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How to piss the world off!!!

Almost two, I stand there watching and listening, trying to learn to talk. It’s like I knew what was being said but could not say it. Frustrated as people would tease, say mama or dada I would try, but it always came out wrong. Over and over, the tongue twisters made me madder and madder until some days I just would not even try. I knew what I wanted which would make things only worse. I would cry scream and kick and just piss everyone off till I got in trouble. I would walk around the big world; being so little made things much harder on a little guy like me. Every task was ten times harder for me and would get me all upset, especially when I wanted my juice. Seeing how I was only two, I couldn’t get it myself, so I would have to try to get someone to do it for me. Not being able to talk was a big problem because I had no way of telling my dad or mom what it was I wanted. I would try and say juice but it only came out a word that I even thought was strange.

What’s in that box?

In first grade my teacher, Ms. McDonald, came to class one day armed with a big cardboard box that was so big one of us could have fit inside it. We went quiet as we were all guessing what was inside and what this was all about. Ms. McDonald opened the box and pulled out another box that was white and had a rounded shape. That box turned out to be made of styrofoam, which I couldn’t pronounce yet, and there were actually two of them in the larger box. I did not know what to think yet but my curiosity had me leaning forward to see what came next. Each side of the classroom was divided and so we went into groups and either group had its own box. Ms. McDonald went to assist the other group and my group had a teacher’s helper (I think they are called TA’s now) to give us the guidance we needed for our project. We all got handouts and the mysterious box that could be anything was finally unveiled. We were making ovens! Ms. McDonald gave each side a kit with aluminum foil, a corded incandescent light bulb, masking tape and a

“John, you are in charge. What do we do now?”

I was 19 and in an instructor training course for Colorado Outward Bound. We had backpacked in to Snowmass Lake, and then, after crossing a steep snowfield (late June) climbed up over beautiful wildflower covered slopes into a high col in the ridge between Snowmass and the next cirque to the north under Capitol Peak. Just as we came into the col, a huge thunderstorm blew in from the north. Lightning was striking the peaks around us, and thunder was echoing back and forth across the cirque. The north slope was covered in avalanche-prone snow, which the booming thunder threatened to shake loose. Our packs began to buzz with electricity, signaling possible lightning strikes. The instructor turned to me, and calmly said, “John, you are in charge. What do we do now?” I had to think of a safe plan and execute it extremely quickly, and I had to manage getting the rest of the group into a safe place and addressing their fears, while organizing how they would move in an orderly and safe way down the snow covered slope to the valley below. We were able to get off the ridge and down the slope safely and quickly,

Walking for Sanity

My whispered prayers today are for Mike, an ESL teacher from Hartford, Connecticut who I met last night. Mike explained that since the advent of “NCLB” his time testing students keeps growing. He now spends 61 out of 180 days each year testing rather than teaching his students. Another Hartford Special Education teacher, Candace, said she is spending the same time testing students. Heather, a Hartford art teacher and parent of a Hartford Public School student, explained that testing has taken over her curriculum. Am I the only one missing something here with NCLB? The capital that feeds academic achievement is not testing, but instruction. My music on my walk today was Pink Floyd’s “Another brick in the wall” The weather was sunny, and I walked outside singing:”Teacher, teacher, leave them kids alone” I ended with some of Billy Idol’s Dancing with myself, and Rebel, Rebel. Guess you could say my walk was jamming today. I almost forgot to mention I walked another 6 miles, and melted some 800 calories away. Lots of people are asking where did this walking thing begin. So here it is: Like many of you, these high stake assessments have been a long struggle for

William Owings’ Learning Story

The year was 1988 and I was a new high school principal in Franklin County, Virginia. The school had problems – a high drop out rate, low percentage of students going on to higher education, and parent and student apathy to name a few. We did a good job of working with the academically talented students, but not all students. In my five years as principal the faculty (with changes) came around to accept a mission of meeting all students’ needs. We started interdisciplinary teaming in 9th grade to ease the middle school transition, set up a mentoring program for at-risk students, and taught interdisciplinary classes (combining 11th grade American Literature and American History so students studied the Civil War as they read the Red Badge of Courage) to make school more meaningful and relevant for student learning. We also reprised the musicals that the drama and music department put on after 20 years of artistic silence in that arena. I met with all new faculty every Friday over pizza and soda to help them last through the first year and be more effective than they might have been otherwise. At the end of the fifth year our drop out

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