Sean Gaillard (@smgaillard ),we were discussing my attendance at the The Concert for Bangladesh. This was the first real rock benefit Concert. A truly pivotal cultural event .It was the forerunner of  such charitable phenomena as Live Aid, Farm Aid, and  Hope for Haiti.George Harrison of the Beatles, along with Ravi Shankar organised the show to raise funds and awareness for relief efforts to aid refugees from Bangladesh, following the genocide in that country. I’m not lying , I went to hear former Beatles Harrison & Ringo Starr, as well as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, and many more. But, over the course of the evening and subsequent late night dorm room discussions about how we were going to change the world, I realized it was more than that.I came to see the power that music has. It gives us a voice, a platform,an avenue to express how we feel, and unite thousands, if not millions of people for a common cause.rock n roll pete

Music allows us all to take risks, to see the world and ourselves from many different perspectives.Having watched Neil Young over 4 decades, I am amazed at how bold and innovated he is.It’s insiring. Always  true to himself he changes and takes risks. Many years ago I saw Neil perform at the beginning of a tour. He came out doing his “traditional” rock show. After a break, he came out as “The Shocking Pinks” a ’50s band complete with grease and pink high finned Cadillac.  A few months later I, went to see him again, same show, oh no, not Neil, it was Trans electronic music, and then an acoustic show! The lesson I learned was not to accept stagnation. Change can be scary, it may even fail (Trans was awful) but if I was to continue to grow as an individual I needed to not be afraid to look into myself and move out of my comfort zone. ( hello Major Tom & Ziggy !)  It was not always an easy road. I have been filled with self-doubt and lack of confidence for decades.But music was always there, either  to be my safe haven, or to inspire me forward.I could always find a song to comfort me, motivate or pick me up.   change

Music and concerts often become the sticky note that marks an event or place in our lives. It creates a timeline of both cultural and personal events in our lives.At the bicentennial( yea, I’m that old) watching Elton John dressed as The Statue of Liberty & Uncle Sam. That’s how you celebrate America’s freedom from England.Watching a Brit sing up a storm. Bonding with new college roommates freshman year listening to YES perform in our gym. Marching on Boston Commons during Anti War marches singing Country Joe McDonald’s  “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” (also known as “The Fish Cheer“) My sister and all our cousins joining  together at every family event to belt out a horribly loud version of “Whipping Post”  And walking my daughter down the aisle at her wedding to Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows”. These have become the yardstick by which  I measure my life.I can’t sing (when it comes to singing I am a great dancer !) can’t play an instrument, but man can I play a radio. ( OK a MP3 player) 

Music always has, and will continue to be an essential part of my life. I may not go to as many concerts as I once did, but, the strumming of a 12 string guitar or a Wah-Wah pedal crying out will always bring me to a contented place.               Peace out peace love rock

 

WHY I TEACH!?

why i teach quote

A student asked me this in class last week. The simple answer is “I want to make a change in the world.” However the answer is much more complex than that. I feel driven to make a change. I need to change the world! That may sound self-indulgent so allow me to elaborate.

I did not become an educator till I was 50 years old. Over the years I have gained a perspective that was lacking in my youth. Growing up white middle class from a supportive family offered me privileges I did not realize till  later in life that I had.I was the first in my family to go to college, (one of the first to graduate High School) but even with all that I felt lost and directionless I wandered through a parade of jobs and supposed careers , never really “finding myself”.At the risk of sounding  condescending ,I see how difficult it can be for our youth trying to cope with an ever increasing hostile reality.

I teach Special Education and Alternative Classes. The majority of my students have been disenfranchised and come from a lower socioeconomic strata. Many do not have strong family support. I hope to be able to show them that they have power within themselves. They have a voice to ask the questions they don’t yet know to ask. Things are hard as an adult, and unless they understand that they are the agents of change for the future, they may get stuck in the same systemic loop. I believe it is the responsibility of those of us who have come before to hand down what we have learned to the next generation.Not to do it “like I did”, but to offer them a broader perspective, and some real life experiences.The call of generativity to give back is overwhelming. Not to be the hero teacher riding in on a horse to tell the students how they should be , but, to be there to assist them in finding out what they can be.I teach

I certainly don’t have all the answers, I am not sure if I have any answers, but I can help to prepare them for the harsh reality of the”real world”.  In my history classes I use the story of history to show them how American Society came to be. For them to make changes in a system they need to understand how it developed , how it works, and how to become a component of the change they want to implement. There is a lot that needs to change and these students are the ones who in a few short years will go into the world  to make these changes.  I am not just teaching historical facts, history is a device and a tool to give them a broader perspective, to combine their world view with others who have “been there, done that”.It will be advantageous for  them to  learn how to think in broader pictures than the ones they see every day. To see that things were not always like they are today. Also, to see that change can and  does happen. But, change is not a passive activity, change may take time, change has to be pushed, prodded and pulled. Students need to incorporate that with the understanding of how they can affect the future, not just for themselves, but for their community and society. But to do that, they must believe in themselves, and that they have the ability to  do this!

I teach so i’m there when a student needs to sit after school to discuss what he’s going to do after graduation. I teach because a former student tells me I taught him about respect for others even when you disagree with them, or for a student to come by and show off his child and talk about his job and supporting his family.I teach because my generation did not do such a great job of changing the world.We were the generation of peace, love, and rock & roll.We were going to change the world !! Ow, we did some good things, but, over all we kinda left it a mess. I want the students to learn from our mistakes,so they will  be prepared for a new world outside of school . I teach because I want the students to see that risk is OK.The greatest changes have come from not being afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes. Combine the lessons of the past with the fresh outlook of their generation. Not to accept what has always been.Understand that they  have support.  See that the world , their world, can and will change if they accept the challenge and risks.That’s why I teach.dont-be-afraid-of mistakes