An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘family

Eduhacks for Your Health

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A few years ago, I spent my summer vacation volunteering full-time at an alternative school located within the walls of a juvenile detention center. During the first few weeks there, I realized that my new insight into the juvenile justice system and teaching came with a few pounds.

The culprits were everywhere (no pun intended). I would stress eat like crazy.  A few students attempt to jump someone during your first period math class –> Hungry? Why wait for a Snickers. You witness a student get beat up on the bus and the police tell the attackers that you are the one who identified them –> Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar. A student successfully smuggles a stick of dynamite into the school –> Nobody had better lay a finger on my Butterfinger. Teachers and administrators would fill the lounge with cakes, cookies, candy bars, sodas – any food indulgent enough to drown sorrows. On top of that, I ate the same breakfasts and lunches that the students ate (they were free and I had to be frugal). The students of the alternative school at the same meals as the students in lockdown. They were designed to provide the most calories at the lowest cost.

I started running. By the end of the summer I ran for 2 – 5 miles each day. It was therapeutic. I lost a few pounds.

It’s three summers later and I’m about to start an intense MA+credential program. On most days, the co-teaching carpool leaves at 6:45 am and my university classes don’t end until 5 or 6 pm. This is great training for my future life as a teacher – I’ll probably keep the same hours.

I read the Elementary Educator’s post entitled What To Work On This Summer: Creating Habits of Intelligence. My goal is to create “habits of health” that I can master now and integrate into my busy schedule.

1. Bento Boxes.

I stumbled on the Disposable Aardvarks, Inc. blog. A vegan mother of three crafts bento boxes for her family. Bento boxes are widely used in Japan. Parents create easy-to-carry lunches that are healthy and visually stimulating. The box sizes keep portions small. Also, the process of creating a bento involves (fun) design and healthy thinking.

Links: and Cooking Cute Blog: A site with recipes, links to online supply stores, and how-to guides.

Disposable Aardvarks Inc: Mentioned above.

My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch: Bento photos and recipes. Handbook: Along with recipes and photos, this site has a great how-to guide for newbies. The author explains how to start make quick, inexpensive, and healthy bento boxes.

2. Changing my relationship with food.

I’ve had a turbulent relationship with food since childhood (childhood obesity). I still need to loose a few pounds. Instead of focusing on dieting, I’ve changed the way I think about food.

I stay away from processed foods and opt for whole/natural goods, cook meals using amazing recipes, savor every bite, and make sure that my indulgences are worth it (homemade pine nut rosemary shortbread cookies instead of 2 bowls of cereal). I’ve also adopted a vegetarian lifestyle.


GoVeg: An article about the meat industry’s impact on the environment. My favorite food blog…mmmm…..poppy seed pancakes….pine nut rosemary cookies…homemade black bean burgers…

Simply Recipes: I’m trying the sauteed zucchini with Gruyere recipe tomorrow…

Delicious Days: Quirky recipes.

3. Exercising.

I feel great when I exercise. I lift weights 3 – 4 times per week and make sure that I do some form of cardio 6 days per week. I’ve tried to fit my workouts relatively short time windows.

ExRx.Net: A great site for information about weight lifting (and fitness in general). I use the 2 day split (upper/lower) workout template. An indispensable resource about weight loss and fitness. John’s BMR calculator is an easy to use tool to figure out how much exercise and eating you should be doing. I love his focus on lifestyle change rather than dieting.

Tae Bo: Billy

4. Connecting with others via SparkPeople.

SparkPeople is a great website that features innovative web communities along with free exercise/weightlifting/eating plans, online exercise videos, a database with how-to demonstrations for each exercise, and calorie tracking. I use this site to keep track of my eating and exercise, share advice, and cheer on others. There are even a few spark teams for teachers.

Time for my hour of cardio…


Written by TeacherC

5 June 2008 at 10:24 pm

A Dance Eduhack: The 2 Minute Dance Party (Revolution)

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Dance first.  Think later.  It’s the natural order. – Samuel Beckett

Next time you’re mad, try dancing out your anger.  – Sweetpea Tyler

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.  – Japanese Proverb

I stumbled across the 2 minute dance party in college. It’s 3 am. You’ve exhausted your supply of diet coke, coffee, and peanut butter M&Ms. Your mind has gone so fuzzy that you can’t remember simple facts. Your thoughts wander. Sample inner monologue: “Did the Civil War end in 1864 or 1865? Should I use an OLS or logistic regression model to model the determinants of binary dependent variables? Why is OLS ‘BLUE’? Who played Cowboy Curtis on Pee-wee’s Playhouse? What’s my cell phone number?…. Who am I?!?”

