A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, September 28, 2013

More Dog Walks: Dyke Marsh

I will probably "catch a little _ _ll" for this post, since I revealed to Mom this morning that Interim grades are due, along two IEP Teacher Narratives, the need to complete my IEP software certification, not to mention the typical instructional preparation side of things, but I will make this a quick post. Tick, tick, tick ...

Part of the way my particular ADD mind works is that I tend to filter all experience through a set of cognitive lenses which cloaks everything I do in a layer of excitement or fun. I tend to avoid doing the boring things like sitting at my desk and taking care of professional paperwork obligations unless I have something fun or exciting to look forward, or I feel the breath of some catastrophic threat breathing down my neck. Thus, I habitually look at things as fun and exciting or catastrophic, which is the only way I seem to be able to marshal my powers of focused attention. Ergo, danger is fun! Posting, thus, moved to the top of my list ahead all of my staggering professional responsibilities. Can't do the boring stuff until I've walked along the razor line.

My canine "daughter" Mabel views things through a similar set of cognitive lenses, which is probably why we get along so well. Lately, Mabel has been able to cleverly exploit my feelings of guilt for working so many hours by persuading me to take her in my "Twuck" in search of better parks. She loves hanging her head out the window.

Today, Mabel helped me discover two hidden gems that have been sitting side by side, right in my own back yard. Instead of being satisfied with our normal Saturday morning 1.5 mile walk around the neighborhood through Accotinck Park, during which we often meet up with other dogs she looks forward to sniffing, such as Bandit the Basset Hound, she tugged me toward my old Chevy truck. I often try to drive to different parks, so Mabel and I have been getting bored with simply going around to normal park entrances. Today, I got on the Beltway heading toward the Wilson Bridge and the GW Parkway, in the general direction of Mt. Vernon. The Belle Haven Marina looked like a good place to pull over.

Little did I know, the Belle Haven Marina sits next door to one of the premier Bass fishing places in the area, Dyke Marsh. Mabel tugged me over to a rental hut. A man was getting help from the dockmaster, loading his bass boat on to his trailer. I inquired about about the kayaks, and in the course of conversation he mentioned  how great the bass fishing is. I responded enthusiastically, this would be a great place for a weekend family few hour get away, during which, I could reconnect with Joe, Mabel's "bruddah." The life of a teacher and the life of a student athlete pull us in different directions, but there's always vacations.

As I was walking over to Dyke Marsh, my phone rang. Dad called to inquire about the naming convention for programs of study, curricula, objectives, units, and activities. With the recent republication of a lost Fulton Sheen book, and the encouragement of Guy Stevenson, dad is preparing for a possible meeting in Los Angeles, CA with a person who is responsible for the curricula for all of the Catholic schools in the USA. Dad is hoping to find someone to develop justice-based curricula for high school and college students consistent with principles of social and economic justice, which he considers a moral omission that is plaguing public education. My input was to steer him in the direction of the idea of "engaging learners" by developing activities where students were responding to real life projects such as "build a model justice-based city from the ground up," or "invent a groundbreaking new technology" using principles of economic and social justice.

I reminded dad of my brief association with Dr. Larry Kohlberg, who in the 1980's was using "moral dilemmas" to teach school governance in developmentally appropriate ways. After a CESJ annual conference, Larry invited me to attend his Conference on School Climate and Governance at Harvard University, where I practiced using Larry's tool, Moral Dilemmas, along with educational leaders from inner city schools, who were implementing many of Larry's student adjudication procedures.

As I was walking through Dyke Marsh, cellphone in hand, which must have annoyed all of the birdwatchers, I discussed the need for any curriculum designer to be able to generate assessment data, to show that the curriculum was having measurable results, and the need to develop visuals for the central dichotomy he hopes to insert into all humanities curricula, "own or be owned." My suggestion to dad was that, if he wanted "own or be owned" to be inserted into every curriculum, someone needed to develop an icon as recognizable as the icon for Coke.

Tick, tick, tick ...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Presidential Letter Commemorating Masako's 100th Birthday Party

The launch of my classroom earlier this month has taken nearly every ounce of my time and energy, which is why I have not posted this month. As my office mate Paul exclaimed earlier this week, "most people have no idea how much time, money, and energy goes into teaching."

Yesterday I was given a nice excuse to post a short update that involves little effort on my part, and little risk of raising concerns that I'm going ADD, i.e., putting my job at risk by not focusing on writing lesson plans, not completing my certification training so that I can create online IEP's, and otherwise not holding the wolves at bay. Certain family members worry that my blogging is a dangerous thing, given the high levels of risk involved in being a Special Education Teacher, and all of the scrutiny which comes with the territory, but I have developed an uncanny ability to filter my words, so that I can say what I want while maintaining an edge. Grandma's commemorative Presidential letter provides a useful cover for my living a little on the edge.

Mom called at about 8:30 on Thursday night, but I had already gone to sleep. I had several alarms set in intervals to go off starting at about 1 am, so that I could complete my 3 emergency sub plans, and fill out all required paperwork to go in my substitute folder, and thus meet a Friday deadline. Dr. P runs a tight ship, and I did not want to fall afoul of his staff. On Wednesday night, as Joe was getting ready to go to sleep at 2am, my alarms were going off to wake me up so that I could have my sub plans ready for my sub on Thursday. Poor Karen! I was giving all praise and thanks when I awoke at the appointed hour. Joe still had not completed a few high level questions about the Declaration of Independence, including connections between John Locke, questions about why Jefferson switched from Life, Liberty, and Property to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness, so I quickly fed him the correct answers so that he could get to his Spanish. Karen was imploring Joe to please get to sleep!

While on a lunch break yesterday, I called mom back, which seemed to reassure her that I was holding up professionally, which was likely the real reason she was calling -- to check up on me. Already, I have had three mini observations, and I have been fortunate to have had reasonably good lesson plans in place each time. Nobody has complained about me yet, but my assessment data has been, frankly, somewhat concerning. It bothers me that my students are a minimum of 1 week behind the pace of the rest of the 6th grade.

While talking to my mom on Friday, who called to let me know about over 200 residents in grandma's assisted living apartment complex showed up to the birthday party held for Masako at her apartment earlier this week, I remembered that I had never received the scanned file of the letter that was presented to my grandma Masako in August at the Green Hills Country Club in San Bruno, California. My mom turned to my sister, who immediately sent the file. Thanks Dawn!

This morning was the first time I have been in the gym all month. After stepping on the scale yesterday morning, and much to my chagrin, I had gained weight, despite my recent purchase of a Nutribullet. I thought the twice daily Nutriblasts would provide immediate results, but even though my dietary habits have improved dramatically thanks to the Nutribullet -- Love it! -- still, in order to continue to be a high energy teacher, which is how I teach best, I need to restart my workout routine. My interval training on the OctaineFitness Lateral trainer this morning raised my average heart rate to 142 beats per minute for 55 minutes. Not bad! Plus, I took Mabel on two long "walky walkies."

Although I straitened out my work space, thus preserving a little of my remaining sanity, unfortunately, no work got done! Back to business!