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Educator Issues

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Need

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"I don't have a father." Two young men, probably in their mid teens, stood on Sunday to share their pain with the congregation at Church. They told the sad story of being fatherless, turning to gangbanging or drug dealing as a way to fit in and show their strength. These confessions of heartache caused one young man's voice to crack with emotion as tears ran down his cheeks. His daddy had been murdered because of drugs. The two are half brothers. Both have recognized that the lifestyle of dealing drugs is one of the main reasons their father isn't with them today. Yet, they found themselves walking the same path that stole their precious papa from them. Why does this way of life have such a strong influence over the today's youth?

As our youth seek to define their purpose and personal-identity, they are being bombarded with messages that guide them in their quest for self-discovery and truth. Elementary children are wearing shirts to school with words and phrases like, "Naughty is the New Nice", "I don't discriminate, I hate everyone", "DrunknMonky" (brand), and other creative, albeit rude clothing. The most popular hip-hop songs are typically about money, sex, drugs, fame, and fighting or killing. Turn on the local television stations and bloody, gruesome criminal acts are graphically shown as news stories or for entertainment following the news.

Some puzzled people ask why dropout rates, crime, and drug use is on the increase. The answer is obvious. Just consider the influences that are continuously bombarding them. It is difficult enough to survive the formative years even with a solid family, strong support system, positive role models, and faith. How much more treacherous for those who are missing one or more of these influences? A sad truth is that those who reach adult age without knowing a father are also less likely to know how to father. Youth who live with negative influences or even the absence of positive influences are being instructed how to live negatively. It is a cycle that perpetuates itself in a destructive pattern, increasing with each generation.

The state and federal government is attempting to step in and offer assistance for these problems. One solution provided is more time in public schools. Parents are admonished to send kids to school earlier to eat breakfast with classmates. Days are being extended until 5:00 pm for many students in the form of tutoring. Those who struggle with learning or have behavior issues are encouraged or required to attend summer school. These well-intentioned efforts to help children learn are actually diminishing family time, parental responsibility, and opportunities to instruct youth in spiritual ways. Increased hours in the public school environment means more time for students to be indoctrinated in concepts defined by secular government, concepts that may or may not represent the belief system of the family. For example, Massachusetts and California schools are promoting Gay and Lesbian Pride Days whether parents agree or not. In the name of tolerance, children are provided with literature, graphic media, field trips, and guest speakers with every intention of causing the young ones to tolerate, celebrate, and explore homosexuality.

Separating children from their family and allowing the government to choose the indoctrination content is clearly not the best solution for the success and well being of our youth. Consider the words of the great Frederick Douglass in his book, My Bondage and My Freedom, "The practice of separating children from their mothers…is a marked feature of the cruelty and barbarity of the slave system. But it is in harmony with the grand aim of slavery, which, always and everywhere, is to reduce man to a level with the brute. It is a successful method of obliterating from the mind and heart of the slave, all just ideas of the sacredness of the family, as an institution." While Douglass endured forced slavery and overcame it, it seems today that many are willingly subjecting themselves to this "marked feature" of the former slave system without realizing it.

I believe that all readers would confess that we want what is best for our children. If the current manner of preparing them for the future is not the best, it is time to change how we educate them. It is time for parents and community members to define success for our youth and choose the most effective ways prepare them for it. I encourage readers to respond with thoughts and ideas. What is success? How do we empower our children to achieve their true purpose in life?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Year of Firsts, Governor Visit and Snake Poop

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It has been a year of firsts. My Jungle Carpet Python, Flover, is about five feet long. Flover fully relieved himself of his waste materials as I held him on my shoulders. The students had a fantastic and horribly gross, smelly show as they watched the scales near his back end open and excrement the size of something a rottweiler might expel erupted. What made it even more awful was the fact that a snake does not urinate separately. It all comes at once. Thankfully his anus was not lying up against my chest or head, but was extended out just enough to allow the feces to splatter near my foot and splash up on my shoe and leg. I really could do nothing to stop this show of shoo shoo. The students exclaimed wildly. When Flover finished the filthy dropping, I moved to another area of the classroom. Our saintly custodian was called to come in and take care of the mess. I required the students to write an observation in which they described the appearance, sound, and smell. That had to be my least favorite first.
Students brought in two praying mantises. It just turned out that one was a male and one a female. They looked a bit lonely, so we put them together even though they tend to be cannibalistic carnivores. They mated! We discovered that they remained connected for just over 2 days! I've read the average for them is approximately 6 hours. I suspect the male chose not to disconnect for fear that the vicious female would eat him for her next meal! When they did finally detach, I rescued him and released him in the school courtyard. Within a week, she had left her egg case attached to the lid of the cage! We look forward to these hatching in the spring!
Governor Blunt visited our classroom! Mr. Cook said he knew of no other time in Jefferson Elementary's 50 years that a governor has EVER come to Jefferson. My students were the privileged ones to enjoy his visit. He observed students using handheld computers (PDA's), research using good old fashioned books, investigate cicadas, and explore a worm factory. The governor was even brave enough to hold a worm. I asked if he would like to hold Flover. He wisely declined and stayed poop free - unless that worm provided him with a gift. See more pictures here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Goal Number Two - Leadership

I want my students to recognize themselves as leaders. I will arrange situations in which they will develop leadership skills.
What are my views of essential leadership skills?

  1. Positive and Optimistic attitude
  2. Willingness to serve others
  3. Freedom from the need to be validated by others [living by ideals and virtues rather than a perception of what others think as a definition of personal identity]
  4. Ability to recognize problems and needs and take positive initiative
  5. Confidence to take risks and make mistakes
  6. Courage to stand for what is true and right
  7. Excellent communication skills
  8. Ability to multi-task and be flexible
  9. Perseverance and effective problem solving skills
  10. Responsibility and willingness to acknowledge personal weaknesses
  11. Discernment to prioritize correctly
One major way I deliver lessons on all of these character traits is through the study of famous role models such as George Washington Carver, Benjamin Franklin, Rachel Carson, and Martin Luther King, Jr., but I also want to emphasize the importance of identifying positive role models in our daily lives - those who live within our homes and community. Interesting thoughts on role models can be found all over the web, like the online "Women and Girls - Tech Up" where the goal is to: encourage women and girls - and the organizations which serve them - to use technology to share ideas, opinions, support, creativity and political action. They have some wonderful thoughts about what defines a role model.

I found an elementary school that actually has a program in which they develop student leaders to contribute to a positive learning environment. I like the way it is explained in their mission.