Enter the 2 minute dance party. I throw on a song with a fast tempo and dance like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. When the dancing is over I attempt my studies with renewed vigor – usually, it works. I retain more of what I read, come up with innovative ideas, and avoid the 3 am existential crisis.

It turns out that there are a few studies about the impact of exercise on learning (see NPR story). One of my projects this summer is to come up with ways to mold movement into my lessons. Daily 3 minute dance parties, active science experiments, jumping jack spelling bees, acting out stories, and concept relays are just a few ideas.

I don’t want my classroom to be like that little town in Footloose.

We all love Ellen’s dance parties:

Written by TeacherC

4 June 2008 at 11:42 am

When washing their mouths out with soap isn’t an option.

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That Works…. – An EducatorBlog Comic

Forget the soap

I believe that the use of profanity is an issue that teachers should tackle. Why? First, many swear words have a derogatory history. Even if students don’t know this history, they are engaging in forces of discrimination and oppression. Second, students need to understand the words they use and strive to achieve new levels of complexity in their language. I’ve realized the occasional F-bomb gets my point across in certain situations but realize there are more sophisticated and appropriate ways of expressing myself. If students believe that they are using adult language, they may not push themselves to develop superior modes of expression. As this NPR story points out, children use profanity because they are trying to adopt adult modes of communication and behavior – they are trying to push themselves out of childhood and into adulthood. As a normal part of language acquisition, children pick up these words from parents, peers, and the media.

Third, students need to understand swearing disrupts professional environments. Students should understand that how they address peers on the playground and on the bus may not be appropriate for all social situations. Linguists call this code switching. Successful adults know how to change their manner of speech when necessary. The syntax, grammar, and content of my speech that I use to speak to a dartboard competitor at a sports bar are different than what I would use to communicate with my students.

Here are a few innovative ways that teachers can educate students about the power of their own words:

After overhearing a derogatory phrase or profanity, educate students about why the terms are inappropriate. Many teachers just tell students “DON’T DO THAT!!!” instead of creating a learning experience. Students need to understand the history of the word from a linguistic and social perspective. How has the word been used in the past? Has the meaning changed over time?  How do students use the word now?

Then, the analysis needs to go a step further – students need to understand how their use of the word connects to history. Are they promoting values of respect and social justice when they use those words? How might certain ethnic, cultural, and social groups react? On a simpler level – is it ‘nice’ or ‘mean’ to use those words?

Students need to feel like they have control over the language they use. After students learn about the history of a word and the social implications of using the word, the whole class should make an agreement that the word will not be used. Older/more advanced students can discuss the merits of using the word in art, literature, or pop culture.

There are many ways to integrate these ideas into the classroom – the discussions would look different in a middle school and a high school classroom. Maybe you have students make wordless posters about the word or how people feel when they hear the word. If you are reading controversial material that uses profanity and derogatory language (Joyce, Twain, slavery/Jim Crow narratives, the history of the Holocaust, etc) you can discuss these words as they appear in the material and debate whether or not they should be used in that way.

The key is to give students the information that they need to make better choices. This will not work in all cases – there will always be students who choose to use profanity and derogatory language. If students understand the negative history of a word (its relationship to slavery, oppression, the Holocaust, etc), maybe they will be less likely to throw it around in daily conversation. Also, students need to feel like they have a personal stake in the learning environment and understand the power that their words have on others.

Teachers should clarify policies with administrators before they tackle profanity in the classroom – are teachers aloud to teach material that has profanity? Can a teacher utter profanity in certain education contexts? Are permission slips required for these experiences?

If teachers create an environment where profanity is not an issue, we can focus on the development of sophisticated language skills.

Here are a few links:

Online Etymology Dictionary: the history of words.
Interactive Dictionary of Racial Language: An instructor of a college course on race and language has her students post entries.

“Ghetto” – The New “N Word”: Harold M. Clemens that argues that the word “ghetto” perpetuates racism.

Seattle Schools are Resegregating

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In “The Resegregation of Seattle Schools”  (Seattle Times) Linda Shaw discusses how demographic, economic, and political forces are resegregating schools. The news in the article wasn’t new to me – I’ve been following the debate about the resegregation of students and teachers for a few years. Many parents that I speak to don’t see an inherent flaw in segregation – they say that the race of students should not be a determinant of achievement. This ‘color blind’ rhetoric is dangerous because race and academic success are still linked in this country.

Quotation from Why Segregation Matters (Orfield and Lee, 2005):

Evidence of the Multidimensional Nature of Segregation in Education

Race is deeply and systematically linked to many forms of inequality in background, treatment, expectations and opportunities. From an educational perspective, perhaps the most important of those linkages is with the level of concentrated poverty in a school. These differences start at an early age. A comprehensive federal study of children across the country entering kindergarten shows very large differences in the acquisition of skills invaluable for school success long before the children ever enter a schoolhouse. Schools where almost all of the students come with these problems obviously face very different challenges than schools where some of the kindergarteners come better prepared.

