Tag Archives: classroom

Lesson Learned

ImageWay back before 4×4 took over my classroom and nearly killed my program and me (Can I get an amen, Texas elective teachers?!), I was in my district’s Leadership Cohort two years in a row. The lessons learned were invaluable. One of the best wasn’t even on purpose (unless it was totally on purpose and the teacher just PRETENDED it wasn’t). We were playing this game to review previous months’ work. Our instructor Dr. Bennett threw out questions and we called out answers. It was a party-like atmosphere with everyone laughing and having fun. If we got an answer wrong, Dr. Bennett would tell someone to help us out. It was a completely safe atmosphere. A few minutes into the review, Dr. Bennett remembered she had this button to push if we got the answer wrong. One wrong answer with the wah-wah wrong answer sound and the whole atmosphere changed. People laughed at the wrong answers, but it felt like the person giving the wrong answer was laughed at. The party-like atmosphere turned into one of trepidation. No risks. Dr. Bennett put the button away and said she’d never use it again. It totally ruined the fun of the moment. Weird how a negative SOUND could change so much. There were no grades, the questions were the same, the people in the room were the same. It was just the negative connotation of the wrong answer button.

That’s really been hammered home for me this year…especially the last few days. We can’t always control everything in our rooms, but we can make them safe places for students to take educational risks and we can make sure we don’t start the day with a negative. That’s my goal for the next week and finals.

You know you grew up in…

This last week facebook has exploded with “You know you grew up in….” groups. It’s been a fun walk down memory lane.

I’ll never forget the little store down the street from my house. We’d walk down barefoot to spend our allowance (Usually a quarter.)

I loved the feel of hot asphalt on my feet.

Once I found what I thought was four quarters in the road outside my house. I brought my friends with me to the store to buy us all candy. Turned out I had four Susan B. Anthony dollars! The store owner tried to convince me to save them. No way! We bought TONS of junk and shared it.

Back then we took off out the door as soon as possible on summer mornings and wouldn’t come home until dark. We’d play in the park, run around in the cow pastures, walk all over the place, but we made sure that when the sun went down we were home. If we weren’t TROUBLE followed.

Dark didn’t stop the fun, though. Dark brought ghost stories, and light as a feather, and Bloody Mary, and TV…sometimes.

I remember childhood in small town USA and I smile.

But one of the girls added to the group didn’t smile.

Her first post was “I didn’t really know you people and you made my life hell, why would I want to be in this group?”

The responses were fast: That was 20 years ago, get over it, and I’m sorry, and if you feel that way get off the group, and you’re right, and facebook allows people to apologize and give you peace over those times.

The girl did take herself off our hometown group, but I couldn’t help but think about how intense her emotions were 20 years later. She made sure people knew this wasn’t something she spent time thinking about, she’d moved on, was a success in life now, but that reminder of school years put her right back in that place she’d been when she lived in our town.

We talk about bullying today as if it’s something new. It’s not. Kids can be mean. They can be brutal. And adults have often turned away and let it happen.

I’m going to enjoy looking back on the memories of days gone by as I look at the facebook group, but I’m going to take a lesson from it, too. Our schools can be a place of fun and family, but they can also be a place that hurts. I want to make my class one where hurt is rare.

Easier isn’t always right

This 110+ degree heat is driving me crazy. Crazy was used in the 186Os. Unlike the words genetics or cool (as in neat, not the weather). One if the neat things abut writing historical is looking up etymology. Not that I got everything right in Honor and Lies. The problem with Texas other than the heat, at least during Civil War times, was that before the war, former slaves were free, but once the war started, in several areas, free people of color were enslaved even if they had papers proving they were free. I chose to make the North Texas ranch areas slave free for the purpose of my novel. In reality, my research showed a different kind of Underground Railroad in Texas. One that utilized Native American tribes to get those seeking freedom to Mexico. I was shocked that people who had always been free, people who owned property and businesses found themselves enslaved suddenly when Texas joined the South. It didn’t happen everywhere in the state, but it wasn’t uncommon either. We didn’t learn much about slavery when I was in school. I think we do a better job now. In England our tour guide told us they spend a long time talking about the slave trade, and he said they are very honest about confronting tough truths. I know any time we talk about racism and prejudice in class, it can leave an uncomfortable awkwardness if the teacher doesn’t do the pre-discussion work and then facilitate. It’s often easier to skip the discussion altogether. Easier isn’t always right, though.