Can't be pushed...must be found...can be guided...by the right hand, a librarian's hand, of course!
In previous posts, I have flogged bad mothers and rotten fathers, so it seems only appropriate that as we reach mid-September, I turn my attention to the terrible teachers out there in the classrooms (or, in my neck of the woods) on the picket lines. Bad teachers... we've all suffered at the hands of a few of these, barely escaping their worst practices with our educational lives. Like Miss Garfield, my kindergarten teacher, who, during Show and Tell (remember that?!?!), only let me read aloud the first half of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, because we had to "get through" 3 more students in the time allotted. The experience was so traumatic to a child who loved to read aloud (and was damn good at it at age 5) that even today the memory brings the bitter taste of disappointment and resentment to my mouth.
Sappy stories of inspiring teachers are ubiquitous (Okay, Stand and Deliver, Mr. Chips, as you walk Up the Down Staircase and organize a Dead Poets Society)-- but I find that I am actually more inspired as an educator by the rotten apples in the classroom basket: inspired to rise above their failings, avoid their pettiness, channel the inevitable frustrations of the teaching life for good rather than evil, use their bad examples to push for excellence rather than mediocrity. So all hail the bad teachers: we salute the way you make us want to NOT be like you!
Presented for your approval, top five TILFs:
5. Miss Halsey ("Bad Teacher") A stinker of a movie about a stinker of a teacher played by Cameron Diaz: a foul-mouthed, gold-digging, hung-over cheater whose main reason for taking a junior-high teaching gig is to save up money for breast implants. Maybe she shouldn't have splurged on the Louboutin stilettos she's wearing in the photo. (Tag line: "She doesn't give an "F.")
4. Dan Dunne ("Half Nelson") He's a hot, young history teacher, (portrayed by the librarian's favorite pin-up, Ryan Gosling); an inspiration to his middle-school students in the classroom and the basketball court. He's also a misogynistic crack addict who, in a very misguided moment, gets high in the locker-room. Not the best example to set for the troubled student who catches him at it. (Suggested tagline: He should have stuck with teachers' legal drugs of choice: caffeine and chocolate.)
3. Dean Wormer ("Animal House")
Dean Vernon Wormer is the villainous dean of Faber College, played by John Vernon. He's an uptight, stuffed-shirt whose probably never had a bit of fun in his whole life and he's out to get the rowdy, hard-partying Delta fraternity. (His wife has to crash the Deltas' toga bash to get her ya-yas out.) He's certainly lost the joy of teaching and he's definitely way past his sell-buy date. (Suggested tagline: If this is the alternative, maybe I would rather be fat, drunk and stupid.)
2. Dolores Umbridge ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix") Evil incarnate dipped in a coating of Pepto-Bismal, Dolores (as written in the books and portrayed by Imelda Staunton on film) is arguably one of the most ruthless characters in the series, ranking right up there with Lord Voldemort. Beneath the tea-sipping facade and honey-dripping voice lies a sadist. And there's nothing worse than a sadistic teacher, especially one who believes she's doing good. (Suggested tagline: "Because deep down you know that you deserve to be punished.")
1. Edna Krabappel ("The Simpsons") Edna Krabappel is the fourth-grade teacher at Springfield Elementary School and a classic caricature of the American educational system and all its faults. She's a lonely, bitter divorcée who is always looking for love in all the wrong places, who smokes like the proverbial chimney on school grounds(!), and who is totally disillusioned after years of teaching. Of course, if I had Bart Simpson as a student, I'd probably get burned out mighty quick, too. She has little interest in pushing children to achieve standards of excellence, but still manages to canork about school funding and have a fling with her principal. (Quote: "As you know, Bart, one day your permanent record will disqualify you from all but the hottest and noisiest jobs.")
Might make a great reality TV show, in the vein of What Not to Wear: How Not to Teach...
And we're talking a glass of wine the size of a 7-11 Big Gulp! Every night -- with dinner --- and sometimes before!
Better make that a 32 ounce!
I discovered Wonderopolis, a fabulous website to use with children to enhance their natural curiosity about the world. You know how children are always asking questions? Well, adults should keep that mindset as well! Imagine the progress we'd make! They feature a wonder-of-the-day, which widget I have added to the home page of this website.
As the site notes: "Visit Wonderopolis®. It’s a place where wonder and learning are nurtured through the power of discovery, creativity and imagination." Wonderopolis is brought to life by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and supported by the Verizon Thinkfinity, the Annenberg Foundation, Better World Books and Humana.
Sublime, sublime, sublime!
Just when you expected another prom puff piece, we turn on a dime and present a serious look at a force for good in our world: TED. No, it’s not another of my charming library crushes. It’s a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the widespread distribution of great ideas.
TED, short for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is owned by The Sapling Foundation, a nonprofit created in 1996 by Chris Anderson, media entrepreneur whose Future Publishing and Imagine Media publishes magazines and produces the popular games website, IGN.
TED has its origins in a conference organized by Richard Saul Wurman,
architect, graphic designer and coiner of the phrase “information architecture.” Held in 1984 in Monterey, California, the conference brought together such notable thinkers as Nicholas Negroponte (co-founder of the MIT Media Lab and of the One Laptop One Child foundation), mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot (of fractal fame) and Stewart Brand (writer and editor of the Whole Earth Catalog). It featured a demonstration of the new Sony Compact Disc and 3D graphics from Lucasfilm. And lots of heady discussions about big ideas.
Bono at TED conference
Over the years, the TED conferences have brought together scientists, musicians, public intellectuals, philosophers, philanthropists and religious leaders. The ranks of speakers include such diverse movers and shakers as Al Gore, Annie Lennox, Bono, Frank Gehry and Bill Gates. In 2001, The Sapling Foundation acquired the TED conference and in the past decade has expanded its reach considerably.
Robinson at TED
TED now sponsors a second conference, TEDGlobal, which is held in a different country every other year. It also awards the TED Prize, which grants its winners one wish to change the world, and it has curated a podcast series, TEDTalks, in which the best TED content is available free online. You can find speakers such as Ken Robinson expounding on how schools kill creativity, Sherry Turkle making a persuasive argument of how connected we are, and yet how alone, and Bobby McFerrin making his unique music.
TED has recently expanded its mission to “spread ideas” with the addition of TED-ed (“lessons worth sharing”), its new initiative which will serve as a clearinghouse of educational videos. Many of the current videos are collaborations between teachers and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform. This platform also allows users to take any useful educational video, not just TED's, and create a customized lesson around the video, an important feature for use in a “flipped” classroom, in which students view video lessons outside of class and then spend their classroom time with the teacher on discussion, critical thinking opportunities and more personalized instruction.
These videos are organized by subject or series. And some of the series include such fascinating topics as “Inventions That Shape History,” “Math in Real Life” (for those students who always ask “when am I ever going to use this?”), “How Things Work,” “Awesome Nature,” “Playing with Language” (one of my favorites), and “Questions No One (Yet) Knows the Answer To.”
Check it out: TED
Here's a test given to 8th grade students in 1931 by the West Virginia Department of Eduction before granting diplomas. The original link is from a blog post on the Washington Post's website.
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