Our study of metro Boston shows a strong relationship between segregation by race and poverty and teacher quality, test scores and dropout rates. In the entire metro region, 97 percent of the schools with less than a tenth white students face concentrated poverty compared to 1 percent of the schools with less than a tenth minority students. These differences were strongly related to the results on the high stakes MCAS state examinations.

Seattle policymakers have a hard choice to make. Voters are pushing for school choice – from charters, to open enrollment in public schools and school vouchers. Also, parents want to reap the rewards of moving into a nicer neighborhood, and are unwilling to have their children bussed to schools in poor communities. Is it possible to preserve school choice AND create a system where students all have access to resources normally found in middle and upper-class schools? What about the ’school within a school’ phenomenon: does desegregation matter if students segregate themselves in social situations or are placed on divergent academic tracks?

I am curious to see how the demographics of the schools I attended in Federal Way have changed (Federal Way is just outside of Seattle). My experiences with race in my elementary and middle school years prompted me to pursue scholarships and attend a private school (subject for another post). It is hard to draw conclusions from 3 years of numbers. The percentage of Hispanic students increased and the share of white students decreased for all of the schools. The number of students enrolled decreased as well. It would be interesting to obtain data from the past 10 – 20 years and run a few regressions.

Here is a quick check of demographic data (from schools I’ve attended):

Rainier View Elementary

Student Characteristics

Distribution of Student Ethnicity 2005 2006 2007
African American 12.75 15.65 14.80
Asian American 16.00 16.98 16.50
Hispanic 9.50 9.81 10.80
Native American 2.00 2.12 2.30
White 57.00 50.40 45.60
Pac Islander 1.00 .80 4.00
Multi-Racial 1.50 3.98 5.50
Other Student Characteristics 2005 2006 2007
Number of Students (Oct.) 400 353 375
Free/Reduced Meals 41.50% 47.3 53.0%
Green Gables Elementary:

Student Characteristics

Distribution of Student Ethnicity 2005 2006 2007
African American 13.79 13.38 11.80
Asian American 12.81 12.88 11.00
Hispanic 6.65 6.82 12.10
Native American .99 .25 .80
White 63.30 58.84 55.10
Pac Islander .49 3.54 5.40
Multi-Racial 1.48 3.28 2.30
Other Student Characteristics 2005 2006 2007
Number of Students (Oct.) 406 367 390
Free/Reduced Meals 25.1% 31.9% 33.9%
Saghalie Junior High:

Student Characteristics

Distribution of Student Ethnicity 2005 2006 2007
African American 21.31 20.25 21.90
Asian American 16.39 13.71 12.30
Hispanic 15.35 18.69 22.60
Native American 2.09 1.87 1.90
White 43.07 42.99 36.40
Pac Islander 1.19 1.25 2.20
Multi-Racial .60 .93 1.90
Other Student Characteristics 2005 2006 2007
Number of Students (Oct.) 674 632 585
Free/Reduced Meals 50.8% 52.9% 59.9%

Written by TeacherC

3 June 2008 at 1:23 am

Big lenders drop community college students from rolls

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Our economic crisis is disproportionately hurting lower-class citizens. Big lenders have cut off loan services for students of community colleges and less-selective four year colleges (NYT article here). Over 40% of college students attend these institutions. These institutions of higher education are often the bridge between the lower and middle class – they offer innovative professional tracks, serve students who do not fit into traditional educational settings (including students with disabilities, parents/caretakers, and gifted students) and provide many other important services to communities. In recent years, states have looked toward community colleges to shortages in the fields of nursing, teaching, transportation technology, air traffic control, and many other careers.

Cutting off funding opportunities for students who attend these institutions destroys another path toward economic mobility for millions. Moreover, there are may be a ripple effect felt in critical sectors of the economy.

What’s the solution? For the time being, students are able to find fallback loans with higher rates and less perks (ex – no more rate cuts for students who pay loans on time). Also, students who are not able to get as many loans as before have to assume credit card debt and/or work extra part-time jobs. This makes students less-likely to finish school or decreases their earnings once they leave college.

One solution, is to have professional organizations, nonprofits, and state/federal governments promise students repayment of loans if they finish school and take jobs in critical areas. This solution would be a band-aid for issues of equity and access that ripple throughout our education system. Lenders are dividing schools into a tiered system because they see the difference in earnings potential between ‘elite’ and ‘non-elite’ students.

Sadly Relevant/Cheesy Poster: